The first few months after birth can be both exciting and overwhelming. Mothers need all the support they can get, and breastfeeding is something that both parents can do as a team!
A father's knowledge, enthusiasm, and support can be crucial as their partner breastfeeds. One of the most important things fathers can do is learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and how breastfeeding works to show your support for your partner.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has advantages that last throughout childhood and for the rest of your baby’s life. Many people don’t know that breastfed babies are healthier for their whole lives. That’s not the case for formula-fed babies, who don’t get all the vitamins, nutrients, or disease-fighting cells that they would get from breastmilk. As a result, formula-fed babies frequently get sick and need to see the doctor more often than breastfed babies. Some other differences between breastfed and formula-fed babies are:
• When breastfed babies grow up, they often have lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than formula-fed babies.
• Formula-fed babies have higher rates of asthma and allergies.
• Formula-fed babies have higher rates of some cancers, diabetes, and bone diseases.
• Breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests taken in childhood and adolescence.
Breastmilk is a gift that lasts a lifetime!
Ways Fathers Can Support a Breastfeeding Mother
New mothers, especially first-time mothers, need a lot of support. It's normal for new moms to feel anxious about breastfeeding, and the long hours can make them tired and overwhelmed at times. There are several ways fathers can support mothers during this exciting and challenging time, including:
Help her stay comfortable. Offer to bring her a glass of water, give her another pillow if she needs one, or remove distractions like older siblings, visitors, or the family pet.
Bring your baby to your partner in bed for night feeds and help with settling the baby back to sleep if you need to. This will be a big help to your partner, even if you only do it for some night feeds, or on some nights.
Offer to help out with other things, to give her time to rest and increase your bonding experience with the baby. Giving baths, changing diapers, play time with baby, and taking the baby for outings are great ways to bond with your baby while your partner gets some much-needed sleep!
Settle a fussy baby. This is sometimes easier for fathers than for mothers, because the smell of the mother's milk can make the baby search for her breasts instead of calming down.
Bottle feed the baby expressed breast milk on occasion. This might be something you do after 1-2 months, when your partner is feeling confident and comfortable with breastfeeding.
Learn More About Breastfeeding
While the experience of breastfeeding is a natural, beautiful process there are some common problems breastfeeding mothers can experience. Learning more about these problems helps fathers feel informed and helpful! Here are some more common problems mothers experience and what to look for:
Milk Supply: The best way to know whether your baby is getting enough milk is to look at a baby's diapers and body language after feeds. Your baby is getting enough milk if there are at least 6-8 wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposables in 24 hours, defecates every day if he’s younger than 6-8 weeks old (an older baby is likely to do fewer poos), and if you baby is alert and mostly happy after and between feeds.
Too Much Milk: A mother may be producing too much milk if the baby can't swallow fast enough to keep up, has a lot of wet diapers, gagging and gulping (especially at the start of feeding), or green poops after feeding. The mother's breasts may also feel lumpy and tight after breastfeeding.
Breast Refusal: This is an easy one to spot, and it occurs when the baby is likely hungry but will not breastfeed. This is usually a passing phase, but some of the most common causes are that the baby has a cold with a stuffy nose, is overstimulated, tired, or distracted, different tasting milk (usually from medications, hormonal changes, or the mother ate a spicy or unusual food.
Sore Nipples: The most common cause of sore nipples is that the baby isn't attaching properly. A family health nurse, midwife, breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant are helpful resources in this situation.
Mastitis: If the mother has inflamed, sore, swollen or red breasts, or if she has the chills or feels like they have the flu, she might have mastitis. If you suspect mastitis, it's important to seek help from a doctor, who will usually prescribe medication to help with the infection.
Blocked Milk Ducts: If a the mother has a sore lump in her breast but otherwise feels well, she probably have a blocked milk duct. A warm compress to help soften the lump is helpful in this case – try a warmed (not hot) heat pack, wrapped in a soft cloth and held to her breast for a few minutes.
Breastfeeding Facts for Fathers
We offer a helpful informational booklet specifically written for fathers! Breastfeeding Facts for Fathers is a fact-packed, fun-filled booklet for new dads answers questions about breastfeeding and becoming a parent. Breastfeeding Facts for Fathers helps new dads understand the pivotal role they play in raising a healthy, thriving child.
As we prepare for World Breastfeeding Week in August, we are offering a variety of discounts! Get Breastfeeding Facts for Fathers for only $2 each on orders of 1-99 copies, and $1.50 each on orders of 100 or more. To take advantage of this offer, learn more, or see a sample copy, email Martha at Martha@PlatypusMedia.com .