Congratulations, Dad! With your new baby on the outside, life has changed quite a bit for you both, hasn’t it? I know your wife is relieved to be free of the aches and pains of pregnancy, but now a new realm of responsibility has engulfed her, and I’ve got to tell you, she needs your help.
Don’t just head to the sofa to put your feet up. Or worse, go to sleep all night leaving her to do it all alone. Her hormones will make her feel like she’s on a roller coaster, and as her husband, you took a vow to love, cherish, and support her through thick and thin.
Not sure what you can do to help her short of growing your own milk-producing breasts? It’s a lot easier than you think, plus it will make her love you even more.
Things New Dads Can Do to Step Up Their Role While Wife Breastfeeds
She might be making the milk, but with a little know-how, you can earn the title of “Best Husband Ever” as you fill your role of a dutiful husband while your wife breastfeeds.
My husband might not be much help now that our kids are bigger, but when our daughters were newborns, he was always being helpful which made the experience much better for me. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to step things up.
Make sure she has a comfy nursing space
We lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment in China at the time, so space was limited. But my husband made sure our bed (a hand-me-down from his parents) where I felt most comfortable breastfeeding after my c-sections was comfortable. He would make the bed and fluff up the pillows. He also would put down a clean towel each day because milk leaks and can make your bed smell like sour milk.
If she prefers to breastfeed in the nursery, keep a station of necessities within her easy reach. This way, if she needs burp cloths, wipes, bottled water to drink while she’s up at night, or anything else, she has it.
Change the diapers
My husband was the first of us to change a diaper. I was still tethered to the catheter after my c-section so my husband tried his hand at diaper changing. I laughed so hard at his ensuing struggle that I swore my stitches had come undone. It helped lighten the mood, but it also lightened my burden. My husband continued to do many of the diaper changes when both our daughters were small because he knew I needed a break. Your wife needs one too.
Prepare water and snacks
Sometimes, your wife may wind up nursing your baby on the sofa while watching her favorite shows. When she does, bring her some water and something good to snack on in case she’s hungry or thirsty. Chances are, she is. Choose something healthy that will help her have energy since she needs about 400 to 500 more calories per day while breastfeeding. Also, make sure it’s something that she doesn’t need both hands to eat with.
Help out more
I get it that husbands sometimes feel replaced by the baby. But the baby will only be this small once. Your wife has an important role with breastfeeding and as your baby grows over the next few months, she won’t need constant help from you, though you doing your share will be much appreciated. That being said, for this time in your lives, step it up on those chores, go get the groceries, and don’t leave messes behind for her to clean up.
If your time is limited too from working, try ordering the groceries online so they simply get delivered to your door. You can also hire a cleaning service or even ask relatives if they’d be able to lend a hand.
Honor her requests while she’s breastfeeding
It doesn’t matter if your butt has just started to touch the cushions of your favorite armchair. If you hear her ask you to please bring you something, do it. Remember, this is a short time in your lives, a period that will last just a few months. Right now, she feels like all she’s doing is breastfeeding and it’s making her crazy. Bring her that book, the remote control, her phone, or whatever it is. Leave her alone if she asks too. Sometimes all of us moms ever want is just for everyone to buzz off, even for just a few minutes.
Keep other kids away
When we had our second daughter, my husband was in detail with our eldest. She was just 3 at the time and while she understood that the baby had needs that big kids are too old for, she needed attention too. So my husband would take her for a walk or over to the park, or even down the street for an ice cream cone. Other times when the weather was bad, he’d play with her or read her a story. I greatly appreciated it so I could bond with my youngest and nurse in peace.
Help her with the pumped milk
After she pumps, simply taking that milk and storing it in your freezer bags will be a huge relief. Make sure you label it with the date and amount. It takes just a minute to do and she will be so grateful for it. You can also help her clean the parts of her pump to make sure it’s sterilized and ready for her the next time she uses it.
Take on nighttime feedings
Do you know what’s a beautiful thing to a new mom? A husband that lets his wife sleep and takes over a night time feeding with that pumped milk. Just don’t let her sleep the whole night through though. The more she nurses or pumps, the more milk she makes for the baby.
Tell her how great she is
There were times in those early newborn days where I truly felt like I was going to lose it. My hormones made me feel crazy and to top it off, it felt like as soon as I’d finish nursing, my daughter would cry again to be fed. I barely had time to use the bathroom. My husband would sit there and tell me how awesome I was for nourishing our baby and helping her grow healthy and strong. My breastfeeding coach helped too, but my husband in my corner motivated me to keep going.
Deal with the crying
Babies cry for lots of reasons and you two will soon find you’ve figured out what each cry means. But don’t loftily proclaim from your side of the bed that the baby is crying. She can hear it. Instead, be the loving man she married and go check. My husband would often get up and check our daughters’ diapers in the night. If he found they needed changing, he’d do it. If they still cried because they wanted breastmilk, he’d bring them into me and I’d commence nursing.
She’s super excited about the baby, but she’s also just gone through so much and she’s getting used to this new change. Don’t invite people over without both agreeing on it. Make sure no one is sick either. And when you do have people over, if your wife looks tired or like she needs a break, let them know she needs her space and rest.
Have her back in public
While public breastfeeding is legal in all 50 states, some people may make rude comments when you’re out together. If they do, help protect her from them. I was lucky that in my husband’s country, everyone was nice to us. Our only problem was that everyone wanted to touch the baby so my husband would provide offense to keep them from getting too close. Those that said anything to him about my breastfeeding had positive things to say, but here, people can be rude and nosy. Handle those people for her.
Ask her what she needs
And finally, my last bit of advice to husbands out there is this…ask her what she needs. Just asking means so much to any breastfeeding mom. She may not have anything she needs, but by asking, she’ll feel so much more relieved. She’ll know she can count on you.
And she can, can’t she?
Now I’m counting on you to be the man your wife needs during this time (and also during pregnancy). Believe me, once the baby is bigger and she has more time to herself, she’s going to express her gratitude.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.