Your family and friends
Your family and friends may have been anxious to babysit and be disappointed to learn that their time with the baby will be limited. Nursing is natural and just like they couldn't hold the baby when you were pregnant, that is no reason to complain or urge you to do differently.
Your choice to breastfeed may be uncomfortable for them for a variety of reasons. For other women who have had children and did not breastfeed, or did not breastfeed for long, may take it as a personal criticism of their parenting choices and expertise. This is especially hard with the women in your own family. If a woman was unable to solve her nursing issue, be it supply, sore nipples, or other, she may be resentful of your successful breastfeeding. There is no easy answer for this situation. What is important is that you don't let it question your decision to breastfeed.
You may also get the "I was fed formula and I'm just fine!" argument. There are also many babies that were born premature and are just fine thanks to advances in neonatal care. That does not mean that we give women c-sections before their babies are ready because we have the technology to keep them alive way before their due date. Nature is always best as a first choice, then technology is a wonderful blessing to fill in the gaps. It is not wise to push nature out of the way unnecessarily.
Also, are they just fine? I'm sure you have noticed all the diabetes, heart disease, childhood obesity and diabetes, cancer, autism, learning problems, etc, that seem to be on the rise in our society. There are numerous studies that point to the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding.
Partners and Breastfeeding
Some people believe that breastfeeding cuts off partners from the baby. This is just not true. The truth is, babies generally prefer their mothers when they are very small, regardless of their feeding style. It is also untrue that daddy does not have a role to play with a nursing baby. When mommy is nursing, she will need a lot of help. Partners can feel good that he is helping make sure his baby receives the absolute best start in life. Feeding is also not the only way to bond with the baby. There are plenty of fathers of breastfed babies who feel very close to their babies through regular cuddle time, playing, reading stories, bath time, diapering, etc.
So how can Dads/Partners help?
Physically, Partners can remember to always bring Mom a tall drink when Mom begins to nurse. She will need a drink every time, so if she doesn't have to ask, or do it herself, it is a huge plus. This may not sound like much, but trust me--it is! And in the summer time, make the drink bigger and with ice.
Your Nursing Basket
You can also make sure her "nursing basket" is always stocked. A nursing basket is any regular basket, that you keep supplied with: a bottle of water, a charged phone, remote controls, energy bars, snacks, her book, a few diapers and some wipes, a clean spit up rag, pen and paper...basically, all the handy stuff she may need because it may always seems to her as soon as she sits down to nurse, whatever she needs is across the room, at the other end of the house, and it’s too hard for her to limp around with a baby latched to the breast getting everything. This basket means she only needs to remember to pick up this one thing, sit down to nurse and be all set. If you can keep her nursing basket stocked, and bring her a fresh drink every time she sits/lays down to nurse (bring drinks when your home, bottled waters in the basket for when you’re not), you are Super Dad/Partner/Co-Parent!
If you’re a single mom, the nursing basket can be a lifesaver! Any basket or container, with a handle you can pick up with one hand will do. It’s a must to keep it stocked so that you will have what you need once you sit or lay down to nurse.
Emotionally, a partner’s support is priceless. Mom will get criticism from various sources. Breastfeeding can be challenging, and if she doesn't have you in her corner, she may give up more quickly. Your encouragement and support will help her continue through any rough times she may have. Another important job is to defend her from outsiders' criticism, especially family. Mom may get really tired of defending her choice all the time and your support is very important. If you are a single mom, you need to remember even more the importance of how unimportant it is to defend yourself. Short answers that do not leave room for more questions are best. At the next family gathering if someone says, "You're still breastfeeding that child?!" You don't even have to explain why. Single or not, you can just say, "Yes. Pass the bread please."
If you don’t have the support you need, either from an unsupportive partner, absent partner, and/or family, it is important that you get it. Contact your local La Leche League to find a group of nursing mothers near you.
Out in public, you may also get many strange reactions. A partner can help be a barrier there too. Once on the subway a woman sitting next to me was staring directly into my chest as I was preparing my baby and me to nurse. I was waiting for her to look somewhere else so I could start. I asked her to turn and she refused! I was speechless! That's when Daddy stepped in and physically blocked her. Everyone on the train was equally stunned by her poor manners!
Book suggestion for breastfeeding help:
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, Jack Newman & Teresa Pitman