While moms and babies quickly come to mind when discussing breastfeeding, dads have a role in the breastfeeding relationship too. In fact, studies show supportive dads can positively impact breastfeeding rates. When a dad actively supports mom’s decision to breastfeed we see higher initiation rates and a longer duration of breastfeeding. Dads, you are important! Here are a few ways to support a nursing mom:
1. Participate in prenatal breastfeeding education. When dads understand normal infant feeding behavior they are better able to support mom. Knowing how many diapers are normal and how frequently newborns nurse will prevent questions that might unnecessarily undermine moms confidence such as, “Didn’t she just eat?” Understanding normal infant behavior can also help you identify when it might be necessary to seek help from a lactation professional.
2. Thank her, encourage her and appreciate her. While breastfeeding is our biological norm it is not without challenges. Have you ever done a 500 calorie workout? Moms burn approximately 500 calories a day breastfeeding, and while it may not look physically demanding 500 calories is a lot of energy to burn. When mom is up at 2 am or pushing through a three hour cluster feeding session, your kind words can make the difference between pushing through or questioning if it is worth pushing through. Regardless of how long your partner chooses to or is able to breastfeed, she will likely always remember your kind words.
3. Take care of her so she can care for baby. Making sure mom is eating, drinking and resting can be a huge help. Even once you return to work little things can have a big impact. Make sure she has breakfast available, pack her a lunch or take care of dinner. We know you cannot do it all of course but setting up help for her, hiring a postpartum doula or mother’s helper, and accepting help from a meal train can be help your partner significantly in the early weeks and months. Be forgiving about and assist with housework. Both of you will be tired and busy and somethings may go undone longer than normal and that’s okay.
4. Participate in infant care. It is not uncommon for mom to be exhausted and touched out by evening. Rocking, entertaining or bathing baby in the evenings or on weekends can give mom much needed rest so she can continue to nourish baby.
5. Be helpful, understanding and protective. Unfortunately breastfeeding is not always understood. Support mom in front of questioning friends and family, and help her feel comfortable when nursing outside the home.
There is a misconception that breastfeeding is only about nourishing baby and the mother/baby bond. While those things are very important, dad is still very important too. Being supportive of your partners choices creates trust and can strengthen your bond as a couple. Mom may primarily feed baby but you still have a huge role in your baby’s care.
For more information on dads and breastfeeding: