OK, I can kind of understand why there’s not a lot of information out there on new dads and breastfeeding. When people think of nursing, they typically think of, you know, the mom. That said, my husband was very much part of the process when I was breastfeeding our kid. And really, so were a lot of other people; When it came time to my own breastfeeding journey, it really did take a village. Shout out to the hospital nurses (who gave me false confidence about how much I "totally had it down," despite what I assume were the best intentions), my own doctor, the super-kind ER doctor who may have, in fact, saved my entire breastfeeding journey by encouraging me to pump and feed our son breast milk with a tiny medicine cup before dipping into formula, and our lactation consultant, aka, the only other person from the outside world who's had a really up-close-and-personal relationship with my nipples.
Still, it’s my husband who deserves the most credit for helping me get through breastfeeding. Without him, I’m not sure I would have managed to make it through the challenges that the early weeks presented (*cue that sound effect of an audience saying “aww” that we often hear during sitcoms*). If our journey is at all indicative of what other new parents experience, there are a few ways that dads can be especially helpful with breastfeeding:
Bring Her All The Uncaffeinated, Alcohol-Free Beverages You Can Carry — She Is Thirsty
Ain’t no party like a breastfeeding mom party, because the breastfeeding mom party don’t stop. And by “party” I mean “undying thirst equivalent only to that which is experienced after eating five-star Thai food in the desert.”
Bring Her A Phone, Tablet, Or Other Preferred Forms Of Entertainment
I confess, during pregnancy I had some pretty unrealistic ideas about phone usage during breastfeeding. I even recall telling my friend that I would never use it, that I would instead opt to "read to my son." Um, yeah. That went out the window within, like, 48 hours of arriving home.
Please Be Patient. We Know It's Hard For You To Hear Your Baby Cry, Too.
I can promise you, no matter how frustrating it is to have to feed a newborn every couple hours, your partner is probably more frustrated.
Yes, yes, I know this one probably goes without saying, but a reminder never hurt any of us, did it? Just when she thought she was going to get her body back by, you know, giving birth to the person she was sharing it with, she’s still attached to the little being constantly. Your kindness and support will not go unnoticed.
Make Food (Even If It Only Involves A Freezer And A Microwave, It Still Counts)
One of the best things my husband has ever done for me was declare that, since I was taking care of feeding our son, he was going to take care of feeding us. It's been nearly two years, but I still cite it when talking about him to my friends because, to put it simply, this was one of the most awesome ways he's shown love since we got married.
Attend Appointments Whenever Possible
We had multiple visits with the lactation consultant who, in our case, spoke very quickly and very matter-of-factly, which often left my tired head spinning. Thankfully, my husband was right there next to me, asking questions, committing things to memory, and studying my positioning and our son’s latch so that he could help replicate it at home. Sometimes it takes two sleepy new-parent brains to make one whole, functional brain, so new dads really do need to contribute their half to the equation.
Bring The Baby To Mom So She Can Move As Little As Possible
You guys, my husband still does this sometimes. Our son nurses at night before bed and in the morning before breakfast, and my absolute favorite thing is when my husband brings him to me so I can nurse from a warm bed.
Pitch In Where Possible, Especially On Boring, Unsexy Stuff Like Chores And Diapers
I’ve known of couples who divided up feedings and diapers, or bath time, or bottle washing. Whatever works best for you guys, but by all means, share the love.
Don’t Get Grossed Out By Leaks (Or, At Least, Don’t Show It)
It’s really weird to not be able to manage your own bodily fluids, trust me, but that doesn’t mean we’re not sympathetic to the fact that they’re probably getting on you at times too. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, it’s strange. And yes, we appreciate your chill about it.
Read Up So You Can Drop Some Knowledge
It’s super helpful to be able to say things like “mastitis,” “football hold,” and “latch” and have you know what we're talking about.
Don’t Show Your Doubt
Does it appear like breastfeeding is going to be impossible for her? If she’s determined, please, please, please stay positive. Even if it's a lie. Knowing when to lie to the people you love is a crucial part of loving them. When your partner is struggling with a new breastfeeding situation, that's a great time to lie and tell them how awesome they're doing.
Research Questions She Has
Is she trying to figure out if she can nurse after taking cold medicine? Or if there are any foods she needs to avoid? What about working out? Feel free to help her figure out the answers. And by "feel free" I mean "most definitely do it." You might not have boobs with which to feed, but you damn sure have fingers with which to Google.
Wash The Pump & Accessories
Bonus points if you can swing this one at 4:00 a.m.
Help Keep Track Of Left Vs. Right
Yes, there are apps for this, and good old fashion pen-and-paper. But it’s certainly helpful if you can supply her with the answers instead of requiring her to look for something that she probably left in the other room.
Be Super Patient When It Comes to Having Access To Mom’s Body
Three’s no magical timeline for when she’ll be ready to share her body with you again, so please trust me when I say that your patience is appreciated. (Or, if she's super down to clown right after giving birth, your enthusiasm is appreciated.)