Discussions about feeding babies are almost always centered around moms and their choice (or ability) to breastfeed or formula-feed. Like so many other parts of parenting, we don't really talk about the role dads can play, and we certainly don't ask them how they feel about. I think we should, though, so I had a few dads reveal what it's like to feed their babies for the first time.
I had always planned to breastfeed my daughter exclusively, so having her dad feed her was never a part of my pre-parenthood planning. But, you know, life happened. I suffered from undersupply, so we needed to supplement with formula. The first time I watched my partner feed our baby it felt like failure. In fact, I cried. Eventually, however, watching him give her a bottle felt more like freedom. When my husband and I first talked about how we'd feed our newest baby, he told me that he would support me no matter what I decided, but also that he wanted to play a part in feeding our baby, because it was something he really loved. I had no idea.
Turns out, dads have some of the same feelings about feeding their babies as, I think, most moms do — feelings like peace, joy, love, fear, frustration, relief — they just don't have as many chances to tell their stories because people rarely ask. Read on for a few of them, and maybe grab some tissues, because they are seriously so damn sweet.
"I was the first person to feed my son, because my wife was medically unable to go to the NICU. I felt like a clumsy giant, completely unworthy of this tiny human who was completely dependent on me. I was scared, awed, and completely in love."
"My son was born premature, so feeding him required nothing more than holding a syringe up and letting gravity do the work. The best part was when he would smile during it. I don't know if that was from the food or me holding him, but I like to think it was me holding him. That he could smile with so many tubes and needles attached to him was always amazing to me."
"It was awesome. He was in the NICU, and my wife would nurse him as often as possible, but since we couldn't be there for every feeding he was combo-fed. If he didn't nurse well, I would feed him and burp him. I took nights when he came home, either with formula or pumped milk. When my wife went in the hospital for nine days, it was formula from then on out."
"I was surprised by how much calm it brought me to be a part of my babies' feeding routines. It was taking care of such a crucial need, and providing some degree of relief to my partner, during an exhausting and stressful period. There was so much stress about doing everything perfectly, but in the end all that mattered was to hear the sighs and coos from baby, to see those little eyes peering up at me, and eventually getting those precious smiles. The bubble of care that developed around the two of us during feeding-time was irreplaceable."
"It actually helped me to realize that I was necessary as a parent and as a person. Feeding [my daughter] the first time with finger feedings saved her life, but it also saved mine. I always knew that I was needed anytime I reached a low point. Whatever else I was, I was a dad, and I needed to suck it up and be the best I could be for my kids."
"My first wife was very protective over feedings with our children, and I was seldom allowed to participate. When my youngest daughter was born, I was able to be involved with many more aspects of care, including bottle feedings. For me, the eye contact when I first fed her was the most wonderful and memorable part. She looked at me like I was her whole world."
"I got to feed our son during our first days at the hospital, due to some medical concerns. It was awesome to get to provide sustenance for this tiny little human I was in charge of."
"She screamed the entire time and got milk everywhere except her mouth. It's a good thing they are cute so we don't eat our young."
"Despite purchasing one of every bottle on the market, our daughter did not once actually drink from a bottle. It was very stressful, especially on my wife. At one point I used an eyedropper to feed her, just so my wife could get out for a night."