Encouragement Through the Struggles: Part 1

Father holding his baby at an LLL meeting When you are faced with something that feels impossible and you struggle to believe you can succeed, what gives you the confidence and determination to focus on moving past that hurdle? What if you aren’t the one struggling, but you are trying to figure out how to help someone?

J. recently contacted La Leche League USA and asked, “I’m struggling with how to support my wife. She has said that breastfeeding is really important to her, but it’s been really hard so far. Whenever I suggest an alternative, she gets upset and says I’m not being supportive. What can I say or do to help her?”

When we posed this question online, the first response by nearly everyone was that suggesting an alternative to breastfeeding was not the answer. Instead, our readers shared many practical ideas to help J. and others to support their partners’ breastfeeding goals.

We received so many helpful responses that we will publish a Part 2 of this post in the near future. If you’d like to view this discussion in its entirety, go to www.facebook.com/LaLecheLeagueUSA/posts/4566020076759836.

Rachael A. said that her husband became an advocate for her from the very start, taking in all of the information about breastfeeding they were given so he could help when Rachael struggled.

With my first, my husband paid close attention to the lactation consultants wisdom and advice in the hospital. He became a pro at nursing positions, when I forgot them and was just in pain and frustrated. In those early weeks,when it was hard to get a good latch, he helped me get baby in the best, optimal position to nurse. He brought me ice water, lanolin cream, and just took care of everything else. I was so thankful for his support.

Stormie B. agreed that the support of her partner after her cesarean birth made all the difference.

“(After my cesarean), my husband would hand baby to me for nursing time. Sometimes he would sit next to me to help hold her head or rub up her back to help keep her awake while nursing when she was super new. Offer solidarity. Everyone is learning, even baby.”

Chris D. echoed the thoughts of many parents who said that there really isn’t an alternative to breastfeeding in J.’s wife’s mind; she just needs to know how to make it past the rough patches having a supportive and encouraging partner in her corner. Along with words of encouragement, there are many practical things to do, Chris said.

Do the laundry, feed her, come home from work early. Suggest to go to bed with baby or take a bath. Make sure she’s comfortable with enough pillows to support her back.

Read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Tell (her that) she’s doing great.

Erica Z., who is currently nursing her third baby, agreed that meeting her physical needs often made more of a difference than anything else.

For all three (children), the biggest help was my husband taking care of me: getting me snacks, water, phone, remote, etc. This time around has been hard. I’ve been dealing with cracked nipples, poor latching, a tonguetie, a bout of mastitis. My husband always says, I know my words can do nothing, but I’m here and I love you and I’msorry youre going through this. Then he continues to assist me however I need. Just hang in there and ask her how she would like to be helped.

Casey L. suggested taking a proactive approach and gathering items that may prove helpful.

Instead of suggesting things, go out and buy supplies to help and comfort her. She doesn’t want to think about anything because she’s too tired. She needs it readily available in an instant, like nipple creams, flavored waters, healthy snacks, and comfort food. (If she is pumping)wash her pump parts for her. That will help so much. Make sure everything is ready all the time.

During this challenging stretch, Hanna S. said the most helpful way that J. could approach his role as a supportive partner is to do what he can so his wife can focus primarily on breastfeeding.

Do not suggest an alternative. Nursing (can be) hard, especially for a firsttime mother. It takes weeks, and sometimes even months, of practice and perseverance to get it down. The best way to help is to take care of everything else so that she can just focus on nursing. Clean the house, do the laundry, make her food and bring it to her…offer to give her bites even. Bring her water and her favorite drinks that are nursing friendly. Offer to hold baby while she showers, naps, and eats. Tell her how amazing and strong she is. But, whatever you do, don’t suggest an alternative, because doing that is up to her, and when you do it, it can send the message that she’s not capable (of breastfeeding).

We’ll return soon with Part 2 of “Encouragement Through the Struggles.” In the meantime, you’ll find a variety of resources listed below that may be helpful for those supporting a breastfeeding family member.


Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

Red heartSupporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always

Please consider donating to La Leche League USA.

Donations of any amount are gratefully accepted. Thank you!

Follow us on: