The off-base yet common thing mothers to be often refer to is "letting Dad get to feed the baby"...but rather than try to inject some random gender-equality into a relationship that just ain't about men right now, how about we help Dad to be ACTUALLY useful and in fact, an indispensable part of the breastfeeding continuum, rather than a plastic-bottle dispenser on the imagined principle that we are going to "go out" or "get some sleep" in those early weeks---call me crazy, but with engorged breasts leaking and aching for the baby, and baby screaming and wailing for Mama, going out or sleeping isnt really what evberybody needs.
Now, before I get jumped on, I think breast pumps can be wonderful lifesaving things. I think Moms need breaks, and I think this works out for some people with working outside the home, it is a must. But for Gods sake, in the early postpartum period, the first 8 weeks when you are just setting up your milk supply, there is SO much Dad can do besides feed some random bottle while you pretend you are relaxing/leaking all over the couch.
Bring Mom food! She needs food. Prepared, healthy, nourishing food. Lots of it. New mothers are STARVING.
Rub her shoulders.
Rub her whole back.
Rub her shoulders again.
Bring her water, drinks, of all kinds! Before she asks! Bring and bring and bring her drinks, and stock the fridge in the evening with sippy-straw types of stuff for her. Bring her drinks in the night.
Hang out with her, at home. Make your evenings a cozy safe time of companionship and cuddling, and yes,k eating and drinking and massaging.
Force her to take a bath or shower. With a newborn, even this can seem overwhelming! If you have to, especially if she has had Cesarean surgery, the pain and difficulty will make her just want to be a filthy beast instead, so you might have to get her the whole outfit, towel, everything---but she will be sooooo glad afterwards.
If you see her nursing in wierd positions, be there with the boppy pillow, the other pillows, blankies, drinks, sandwhiches, remote, phone, vitamins...just be there!
Laugh laugh and laugh--it can change the whole scene from one of dejected despondent misery to one of love and humor and the realization that newborn care is rediculously zen like and timeless and on a whole 'nother plain, and how marvelously unique and precious the mother-baby system really is. Laugh at the laundry mountain, laugh at the flooded bras and sheets and towels. Laugh at the diapers and the farting little buddha and the sleepy puffy mama. Notice things like glows and auras and vibes, they are very strong in your home right now. Giggle. Say things like holy shit you two are so beautiful i can scarcely look at you. And mean it.
Take pictures no matter how convinced you are that this is The Forever, it isnt and it drags and then it is over. Take pictures of the "bad times". Take pictures of the trashed house. Take pictures of everything around the little nursing fairy angel that is so ugly and chaotic and destroyed and look how beautiful the baby is doing and you will know just what It Is All About. The blurry destruction swirling around the BabyDear, and how amazingly gorgeous he or she is and what your world went through just to get to this point, on this day. Click.
Love the nursing Mom. So much.
Protect her from harshness, and this can mean protecting her from media, visitors, and the overwhelming and understandable urge to "have everything go back to normal" in the form of running around to stroes, having late night visitors, wearing cruel hard clothing, vigorusly persuing a lifestyle that will come back, but should not be carried out right now.