Partner Support – The Critical Link to Successful Breastfeeding

Photography: Fran Jorgensen | www.franjorgensen.com

By Rowena Gray

Partner support is the biggest factor influencing a mother’s breastfeeding success. In Australia less than 50% babies are still breastfeeding at the age of just 2 months. Yes – sore and damaged nipples, low milk supply and other incredibly difficult circumstances have a lot to answer for, but partner support, or lack of, is what will make or break a mother’s efforts to soldier on through her breastfeeding battles.

If you don’t have breasts then you’re not going to be able to help with breastfeeding itself. But your role as partner to a breastfeeding mother and baby is the critical link to long term breastfeeding success. It goes beyond supporting the physical act of breastfeeding. It’s supporting her as she undertakes one of the most important things anyone can do to get your baby’s long term health off to a good start!  

Here’s a few key ways you can provide support.

  • Learn about how breastfeeding works

Frequent feeding is normal! – It’s normal for babies to feed 10-18 times a day! Babies have such tiny stomachs that they need to fill them up very frequently. Frequent feeding can be hard going but when you know it’s normal you can reassure your partner and support her to hang in there. As your baby grows and his tummy expands the frequency will settle down.

Frequent feeding can be hard going but when you know it’s normal you can reassure your partner and support her to hang in there.

Understand the benefits – Breastfeeding provides breastmilk – a perfect blend of nutrients, fluid, fats and proteins, immune and growth factors – all available at just the right temperature and the right amount to suit your baby’s appetite. Breastfeeding is protective against all sorts of infections and respiratory illnesses, promotes good oral health and helps reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity. 

The benefits for mum include bonding with baby, helping her body recover from birth and to bounce back to her pre-pregnant shape, as well as other protective factors that reduce the risks of ovarian and breast cancers. These are but a few of the amazing benefits breastfeeding brings to both mother and baby.

Breastfeeding can be really easy but it can also be really hard work – Breastfeeding is a learned skill for mums – it’s easier for some than others and most mums face various obstacles along the way. Learn what to expect by reading about the possible ups and downs of breastfeeding and know how to access your local health nurse or lactation consultant for breastfeeding support when you need it.

Just one bottle can negatively impact breastfeeding – Your baby’s frequent feeding stimulates the breast milk supply to match his feeding needs. Introducing any bottle feeds will interfere with this fine tuning and can cause issues with attachment at the breast and milk supply. However, if breastfeeding is incredibly painful and difficult for mum then you should go with her to seek advice from your health nurse or lactation consultant on how to effectively express breast milk and bottle feed whilst causing the least disruption to breastfeeding.

  • Nurture mum as she nourishes your baby

Meals and fluids – Breastfeeding is both physically and emotionally demanding. Making milk and the act of breastfeeding requires 2,000 – 3,000 more calories than normal every single day! So a key role you can play is ensure that she has regular meals, snacks and plenty of water each day.

Cheer her on – Let her know how much you admire her efforts. A breastfeeding mum is a bundle of hormones and emotion. She will likely be feeling tiredness, breast and nipple pain, self doubt and concern that she’s doing everything right for your baby. Breastfeeding is a 24/7, unpredictable gig. Just sitting beside her now and then while she feeds is a simple way to show your support.

Let her nap when baby sleeps – Just a half hour nap here and there can make the world of difference to a breastfeeding mum. Breastfeeding has an inbuilt protective mechanism against sleep deprivation so a nap or two each day can be enough for her to keep going through the night!

See next page for more great tips…

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