In The Breastfeeding Dad: Part I, we discussed many ways dads can support the breastfeeding relationship. Most importantly, dad does everything he can to keep mom and baby together. This means limiting visitors and assigning household tasks to willing family and friends.
Some might wonder why offering to take over a nighttime feeding wasn’t listed as being helpful to mom. Don’t get us wrong! Dads do play an important role in nighttime feedings. Dads can respond to baby’s cues and do any diaper changing needed while mom takes a few minutes to prepare herself for the feeding. After baby nurses, dad can take over burping and resettling baby in his bed, while mom makes the most of the sleepy hormones secreted during breastfeeding and sinks back into her own pillow to drift back off to sleep.
But why doesn’t dad just give a bottle so mom can sleep? Well, in the early weeks, mom’s breasts need to be emptied every few hours in order to establish a strong milk supply. If dad gave baby a bottle during the night, mom would still have to wake up to express her milk. If mom doesn’t empty her breasts, she risks clogged ducts and a decreased supply. It’s actually easier – and certainly cozier – for mom to simply bring baby to breast.
Sometimes moms are concerned that dad will feel left out if he can’t feed the baby. Don’t worry. Baby will be starting solids in about six months. Introducing baby to a world of textures and flavors can be a privilege all for dad.
In the meantime, dad can create his own special cuddly times with baby. Dad’s hands are bigger than mom’s and sometimes more adept at handling a squiggly, squirmy baby in the bath. The splashy fun is not to be missed. Snuggling with a baby fresh from a bath is always a joy.
After a bath, or anytime baby is happy, dad can perform Dr. Sears’ “I Love You” massage. Massage is a wonderful way to bond with baby, reduce gassiness or fussiness, and help baby organize his behavior. Research shows babies who are touched more often grow better mentally and physically. Most babies enjoy massage so much that this special time with dad can give a breastfeeding mom some time to herself.
Babies love it when dads watch television, too. If baby is on dad’s bare chest with head up near dad’s windpipe, the rhythmic whoosh-whoosh of dad’s breathing sounds a bit similar to the sounds baby heard in utero. While dad has to stay awake and hold baby securely, babies find this position so soothing they often fall asleep. Dr. Sears calls this the “warm fuzzy.”
There are so many ways breastfeeding dads can interact with their babies. Feeding is just a small part of life when there’s a whole big world to explore together. As baby grows, the breastfeeding dad will find many ways to deepen his relationship with baby while still letting baby “Eat at Mom’s!”