Bodyfeeding an infant can be emotionally demanding, physically exhausting, and uncomfortable at times. But it can also be an incredibly isolating time whether it is a family’s first child or the third. Making the bodyfeeding journey a family experience can help combat some of the doubts, fears and other challenges the breast or chestfeeding parent is dealing with. Here are some tips families can incorporate into this season of life.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Partners play a pivotal role in bolstering the breast or chestfeeding parents’ confidence, whether it’s through compliments or words of encouragement. But it can be tricky to know what the bodyfeeding parent wants (or needs to hear), particularly when they are exhausted and/or discouraged.
Find a time to talk to each other about how best to encourage the chestfeeding parent. Do they want to hear “don’t give up, you can do it?” or “You’ve done your best, we can explore other methods?” The chestfeeding parent can also practice indicating if they’re looking for a sounding board rather than a solution when sharing their frustrations.
When it comes to older children, parents can create a dialogue around bodyfeeding that educates and creates understanding, no matter their age. When children understand that this is a natural, healthy process, they’ll go through life with a better perspective and openness for others. They may also experience a deeper comfort within their own family.
Share the Experience
Partners or older children can keep the breast or chestfeeding parent company while they feed the baby and offer a drink, stool to put their feet up or a pillow for comfort. Families can also create a routine where the non-bodyfeeding parent goes to the baby when they wake up and brings them to be fed. When the feeding is complete, the non-bodyfeeding parent can change the infant and put them down to sleep.
Another option? The parent who isn't bodyfeeding or an older child can document this season with pictures. It may not feel like it, but bodyfeeding lasts a relatively short time. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers become children. And they all eventually wean. It might not always be pretty, but one day the pictures may be a sweet reminder of that relationship between parent and baby.
Prioritize Baby Bonding for the Non-bodyfeeding Parent
There are many ways for a partner who is not bodyfeeding to connect with a baby. These include bathing the baby, changing the baby, safe babywearing and infant massage. One of the strongest methods to facilitate baby bonding is with regular skin-to-skin time. The experience soothes the baby, but it also stimulates digestion and weight gain, and promotes the baby’s psychological wellbeing.
Take Care of Basic --- but Important Needs
Taking care of a new baby a lot of times means honoring the basic needs of the bodyfeeding parent --- think eating, sleeping, time alone, bathing/showering and exercising. While these basic needs can be taken for granted before a baby is born, partners providing practical help, taking on additional responsibilities or just sitting with the baby while the breast or chestfeeding parent gets those needs met, can be a precious relationship solidifying act.
Set Bodyfeeding Goals Together and Celebrate the Wins as a Family
Bodyfeeding in a lot of ways can feel like a marathon instead of a sprint, but lactation consultants recommend that parents who breastfeed or chestfeed make small goals to make the day-to-day experience more manageable and to feel good about the little (yet important) successes.
Whether it is weekly goals, like meeting with a lactation consultant to help get a good latch, or monthly goals (like making it through baby’s first growth spurt), find a fun way to celebrate these milestones as a family.