Dads and Breastfeeding

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If you’re a new dad and your partner is breastfeeding, you might be wondering how you can help. The good news is there are plenty of ways that you can support your partner and your baby as they figure out their breastfeeding relationship.

Bring snacks and drinks. In the early days, babies really like to be held. When it comes to breastfed babies, that’s perhaps even more true because they want to be close to their food source at all times. This means that it will be really hard for your breastfeeding partner to get snacks for herself or to refill her own water bottle. If you are available to help her feed herself or make sure she’s hydrated, do it! By feeding your breastfeeding partner, you are helping to feed your baby. Plus, being well nourished and hydrated will lay the foundation for a good milk supply. Check out this blog post for ideas about healthy snacks you can prepare for the nursing person in your life.

Provide emotional support. In some cases, breastfeeding comes easily, but the more common experience is that breastfeeding can be really tough to figure out. Help your partner with reminders that she is doing a good job and that breastfeeding is really hard! If possible before baby comes, discuss your family strategies around feeding your baby. How do you both feel about breastfeeding, formula feeding, and pumping? During struggles in the early days, it might be helpful to remind your partner about these conversations, and to let her know that you support her if she feels that the plans you’ve made to feed your baby need to change. If breastfeeding doesn’t work out, be supportive of that situation and read up on the science of formula, so that you can reassure her that there are many great ways to feed your baby.

Pick up supplies. If your partner needs nipple butter or cream, breast pads, or a nipple shield, be willing to run out and get them. Familiarize yourself with the lactation support areas of your local pharmacy or baby store, so that you can find things quickly and easily.

Encourage her to get help. As discussed above, breastfeeding can be tricky. If your partner needs help, find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for her to see or a breastfeeding support group for her to visit, especially if she’s too overwhelmed to do it herself. Go with her to the appointment and ask the professional how you can support breastfeeding as a dad. Reassure her that many people struggle with breastfeeding and that professional help is a great way to meet your family’s goals around feeding your baby.

Take a shift. Once baby is a bit older, around four to six weeks, it is likely that your partner’s milk supply has been established. At this point, it’s a great idea to practice giving baby a bottle. As baby is more comfortable with the bottle, you can plan to take a shift at night so that your co-parent can sleep. Maybe your partner will go to bed early and you can stay up with the baby or vice versa. Or perhaps you can take the baby for the afternoon while she gets in some adult time. Bottle feeding is a great way for you and baby to bond and to give the breastfeeding parent a break!

Clean pump parts and bottles. If your partner is pumping in addition to or in lieu of breastfeeding, there are probably tons of pump parts and bottles to keep clean. Especially after the return to work, when breastfeeding parents are under pressure to provide enough milk while being away from their babies, things can get pretty stressful. You can help by cleaning and drying the flanges, valves, and bottles each evening so they are clean for work the next day. If you wash them at night, they’ll dry while you sleep and you can pack them for your breastfeeding partner in the morning so they are ready for the day of pumping ahead. The same goes for cleaning the bottles that baby uses to drink breast milk while they are away from the breastfeeding parent. It may not seem like a lot, but it will really help your partner.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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