Partner Support by Cathy True, RN, IBCLC
While mom is engaged in the breastfeeding process with her infant, it’s easy for Dad to feel somewhat excluded from the experience. The majority of fathers do desire to take part in that very special bonding experience of feeding the infant. Take heart, dads, because you are a very important component of breastfeeding your baby. An encouraging and thoughtful partner can be an incredible support to the breastfeeding mom and infant. Here are a few tips for dads in helping mom and baby. Moms and babies that receive family support are much more likely to be successful with breastfeeding than those who get no such support.
What kind of activities will be helpful to moms and babies? The things that dad’s can supply are many and varied, and cannot be minimized. Dad can get baby up, change the diaper, and prepare baby to be delivered to mom for a feeding. This is particularly helpful during that middle of the night feeding. If you burp the baby between breasts it enables mom to prepare herself to offer the other breast. This can also help to wake baby if he or she gets very sleepy and needs to be stimulated to continue the feeding.
Simply helping to position mom for a feeding either in a chair or bed prior to feeding time can be a very supportive gesture. This can consist of positioning her with pillows, blankets, footstools or whatever items are required to make the mom and baby comfortable for a feeding.
In the early stages of breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to keep track of feedings on a breastfeeding log. This will keep track of feeding times, duration of feedings, which side the mom last fed on and so on. Mothers can feel a little overwhelmed by all the activities in the beginning – helping moms and babies keep track of this is an important element in ensuring the adequacy of the feeding experience.
If there are other children in the household, dads can provide distractions for them while mom and baby are feeding. Dads can provide that playfulness and distraction that children adore, enabling mom to be more relaxed during a feeding.
Some mothers need or want to pump their breasts for a variety of reasons such as increasing milk supply or just to supply a bottle of breast milk for baby. It is necessary to wash all the parts of the pump that come into contact with breast milk after each pump session. Many fathers find that being responsible for washing and drying the pump parts is an important aspect of breastfeeding that they can participate in.
There are many hormonal changes that occur during and following pregnancy for all women. These hormone changes can precipitate some mood changes and make moms feel like crying at times. Just being there to listen and give hugs can help moms to feel encouraged and strengthened. Dads, be assured that you are very much a part of ensuring that your child receives the perfect food for him or her!