While it may seem like breastfeeding is just about mom and baby, dads can support breastfeeding and therefore play a critical role in breastfeeding success and helping to make sure mom doesn’t get burned out.
Stress and modern life seem to go hand in hand, and it’s often amplified when a new baby and breastfeeding are added into the mix. Whether you have just one baby or there are multiple older siblings in the family, the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn is stressful. Then you have the continuous demands for feeding sessions, constant diaper changes and maybe even colic.
Even a minor case of mommy burnout can have a devastating impact not only on the mother but the entire family. Marriages are challenged. Older children are stressed. As mommy unravels, the household often feels the impact.
10 Easy Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
The good news is that dads can step in to help relieve and possibly even prevent mommy burnout. Let’s discuss 10 specific things that daddy can do to make breastfeeding and life with a newborn easier on mommy.
1. Help with the pillows.
Whether you have basic bed pillows, throw pillows or pillows designed for breastfeeding, they’re essential to safe, comfortable positioning while breastfeeding an infant. Daddies can help by slipping the pillows into place so that the new mommy doesn’t have to hold the baby and arrange the pillows at once. A little help makes the process easier and a bit safer. It may seem like a little thing but it is a BIG help and will let your partner know you care.
2. Do the research.
There are always new things to learn when caring for a newborn. Fathers can look up breastfeeding positions and make suggestions that may help a breastfeeding mother try more comfortable and effective positions. Fathers may also research how to create a breastfeeding stash or troubleshoot problems with the breast pump.
Whatever is happening in the breastfeeding and newborn care routine, fathers can learn a bit more online or by contacting professionals. By simply offering valid information, fathers can solve problems that make breastfeeding much easier.
If nothing else, it will let your partner know that you are actively trying to help and be involved.
3. Give her a well-timed massage.
This is our favorite! Simply rubbing a mother’s feet, shoulders or arms while she breastfeeds can help relax her body and mind. A soft massage can also help her sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s not always easy to fall asleep even when you’re exhausted, especially if the house is a mess, you miss your older children and there are a million things on your mind.
Dads who want to earn extra brownie points may invest in lotion with a relaxing scent. A little lotion and a long foot rub can go a long way to put a breastfeeding mother at ease.
4. Keep the supplies well stocked.
There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing that you’re down to one diaper at two in the morning or reaching into an empty tub of baby wipes. Dads can make a list of all the supplies needed to keep baby and mother happy, and then keep those supplies stocked. Something as basic as stopping for diapers on the way home from work can make a big difference because it means mommy doesn’t have to worry about those little details.
5. Feed her nutritious foods.
Breastfeeding mothers need nutrient-rich foods if they’re going to create nourishing milk that helps the baby grow and thrive. Dads can help by buying the food and perhaps cooking meals. Those unable to cook can look recipes up online and develop a new skill. The healthy food will help the new mother feel satisfied and energetic, and she’ll also feel loved by her partner.
Breastfeeding mommies also need lots of healthy snacks, so stocking up on nuts, cheese, fruit, crackers and other snacks is just as important as cooking healthy meals. Hydration is also critical to the health of the breastfeeding mother and the production of milk, so ensuring that she always has a drink on hand is another way to nourish and help a new mother.
6. Clean the house or hire a maid.
Keeping the toilet clean and the laundry from piling up will relieve a lot of stress on a new mother. Most women feel guilty if their homes aren’t clean because they feel like they’re not living up to their responsibilities. When a dad keeps the house clean, he takes some of the pressure and guilt from her shoulders. The mom can spend more time resting or bonding with her baby without worrying that someone will knock on the door for an unexpected visit and see her home in a chaotic state.
What if dad is busy working and doesn’t have the time or energy to clean? Hiring a cleaning service to at least come in once a month to do the heavy scrubbing will still help. One cleaning session per month isn’t as expensive as you may think, so check local prices before assuming that you can’t afford to help mom out in this way.
You may also find high school or college students in your neighborhood who will do some light cleaning to make a few bucks on the weekends or in the summer. This is a good way to get things done around the house while allowing the new mother to rest.
7. Act as a social buffer.
New mothers are often overwhelmed by visitors who want to see the baby, frequent phone calls from excited friends and other social distractions. Many women won’t speak up when they don’t want visitors or just need some time to relax without phone calls, but that doesn’t mean that dad can’t create a buffer zone of safety.
This is done when the dad intercepts phone calls and politely explains that the new mother needs some time to rest and adjust to motherhood. Some dads also interact with loved ones to schedule visits at the best times for the new mother. He can space the visits out and let everyone know when it’s time to wrap it up and let mommy and baby rest.
The key here is to remain polite but firm. Setting some boundaries when the new mother may feel too vulnerable or overwhelmed to do so is a tremendous help. Dads may want to talk to the new mother to determine the short list of friends and relatives that she may want to see as often as possible.
Finally, dads can send out group text messages or social media posts with pictures of the baby and mommy at regular intervals. Getting the mother’s consent for each picture and all information included is essential, but these group alerts can keep a lot of people from picking up the phone or stopping by to see how the new mommy and baby are doing.
8. Become the master of bath time, diaper changes or other essential baby-care activities.
Mommy is doing a lot with the breastfeeding schedule, but that’s the only part of caring for a baby that is exclusive to motherhood. Dads can make bath time lots of fun, sing and rock the baby to sleep, or pick up some of the biggest diaper disasters. The more daddy helps, the more opportunity mommy has to take care of her own physical and mental health.
This is ESPECIALLY helpful for moms who had a C-section and have trouble carrying the baby or getting up and down so much. Going to get the baby in the middle of the night, changing the diaper and bringing baby to mom for breastfeeding is a HUGE HUGE blessing to a new mom!
9. Help with feeding sessions if the mom agrees to pumping and bottle feeding.
This isn’t a suggestion that every family will use, but it works for many. If the new mom isn’t insistent on exclusively feeding from her breast, you can consider pumping into a bottle so that daddy can take part in some feedings. This gives the mother longer periods of time to sleep, take a shower, shave her legs or do other personal care tasks. Sometimes just sitting on the front porch to get some sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for lifting a new mother’s spirits.
10. Pay attention and ask for help when it’s necessary!
This is one of the most loving and important things a dad can do!
Many new mothers don’t reach out for help with breastfeeding or other personal needs because they feel guilty. There’s this supermom image that many new mothers feel they must live up to, but no one can do that without burning out.
In this case, dads can help by simply paying close attention to their partner and taking action when help is needed. If he knows that she’s overly sensitive, emotional or agitated because she hasn’t had much sleep, then perhaps it’s time to bring in help so that she has more time to rest. When there’s a latching issue or the baby may have colic, perhaps a lactation consultant or visit to the doctor is in order.
All dads should also know the symptoms of postpartum depression, which includes changes in appetite, sleep patterns and mood. If you believe that someone you love is suffering from depression, it’s important to seek medical help. If you believe that suicidal thoughts are in play, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Note: Dad’s Suffer Too!
While it’s important for dads to step up and help new mothers survive breastfeeding with less stress, it’s important to remember that dads can suffer parental burnout as well. When parents work together and accept any help offered from friends and loved ones, they can avoid burnout together. At the very least, it’s possible for most couples to prevent burnout from negatively impacting their family and their personal health.
It is important for your baby that you ALL are happy, healthy and taken care of well!
- The Scary Effects of Sleep Deprivation on New Parents
- How to Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night
- Tips for Exhausted Parents to Get Baby on a Good Schedule