Your baby is here, congratulations! Hey, new dad, how are you feeling right now? With all the time baby is spending breastfeeding are you feeling left out in the bonding experience? Are you wondering how dads can help with breastfeeding?
I know there is very little talk about helping new dads welcome and bond with baby. It is just as challenging for new fathers as it is for mothers. Yet most of the talk and discussion revolves around the new mother and helping her adjust to her new body, baby and routine.
While it is important to educate mothers about breastfeeding and benefits of breastfeeding, sometimes breastfeeding makes dads feel left out, wondering where they fit in this new equation.
Related reading: Tips on breastfeeding a newborn
I remember my husband felt the same emotions as I did on the arrival of our son, yet he got very little advice and support as a new father. Our modern societies make parenting look like an “all mom” game. We lose our men when we make it all about the mother. The fathers are craving quality time with their little ones and want to bond just as much as the mother with the new baby. But with breastfeeding taking up chunks of time away from the father, followed by other factors like the fathers very early return back to the workforce (thanks to nonexistent paternity leave policies globally) most fathers feel disconnected with their new babies or left wanting more time around their new babies.
If you feel a fathers presence doesn’t really matter that much in the early months, you are wrong.
A study found that babies whose fathers were more engaged and active when playing with them in their initial months performed better in cognitive tests at two years of age.
The clear message for new fathers here is to get in and play with your baby. Playing and interacting with a baby has a positive effect on him.
It is possible to carve out time with your new baby and also help the breastfeeding mom, here is how you can do this.
How dads can help with breastfeeding
Even if the mother is playing a primary role in the newborn stage, dads can still support mothers, bond with the new baby and help set the ground rules for the new family.
It all starts the moment the baby is handed to you. Skin to skin not only helps breastfeeding mothers connect with the baby it can also help new dads bond with their babies.
Regular skin to skin time with dad is good for mommy (she gets much-needed rest in between feeds) and good for the baby. Skin to skin calms the baby, maintains body temperature, regulates heartbeat and breathing. The fathers feel happier too. Oxytoxin a feel-good hormone in our bodies is released on skin to skin helping the father’s body relax and feel happier.
- Give baby a massage
Another great way to bond with the baby is to give the baby a massage. You can talk with the baby as you massage or put on calming music in the background.
- Comforting baby, holding and rocking
Dads can always lend a hand in holding baby, rocking the baby to sleep or comforting baby.
In the early days my husband bonded so well with our son, he had his own little routine to help soothe the baby and put him back to sleep. The more time you spend with your baby, the more easily you both find calm in the presence of each other.
So don’t feel shy or let any feelings of inadequacies take away from your time with your child. Hold your baby, look into his eyes and soon you will find your own space. These are special moments between father and child.
- Give baby a bath
Most mothers experience some problems with bending or standing for long periods of time post delivery. New dads can support the new mom by learning how to give the baby a bath. Most hospitals will guide new parents on how to give the baby a bath. Start at the hospital itself so that you get tips from the nurses and proper guidance on how to give the baby a bath.
Most hospitals also show you how to properly swaddle a baby. Both parents can also take a class on baby care that covers bath, massage, and swaddling.
- Play with baby
Sing songs to your baby, have a conversation with baby and he will respond with coos. Read books to baby and show him around the house.
- Change diapers
Diaper change time is also a great opportunity to talk with your baby. You can sing to him during a diaper change, do eye tracking exercises and see how he responds to the sound of a rattle.
- Use a baby carrier and take the baby on walks
Take the baby out for walks in the fresh air. A baby wrap can help you carry baby safely in an ergonomic position. Here is a video on how to wrap a newborn correctly in a baby wrap and my favorite baby carriers.
How to help a breastfeeding mama and make her life a little less stressful
- Help with home chores
Cooking, meal prepping, grocery shopping, cleaning, make mama some snacks and warm drinks. There are so many ways in which you can make things comfortable for the new mom. Breastfeeding is really exhausting and time-consuming. Help your wife stay stress-free by taking over home chores for a while until she finds her rhythm with the new baby.
- Make sure mama stays hydrated
Breastfeeding moms need to drink a lot of fluid in order to be making more milk. Make nourishing smoothies and warm soups for the breastfeeding mother. Keep her bedside water bottle refilled at all times. These simple gestures of love make her day that much brighter.
- Bottle feed pumped milk
Even if you are not formula feeding, dads can still be part of feeding the baby. Pump milk for night feeds and take over the night feeding sessions so that mom can sleep. Or give the mom a chance to go out with friends while you feed the baby pumped milk.
My husband really enjoyed feeding our son pumped milk. At a time when you are still getting to know your baby, it feels like the nourisher gets the most bonding time. So when he got a chance to feed the baby he would always take it. It was beautiful watching both of them together enjoying a connected moment during the feed. I highly recommend fathers feed the baby with a bottle.
- Support your partners breastfeeding efforts
Breastfeeding also brings with it many challenges for the new mom. We face everything from feelings of inadequacies to constant judgment for our choices.
Take up a breastfeeding class with your partner to help troubleshoot any early teething problems. These days there are online breastfeeding classes that help new parents through the early days of breastfeeding and provide evidence-based answers to your breastfeeding problems.
As a partner, try and understand your partner’s choices, empathize and support her through the process whatever her choices may be.
That is all she needs from you as she navigates through the initial months of motherhood.
- Stand up against difficult family members
There will be times when you need to stand up against unsolicited advice too. New parents are bombarded with a lot of advice and many of them conflicting.
It is best to discuss parenting choices with your partner and have united front around family members with differing ideas and suggestions.
Related reading: Frequently asked questions by new parents in India
As simple as most of these points sound, many new parents still struggle with these basics and this adds to stress on the new mother which is also one of the reasons why milk supply is affected.
Related reading: How to increase milk supply naturally
Once both parents are on the same page and you can work towards finding solutions to your parenting challenges. The more the father is around as a support system to the mother the easier the transition for both into new parenthood. You are in this together as one team.
This is truly a blessed time in your life, embrace and seize it as your own.
Welcome to Fatherhood! Happy Parenting!