How can Dads and Partners offer vital Breastfeeding Support?

This week, our breastfeeding expert Sioned shares a few wise words on a dad's role in breastfeeding support.
breastfeeding support

"With Father’s day next week, I thought it would be the ideal time to say a great big thank you for all the dads and grandads out there who are, have or will be supporting their partner or daughters  to breastfeed. Whilst it is mum that is centre stage for that wonderful gift of human milk, it is dad that does a lot of the back stage work offering vital breastfeeding support; organising, supporting, giving those precious words of comfort and an unlimited supply of hugs and cuddles.

When new parents-to-be explore feeding, dads want to have an active role, feed, bathe, change their babies as well as working. This is great but when it comes to helping mum to get off to a good start, all she needs is a warm chain of support and encouragement whilst she gets lots and lots of practice at breastfeeding, so that her milk supply builds and both mum and baby get the hang of feeding.

None of the text books explain that this little person wakes every few hours day and night with no concept of time or pattern; mums are on a hormonal autopilot, requiring a 24hr production line for milk, balancing a need to eat, sleep and bathe. Amazingly mum’s body repairs after the birth and with the help of her midwife and breastfeeding group little one learns how to latch on and milk supply is established. It is a busy and exhausting time for not only mum, but partners too as they worry and strive to do all they can for their new little family.

Here are a few tips to help all those wonderful partners support mum and baby through those first few days and weeks of breastfeeding:

1. Asking for Help

When things are a little tough and little one is not feeding well, mum is sore, engorged or worried, having those national breastfeeding helplines on the fridge or popping over to our Medela Facebook page means that you and mum can get help and support quickly to work through those little blips.

2. Give it Some Time before Expressing

It is advisable for mums to wait until after baby is 3-4 weeks old before she starts to express milk. This is because little one is going to go through a growth spurt and for mum to pump on top of more frequent feeds will be hard work. Partners will be keen to help feed baby but waiting for those first few weeks will be worthwhile and a huge help for mum.

3. Feeding Expressed Breast Milk with Calma

Dads can if they wish feed their baby with expressed milk to support mum and provide a much needed rest. When using the Calma Feeding Device dads can support their baby to feed using a similar feeding position. The Calma uses a similar sucking action to breastfeeding which means that baby can move between breast and bottle without potential nipple teat confusion. Whilst dads feed, mum can either express or have a precious 20 minutes of free time.

Taking a bottle isn’t always straight forwards though – some babies just prefer mum as it is so much easier and rewarding. This doesn’t mean that they will never take a bottle, it just takes time and perseverance. Try giving little one time to grow and develop before trying again. Many dads and partners worry that they won’t bond with their baby but feeding is just one way to get to know and spend time with your baby. Skin to skin cuddles, carrying little one in a baby sling, supporting mum with those night feeds by getting little one ready if he has soiled etc are all brilliant ways to get involved and bond with your baby.

4. Balancing Work

Balancing work and parenting can be difficult at times whether it is mum or partner that returns to work. If dad or partner stays at home, mum will need to continue to express or baby will need to be taken to mum’s place of work to feed.

Night feeds are normal for the first year and 64% of babies are both day and night feeders. If you are tired you may find that your work performance, concentration may be affected so plan a few nights in the week to recharge. Have an early night, turn the TV off, switch off the smart phone and follow your baby’s sleep pattern.

5. Adapting from a Couple to a Family

Adapting from a couple to a family is a time of change and uncertainty, and it is important to make time for you as a couple. Take it at both your paces. A cuddle and words of encouragement, a hug and a kiss maybe all that mums need initially as her body adapts to the changes of pregnancy and child birth. It does take a few weeks to adapt back to a pre pregnancy size but with breastfeeding mum is burning those extra pounds off gradually by making milk.

Being a parent is amazing but being a dad is special – enjoy those precious times when they are a small bundle knowing that your partner is helping him or her to grow and develop, stay strong and healthy so that they can aspire to be amazing adults who will one day be parents themselves."