In the absence of the ability for many of us Dad’s to be like Mr B Wijeratne, a Sri Lankan Dad who can breastfeed his children, I thought I would list a few tips on how Dad’s can support Mom’s who breastfeed. Short of doing it ourselves (and apparently with the right conditions we can), there are many other ways we can help make the process go a bit smoother. Here are 9 tips I’ve put together. Feel free to add your own as a comment.
- Reevaluate our relationship with breasts. As men, our relationship with breasts is long and complicated. We have probably gone through most of our lives viewing breasts as sexual objects, so adjusting our skewed view of breasts and their purpose is extremely important. The boobies have changed, and it may take a bit of a mind shift to get used to seeing your partner pop them out in public, for example.
- Recognize that the physical act of breastfeeding is not easy. Especially at the beginning as Mom’s try to figure out things like positioning, latching on. It seems strange. You would think that something so fundamental to our species survival should be easy. It’s not, at least at the beginning.
- Learn all you can about breastfeeding and be her second set of ears. Like all aspects of parenting, everyone has an opinion and a strategy. Help her sort and sift through the information and learn all about tender breasts, engorgement, sore nipples, nursing injuries and cluster feedings. Read The Lactivist (aside: she has a great corporate bully story to tell about her battle with the Pork Board if you appreciate those kinds of stories). There are also, as you would expect, tons of great books out there, including
- Support her if she gets discouraged. Especially in the first few weeks, when lack of sleep and hormonal changes can sometimes make new mothers waver in their determination to breastfeed. Be positive and work with her to stick with it. Acknowledge how difficult it is, but reassure her that it does get much, much easier. This is tough because no one wants to feel like they are pressuring their partner to do something they really don’t want to do. Also, as guys, I think we tend to try to find solutions for problems that affect the people we love, when really all they need is a bit of support and encouragement. I almost blew this one and suggested in week 2 that maybe we should try a bit of formula. Fortunately, my wife was committed enough to breastfeeding that she ignored my well meaning advice.
- Should someone question any of your reasons or strategies around breastfeeding, be in her corner. Be vocal in sticking up for her with friends and family. We need to step in and run interference, even if/especially if the offender is Mom. Don’t allow your partner to be the brunt of extended family’s critical words about her breastfeeding relationship.
- Bring her food and drinks while she is breastfeeding. Grab her a book, the TV remote or the telephone.
- Get her some help. Buy her a breastfeeding pillow or a nursing stool. If she is having problems, find a good lactation consultant in your area to help.
- Puck up more of the domestic duties. Especially true when the cluster feeds and growth spurts can keep Mom bust for long stretches at a time.
- Remind her that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get your baby off to a good start in life, and increase her health and well-being. According to The World Health Organization, “Breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness” and “Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.”