A supportive partner can make the postpartum a much more positive experience for everyone involved. This post is part of a series for partners and support people. We’re going to work through various topics and talk about what to expect in the postpartum, how to help your partner, some things to look out for, and how to keep your connection strong.
So, your partner just had a baby.
And suddenly you were also transformed into a parent.
It might be scary. It might be overwhelming.
You might look at your partner in awe.
You might feel totally overwhelmed at this great new responsibility.
Your partner might be overwhelmed. They may cry one second and laugh the next. They may be weepy and exhausted. They may not seem like themselves. They may not feel like themselves.
That is okay. Those feelings are totally normal and expected. For both of you.
You’ve never been a parent to this baby before, and neither has your partner. It’s all new and you’re both learning. And it can be both incredibly joyful and totally scary.
You don’t have to go through it all alone – I’m here to help. I’ve rounded up my best tips for supporting a new parent in the postpartum into a series of posts. So often, resources and books are aimed at the pregnant person or written with them in mind. One of the things I most often hear from partners is that they feel lost in the new baby haze and don’t know how to best support their partner. I want to change that.
Today’s post is about what to expect when feeding your new baby and how to support your partner through it. We all know that babies eat, sleep, and poop. But so often, our expectations of what the early days will actually look like are not accurate. Especially when we talk about feeding our babies.
What to Expect Feeding Your Baby
In the early days, babies sleep a lot, and they eat a lot. They’re doing a lot of growing these early days! If your partner is breastfeeding or chestfeeding, you’ll find your baby wanting to latch a lot. Like A LOT. This might be exhausting for your partner. They may be scared that they don’t have enough milk. Other people may suggest the same to them and recommend just giving that baby a bottle. But rest assured, that this is normal behaviour for a newborn. Your baby is just trying to bring in your partner’s milk and set the threshold for how plentiful your partner’s milk supply will be.
Sometimes newborns do have issues latching and it may be painful for your partner. If this is the case, encourage them to try to nurse the baby in different positions to see if that helps the baby latch better. If nothing else is helping, you can always suggest contacting a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding and chestfeeding is a skill that both your baby and your partner needs to learn. Sometimes, it just takes some time.
No matter how your baby is feeding (breast or bottle), ensure that you know what feeding cues look like for a newborn. You want to recognize the early signs, before they get REALLY hungry. Early feeding cues include stirring, mouth opening, and turning their head/seeking/rooting. Mid cues include stretching, increasing physical movement, and them putting their hand to their mouth. If cues progress past these into late cues, you’ll need to calm your baby before attempting to feed them. Late cues include crying, agitated body movements, and their colour turning red.
Being responsible for creating and feeding a brand new baby can feel overwhelming for your partner. It is a huge responsibility. And it may feel a bit isolating for you – especially if your partner is breastfeeding/chestfeeding. You may wish that you had the same opportunities to bond with your new baby that your partner does. Sometimes, people even feel resentful of the time that a nursing parent spends with a newborn. But know that there are lots of other opportunities to bond with your baby, and your partner needs you to be supportive right now.
How to Support your Partner
No matter how your baby is being fed, it takes a lot of time in the day to feed them. How much time exactly? Well, it’s about 8 hours on average. With bottle fed babies, this is often longer as that doesn’t include time spent cleaning bottles and preparing formula. That’s a LOT of time. It’s a full time job JUST feeding your baby. If your partner is breastfeeding or chestfeeding, they will be the only one able to do this job. That means that as their partner, you need to step forward and take on some of the other stuff so that they can focus on their very important job.
So, how exactly can you do this as a partner? Here are some ideas:
- Bring them a snack and a water every time they feed the baby (regardless of if they want it or not), especially if they’re breastfeeding/chestfeeding. Lactating uses up a lot of calories and energy for a person, so they need to be able to replenish those.
- Make sure they have the TV remote or their phone within reach when they’re sitting and nursing.
- Ensure that they have enough pillows or their nursing pillow so that they are able to support baby in whatever position they are feeding in. If nursing, make sure that they have whatever extra supplies they need too – nipple cream, breast pads, etc.
- Change the diapers. Yes, all of them. Yes, even the yucky meconium poops at the beginning. Yes, even the ones in the night time. Don’t complain about it either.
- Encourage them. Listen to their fears. Sit with them and hold space when they are frustrated.
- If they are really struggling with breastfeeding/chestfeeding, encourage them to contact a local lactation consultant.
- Bottle feeding? Offer to take over some of the feeds so that your partner can rest. Maybe alternate night time feeds with them or take over early morning feeds.
- Take over the housework without complaining. Do the dishes. Put some laundry through. Make dinner. Sweep the floor.
- Call in some help. Whether that’s family or friends, or you hire a postpartum doula, calling in some help can really help lessen the overwhelm.
keep your connection strong
As already mentioned, it can feel totally isolating being the partner of a person who is breastfeeding or chestfeeding. I’ve heard so many partners, my own included, talk about how they felt left out of the early baby days. Some of them began to resent their partners for “monopolizing” the time with their baby – and yet, they understood that that was just the way it was. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are so many other ways to bond with your baby. Baths, diaper changes, skin to skin time, or babywearing can all help you form that bond. Some parents like to shower with their newborn – this can be a great way to get that skin to skin time in.
You can keep your connection strong with your partner by implementing some of the previous ideas. Don’t wait to be asked for a glass of water, just bring them one. Anticipate what they might need prior to them needing it. If you’re working, leave them with some snacks and water beside them. Prepare or purchase cut up veggies and fruit and leave them in the fridge. Check in on them if you can while you’re at work. Even just sending a text can make things easier. And be encouraging and ready to help make them more comfortable.
Feeding your baby is a big job. It can feel totally overwhelming for your partner, and for you too. Especially if your partner is breastfeeding or chestfeeding and you’ve never been around a breastfed/chestfed baby before. I encourage you to do some reading about breastfeeding/chestfeeding prior to your baby’s birth. It may just help with the overwhelm. You can check out the suggestions on my resource list! Many of these options are available at the library and as audiobooks.
Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series – what to expect emotionally and how to support your partner through the baby blues.
Love Sarah XOXO