What Women Want: The Best (and Worst) of Partner Support

Women are more likely to breastfeed if the man in her life supports it. In fact, in a 2009 Bravado survey, when asked to choose the person who had the most important influence in her life as a nursing mom, almost three times as many women selected their partner (54 percent) over their mothers (21 percent), even if their mother had breastfeeding experience.

Understanding the profound effect of partner support on breastfeeding success, we spent some time with our Bravado Mamas to find out what works, what doesn’t and what tops women’s wish list for partner participation.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what we learned.

COMMITMENT COUNTS:

The single most important form of support:  A partner’s commitment to breastfeeding. Simply put – partners committed to helping the new mom keep her breastfeeding commitment (regardless of the challenges and obstacles) scored big points. Whether this means creating a private space for nursing in public, respecting the new mother’s wishes not to rely on formula, or hiring a lactation consultant to ensure mom and baby got off to a good start – this kind of dedication to the cause went a long way with regard to women’s happiness and confidence.

TAKE CHARGE:

Another form of support women placed a premium on: Partners who took over daily responsibilities so the new mom can focus on her baby and breastfeeding. Whether it meant stepping up with household chores, taking care of older children…or even limiting guests and visitors during the early days, new mothers appreciated being able to focus her attention solely on the task at hand.

GET A JOB:

The actual act of feeding a baby is not all there is to breastfeeding. Women appreciated men who took on very specific responsibilities such as “milk management.” We heard about one Dad who served as the keeper of the frozen milk – rotating, rationing and making best use of the frozen gold in the freezer.  Another partner task – serving as a position and latch resource (really!!!) –first, becoming super educated and then keeping close by in the early days to help problem solve and bond around nursing.

And areas for improvement…

GET IN THE GAME:

Hands down, women would like to see their partners take more initiative with breastfeeding education. Many women stated that their partners relied on them as the source of information – rather than consulting the experts or even asking their peers.

As a result, spouses often felt unprepared and helpless once the baby arrived. Reading, talking and participating in nursing classes is a great start for any partner. Seek out experienced Dads for insights and candid commentary -- and by all means, be sure to check out our very own Mike Shaffer’s blog here in the Breastfeeding Diaries (http://www.bravadodesigns.com/connect/bravado-mama-blogs/mike-schaffer-blog)

MODEL:

Your partner is looking for confidence and comfort – so model the same.  Find ways to create ease when feeding baby at the bookstore, at your in-laws and even at your favorite restaurant. Show her that you are “with her” – in your actions and your words. Our Bravado Mamas shared that her partner’s comfort and confidence greatly enhanced her own!

LISTEN:

Support comes in a variety of forms – from changing diapers, to helping with household chores to, to acting as a human shield when your partner needs to nurse in public. But nothing beats talking to your partner to learn about her specific needs and how you can enhance her breastfeeding experience.

So ask, listen and learn. And like your baby, keep growing – letting each experience broaden your daddy resume. 

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Heather Kelly
Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
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