How Support Made All the Difference in My Breastfeeding Journey
When I first decided to breastfeed, I was confident in my decision but nervous about how it would all work out. It seemed like breastfeeding would add a lot of work to the already heavy load of caring for a new baby, especially as a first-time mom.
Thankfully, I had some other experienced moms in my life who were able to share some of their best advice on how to make sure that I had the best breastfeeding support that I could from my partner, family, and friends. In the end, the support that I was given allowed me to breastfeed my baby for even longer than I had originally planned!
I knew that the first step to a successful breastfeeding experience was to commit to respecting the “golden hour” after giving birth. Because I knew this, I was able to ask my partner and my care providers to leave my baby alone as much as possible for the first hour when they were born.
My supportive partner kept friends and family out of the room, giving me and my baby ample time to snuggle up skin to skin and work on those first, important latches together without interruption. I was so grateful for the support in this first step of my breastfeeding journey!
Once I got home, I knew how important it would be to rest, rest, rest! I stayed in bed pretty much exclusively for the first week at home. I spent a lot of time skin-to-skin with my baby, allowing them to nurse on demand to establish a good milk supply.
I was able to do this with the support of my partner, other family members, and a few close friends! They knew that it was important to manage the household and encourage me to get the rest I needed in order to recover from birth and establish a solid foundation of breastfeeding with my baby.
Because I was able to rely on others to care for diaper changes, hold the baby while I showered and ate, and bring the baby back to me whenever they were hungry, I was able to get the physical and mental rest I needed in those early postpartum days. I was also able to really enjoy all the delicious new baby snuggles!
One of the things I focused on during the early days of breastfeeding was getting enough good, nourishing food. Having friends and family deliver meals and keep my bedside table stocked with snacks was a huge help in establishing a good milk supply! I would not have been able to feed myself so well without the help I had available.
The other thing I focused on was making sure I drank water. A lot of water! I knew that it was important to stay hydrated, and asked my partner to make sure my water bottle was always full. Later on, I left water bottles in different spots around the house where I knew I might wind up sitting to nurse my baby throughout the day.
For a little while, I was hesitant to ask for help with nighttime feeds. After all, I was usually up anyway when I heard my baby cry, so I just took care of it myself! After a while, though, I started to realize that I was getting too exhausted to keep doing it myself at night.
Thankfully, I was able to ask my partner to bring me the baby for nighttime feeds and burps and change them afterwards. Later on, once I started pumping a bit, I would ask my partner to take over a nighttime feeding with a bottle so that I could get a little more sleep.
I never realized just how important sleep was until I wasn’t getting it! In the end, I was glad that we worked out a system for me to get the breastfeeding support I needed to help me keep going when I started to get too exhausted. Even though I still sometimes woke up, I was able to keep resting instead of getting out of bed to care for the baby every time they cried, and that made breastfeeding a little more sustainable for me.
The last piece of the puzzle that helped me meet my breastfeeding goals was the emotional support I received from those close to me.
There were days when it was really difficult to keep going. There were days I complained about the choice I had made to breastfeed in the first place! And there were even days when I knew that I needed to seek some professional breastfeeding support in order to deal with issues that came up along the way.
Throughout all of those hard days, I was able to rely on the understanding and compassion of those in my life who were willing to offer a listening ear. I especially appreciated it when my partner would listen without suggesting that I quit!
For me, it was sometimes important to just let out the frustration, have my worries listened to, and be encouraged in the goals I had set. Breastfeeding is hard work, and just like any difficult job, there are days you might need some encouragement to keep going!
So...is breastfeeding only a mom’s job?
For me, the answer is no! While I of course was the only one doing the breastfeeding and the pumping, I truly believe that the support I received from my friends and family allowed me to keep going.
I will always be grateful for the people in my life who chose to take on the responsibility of making sure I got the rest, nourishment, hydration, and encouragement I needed to meet and exceed my breastfeeding goals!
If you are planning to breastfeed, I want to pass on the best advice that I received from other moms in my life:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Just because you are the only one with the physical capability of producing milk, you are not the only one responsible for the big job of breastfeeding your baby. Your partner, family, and close friends can (and should!) all play a role in providing the understanding and support that will help you reach your goals.
And who knows...maybe this is a good chance for your partner to finally learn how to do that one household task that you’ve always wanted them to start doing themselves!