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Breastfeeding - for fathers

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For most mothers breastfeeding works well with support, but for some it is difficult to get started. If this is the case your encouragement may be vital in your partner establishing or continuing breastfeeding.

Contents

Having a new baby is a huge change for fathers as well as mothers. Part of the challenge for mothers is getting breastfeeding working well.

  • Breastmilk is the perfect nutrition for a baby's development.
  • Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby.
  • It protects babies from infections, allergies and illness.
  • Mothers are happy if they can breastfeed and this will flow on to you.
  • It is cheap, never runs out and there is no waste.
  • There is less work to do - sterilising and preparing bottles takes a lot of time. The breast milk is always available at the right temperature.
  • Dirty nappies from breastfed babies smell sweeter.
  • Breastfed babies are very portable.

How you can help

For most mothers breastfeeding works well with support, but for some it is difficult to get started. If this is the case your encouragement may be vital in your partner establishing or continuing breastfeeding.

Some things you can do include:

  • You can help your partner get comfortable for feeding by bringing her a pillow or a drink.
  • You can take over more of the housework, especially in the early weeks. In particular, you can ensure that there is good, nourishing food available in the house by doing the food shopping and cooking.
  • Take care of the older children and look after the baby when your baby has been fed so your partner can get some rest or have a shower.
  • You can encourage your partner to keep going when times are tough and to seek help if needed. If she is unable to breastfeed she will need your support.
  • Your partner may need to breastfeed in public. If this is difficult for you, talk about it with her.
  • Sometimes it might be helpful for you to shield her from pushy visitors or unhelpful advice.

Getting close to your baby

Some fathers feel that, because they cannot breastfeed their baby, they will not become really close to their baby in the first months and beyond. Some men may be jealous of the realtionship between mother and baby and feel left out.

There is a topic Fathers - your relationship with your baby.

There are lots of other ways for you to bond with your baby besides feeding.

  • You can pick up your baby when he cries for a feed, change his nappy and bring him to your partner.
  • You can carry your baby in a baby sling and have skin-to-skin contact which also helps bonding.
  • After a feed, you could help by burping, bathing and settling the baby.
  • Talk and play with him while he is awake. 
  • As your baby gets older you can do other things with him like reading books, feeding him and going for walks in the pram or stroller.

Fathers have a special and important role in their children's lives. Children are lucky if they have a dad who is involved in their lives, who knows their friends and is interested in how they spend their day. It really helps if they know that they are loved and cared for by both parents. There is more that you might be interested in reading in the topic Being a dad.

Sex and breastfeeding

A new mother needs her partner to be patient and sensitive as she recovers from the birth and increases her confidence in breastfeeding. Help from her partner is important for a new mother.

Not all women are ready for sex at the same time after birth. For some women the emotional and physical effort of looking after a baby makes them feel 'out of touch' by the end of a day. Soreness, hormones, lack of time and extreme tiredness are just some of the reasons why some mothers lose interest in sex for a while.

Some mothers experience vaginal dryness while they are breastfeeding. This can make intercourse uncomfortable, but it can be easily overcome by using lubricating products available at supermarkets or pharmacies.

If there are physical symptoms that make sex uncomfortable seek help from your doctor.

Breastfeeding delays the return of a woman's periods, but cannot be relied upon as a form of contraception. If you are returning to sexual activity you should use some form of contraception. A discussion with your doctor or family planning clinic either before the birth or soon after is a good idea to help you choose the method that's best for you both. 

Breasts leaking milk can be an issue for some couples, but others don't have a problem with it. If this is an issue, try feeding and settling the baby just before you have sex.

There is more about sex after babies in the topic New mums.

Other things to consider

Resources

South Australia

For information and support about feeding, settling and other aspects of looking after a new baby or older child, you can ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or make an appointment with a child and family health nurse - ring 1300 733 606.

References

Australian Breastfeeding Association, . 
http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/  

La Leche League (USA) 
http://www.llli.org/

Scott J A, Binns C W, Aroni R A. The influence of reported paternal attitudes on the decision to breastfeed. J. Paediatr. Child Health 1997; 33, 305-7.

Scott J A, Binns C W. Factors associated with the initiation and duration of breastfeeding: a review of the literature. Breastfeeding Review 1999; 7(1): 5-16.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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