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How To Make Breastfeeding A Team Sport With Your Partner

Encouragement is support, encouragement inspires confidence. It can persuade us to do or to continue doing something. Encouragement builds determination. I’d like to call it  Encourage Breastfeeding Day…

Research has shown us that high quality professional lactation support and guidance is often the most important element of breastfeeding success but the role a woman's partner plays in both her decision to breastfeed and her desire to continue breastfeeding is also critical.

Mothers who have a partner who is supportive and encouraging are more likely to plan to breastfeed, breastfeed on discharge from the hospital and continue to breastfeed longer. Your partner’s support and encouragement will boost your confidence, allowing you to feel more capable and competent in making your breastfeeding decisions and facing its challenges.

But there has to be  mutual encouragement  for breastfeeding success. It must involve teamwork.

How can you do this?

Set breastfeeding goals together… get all your family members and caregivers on board. Make sure they understand that you are breastfeeding exclusively of perhaps that you don’t want any bottles or pacifiers used. I have found that many older relatives, who didn’t breastfeed their children, haven’t got the concept of frequent breast milk feedings and will remark, “You’re feeding her again?!?” Your success in achieving these goals is dependent upon their  informed support and encouragement. There are numerous ways that fathers/partners and others can support breastfeeding, particularly when you are having difficulties and feeling exhausted. A gentle should and neck massage while you are feeding your baby or an offer of something to drink or a high protein snack. And someone has to go to the store to purchase those beverages and snacks. Decide who will be responsible for easily accessed, healthy nutrition for you and your partner.  You already have your baby covered.

Encouragement can be emotional, showing appreciation for your breastfeeding and what it does for your baby. It can be physical; family members can help share tasks around the house that you might feel you have neglected while nurturing your newborn full time. It can involve simply sitting together and enjoying some down time.

Communicate well and solve problems together!

The most comforting way a father or partner can support and encourage breastfeeding is by being responsive to the mother’s needs, while being aware of when she needs her space. Some of us are group learners and some of us need to work at it on our own until we learn – with a modicum of support. Communicate, encourage each other to eat well when hungry, get rest when tired, and show love all the time. Problems are more easily solved together on a full stomach and heart.

Encourage other breastfeeding mothers to feel confident, especially when breastfeeding their babies in public. Your thumbs up, smile or kind word of support will empower more women to open up, come out from under their canopies and blankets, and be proud to feed their babies openly in public. Try saying  “Thank you for breastfeeding,” or  “Great job Mama.” Don’t avoid her or act awkward. Be sure to smile to her and the whole room as you walk by. You can make a huge difference to her breastfeeding journey simply by being supportive, encouraging, and showing our fellow citizens how to behave toward women and how to respect breastfeeding mothers.

We know that breastfeeding is hard work. It can be physically draining and unfortunately, not always socially accepted. Whether at the mall, on the bus, at the pool or at the park, mothers have a legal right to breastfeed their children anywhere. Breastfeeding id the normal, natural way for women to feed their babies and must become and accepted practice whenever and wherever baby requires it. You can be an advocate for breastfeeding mothers everywhere;  it starts with a smile.

As a breastfeeding mother, you will need encouragement to continue sacrificing your once prolonged sleep to make sure your baby is fed at night. You will need encouragement to deal with the challenges that may involve mastitis, sore nipples, and leaking breast milk. Remind yourself about the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby. Set goals, even daily goals, that you will feel good about being able to accomplish, and listen to those who say that breastfeeding gets easier. Talk to your MD, PNP, or Lactation Consultant whenever you need support and encouragement. They are there to do everything in their power to keep you and your baby healthy.

Breastfeeding support groups are the perfect place for new mothers to meet friends, receive encouragement, build confidence, and talk about baby feeding issues with like-minded women. Sometimes simply having another breastfeeding mother to talk to can make a huge difference. Find out where a mother’s group is meeting near you, get a friend to go with you if you like. Don’t be afraid to look for further encouragement and support outside of your home, in your community. Share your successes and concerns, offer your own encouragement to others and you will receive it in return.

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC

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