Breastfeeding is not just between the mother and the baby. Fathers, though not equipped with breasts, have a lot to do to in a successful breastfeeding relationship.
There are tons of reasons for a father to support breastfeeding. First and foremost, breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby. Breast milk contains the perfect blend of nutrients, and breastfed babies enjoy a host of benefits, from a reduced risk for obesity and allergies to increased intelligence.
Plus, breastfeeding is free, requires no preparation or cleanup, and is a great way for a mother to bond with her baby. Not to mention a breastfed baby’s poop smells a lot better than the stuff produced by a formula-fed baby.
There are tons of things that a father can do to support breastfeeding. Fathers can head off discouragement and deflect negative comments from friends and relatives, especially in-laws.
Fathers can help calm a fussy baby, and once the baby has nursed his fill, dad can take over and burp the baby. A father’s loving arms is a wonderful place for his baby to be. While breastfeeding continues the exclusive relationship the mother and the infant experienced during pregnancy, it is important that a baby has a close, loving relationship with both of his parents. Getting a lot of skin-to-skin contact is good for both the baby and the father. Cuddling, bathing, and reading in a chair while the baby naps on the dad’s chest are all great relationship builders. These will give the dad and the little one a chance to bond in similar ways to the physical closeness breastfeeding brings.
Fathers can spend time just hanging out with the baby so that the breastfeeding mother can rest. Take the baby for walks in a stroller, put him in a sling or carrier and go grocery shopping, or play on the floor together. This will give dad and the baby a chance to get to know each other, while the mother get some rest.
Fathers can bring the new mother food and drink while she is breastfeeding, bring the pillows for help in positioning a newborn, or bring a telephone so that the mother can call her lactation consultant. Breastfeeding is a hard word, and the father is the best person to take on the mother’s chores and help out whenever possible.
Fathers can bottle-feed the baby with breast milk. If expressing milk manually or with a pump works for the mom, dad can introduce the baby to a bottle and start taking over at feeding times. It also helps the mom to get ready to go back to work.
Most importantly, the father be the biggest cheer leader who encourage the mother and remind her that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get their baby off to a great start in life. Especially in the first few weeks, when lack of sleep and hormonal changes can sometimes make new mothers waver in their determination to breastfeed, a father who suggests that “let’s try that one more time,” or reminds that “they say babies space out their feeding after the tree week growth spurt,” can be invaluable.
A breastfeeding mother needs and deserves to be fully supported, a father who support breastfeeding also need and deserves to be supported. Many hospitals, obstetricians, pediatricians, and breastfeeding lactation centers offer breastfeeding classes, which they encourage expectant fathers to attend. LLL Area Conferences are also very helpful to fathers.
The support of the father is the key to a successful breastfeeding relationship. In light of Father’s Day, happy breastfeeding!
TO-WEN TSENG 曾多聞