Breastfeeding Tips for Dads
This page is for Dads who wonder & worry about their role after baby is born. It seems as if the breastfeeding mother will do everything and leave Daddy out of the loop. Not so, there is MUCH to do when a baby comes into your home. Fathers need to jump right in and integrate themselves into the program.
Enjoying your Baby
Probably the most important thing for dads is to enjoy the duties of being a loving and caring father. Hold and cuddle your baby because he needs much love and attention. Infants respond well to skin-to-skin contact and babies continue to need physical contact to feel secure.
As your baby grows into a toddler and beyond, Daddy’s strong arms are great for giving a hoist into the air, airplane rides, and a lot of tumbling-fun that Moms do not do.
Fathers have an important role in the physical. emotional, and psychological well being from infancy to childhood. So don’t worry about being left out because you can’t breastfeed. Just be there and do your part! There’s more to raising a child than breastfeeding.
If you feel that you MUST be a part of the feeding process then you can be in charge of bottle feeding. First, wait a month or two until Baby and Mother have established a good breastfeeding system that works, then introduce a bottle. Mother can express milk and put it in the bottle for Dads to use, or you can use baby formula in the bottle (this is called “supplementing with a botle”).
Dads are especially important when it comes to bottle feeding because babies will often reject a bottle if it is given to him by Mother. A baby can recognize his mother by her smell and he will refuse the bottle from her knowing that she can offer the warmth of her breast and breast milk.
Having your baby learn to drink from a bottle (or a cup or a spoon), is actually very useful in case Mother has gone for a walk and is unexpectantly delayed. Being able to feed baby with a bottle will give your family more flexibility and less stress.
There are other things for Dads to do to establish an intimate relationship with their baby:
- you can burp him when he finishes nursing,
- you can change his diapers,
- you can give him a bath,
- you can sooth him when he is fussy,
- you can tickle or give “raspberries” to your baby.
The first 2 months after baby is born is the hardest. It is physically challenging to feed, clean, diaper, and hold an infant for what seems like “all the time”. You can help Mom by holding the baby whenever you can. That way, she can have a moment to attend to her own needs.
One of the biggest hardship (for Dads and Moms) is the lack of sleep. So, your job is to encourage Mom to rest & sleep whenever she can. If she insists on cleaning the house while Baby is sleeping, then it’s your job to corral her into bed for a nap while you clean (or at least tell her that the house chores can wait till later).
A breastfeeding Mom also needs plenty of liquid: about one quart (one liter) more than usual. So offer her a cup of juice or water while she is nursing. Keeping her hydrated will help maintain a good milk supply.
Good food will also keep Mother healthy and energetic, so be sure to stock up on lots of high protein foods, nuts, fresh vegetables & fruits, and whole grains.
Another job for Dads is to bring things to Mom while she is nursing. For a mom who is immobilized, your help goes a long way.
- you can bring Baby to Mom when he is ready to eat,
- you can give Mom an extra pillow for support; help her position the pillows,
- bring her a wipe cloth and a burp cloth for Baby,
- offer Mom the TV remote control, a book, or put on some soothing music while she nurses.
Of equal importance is emotional support. When the day has grown long and everything seems to be falling apart, a word of encouragement really helps. Tell her that she is doing a good job and that things will get better. First-time Moms need to be told that things are going good. They themselves are often too tired and too involved to have an objective view of a situation. So give her a hug and tell her that you love her and that she is doing a good job (assuming that things are going relatively well).
Mothers are often too involved in the entire process of breastfeeding to be able to judge whether things are going well or poorly. It is your job as Dad to keep an eye on Mom. Is she doing okay? Do you need to get her a warm pack for her plugged ducts or is it time to call the doctor because she has mastitis? Is she suffering from “Baby Blues” or is it full-blown Post-partum depression? Prepare yourself by:
- talk to co-workers and friends who have children so you can get an idea as to what to expect
- find information on the internet about breastfeeding and your new role as a father.
- attend a La Leche League books written for Dads about parenting.
Fathers have a special place in their baby’s and children’s lives, so don’t feel left out.