Updated: Mar 28
By Sophia Taylor
One of the many reasons mothers who choose to breastfeed their children stop early in their journeys stems from a lack of support from their husbands, partners, and primary care physicians. Today I want to focus on husbands and partners because you are the foundation and pillar presence that will block any negativity outside of your union. I could write a book on how many negative comments destroy a mother's confidence in continuing her breastfeeding journey, which most often comes from the fore generations of (grandma and nem’). The biggest unsolicited comment is “you know your boobs are gonna sag after the baby is done breastfeeding" Or “you are gonna spoil that baby by holding them all the time.” Or the classic one “That baby needs more than breastmilk, you need to put some formula and some cereal in the bottle.” The fore generations were taught to have a negative outlook on breastfeeding for various reasons that I won't dive into here, but you are welcome to read my passage on this topic in (Improving Racial Equity in Breastfeeding 2022)
So how can you as a dad help mom do the "Matrix" avoid the slick comments, and make sure she and baby achieve a positive breastfeeding experience? Simply by being a positive presence, you can use this opportunity to shut down any talk that does not support mothers' decision to breastfeed. Help her build her confidence to continue on the journey by lightening the load.
During my counseling sessions, I use every opportunity to engage with both parents as a unit. By making eye contact with the parents, I am mindful of creating a genuine space of care that allows mom and dads to voice their concerns and help them get answers to questions they otherwise wouldn't have asked., had I not made father a priority as well, and surprisingly; dads have a lot to say! At the close of our sessions, I provide the family with the proper resources to support my answers, and to help parents continue the discussions at home. Dads often express gratitude when they are brought into the education, because they truly are an important part of the breastfeeding dyad.
Here are 8 different ways dads can help support during the breastfeeding experience.
Stay knowledgeable about breastfeeding, attend lactation classes and sessions with mom, seek information from various reputable fact-based sources, and engage and ask questions.
Avoid speaking negatively about how mom’s breast will look after breastfeeding, and understand that mom already has thoughts about her body as a woman in general, (she literally just delivered a baby) she doesn’t need her partner or anyone else making her feel any worst. (Respectfully)
Help mom put the baby to breast and get a good latch. Even if it’s just propping and preparing the pillows for comfort. Help create a comfortable environment for mom and baby to thrive in. Learn about normal infant behavior and become familiar with the signs of an improper latch which can cause pain and lead to other issues that may derail mothers' confidence to continue breastfeeding.
Help mom and baby stay on schedule with a feeding log, and document quantities of wet and stool diapers per day. Learn how to watch for feeding cues.
Can dads do skin-to-skin? Heck Yes! Dad, you can do skin-to-skin as well! This increases you and your baby's oxytocin (love hormone) levels, heightening the bonding experience. If feeding cues are missed and the baby becomes fussy and the mom and baby are having difficulty latching, dad can soothe the baby with skin-to-skin to prepare baby for the breast.
Be positive in your role as a father. Know that caring for your partner and child does not make you look weak or soft. Real men care for their families limitlessly without shame.
Appreciate her dedication to breastfeeding and cheer her on. She is offering the best source of nutrition on the planet and quite possibly the universe.
Put aside your expectations and demands while mom is trying to cope and get breastfeeding right. Baby is already leading her way, especially in the first few weeks. You can assist by carrying the load of the dishes, preparing the bottles if needed, washing and prepping pump parts, changing diapers, and helping with bath time.
God has truly blessed our family with a supportive husband, father, and role model for our four girls. He made transitioning through every step of each breastfeeding journey less painful and less stressful. He listened to me and knew when things weren't right and when he needed to step in, all because he took the time to learn and be present. My daughters' futures are brighter all because he remained present with love.
It truly takes a village to raise a child. The village starts in the home. -Ase
Resources to motivate you
A dad's point of view on his role in helping mom breastfeed