When it comes to breastfeeding, biology dictates it’s the mom’s job. But that doesn’t mean that her primary support person can’t help make that job easier.
Beth Meeker, a lactation consultant with Beaumont, says there are many ways that a woman’s primary support person can ease the burden for moms so they can focus on bonding with baby and providing the nutrition and care needed for growth and development.
“I like to have dads and support people get involved early on learning about latching so they can be a second pair of eyes and ears to provide direction,” Meeker says. “That’s especially important if the baby isn’t latching to the nipple or mom needs a calming counterweight or cheerleader.”
Other simple ways to help include:
- plan or prepare meals
- take the baby so mom can get a nap
- do the dishes or other household chores while she breastfeeds
- clean the pump parts for her after she’s finished pumping
- take the baby to and from daycare when mom heads back to work
- offer to bottle feed early on, especially in the weeks before the mother goes back to work, so the baby gets used to feeding from a bottle and someone else’s hand
Support people can also help out when a baby is fussy and doesn’t want to eat. “Holding skin-to-skin, talking to them, rocking them, reading to them, walking them through the house - these are all ways to help try and calm the baby,” Meeker says. “Support people can really provide a secondary comfort outside of breastfeeding.”
Some women experience postpartum depression or anxiety, which sometimes makes it difficult for them to care for themselves or the baby. This can make breastfeeding especially challenging.
If a support person thinks mom may be at high risk or suffering from postpartum depression the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale can help verify. “If you’re worried about mom and how she’s adjusting to this transition in life, this can be a helpful tool” Meeker says. “Support people can be the second set of eyes to let mom know she needs some help.”
If a new mom is experiencing postpartum depression, resources such as support groups, mental health professionals, or her doctor can provide help. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner a mother will start feeling better.
“Breastfeeding typically takes two weeks for a mother to feel more confident with her skills, so the support person plays an important role,” Meeker said. “It’s important to continue encouragement and point out positive accomplishments. A team approach is always more successful.”