Good morning dear readers,
Today's post is all about Dads. I presume it will be read by more women than men but I encourage you to share it - especially if you're a man - and particularly with new Dad friends who may have a partner who is breastfeeding their baby (or friends who are expecting their first baby). You see - a lot of people think that breastfeeding is about babies and Moms. But it's not. It's actually so much more. Seasoned Dads with breastfed babies already know this or learned the hard way but I don't think they're chatting about it in the locker room or office [Just imagine: "Hey man - Congratulations on the new baby! How's breastfeeding going for your family?" Not shop talk, am I right?] So anyway - I'm here to open the dialogue and let you know that breastfeeding is about the Mommy/Daddy/Baby team and Dads - you're really a major part of the process. How? And what more can you do? I'm making a list and I'm starting at the top; you'll notice number 1 might actually coincide with the birth of your baby. Here goes:
1. BE THERE
Sounds simple enough, right? But it's way more than you think. Particularly right after your baby is born and your Partner is working on that first latch, don't just sit in a chair off to the side and don't be reading about sports on your phone - be there. Sit next to your partner. Especially when baby's Mommy and baby are just learning the mechanics of breastfeeding - it's really special to your Partner and important for you to be there. The first two weeks of breastfeeding can be especially difficult with a variety of challenges and ups and downs and your physical presence is a support that cannot be given by anyone but you. A touch of the arm, a rub on the back or kiss on the cheek or forehead is an action that your Partner will remember for a long time. I breastfed 2 babies myself and will never forget the hug of my life that I received from my husband right at the exact moment I needed it when I was learning how to breastfeed my first child.
Your verbal support of your Partner is also key: "How are you feeling?", "You're doing a great job," "I really appreciate that you're learning how to do this for our baby." - those are just a few phrases that your Partner needs to hear. It doesn't sound like something you might say? Maybe not. But say it out loud by yourself and practice. You'll find it much easier to say once it's rolled off your tongue a few times and when you say it, your Partner might even cry (that may or may not be the hormones).
3. PREPARE A SNACK AND BRING WATER
Breastfeeding Moms - especially at the start - are really hungry! So every time your Partner sits down to feed the baby (for 10 or 40 minutes) - refill her water bottle and put a plate of something to snack on next to her. Like what? Nothing that requires 2 hands: crackers with cheese already sliced on top, nuts, some cut up fruit, etc. Moms may joke around about "Mom brain" (and it IS a thing) but we don't forget the kind acts of support that we receive right at the time that we're using our bodies to support our babies.
4. PHYSICALLY HELP WITH THE BABY
There's a lot of holding of the baby done by Mom once she's breastfeeding but she needs more help than you think. First, before a nursing session, hold the baby so Mom can use the restroom. (Remind her! Because it's no fun experiencing bladder pressure all the while you're trying to relax and feed a new baby.) Then, hold the baby until Mom gets settled into whatever position needs. That sounds easy, right? But there's more (and this one is tougher) - you know how your Partner has to get up several times a night to feed the baby? If the baby needs a diaper change - can you do it? That will allow Mom to get up to use the bathroom so she doesn't have to juggle - while exhausted - taking care of herself and another tiny human.
There's more odd jobs of physicality that will be unique to whatever your circumstances might be - like does your baby have jaundice or just really like to sleep? Is your pediatrician concerned about weight gain so you have to wake the baby to feed them? Please be a part of the waking process. Don't be afraid to put your cold hands on that little one, tickle their feet or put a wet washcloth on their face. That baby needs to be woken - Dad, can you do it?
5. Does your Partner use a breast pump? CLEAN THE PARTS
It's really no surprise that George Moss' photo went viral:
You know why? Because being a good partner and Dad is SEXY. Cleaning all those parts - I'll be frank - it's a 8itch. There's a lot of pieces, a bunch of nooks and crannies and they take up a ton of space in the sink. So when you go and wash pumping parts and bottles for your Partner, it's an incredible action of support. And if she dislikes pumping? Your involvement will help her dislike it just a smidgeon less (further allowing her to not want to quit in frustration or exhaustion every time she has to pump and do the dishes - and that's good for your baby!).
Now - before you go washing these pieces 4 times a day, here's an insider trick that your Breastfeeding Partner may not know: Within 24 hours, you don't have to keep washing those parts between pumping sessions. You can put them in a ziploc baggie and throw them in the 'fridge and just wash them at night when you're done for the day. So really Dad, it's not that bad. It's about 10 minutes of "dishes" for you to do once a day.
This list is not exhaustive but I like to think it's got some good basics that every Partner of a Breastfeeding Mom can do. It's easy to think breastfeeding is only about Moms and babies but successful long-term breastfeeding really involves so much more. I have talked with hundreds of breastfeeding Moms over the past few years and there is a consistent theme when they recount their trials and tribulations: I couldn't have done this without help. Direct from the mouth of the Mom featured below, "It was my husband that got me through those bad days of nursing."
And without further ado, one of my favorite breastfeeding pictures of all time:
You can type in "breastfeeding" and find a million images of a Mom and her baby but Dads are an integral part of the process too. That's why this photo will always steal my heart. On that note - if you're getting breastfeeding photos (I always highly encourage this) don't be afraid to include your Partner.
Mama's MilkBox is a nursing apparel subscription service for breastfeeding Moms who want to look good, feel good and breastfeed their babies easily. We always focus on function, fit and style to bring you the best in http://www.mamasmilkbox.com/breastfeeding fashion. The beautiful image above of Mom, Dad and Breastfeeding baby is shared courtesy of one of our wonderful subscribers and Red Lotus Photography, a premiere maternity, newborn and family photographer located in Pittsburgh, PA. She also happens to be the resident photographer of Mama's MilkBox's photos.
My name is Elena aka The Breastfeeding Stylist and the creator of Mama's MilkBox and Carmen.
We have one mission here at Mama's MilkBox: help Moms find their "old" fabulous selves in their new normal.