The early days of having a newborn took a serious toll on my sleep, energy levels and overall mood, as a new breastfeeding mother. Previous to having a baby, I was the one who helped keep the house in check, making sure chores got done and that everything was neat as a pin.

When we brought our baby home from the hospital and I was nursing around the clock, I quickly saw that I physically could not do it all. I wanted to sleep, all the time, because the baby was nursing every two hours. I needed immense support from my husband and partner, Dan. I needed help 24 hours a day.

From my experience, here are just a few (mostly simple) things a husband or partner can do to help a nursing mom. After all, nursing is a full-time job (and so is pumping, so the below applies to moms who are exclusively pumping (EP) as well).

Clean any breastfeeding or pumping equipment

A huge help was when Dan could help rinse and clean the products I was using for nursing or pumping. What I mean is, after I would nurse or pump, I needed my equipment to be clean for the next use. This includes bottles, too!

A few things that a supportive partner can help clean are…

  • Any milk-catchers like a Hakka
  • Pump flanges, duckbills and bottles from a pump
  • Replacing burp cloths and throwing soiled ones into the laundry or a hamper
  • Cleaning used bottles and getting clean ones ready for the next feed

Keep the kitchen tidy

This means when the baby is being nursed or when mama is sleeping, keep the kitchen clean, neat and easy to navigate. Having a clean kitchen will help everyone in the family stay sane. Try these things:

  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Load the dishwasher, from dirty dishes in the sink
  • Clean the surfaces, clean the floor

Take care of grocery shopping!

Typically, I really enjoy grocery shopping. I like picking out foods, especially healthy ones, and I like picking my own fruits and vegetables. When I was nursing a newborn, though, I wanted to sleep at any chance I got. So, how can a supportive partner help?

  • Go out to pick up groceries, or, place grocery orders online!
  • Handle other food-related errands, like Costco, for example
  • Bonus: pick up a surprise take-out meal, like sushi, to enjoy with your wife (this is one of my favorite surprises in the world, I promise)

Take out the trash and recycling

These are not things that a tired and exhausted breastfeeding mom should have to do! Honestly, it is so incredibly hard to picture how tiring it is to breastfeed in the early days, and for some moms, even up to 12 weeks. To help out your breastfeeding partner…

  • Take out the trash and put in new trash bags
  • Collect recycling and take it outside, or put it out for pickup on recycling days
  • Make sure the trash bins and recycling bins are clean (these are things that would’ve bothered me and things I would’ve tried to fix, but I was too tired)

Do the laundry

I am the one who likes to be “totally in control” of our washing clothes, and with the added frequency of doing baby laundry, there is a lot to do. If you, as the non-nursing partner, can do laundry for the both of you in addition to the baby, it’s a huge help.

My recommendation is to ask your wife or breastfeeding partner how and when to do both types of laundry, if she is typically the one who is in charge of these chores.

For example, I would tell Dan which items to hang dry, and which to put in the dryer, because before having a baby, I took care of laundry from end to end.

Give Mom a foot massage or back massage

In the first few weeks of having a newborn, it feels like time is warped, especially if it is your first child. The sense of routine goes out the window. I felt like I spent HOURS in my rocking chair, just nursing our baby (and I did — almost five or six hours a day, because newborns drink so slowly).

One thing I really wanted and would’ve loved was a massage, either while nursing (feet) or after nursing (back). Even a quick back rub is something that can be a sweet surprise, or a way to show support. Remember: nursing is physical labor!

Get the baby to nap (do some baby-wearing)

Newborns come in all varieties, from newborns who sleep all day and sleep anywhere, to sensitive newborns who really don’t sleep so much, and can only do it in certain environments.

My one regret is that we didn’t start our “baby-wearing” experience earlier. After the second month of having a baby, we both got much more into experimenting with baby carriers, but at first, we were unfortunately discouraged.

What I recommend for a parent who wants to support a breastfeeding mother is to get the baby in a carrier (we used the BabyBjorn Newborn Carrier) whenever baby is not breastfeeding, and take walks outside or sway the baby to sleep.

This will help Mom recharge, rest or take some time to herself, like getting some steps, getting back into a hobby or calling a friend. These are ways to help her manage time as a new mom with a newborn.

Change the baby’s diaper

In the first few weeks, our newborn was sleepy. What we started doing was I would feed the baby by nursing for 10 minutes, and then to wake her up, we’d do a diaper change.

As a dad or partner (whoever is not breastfeeding), handle the diaper change at the changing table, and then hand the baby back to Mom. She’ll be so appreciative.

Cook meals — all meals

In my first 8 or so weeks of being a new parent and breastfeeding mother, I felt tired and busy all the time. One of the most awesome ways Dan helped me out was by cooking all my meals. Often, I’d be eating a meal while nursing the baby, because time somehow seemed to disappear, especially at bedtime.

One thing we quickly realized would be convenient were meals in bowls. This included quinoa bowls, rice bowls, pasta with veggies or sandwiches that were pre-cut. Previous to my breastfeeding experience, I thought it would be easy and that I’d be hands-free (I was so wrong).

In practice, I needed at least one hand or had one arm un-usable, and I could only eat a meal in a bowl with the other hand.

Why I wrote this list

The first two months of having a newborn and being an exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) mother were really tiring for me. I needed all the help I could get, and strangely, it was hard to ask for help because I was accustomed to being so fiercely independent.

I hope that any dads or non-nursing birth partners who read this list can get ahead of the game and proactively be supportive to birth mothers and mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo feeding.

The combination of being tired and recovering from giving birth, along with feeding a baby around the clock, is physically and mentally draining.

The list above is meant to help you, a supportive partner and parent, to assist and help out the breastfeeding mom so that you feel like equals. I hope it lines you up for success.

Help your nursing wife get some sleep

Getting sleep is hard when you have a newborn. If you really want to support and help out your nursing partner, give the gift of time to sleep. I recommend checking out all the ways to get sleep with a newborn that you can review together to see what works.