Author: TLN

The power of an empowered partner: 5 tips to foster breastfeeding support in your family

If you’ve ever set a goal for yourself, whether personally or professionally, you know how difficult it can be to stay focused on the positive outcome you’ve envisioned when times get tough. And you also know the value that a supportive team can bring. Every new parent needs a village, and the partner is often a key part of that team. Yet few people focus on how to prepare the partner of a breastfeeding parent to be an effective, educated resource. 

Of course, it’s hard to communicate the enormity of what it takes to care for a child before you’re actually tasked with doing so. Parenting is as challenging as it is rewarding, and learning how to feed your baby is a key milestone in the parenting journey. In fact, the 2023 TLN Breastfeeding Sentiment Snapshot found that nursing helped parents feel more empowered and more connected to their babies. Breastfeeding isn’t just about feeding: It sets the stage for the bond between a new parent and their child. An empowered partner, in turn, helps to empower and nurture that bond. 

The crucial role of partners in breastfeeding support 

Traditionally, breastfeeding support from a partner has been understood as one simple task — make a bottle for the baby so that the lactating parent can rest. But just as breastfeeding is much more than just nutrition for your baby, partners provide so much more than an extra set of hands. So when we talk about breastfeeding support, it isn’t about finding the right pump, the right accessories, or the right nursing bra. It’s not even about finding the right breastfeeding position. What many lactating parents are unprepared for is the physical, mental, and emotional toll of feeding a new baby. That’s where a partner can step in to care for the lactating parent in emotional as well as practical ways. 

Here are five ways that family members can help breastfeeding parents — during the postpartum period and beyond: 

Educate yourself on lactation and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Mastering this new skill involves familiarizing yourself with the breastfeeding language, terminology, and tools that nursing parents use. You can look into lactation resources for parents well before your partner’s due date. Specifically, you may want to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, what to expect in the first few weeks postpartum, and breast milk guidelines for safe storage. Consider enrolling in a class for new parents, booking a consultation with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), or checking out the location of nearby lactation support groups.

Be prepared to navigate the unexpected

A newborn baby needs to be fed, on average, between 10 and 12 times a day. That can be both time-consuming and physically demanding — which many parents expect. But you may also find breastfeeding to be socially, politically, economically, and emotionally charged. If you’re prepared to deal with the opinions of others as you navigate the lactation learning curve, you’ll be in a better position to support both your partner and child.

Be physically and emotionally supportive

Of course, there are times when the best thing you can do is give your partner a little extra sleep or some hands-on help. While that’s a major benefit, you can also keep an eye out for any mood changes or concerns in the birthing parent. They may not recognize or feel comfortable naming the symptoms of postpartum depression. As someone who knows them well, you can ensure that they get medical treatment and postpartum depression support if the need arises.

Know what resources are available to you and your partner

As new parents, you and your partner will have your hands full. It’ll be easy for anything that’s not right in front of you to fall by the wayside. While you’re doing your pre-baby lactation homework, it’s a good idea to look into the breastfeeding resources available to you and your partner. You can also schedule a consultation with an IBCLC and familiarize yourself with the kinds of challenges they can help with after delivery.

Start having conversations about your breastfeeding support plan well before birth 

Naturally, you don’t have to actually feed the baby until the baby arrives — but that doesn’t mean you can’t put the time before that to use. In fact, starting early is a key factor in success. A 2017 study found that, along with a supportive partner, prenatal education was the strongest predictor of a successful breastfeeding relationship. If you’re unsure where to start, you can meet with an IBCLC prior to delivery. You and your partner can create a plan together to help with any postpartum needs. This could include feeding, caring for any other children you may have, or making a plan to return to work. 

Feeding and milk production are important — but they’re not the only part of welcoming a new child into the family. Because these tasks make up such a large part of those early postpartum days, it can be easy for the non-birthing parent to take a backseat. But an empowered, educated partner is an invaluable support to their breastfeeding partner — and an irreplaceable part of setting the family up for success.

Get the care you deserve

We’re here for you, every step of the way. We work with your insurance to provide in-home, in-office, or telehealth visits with an IBCLC. 

Get the care you deserve at The Lactation Network