Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
Involving Dads in Breastfeeding
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 things families can do to help Dad get more involved with breastfeeding:
• Take a Leave – Providing breast milk itself is not the only way to bond with a baby. But Dad can't play a role if he isn't there! The longer Dad can take off work following the birth of a new baby, the better. It may seem hard to give up a husband's salary for the 6-12 weeks he is allowed (in the US), but if there is ANY way to swing it, you can always make more money, but can never get back that time.
• Be the Waterboy – Dad can have many essential jobs to assist in breastfeeding. In my house, Dad is in charge of water distribution. Drinking mass quantities of water is essential for establishing and maintaining a strong milk supply. We use refillable water bottles and my husband plants them all over the house, near anywhere I might sit and nurse the baby.
• Track Feedings – I am a strong advocate of nursing on demand. That said, it is often helpful in the first days or weeks to keep track of feedings to ensure that baby is nursing 8-12 times in 24 hours(it is easy to lose track) and even note which side the feedings were on (simply because three hours later, I never had any idea where I'd ended the last time!). The first days with a new baby go by in a haze, and with tracking, sometimes with tracking a baby-set feeding pattern will emerge in the on demand feeding schedule that can help lend some predictability to life, at least for a while. It's kind of like the husband tracking contractions in labor – it doesn't really change anything, but it makes him part of it and provides a sense of an anchor.
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 on this, see How Dads Can Support Breastfeeding.
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