The Father's Role in Breastfeeding
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
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 the big, wide
world we live in! The simplest 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!
However, 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 Mother support group leader
is 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 MS G 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 are no couples meeting, it might be possible
to have a cookout or picnic for families of
your local MSG Group--and to see how wonderfully
those breastfed babies turn out when they get
older! Have the mother call her MSG Leader now
to find out how to meet fellow breastfeeding
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 children 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.
to Support Breastfeeding