10 Tips To Support a Lactating Mom
According to my Breastfeeding Bible, more than 75 percent of mothers in the US start to breastfeed when their child is born, but a third of them stop within six months. There are various articles that try to explain why while leaving out really important factors like paid family leave for both partners, comprehensive healthcare for all (including lactation consultants) and work environments that accommodate pumping, to name a few. And in my experience, the most important factor of all . . . a supportive partner.
10 Breastfeeding Must Haves
- Bottles (we loved these)
- Bottle warmer
- Bottle Brush
- A drying rack that holds tiny parts
- Storage bags
- Nursing bras (I recommend 3-5)
- Pumping bras - one for home, one for work
- Nipple cream (To prevent cracks, use it all the time. Even when you think you don’t need it.)
- An extra pump to keep at work or rent a hospital grade pump for your work office in order to get a ton of milk quickly (that’s what we did)
- Hand pump for work and rare nights out with friends (trust me, your breasts will feel like they need to explode sometimes)
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am no breastfeeding evangelist. The purpose of writing this is not to chastise those who did not/could not/tried to but stopped breastfeeding. I fully understand and respect mothers who choose not to breastfeed. I get it, 100%. Our system (in the US) is not built to support breastfeeding, full stop.
So why am I writing this? To underscore the importance of a supportive partner. That was the single most important piece that allowed me to breastfeed for a year. Because it was time-consuming, exhausting and expensive. I also realize that I was very fortunate to have had really good benefits and support at home. I had 6 months of paid family leave where I breastfed exclusively, my partner had 3 months of paid family leave and because I am a union employee, I had full accommodations to pump in my office. And when I was out of the office, my colleagues paid no mind when I whipped this out in court and pumped in the corner of our side office. And towards the end of that year, we supplemented 8-12 oz per day with this powdered goats milk instead of killing myself to produce while working. Why goat’s milk? We tried various brands of formula and Baby G started to spit up a lot (he essentially never spit up when drinking breast milk). So a little research taught us that goat’s milk is the closest to human breast milk. We tried it, his reflux was gone and he stopped spitting it up.
So I had a chat with Andres. I wanted to get his perspective about this whole thing and this is what he said, “Preparing for the baby through reading, couples therapy and obtaining advice from other supportive partners was essential”. And then he gave me some tips for non-lactating partners.
10 TIPS TO SUPPORT A LACTATING MOM (ACCORDING TO ANDRES)
Get your non-lactating butt out of bed in the middle of the night to give your baby a bottle of mama’s liquid gold. Take turns.
If you are not putting as much time as mama in taking care of the baby, something is wrong (taking care of mama is a viable alternative to making up some of this time).
Be mama’s personal butler. All meals are your responsibility and fill water bottles.
You better be doing all of the grocery shopping.
You have to be actively invested and involved in the milk management situation. Mama is pumpin’ that shit out so you need to figure out how, where, when to store the milk and when to thaw it.
You gotta be in charge of pumping maintenance: Cleaning the pump, valves, tubes.
You have to be an emotional support while she’s pumping because that’s exhausting for her and the let down of milk is an emotional process. If she is stressed or worried then milk doesn’t come down as easily. Rub her feet, burn a f*&king candle . . .
Take the baby out of the house, on your own, to let mama have some down time.
Repeat Tip 3.
Don’t be drinking any of your baby’s milk.
Overall, I enjoyed breastfeeding and felt privileged and fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it for one year. I was definitely able to connect with Baby G at a deep and special level. But if Andres had one of those jobs where he was barely home or if he did not do the 10 Tips from above, I most likely would have called it quits around the 6 month point, when I went back to work. I realized that breastfeeding is not all about the mom and baby; instead, it’s all about the mom and baby who are fully supported.
Do you have any other tips? I would love to hear.