Dads really can help with breastfeeding
Alright, fellow dads and future dads, it is time for me to delve into a topic I am incredibly familiar with: breastfeeding and how to take care of the mother of your baby, in my case, my wife.
You may be wondering why I’m so familiar with this topic. The truth is my wife has been nursing for almost two years now, and I have been as supportive as possible the entire duration.
During the first few months, it’s kind of crazy because you are eager to be a part of your new baby’s life and then you realize the few hours your baby is awake he or she is nursing. Then when your baby is done nursing, she just goes back to sleep. There is no quality time for you.
Then you start to think, how am I ever going to be a part of my child’s life?
You also think, is my wife doing all the work? How can I help?
It can be a bit much to take in during such a critical, meaningful phase in your life – especially if it is your first child. A time when everything is so new.
If you are not careful, that time when your child is tiny will fly by, and the work your wife has to put into raising this child may be more than she bargained for…if you do not embed yourself into the process.
You see, the reality of it is, your nursing wife and baby can make it without you, but if you let that happen, you will miss out on the amazing little things your baby does. You also miss out on the most precious mother-baby bonding moments that are surreal. There is also a risk of burning out your baby’s mom.
I was fortunate enough to partake in all these life-changing moments and then some. Life with a baby is far from picture perfect. In fact, it is messy, exhausting, and insane most of the time – but I would not trade those first few months of my daughter’s life for anything!
Now, I want to share with you a few things I did as a dad to help with breastfeeding. Since my daughter still breastfeeds, I still do a lot to help the loves of my life.
If you feel like some of these tips are a bit extreme, keep in mind my wife breastfed full time for pretty much the first six to nine months (despite her working) since my daughter never drank formula. We were given the green light to give her solids at six months, but my daughter rarely ate her baby food.
To this day, as soon as my wife gets home from work, my daughter wants to nurse, it’s very time consuming which is why I have my routine of things I do while my daughter breastfeeds.
#1 Be there for her at night and to change diapers
The two most critical things you can do for your nursing mom is to help her at night and handle the majority of the diaper changes. I will never forget how tired my wife was those first months (and pretty much still today).
At night when the baby woke up, I had a little routine:
- Turn on the light, we had a dimmer, so I had it on the lowest setting possible
- Pick up the baby and calm her crying a bit
- Change her diaper and make sure her pajamas were dry
- Calm her a little more while my wife set up her pillows to nurse
- Put baby on the nipple and make sure the latch and position was comfortable for my wife
- Adjust the pillows and blankets for my wife, she usually needed support under her arms or around her back
- Most of the time I would leave the light on, so my wife did not fall asleep
- I would lightly sleep while my wife nursed just in case she needed anything
- When the baby was sleeping or done nursing, I would get her and put her back in the bassinet
The main point is to do as much as you possibly can so your wife can focus on breastfeeding. Those were our nights for a very long time. Exhausting, but worth it to give our daughter the ultimate care. She was and still is a happy baby.
If your baby does take a bottle (unlike ours), then I also suggest you night feed her.
During the day, I took care of most of the diaper changing. The only time my wife changed diapers was when I was busy doing something else for the baby.
Changing diapers may sound like a huge chore, but it is what you make of it. I took that time with my daughter to get to know her. It was our short quality time, I would talk and sing to her. When she got older, I started teaching her things like colors and counting while I changed her diaper.
#2 Burp the baby
Yeah, this one is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. When moms breastfeed, it drains them and makes them hungry for the most part. Plus, they are usually exhausted, to begin with. So when your wife is done nursing, take the baby off her hands and burp the baby.
The main takeaway is to give your wife a break after nursing.
Always have a burping cloth or receiving blanket on hand to catch your baby’s spit up. I remember we had clean burping cloths all over the place. Having them in your nightstand or nearby the bed and bassinet is the best place to stash them. Do not forget to put some in your vehicles too.
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#3 Create a calming environment
I am sure most dads of breastfed babies will agree, nursing is stressful and tiring for mom. One thing you can do is make your home calming and suitable for a new mom and baby.
You can do this by:
- Keeping the house clean
- Putting on calming music for your wife and baby
- Putting on ambient sounds
- Putting on your wife’s favorite show when she needs entertainment
- Adjusting the lighting
- Having all your wife’s favorite things within reach while she nurses
- If you have pets, keeping them quiet
- If you have noisy neighbors, keeping them quiet
There are plenty more things you can do, these are just a few.
We have two dogs that love to bark at the most inconvenient times. I can’t stop them from barking all the time, but one thing I did was disconnect the doorbell. Since they would go bonkers whenever they heard the doorbell ring, disconnecting it was the best solution.
For the most part, if anyone is coming over, I just ask them to text me upon arrival. Other than that if someone uninvited drops by, they usually end up knocking on the door, which does cause my dogs to bark – but it is much less chaotic.
#4 Take her to see a lactation consultant
If nursing is especially difficult for your wife, she may need to see a lactation consultant. If possible, go with her for support and to learn even more about what you can do to help her nurse.
Let’s say your wife is reluctant to meet with a consultant, then you can do some research to find one and give her reasons to see one.
If you notice that your wife is in pain while nursing, that means something may be wrong with your baby’s latch. This is when a lactation consultant can come in and give further guidance on obtaining a proper latch.
Another reason to see a lactation consultant is if your baby seems hungry all the time. When my daughter was a few days old, we were worried she was not getting enough milk. So we went to see a consultant – the consultant weighed her before nursing and then after nursing. In the end, we saw her weight increased a few ounces, indicating she was getting milk.
It may be inconvenient to go see a lactation consultant, but the relief you get knowing your baby is getting that precious breast milk- really gives you peace of mind. While keeping your wife’s pain at bay is an added bonus.
#5 Help with the technicalities of breastfeeding
You may not think that you could help with the actual breastfeeding, but in fact, as a dad, there is a lot you can do. I learned quite a few things from the lactation consultant, including how a good latch should look like.
The consultant taught me how to gently adjust my baby’s lower lip to open up her latch. This helped my wife nurse more comfortably. She taught me how to adjust my baby’s lip because my wife was usually supporting our daughter’s little body with both hands.
The consultant also showed me how to position pillows for my wife. There are all sorts of breastfeeding positions, which one your wife uses depends on the comfort. Once we identified the positions where my wife was most relaxed – the consultant gave me tips on where I could add pillows to maximize her comfort.
I also learned how to do breathing exercises with my wife. Reason being, the more relaxed my wife, the more comfortable our baby was, which helped with the milk flow.
I learned how to identify a certain suction noise and throat noise that indicates my baby is indeed getting milk. That stopped us from wondering if she was eating or not.
All these tips are things I would not have learned if I did not go with my wife to the lactation consultant. They helped both of us get a grasp on how to nurse. Since my daughter had a bad latch, we saw about four or five different consultants and learned different techniques from each.
We did a lot to make breastfeeding work because my daughter never accepted drinking formula.
#6 Get your wife water and snacks
Gentlemen, after a breastfeeding session, your nursing mama will be hungry and thirsty. You must take care of her.
Once I set up my wife to have a good nursing session, I would make her a snack and get her water.
I always felt it was best to make her something a bit healthier than junk food. So I would get her things like carrot sticks, cucumbers with lemon, and apples with peanut butter.
On days when she was famished, I would make her a chicken veggie burrito lightly seasoned for taste. A wrapped up burrito worked best because she had only one free hand. I never gave her snacks or food that required forks or spoons.
Of course, we avoided spicy foods and other foods you should not eat while nursing.
Except for an occasional coffee (on those sleepless nights), my wife survived off of only drinking water the first few months to keep her hydrated and going. We felt like this was a great way to keep her production up.
#7 Do those chores
If you do not like to clean – deal with it. This is by far one of the best things you can do for your postpartum wife and new baby.
Who actually likes cleaning? Not too many people, but we do it for the ones we love.
A clean house does wonders to allow your wife’s focus on taking care of the baby. Clutter or a sink full of dishes can stress her out, and that is the last thing she needs. If you are on a budget, my recommendation is to clean yourself and do it while your baby nurses.
If you absolutely do not want to clean or do not know where to start, then hire someone to do a deep cleaning and keep up with it afterward.
It’s also good to keep up with any other chores outside, such as the yard and maintaining your vehicles. Also, take over caring for your pets.
#8 Take on bathing and other baby duties
Do as many baby duties as you can. Breastfeeding is tasking and takes up so much time and energy.
Even if your wife is a natural superwoman, she will be pleased to get your help. Bottom line – it is not her responsibility to do everything herself.
There is plenty to do for the baby:
- Diaper changes
- Putting down for a nap or to sleep for the night
Once again, doing these things for your baby will help your wife and allow you and your baby to bond. Taking care of a tiny baby is extremely intimidating at first, but once you do it a few times, it becomes second nature.
Keeping a baby dry and clean is essential. If you want your baby to be comfortable, keep that diaper dry and the drool off her face. As you become more attuned with your baby, you begin to develop a routine and automatically know what she wants. It is minimal as to what your baby wants, you will recognize her cues before you know it.
#9 Get her pumping
When a woman breast pumps her milk, it is an entire production.
It involves, machinery, supplies, wardrobe, set up – a woman can spend about 15 minutes or more getting ready to pump. Not to mention, she also has to make sure all of her supplies are clean – then she has to store the milk too.
Pumping is such a task. It is even harder when it’s a woman’s first few times pumping. It is such a strange thing to do, to attach a machine to your body to capture your bodily fluids…yeah there is nothing else like it!
In short, pumping is hard and complicated for new moms (who have been through enough already). This is your time to shine.
Here are a few ways you can help her pump:
- Get the machine ready for her
- Figure out how to put all the pieces together
- Set up an area for her to pump if she pumps at home
- Set up her pumping station when she is ready to pump
- Take care of your baby while she pumps
- Provide her water and snacks while she pumps
- Set up some entertainment for her while she pumps
- Clean the parts for her when she is done
- Clear out space in the refrigerator and freezer for the milk
- Help her store the milk
- Clean the used parts and bottles
As you can see, there is plenty you can do to help her with pumping. You can make it, so all she has to do is put on her pumping bra and get that milk flowing.
Remember that milk is going to be your savior when you are left alone with the baby, so you are also helping yourself out.
If she goes back to work and plans on pumping, you can also help her with that. Help make sure her supplies are clean. In addition, help her pack the supplies, so she does not forget anything.
In the mornings while my wife got ready for work, I would make her breakfast, and pack her lunch. At the same time, I would also pack all of her pumping supplies.
Encouraging her to keep pumping is also something you can do too. I know for my wife pumping was extremely overwhelming at first – both at home and at work.
When I did as much as I physically could for my wife, at that point, I knew I just had to be there for her. I listened to her frustrations and told her how amazing was.
We got through it! In fact, we made such an excellent pumping team, we were able to donate her pumped milk to premature babies. Knowing that my wife was saving babies’ lives was a very proud moment for me.
#10 Be supportive
I am sure by now, you can imagine how difficult breastfeeding can be, especially since I have said so over and over again.
I just can’t overstate it.
The reason why many women do not continue breastfeeding well into their child’s life is that they lack support. Sometimes its lack of support at home, work, or while out in public. Unfortunately, some women lack support in all three areas. Which is not unusual in this country.
The least you can do is support her when and where you can.
Alright, guys, I hope I motivated you to get started on helping out your baby’s mama with breastfeeding and around the house. Being a first time parents is rough, but working together is the best way to get through it.
The teamwork you put in is also a reminder of how great you two work together. It puts your relationship to the ultimate test. How you both do under the pressure of new parenthood may be a sneak peek into the future. Which is even more of a reason to put your all into supporting your wife through the tough times.
When you look back on your baby’s first few months, it will feel good knowing you gave your all. If your child ends up breastfeeding much longer than the average baby, keep going, keep pushing yourself.
Your duties will transition as your child becomes a toddler, so what you do while your wife breastfeeds will shift. Keep up with it and be the amazing father you are meant to be. Know that other dads like myself are rooting for you and we have your back.
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