One of the comments I often hear when I speak to mothers antenatally is ‘I want to pump so my partner can help with feeding the baby.’ It seems to be a very common perception that partners need to be able to give the baby a bottle so that they can bond with him, and give the mum a break. But there are so many other things that Dads and partners can do to help them bond with their baby and support their partner. Also, Dad or partner giving baby a bottle of expressed may not actually mean a break the mum as she has to pump (more work for her) and might also find that she gets engorged and has to pump while her partner is giving the baby a bottle. Breastfeeding is the one and only thing that only the mum can do, unless of course her partner has breasts (some female or transgender partners may wish to induce lactation and help with feeding).
Here are some of the many things that Dads/partners can do to help their partner, bond with their baby and support breastfeeding:
Dads/partners – you can do all of the following with your baby
- Give baby lots of cuddles. Chat and sing to baby.
- Let baby have post-breastfeed snoozes on your chest, where he will be soothed and calmed by the warmth of your body and your heartbeat.
- Change baby’s nappy or give baby a bath.
- Take the baby for short walks in the pram or a sling.
- Help with winding or soothing baby when he is unsettled.
- Care for the baby while your partner has a rest, and bring the baby to her when he is ready for a feed.
And to help and support your partner, you can
- Provide emotional support for your partner. She might feel at times exhausted and overwhelmed – let her know you’re there for her, to listen, to chat, to be a shoulder to cry on.
- Do whatever you can to support mother-baby bonding. In the early days babies need to feed a lot and to be in close contact with their mother. This is normal.
- Keep visitors at bay. Having too many visitors in the early days can be exhausting so let friends and family know that you’d like to enjoy some quiet time together as a family before having people over. It’s ok to say ‘No. We’re not up to having visitors just yet. We’ll have you over in a week or two.’
- Feed your partner! Meals don’t have to be elaborate. Scrambled eggs and toast is a perfectly acceptable meal. So too are takeaways!
- Do what you can to keep the household functioning eg grocery shopping, putting the bins out, laundry, cleaning (or arrange for a cleaner to come to the house).
- If your partner is finding breastfeeding difficult, help her to find help and support. Eg contact a Cuidiu BFC or a LLL leader for phone support, attend a local breastfeeding support group, or arrange a home visit with a lactation consultant (www.alcireland.ie).
- Do a little bit of reading about breastfeeding so that you can understand why it matters for both your baby and your partner.
- Appreciate that breastfeeding is about more than just food.