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A partner’s guide to breastfeeding

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Breastfeeding is only one part of being a parent.
  • There are many other ways you can spend time with your baby.
  • Learning to breastfeed can take time. It can take 1 to 2 months until your partner and baby settle into a routine.
  • Babies can feed up to 12 times a day and a feeding session may last for over an hour.
  • You can support your partner by spending time with them and doing what you can to help them.

What should I know about breastfeeding?

Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs until they are about 6 months of age. It also contains antibodies that help protect your baby from illness and infections. Breastfeeding has health benefits for your partner too.

Breastfeeding isn’t always quick. For new parents, each feeding session can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. Most newborns feed 8 to 12 times a day.

Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at first. If the baby is attached properly, any discomfort should subside after 30 to 60 seconds.

If the discomfort or pain continues, your baby might not be attached properly. Or they may not be in the right position. Pain isn’t normal, and your partner needs to get help. With the right help, most breastfeeding issues can be worked out. When woman get the right care, and are encouraged and respected by their family and friends, they feel supported to breastfeed.

When your baby is fussy, the smell of milk on your partner can cause your baby to look for food. In these situations, your child might settle better in your arms.

It will take 1 to 2 months to set up a good breastfeeding system. At this point you can talk with your partner about whether they want to try expressing breast milk. This means you can do some of the feeds and gives your partner a break.

How can I help my partner?

There are many things you can do to help support your partner. In fact, research has shown that active support can raise your partner’s confidence about breastfeeding. This in turn can increase how long they breastfeed for.

Try to be at home as much as possible. This gives you time to help with housework and cooking.

When your partner is breastfeeding, you can be an extra pair of hands. You can get them a glass of water, a pillow or something else they might need.

Breastfeeding will make your partner hungry and thirsty. You can help by encouraging them to drink plenty of water, and preparing healthy meals.

Breastfeeding and intimacy

Be patient if your partner doesn’t feel like being intimate with you. They might feel all ‘touched out’ if they’re feeding, carrying and settling a baby many times a day.

What can I do when they’re breastfeeding?

While your baby is feeding, you can:

  • sit and chat to your partner
  • help prepare meals
  • care for your other children
  • do things that you need to do

Night feeds

For night feeds, you can bring your baby to your partner in bed. After the feed you can:

How can I get to know my baby?

When it's not feed time, you can enjoy time with your baby. It's important that your baby learns that love can also come without food.

You can get to know your baby by:

Take opportunities to carry your baby in a sling, or to just cuddle them. Cuddling skin-to-skin can help settle your baby and help you bond.

My partner is having breastfeeding problems. How can I help?

If your partner has problems with breastfeeding, encourage them to get help. Nearly all problems can be fixed with the right information and support. You can organise a visit with a lactation consultant who will provide extra breastfeeding support.

If your partner still finds they can’t breastfeed or chooses not to breastfeed, reassure them that it’s OK.

There are other ways to feed your baby. It might be possible for them to partially breastfeed — to feed your baby a mixture of formula and breastmilk.

Another choice may be for them to express their breast milk. This means you can share the feeding.

You both might decide that formula feeding is the best choice for your baby. Formula is made from a special dried-milk powder.

Where can I get more information and support?

You might not be able to breastfeed your baby, but your attitude and support can be crucial as your partner learns how to breastfeed. By learning how breastfeeding works you can support your partner through any early problems. Try to take one day at a time. Work as a team and be mindful that both your partner and baby are learning to breastfeed.

For information and support, you can call the Australian Breastfeeding Association on 1800 mum 2 mum or 1800 686 268.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022

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