How Men Can Support Breastfeeding

father-breastfeeding

Men. Dudes. Husbands. Partners of any gender. We need to have a conversation about breastfeeding support. The truth is, feeding a human being from your own body kind of sucks in the beginning. (A pun! Stay with me, I’m a riot.) There’s latching to perfect and nipples afire, not to mention exhaustion. Then just as breastfeeding settles into a routine, there’s mastitis and thrush lurking around every corner like a ninja. We want to breastfeed though, because we are lazy and no one wants to wash bottles it keeps the baby from getting sick as often and makes a great excuse to leave parties early. Besides, after the initial two week-hazing period, breastfeeding is kinda fun. Keeping it up, however, requires the effort of two people. That’s right, having a supportive partner is instrumental in becoming a whiz-bang at boob feeding. WE NEED YOU.

“Supporting” isn’t just a concept though. Supporting is a set of actions. Let’s break this down into action-items. Are you ready, Rambo? (You: Let’s find out!)

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If you want to support your partner to be successful at breastfeeding you can…

1. Make her a snack. We get so hungry while we’re breastfeeding, but it’s a need we often fail to anticipate since we’re not hungry when we sit down to feed. I have cut nursing sessions off early because I need a handful of nuts. Something. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but when my husband brings me a few crackers or a protein bar while I am nursing, I am so thankful.

2. Bring her a glass of water. The process to feed a baby goes like this: baby cries, mom gets into position, baby latches on, maybe fusses about the latch, sometimes the latch is wrong, baby keeps crying, mom’s boobs throb, milk squirts in the baby’s face, mom freaks out the baby is going to inhale milk, eventually there’s a calm (hopefully) and the baby nurses away. Then mom realizes she is very thirsty. Nursing triggers the hypothalamus to tell the brain that hey, we need some water. Like, pronto. But crap, the baby is finally nursing peacefully. Instead of enjoying the moment, it’s like dying in the desert. Help meeeeeeee!

3. When you hear the baby cry at night or in the morning (or whenever, for that matter) get out of bed, get the baby and bring her to mom. After about three months, I clued my husband in that after I’d been up all night nursing and sway-bouncing, I would pretty much trade my soul to lay there another minute in the morning. Lo, he started getting up to get the baby when she cried at dawn and brought her to me so I could nurse and rest. Now that I’m in my 5th month nursing my third kid, I’m like a sensei. I could nurse this kid into an origami flower if I wanted. So if you could just bring her to me, I can literally (that word again!) do this in my sleep.

4. Occupy the older children. Please. Calgon, take them away. For some reason, everyone is totally chill until I sit down to nurse. The moment I pop the baby on, suddenly everyone has to go to the bathroom and needs help getting into their princess costume or wants me to help them draw a frog. They also want to cuddle. Cuddling is great, but then it starts to feel like I’m buried under twelve tons of human flesh and no one can breathe and everything is the temperature of the sun. Maybe get these guys some legos? Thanks!

5. Keep a jolly face about it in public. Me, I don’t worry about whipping my breast out. Sorry! Not sorry! But I’ve been doing this on and off for over half a decade. (Damn. I just realized I miss heavy drinking.) When I first got started back in the dark ages of 2008, I still thought of my breasts as private parts. I had to summon my inner warrior just to discretely feed my baby under a blanket alone in a parked car. Eventually, the baby cried at a restaurant and then at Ikea and now I’d nurse bare-breasted on a parade float down Michigan Avenue. Actually, that would be fun. I got this way because my husband supported me first. If he’s ever been embarrassed of me breastfeeding in public, he’s kept that emotion under lock-and-key. All I see is a warm smile encouraging me to do my best. Thanks, pops!

6. If your partner shows signs of postpartum depression, make the call for her. I know this doesn’t have to do with nursing per se, but it’s really important. If your wife or girlfriend is crying more than a few times a day at first and crying every day several months after birth, pick up the phone and call her care provider. Make an appointment. Bring her in. These things may not seem that monumental, but trust me, when you are in the thick of PPD, navigating a string of phone calls is too daunting. This is an important step in taking care of your family and most likely you, dad, are the only one who really knows what’s going on with the mom in your house.

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7. Clean the pump parts. Pumping is, in the apt words of the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg, a bee-yotch. I never got the hang of pumping myself partly because I didn’t want to deal with the ass-pain of cleaning the crap after I already dealt with the ass-pain of pumping in the first place. Enter: A supportive surprise in the kitchen of washed bottles and tubes! And maybe the dishes put in the dishwasher while you’re in there? And maybe take out the trash? Grab me a beer? I’ll stop.

8. If she makes the call to supplement with or switch to formula altogether, GTFO with your breast-is-best. This reminds me of all three of my labors where I had ideals of foregoing the epidural. There always comes a point when I can’t do it anymore. I can’t. I have day-long intense labors, small hips and I can’t f’ing do it, ok? There’s always that moment when I need “permission” from someone in the room to just give in and stop the torture. My husband is always hesitant at first, but I looked at him this time and said, “I’m serious. Get the anesthesiologist”. He got him. The dad’s job is support, not dictatorship.

Related post: The New Dad’s Guide to Surviving Your Wife

About the writer

Jenna Karvunidis writes High Gloss And Sauce on ChicagoNow. She also enjoys cake.

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JP 3 months ago

Number 6 is where I failed as husband and father. My wife has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself because she now regrets not having enjoyed our child’s baby months.

Treva swain 1 year ago

What a difference a couple do decades make! In 1980 after I gave birth to my first born, the nurse walks in with the baby in one arm and a bottle of formula in the other hand. I say “I was gonna breast feed” she then says “well, good luck with that! I’ll bring the bottle back in after you give up” when she came back my daughter was sleeping peacefully and she says ” oh the poor dear cried herself to sleep!” I look at her and say “no she ate ant then went to sleep!” The woman was totally in denial! A total turnaround from today! Thank god I was a natural and all my kids had the instinct because there would have been no help for me. I was and am still to this day the only woman in my family to breast feed and my kids are the only ones to not have food allergies!

Erica Kennedy 1 year ago

Love :)

Lorraine 1 year ago

My husband’s family was downright mean about me breastfeeding. (Not his mother, God Bless her, I never had the chance to meet her because she passed away before I met my husband). I know exactly how you feel. My sister in law would post snarky things on facebook about breastfeeding and I knew they were aimed at me. One of the worst was when she led people to believe that I breastfeed as a replacement for vaccination, which was entirely untrue because all of my children are fully vaccinated. People can be real assholes when it comes to this issue.

annie 1 year ago

excellent. YOU PUMP, PARTNER WASHES. That is my boobfeeding golden rule.

Whitney Bridges 1 year ago

This explains it all

Cassandra Wright 1 year ago

hahaha this is awesome and hilarious. I agree 100% that every dad with a partner who is nursing should definitely read this.

Sabrina Jean 1 year ago

a start might be to refer to it as “nursing” as opposed to “breastfeeding!” Majority, if not every, woman would rather keep the attention on her babe rather her body part. OBVIOUSLY it comes from a breast. Dudes, Gals, please, “Nursing her baby.” Keep the body parts out of it. I hear/see “breastfeeding,” I automatically see/think of a boob. not what I want.

Kelli 1 year ago

LOVE this post. I am literally pumping with a big glass of water & Nutella toast. I woke up to washed pump parts and besides the joy of not having to do that myself, that shows his support & that he’s willing to do what he can to make it easier.

Charisse Fourie 1 year ago

All hail! Brilliant. I wish my husband had gotten such valuable advice before our baby was born. In fact I wish I had too. It would have saved us a lot of turmoil. Breastfeeding is daunting enough but when you have no idea what to expect it is even worse. i had no idea I would be so damn hungry. Being alone at home with no snacks or food easily available was one of my worst parts of motherhood. The result, way too many chocolate bars…

chris 1 year ago

Wonderful! I’d just add that if I have to pump (increasing supply) you give me that time and respect it as if I were feeding the baby directly!

sammie 1 year ago

Spot on! This post should be required reading for all partners.

Heather Holter 1 year ago

Awesome! This really brings me back. I was pregnant with and/or nursing one of 5 kids for 8 yrs straight 2002-2010! I got to be a real pro, and the part about full breast exposure cracked me up! I nursed twins at the same time in public, and there is really no way to be discreet about that! And I literally did nurse in my sleep. It was comical when I would be sound asleep and the baby would cry to switch sides, so I rolled over and latched him/her on and was out again within seconds! LOL

Kathy Hoen McManus 1 year ago

Perfect!

Megan Bankard Sullivan 1 year ago

Especially #2!!!

Alicia Neubauer 1 year ago

I thank my husband often for supporting me for 28 months of nursing two kids… Though I could never thank him enough

Rachel Pringle McMullen 1 year ago

BTY. Add one… Keep you Mom away from me! My MIL was always saying stuff like. “You girls today and your breastfeeding.” WTF!

Lacy Richmond 1 year ago

Guess I’m pretty lucky, my husband has done all of these without hesitation. He has supported me through breastfeeding and formula feeding.

Julia 1 year ago

Great list! I was supported with foot rubs while breastfeeding which, everyone knows, helps the milk to flow. Just a point about #8 – definitely criticism of mom is not helpful, but it was helpful when I was thinking around the 9-10 month period, under pressure from daycare to transition her onto a bottle, I started looking at formulas and thought about partially weaning and he reminded me of my own breastfeeding goals, which were to breastfeed for a year. Go on mama, you can do it, is what he said. And then we did. And now we are still going strong and she is 19 months old. So sure, be supportive but that doesn’t always mean letting mom quit breastfeeding when she feels weak or pressured, it means feeling it out with her and maybe offering support to continue breastfeeding when other people are pressuring her to stop to make *their* lives easier.

Alissa Gabriel 1 year ago

A-men, sista!!!!!

Lorraine 1 year ago

With my first child I pumped because I was still working. If I were to go back in time or if I had to go to work with a future child I would not put that kind of pressure on myself. I love natural breastfeeding, but I absolutely hate pumping and it was a horrible experience at my job where even other breastpumping women suggested that I just pump in the bathroom. Gross. It is totally okay to supplement. I wish I had realized that was an option when I was working. I

Cody Bahr 1 year ago

By telling their wife to only do it in a private place?? That would be a start..

Mikki 1 year ago

I love this list! Fantastic advice!

Courtney Rachuba 1 year ago

Love this!!!

Gal Rdz 1 year ago

So lucky my husband did all of the above without me saying a single word.

Sarah 1 year ago

This is spot on. Wish I had seen this 8 months ago when my baby was born. I would have force-fed my husband this article…I still might.

Katie 1 year ago

YES. So much yes.

Jenny Christine 1 year ago

Thank you for this!!!!’

Candace Brechbill 1 year ago

I believe this is a personal decision, the first three days are the MOST IMPORTANT ANYWAY, THE ANTIBODIES THAT THE MOTHER SHARES WITH B THEIR CHILD DURING THAT TIME IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! It builds an immune system for them to fight infection naturally.

annon 1 year ago

This is great. I would say required reading for every dad to be, but most of the men I know consider it torture so can someone please make a video .Maybe show it as part of sex-ed? Well , maybe that’s a bit much but I think every man everywhere should know this info. After my 3 births ,the first time with no help and the next two with a husband who had a policy of ‘shut-up and stay out of the way’ I really wish this was something with which he had insight.

Alicia Potts 1 year ago

Agree with them all except for the last one.

Suzannah McCuen 1 year ago

Nice. But all mothers have a Butt Alarm that draws children near or causes them to summon her from afar whenever she sits down. It works long after the breastfeeding years are over .

Jen Stone Shartzer 1 year ago

That is so great!

Meri Lowry 1 year ago

Omg I love this

Jaime Albrecht-Rasmussen 1 year ago

Well said!!!!!!!

Kathy Herning Boebel 1 year ago

AWESOME!!!!

Andrea Weir 1 year ago

A partner’s support is the most important thing for a mom to reach her personal nursing goals.

Larissa E. Royster 1 year ago

Love this absolutely love this!!!

Amber Haw 1 year ago

Yes snack! Yes water! I am planning on having little stashes of granola bars and water all over the house this time around!

Missy Hudson 1 year ago

LOL. #4. Every time.

Rachael 1 year ago

I love this! I pumped for 7 months with my 2 oldest kids, then my milk dried up. This time around I’ve been pumping for 5 months and I am uncomfortable all. the. time. I made the decision just this morning to start slowly weaning off the pump and supplementing with formula. I told my husband and his response “I understand!” Best thing he could have said!

A teensy bit of support goes a long, long way fellas!

Jayme H. 1 year ago

I am very lucky in how supportive my husband was throughout breastfeeding our child. He was way less inhibited than me and helped me with getting out of the house and breastfeeding out.

He was the ultimate cheerleader during my struggles and made me feel like I could do it when I thought I couldn’t.

I exclusively breastfed our child for six months, and breastfed until he was 16 months. I lasted through tongue tied baby, very limited diet (ultra sensitive tummy in the baby), and some less than supportive people. Hubby was a huge help and my ultimate breastfeeding champion.

I cannot imagine not having that, and I hope that more partners read and step up. Everyone’s life goes better.

Elizabeth McCosky 1 year ago

Too funny and so true!

Michelle Whitaker Pearson 1 year ago

Snack, water and occupying the other kids for sure!!!!! Great points :)

Vanessa Hahn 1 year ago

great read and so true!!! I’m thankful for a supportive husband who really helpede through nursing :) And the water…OMG I was always in need of a glass of cold water!

Aj Melia Brokaw 1 year ago

I was lucky in that Hubby was very supportive. I have inverted nipples and bad shoulders. The hospital had bottle fed him in the NICU against my expressed wishes so we had to deal with that too. My son would initially only nurse in one position and like all new mothers I was massively sleep deprived. (Not to mention that if you talk to 5 different lactation consultants you get 7 different answers.) It is only through his steady encouragement and support that I was able to power through those initial difficult weeks to become a pro at nursing…wherever it was needed. Never once did I get a bad comment about where or how I nursed and I never covered up because then my son would fuss instead of feed.

Brandi Gladson 1 year ago

love #8

Alaina Stanley-Loredo 1 year ago

I love this! I am very blessed my husband is 100% supportive! It aint easy. …I hate bottles ha ha ha

Laura Hohm 1 year ago

great read. love point 8 especially. point 5, not so much.

nyleamama 1 year ago

my husband supported me 100% in breastfeeding in the very begining having such large boobs i couldn’t get a hang of holding her right and he would help me get her to latch and i was so in love with him for that. he was so supportive! we did supplement in the begining because she was such a hungry baby! And then once my milk came in man she gained 5 lbs the first week! Its my favorite memory of our first few weeks :)

Lipstick & Lollipops 1 year ago

This is awesome and should be mandatory pre-baby reading for every partner! Thanks for all the awesome reminders – I’ll be share my friends/family’s partners’ all learn this thanks to you!

Wendy Widom 1 year ago

Wonderful advice, Jenna! Love love love this post.