You and Your Partner: Helping Them Understand Your Breastfeeding Journey
Partner support is crucial to making your breastfeeding experience easier and more seamless. Clearly communicating your goals and helping them feel involved can make a big difference as you continue providing your little one with breast milk!
A Solid Support System Along Your Breastfeeding Journey Can Make a Big Difference!
It’s no secret – Having the support of your partner while you’re breastfeeding can help you meet your unique breast milk feeding goals and continue providing your liquid gold to your little one for as long as you choose. From encouragement as you establish a strong breastfeeding relationship to continued support along your breastfeeding journey – whether that’s helping wash pump parts or feeding your little one stored milk so you can sleep in one or two mornings per week – taking some of the weight of responsibility off of you can help reinforce that you are a team when it comes to your growing baby.
With that in mind, there can be challenges – particularly as you are nursing for a year or longer. After all, your breastfeeding journey is a unique and highly personal experience that many dads and partners might not fully understand or realize that they, too, can play an active role. If you sense a disconnect between yourself and your partner as you continue to nurse and pump for your little one, here are a few tips that may help:
- Remind them of the incredible benefits that your milk provides. Breast milk isn’t just the perfect food for newborns! It continues to change as your little one grows, specifically so it can meet his or her evolving needs through each stage of development. That means that the benefits don’t end once your little one is out of their newborn stage, nor do these benefits stop after their first six months or year of life. Evidence shows that breast milk consists of more antibodies and a higher fat content once your baby transitions to toddlerhood and is eating primarily solid foods. These immune-boosting properties are especially beneficial as your little one attends daycare, begins preschool, and spends a lot more time out in the world and with other kids – all of which can expose him or her to more germs than when they were a newborn spending all their time in the safety of your home.
This can be especially helpful if your partner has misgivings specifically directed towards how long they believe you should continue to breastfeed and at what point you should wean, which is a common issue among parents who nurse into toddlerhood or beyond.
- Help them understand from the beginning that they are an important part of the breastfeeding journey. Though it might not be obvious at first how to include your partner in your breast milk feeding experience, there are small but impactful ways you can involve them. This includes asking for help when you need it (such as by asking them to pitch in when it comes to washing and sanitizing pump parts or cleaning bottles or sippy cups), allowing them to feed your little one if you have pumped milk stored, and even simply thanking them for encouraging you and cheering you on during breastfeeding challenges that might otherwise have convinced you to wean earlier than you would’ve preferred.
You may also consider asking them to help you store and freeze pumped milk by preparing storage bags and organizing them in your fridge or freezer; requesting that they include your pumped milk whenever possible in foods prepared for your little one; helping pack your breast pump bag each morning before work; or helping you keep your breastfeeding and pumping space clean, stocked, and organized, so you have one less thing to think about when you’re there. These are great ways for your partner to be part of your breastfeeding journey, while encouraging teamwork with you and an even deeper bond with your little one!
- Find ways to spend time together. When a breastfeeding relationship carries into a year or longer, a common challenge is that dads and partners feel left out – not only are they oftentimes sacrificing physical closeness or one-on-one intimacy with you, but they also don’t get to experience the unique bonding that occurs between a breastfeeding parent and baby during nursing sessions. Gently remind your partner that breastfeeding is what’s best for the most important thing to both of you – your growing little one – and requires selflessness on both your parts. With that in mind, having dedicated time together – just the two of you – after your baby goes to sleep for the night or when being watched by a relative or babysitter can help you reconnect and recharge together.
Encouraging your partner to bond with your little one in other ways, such as by being in charge of bath time or trading off rocking them to sleep every other night, can help ensure that the family dynamic is as balanced as possible and nobody feels left out or less helpful.
No matter what your breastfeeding journey looks like or how long it may be, keeping the lines of communication open between you and your partner is the easiest way to bolster your partnership through the many changes that occur when breastfeeding a little one and transitioning to a totally new normal. Finding ways to express your thoughts and feelings to one another in a healthy, productive way is not only beneficial to helping your partner understand your longer-term nursing experience, but it also sets a great example to your growing – but still very perceptive – toddler. You are both doing a wonderful job!