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What dad can do: How to help a breastfeeding mother

Breastfeeding requires support from partners, too. Here’s how to help.

What dad can do: How to help a breastfeeding mother

New motherhood is super intense for moms—so dads can be left wondering exactly how they can help. We talked to some of our favorite dads for their ideas about how to help new mamas in their lives. Here’s what they said:


Matt Paolelli, Dad Has A Blog—

When your partner is breastfeeding, it's your duty to help with literally anything else that will make it easier and more comfortable for her.

This includes making sure she has an unlimited supply of ice water, refilling the ice trays when necessary (while wishing you had splurged on the fridge with an ice maker), getting her pillows and helping set up the baby's restaurant area, and making sure her phone and headphones are nearby so she can listen to her favorite podcasts while the baby nurses. You can also hold the baby (even if she's screaming) while your wife prepares herself or give mommy a few extra minutes of rest by changing a diaper before the feeding.

When my daughter was born and still feeding multiple times every night, I would be the first responder to her cries. I dragged myself sleepily out of bed, pulled my daughter Maddie out of her cradle and changed her diaper. My wife would then feed her while I went back to sleep, but if Maddie didn't immediately fall back to sleep after eating, I would take over again, attempting to rock her to sleep.

Now that Maddie is five months old, we have continued to sometimes use the "Daddy Changes Her" method to buy my wife a few extra minutes of sleep or relaxation in the morning. Now that I've returned to work and she is staying home, this isn't always possible and she handles most of the overnight feedings by herself, but she always appreciates it when I can give her that brief break. Plus, Maddie has reached a very playful age and I can usually buy even more time with her before she starts freaking out in search of a boob.

When the feeding is over, Mommy's job might be momentarily finished, but your job as her breast friend is not. Breastfeeding is taxing on your wife's body in more ways than you can possibly imagine, so a back rub or foot massage can go a long way in helping her to forget how tired she is or provide a distraction from the discomfort of that clogged duct.

The best advice? Ask your wife what you can do to make things easier for her. Even today, I never leave the room without asking if there's anything else she needs. She is ensuring that your baby has all the nutrients, nourishment and comfort necessary to stay alive. Do whatever she asks.

Jamie Day, A Day In The Life of Dad

Movies and books make breastfeeding look so simple, but it can be a bit tougher than it looks. There’s the latching on problems that can cause upset for both mother and baby, there’s the burning pain of a bad latch and then later on there’s the razor sharp teeth to consider, plus the possibility of infection—no mention of mastitis in the movies, huh?!

Us dads have to be as encouraging as possible, especially in the early days when it can all be quite stressful. Making sure we’re there when the breastfeeding experts lend their expertise always helps, after all two sets of eyes watching the varying techniques are better than one. Also make sure you attend any breastfeeding sessions during any prenatal baby groups so you both know what to expect. The group we used stated the breastfeeding class was optional for dads and only two of us (out of a possible 10) attended_poor showing from the dads.

Whatever happens, if you choose to breastfeed, those nipples are going to take a battering over the coming weeks and months. When mom is desperate for some kind of relief, make sure you’re the one dashing to the doctor for nipple cream or guards. It also helps to be on the same page when it comes to discussing moving away from breastfeeding, so make sure you’re supportive of your partner’s plan when it comes; making the decision to switch to formula or cut down on feeds can be hugely emotional but tackling it together can really help lessen the load.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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