The breastfeeding process is an experience that affects all who are involved. It obviously involves the mother and child, but it also involves her partner and can be a stressful, emotional time for her/him as well. It is crucial in understanding the emotions and concerns of your partner as you all proceed through the breastfeeding stage. Outlined below are some helpful hints at ways you can include and support your partner throughout this process and make sure that s/he feels needed during the experience.
Understanding the Dynamic
When the baby arrives, partners are typically supportive of breastfeeding. It is only after the process begins that some will feel confused and even upset about this prospect. Breastfeeding creates a unique bond between mother and child and can leave the partner feeling left out of the equation. Your partner may feel that it will be harder to bond with the child, that he is inadequate or even resentment due to the baby coming in between you and her/him. It is important to understand the psychology of where s/he is coming from and to address these issues up-front.
Let your partner know that you cannot do this without her/him. Biology has dictated the situation and billions of children have had great bonding experiences with their mother's partner after being breastfed; there is no reason to worry about the future chances of emotional ties with the baby because of this. It is also necessary to understand that s/he is not inadequate because of his inability to breastfeed; nature apparently did not think so and neither should your partner! Ultimately, positive reinforcement is vital in reassuring your partner and making sure he is aware of his unique, valuable role in the parenting experience.
Involving Your Partner
Because in many instances this all relates to a feeling of inadequacy on behalf of the partner, make sure that your partner understands that s/he is a valued partner in this dynamic. Your partner only wants to feel needed and involved and if you are able to do this, in many instances the insecurities and worries of your partner will fade. You can involve your partner by allowing him to be with you during breastfeeding sessions and making it an open experience. Ask for help during the session when your hands are occupied and let him hold and burp the baby after feeding is complete. By allowing your partner to help and showing her/him that s/he is perfectly welcome to experience and be part of the process, this further eases the concerns and helps her/him understand the real reason behind breastfeeding.
Ultimately, both partners will have periods of emotional instability following the birth of a child. It is up to the one parent to help keep the other parent grounded and in-check, and in this case, it is the mother's duty to make sure that her partner feels included and useful in such a situation. Remember that the breastfeeding process is a relatively short stage of the parenting cycle as a whole, and as parents, time will fly by and soon will come the day that breastfeeding is over. Enjoy it while it lasts and make it a bonding experience between the mother, partner, and child.