Just because the mother is the one breastfeeding their baby, it doesn’t mean fathers can’t get involved in their own way.
In fact, it’s really important that dads actively support their partners through breastfeeding. The more supportive partners are of breastfeeding, the longer mums end up breastfeeding and they’re more confident in their ability to do so – which in the end is best for your baby.
A common challenge for new dads is that it’s easy for them to feel “left out”, particularly in the early weeks when your baby is feeding every 2 or so hours. The proximity and bonding of the breastfeeding experience can leave dads feeling uninvolved, or that it might be harder for them to connect with bub.
It can also be hard to know how to help, unless your partner specifically requests something. But it’s better not to even wait until then, and be proactively helpful instead!
So how can dads support their partners during their breastfeeding journeys?
Here are 10 simple tips for dads to support breastfeeding mums:
1. Learn how breastfeeding works.
You’ll be much more helpful if you know what the nurses and lactation specialists are talking about when helping your partner breastfeed in the first few postpartum days. You’ll also be more aware of potential issues and things to look out for if things aren’t going so smoothly, even when you’re back at home.
2. Help with an extra pair of hands.
Get your partner their nursing pillow, or ask if they need anything brought to them. Whether it’s to get a book or their phone that they left in the kitchen, even the offer itself is much appreciated.
3. Bring a glass of water and snacks.
Research has shown the importance of staying well-hydrated while breastfeeding, so bringing your partner a glass of water while they’re nursing is really helpful. It can be easy for mum to forget to drink extra fluids, so this is also a gentle reminder for them as well. Breastfeeding also makes you hungrier (it burns a surprising number of calories!) so a snack is a good idea too. Preferably a healthy one!
4. Sit and chat.
Sometimes, a nursing session can last over half an hour! When this happens many times throughout the day, it can get a little boring so being there to chat with your partner (if they want company) is a great idea. It can be a good opportunity to catch up on how your day’s been if you’ve been out at work all day or discuss other matters while your baby is quiet and drinking.
5. Take over the chores or the cooking.
Babies can be quite unpredictable when they decide it’s time for a feed! If your partner was in the middle of washing the dishes or preparing dinner, don’t just leave those things for when she’s done but help finish them off instead. If you have other children, look after them while mum is preoccupied with the baby.
6. Offer to help burp your baby.
When your baby has finished feeding, offer to help burp them. It can allow your partner to clean up or just have a break and some personal space, even if it’s for a couple of minutes.
7. Help during the night.
Whether it’s just on the weekends or every second night, aim to help out during the night feeds. Some things you could try include being the one to bring your baby to your partner in bed, or helping baby burp once they’re done, or changing that midnight nappy and settling them afterwards. These things will be a huge help, and it also helps your partner feel less alone in doing all the waking through the night by themselves while you’re snoozing away.
8. Bottle feed with expressed milk.
After the first month or so, if your partner expresses manually or pumps then you can start taking over some of the feeds by giving your baby the bottle. This is also a wonderful bonding opportunity between you and your baby (while also allowing mum to have a bit of baby-free time)!
9. Be patient.
Try your best to be patient and understanding if your partner doesn’t feel like being intimate with you. The postpartum hormones, the recovery, simply being overwhelmed by having baby attached to them so often throughout the day with breastfeeding – these often lead to just wanting space. It’ll pass.
10. Provide reassurance.
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, particularly at first. Encourage and reassure your partner, and do what you can to help them get used to this new experience. And if things don’t work out, be supportive of the fact that they tried their best, and it just wasn’t meant to be.
Having a father who is supportive of breastfeeding makes such a difference, to both the success of the mum’s breastfeeding efforts as well as strengthening your own relationship with your partner as well. Put these tips to use and see what a difference they can make!
What advice would you give new dads whose partner is breastfeeding?