What Fathers Can Do to Help with Breastfeeding
As we celebrate breastfeeding week, we would like our dad readers to know a number of things about breastfeeding starting with some compelling reasons as to why it’s preferable for your partner to breastfeed your baby.
Research says breastfeeding is best for your baby. Breastfed babies are healthier compared to formula-fed babies. Breastfed babies are less likely to become overweight, less likely to have urine, ear and chest infections, less likely to have gastrointestinal conditions, and less likely to develop diabetes, asthma and eczema later on.
Breastfeeding is great for your partner’s health too. Women who breastfeed their babies are less likely to develop depression, their bones are less likely to become brittle later in life, and they are more resistant to diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. Furthermore, breastfeeding may help your partner lose their pregnancy weight and aid their uterus in reverting back to its normal size.
The mother and child relation is also strengthened through breastfeeding. Although further studies are needed, it has been suggested that the strengthening of the mother-child relationship is a product of the healthy cognitive maturation of the breastfed baby.
What You Should Know About Breastfeeding
Even though you are not directly involved in breastfeeding there are some important things that you should know.
Breast milk is highly recommended by health experts as the only source of nutrition for the first 6 months of life. Once the baby reaches 6 months of age, they can start eating some solid foods. However, it is still possible and even recommended by some research papers that babies that are 6 months and older should be fed with breast milk.
Babies need a lot of nutrients for their fast developing bodies. Thus, during the first few weeks they tend to feed frequently especially during the evening hours.
Although it is possible for a baby to receive breast milk from a different lactating female, their best possible source of breast milk is still their own mother because the composition of a mother’s milk is custom-made for their own babies.
There’s only a few types of food and drinks that are prohibited for a breastfeeding mother. Even alcohol is not totally prohibited as long as your partner limits herself to one drink. Just keep in mind that your partner needs to maintain a balanced diet.
You Could Make a Difference
Although a woman can carry on rearing a child without the help of a man, a study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal showed that fathers want to get involved as much as they can and that even something minor like providing support for the breastfeeding mother helps develop the couples’ parental skills. The researchers involved in the study conducted focus group interviews on both mothers and fathers. Through the interviews the researchers learned that paternal support from both mother and father are important for child rearing. Furthermore, they learned that the fathers really wanted to get involved. The fathers wanted to know and provide as best as they can their partner’s needs and wanted to encourage and support them. Most fathers were also eager to learn more about how they could best support their partner.
Yes, your close involvement in raising a baby, like providing support for your partner, has a positive impact on not only the health of the baby but also on your relationship with your partner.
What Can You Do to Help? Obviously, fathers, by biology, cannot breastfeed their baby. However, this does not mean that you can no longer be part of the process.
- For one, you can take over the kitchen and cook for the whole family. You must provide nutrition to your partner because she will need this to feed your baby.
- Provide comfort to your breastfeeding partner by bringing her some pillow or a foot stool when she’s breastfeeding, or perhaps you could provide her with something to nibble on while she’s doing it.
- Make sure your breastfeeding partner can focus on feeding your baby. To do this, take on more housework, do the groceries, and if you have older children draw their attention towards you and spend time with them.
- Assert your role as the man of the house and politely decline visitations for the first two weeks as this can be rough for your partner.
- Seek professional medical advice if your breastfeeding partner is experiencing difficulties feeding the baby.
- If your breastfeeding partner experiences negative emotions towards breastfeeding, be there for her. Talk her through it, provide her with some positive reinforcement for her efforts in keeping your baby healthy and well fed.
- Basically, just be there to support your partner physically and emotionally. Take some load off of her so that she can focus her attention and energy to nurturing the baby.
- Provide Moral Support to your Partner
Yes, your moral support is very important when it comes to breastfeeding because it may take some time for your partner to get the hang of it.
Breastfeeding is a skill developed over time by both the mother and the child; it can be difficult for the mother at first. You, as a partner, can help the breastfeeding mother through moral support so she wouldn’t give up on breastfeeding early. The more you encourage your breastfeeding partner, the easier it is for her to get used to it.
Questions Frequently Asked by Fathers With Breastfeeding Partners
How should I tell my partner that I don’t feel comfortable about her breastfeeding in public?
This is a common and completely understandable reaction but most fathers would later on change their opinion about this once they get used to it. Calmly and maturely discuss this issue with your partner if you are still at the stage where you are not comfortable about it. Alternatively, there are ways to cover the mother’s breast when she has to breastfeed in public. You can provide either a blanket, a scarf, or a shawl to cover the baby and the breast. Aside from this, most establishments have realized the need for an area where mothers can breastfeed their babies in private. Just ask the establishment’s staff about a breastfeeding area. If you find yourself in an area without a breastfeeding area, look for an area with less traffic. If possible it should be somewhere you can sit comfortably.
Is my baby getting enough milk and is my partner producing enough?
There are several signs that would tell you that your baby is getting enough milk. It might seem odd but if a baby feeds frequently then they are getting enough milk. If they appear to be satiated after feeding this is another sign. Your baby should also appear generally healthy and must be gaining weight quickly. Lastly, your baby should urinate six times in a day and should defecate twice.
The baby can’t suck the breast properly, what should we do?
There are many reasons as to why this is happening. In extreme cases premature babies and those that are born unwell cannot feed properly at birth.
Encourage the baby to latch on to the mother’s breast by putting a few drops of milk in their mouth. If that does not work and it appears like your baby needs some assistance to breastfeed properly, you may seek help from a specialist like midwives, nurses and health workers.
If your baby is too drowsy to feed, try to awaken them by undressing them and touching their toes and hands. Also, some babies prefer one breast to the other, so if your baby is not feeding in one breast, tell your partner to try the other.
Our baby is refusing to breastfeed, what do we do?
If your baby is still a few weeks old, seek help from a specialist so that a remedy could be provided and that serious conditions could be ruled out. Otherwise, advise your partner to build a bond with your baby through skin to skin contact, and try to anticipate when your baby would want to feed, don’t wait for them to cry for food.
Sometimes there’s just nothing you could do, some babies would refuse breastfeeding at a certain age. But if they are six months old or less, seek the help of a medical professional, normally they should still want to breastfeed at this age.
My partner is breastfeeding. Does this mean that we are prohibited from leaving the house?
Absolutely not, breastfeeding can be done anywhere. If the mother needs to leave the baby for a while, she can collect some of her breast milk and store it in the refrigerator. When the baby needs to feed, you or any other person responsible for caring for the baby, could then transfer the milk to a feeding bottle and feed the child.
My partner is sick. Can she breastfeed our baby?
In most cases yes, but you have to seek advice from a healthcare professional especially when taking some medications.
Will our sexual activity be affected by breastfeeding?
When it comes to rearing a baby, the first few weeks can be rough. You and your partner would experience exhaustion and soreness. You’ll also lack time for coitus. However, when you begin to adjust to this lifestyle, you and your partner can go back to your usual level of sexual activity. So to answer the question, breastfeeding usually does not affect your sex life.
Take note that your partner may experience hormonal changes which leads to vaginal dryness. However, lubricants can be used to resolve this problem.
If through the course of sexual intercourse you would accidentally or intentionally stimulate the breasts, they would secrete milk but do not be alarmed just wipe it off with a towel.
Pregnancy can bring about major changes to a woman’s body which lowers her self-esteem. Make sure to provide positive reinforcement to your partner and show her that you love her by giving your time and undivided attention.
If you plan to use breastfeeding as a natural contraception, don’t. Breastfeeding might delay the return of a woman’s periods but this method of contraception is still highly unreliable. If you’re not planning to have another baby just yet, use other reliable methods of contraception.
How to Bond with Your Baby
While the mother may spend a lot of time with the baby through breastfeeding, the father may feel left out. However, there are a lot of ways that you could spend time with your baby.
- Physical contact with your baby is important. So, cuddle with them, bathe them, rock them to sleep, and lay them in your bare chest. Let your baby know that you are his or her father by talking to them, singing to them, and playing games with them.
- Do your part before and after breastfeeding. You can rock the baby to sleep after they finished breastfeeding. You could also change their diapers.
- Take your baby out for walks so that the mother, your partner, can have some ‘me’ time.
- Support your partner as she breastfeeds your baby. This is beneficial to both your partner and child. The more you do your part, the more you draw your child closer to you.
How to attach the baby to the breast:
Step 1 . Secure the baby in your arms, hold them close and bring their upper lip close to the nipple.
Step 2 . When the baby feels the nipple close to their mouth they should open their mouth wide.
Step 3 . Once the baby opens their mouth wide, swiftly bring the baby onto the breast.
Step 4 . Make sure to support the baby’s head as they tilt it back and approach the breast with their chin. Also make sure that they can take a mouthful of breast.
For a baby to feed well, it is very important that they open their mouth wide and that their chin is pressing against their mother’s breast. This also ensures that the baby properly latches on to the nipple which prevents nipple soreness.
If a baby is not properly latched on to the breast, the mother would experience difficulties in breastfeeding. This should not be confused with the inability to breastfeed as it is very rare.
How to Express Milk
Your partner might produce a lot of milk too quickly for your baby; this could lead to painful breast engorgement. To remedy this problem, milk can be expressed by hand or by a pump.
Do not throw away the expressed milk. Store it in a sterilized feeding bottle and store it in the refrigerator. Make sure the temperature is set at 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. Breast milk stored this way would last for five days. It would last longer, up to six months, if stored in the freezer.
Not all mothers may need to express milk because of breast engorgement. But it is still an important skill to develop because the mother may have to leave the child in someone’s care for a while.
Make Breastfeeding More Convenient Keep emergency numbers close so that you can contact an appropriate professional if your partner or your baby are experiencing problems with breastfeeding.
Purchase a Baby Sling for your partner.
Always have healthy treats that your partner likes on hand.
Encourage your partner to eat some savoy cabbage whenever they feel like they might have breast engorgement or whenever they do have it, this will help alleviate the symptoms.
Hand expressing milk is a good option whenever circumstances would make it difficult for your partner to breastfeed your child or whenever your partner would experience breast engorgement.
Purchase a shawl or scarf, they are quite handy especially when your partner plans to breastfeed in public.
Purchase 2 to 3 nursing bras and 2 to 3 loose fitting tops. These are special clothing that your partner needs to make breastfeeding more convenient.
Final Thoughts: Breastfeeding is an important activity for both mother and child but even though you would only play a supportive role this activity is just as important for you as well. Make sure to learn a lot about breastfeeding and what you could do to help your partner. Here’s a very short but beautiful video you may like to watch about how dad can help with breastfeeding:
Remember, your help and emotional support would ensure that your partner would develop the skills for breastfeeding and that she may be motivated to continue breastfeeding.