Seemingly everyone agrees that fathers need to support breastfeeding mothers. On my Father’s Day episode of Born to Be Breastfed, my guest, Calvin Williams, gave a long list practical actions for how dads can help breastfeeding moms.
Cheer mom on. Instill and promote confidence
This was Calvin Williams’ first suggestion. In my opinion, this is the most important suggestion on how dads can help.
Cheering and frequent reminders of how she’s doing a good job help to dispel the mother’s self-doubts—and believe me, she has plenty of those! Admittedly, it’s not easy to simply “bestow” confidence onto someone. But on the flip side: It’s very easy to take confidence away. Remarks like, “Well, we can always do bottle-feeding, you know,” can be a real downer.
Keep well-meaning relatives in check
I could go on and on about well-meaning relatives. But in short, they frequently offer unsolicited advice, tire mothers out, and swoop in to take over handling the baby. Dads can help by running interference as often as necessary.
Help mom sleep when the baby sleeps
Likely as not, how dads can help promote sleep will differ from one family to the next — or in the same family on a different day or at different times of the day. But frequently, it’s about eliminating or at least reducing interruptions either during the day or at night.
Help clean the house
Dads can help by persuading well-meaning relatives (who want to help with the baby) to pitch in with household chores. Or, he can direct older children to do so. (Even throwing in a load of laundry can be a great help!) And, every new mother I know who has had a cleaning service show up at her house considers it a huge treat—if the family can afford it.
So “help” might be hands-on help vacuuming or toilet-cleaning, but it might be directing others to help, or paying someone to help. Relieving the mother of at least some –preferably all—of the necessary cleaning duties is a great way dads can help.
Get food ready … dads can help in lots of ways
These days, grocery stores have plenty of meals ready to heat and eat. Pricy, I admit. However, dads can help prepare simple meals from a few ingredients that don’t cost a fortune and don’t dirty a lot of dishes.
Even just suggesting easy meals is a huge help. (Oh. And cleaning up afterwards!)
Help with the other kids
Kids have an endless list of needs. Brushing their teeth, tying their shoes, finishing their homework, getting a note signed for school, the list goes on and on. Usually moms are the sergeant-at-arms to help with all of these tasks. Dads need to be alert and offer to help as needed.
Bring the baby to nursing mom
For sure, this is a simple act of kindness during the night. But it’s important at other times, too. Remember those well-meaning relatives who are passing the baby around from hand to hand? Yeah, sometimes, the dad needs to recognize the baby’s hunger cues and bring the baby to the mom.
Help positioning, latch, and switching sides
Especially in the early days, nursing moms often need a little feedback (“Try cuddling his butt in a little closer”) or an extra pair of hands and feet (“Do you need another pillow?”)
Burp the baby
Mothers can’t nod off and go to sleep while waiting for those big burps. Dads can help by holding the baby upright and maybe walking around with him.
Help with pumping, as needed
I’ve never heard a woman say she loves pumping! Nor does she enjoy setting up the pump, washing the used bottles and nipples, or anything else that goes along with the task of pumping. Dads can help by pitching in with some of those chores.
Hold the baby skin-to-skin when mom is not breastfeeding
Over 1,000 studies show the importance of skin-to-skin contact. Check out my interviews with top-notch experts, Dr. Nils Bergman and Dr. Susie Ludington-Hoe. If you haven’t heard about what skin-to-skin accomplishes, these podcasts will blow your mind.
In short, these suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg. Bathing the baby, giving the baby a massage, or taking the baby for a car ride are just a few of the other great ways dads can help the breastfeeding mom — and baby.
Leave me a note below to add your own favorite suggestions!