Breast-feeding is a team effort. Yes, mum and bub, but also you!
Being a new parent is exciting and terrifying. A lot of new fathers feel out of their depth to start off with. And mixed with this is the fact that for the breast-fed infant – mum and bub have the star roles. It is difficult to know where you fit in or how you can help. You don’t have ‘the goods’ but you are an important part of the team – and your role is often undervalued!
I’m a dad so most of what i’ll say is from my perspective as a father, however many of these points will also be helpful for any of you in the breast feeding ‘support’ role!
- Teamwork: Breastfeeding can be an emotionally charged, exhausting, sometimes painful task. Your partner does not have it easy, and your role is crucial for giving and generating the energy and fortitude to get the job done. You both are part of a team, and you have to remind yourselves of this simple fact! The moment you feel (and you will) that you are about to battle your partner about who is more tired, and who has it harder – REFOCUS! Sleep deprivation can alter your mind worse than alcohol intoxication. It’s like having an argument at the bar when you’re both off your face – Never ends well.
- Look after yourself: Try keep as healthy a sleep habit as possible! It is very hard to be productive whilst in a household caring for an infant. Accept that for the next 6-12 months, your productivity is going to be poor – don’t set unrealistic expectations – Seriously, managing to slip in a shower a day is an achievement and should be applauded!
- Drinks: Breast-feeding physiologically causes thirst – often seemingly stupid amounts. The Pro-dad needs a water/drink bottle at the ready for mum when she’s about to feed!
- Snacks: Have snack foods at the ready! Quick and easy to eat, with 1 or no hands. Chop it up for her or be prepared to feed her! Next level would be to prepare or purchase some ‘milk-producing-snacks’ – whether they work or not is a different question, but the placebo effect may be strong! Stay tuned for our blog on milk-stimulating snack ideas inspired from various culture’s old-wives’ tales!
- Be a gatekeeper: When your partner is feeling gross, tired and cranky, try to limit visitors, or entertain them while your partner takes a well-deserved R&R
- Give mum a mental break: Breast-feeding causes instant drowsiness – don’t expect sparkling conversation, full engagement or good memory of the chat.
- Be a blocker! Mum is not just a teet! Although breast feeding is a good opportunity for mum to bond with baby, for some mums it feels like the only quality time they get. Awake and happy times can be snatched up by visitors, family, and even you! Protect her time with baby. Eager hands often go straight to grabbing the baby off her. Sometimes this is very welcome – but sometimes it is not – it can be frustrating. Don’t leave her to defend this time herself.
- Maintain her privacy: Breast feeding covers or muslin wraps are a great way to maintain privacy whilst feeding in public – keep one in each car or in the baby bag! And help her position it while she positions baby.
- Your turn: An upset baby may actually settle better with you! The smell of milk on mum can encourage baby to seek out comfort feeds. Not only can it be inconvenient for mum but may also cause nipple trauma due to frequent and inefficient feeds. You can also take baby after night feeds and do the settle back to sleep – a good opportunity for splitting the night load, and give you some quality time with baby.
- Intimacy: Be patient when it comes to intimacy. It can take many months for mum to feel comfortable in her own skin again. Be respectful, understand the trauma her nether-regions may have had.
It’s okay to acknowledge your role is also not an easy gig. Its obvious that your partner has it tough, but so do you! There’s no doubt that this time of your lives is hard, but it is wonderful, and is fleeting! You got this!