24 October 2013, by Kelvin Ang
Would it surprise you to know that the single most important factor in a new mum’s success with breastfeeding is the support she gets from her husband?
After all, when it comes to breastfeeding the science is clear – there is absolutely nothing better than breast milk for an infant. But not every new mum will find her breastfeeding journey easy. So one crucial thing that will help all mummies who are breastfeeding is the support of their partner. In fact, studies have shown that the attitude of the baby’s father is the most important factor in whether or not a mother begins and continues to breastfeed.
In fact, I had previously wrote a post on my blog on how Dads can do more to help with breastfeeding but instead of regurgitating every single word of it here, I thought I shall elaborate on those pointers and perhaps add a few more.
So what role can Daddy exactly play?
Be supportive. The best way you can help is simply by supporting your wife’s decision to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is natural but nobody said it was going to be easy. Just like how it is to learn to drive a car, it takes time and practice to really get the hang of it. Oh, and learning about how breastfeeding works can make you be a better part of the team as well.
Be the cheerleader. Many times during the early days and weeks, new moms will question their decision to breastfeed when faced with discomforts or sleep-deprivation. And this is when Daddy needs to step in and remind her why she chose to breastfeed, help her remember that things will get better, and encourage her that she is doing a good job. If problems still persist, encourage her to get specialist help – seeing a lactation consultant, for instance, can really make a difference.
Make yourself useful at home. Help out with the household chores so that Mummy can feed the baby for as long and as often as the baby needs.
Help Mummy sleep. Remember, Mummy cannot produce enough milk if she is not getting enough rest. So for night feeds, consider helping to bring your baby to Mummy to nurse. After the feed, take him/her for a burp and nappy change, and lull him/her back to sleep if necessary. Just that few minutes a few times a night will make a big difference to your wife.
Let Mummy relax. Be her extra pair of hands – offer to prop her back with another pillow or offer a shoulder rub. And because breastfeeding can make her hungry and thirsty, help by bringing her a cup of warm drink or encouraging her to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Connect with baby. Daddies bond with babies in much different ways than Mummies. Take every opportunity to carry, cuddle and bathe your baby. Make sure to get a lot of skin-to-skin contact too because babies love it! It will give you and your little one a chance to bond in similar ways to the physical closeness that breastfeeding brings.
Daddy can feed a breastfeeding baby too. After 3 to 4 weeks, Mummy can start expressing milk and Daddy can take over at certain feeding times. This may be in the middle of the night so that Mummy can sleep or during the day so she can get out for a while without worrying about the baby getting hungry while she’s gone. And because feeding is a key bonding time too, Daddy gets to share the experience with his little one as well.
Own another activity. Since Mummy is the go-to parent for breastfeeding, jump right in and own another baby activity. Dads are great with baths, putting babies to sleep or just playing plain silly. Take your baby for walks in the stroller, put him in a sling or carrier and go grocery shopping, or just play on the bed together.
Be the human shield. You know how in some instances, other family members or relatives will question the decision to breastfeed or perhaps they will suggest to supplement breast milk with formula milk? These are the times where Daddy needs to step in, be the protector and deflect these counter-productive words from his wife. Also, when the baby needs to nurse in public and a nursing room is not available, Daddy can help keep Mummy protected from prying eyes or curious onlookers just by shielding her.
Dads are important to babies no matter how they are fed. An important role of a Dad is to teach his baby there is more to love than food and a Dad can find his own way to get involved and have fun with baby too. Because at the end of the day, forging your own relationship with your baby will enrich both your lives – and Mummy’s too.