Breastfeeding 101: Daddy
I cannot overemphasize the importance of a father to a child. They often get overlooked in discussions of breastfeeding because, quite simply, they don't have breasts. What they do have is at least as important.
Women whose partners support them in their breastfeeding efforts are FAR more likely to succeed than women whose partners are indifferent or discouraging.
I would have failed as a breastfeeding mom were it not for my husband.
Note: Much of this article comes from personal experience and observation. Every family is different and every father is different. Some want to be more or less involved with their children and there are moms who are perfectly happy with every level of involvement. The family dynamic is something personal that we all have to work out, but I'm here to tell you that your baby's father is a key part of the parenting team, even when you breastfeed, and that he and the baby can enjoy a father/child bond as unique and special as the mother/child bond you will create.
The only link I'm going to give you is this one: www.kellymom.com/bf/start/prepare/bf-links
There are a few articles linked here with a wide range of information about the essential role daddies play.
ARE YOU ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION?
I often hear mothers ask, “If I breastfeed, how will my husband feed the baby?”
This is the wrong question. What you should be asking is, “How will my husband bond with the baby?”
First, let me assure you that fathers have been around since the beginning and they have never nursed a child. This definitely does not mean that they have never bonded with one. What it does mean is that men and women are different. I know, I know...it's the 21st century and we want men and women to be equal. That's great. It's great that women can work outside the home and even greater (IMHO) that men want to get involved inside the home. But equal does not mean the same.
Right now, you are carrying a baby inside of you. You are with that baby 24/7 in a way that a man can never be. When your baby is born, they will know your face and voice better than anyone's. They will know the rhythm of your heart and the warmth of your touch. They will know and be comforted more by you than by anyone else, because you've been there with them from the beginning.
But wait...what was that sound over there? That's right, babies know daddy's voice too. Studies have shown that the newest babies recognize their father's voice and respond to it. They've been hearing it resonate through your body for months and they like it – and him.
Mothers and fathers come equipped for different, but equally important, tasks. They can both be partners in the parenting relationship, taking on roles that are best suited for each.
For example, a mother's body temperature will go up or down to help regulate her baby's temperature. This is one reason that skin to skin contact is so important – in many cases it is far better than a warmer. (So if your nurses keep burying your baby in blankets, undo that swaddle and press them against your chest.)
Fathers, on the other hand, have chests like furnaces. They can often use this warmth to soothe a fussy baby or get a baby to fall asleep. They are often better at performing a unique position that can calm a colicky baby – placing the baby face down on their forearm with the head near their elbow and their hands supporting the groin area. It may sound weird, but it can work wonders for a fussy baby. My husband did it but I never could get it right, possibly because my arm is smaller. (This is described better in one of the articles I linked to.)
You will not have the same relationship with your child that your husband does, whether you feed through a breast or a bottle. Personally, I wouldn't even want to have the same bond. This isn't a competition, it's a partnership. My husband rough houses with my son in the evening. I don't really do that. I have cuddle time with my son after his nap every afternoon. My husband doesn't really do that. Together, we form a safe and loving environment in which our son can learn and grow.
As for feeding...many people would tell you that feeding is not the only way for fathers to bond with baby. I'm going to go a step further and say that it's not even the best way for fathers to bond with baby. Why? First, nature has given them no way to breastfeed. There is something special about this bond and they cannot capture it by feeding with a bottle. True, a father can ask his partner to bottle feed so that they can both try for an equal feeding bond, but that is both selfish and unrealistic. As I've been trying to tell you, there is no such thing as equal bonds. Bonds are unique and special. They are also powerful when they compliment rather than compete with or undermine one another.
Second, fathers often don't spend as much time with babies as mothers do, meaning that moms will do most of the feeding anyway. This, too, has a lot to do with nature. Even those of us who work take time away to heal and bond with our babies. Some fathers are able to do this, (My DH will be able to take off 4 weeks for the new one, I'm so excited!!) but it's not as common and their leave tends to be shorter.
Finally, breastfeeding is the best start that two parents can give their child. (I've already posted the 101 reasons to breastfeed.) And it does take two parents to give this to their child. Never underestimate the power of a supporter and ally....the wind beneath your wings. This isn't just something that a mother can give...a father can give it too.
Now that I've gone on about how feeding isn't the best way for a father to bond, let's talk about what is! What can a father do to begin their own special relationship with daddy?
The possibilities are endless and you need to tailor them to your home, but here are just a few:
1.Reading. You should read to your baby as well to encourage this from a young age, but FATHERS need to read to their children. This goes double if you have a boy. Boys are much more likely to become readers if their fathers read to them as children.
2.Bath time. (My husband has done almost every bath since my son was born. This is a VERY special time together for them.
3.Diapers changes...this may not be the most glamorous job in the world but fathers can turn this into a special time. It is also a great way to support mom.
4.Cuddle time...fathers need time holding the baby, too. I think fathers need to spend time holding their babies every day, from day one. Sometimes I see moms get so caught up in mommy and baby that they never hand them over and when they do, the baby starts crying. Establish holding, cuddling, singing, and talking time with daddy right away and make it consistent and important.
5.Talk...your baby is born knowing daddy's voice. Keep it up!
6.Sing (Unless it's my husband. Argh! :=) )
8.Burp (DH was much better at this than me. He had the magic touch!)
(I'm sure some of you can come up with other ideas....feel free to add them.)
As a baby gets older, the bond between both of you and your baby will slowly change. The suggestion above are only for the first few months of life. Once a baby starts moving and shaking things up, there are even more ways to form your and your husband's relationships...and you will need to look for your own ways to create a mature relationship between you and baby. Breastfeeding doesn't last forever, and even if you decide you want it to last for a long time, your mature baby/toddler will need more from you.
Once a baby starts solids, fathers can help feed those to the baby.
Once a baby is old enough for play, fathers can play with the baby.
Once a baby is old enough for rough housing, fathers are GREAT at this!
Fathers can chase (a moving baby's favorite), tickle, play peek-a-boo...on and on it goes.
If there are still any of you questioning how close a father and baby can be when a woman breast feeds, let me just try to describe the sparkle in my son's eyes when he hears the garage door open at night. He's two now....he shrieks, runs to the front window to watch daddy pull in, then runs to the garage door shouting, “Daddy! Daddy!”
He started making the association with daddy and garage door at a few months old (I want to say 6) and has been excited every evening since. “Dad” was his second word, right on the heels of “Mom.”
FATHER AS SUPPORTER
So far, I've just talked about how a father can bond with his baby. I haven't even gotten into the critical role he plays as your partner and ally in raising and caring for a baby!
The first few weeks of a baby's life are hard. Fathers can do so much to help...they can really take an active role! Here are just some of the things my husband did:
1.Help around the house. (Don't plan to do housework for the first 6 weeks.)
2.Cook and feed me. (My husband happens to be an excellent cook, so this worked out great for me.)
4.Run interference when I need to be alone.
5.Help investigate and solve breastfeeding problems. (This is why I think dads need to go to a BF class with you. My husband did, and he was on the phone to the teacher of the class and to another lactation consultant trying to get help and advice.)
6.Burp the baby.
8.Encourage you and tell you what a great job you're doing. (You should reciprocate. Men like to hear this too!)
9.I had a few insane nights where I was just about to crack. My husband fed pumped breast milk through a dropper (no bottle feeding before 6 weeks) in the middle of the night to give me a break.
Fathers are absolutely wonderful and absolutely essential. Make sure they understand how wonderful and important they are, and don't underestimate it!
Finally, I want to talk about fathering styles. There are about as many of those as there are fathers. Some want little to do with their children, especially as babies. (I know a few fathers who get really into their children when they get older but can't figure out what to do with babies.)
On the other side of the spectrum, there's the super-involved dads who don't wait to be told once, let alone twice. They get right in there and start being a dad.
Some dads need encouragement or even an engraved invitation.
You may not know what your partner's fathering style is until after the baby comes, but whatever it is try to work with it. If your partner is shy about getting involved but would like to, hand him the baby and go take a walk outside.
Encouragement and support goes both ways. Men need to feel wanted and appreciated and some of them don't know how to just dive right in. Take the ideas I've given you, read some of the articles I quoted, and start encouraging your partner to do these things. When he does, make him feel good about it. A kiss or a kind word can go a long way.
Of course, you'll have your own comfort level too. Some moms are just as happy to have husbands that aren't all that involved, especially with babies. Remember that marriages (and parenting relationships, if you're not married) are negotiated. Make sure you are both getting what you want and need and don't be afraid to sit down and talk about this. Lack of communication is the #1 enemy in relationships.
I happen to have a husband who is very hands on, no invitation required, and was from the start. He was probably less afraid of the baby than I was. (That can happen too. Not all of us mothers are instantly confident in our new nurturing roles.)
I realize that this is more about managing relationships than breastfeeding, but really, that's such an important part of our lives. We can't overlook it.
I would like to give a sweet mama from babyfit a special thank you for giving me permission to use her info. Thank you Christine Amsden!! Also, I want to invite you all to look at her new website! www.christineamsden.com
Edited by: ROAD2HEALTHY at: 1/5/2009 (16:20)
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