My contribution was written by a friend and father of six month old Tai. Minh and his wife Kathy took my breastfeeding class, and after the class Minh emailed me to say, "Ever since we took your class I've been saying things like, 'If Mike Tyson and breastmilk were in a fight, breastmilk would win.'" How can you not love a dad like that?
Below you'll find great posts from other bloggers -including several written by dads - on this topic. Enjoy!
I am proud to be the father of a breastfed baby.
Recently, one of my aunts said, "This fat baby needs to be in advertisements to illustrate the benefits of breastmilk." I know that we all like to think of our kids as exceptional, but I have to boast for a minute. Our baby tripled in size in the first two months, from 5 lbs to 15 lbs, on breastmilk alone. I like to tell my wife that she doesn't have breastmilk but rather 'breast half-and-half.' How else can you explain the size explosion in my son?
Although my wife is the one making the milk that nourishes my baby, I've done as much as I can to support her along the way. For me, my role as the dad of breastfed baby can be broken into three stages:
Weeks 0-3: Sleep? What's sleep?
During the first few weeks I became a taskmaster and did things I rarely did before (dishes, laundry, walking the dog, etc.). Maybe this was to make up for the fact that I hadn't just pushed a baby out of my body. While I kept the household running, my wife could concentrate on resting, recovering, and feeding our son.
In those early days my wife and I were sleep-deprived zombies. I got up with her each time the baby ate at night, offering to help by pouring her a glass of water, helping to position the baby correctly, or changing a dirty diaper after the feeding. It was exhausting.
During the day I helped with all the no-boob-required baby care. I burped him, changed his diaper, swaddled him, bathed him, etc. Not only did this give my wife a chance to rest between feedings, but it gave me wonderful opportunities to bond with my baby.
Weeks 3-12: The Fun Part
Now, I don't think that fatherhood needs to involve feeding, but it has been a big part of my experience. I love it. Feeding the baby is a bonding experience like no other. Despite our worries about causing nipple confusion, when we introduced the bottle at around three weeks it worked like a charm.
Shortly thereafter we established a schedule to get my wife as much rest in one stretch as possible. Having always been a night owl, and being truly impossible to wake once I am asleep, I volunteered for the night shift between 8pm and 2am. This time (for us) usually involved two feedings and a diaper change. The baby mostly just slept on me while I watched TV in the living room. When he was ready for his 2 am feeding and if I was out of breastmilk, I would bring the baby to mom with Boppy in hand. I swear, if my wife got 6 hours of solid sleep in, she could take over the world. She maintains that the extra sleep she got as a result of this arrangement was key to our success in breastfeeding (and in surviving).
As you know, fathers are not "equipped" with the correct tools to breastfeed, so you have to buy some tools to have a pleasant feeding experience. Or maybe this is just an excuse to go out and buy new stuff. Either way, these are the items that I recommend:
- Boppy - Everyone in our house has one...including the baby. These are a must-have. They make everyone comfortable, and make it possible to feed with just one hand. This leaves the other hand free for the TV remote or one-handed typing of emails. I mean, yes my son is beautiful and a joy to be with, but he's not interesting enough to stare at for six hours when he was mostly just sleeping. Incidentally, my wife no longer uses her Boppy (the baby is bigger and needs less assistance to latch on) but I still use mine on occasion as an enormous neck pillow.
- Miracle Blanket - Affectionately referred to in our house as the baby straight jacket. This little beauty is a swaddling blanket of sorts that is used to pin down the flailing appendages which can get in the way of peaceful feeding. It was also huge in getting him to sleep for extended periods of time.
- Beer Pint- You need to warm up the milk bottles in some kind of container. It might as well be remotely masculine.
- Bottles - The Avent four ounce bottles with a #1 nipple are the first ones we tried. It worked, so we've been using them ever since.
- Burp cloths - Cloth diapers work perfectly for wiping spit up off yourself, the baby, the remote, the laptop, the dog, etc. They also wipe salsa spilled on babies better than anything else I've used.
Weeks 12-present: Pumping Galore
For us, this is where there was a real transition. The baby now sleeps for longer stretches of time, so my two feedings between 8 pm and 2 am have pretty much disappeared. My wife is now back to work part time, which means she's pumping all the time to have milk to send to daycare with our son. I don't want to make her have to pump any more than she already does, so I don't give bottles that often these days. Although I miss our nightly feedings, I do still give at least one bottle a week. My new feeding shift is Sunday mornings, 6 am to 10 am.
Even though I'm now doing less feeding (and a lot less dishes and laundry!) I am still actively supporting my wife by organizing and freezing the milk she pumps (see picture above), asking her how pumping is going, seeking out advice when problems arise, and simply cheering her on.
Nursing in public
Now this is all well and good inside of the home. A whole 'nother ball of wax is breastfeeding outside the home. Honestly, I am proud to be seen with my wife when she nurses in public. I know it can sometimes make others uneasy to see a woman nurse in public, but I hope that when they see how comfortable I am with it they will feel more at ease. It doesn't even faze me anymore when my wife's nipple makes an appearance while we're out to dinner at a nice restaurant, or in a coffee shop, or at Costco.
Simply put, the whole experience of breastfeeding has been such a joy for all the members of this household. I'm really not even that bitter that my wife's breasts, which were once a great source of fun for me, have turned into the only meal ticket in town for the baby. It's a small price to pay and as the father of a breastfed baby, I thank my wife (and all breastfeeding moms) for doing such an important job.
Check out what these other bloggers have to say about Dads and Breastfeeding here:
- Leisa at Down with the Kids (writing from Australia) contributes "Mothers' Milk: A Dad's Perspective."
- Angela at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 contributes "A Father's Take on Breastfeeding: Perception Versus Reality"
- Kelli at Nursing Your Kids writes about the "Partnership" involved in breastfeeding.
- Jessica at hepatitis-epi contributes her story about "Fathers and Breastfeeding."
- Amy at Musings of a Crunchy Domestic Goddess contributes, "My Hubby, the Lactivist."
- Sinead, writing from Northern Ireland, writes "My Hubby, my Best Breastfeeding Buddy."
- Andi at Mama Knows breast contributes, "My Husband, My Co-Author."
- Jennifer at The Lactivist writes about "Fathers and Breastfeeding - The Importance of Seconds."