Breastfeeding And Dads
The role of fathers has altered a great deal over the last few decades and looks set for even more change.
In the UK, nearly one in five firstborn babies begin life without their biological father living with them. Some of the changes that have been made over the past few years, such as the option for paternal leave after a child is born, can benefit breastfeeding. However if a man's partner contributes significantly to the family income he may prefer her to go back to work quickly to take the pressure off him. If he imagines that work and breastfeeding don't mix, he may encourage her to bottle-fed.
Some men don't much care about breastfeeding anyway, because they simply don't know about its many advantages. Once they learn, they can see how important their contribution to supporting it can be.
The father of a breastfed baby is a very important person and can play several very helpful roles. Just as when a baby gorilla is born the father lifts the baby to the mother's breast so she can suckle it, so you too can offer your partner help with breastfeeding!
For example, a few hospitals even today still give breastfed babies water or formula unnecessarily, especially at night. If this isn't what your partner wants, which it almost certainly isn't if she's aiming to breastfeed successfully, you can remind the staff that you and your partner want your baby to be totally breastfed, and don't be fobbed off by someone trying to persuade you it doesn't matter if he has the occasional bottle. It may well do if you want breastfeeding to have the best chance of success.
However useful you are when your partner is in hospital, you can help even more when she gets home. Take a couple of weeks off work if you can, so you can be there for her and look after any other children. Most of us only ever have two children, so it's well worth making the effort to give her the support and help she needs at this crucial time. Many women expect the home to run as it did before they had the baby, and many men feel much the same. But if your partner is to breastfeed successfully, and you can't take time off work, you'll almost certainly need to help around the house, unless you have close family who can step in.
She'll need emotional back-up too, because breastfeeding is a deeply emotional business. Put your own concerns aside while you focus entirely on her; trying to understand how she's feeling and, finally letting her know what you sense is going on for her emotionally. Most of us like to know that someone understands us. An additional benefit of listening well is that it could help fend off postnatal depression, because this is likely in women who feel emotionally alone in their new role. Research has shown that mammals of many species, including humans, produce less milk, or even stop producing it, if disturbed or stressed while breastfeeding.
The majority of women are highly emotional after having a baby, partly because of the physical and emotional upheaval of childbirth and becoming a mum, and partly because their hormones are keying them up to breastfeed and respond to their baby. Even the most able and well balanced woman may cry for no apparent reason. It's wise to be especially sensitive, and careful what you say. As her partner you'll play a vital role in the success or otherwise of breastfeeding. A casual or thoughtless remark can destroy a woman's confidence and make her feel inadequate.
If you have other children you'll need to look after them, or organise others to do it, so your partner can get all the rest she needs. You can also act as a buffer between her and the outside world. Relatives, friends and neighbours may be keen to see her and the new baby, but make sure they come in small doses.
Encouragement is another thing you can provide. Studies show that a woman whose partner doesn't want her to breastfeed rarely manages to do so. Even if he's merely neutral, the chances of successful feeding are greatly reduced. It's best if your attitude is positive from the beginning, as your partner may find breastfeeding particularly challenging in the first few days while she's learning how to do it. She'll need plenty of loving encouragement and support.
Some Common Concerns Dads Have About BreatsfeedingWill my partner will go off sex and will she lose her figure?
Whether breastfeeding experts like it or not, virtually every man thinks of breasts first and foremost as sex objects. Of course breasts are for feeding babies too, as most men reluctantly agree, but during the years of a couple's life together, which could be up to 40 to 60 or more, the erotic role of the breasts is much more important most of the time. This makes it foolish to ignore any fears a man may have about his partner having droopy breasts after breastfeeding.
But let's consider what actually happens. All breasts get bigger in pregnancy, regardless of how a woman intends to feed her baby. If she breastfeeds, her breasts stay bigger for longer than if she bottle-feeds. This can be a real bonus, or course, for the man who likes large breasts! Indeed, some such men are greatly turned on by their breastfeeding partner's relatively large breasts and more erectile nipples.
Wearing a well-fitting bra by night and day can support the heavier-than-usual breasts and prevent the skin becoming overstretched, which helps maintain their original shape. Many women find their breasts are relatively soft after they stop breastfeeding. This is because the milk glands and ducts can shrink quite abruptly after stopping. However, as the weeks and months pass, and body fat becomes redistributed, the breasts' contours gradually fill out again.
But whatever happens, does it matter anyway? Breasts quite normally change with age and if pregnancy or breastfeeding hastens this change at all, it's only a very little.
Father And Baby
Some new dads feel shut out of the excitement of the first few days. The mother is closely involved with her newborn, and he may feel she and the baby are excluding him. However, although a new father isn't centre stage, this can be a wonderful time for him and he should feel proud of his new role. He has the opportunity to back up his partner while she finds her feet looking after and breastfeeding their child. Caring for his breastfeeding partner can add a whole new dimension to a man's relationship - one in which he matures from being a big boy to a real man who gives as much, or more, than he receives. This can be a quantum leap in a couple's life together.
The Benefits Of Breastfeeding For DadYou won't have to get up at night to take your turn.
You can't run out of milk powder at awkward times, and it's one thing less to buy. Breastfeeding is less expensive than bottle-feeding.
Having a breastfeeding baby means there's less baby equipment to carry when you go out anywhere. This makes going anywhere a lot easier.
Looking After YourselfWith all the fuss and excitement over your new baby, it's easy to forget yourself and your needs. Both you and your partner have to get used to the physical and emotional needs of the new member of your family, and this isn't always easy. You are a very important person and you'll enjoy this time more and have more to offer if you're healthy. Many men benefit from talking about their feelings on becoming a father and their new responsibilities. Few men find it easy to 'let it all hang out' , but the sense of perspective you get from being honest with a friend or relative about the highs and low of your new lifestyle can be a godsend. Getting out with friends can also help keep everything in perspective.
And finally, helping your partner breastfeed can give both of you pleasure, and your baby the best possible start. Over a lifetime as a father you'll lavish huge amounts of time, money and energy on your child. That journey starts here, so don't underestimate the importance of the time, support, empathy and affection you give your partner. You are helping lay the foundations for your new family - and you can make a huge difference.
Buy Dr Stanway's Book - Breast is Best - Here