"Mothers (lactating people) feel more capable and confident about breastfeeding when they perceive their partners are supportive by way of verbal encouragement and active involvement in breastfeeding activities." (Mannion, C. A. et al, Int Breastfeeding J., 2013)
It's not rare to hear postpartum people ask when a support partner can become involved in infant feeding, and the answer is immediately after your baby is born! During postpartum healing, involvement in infant feeding might mean scooping up the baby in the middle of the night to the preferred nighttime nursing position, but in most cases it probably won't mean giving your baby a bottle for quite a few weeks. Shifting the expectation and significance of what it means to be involved during lactation and infant feeding is an important one to clarify.
Be another set of eyes, ears, and hands. Look for a deep fishy lip latch, fleshy cheeks, and keep an eye out for early feeding cues before the baby starts to fuss, listen for the suck-swallow-breathe pattern, be and extra set of hands to make sure baby has head-shoulder-hips alignment while nursing, be an extra pillow stuffer to bring baby higher up to the breast. So many important things!
Encouraging words. Letting the lactating person know that you're there for them, and that you see and appreciate all the hard work they are putting towards feeding the baby really pays off. One of the biggest factors in breastfeeding success is when lactating people know that they have a breastfeeding champion in their corner with words of encouragement from their partners and support people!
Help with gathering research and resources. When you run into something that has you stumped, use resources like Kellymom and La Leche League. You can also help by contacting people like IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants), Midwives, and Doulas for additional resources for lactation support.
Have snacks and water on hand. Many people get hungry and/or thirsty when they have a let down, and so making sure they are ready to focus on nursing and also meeting their own needs is a must. A basket with nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, seaweed snacks, and a water bottle with a straw are all great options to keep close to any nursing areas
Restock. Restocking nursing area supplies like nipple balm, snacks, and fresh reusable breast pads from the laundry. If the lactating person that you're supporting is going back to work, or is planning any extended time away from baby, you can make sure their pumping bag is stocked with the parts they will need, including clean bottles, lids, and flanges.