Flickr Image by Colure

Educate Yourself

All those books your partner has been bugging you to read while she’s pregnant – they really can make a difference. If you’re well educated about breastfeeding, it will help the whole family. Read those books, take a baby care class, watch videos on YouTube – before the baby arrives! Learn about all the basics from latching on to colostrum to stuff you’d rather not know about (cracked nipples and sore breasts). If you’re not sure where to start, order a low cost breastfeeding facts for fathers (pdf) booklet.

+ Fathers and Breastfeeding FAQ

+ The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year $9.83

Image by Flickr User nateOne

Be the Best Advocate Ever

From nurses in the hospital offering bottles to family members, friends and the media criticizing her methods, breastfeeding mothers face all sorts of harassment.  Don’t stand for it. At the hospital, after the birth, your partner will be 100% exhausted. It’s your job to advocate breastfeeding – turn hospital staff with bottles away, ask for a lactation consultant and keep encouraging your partner. Later, if people make lame comments, like, “Oh, you’re breastfeeding wrong” or “You’re STILL breastfeeding!” Don’t leave your partner alone to deal with it. Make sure you tell everyone that breastfeeding is a family decision. It’s okay to tell people to mind their own business (nicely).

+ Get involved with breastfeeding advocacy

+ Find a breastfeeding-friendly hospital

Be Proud in Public

Breastfeeding in public is your partner’s, and your baby’s right. Be proud that your partner is brave enough to feed your baby in public, when he’s hungry, in a world that would rather see breastfeeding women covered up or locked up at home. Help shield her if she wants some extra coverage, but don’t make faces if she just whips them out either (sometimes it’s just easier). Trust me, if you act proud that your partner is breastfeeding in public, she’ll have more confidence to do so.

+ Breastfeeding Laws by State

+ Breastfeeding Shirt for Dads Organic Cotton $32.50

Image by Flickr User {Charlotte.Morrall}

Push Your Partner (a bit)

Okay, it’s really not your decision to breastfeed or not. If your partner is dead set against it, that’s her choice. Offer support if she’ll take it, but then help find a good organic formula and move on without complaining. Also, if you shame your partner or are mean about breastfeeding, you need a good kick in the you know where. That said, as a mom who breastfed, I know first hand that giving up when the going gets rough can sound like the best idea ever. There were times I really wanted to quit breastfeeding. My son’s dad pushed, but pushed nicely. He’d remind me that bad days pass. He’d calmly tell me that he really believed breastfeeding was healthy for our son and then ask what he could do to help. He’d remind me how expensive and a hassle formula likely was. He managed gentle pushing, which helped a lot on days I wanted to quit.

+ Help your partner overcome breastfeeding challenges 

image by Flickr User devinf

Try not to complain about bonding

Even the most breastfeeding supportive dads I’ve known have had moments where they complain because they can’t be the one feeding the baby. Research also shows that dads with partners who breastfeed tend to feel upset at times, robbed of the magical bonding process or even jealous that their partner spends so much time with the baby. Studies further show that when dads suggest a bottle of formula, so they can feed the baby, it contributes to less successful breastfeeding. Don’t suggest a bottle. Don’t continually claim feeding is the only way to bond. And for pete’s sake, do not get jealous of all the time your partner spends feeding. If you had a baby attached to you for hours on end each day, trust me, you’d know how insane this complaining sounds to a mom. You can bond with your baby by hanging out with him, changing his diaper, teaching him to play and rocking him to sleep. You can also ask your partner if it’s okay if you get to give your baby his first solid food – that’s what we did at my house. If you’re really feeling like life isn’t fair in the feeding department at least wait until breastfeeding is properly established before introducing a bottle of pumped milk.

+ Introducing a Bottle to a Breast-Fed Baby

Image by Flickr User Dan Harrelson

Help Out with Everything Else

Health organizations and breastfeeding advocates suggest newborns be fed at least 10-12 times per day, or for about 5 to 10 minute per breast; every 2 to 3 hours.  As your baby gets older, he’ll eat for 20 to 40 minutes every 3 to 4 hours.  After six months, babies may nurse for 20 to 40 minutes about 4 or 5 times a day. These are just estimates. Some days it literally feels like you’ve breastfed for oh, about 23.5 hours. It’s not just breastfeeding, it’s getting ready, positioning baby, burping and more. It all adds up and while it’s hard to figure typical times spent breastfeeding, suffice it to say, mamas spend a lot of time nursing. You have way more free time, so help out by managing other household tasks and baby care as much as you can. Oh, and in case you’re confused, when I say help out, I do not mean, “Wait to be asked.” Moms hate having to ask for help all the time. You’re an adult and now a father – you can cook, clean and care for a baby without being asked (pdf). You can care for siblings, wash dishes, wash laundry, burp and change the baby, rock the baby to sleep, go to the store, and so much more.

Typically mothers, even mothers who work as much as a dad, do more child care and more work around the house. That sucks. It also makes breastfeeding success that much harder. One of the best ways you can encourage breastfeeding success is to make sure you’re doing a lot in other areas to help out. Bonus, you’ll be happier (no really) and helping out means you may even get a date and some alone time with your partner in the near future. As a mom, I can absolutely say that when dad helps out at home, he instantly becomes WAY more attractive and likable – and I’m not the only mom who feels this way.

+ Awesome ways dad can help breastfeeding mamas

Lead image by Flickr User Karen Sheets de Gracia