7 simple ways dads can support breastfeeding

This post was written by Erin Norton, RN, BSN, MBA, IBCLC, director, Community Outreach, Parkview Women’s & Children’s.

When a family welcomes a new baby, education and support is often focused on the mother.  This is understandable, since she is the one who has undergone the physical and emotional toll of labor and delivery, and it is her body that is recovering. Unfortunately, the important role of fathers is often sidelined, particularly on the topic of breastfeeding.

Since breastfeeding is something the mother is uniquely equipped to do, dads are often left out of the conversation. Dads, however, can be key to breastfeeding success. Here’s how:

  • Advocate.  Dealing with the hormones, emotions and sleep deprivation that come with childbirth is exhausting. It is not easy to stand up and advocate for yourself when you’re feeling wiped out. Dads can have the conversations with family and friends about limiting visiting and the need for rest and privacy.
     
  • Advocate some more.  Well-meaning family and friends sometimes make suggestions that undermine women’s confidence. “Are you sure he’s getting enough …?” This question, when asked by well-meaning, but untrained, family members is sensitive. Dads can respond that mom is prepared, engaged, knows what she’s doing, and knows who to call at the first sign of concern. 
     
  • Eagle eyes.  Breastfeeding in a side-lying position can give mom some much needed rest, but adult beds are unsafe places for infants to sleep. If dad is by her side and watchful, mom can relax and fall asleep knowing that he is there to supervise and move the baby to a safe sleeping environment when the feeding is complete.
     
  • Dishwasher.  If mom is pumping, the pump parts will need to be washed frequently. This is a simple and necessary job for dad or another support person.
     
  • Attend a class.  Two heads are better than one. For something as seemingly natural as breastfeeding, there is a lot to learn and understand. Attending a class is supportive, but being able to recall and remember important information later is even better.  
     
  • Skin-to-skin.  Holding the baby skin-to-skin is a great way to warm, bond, and comfort an infant that both parents should be encouraged to do. Attentive dads can watch for feeding cues.
     
  • Praise.  Tell her she is doing a great job. Tell her you are proud of her. Let her overhear you telling someone else how awesome she is. New moms encounter all kinds of pressure and criticism. Make sure she knows that you’ve got her back. A supportive partner can make the difference between a woman feeling discouraged and ready to quit to feeling empowered and confident in her abilities.

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