As a dad you may feel that you have very little role to play in feeding or caring for your baby if your partner is breastfeeding. When a baby is breastfed it strengthens the bond between mother and baby that began in pregnancy, and many dads can feel excluded. However, research has shown that one of the key factors influencing the success of breastfeeding is a supportive partner. Practical and emotional support is essential in the early days of breastfeeding; in addition to this there are many other ways for dads to get to know their newborn and to share the care.
Provide practical support
It is not unusual for a baby to feed 12 times a day and for feeds to last for 40 minutes. The mum can feel that she is pinned to the sofa by a feeding baby for a large proportion of the day! Providing your partner with a glass of water, a snack or a pillow for comfort or easy access to the TV remote will be greatly appreciated, as will help with the daily jobs around the home.
Spend time skin to skin with your baby
Babies need closeness and physical touch to survive and thrive, spending time with you baby snuggled into your chest is an excellent opportunity for both of you to enjoy the closeness and begin the process of bonding.
Spend time enjoying your baby’s company
Your partner will really appreciate the chance to spend some time to herself while you spend time with your baby, going for a walk with the pram or a sling, sitting and playing together or reading books. You will enjoy getting to know your baby’s personality and your partner will enjoy the chance to have a bath or to catch up on some of the jobs.
Give expressed milk by bottle
Once breastfeeding is well established, giving an occasional bottle or cup feed of expressed milk will allow you to experience feeding your baby and also give your partner the opportunity for a rest. This can be particularly beneficial if she is finding frequent night feeds challenging. Before introducing bottle feeds it is best to discuss it with a midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding support worker. They will help your partner with the practicalities of expressing and storing milk and advise on when and how to introduce a bottle.
Know where to get expert help
If your partner is finding it particularly difficult, she will benefit from the hep and support of a breastfeeding expert. Look up the details of local support groups and encourage her to attend; find the phone number and contact details for helplines and websites or look for a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant who can visit at home.