Ways To Support Your Partner When They're Breastfeeding

Bringing new life into the world is a momentous act for any mother and nourishing that life is also a beautiful feat, requiring much of the same energy and strength. Breastfeeding is a natural process with an array of benefits, including optimal nutrition for the baby, antibodies passed from the mother to the baby, and a reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for the mother (via Community Health of Central Washington).


There is also a bit of a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding success. It takes practice, patience, and a lot of support. You may feel a bit like an outsider as the partner of a breastfeeding mom, but there's a lot you can do to ensure the breastfeeding journey is a positive one for the whole family.

According to La Leche League, when partners learn about how to overcome breastfeeding challenges before the baby is born, the nursing mother is five times more likely to still be breastfeeding at six months even if they experience any difficulties, which means your efforts will be well worthwhile.

Learn about breastfeeding before the birth

You may have read up on parenting and childbirth, toured the birthing center or hospital where you plan to welcome your baby, and taken prenatal education classes — which hopefully touched on breastfeeding basics and how to support your partner. If not, seeking out a breastfeeding class in your community and attending the session together is a wise bet.


Your midwife or doctor may be able to point you in the right direction. And if you can't find anything local, there are online options like The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class from Milkology.

"We suggest that the partner take a breastfeeding class with the birthing parent and that the partner be present during the early days to help with latch and positioning," Tina Castellanos, La Leche League USA Council President, told Healthline.

Absorbing as much information as you can in anticipation of any hurdles your partner and baby may face will prepare you to step in to help, which is easier said than done when the whole house is running low on sleep. Issues like proper latching, low milk supply, painful engorgement, and plugged milk ducts are all challenges you may become familiar with in class (via WIC Breastfeeding Support). You'll also be reminded of how beneficial breastfeeding is for your child, and this should give you the motivation to support your partner in keeping with it when times feel tough.


Bring water and snacks during breastfeeding sessions

The weeks following a newborn's entrance into the world, also known as "the fourth trimester" are a whirlwind of love, hormones, midnight diaper changes, very little shut-eye, and in many cases, emotions ranging from the baby blues to postpartum depression.


It'll seem that your baby is almost constantly at the breast. And a lot of trial and error is required to find which nursing position works best for the mother and baby. Once they find that sweet spot, they're going to be planted there for a while.

Without prompting, step in and fill up your partner's water bottle, bring her some nutritious granola bars and fruit, and ask her if there's anything else she needs — which may just be some company while she's glued to the rocker. It's smart to keep her nightstand stocked with snacks, beverages, and nursing pads for the late-night feeding sessions (via High Speed Daddy).

A breastfeeding mother's appetite and need for nourishment will also increase as she produces breast milk. This is a great opportunity for you to make sure she's getting the necessary nutrients by cooking or ordering protein-rich meals for her. Eggs, meat, beans, peas, and lentils are all great options (via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


Offer emotional support

Mothers may feel surprised by the emotional waves that accompany breastfeeding, especially if challenges arise. Nourishing such a vulnerable being after giving birth is a lot of pressure and it's natural for mothers to feel isolated.


As a supportive partner, you can step in and nurture her. Offer words of encouragement and treat her with tenderness (via High Speed Daddy). Help her feel confident and celebrate her wins, like the baby's weight gain and overall health — which are all thanks to her breast milk. Shower her with kindness and be sure to speak her love language to show your support.

If you notice that she may need some additional cheering up and having a trusted family member or friend over for some mellow socializing might do the trick, step in and arrange it for her (via La Leche League). Just be sure that she confirms it is, indeed, what she wants first. Some mothers crave their privacy in those early postpartum days, when their tops are soaked in milk and they haven't had a chance to shower.


Offer to take on baby care before and after feedings

During the first few weeks, a newborn typically nurses every one to three hours. Mom needs rest when the baby is not nursing, so step in and take charge of diaper changes, burping after feedings, and carrying the baby around the house to soothe and provide a change of scenery when fussiness persists (via High Speed Daddy). These are also opportunities for you to bond with your baby. Other avenues for bonding include bath time, safe babywearing, holding the baby skin-to-skin, infant massage, and playtime (via La Leche League).


If you have other children, you may be the one to entertain and care for them during this time period while mom and baby are in their safe, cozy postpartum nest. When the baby isn't breastfeeding, you could offer to go on a quick walk outside with the stroller and give the other children a chance to have some one-on-one time with mom — as the addition of a baby can be a tricky transition for siblings.

Defend the choice to breastfeed with family and in public

Breastfeeding in a restaurant or on a park bench can, unfortunately, be a controversial act. The last thing a new mother needs is to feel judged or have to navigate less-than-kind comments about feeding her baby in the most natural way. If you and your partner are out in public and encounter this nosiness, be sure to calmly defend her.


It's also a mother's choice whether or not she uses a nursing cover and that decision just really isn't up for debate with anyone passing by. A mother's right to breastfeed in public is actually protected by law in all 50 states (via the National Conference of State Legislatures). It's a good idea to be there to support your partner when she breastfeeds in public, at least for the first few times as she gets the hang of it. If you notice your partner is receiving some unwanted staring, step right in and obscure the view if necessary, suggests Fatherly.

Sometimes, the choice to breastfeed isn't encouraged by family members who took a different route or are uncomfortable seeing a mother nurse her baby. This is another great opportunity for you to advocate for your partner and newborn, calmly explaining that your family isn't open to feedback on the decision.