You’ve read up on all the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and you’re convinced that it is the way to go. Your wife is excited to start too and to enjoy the bond with baby that breastfeeding will bring. The two of you have discussed how you can chip in to help her on this exciting breastfeeding journey.
And then the journey starts. It’s stressful. Painful, even. For your wife and also for you. Breastfeeding is not as easy as some husbands would like to think. You start to lose sight of why you wanted this in the first place. Lack of support from her husband during breastfeeding will only serve to increase a breastfeeding wife’s frustration.
Here’s what you can do instead.
12 Ways to be the most supportive husband ever when your wife is breastfeeding
1. Be the pep talker for your breastfeeding wife
Don’t let her be the one to give you pep talks about going on with breastfeeding. Don’t turn it into a situation of her encouraging you to encourage her! That’s not how this was supposed to work, remember? You’ll see her exhausted and lacking sleep. You’ll be lacking sleep yourself and those two factors might make you start to push her towards the bottle (of milk for baby, not alcohol for herself. I know you’re not stupid). Don’t do it. Stay strong for her. It gets better. It does. Know that and tell your wife that too.
2. She doesn’t seem to be as interested in sex as she used to be?
That’s not strange. And it won’t last forever. Never mind what your best friend Mike said about how they were back at it two weeks after his wife’s C-section. He’s probably lying. Plus, it’s different for every woman.
3. You’ll do well to remember that formula is not a panacea for tiredness and exhaustion
Formula is not the answer to sleep deprivation for parents that some people will have you believe. Formula-fed babies can wake up a zillion times a night too. You’ll be more annoyed if you switch to formula and your formerly breastfeeding wife is getting the same amount of sleep. Or less! If she has to prepare a bottle each time your baby is up, you’ll truly start to miss the times when she was breastfeeding.
4. If her lack of sleep is breaking your heart that much, think about ways you can help her
As the husband of a breastfeeding wife, your role is to provide support in any format that won’t end up being a nuisance to her. You could, for example, sleep in a separate bedroom so that you’re getting a great night’s rest and then you’re well-rested to take baby in the morning. That way your wife can sleep in for as long as possible.
5. While we’re on the topic of sleeping in a separate room, if you snore, let’s talk
I know. It’s not your fault. You can’t stop yourself from snoring. It’s true. However, when your wife is breastfeeding at 1am, it might be helpful if you’re snoring in a different room. If you insist on being in the room with her, please don’t be asleep when she’s awake. Unless you’ve got a foolproof non-snoring position. Otherwise, she has to look over at you and see you blissfully sleeping and listen to your snoring when she wakes up to feed the baby.
6. There are times when your breastfeeding wife will need to whip out her breast in public
Don’t be embarrassed, Dear Husband. Despite what society makes you think and feel, breastfeeding is natural. Anyone who acts uncomfortable around you guys about it are simply silly and/or uneducated as to the benefits of breastfeeding. They’re also very unlikely to be able to say anything to your face about their discomfort so don’t worry – there’s little potential for a public confrontation about it.
7. Dear Husband, her hormones
They’re everywhere. And they won’t be calm until she’s done nursing. And even then…well, you know, at a specific time of the month, things change again. So just be patient. As badly as you want to help and as much as you’ve heard from people and read online, remember that it’s her body doing all the work.
8. Don’t feel attacked
I know. You just want to get in there. Breastfeeding causing resentment in a marriage is not uncommon. You want to feel like you’re being helpful and that you’re involved in this breastfeeding journey even though you can’t physically do it yourself. Find some kind of baby-related class that you two can take together. Read a specific parenting book at the same time and share your understand of and opinions on it. Or any other baby activity that is for both mommy and daddy. You’ll get the chance to bond with baby and spend time with your wife at the same time.
9. Don’t dare go to your breastfeeding wife with breastfeeding stories and experiences from the guys at work
She does not care about Andre from Accounting’s wife’s experience with breastfeeding. Infact, it might make her downright angry. How does she know that what Andre is telling you is true? Andre wasn’t feeding his baby from his own nipple, was he? Come to think of it, Andre’s baby was born three years ago! How does he remember what happened? If it’s not scientific research that you can show her, don’t bother.
10. Dear Husband, steel yourself
What I’m about to say might hurt your feelings. Your breastfeeding wife may love your mom to bits. Absolute bits. However, she does not want to hear what your mom has to say about introducing formula. Or about how she’s holding the baby wrongly to breastfeed. Right now, she won’t want to hear much of anything from your mom. Or your sister. Yes, she knows your sister has had five children of her own but your wife would like to enjoy her own experience without people chiming in all the time. You know what will get her goat more than anything else? You letting her know what your mom said about breastfeeding, breastmilk, or worst of all, switching to formula. Take heed.
11. Step back
Loving husband, when she’s rejected an idea you have about breastfeeding, take a step back. Not to breath before you suggest it again. No. Take a step back to think about your suggestion properly. Why is it really so important to you? Is it fully for her benefit? Are you absolutely certain that listening to you is what’s best for your wife and your baby? Do you know for sure what you’re talking about? How much research have you done? How much evidence do you have?
12. It may not seem like it now but your wife’s breastfeeding journey will come to an end
Your baby will not be breastfeeding through university. When the time comes, if it’s not voluntary on your baby’s part, please be the support that your wife needs. Be strong for her because her heart might be breaking. She might be ready to stop, but that won’t make it any less painful. Again, be patient with her and do the things that she needs you to do. Weaning is hardly ever an easy feat. In moments of frustration, don’t be the one to push her to whip her boob back out so you can all get a good night’s rest because you are tired.
She’s her own worst critic right now, whether you know it or not. She knows the things she’s doing wrong and probably even imagines that she’s doing things wrong when she’s not. You’re not there to dictate. Don’t insist on anything. Not even if you think you know that it’s the best decision. You’re not there to lightly make suggestions every couple of seconds either. Don’t suggest strategies or techniques more than once. You’re not there to fix everything. You couldn’t even if you tried to. Listen to her. Comfort her. Your breastfeeding wife thought you’d be her biggest supporter in this breastfeeding journey. Don’t disappoint her. Be exactly that.
A Breastfeeding Mom