15 October 2012, under
Dad-To-Be; More Dad-To-Be articles...
When I first found out we were to have a baby I was scared. I was one of the youngest of a large family and knew very little about children, let alone babies. I knew even less about breastfeeding, so when it was first mentioned I was taken aback. ‘Aren’t babies fed from bottles?’ was my initial thought - breastfeeding had never occurred to me as an option, so I did an online search one day; read a little, and generally what I found suggested that it would indeed be good for the baby. I was still in the dark about the practicalities of how it was done but nonetheless I thought it was a good idea. However my search brought up only information for women which is a shame, there is very little out there for dads.
Looking back now, I realise I had a big part in our decision to breastfeed but more information would have given me more confidence in that decision. I was open-minded about breastfeeding even though it was not something I was really used to, and had I not been able to talk through my concerns and fears with my wife I don’t believe we would have breastfed for very long.
The journey was and is as much mine as my wife’s and I needed to be involved even though I would not be doing the feeding. As time progressed I started to feel more confident about our decision but it still took me a while to adjust to my wife feeding in front of family and friends.
I have compiled a few basic tips below drawn mostly from personal experience which I hope will help you support your breastfeeding partner:
• Do your homework and read up about breastfeeding beforehand.
• Encourage your partner to attend a local support group BEFORE baby is born. Other mums have a wealth of knowledge. Check out www.friendsofbreastfeeding.ie for support options in your area plus a list of useful links & resources.
• Knowing how it ‘works’ is the most important factor. The more your baby suckles at the breast, the more milk will be made. Breastfeeding works by demand and supply: Instead of assuming that when your baby is feeding a lot that they may not be getting enough, know that the more they feed, the more milk there will be.
• Each mother’s milk adapts to meet her baby’s needs, so for the normal baby, there is no need to give water or anything else until after 6 months. For example in warmer countries milk tends to be more liquid. Even if it becomes warmer for a few days, the milk adapts to that.
• Don’t watch the clock. Time and frequency of feeds will change so don’t be concerned. We don’t eat at the same time everyday so a baby doesn’t need to either.
• Take the baby from mum between feeds to let her rest and use this time to bond. I got so much enjoyment from my daughter at this stage.
• Know that there is a breastfeeding solution for every breastfeeding problem.
• Be supportive when she starts to feed in public, or in front of family and friends. If you and your partner are both relaxed about it others will most likely take your lead and behave normally.
• Be ready for baby blues! I thought it only happened to some women; apparently it happens to almost all of them. Roughly 3 days after giving birth be ready to be particularly supportive. This can coincide with her milk coming in; it’s a very emotional time.
• Breastfeeding only gets easier as time goes on.
• Breastfeeding is a personal decision and though some family and friends may encourage you to opt for bottle-feeding; don’t assume they know best, they may not. Be confident with your decision.
• Breastfeeding is free and very green. No bottles to be bought, so no washing up, no heating of bottles and no need to buy formula. Breastfeeding is carbon-neutral and also means more time to spend with your family.
There are some common myths about breastfeeding that every dad should know:
• Breastfeeding = Less Sleep: We got plenty of sleep as we just brought our baby into bed and she latched on with minimal disruption for us all. Research shows that breastfeeding mothers get about 45 minutes extra sleep a night, which means more sleep for you too, although I did pace the floor a few nights due to teething!
• Apparently Breastfed Babies are Smaller: My daughter and most other breastfed babies I know are lighter – that’s normal!
• Your Baby must be a ‘Hungry’ Baby and Needs Something More: Remember demand and supply, if a baby wants more then they should be breastfed more. We all have different appetites. Some of us eat little and often and some eat fast and furious. Your baby is no different and you just need to learn his or her pattern or preference.
• Dads Don’t Bond with a Breastfed Baby: Naturally the only thing I couldn’t do is feed my daughter but it still left plenty of other opportunities for bonding. If I fed a bottle of expressed milk, I didn’t feel it gave me any more opportunity to bond than holding her.
It is proven fact that with your support, a breastfeeding mother is far more likely to have the breastfeeding experience she wants. Unfortunately we live in a culture where breastfeeding is not always recognised for what it is - a normal way to feed a baby. If you embrace breastfeeding as part of your family’s life, you will find things so much more relaxing and enjoyable for all involved. I believe that breastfeeding has built a bond between us in my family. This bond enveloped everyone and built a foundation for a long happy life. By watching my child suckling at my wife’s breast I saw her in a new light, as the amazing mother to my child.
Friends of Breastfeeding is an organisation which aims to publicise and protect breastfeeding in Ireland, so that families can have the breastfeeding experience they want. If your partner chooses to breastfeed she is far more likely to achieve this with your support. If you have any questions or wish to talk to another dad about breastfeeding please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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