National Breastfeeding Week: 5 things you can do to support a breastfeeding mother
Breastfeeding might not feel like a team job, but really – it should be.
To make it easier for a mother to breastfeed and to succeed with breastfeeding, having a partner or friend or family there for help and support can make all the difference.
In fact, research shows that if partners are supportive of breastfeeding, a mother is more likely to try breastfeeding and breastfeed for longer.
Sounds interesting? We have asked the expert involved with HSE National Breastfeeding week, and here are some practical ways partners can help with breastfeeding:
1. Be prepared
Learn about breastfeeding whilst your partner is pregnant. Watch breastfeeding preparation videos with your partner to learn all about breastfeeding your baby. Find out about how breastmilk is produced, how to position and attach the baby for feeding and how to know when a baby is getting enough milk. Your partner will likely discuss any feeding concerns with you first, so knowing as much as you can or knowing where to get information will be helpful to you both.
2. Help her to position and attach the baby
After the birth, help your partner while she is holding your baby in skin-to-skin contact and the first feed. When your baby is well-positioned and attached to the breast, they will find it easier to feed and your partner will find it more comfortable.
If possible, be with your partner for a lot of those early feeds so you can both learn the skill of breastfeeding. Your midwife and public health nurse can support and guide you both. There is a lot of information to absorb in the early days so having two people listening to the advice from your midwife or public health nurse is useful.
3. Ask her what she needs
Give encouragement and listen to any concerns she has. Support your partner through any challenges that arise, seek further advice if needed.
Feeding the mother is feeding the baby! In the early days, your partner will be sitting down and feeding a lot so taking care of food will give her the energy and strength she needs to recover and breastfeed. Tell your partner you love her and how proud you are of her.
4. Bonding with your baby
Connecting with your baby is important both for you and your partner. Enjoy some of the following activities with your baby: skin-to-skin contact, bath time, comforting your baby after a feed, nappy changing, a relaxing walk and having cuddle time.
5. Help out at home
When you go home from the hospital, set up a feeding area for your partner. This should be a comfortable chair, a small table with a drink and snacks, the remote control or a book nearby.
Ask for and accept offers of food, household chores and babysitting older children. It all helps, particular during the early days. Spread out your visitors in the early weeks. It can be lovely but exhausting having visitors. Remind her the early days and weeks of breastfeeding are temporary. Settling into breastfeeding and parenthood takes time.
This year the HSE is highlighting the ‘Ask our breastfeeding expert’ service available on mychild.ie. Lactation consultants can answer any query you might have about breastfeeding through email or live chat. The service has seen a 57% increase in people contacting it since April.
The mychild.ie website also includes extensive breastfeeding information, videos and guides - plus all the wider pregnancy and child health information from the HSE. The site also provides contact details for breastfeeding support groups run by HSE staff and voluntary breastfeeding organisations around the country
To join the HSE parenting and breastfeeding community, see the HSE mychild.ie Facebook page and hse_mychild on Instagram #hsemychild #breastfeeding #breastfeedingweek