With the many, many benefits of breastfeeding for both Mom and Baby, it is clear that breastfeeding is the perfect food for children, and the healthiest choice available. But as breastfeeding settles in and we bond with our nursing baby, Dads can feel left out of the breastfeeding duo. But it doesn't need to be that way with both my babies, my husband has been a necessary and, in fact, critical part of the breastfeeding team, and in doing so, began a strong and lasting bond with his daughters.
Here's some ways that Dads can learn about and support breastfeeding:
Get Educated Men are just as capable as women who are new to breastfeeding to understand the mechanics of a good latch or the specifics of nursing positions. Just because women are the ones with the breasts doesn't mean men need to absolve themselves of "all things sustenance." My husband attended all our sessions with the lactation consultant, so that when I got flustered at 3 am and the baby wasn't latching, he could walk through the tips from the LC calmly until it started to make sense again. We also had to do some early pumping and feeding back of expressed milk. He did all the bottle feeding while I pumped after nursing, then he cleaned pump parts and tracked intake.
Please note that pumping and feeding back milk (or especially offering formula) to a breastfed baby just for the purpose of allowing Dad or another person to bond with the baby is not recommended for the first 5-6 weeks. Nipple confusion is a real concern and can cause unnecessary latch problems (read: nursing pain) or supply issues. For us, it was an unfortunate necessity, but we could never have gotten through it and breastfed successfully without Dad's active participation.
Be Supportive Most important of all, be a cheerleader. We will complain that we just want to sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch. Even though it seems like it would be the kind thing to do, Dads arent helping by offering to do a formula feeding to let us sleep the best thing Dad can do it to show his gratitude for the commitment we are making to the baby and remind us it is only temporary, but the benefits for the baby will be for the rest of his or her life. If breastfeeding isn't going well, he can support efforts to fix it finding help and paying for it without blinking an eye (if incentive is needed in this area, just remember how much less expensive a few lactation consultations are than a year's worth of formula!).
Wake Up and Pitch In While it may seem silly to a tired Dad, especially one with work the next day, sometimes the most important way to be supportive is to just be awake! When we are up feeding all night long, sometimes we just need company. Plus, Dad can do the diaper change, refill the drinking water, burp the baby, get a fresh burp cloth, swaddle and dozens of other little tasks that make us feel less alone, and help Dad connect even if he isn't providing the actual nutrition. Feeding may be frequent, but it isn't everything. Dads can bounce the baby on an exercise ball to help get him or her back to sleep, make up a lullaby, give the baby a bath. My daughter's favorite place to nap during the day was on Daddy's bare chest.
It's easy for a new mom to just attach fully to the baby, and Dad to fall into a pattern of being uninvolved because baby's life seems to center around breastfeeding. But it doesn't need to be that way. Having Dad around and awake, and finding ways for him to contribute not only to the baby's life but in supporting breastfeeding itself will set the stage for involved fatherhood always. For more ideas, see Involving Dads in Breastfeeding.
Disclaimer: All material on the BellaOnline.com Breastfeeding website is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Although every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information as of the date of publication, the author is neither a medical doctor, health practitioner, nor a Certified Lactation Consultant. If you are concerned about your health, or that of your child, consult with your health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation. Information obtained from the Internet can never take the place of a personal consultation with a licensed health care provider, and neither the author nor BellaOnline.com assume any legal responsibility to update the information contained on this site or for any inaccurate or incorrect information contained on this site, and do not accept any responsibility for any decisions you may make as a result of the information contained on this site or in any referenced or linked materials written by others.