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Dads and Breastfeeding

Dear Elizabeth,
Iím pregnant and plan to breastfeed but my husband isnít comfortable with the idea. It will be hard without his support. How can I convince him that this is the best decision?
Heather Jones
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Breast milk provides ideal nutrition and is best for babies
  • Breastfed babies tend to be healthier
  • Encourage dads to be involved in the breastfeeding process
  • Fathers play an important role in successful breastfeeding
  • Spend lots of time with your baby
Expert Advice
Dr. Harvey Karp
Dr. Harvey Karp
Why Breastfeeding is Best
When you have a new baby, you want the best of everything for your baby. You want the best car seat, the best clothes, the best, the best toys, etc. You also want to give them the best nutrition you can give them, and clearly thatís breastfeeding. Even the formula companies will tell you breastfeeding is best. If you canít breastfeed, or if for whatever reason, you choose not to, then itís nice to know that we have formula. But breast milk is clearly nutritionally best, and it saves you thousands of dollars compared to buying formula and hundreds of hours over the first couple of years of life of not having to go to the store, not having to sterilize, and not having to wash all those bottles.

In the first few days after the birth of a child, thereís a special breast milk that comes even before the more mature milk. Thatís called colostrum. Itís more yellow. Itís a little bit richer, higher in protein, and filled with antibodies and white blood cells to help a newborn baby be healthier and fight off infection.

If Youíre Not Successful at First
There are lots of breastfeeding support groups and classes and consultants now, because if you want to breastfeed, 95% of the time, you can do it. Sometimes you need a little help. But itís like riding a bike. It can be a little weird in the beginning, but then once you get the hang of it, you feel like youíve been doing it for a thousand years.

How Fathers Can Help
When it comes to breastfeeding, number one, we know that a fatherís support is the most important factor in a woman being successful at breastfeeding. If the guyís saying, "Oh, I donít know. I didnít have breast milk, and I did fine." Or if your mother-in-law gets involved or something like that then it really can become like a house of cards.

There are two times early on when mothers often find trouble breastfeeding. The first time is just getting the mechanics of it down in that first week or two, not having sore nipples, learning how to bring the baby to the breast, etc. But the second one is even more important in some ways, which is when the baby starts to get fussy at 3, 4, or 5 weeks of age, a lot of women give up the breastfeeding because they think, "My baby doesnít like it," or itís not rich enough. Thatís when dads really can be the heroes, because while weíre not as good at breastfeeding as women are, weíve very good at baby calming. So when dads learn about the happiest baby techniques Ė swaddling and the 5 Sís of calming your baby down Ė thatís a tremendous support for the mother because that way, you can feel more confident that the babyís getting what the baby needs.

Misconceptions Men Have About Breastfeeding
The biggest misconception men have is that it doesnít matter if children have breast milk or formula. But, of course, it really does make a difference. Formulaís only been around for about 50 years, and itís kind of a simplification of what breast milk is. Breast milk is much more complicated. Every year, weíre learning new things that are in breast milk, and the formula companies try to change the formula and make it better, but breast milk is incomparable.

Also thereís the misconception about sleeping. Formula-fed babies traditionally are known to sleep a little bit longer than breastfed babies, but if you use swaddling and a womb sound CD all night long, your breastfed baby will sleep an extra one to three hours at night, too, so you can get the sleep you need, even with breastfeeding.

Another misconception is sexuality because everybody is tired and there are a lot of issues about intimacy that kind of sometimes go by the wayside at the end of pregnancy, and then itís confusing when the babyís born. There are these big breasts, and you donít know, "Are they for the baby? Are they for me?" It becomes an issue that really requires that parents talk and communicate so that itís really clear whatís going on so that both of your needs are met as well as the babyís needs, of course. But ultimately you need to be a happy couple to be a happy family.
Child Care Provider Comments
Annette Valencia-Lassen
Annette Valencia-Lassen
Mother of a 4-month-old
In the beginning, my husband, Jason, would sit with me while I nursed her, and sometimes he helped burp her. Because itís so important to keep track of when and how often a newborn feeds, he helped me keep a log of her feeding times, how long she fed on each side and how many wet and dirty diapers she had. He would make sure I was comfortable and kept me well-hydrated, since thatís especially important when breastfeeding.

A few weeks into breastfeeding and after seeing how successful it was going, I gained a lot of confidence. It was then that I started pumping, and then that he could finally participate in feeding the baby. I think that helped him bond with her, too.
Jason Lassen
Jason Lassen
Father of a 4-month-old
Our doula taught a breastfeeding class at the hospital. It was great. I learned how to position the baby, what positions are beneficial, and how important it is to get the baby on the breast right away. Our baby was breastfeeding within 20 minutes of being born. We learned ways to get her to latch on right away. It was fascinating. The class helped me understand a lot more about breastfeeding and the benefits of it. I totally recommend it for new fathers.
Kahlil Sabbagh
Kahlil Sabbagh
Father of twins
To help my wife with breastfeeding, I frequently wash and prep the pumping apparatus. I get pillows. I get bottles ready. When she is breastfeeding, I sit there with her and help any way that I can. Sometimes, the babies fall asleep a little on the breast. Then, they donít suck as hard. When that happens, I will take the baby to change his or her diaper in an effort to wake him or her up. I feed the babies with the bottle, as well. We feed them every 3 to 4 hours. Sometimes, we only get 2 hour breaks when the babies are sleeping because they have to feed every few hours. I also give my wife back rubs and I encourage her. I do shopping and cleaning and a little bit of cooking. We are a real team together.
Parent Comments
Ginger Smith
Ginger Smith
Mother of 2-month-old twins
My number one concern with breastfeeding was that because we were having twins, would I be able to provide enough milk. It was our greatest challenge. My husband is very supportive. If I read that an herb helps make more breast milk, he runs out to get it. He is very supportive. I have never felt alone in the process. I feel like we are in it together.

I try to tandem feed as much as possible. It is called simultaneous feeding. That means feeding them at the same time, one child on each breast. They eat every 3 to 3 Ĺ hours. I am working on building up my milk supply. For a lot of women with multiples, that is a major task.

My biggest piece of advice for fathers is, even if you canít understand it, your wife may be very sensitive during this time, physically and emotionally. It is physically challenging to do what we are doing. Whatever you as a man think would help your wife, do it.

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Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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