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How can you prepare for fatherhood?

No matter what you do, the transition to fatherhood is life-altering. But, with some planning and learning before your infant is born, you can help make more time and energy available for bonding with your infant and helping your partner breastfeed.

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Knowing How to Support Your Partner

Preparing Yourself

Preparing Your House

Deciding What Your Duties Will Be

 


Knowing How to Support Your Partner

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There are MANY ways to support your partner during breastfeeding, most of which will also give you time to bond with and care for your infant.

Discuss with your partner the ideas she may have about how you can support her breastfeeding. Below are some ideas that have worked for other couples:

  • Help your partner get comfortable before and during a breastfeeding session
  • Bring your infant to your partner for feedings, especially for night feedings*
  • Burp your infant during feeding breaks and completion
  • Soothe and comfort your infant when she is upset
  • Massage your infant to help him fall asleep faster
  • Help with changing your infant's wet and soiled diapers
  • Take care of household duties, cooking and errands
  • Provide your partner with encouragement for her decision to breastfeed and express excitement for what she is doing
  • Go with your partner to doctor and lactation consultant appointments
  • Make phone calls or set up appointments for your partner if she is having trouble breastfeeding

* One idea that has worked for other couples is to develop a team work system for night feedings:

  1. When the infant wakes to feed, the father gets up and brings the infant to the mother (who remains dozing in bed)
  2. As the mother feeds the infant, the father can lay back down and doze until the end of the feed
  3. When the feed is done, the mother goes back to sleep and the father delivers the infant back to his crib
  4. The father can then climb back into bed and go back to sleep himself

 


Preparing Yourself

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Findings from a recent focus group study of first-time fathers revealed that there are several things fathers don't realize before their infant comes:

1. Breastfeeding is a learned behavior - and it can be pretty hard at first!

  • Although you may think that breastfeeding is an innate ability for both mother and child, this is not so - it is a learning process for everyone involved
  • It may take days or even weeks before your partner and infant master the ability to breastfeed
  • You have to be patient and prepared for the fact that feeding may be a difficult process at first

 

2. For the first month, you will not be living the 12-hour day you once knew!

  • You will not be going to bed at the same time every night or waking up at the same time every morning
  • Instead, you will be living a 24-hour day that cycles between sleeping for a few hours (while your infant sleeps), waking to feed and care for the infant, then sleeping again

 

3. You will be EXTREMELY TIRED for the first couple of weeks after your baby is born!

  • Don't take this for granted!
  • Most fathers say that the exhaustion that follows the birth of a new child is unique to any level of exhaustion they've felt before

 

4. You will need help from others (friends, family, etc.)!

  • When help is offered, take it!
  • To learn more about how to make the most of your social support, click here

 

5. You may feel jealous, left out or frustrated with the relationship your partner and your infant develop via breastfeeding!

  • Remember that feeding is NOT the only way to bond with or care for your infant
  • A great way to spend quality time with your infant is to lay or sit skin to skin
  • Don't feel guilty about feeling this way - it is normal and a feeling often expressed by new fathers
  • Be open with your partner about how you are feeling so you both can find ways to help you feel included and important (which you are!!)

 

 


Preparing Your House

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You and your partner have probably already put much thought, time and energy into creating a nursery for your new infant. But there are other little things you can do around the house to make sure you have the optimal environment for breastfeeding and so things are a little less stressful once your infant actually comes:

  • Create a Nursing Nook (t o learn more about what this is and how to set it up, click here)
  • Make sure you have plenty of easy to prepare, nutritious snacks readily available - you may have very little time to cook or think about food
  • Stock up on both baby goods (diapers, wipes) as well as household goods (paper towels, napkins, etc.)
  • Arrange for extra help with older children or pets (if you have them) so they do not feel neglected

 

 


Deciding What Your Role Will Be

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It is easy to for you to feel unsure about what to do to help out with the new infant. Also, since breastfeeding can take a lot of time and energy, it is also easy for your partner to feel overburdened with infant duties. Agreeing ahead of time what each of you will be responsible for can help to ease these negative feelings you both may develop surrounding infant care.

Some suggestions for jobs you can be responsible that will help your partner, as well as keep you involved in caring for your infant:

  • Be your partner's personal massage therapist - some lactation consultants say massaging a mother's shoulders during breastfeeding will help with milk flow, so it will allow you to be directly involved in the feeding process
  • Be in charge of changing diapers - your partner manages the input (breastfeeding) so make it your job to manage the output
  • Take care of small household chores, such as washing dishes, laundry or cleaning the house
  • Chose your bonding activity - since your partner bonds with your infant during breastfeeding, designate yourself to be your infant's primary walker or story reader - having an event that only you and your infant participate in will help you to develop a close bon
  • Help plan ahead for meals - make both breakfast and lunch for 2 in the mornings before work*
  • Be in charge of bathing your infant
  • Rock, sing, read and play with your baby - especially when your partner is especially sleep deprived and needs a nap
  • Although you might want to be a problem solver when an issue arises, sometimes your partner will just need a hug, back rub or sympathetic ear - be there for her!

* One idea that has worked for other couples is that when the father packs his lunch for work, he also packs lunch for his partner. Even if his partner is staying home with the infant all day, she will still have a ready-made, easy to eat lunch, thus one less thing to deal with on top of her child-care duties.

 

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