When it comes to breastfeeding, some may assume that dad plays no role or has little influence on the feeding process. However, while mom is physically responsible for breastfeeding, dad's behavior can either support or undermine the success of breastfeeding.
In fact, a study in Pediatrics focused on whether support from the dad can help breastfeeding moms. Of the husbands who were taught how to help manage common breastfeeding problems, one quarter of the mothers in the study were still breastfeeding exclusively or predominately when their babies were six months old, compared with 15 percent of women whose partner attended a class on general health and nutrition.
Top 10 Tips for Dads
There are many things that dads can do to build their own relationship with their baby (and mom too):
1. Remember that the only thing Dads can't do is breastfeed. Dads can soothe a crying baby, change diapers, carry the baby and play—all of which can be very rewarding for the baby, fun and satisfying for dad, and a great help to mom.
2. Whenever possible, get up with the baby and bring the baby to mom for feedings—especially those in the middle of the night!
3. Take a walk with the baby and suggest your partner relax, nap or do something for herself like take a relaxing bath.
4. After the baby has been fed, offer to rock, burp or sing the baby back to sleep.
5. One of the best ways to keep baby happy is to keep mom happy. Help pick up around the house or run errands so mom can concentrate on breastfeeding and the baby. Continue helping to keep your relationship balanced, too, since the birth of a baby can be overwhelming to many couples.
6. Guard your partner against well-meaning but intrusive visitors who come bearing unsolicited advice. Many friends and relatives suddenly become experts about breastfeeding and parenting when a new baby arrives. Although these ‘words of wisdom’ may come with good intentions, they can sometimes be hurtful or even harmful.
7. When there are other children involved, a new baby can shake things up a bit. If possible, take a short leave to help with the older children during the first few weeks after the baby is born. Go to the playground or schedule other outside activities so your partner can focus on the baby and rest.
8. It’s important to spend time together with your new baby, as well as alone as a couple when the baby is sleeping.
9. Keep an eye on mom for signs of postpartum depression. This is the most critical job dad takes on after the new baby arrives. If you notice your partner is restless or irritable, feeling sad, depressed or crying a lot, lacks energy, is experiencing headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing), talk with her and seek the advice of a medical professional.
10. While feeding can be a special time to bond, it’s important not to pressure mom to express her milk or supplement with formula so you can help feed the baby before she’s ready. It’s important for her and the baby to have breastfeeding firmly established (4 weeks or so) before introducing a bottle. Doing this too early could affect her supply and could possibly derail breastfeeding success.
Adding a new baby to the mix is always going to stir your life up a bit, even if it's not your first baby. Give yourself a break if you need it and always keep the lines of communication open with your partner.
Fathers of breastfed infants soon learn the many unique and meaningful ways, apart from feeding, that they can bond with their new baby and partner.