There are many things families can do to prepare for breastfeeding. While we never know exactly how the birth and other events in the early days are going to go, here are some things partners and other family members can do that will generally help get breastfeeding going smoothly.
- Read, print and keep handy this excellent reference on how to support breastfeeding from La Leche League's latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
- For extra credit, read and keep handy this whole section of information sheets related to breastfeeding
- Make sure mom has plenty to eat and drink
- Make sure mom has a comfortable place to breastfeed
- Make sure mom gets help right away if breastfeeding hurts or is damaging her nipples
- Encourage mom to sleep when the baby does
- Encourage mom to spend lots of time skin to skin with your baby
- Spend lots of time skin to skin with your baby
- Wear your baby between feedings and take him outside for a walk
- Change your baby's diaper
- Take a bath with your baby
- Bring baby to mom to nurse before he is frantic
- Encourage visitors to bring you dinner and keep their visits short
- Call for help if you have any questions
- The early days with a new baby are usually exhausting. Work together to find ways for both of you to get enough rest.
One strategy that works well for many families goes something like this: If mom is awake every few hours for feedings during the night, and doesn't need your hands-on help with breastfeeding then, try to doze through those feedings. Then you will have more energy to get up early with your baby and let mom sleep in for a couple of hours in the morning. This can help everyone get enough sleep.
Offering to feed your baby a bottle so mom can rest, sleep, or have a break may seem helpful, but can actually undermine breastfeeding. Finding other ways to help mom get enough rest are more effective in supporting her and your baby's breastfeeding journey.
Dads and partners can take time during the early days to bond with their new baby in wonderful ways. Some become the resident expert on giving the baby a bath. Others decide that since mom is in charge of "input" (breastfeeding), they will be in charge of "output" (diaper changes) for as long as they can. Many partners become experts at calming a fussy baby, or dancing him off to sleep. There are many ways for dads and partners to bond with their babies in their own way, and to begin developing their own unique relationship with this new member of the family. It may feel strange and awkward at first, but dive in and give it a try!