How you can help when your partner is nursing

You’re probably exhausted, and wishing you could get more sleep. For your partner, especially if she’s breastfeeding, she’s likely feeling the same strain, but even more so. Breastfeeding takes a lot out of a new mom. In the first few weeks after birth, not only is her body healing from labor and delivery, her body is also working hard to produce milk for Baby – and newborns nurse a lot!

Most babies eat every two hours or so in the first several weeks – that’s a lot of time during the day (and night!) when that tiny human just really needs mom. And just because your partner is off her feet to nurse, it doesn’t mean she’s taking it easy. Nursing takes time and work. In the early days, it also takes a lot of trial and error to make sure that baby is latching correctly and eating well. For some moms, this can be challenging, stressful, and even painful. Mom is working hard, even when sitting down. So how can you help?

Give her the time and space she needs to nurse

Make sure mom has a comfortable place to nurse. Depending on what time of day it is, she may prefer to nurse in bed, in a chair or rocker, or on the couch. Does she need a nursing pillow? Other support pillows? A blanket? Anything else to get comfy? You’re on it! And since so much of your partner’s time will be dedicated to nursing in the early days, make sure you do all you can so that when mom has down time – or in other words, when mom is not actively nursing – she doesn’t feel like she should be doing other things or can’t rest and take it easy.

This might mean that you take on a lot of household tasks in these early days – cooking, laundry, cleaning, and the like – which isn’t easy, but you’ve got this!

Help keep her hydrated and well-fed

Your partner needs to stay hydrated and well-fed to produce milk – and to stay healthy herself while nursing. A great way to ensure that this happens is to bring her a big glass of water every time she sits down to nurse, like clockwork. You should also make sure that she’s eating enough – nutritious meals and nutritious snacks. (Most moms need about an extra 500 calories a day when breastfeeding, so she may be plenty hungry!)

Much like the water habit, you can check in with mom when she’s nursing and ask if she’d like a little snack to munch on or if you can prepare a meal for her. And take on meal planning duties, grocery shopping, and cooking (oh, and calling up family members and asking them to bring you meals too!), even if this isn’t something you led the charge with previously.

Let her get rest

Again, nursing takes a lot out of your partner, so it goes without saying that you should let her rest whenever she can. A small habit that can help mom squeeze in just a little bit of extra down time (which, when repeated again and again, will make a really big impact), is to tackle all the diaper changes, especially those that might happen when Baby wakes from sleeping and is hungry and wants to nurse. Let your partner gather herself, close her eyes, or use the bathroom while you do the changing.

Between feedings, especially when Baby is napping, you should also encourage mom to nap. You may even want to nap too! If you decide to stay up, make sure to take the baby monitor yourself and send your partner off to nap with some good ear plugs, so she can get at least a little bit of uninterrupted sleep. Once Baby really needs her next – like when the next feeding rolls around – then you can wake her.

If she’s having trouble, help her get help

Whether she’s having trouble with Baby latching on to the breast or emotional difficulties while nursing, she might need you to step in for an assist and reach out for help. Can you call a lactation consultant? Her mom, your mom, or other loved ones who have experience nursing? Your healthcare provider? The pediatrician? There are a lot of options.

When it comes to nursing issues, just make sure you run things by her – you don’t want to surprise her or make her feel like she’s failing at anything. Sometimes it’s wrongly assumed that nursing should come easily to new mothers, but needing some extra guidance while learning to nurse is not at all uncommon, and experiencing some emotional issues is also not uncommon when learning how to breastfeed – sometimes, again, it’s because people assume it should just be easy.

But adjusting to breastfeeding, especially if it’s challenging or painful, can cause a great deal of stress and anguish for some moms. So if you notice that your partner may be depressed, let her know you’d like her to speak to a healthcare provider – and then go ahead make that call if she’s not able to.

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