Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Daddy's Important Role in Breastfeeding

Kristi's husband cuddled so Mom could shower.
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
A couple of weeks ago we did an ANM LIVE video about how important Dad is to the breastfeeding relationship. We asked you to share some of the ways that your husband makes nursing easier for you, and like always, you had terrific responses. Today I want to share some of those responses as a way to help all of our dads think about the many ways that they can be involved in breastfeeding.

Practical Help

Meeting obvious (or not-so-obvious) needs is a terrific way that Dad can help make breastfeeding easier for Mama and baby. April noted that her husband cleans the pump parts and gets the pumping bag ready to go in the morning. "He is always super careful never to waste milk." She adds that, "He always asks about how my pumping at work is going and tells me, 'You're a good cow, Bess.'"

Kayla said, "My husband has been amazing. He makes sure I have water every time I feed my son. He brings me snacks, cleans my pump parts if I need him to, and holds the baby until I am ready. He has been so supportive constantly making sure I take my vitamins and calling me to make sure I have eaten enough." Numerous mothers mentioned how helpful it is for Dad to make sure they have water and a snack while nursing.
Emily's husband keeps their 3 year old entertained.

Taking care of older siblings is a wonderful way for Dad to really make a difference. Carrie says, "He helps me get big sister ready for bed so I can nurse little sister to sleep!" Emily said of her husband: "He helps do so much. The biggest help is keeping the 3 year old out of my hair."  

 Making sure Mom gets sleep and helping with diaper duty are other really practical ways that Dad can help.  Lacey noted that her husband "also changed every diaper for the first week and all the night time diapers when he started back working." Sometimes Mom just needs to get a shower. Kristi's husband was very helpful at those moments: "When I needed to shower, he would do skin to skin!" Jessica said, "My husband takes over and sends me to bed with earplugs after some feedings to get a good nap without any interruptions until the next feeding. He also makes sure I have diapers and wipes stocked, and he keeps the laundry going."

Katie's husband is a SAHD.
Tiffany's husband demonstrated another very practical way that Dad can step in "In the beginning he did literally everything. I only fed the baby and napped for the first 2 weeks. He cleaned, cooked and took care of me through my daughter and I having thrush and a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. He also never pushed formula on me when she wasn't gaining properly." When Dad picks up the burden of cooking, cleaning and laundry those first weeks, it really makes a difference.  

Katie's husband is a stay-at-home-dad who has been very proactive in supporting her breastfeeding and pumping: "He's become a pro at pace feeding, bottle prep and milk storage. He doesn't complain when I ask for water, snack or anything else in the middle of feedings. He has so much patience with us. And most importantly, he helps me defend our decision to breastfeed our son to anyone who speaks out of place about it."

Help at the Breast
Haley's husband helped syringe feed.

Sometimes Dad ends up actually helping Mom latch the baby on. Lacey explained, "My husband helped me latch my son all of the time when he was a newborn because I had trouble doing it. He would put pillows under my arms and make sure I was comfortable every time I breastfed." Brittany's husband was helpful in a similar way. She says, "Dad actually latched her in the hospital during our skin to skin for the first time!! I was still in shock that I was a mom!!"

When Mom and baby struggle with latching, sometimes suck training or finger feeding is necessary. Haley's husband helped with that; she explains: "Dad took time to clean his hands to my satisfaction and syringe feed our sweet girl rather than bottle feeding because I was nervous about nipple confusion and still needed to pump a little due to an extremely painful inverted nipple."  

Brittany's husband latched her baby on
for her right after birth.

Emotional Support

Another critical area where Dad can make all the difference in the world is emotional support. Many mothers expressed tremendous appreciation for their partners' words of affirmation. Annie said, "My husband helped me most by encouraging me to do whatever I think is right, by never letting me down, by reminding me what my goal was when we got thrush again or my milk was gone, by telling me how beautiful I am while feeding our daughter and by telling me what a wonderful mother I am." Sarah felt like her husband has always been her biggest ally. She explains, "When I was pregnant there wasn't even a question of if I'd breastfeed. He spent so much time reading. I remember seeing his search history full of things like 'how to help my wife breastfeed.' We still had moments when he didn't feel like he could do enough to provide comfort for our nursling. I wish he would have really known supporting me was enough."   

Kellie's husband always has their backs!
Supporting Mom when she nursed in public or around extended family is another area where Dad can make a huge difference. April noted that she appreciated her husband "being supportive about nursing in places like church or restaurants which I know he might have struggled with because he can be very modest."  Nora said of her husband, "He will almost always put his arm around me, especially when I seem timid about nursing in public. It makes me feel supported and protected."

Sarah's husband supported her unconditionally.
Sarah sums up the epitome of a supportive husband as she describes the man she married: "He is my rock and my safe place, He supported me every step of the way when I chose to drive 3 hours to have our second baby after a traumatic birth experience with our first. He advocated for our son to get the help he needed with his tongue tie when we were in the hospital and I was just to tired and sore to deal. He was there helping me and supporting me when we discovered our son had food intolerances and I had to cut so many things out of my diet. He never questioned my decision to keep nursing even when others did."

Any father who wants to can be his wife's greatest advocate and cheerleader. You've just read numerous ways that you can make a real difference for your wife. I look forward to seeing more and more fathers leading the way in encouraging their wives as they provide baby's perfect food!

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