How to actually feel useful when she’s breastfeeding

There’s more you can do than just making ‘AWOOGA!’ noises whenever she gets the twins out.

Family with dad holding baby

Breast milk is better for your newborn than formula. You’ll be aware of this fact if you managed to stay awake during the prenatal classes, because the midwife mafia rams it home again and again, like a stolen WRX slamming into a recalcitrant ATM.

But supplying the fresh boob juice is also better for your partner (for example, the easier mum finds breastfeeding, the less likely she is to suffer postnatal depression), for your finances (formula costs a bomb), and for you.

Once my kid went on the teat, my wife’s baby weight flew off. At the same time, I was given a golden ticket out of most 4am feeds for, like, months. Months! It was great.

But even though she’s doing the lion’s share of the work, you need to pitch in, too. If only for your own pride. Start like this:

1. Crack out the pom-poms

Considering all mammals have evolved to tipple from the nipple, you’d think junior would nail it first time. But no. Stupid baby – you had literally one job. Or, at least, it’s a ‘no’ reasonably often. It sucks when the kid sucks at suckling, but however frustrated you are, it’s more dispiriting for mum, who – if she is like my partner – may feel like a first-start failure at mumming.

You need to be aware of this, and be there for encouragement – she’s emotional enough as it is. Your cheerleading and positivity can get her through. Remind her that it’s not her fault, at all, because while not all kids are naturals at something that seems like it should be so natural, you’ll get there in the end.

2. Keep everyone calm

If mum’s stressed, or the baby is stressed, then the milk mightn’t flow or the kid mightn’t suckle. Do whatever you have to: massage her shoulders or back; bring her a snack or drink to help out when the kid’s hoovering it down; impersonate whale noises if her stupid hippie whalesong CD keeps skipping – whatever.

3. Like Heidi Klum’s divorce papers, it’s all about the seal

The position of the kid, and the latch-on – the tight suction seal between breast and bub’s lips – are vitally important. My kid showed only vague competence at the task, whether he was lying straight across the chest, or in the ‘football’ hold, lightly clutched under the arm, or any other hastily improvised method.

We might as well have been trying to make me into a chess master just by sitting in different chairs. But we got there. Even then, it occasionally fell to me to point out (gently) that the kid wasn’t getting the aureole all the way back into his mouth – which is vital to stopping cracked nips.

As a third party, you can see both of them, not just the kid, so you can help with adding or removing support pillows, suggesting new angles or slight position changes.

4. Make yourself useful round the house

You know all those household cleaning things your partner thinks are important that you kinda don’t care about? Stuff like making the bed (a stupid custom; you’ll just unmake it to use it again anyway) or cleaning behind the toilet (yes, this is a thing).

She’s too busy to do it, and seeing the unmade bed/thinking about the unscrubbed stupid back of the stupid toilet/literally whatever is freaking her out. So do it. At least there’s not a tiny person sucking bodily fluids out of your chest.

5. Shout at her mum

Well, not just her mum, although honestly that’s the most enjoyable bit. Depending on the dynamic, you might have to be firm with your own mum, her’s or your siblings, or whoever.

At the start, breastfeeding takes bloody ages, and during this time, the new mum is anchored to the spot and may feel vulnerable. You need to shoo any visitors who don’t know when to leave. Fight them if necessary. Grandmas are usually pretty crap scrappers.

6. Own something else

Like bathing, getting the kid off to bed, or hurling yourself upon the majority of the hand grenades otherwise known as the nappy change. (Note: Breast milk shits smell a thousand times better than baby formula shits – another reason to get bub on the boob.)

Owning another activity makes you more of a team, and stops mum from resenting you, which she totally will anyway because a child didn’t tear up your genitals on the way through. You don’t want a fighty new mum on your hands. Unlike grandmas, new mums are usually pretty tidy scrappers.

7. Send up the bat signal

Figuratively, of course – projecting bat signals onto passing clouds is actually a pretty crap way of calling for help. But there are lots of specialised breastfeeding consultants, as well as a helpline provided by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

They’ve seen it all – aching breasts that are too full to express, cracked nipples, breast infections, husbands who’ve had a $200 breast pump jammed up their backsides for shouting “AWOOGA!” when mum unleashes the cans. Everything. Call them, and put her on.

8. Get your tit kits out

You can buy a cheap breast pump, but if you can afford it, go for quality. Few things are weirder than seeing your partner’s breast slurped up a transparent plastic tunnel by a tiny robot (and few images will as effectively scar-for-life; walking in unannounced to see that exact thing scarred my wife’s brother), but seldom have I praised a bit of kit so much. (We went with this.)

Teach the kid to take a bottle as soon as you can, then offer to pitch in on feeds.

Like a fast-diminishing list of things in today’s gender-sensitive world, breastfeeding will forever be, by definition, women’s work. But the fact you’re barely Robin to her Batman in this baby-shit smeared early childhood comic doesn’t mean you’re not important.