10 Ways Partners Can Help with Breastfeeding and Pumping

by Kate Arquilla, MS, RN, CBC

Breastfeeding and pumping are demanding – both physically and mentally! Being a source of nutrition for your little one can be taxing on the brain and body. Plus – as the breastfeeding/pumping parent, you’re often unable to do other tasks simultaneously! With a new baby, this means that self-care can be hard to fit in between feeds. Here are 10 ways the non-breastfeeding/pumping partner can help!

Words of encouragement

A little encouragement, positivity, and appreciation goes a long way! Often, the breastfeeding/pumping parent feels that they are enduring the majority of the “baby work” in the feeding department. This is a BIG job and can often feel lonely! Reminding your partner of how proud you are of them, what an amazing job they are doing, and that you support them validates their efforts and lets them know you are present.

Preparing and offering meals

Feeding by breast and/or pumping takes time. Many times, it feels like you’re feeding the entire day! Meals can be accidentally skipped. The non-breastfeeding/pumping partner can prepare a meal (it can be as simple as TOAST!) to have hot and ready when the baby is done eating. Offering nutrient dense and easy-to-prepare snacks such as sliced apples and nut butter will help fulfill the proper calories needed while breastfeeding/pumping and can be eaten quickly.

Making sure the water bottle is full (with a straw!)

Did you know that breastmilk is almost 90% water? Hydration is so important and it’s easy to forget about as a breastfeeding/pumping parent. An extra-large insulated water bottle with a straw will cut down on the trips to the sink.

Washing, drying and reassembling pump parts and breastfeeding items

Oh, the DISHES! As if breastfeeding/pumping isn’t exhausting enough, the parts, bottles and accessories that need to be cleaned add to it! As the non-breastfeeding/pumping partner, make it your responsibility to pick up this task. Cut down on time by using the dishwasher or steam sterilizer to your advantage. Assembling the parts once dry is a HUGE help!

Be on diaper duty

Changing the baby’s diaper can be a great way to take some of the caregiving load off.

Take over a feeding

Sleep is a huge factor in supply AND mental health. Take over one feeding a day at the same time every day. For example, the early morning feed or the middle of the night feed and allow your breastfeeding/pumping partner to sleep through. Feed the baby in a different room than where your partner is sleeping so they can really rest. If your partner is pumping, make it your task to feed while they pump so you can cut down on time. This feed doesn’t necessarily have to be breastmilk – it could be formula! I’m a big believer than formula extends breastfeeding and total amount of time baby receives breastmilk because it gives the breastfeeding parent a physical and mental break, decreases stress and anxiety, and so much more.

Be supportive of what works for your family

If you notice that breastfeeding/pumping is taking a toll on your partner and/or family, have an open and honest convo with your partner. Breastfeeding can look very different for many families – and if this includes formula and/or weaning feeds or weaning completely, support your partner in making a decision together. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

Reach out to lactation services if needed

Having a professional opinion and eye on the breastfeeding/pumping experience can make a world of a difference. Assessing latch, form, supply, and properly fitting parts can help the breastfeeding/pumping partner have a new lease on the feeding experience. The earlier, the better! Offer to call the professional yourself and set up the appointment. And a reminder – asking for help and/or using formula does NOT mean you have failed! Fixing and addressing issues early can turn your experience around.

Check in with the breastfeeding/pumping partner, because, HORMONES!

Breastfeeding/pumping is hormonal but is also physically and mentally taxing. Society has created a push for feeding at the breast/providing solely breastmilk, and it’s not realistic for many families. The pressure to breastfeed/pump, both that the partner puts on themself and that society does, can make the partner feel the guilt to continue. Remind them that they are the most important in this process (along with the baby being fed) and it’s OKAY to back off.

Cut down on the To Do list

We all have a running “To Do” list in our heads as parents! Be proactive – ask and predict what needs to be completed, even if it’s as simple as doing the dishes or walking the dog. Set up delivery services to cut down on the through process and energy of going to the store in the first months. This allows your partner to feel less stressed and promotes the time you spend together as a family.


About the author:

Kate Arquilla, MS, RN, CBC

NICU RN, Breastfeeding Counselor + Sleep Consultant

Founder and owner of bumble.baby, an educational blog and consulting service dedicated to empowering parents to make decisions and navigate through parenthood. Follow @bumblebaby on Instagram.

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