Congratulations, you’re going to be a new dad! As an expectant father, you may know that breastfeeding is the best option for feeding your new baby. It provides valuable benefits for both mom and baby. You may have concerns about your role in breastfeeding or be asking yourself if you even have a role.
The answer is yes. You have a very important role during pregnancy and after your child arrives. You are an important part of your baby’s life and will offer the support your partner needs throughout the breastfeeding process.
- Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. Attend prenatal classes, breastfeeding classes and doctor’s appointments with your partner. By understanding the process and importance of breastfeeding, you will be able to provide better support to your baby and partner.
“I knew how important the colostrum was during the first breastfeeding for Jack. It contains antibodies to protect the baby against disease … essentially his “super food.” But Jack was having a hard time latching, so I spoon-fed him the first breast milk to ensure he got those antibodies. It was a super dad moment for me,” said Gabe Riggs, manager, Web Marketing, Norton Healthcare, and father of 10-month-old Jack.
- Support your partner’s decision to breastfeed. A woman is more likely to breastfeed and breastfeed longer if she has good partner support. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life.
At the hospital
- Be an advocate for mom and baby. Let the hospital staff know that your partner wants to breastfeed. If your partner is having trouble breastfeeding, ask the hospital staff for a lactation consultant to provide help and guidance.
- Be present and participate when staff members are helping your partner learn to breastfeed. The knowledge you gain during the lactation consulting will be helpful when you are home and trying to figure out how to help your baby eat in the middle of the night.
- Arrange for private time to engage in skin-to-skin contact with your new baby to begin creating a bond. Sing or talk softly to your baby to increase your bond.
- Encourage your partner by showing support. Breastfeeding can be hard and frustrating for a new mom. Reassure her about her decision to breastfeed and your commitment to being successful together. “It may seem like a one-person job, but it is really a two-person job trying to figure out the best position for the baby to latch correctly,” Gabe said about his experience as a new dad.
- Be helpful during breastfeeding and around the house. When your partner is feeding baby, bring her a pillow to help her be more comfortable and offer to bring her whatever she needs — water, a healthy snack, the TV remote. Help out around the house by doing chores, laundry and grocery shopping. Help with late-night feedings by bringing the baby to your partner, changing diapers and returning the baby to his or her crib. It’s the small things that will make the biggest difference.
- Continue to learn and help your partner find help if there is difficulty with breastfeeding or latching. Attend lactation consultant appointments with your partner to help communicate frustration and learn more about the process and techniques for success. Gabe and his wife, Lori, saw their lactation consultants as “miracle workers.” “You feel so helpless when your little guy can’t eat,” said Gabe about their experience with breastfeeding before seeking more help from lactation consultants.
- Bond with your baby. Continue to practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby while reading or singing to him or her. Create special dad-baby moments through cuddling, bathing and taking walks to build your special bond of love and trust.
- Help feed the baby. Once mom and baby have a comfortable nursing routine, and if it is part of your feeding plan, you can begin supplementing with bottles of expressed breast milk. It is important not to introduce a bottle too early. Breastfeeding should be well-established and your baby should be 3 to 4 weeks old before you begin bottle-feeding with expressed breast milk.
Bottle-feeding offers you an opportunity to bond with your baby, and it also allows parents to split feedings. For Gabe and Lori, sharing the feedings made sense so both could get some much-needed rest. Gabe took the late-night and early-morning bottle feedings and Lori took the middle-of-the-night feedings. Other couples may decide against bottle feeding at all for various reasons. In that case, you can become the main solid-food feeder when your baby is older.
Remember that your role as a dad is an important part of your baby’s life. Your support and love are invaluable to both your partner and your new baby.
Prenatal and newborn classes
Become an involved dad before your new baby arrives. Our free prenatal and newborn classes provide the information you need to help prepare for all aspects of childbirth. View our complete list of expectant parent classes.
For Dads Only
This class helps ease the concerns of expectant fathers. Learn hands-on skills, including bathing, diapering, dressing, feeding and calming a fussy baby. Also learn tips on providing support for mom and how to recognize postpartum depression.
Norton Suburban Hospital
7:30 to 9 p.m.
Oct. 29 and Dec. 15
Register online or by calling (502) 629-1234.