Some may argue that there’s no stronger bond than the one between a mother and her baby, but a newborn also requires interaction from other key family members, especially dad. There is no better time to help a father strengthen his bond with his newborn child than during the time to nurse.
Time to Nurse
It’s important for fathers and significant others to know that the health benefits breastfeeding provides to mothers and their babies can be both physical and emotional. Mothers typically experience feelings of happiness and fulfillment, and research shows those feelings can even help prevent early and late onset postpartum depression.
As wonderful of an experience as breastfeeding is, it can be very frustrating and stressful if Mom has trouble producing milk or difficulty getting the baby to nurse. As a certified lactation counselor, I’ve found that on top of the natural challenges that come with breastfeeding, one reason new mothers struggle the most is due to lack of support from family and friends. A father can play a key role in building (or rebuilding) a mother’s confidence and relieving anxiety by simply offering words of encouragement when she is trying to nurse. Dad can also be proactive in educating himself on techniques to help Mom be successful, such as hand expression that can assist with an increase in milk production and provide a decrease in the occurrence of clogged milk ducts.
Another significant way fathers can relieve stress is by discouraging and deflecting negative comments about breastfeeding in public and being an ally for all women. It may (finally) be legal in all 50 states, but too often mothers endure glares and insulting remarks from strangers, friends and family members who consider nursing babies in public to be an indecent act.
Fathers should not think of themselves as solely a supporting role in the breastfeeding process. They need to hold, caress, and speak to their babies as often as possible. Especially since infants see best at a distance of eight to twelve inches and are most receptive to visual engagement when they’re in a quiet, alert state. This means feeding time! It creates the perfect opportunity for a father to build their paternal-infant bond and experience the precious emotional connection.
Overall, it’s important for a father to know how huge their role is throughout the entire breastfeeding and pumping process. If there is one key piece of advice I can give, it’s for all Dads to try to educate themselves as much as possible on the benefits of breastfeeding and techniques that may help mom.