To the dads out there who are supporting breastfeeding. I want to thank you. You are doing an amazing thing helping your partner breastfeed. Breastfeeding is not easy and it usually starts with a learning curve. Having your support and help is huge. Encouragement and the desire to do whatever you can to make sure your partner is successful is wonderful.
So what can you do to help?
Encourage your wife/partner to take a breastfeeding class while still pregnant. Then attend it with her.
Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding and be prepared for the demands and challenges ahead.
Funny story, when I was pregnant the first time around I didn't know much about breastfeeding and I read somewhere that babies nurse every two hours. I went home and told my husband who informed me that was not true and we proceeded to get in a fight about it. Well, I think my daughter and I showed him who was right about that one huh? Dads, be informed and don't tell your partner things will go a certain way if you really don't know!
If you really want to be prepared, find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group ahead of time. You may not need it but if your partner does need support you will have this info ready for her.
Once your baby is born encourage breastfeeding as soon as possible. When my daughter was born I was so tired I just wanted to rest. The nurse told me I could wait to breastfeed, but my husband really pushed me to do it as soon as possible. He was right about this one and I am glad he pushed me.
Once you are home help your partner when she is breastfeeding. Help her get set up somewhere comfortable and bring her supplies like food and drinks as needed. If she is cluster feeding do everything you can to help her.
Help with the baby in other ways. My husband was amazing with our daughter. He changed diapers, changed clothes and gave baths so I could rest when I wasn't breastfeeding. He also is a pretty good cook and handy around the house. All of these things are super helpful.
Just because the mother is breastfeeding doesn't mean she has to be the only one getting up at night. In the very early days we took shifts. I got up for the most part, but once my baby was old enough to have a pumped bottle of milk my husband would feed her early in the morning and let me sleep.
Find ways to help overnight whatever it is. Bring your baby to your wife/partner in bed so she doesn't have to move or spend some time with your baby while she gets a little rest. There are many ways to make it work.
Be the shusher or swaddler or helper. When my daughter was around 3 months old we followed the Five S's from The Happiest Baby on the Block. I would cluster feed my daughter for hours in the evening and at some point my husband would take her, swaddle her and shush and pat her into sweet sleep. He then held her that way for the rest of the night while I got to do things like use the bathroom and eat dessert 🙂
Try not to undermine breastfeeding with suggestions to supplement or just give up when the going gets tough. It can be really hard if you see your partner struggling, but if she is determined to breastfeed this can make her doubt herself.
Ways you can bond
Doing the things mentioned above will allow you easily bond with your baby. Just spending time together is bonding!
Giving baths is a great bonding time. My husband loves bath time with our kids and so do I because I get to take a little break.
Swaddling, shushing, rocking or patting to sleep can be a great bonding time.
Let your baby sleep on your chest. Let your baby do skin to skin with you on your chest.
Wear your baby. Give mom a break and wear your baby when out for walks or social events. We did this a lot with my daughter.
And most importantly
Be understanding! Breastfeeding is hard work physically, emotionally and mentally especially in the first six weeks. Be there for your partner and if things are not going smoothly try to be supportive. Good luck and thank you to the dads!