For me, the first couple of weeks with Lara were a breeze and breastfeeding started brilliantly, with her latching on perfectly minutes after birth. However, after that lovely two week 'honeymoon' period, the problems kicked in! I ended up really sore, with badly cracked nipples, and unfortunately found our local breastfeeding cafe counsellor totally unhelpful.
In the end, I found the lovely Dr Jack Newman immensely helpful, persevered, and by week six everything was fine again. I then fed Lara through my second pregnancy and beyond, and am now tandem nursing both Lara (28 months) and Sophia (6 months). But I certainly wouldn't have got through those first tricky six weeks with Lara without the help and support of my amazing husband. This is his take on the first six weeks and the partner's role.
When that little bundle of joy enters your life, things change dramatically, and for some guys this can be hard, and they start to feel pushed out and useless. But there are many ways you can help, for example I made the agreement with Leta that I would change all the nappies and do most of the baths with our babies. But the best time you can make yourself useful is during the first six weeks.
During this period the mother will be constantly breastfeeding , and for us that meant Leta was pretty much stuck on the sofa for most of the day. We now refer to this as the nesting period, and this was where I was able to help the most. Here are some ideas of how you can make this period pleasant for both mother and baby:
- Make sure both are comfortable. The best place we found at the beginning was at the end of the sofa, so mother is propped up and comfortable, and baby can lay comfortably in mother's lap on a feeding pillow (see below for how you could win one!) Using one of these shaped pillows is perfect for getting baby into a good position for latching on, but a couple of spare bed pillows would work too.
- With a small tabe beside her, or even a basket, mother can have everything she needs around her: books, magazines, TV guide and remote, stereo remote, mobile phone, iPad or laptop, tissues, muslins (lots!), drinks, snacks etc. An over-reliance on daytime TV may develop unless you can provide a stream of new and interesting magazines and books.
- Make sure your wife has enough to drink as breastfeeding takes a lot of fluid from the body, especially in the early days as supply is trying to keep up with and regulate itself to demand. So keep the glasses of water, and cups of fruit or herb teas, flowing throughout the day. Decaffeinated tea and coffee can also be drunk in moderation, but even without caffeine they are still diuretics, so be careful.
- Provide lots of easy to eat food and snacks too, such as cheese and crackers, sandwiches, fresh and dried fruit, toast, nuts, crudites and cherry tomatoes. When you go back to work, these can all be made up in the morning and left in snack pots so they are easy to grab throughout the day. Try to err on the healthy snacks, but we did find Fox's 'Vinnie' biscwits and Throntons rather useful too... This is the real 'eating for two' time, so a few indulgences are allowed!!
- When you are home and baby's asleep (it does happen!), run mama a nice deep bubble bath, complete with candles and a very weak G&T on ice (milky with a gin chaser is of course not advised, but an occasional drip of gin with a lot of tonic is all right!)
- Massages are a great way to ease any aches and pains, as it can be hard being pinned to a sofa all day and not being able to move about as much as usual. This will be different after the first few weeks when baby can be worn in a sling and mama can get active again. We found our Hypnobirthing CDs useful for calming massages post-birth, great for calming baby too. Vitamin E oil after a bath is perfect, if you can convince baby to sleep that long!
- Volunteer yourself for nappy changing duty and bathtime, to give mama a break and a little time to herself, and so you get chance to bond with baby too. Of course this can continue well beyond the initial six weeks.
- Most important of all, make sure you tell mama how much you love her and how amazing and special she is, and give lots of moral support, encouraging her that breastfeeding will get easier as time goes on. Your support is the most essential thing in establishing a good breastfeeding relationship, and believe me, supporting and cherishing both during this period is well worth it.