So, you’ve just welcomed a new baby to the family. If you’re the non-birthing parent, you may start looking around, wondering how to help — especially if this is your first kid.
The pride, joy, and delight you feel are likely mixed with fear and nervousness. After all, your new role as a parent will last for decades to come.
You may not know it, but the non-breastfeeding parent is vital to your baby’s breastfeeding success. Learn more about how you can help your breastfeeding partner and baby with simple support tips.
How Can a Non-Birthing Parent Help After Birth?
As a non-breastfeeding parent, you may wonder how to help your partner after birth. But you still have an important role in supporting the lactating parent as much as possible.
Newly breastfeeding parents need plenty of support to focus on feeding their newborns. Here are some ways to support your breastfeeding partner:
- If you’re still working, arrange for extra help like a nanny or night doula. Consider hiring a cleaner or sending out the laundry if you can’t do those chores yourself.
- Learn about breastfeeding. It is easy to support your partner when you believe in their actions. They will love you for it.
- Know that breastfeeding saves big money. You can save about $2,000 in formula costs during the first year of your baby’s life.
- Limit visitors. What your partner needs most now is rest, help, and time with your baby. Ask your partner whom they want to visit and when. Clean up the house before visitors come over. Give your partner time to shower and change before a visit.
- Know whom to call with breastfeeding questions: UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital Lactation Center at 412-641-1121.
- If you have breasts, consider inducing lactation to help with feeding.
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If I Can’t Feed them, What Can I Do with My Newborn?
In the newborn stage, it can feel like all your baby does is eat and sleep. Help your partner by taking on any part of newborn care that isn’t breastfeeding.
- Spend time with your baby when they’re awake.
- Monitor the baby when they’re sleeping, so the feeding parent can rest.
- Bathe your baby and get them dressed.
- Put the baby to sleep.
- Get up when your baby wakes and bring them to your partner for feedings, even during the night.
- Cuddle and walk with them — movement calms babies.
- Talk and sing to your baby — this is how they learn to talk.
- Change your baby’s diaper. Every. Time.
- Hold your baby. This gives your partner time to take a shower or eat.
- Play with your baby and help them learn.
Some parents may want to bottle-feed their baby with the breastfeeding parent’s milk or formula. But if your baby is breastfeeding and gaining weight, hold off on bottles until breastfeeding is well established. If a baby gets a bottle too early, it may disrupt breastfeeding.
How Can I Help My Partner with Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is just one part of the newborn care experience. You can do plenty of things to take the load off your birthing parent partner.
- If you work during the day, take as much off your partner’s plate as possible when you are home.
- Help them get comfortable. Help to arrange pillows. Bring a sweater if they’re cold.
- Ensure they have what they need for a breastfeeding session — water, snacks, entertainment, and spit-up towels.
- Take the baby so your partner can use the restroom or shower between feeds.
- Help your partner get as much sleep as possible. A person who has given birth needs to rest and recover. Remind your partner to nap when the baby sleeps during the day.
- Take any other chores off their to-do list to clear their mind. Take on housework, household tasks, and errands so your partner can rest.
- Liaise with friends, family, or nosy neighbors who want to see the baby. The last thing a parent who has just given birth needs is drama and fielding endless requests.
- Tidy up your partner’s environment so it’s not bothering them while they’re stuck feeding or holding a sleeping baby. Pick up any laundry, dishes, and trash they can see, make the bed, and fold blankets.
- Take care of your other children. Get them ready in the mornings, prepare their meals, drop them off at school, bathe them, and manage bedtime routines.
- Cook your family healthy meals. Breastfeeding makes a person very hungry, so make sure they eat regularly and shop to make sure they have healthy snacks.
- Talk with your partner and listen to their feelings. This is a tough time in a person’s life. They may feel sad, scared, or worried about the new life they’ve taken on. It’s a time of big adjustments.
Will Breastfeeding Affect Our Sex Life?
A new baby makes a big dent in family life. This can also include changes to your sex life.
If your partner gives birth, their reproductive organs need time to rest and recover. This means no penetrative sex for at least six weeks. Talk to your partner to see if they want other intimate physical relations.
- Breastfeeding is a time of intense closeness between the feeding partner and baby and includes a great deal of touching. So, at first, your partner may have less interest in sex. Do not take this personally. Give them time and space.
- When the birthing partner has had their six-week checkup, you may both feel ready to resume having sex. Keep in mind the hormones of breastfeeding may cause vaginal dryness. Plan and have lubricant on hand and go slowly.
- Do NOT rely on breastfeeding as your sole method of birth control. Talk to your health care provider about birth control options.
Will Not Breastfeeding Make Me a Less Involved Parent?
Even if you’re not the breastfeeding parent, that doesn’t mean you’ll be less involved in caring for your child. Many non-birthing parents are more active in baby care and parenting. They may take parental leave to support their partner’s feeding or watch the baby while they go back to work.
There are many ways beyond breastfeeding to make sure you’re an involved, loving parent. If your partner breastfeeds, you can still be an active parent by caring for the baby. When your baby has mastered breastfeeding, you can bottle-feed pumped breast milk (and wash all the pumping parts!).
Find the care you need at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.
About UPMC Magee-Womens
Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.
Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.