Gill O’Connor, Infant Feeding and Breastfeeding Development Coordinator: 

How dads can help and support breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is cheap, convenient, good for the baby and good for the mother. But people sometimes forget that it is also good for the father/partner too. One of the most frequent statements I hear from parents is that they want to ‘give a bottle’ so that dad can bond with the baby. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support this idea that dads giving a bottle helps with bonding. Fathers, partners or a family member who will be the prime support before and after the baby is born can do so much more to support the breastfeeding mother and bond with their baby other than by giving a bottle.

When starting a new job there is an induction period, you may have a mentor and regular reviews of progress. This doesn’t happen when a new baby arrives although help can be at the end of the phone from family, friends and health professionals. Becoming a parent is a learning process, and although in today’s society, which puts pressure on everyone to be the perfect parent, just remember that providing a loving environment and looking after your little one’s basic needs is really all your baby wants from you.

Advice to dads:

The decision about how you would like to feed your baby should begin antenatally as a partnership so that you are both in agreement and have the same expectations. Once your baby is born you are the gatekeeper who protects mother and baby from too many visitors. It is important that quiet time to establish breastfeeding and allowing opportunity for mother and baby to rest takes priority. These are special days when you both adjust to becoming parents and have the opportunity to begin to know your baby. It is also important to bear in mind that for some mothers the early days may be difficult, but your midwife and health visitor can offer support and advice so do not be afraid to phone for help.

Oxytocin (the love hormone) mothers produce when breastfeeding promotes a strong bond with their baby and is the same hormone as is produced when kissing and cuddling. Dads giving baby cuddles, kisses, singing, reading a story, holding them close are the times when the bonding process for fathers is really enhanced. Research confirms that you cannot spoil a baby, but are simply making baby feel the security and love that they need to thrive…so cuddles are good – particularly skin to skin!

Take your baby for a walk in the pram or in a sling so that they are held close to you – show them off. Be proud of your beautiful baby and give your partner an opportunity to rest, have a bath, wash her hair, listen to music – whatever makes her relax. Take older children too and give them some special time with you and to help them get to know their new sibling.

And don’t forget, encouraging your partner, giving emotional support and reassurance, but knowing when to seek advice will help make the breastfeeding journey more enjoyable and less stressful!

“I provided a lot of cups of tea and cake during my partner’s breastfeeding journey. As a dad it’s all about offering support and encouragement. Also there’s other jobs apart from feeding for us to do, change the nappy, bathing them or in our case a lot of 3am rockings off to sleep! Watching my son grow and thrive from being breastfed means I’m a firm advocate for it now.”

Jason Burt-D’Arcy, a dad from Kursaal Ward who supported his breastfeeding partner, tells his experience

Let us know! What would you like to see Better Start put in place for fathers? We will use any comments to inform how we plan services.

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