Dads and Breastfeeding
Dads and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is often seen as an exclusive relationship between a baby and its mother. However, the father is also very much a part of it. Fathers have a lot to contribute to, and can be part of, the breastfeeding experience.
Breast milk is the best source of nourishment for the baby, hands down. And breastfeeding is one of the primary activities in infant caretaking. But, the dads could be at a loss as they cannot physically participate in this act of bonding. However, there are innumerable ways in which they can be active breastfeeding partners.
Physical contact: Babies thrive on physical contact. Dads can bond with the baby by holding the baby close, carrying babies on their shoulders or in their arms. Giving the baby a bath, a gentle massage, cuddling, letting the baby have tummy time on dad’s bare chest are also great ways to bond. A fully fed baby is a content baby, ready to sleep or play. Dad can take over once the baby has been fed. Handing over the baby can give mom a break too.
Talk to your baby: Babies respond well to high-pitched voices. Do not hesitate to make silly noises or engage in baby talk. Sing to your baby or just make conversation about your day at work. Even though it might seem early, reading a book to the baby can catch her attention too.
Supporting the mom: Frequent feeds are required in the initial weeks of the infant’s life. Day and night. This can take a toll on the mother and can make her tired, jumpy and weary. Dads can help the moms and participate in feeding the baby in many ways. Bringing the baby to mom at feed time, fetching a glass of water or a quick snack for mom, propping up pillows to make her comfortable while she nurses the baby, burping the baby and rocking it back to sleep, diaper changes, etc. are little acts of support that can mean a lot and settle her nerves.
Hang out with your baby: Spend a lot of time together and, if possible, alone. This will develop your confidence as dad and cultivate your relationship with your baby. Take the baby out for a stroll, or carry the baby using a baby carrier or sling when you go shopping. Hold the baby when you and your partner head out to the park or the mall or when visiting friends. Give your partner some time out by offering to stay with the baby when she steps out for a walk or a grocery run. Being in charge of the baby all on your own and attending to the baby’s needs yourself can give your confidence a positive push.
Bottle-feeding the baby: If the baby is fed with expressed milk, feeding the baby yourself with a bottle can be a great idea. You can split feeding sessions with your partner.
Lend an ear and be cooperative: Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable and an agony initially. It is emotionally and physically demanding. Moms can get frustrated till they get the hang of it. They will have sore, cracked nipples, achy backs, and a host of other difficulties. Anxiety about whether they are feeding the baby enough or in the right way can add to their worries. Lack of proper sleep and a tired, recuperating body do not make things any simpler. You can provide much needed support by listening patiently to your partner when she voices her worries. A breastfeeding mom must have a calm, relaxed and happy frame of mind. You can help her by tuning into her needs. Show her that you’re keen on helping her with the feeds by taking on small chores for the baby or around the house.
Read up: Learn what breastfeeding is all about. It will help you understand the process and what the mom goes through. You can identify a good ‘latch’ or soothe a sore back or suggest a possible breastfeeding position your partner and baby might be comfortable in. Arm yourself with enough information that will help you zero in on the tasks you can do as dad during breastfeeding.
So roll up your sleeves and dive in. You are as much a part of breastfeeding your baby as is your partner. Your help and active participation will build your relationship with your baby and strengthen your relationship with your partner.