I wrote this letter when my first son was about 6 months old. He was a fierce nurser from birth. Latched on right away and basically didn’t stop till I weaned him at 23.5 months old. This is a real letter that I actually wrote my husband while I was up late nursing our baby. It’s fuzzy now but I was probably upset with him about something stupid. I originally published this letter on my first blog. Then while nursing my second baby, I started this blog and I had a lot of the same emotions. My husband had a better understanding with our second baby but I don’t think men will ever truly understand what us mothers go through in pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
I also want to note that while this letter is blunt and straightforward, I wrote it with a light hearted tone. My husband is an amazing man, and he was very helpful through my pregnancies and breastfeeding our baby boys. Now that our boys are completely done breastfeeding, we have moved on to a new phase of life. I will always cherish the years I spent nursing my babies, as hard as some days were. I couldn’t have made it through without the help and support of my husband.
Dear Husband of a Breastfeeding Mom
Do you know what your wife does all day? She feeds your child WITH HER BODY. Breastfeeding is really hard work. This little creature who grew inside her for 9 months is still depending on your wife for all of its nutrition and hydration. It takes a lot of time and energy to sustain the life of a little one, and this doesn’t end at birth. After the baby comes, he or she will depend on your wife completely for all nutrition for 6 months.
You might have heard that newborn babies nurse every 2-3 hours. This is a very loose statistic. In reality, your baby might want to nurse even more frequently for the whole first year of life. That’s right, our baby might nurse every 2-3 hours for an entire year or more. This could mean your wife spends over 4,000 HOURS nursing your baby in its first year of the baby’s life.
Consider This Scenario
Now that you know the 2-3 hour schedule isn’t a hard and fast rule, let’s talk about what the reality of nursing a baby every 2-3 hours is really like. Please, please, PLEASE don’t be fooled into thinking this means a new mother has 2-3 hours of free time between feedings. Think about it like this:
Baby starts nursing at 10am. Baby nurses for 45 minutes. Mama tries to put baby down at 10:50 am and she is unbelievably happy that this attempt is successful. Unfortunately the success is short lived because Baby wakes up at 11 am with a dirty bum. (Note that in this 10 minute window your wife barely has time to use the bathroom and microwave her cold coffee). Mama changes the baby’s diaper and outfit because the poop got EVERYWHERE. It is now 11:10. All attempts to put Baby back down fail. Baby will want to nurse again between 12-12:30. After nursing for another 30-60 minutes, your wife will have an hour or less till her body is needed again.
In a Perfect World
In a perfect world, Mama could put Baby in an age appropriate baby holder, drink her coffee that is now cold again, start a load of laundry, clean the kitchen, vacuum the living room, and prep for dinner while baby watches happily.
I hate to break it to you, but you don’t live in a perfect world. By this time, Baby might need another diaper and/or outfit change, or might just not want to be put down. Even if your wife manages to put the baby down, she will need to feed herself so her body has what it needs to make milk. Showering might also take priority to addressing other needs around the house. Your wife is tired. She burns hundreds of calories a day making the milk that feeds your baby. The energy she uses to care for the baby’s other needs drain almost anything she has left. She is lucky to sleep 2-4 consecutive hours each night. Some nights the 2-4 hour estimate is the total amount of sleep she is able to get.
What You Can Do To Help
Now that you have some understanding of what your wife’s day is like, here is what you can do to help:
Offer to hold the baby if she didn’t have a chance to shower or needs to catch up on sleep. Make dinner or pick up something on the way home. Pitch in around the house or at least don’t complain about the mess. Sit down with your wife and ask her what you can do to help. It might get easier as your baby gets older but it might not. Your wife is trying to do the best she can for this tiny human. Go give her a hug and kiss right now, she probably needs it. Tell her you love her frequently. Notice when she does get the house clean, gets ready, or makes dinner. The first couple years with a baby are SO draining on women physically, and this is a burden that men just don’t understand. She knows you are working hard outside the home to support her and the new life you created together, but she needs her work at home valued and supported as well.