I recently had a dad tell me breastfeeding was his wife’s responsibility and he was “off the hook.” Of course, he was only joking — at least I hope it was a joke! But many men report feeling left out of feeding and want to be more involved, so let’s review the major role that dads play in breastfeeding.
While dad can’t breastfeed, his love and support are vital to helping mom. Dads can help with feeding, as it often takes two hands in the beginning.
- Offer a drink; many moms get thirsty while nursing and hydration is important.
- Scratch a nose! Moms often get an itch and can’t use their hands.
- Help position and support baby at the breast. Help mom to get comfortable.
- Assist with breast compressions, a gentle but firm squeeze of the breast to help continue the flow of milk if baby is falling asleep at the breast.
- Bring baby to mom for feedings, then burp, change and swaddle the child after feedings so mom can rest. Teamwork!
- Once breastfeeding has been well established (between 4 and 6 weeks), you can bottle feed expressed breast milk to your baby.
Dad also can help mom emotionally by being supportive and protective:
- Learn about breastfeeding. It’s easy to support what you understand and believe in. Especially when you consider that breastfeeding can save $1,000-2,000 in the first year in formula not purchased.
- Limit visitors so the 3 of you can bond and rest and nurse on demand. Keep visits short and surround mom with supporters — no one that she will feel she must cook and clean for.
- Arrange for help. Let friends and family members who want to help do the cooking and cleaning so mom can focus on caring for the baby and herself.
- Keep the lactation resource sheet you received in the hospital in a safe place, so you can call with any breastfeeding questions or concerns.
- Spend time with older children. Mom is likely to feel guilty that she can’t get out and about as she normally did.
- Cook some meals and keep the refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks and foods.
- Talk and listen. Keeping communication open, honest and respectful is the key to a good relationship.