What an exciting time of life! Expecting a new baby is one of the most momentous times in anyone’s life. There are so many things to think about – how to look after yourselves and your baby while you are pregnant, what will happen at the birth, what to buy for when your baby arrives and so much more!
You may also be wondering whether you’ll be able to breastfeed your baby, and whether you need to do anything in preparation. You may have family or friends who have struggled with breastfeeding, or told you to expect the worst. Alternatively, you may be thinking it’ll just come naturally. Interestingly, the role of a new Dad is one of the most crucial influences over breastfeeding outcomes. Of everything you both do, there are 3 essential things that new Dad’s can do to support breastfeeding Mums:
1. Have an attitude
We asked our facebook fans “What were the best things your partner did for you while you were breastfeeding to help out?” Overwhelmingly the responses were “attitude toward breastfeeding”. As Natasha put it:
“Encouragement. When it was really rough, and I was thinking of giving up, he reminded me that I could do it, and even if I wanted to give up he would support me no matter what”
Numerous studies have told us that Dad’s are one of the biggest influences on successful breastfeeding outcomes. If you’re on board your partner is much more likely to be able to breastfeed successfully, so your attitude toward breastfeeding is critical!
Let’s pause for a minute and consider a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say your partner decided to run a marathon, due to start in 9 months time. Which attitude would you pick to get her over the finish line:
- “It’ll be fine. Everyone can run, it’s natural! Let just see how you go, if you get to the finish line great, if you don’t make it to the finish line that’s ok too”
- “Sorry honey, I’m flat out at the moment. Good luck with it!”
- “Let’s do some research on good training plans tonight together, and work out a plan to get over the finish line. What a great idea. I can’t wait to cheer you as you cross that finish line.”
Surprisingly, breastfeeding can feel a lot like running a marathon. Sometimes it’s even harder than running a marathon. Having the right attitude to support your partner greatly influences the outcomes.
Here’s some things to think about saying instead
2. Be Prepared – Know the experts
Feeling tired and teary after giving birth, particularly if you’ve had complications or a c-section, or if things didn’t go the way you imagined makes a new mum especially vulnerable. Trying to then help your baby find their way to their first breastfeed can be stressful. A grumpy midwife, a lethargic baby, or additional complications such as tongue tie can make getting a good latch nearly impossible. Having a support partner next to you who understands what a “good latch” means, cheering you on, and managing visitors and medical staff makes a world of difference. As Jessica put it:
“My husband attended a pre-natal breast feeding education course with me. He phoned around to get advice from LCs when I struggled in the beginning and organised a breast pump when I had mastitis. But above all of that, he believes breast feeding is the best thing for our baby.”
Once you get home your baby may cry a lot (it’s tough transitioning out of the womb!), there is breastfeeding throughout the night, there are breastfeeding supply issues (too much or not enough), mum’s nipples may be sore and cracked, breastmilk and baby vomit ends up everywhere, and it’s generally a very emotional, sleep deprived and tumultuous time (although there are many beautiful emotional moments too! It’s not all bad!!). Trying to problem solve in the middle of trying to pacify your baby and stay sane isn’t easy. This is where your role comes into the limelight! Calling around to have a lactation consultant visit, or researching which creams might work best for sore nipples, or calling the ABA hotline (1800 686 268) are all great ways to get informed, and are practical and useful ways to contribute to your family. Remember that the first 3 weeks are hardest, after 6 weeks it starts getting easier, by 3 months you won’t be able to imagine feeding your baby any other way!
Other places to do some research include
- Our website! check out Katie’s Breastfeeding tips or FAQs
- The ABA – www.breastfeeding.asn.au
- KellyMom – www.kellymom.com
- Health Direct - http://www.healthdirect.gov.au/
- Raising Children Network: http://raisingchildren.net.au/
Hotlines to keep note of:
- The ABA hotline 1800 686 268 - talk to a trained breastfeeding counsellor for sound advice or just a sanity check
- Health Direct 1800 022 222 – talk to a registered nurse for 24 hour health advice
“The most important thing I think my husband did was before I was even pregnant was say 'of course you will breastfeed!' like it was just what you did. I came from a formula feeding family where everyone artificially fed & originally I just thought that was what you did.
But after lots of research and learning & most importantly the support from my husband I broke the cycle & have BF both my kids & am still BF my 2yr old.
I believe that partners/husbands and the people/community around you are the most important factors to breastfeeding success My husband is very well educated around BF since I shared a lot of what I learned & he is a great BF advocate, so that really makes me feel supported” - Tracey-lee
3. Be her right hand man
Wondering what you’ll be able to do once you bring home a new baby? Even if you don’t have breasts for nursing there are still a million and one things you can do to nurture and care for your family. Here are some of the things our facebook fans appreciated from their partners:
Supporting me just by being there with me getting me water or food brings the girls to me when they woke - Sarah
My hubby cooks dinner and gets Mr 4 ready for bed every night so I can relax and feed our little cluster feeder. - Danielle
Made sure I always had water! – Kim
First child? Brings me baby to feed in bed. Second child? No chance of that. Entertain toddler so baby can feed in peace! – Angela
Always brought the babies to me. – June
Some other great ideas include:
- Neck and shoulder massages – neck pain from gazing down at your nursling is quite common!
- Managing visitors – ask your partner what times are good for visitors and how many and who she’d like to see. It’s a good idea to limit it to 1 set of visitors per day, with days off here and there. It’s more important for both of you to spend time bonding with your baby than seeing every single friend or relative you’ve ever spoken to.
- Keeping on top of household chores (cooking, cleaning) as much as is necessary
- Working through the paperwork, including all of your new baby registration forms, centerlink forms, hospital forms, and (most importantly) recording important milestones for your baby!
- Get familiar with how to care for a baby! Bathing, nappy changes, burping, dressing, undressing, helping baby to sleep, baby wearing, taking baby for a walk so your partner can catch up on some sleep
Finally, I found this website by dads, for dad’s the other day, which I thought I’d share. Although it’s Canadian it has some great tips. Check out their New Dad Manual: Fuel Consumption
What other great tips would you like to share with new Dad's, or Dads-to-be?