fathers support breastfeeding

How Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms: A Guide for New Fathers

As a new father, you may feel like breastfeeding is a journey that primarily involves your partner and your new baby. However, research shows that a father's role in supporting breastfeeding can be a game-changer. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that when fathers wanted their infant's mother to breastfeed, 95% reported breastfeeding initiation, and 78% reported breastfeeding at eight weeks - significantly higher rates than those reported by fathers who had no opinion or did not want their infant's mother to breastfeed.

So, how can you, as a new dad, make a real difference in your partner's breastfeeding success? It starts with understanding the basics of breastfeeding and being an active, supportive partner throughout the journey. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this new chapter.

Educate Yourself 

The first step in being a supportive partner is to learn about breastfeeding. Understand how it works, the benefits it offers to both baby and mother, and the common challenges that may arise. This knowledge will equip you to offer practical help and emotional support. Consider attending breastfeeding classes or appointments with a lactation consultant together with your partner to demonstrate your commitment and gain valuable insights.

Be a Hands-On Helper 

While you may not be able to physically breastfeed, there are plenty of ways you can help. Take on more household chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry to reduce stress for your partner and allow her to focus on breastfeeding and bonding with the baby. During nighttime feeds, bring the baby to your partner, and after the feeding, take care of burping and settling the baby back to sleep. These seemingly small actions can make a big difference in your partner's breastfeeding experience.

If your family has introduced the bottle, then you can take the extra step of taking on some (or all!) of the night feedings yourself. If you are thawing frozen breast milk for these night feedings, just remember to follow breast milk storage and bottle preparation best practices.

Of course, one way to make night time feedings easier for both you and your partner is to freeze-dry some of her breast milk into a shelf-stable powder. This way, you won’t have to thaw the breast milk – it will simply be there, ready to go in convenient pouches. Just add the water and powder to the bottle in the correct amounts. Mix it up, and you’re ready to feed that little one!

Provide Emotional Support 

Breastfeeding can be an emotional rollercoaster, and your partner needs your encouragement and reassurance. Acknowledge her efforts and the incredible job she's doing. Be attentive to her physical and emotional needs, whether it's providing a healthy snack, a glass of water, or a listening ear.

Create a Comfortable Environment 

Help set up a cozy breastfeeding area with a comfortable chair, nursing pillows, and all necessary supplies within easy reach. If your partner is pumping, learn how to clean and assemble the breast pump, store the expressed milk properly, and keep track of the inventory. These practical steps show your partner that you're fully invested in the breastfeeding process.

Bond with Your Baby 

Remember, there are many ways to bond with your baby besides feeding. Skin-to-skin contact, bathing, changing diapers, and simply holding and talking to your baby are all excellent bonding opportunities. If your partner is expressing milk or you're using formula as a supplement, take the chance to feed the baby yourself, giving your partner a break and allowing you precious one-on-one time with your child.

Be an Advocate 

In social settings and with family, be your partner's advocate. Help create an environment where she feels comfortable breastfeeding, whether at home or in public. Coordinate visits with friends and family to ensure they're not overwhelming and happen at times convenient for your partner and baby.

Encourage Health and Well-being 

Encourage your partner to take care of herself by eating well, staying hydrated, and getting as much rest as possible. Offer to take care of the baby while she takes time for herself. Be attentive to signs of postpartum depression or other health issues, and encourage her to seek medical help if needed, offering your full support.

Keep Communication Open 

Throughout this journey, maintain open and honest communication with your partner. Regular check-ins on how she's feeling and how you can help can make a significant difference. Remember, you're a team, and teamwork is key to navigating the ups and downs of this new chapter.

The Importance of Your Support 

The Pediatrics study highlights just how crucial a father's support is in breastfeeding success. It found that fathers with college degrees were more likely to report that their baby breastfed and more likely to receive guidance on infant sleep safety. This underscores the need to ensure breastfeeding and safe sleep guidance reaches all new parents equitably.

As Dr. Craig Garfield, professor of pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, put it, "To improve child health outcomes, we need to make sure breastfeeding and safe sleep guidance reach all new parents equitably."

By being an active, supportive partner in the breastfeeding journey, you're not only strengthening the bond within your new family but also contributing to your child's health and well-being. Your role as a father is invaluable, and your support can make all the difference in your partner's breastfeeding success.

Pedro Silva

About the author

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