Breastfeeding mothers were asked last week by www.realbabymilk.org what were the best ways that their partners could lend a helping hand. Most men enjoy helping and looking after their baby as much as women do. However, the closeness that breastfeeding mums enjoy excludes them from the feeding and nurturing their offspring and can leave some men feeling left out or redundant. However, only 30% said that they suspected that their partners would like them to bottle-feed instead so that they could feed their babies too.
Breastfeeding may look like ‘sitting around doing not very much’; in reality the demands can be exhausting with her baby’s needs taking up most of the hours of day and night. A mum’s routine is restricted round a continuous cycle of feed, wind, change, settle, sleep and with little respite in between.
Husbands and partners play a huge part in enabling mums to breastfeed successfully for as long as they wish to do so. Their supportive role should not be underestimated. Women are not always good at identifying what their partners can do to be most helpful. Bottle feeding is great because men can take part in helping you feed your baby, but does that mean that if you chose to breastfeed then you have to struggle on alone?
Many women may complain that men have a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to household chores but they also acknowledge that a great partner is a great father and between, what may sound like nagging; they are often the unsung heroes of successful breastfeeding.
“I’m very lucky, my husband is absolutely fantastic! When he comes home from work he gets ‘stuck in’ straight away. He recognises I’ve been working just as hard at home, feeding a baby and entertaining a toddler, as he has at work all day. We both know that once tea, bath and bedtime stories are out of the way we get our evening to ourselves.” – Anna Robinson (Age 27, breastfed for 6 ½ and 7 ½ months)
“When things were difficult in the early weeks and I got mastitis he would encourage me to keep going even when I begged him to get formula. He knew that breast feeding was what I wanted and sometimes had to be tough with me when I was ready to give in. I’m really grateful for that support as without it I wouldn’t have got through the early weeks. We agreed on what we both wanted to do before the birth and stuck to it”. – Claire Tapping (Age 32, breastfed for 9 ½ months)
Real Baby Milk’s ‘Top Tips for Dads’ are the frequently cited suggestions of 60 breastfeeding mothers. Most men would like to find the best way to support their breastfeeding partners but aren’t always sure of the best ways to do so.
Real Baby Milk Top 20 Tips for Dads.
- Fetch a feeding cushion and help her position your new baby correctly. In the early days this is really helpful.
- Make sure she is comfortable. Pass her the remote, telephone or cup of tea. Bring her drinks and snacks. See she has a glass of water at least to hand as breastfeeding can be thirsty work.
- Picking up your baby in night and bring it over to her in the night for a feed is a small kindness. Offering to wind or settle the baby down afterwards will also be appreciated. Her rest is important as she also has the day ahead to cope with.
- Defend her choices with midwives and health visitors and make sure you know her own mind. Encourage her to stick with her choice to breastfeed when things are getting tough. She’ll thank you in the end if giving up is something you knew she would regret.
- Do the bath routine with your baby and getting them ready for bed. It’s great bonding time for dads.
- Carry your baby in a sling and let them have as much skin-to-skin contact with you too.
- Compliment her on how well she is doing and how proud you are and field any negative comments that are made about breastfeeding and respond appropriately.
- Tell her she looks nice even when she is feeling awful.
- Do some household chores without being asked.
- Give her a chance to have a lie-in or take the baby out for a walk so she can rest.
- Cook a nice healthy, nutritious meal or leave her something tasty prepared in the fridge that she can microwave for her lunch time.
- Cut up her dinner for her without having to be asked. Babies seem to have the instinct to feed just when it’s your meal time too. She’ll appreciate being able to feed herself with her one free hand.
- Change nappies and pack the baby bag for outings.
- Do the shopping. It’s much quicker for you to do it than for her to have to take the baby with her.
- Keep the older children entertained and busy so that she can feed in peace without being pestered by jealous siblings
- Get rid of unwanted guests in the house at feeding times. Think about the tables you chose in cafes, and make sure she can breastfeed discreetly if she is uncomfortable doing so in public.
- For long journeys, plan breastfeeding stops built in.
- If she gives you a bottle of expressed milk then let her have the bit of well-deserved baby-free time to herself. A 20mins break might make the world of difference to her.
- Make sure she has lots of chocolate available. Buy flowers and run a nice bath for her when she looks tired.
- Don’t pester to get your sex life back on track.
written by Jessica Miln on behalf of Real Baby Milk CIC