A Maryland mother was ordered to give her breastfed infant formula at father’s request because the judge considered “giving a father time with his child is more important than breastfeeding a baby.”
Mom’s milk is powerful stuff, so is the relationship between dad and the baby. It is unfortunate that parents have to choose between the two. Of course, in this case, the couple are separated and embroiled in a court battle. But, in most cases, there shouldn’t be any conflicts between breastfeeding and father-baby-time. In fact, breastfeeding can help dad build a meaningful relationship with the baby.
Breastfeeding takes teamwork. Research shows that moms whose partners support their breastfeeding efforts breastfeed longer. As a dad, there are many ways you can be helpful.
During pregnancy, you can encourage mom to make a breastfeeding plan and set goals, letting her know that you’ll be there to help along the way. You can plan the delivery together, that means choosing a doctor and hospital that supports breastfeeding, going to doctor’s appointments, and going to prenatal classes. You can tour hospitals or birthing facilities together and choose one that supports their breastfeeding goal. You can also start learning about baby behavior so that you’ll be prepared to help the mom when baby comes.
After delivery, you can support skin-to-skin time for mom and baby during the first hour after delivery. Even babies who are delivered by cesarean can do skin-to-skin in the first hour. You can request rooming-in at the hospital so that you and mom have more time to get to know your baby and settle into a healthy routine. You can get plenty skin-to-skin time where you cuddle the baby on your bare chest. This is great bond time with lots of benefits for both of you.
Back at home, you should be prepared: newborns eat at least 8 or more times a day and sleep only a few hours at a time. You can be encouraging by letting the mom know you’re proud of her. You can be helpful by holding the baby after a feeding until he falls sound asleep, changing diapers, learning how to calm the baby when he cries, taking care of meals and household chores, and giving mom a break so she can shower or nap. She will be grateful, and you’ll get more time with the baby.
If the mom plans to return to school or work, she needs your support so she can keep breastfeeding. You can encourage her to pump and store her breastmilk once she’s gotten the hang of breastfeeding and her supply is set. Mom should start pumping at least two weeks before going back to work. At first she may not get a lot of milk, but pumping once a day will help build a supply of milk in the freezer to use while the is away. When mom and baby are together, regular breastfeeding will keep her milk supply up.