Breastfeeding is always focusing on mom and baby. Why would we talk about dads? Two reasons: dads influence the decision to breastfeed and continue to breastfeed; and dads can help in ways that benefit mom and baby.
Many studies have shown that the men in women’s lives significantly influence a woman’s decision to breastfeed. Statistics vary by demographic profile, but there is no question a father positive about breastfeeding is behind most women who do breastfeed.In the beginning, dads help moms directly with breastfeeding.
- A second pair of hands is invaluable in getting many babies latched on in the first place.
- Dads may have a better view of how the baby is latched and can help make adjustments.
- His second set of ears hearing instructions and explanations in a class or at the hospital can be a real help.
- Just after a mom gets settled into breastfeeding with the baby latched well, she realizes how thirsty or hungry she is, or that she forgot to bring the footstool so her back won’t hurt, or that she needed to have the phone handy for a call-back she’s expecting. Dad can be the go-fer to help while she practices the routine.
- When mom and baby are both frustrated trying to get a good latch and both are crying, Dad can take the baby, walk and bounce and soothe the baby while mom gets a good deep breath and few moments to herself in order to start again.
- In the middle of the night, Dad can bring baby to mom to help get breastfeeding started. Even if he goes right back to sleep, he has earned points with mom for this bit of sensitivity.
- A dad’s compliments and encouragement are huge for a breastfeeding mom.
- When the time does come for the baby to learn to eat from a bottle (ideally at least 2-3 weeks at the earliest), Dad is actually the best person to do this. Babies associate feeding at the breast with Mom. Let Dad be the bottle specialist if you want your baby to be able to take a bottle.
Many women dread the day their husband goes back to work and they are alone with the baby…maybe for the first time.
There’s a larger role for dads too. At the beginning, it may seem like breastfeeding is all there is to bond baby with a parent. In fact, love, talk, smiles and touch are all important and teach an important lesson: love is not always associated with food.
- Sometimes Dad develops the touch for burping baby that no one else can quite match.
- Skin-to-skin napping is great for dads and babies too.
- This is a great time for dads to change diapers. They get lots of points for doing it; but breastmilk makes them mild smelling and pleasant to change.
- Dad’s deeper voice may soothe baby in ways Mom can’t, whether singing, humming or talking.
- It may seem silly, but it’s not to early for dads to begin to share their interests with baby. If he plays music, he should play for the baby. If he likes his garage workshop, he can talk to the baby about what he does there and what the tools are. Will the baby understand? Of course not, but the baby will definitely recognize Dad’s voice and attention.
Sue Petracek, IBCLC