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Breastfeeding - for fathers

fathers; dads; feed; feeding; breastfeeding; breast feeding; infant; baby;

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Some fathers feel that, because they can't 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. However, there are lots of other ways for fathers to bond with babies besides feeding them, and fathers have a very important role in helping and supporting breastfeeding mothers and babies.

Fathers have a special and important role in their children's lives. Children are lucky when 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.

Breastfeeding is best

  • Breastmilk really is the best food for your baby son or daughter. It helps prevent many common illnesses and is the best food to promote growth and development.
  • It promotes bonding between mothers and babies.
  • Breastfeeding is convenient - there are no bottles to clean and prepare, the breast milk is always available at the right temperature and it's free! Breastfed babies are very portable and their poos smell sweeter.

Your support is vital

  • Women are much more likely to breastfeed if they believe that their partner wants them to.
  • Breastfeeding isn't always easy at first. Support and encouragement from you from the outset will help your partner get through any difficulties.

How you can help

There is a lot that fathers can do for their partners who are breastfeeding.

  • You can help your partner get comfortable for feeding by bringing her a pillow or a drink.
  • You can take over more of the household chores, 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.
  • You can encourage your partner to keep going when times are tough and help her seek professional or other types of outside assistance if necessary.
  • Sometimes it might be helpful for you to act as a protective 'gatekeeper' for your partner and new baby, shielding them from pushy visitors or unhelpful advice.
  • Your partner may need to breasfeed in public. If this is difficult for you, talk about it with her.

Getting close to your baby

There are plenty of things you can do that will not only help in looking after the new baby, but also bring you and your baby closer together.

  • You can pick up your baby when he cries for a feed, change his nappy and bring him to his mother.
  • After a feed, you could help by burping, bathing and settling the baby. This is an opportunity for you to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby.
  • You can carry him in a baby sling.
  • You can get to know your baby (and help him get to know his father) by talking with him in his awake times, smiling at him, making funny "faces", and introducing him to his new world.
  • As your baby gets older you can read books with him, take him for a walk or a drive and give your partner some "time out".

If you are feeling left out

  • Try the suggestions above, so that you can spend more time with your baby, gain confidence with your baby's care and develop a good relationship.
  • If your partner tends to always do the bathing or settling because she feels she has had more experience, ask her to show you how she prefers it done, and then have a go yourself.
  • Talk with your partner about other ways in which she would like to be supported by you. You could try her ideas first, then perhaps other ideas you might have to get more involved.

What about your sex life?

  • It can take a while to get back to normal sexual activity, regardless of how the baby is fed. Soreness, tiredness and lack of time are common hassles.
  • Because of hormone changes, some women experience vaginal dryness while they are breastfeeding. This can make intercourse uncomfortable, but using a lubricating gel can help overcome this.
  • Breasts leaking milk can be a turn-off for some men, but others don't mind it. If this is an issue, try feeding and settling the baby just before you have sex.
  • Try not to let lack of enthusiasm or energy for sex (on the part of either or both of you) get in the way of working as a team and supporting each other with the tasks involved in looking after your baby.
  • Contraception: 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 - you may wish to see your doctor about a low dose contraceptive pill. Bear in mind that, as the mother begins to wean her baby off breast milk, she may need to switch to a contraceptive pill of a higher dose.

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 Child and Family Health Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

References

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

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

Older references

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 your doctor or midwife.

 

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