(Disclaimer: This post is written by Michelle, the mom behind The Rad Dad Box)
When I was pregnant, neither my husband nor I believed he needed to be involved in breastfeeding. While we both read parenting books to prepare for our baby’s arrival, I was the only one who read breastfeeding books, and I attended the breastfeeding and pumping classes offered by our hospital by myself. Apparently, we weren’t the only couple who thought that Dad didn’t need to be involved in breastfeeding: there were only two dads-to-be in the breastfeeding class, and none in the pumping class!
However, when our son was born and had trouble latching, and I was having issues with my milk coming in, we realized how important it was for Dad to be involved, too.
Now, if you’re one of those moms whose baby latched immediately and started nursing like a champ, and who never had an issue with supply, then consider yourself lucky: You can ignore this post! However, if you’re still pregnant or if, like the majority of women, you have struggled or are currently struggling with breastfeeding, please keep reading to see how your partner can help.
- Attend breastfeeding classes with your partner. As a sign of how common our belief that dads didn’t need to help with breastfeeding was, there was a total of two men in my breastfeeding class. Don’t make the same mistake we did! Of course, as with most classes, you learn by practicing, but these classes will give you an idea of how breastfeeding works. The knowledge helps!
- Read up on breastfeeding, either through a book or online. My recommended breastfeeding book is The Nursing Mother’s Companion. It gets a little repetitive, but it was the most helpful book on breastfeeding I read. Kellymom and Breastfeeding Basics are also good resources. I also wrote a post for the It Takes a Village blog on breastfeeding necessities in the early days.
- Help your partner position the baby to breastfeed. In the early days, I had a lot of trouble figuring out the best position for the baby. My husband would suggest a certain arrangement of the breastfeeding pillows, which hold he thought would be better for the baby to feed, and just stay by my side while I was breastfeeding the baby. It was reassuring to have him there – especially since we were basically on our own after we left the hospital!
- Attend sessions with the lactation consultant. Before I became pregnant, I didn’t even know that this service existed. If you don’t already know, a lactation consultant assists women with breastfeeding. Lactation consultants perform an extremely important job, as almost all women struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning. During your sessions, she will watch you breastfeed, advise you on latch, positioning, and make sure the baby is swallowing and getting enough to eat. She also gave me advice on which nipple shields to use and how to eventually wean our son off the nipple shield. If you can, I would strongly advise Dads to come to these sessions as well.
- Bring water while she’s breastfeeding. This is one of the easiest ways Dads can help with breastfeeding. It’s a fact: breastfeeding will make Mom thirsty! Have a glass of water ready by her side while she’s nursing, or get ready to bring one to her during nursing sessions. Making sure the phone or remote is by her side helps, too.
- Wash the pump parts. During the first three weeks of our son’s life, my world was a haze of breastfeeding (45 minutes-1 hour), followed by pumping (15 minutes), followed by washing pump parts (5-10 minutes), and then getting maybe 45 minutes of work done before the cycle started again. It was such a relief for me when my husband washed the pump parts! It’s only a 5 minute task, but when you’re exhausted, even little things help a lot.
- When baby wakes up for a middle-of-the-night feed, change the baby’s diaper before bringing baby to your partner. We spoke with several moms who told us that it was very helpful when their husbands would change the baby’s diaper before bringing the baby to Mom to nurse in the middle of the night. It makes sense: Mom is still waking up, and it’s hard to change the diaper *and* nurse the baby, so if one of these tasks can be taken care of by Dad, it’s immensely helpful to the mother. As I said earlier, every little bit helps! (My husband and I took 5 hour shifts in the night and morning, so fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with waking up every 3 hours to feed the baby, but I realize that this is not a possibility for everyone.)
- Help with breastfeeding in public. I tried to avoid it for as long as I could, but inevitably, you will wind up in a situation where you will be breastfeeding in public. Some women are fine openly breastfeeding in public, but if your partner is not, there are many ways you can help her. First of all, you can help her adjust her nursing cover. If she’s having problems getting the baby to latch and needs to look at the baby, pull the top part of the nursing cover slightly away from her so she can see the baby but remain unexposed. If she’s getting the nursing cover on with both hands and baby is in her lap, hold the baby steady until she can hold the baby again.
Did we miss anything? Have any other tips on how dads can help with breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments!