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The Father's Role in the Breastfeeding Relationship

It is a lucky baby that has a close, loving relationship with both of his parents! Babies need lots of physical contact, and when not nursing, a father's loving arms are a wonderful place for a baby to be.

Television often portrays that the only way for a father to bond with his baby is to give the baby a bottle. However, it is not the feeding per se that results in bonding between mother and child, but the close, physical contact that is part of the breastfeeding relationship. A father does not need to feed his baby to form a close, loving bond; however, he does need to spend time holding, loving, playing with, and just being with his baby.

Even the baby that nurses very frequently can enjoy a wonderful relationship with his father. Try letting your full breastfed baby lie on his father's chest. Rocking baby on the father's shoulder is often a favorite place. Many fathers find rewarding times with baby by showing the baby this big, wide world we live in! The most simple things can enthrall a baby, from the insides of cabinets, to the tops of doors. There are so many ways for the father to be involved, beyond the diaper changes, baths and soothing when baby is fussy. Be creative! But most importantly, recognize that babies need a mother and a father, not just one or the other. Being responsive to a baby is one of the most important ways to help a baby become securely attached to his parents. Your baby needs to know that both Mom and Dad will respect his needs. Bring baby back to his mother right away when he needs to nurse. The father's bond is furthered when the baby's bond with his mother is secure.

The support of a baby's father can often greatly help the breastfeeding relationship succeed--the father can head off discouragement, deflect negative comments from friends and relatives, help calm a fussy baby, bring a new mother food and drink while she is nursing, and, most importantly, remind the new mother that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get her baby off to a good start in life.

Especially in the first few weeks, when lack of sleep and hormonal changes can sometimes make new mothers waver in their determination to breastfeed, a father who suggests, "let's try that latch on one more time," or who reminds his partner that, "they say babies space out their feedings after the three week growth spurt," can be invaluable. A father who brings pillows for help in positioning a newborn or who brings a telephone so that the mother can call her La Leche League Leader is truly helping to feed his child!

Sometimes a father can become discouraged if he feels that no one else he knows is breastfeeding or going through his family's current parenting dilemma. If the local La Leche League Group offers couples meetings, they are a great way to get to know other fathers with similar parenting styles, and to find out how others deal with
parental challenges.

If there is no couples meeting, it might be possible to have a cook-out or picnic for families of your local LLL Group--and to see how wonderfully those breastfed babies turn out when they get older! Have the mother call her LLL Leader now to find out how to meet fellow breastfeeding fathers!

Feeding is just one small part of the care a baby requires.
The father can do a number of things, including bathing the baby, changing diapers, burping, soothing the baby during fussy times and of course, playing with the baby.
The father's turn at feeding can come when baby is ready for solid foods. In fact, baby may accept solid foods from dad better than from his mother, whom baby associates with nursing.

The father's role, especially in the early months, is primarily one of supporting and taking care of the mother so that she can implement nature's design, to nurture baby at the breast almost continually. The father's relationship with any older children becomes even more important. It can be very helpful to the mother to have the father take the older child/ren to the park or give them baths, etc. The father can also fix meals and help around the house.

The important thing to remember is that the mother and baby need to be close--bonding continually. This can be somewhat hard for the father in the early months. It is really a case of delayed gratification. Before long, the wait is more than worth it when the proud father reaps the benefits of being father to a robust, responsive baby.


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Disclaimer: All material provided at Breastfeedingindia.org is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation.