Wednesday 20 June 2012

How Dads Can Support Breastfeeding - Keep Britain Breastfeeding 3

This is the 3rd post as part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt in the run up to National Breastfeeding Week 2012. This week's theme is support, so I asked one of my greatest supporters to guest post. So, without further ado, I hand over to my husband, Chris, who will spill the beans on ways to support your partner in establishing breastfeeding:

I've been asked to do a guest post as part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. I'm a father of one darling daughter, B, (DD in the mummy online speak) and have been in the profession for nearly 10 months and wow, what an amazing time it's been. My wife, Laura, and I had been married for 1 and a half years before B came along which has also been an amazing time, with more fun times to come.

So...breastfeeding. During her pregnancy, Laura and I had been discussing how we were going to care for our baby and how we were going to feed her, which really helped flush out any issues that could have come up post-arrival. Laura had been breastfed until she was 2 years old and I was breastfed until I was I few weeks old. Laura's mum had lots of support from La Leche League. My mum didn't. Support is key in enabling a mum to establish breastfeeding.

There are so many techniques, books, strategies out there that people follow to bring up their child. Some more than others. But we decided that we would breastfeed B. Well, Laura would. And herein lies the reason for writing this guest post:

How can we support our partners to establish and continue breastfeeding?

Us guys have got it good! Sit back and let mumma feed the baby whenever she's hungry, upset or just wants some boobie time. And if you're lucky like I was, baby will be sleeping in with you and mum, and whenever she's hungry, she goes straight on the boob before she can even cry! No interruptions!

However, there is a vital part that you have to play if you and your partner decide to breastfeed: Support, support, support. Establishing breastfeeding can be very hard at first, especially on the mumma. Hormones are flowing, feelings of inadequacy and maybe even feeling like a failure if she thinks she's doing it wrong. When we were going through tough times, my man brain would think that B wasn't getting enough milk, so I would say to Laura, "Why don't we just use formula?" This is a natural reaction. The male in us goes into protective mode and is intensified as we have a new member of the pride. You need to keep her positive. Never tell her to give up. Never be negative.

Another support that you can use is breastfeeding help for mum in the form of breastfeeding counsellors, advisors and peer supporters. This could be the midwives at the hospital (who you'll still have access to after the baby is born), NCT, Sure Start and La Leche League. We used the NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor at our local mums and babies group, and she was fantastic. The counsellors can help with technique and add to the support you're giving to mum (female support goes down well), but you can guarantee there's another lady going through the same thing at the same time in the NCT group, helping mum to realise she's not a failure and that other women are going through the same thing. So do access that support. It really does help.

There are loads of practical things you can do for mumma and baby. Before you leave for work in the mornings, prepare snacks that can easily be eaten with one hand. Pork pies, crisps on a plate. (Editor's note: Vegetarian options are available! Cake is also good, and bananas. And flapjacks are good for the milk supply.) Set up a jug of water and a cup and put them all in an easy to reach place. You may think pork pies and crisps don't sound healthy. Believe it or not, breast feeding burns up loads of calories for mumma, so she needs to keep her energy levels up. More food can help with mum's milk supply. Make sure she has the tv remote and the phone nearby; perhaps put a dvd in the player. And iphones are brilliant for breastfeeding mums - emails, Facebook, books at the touch of a screen. Basically, you're making life a little easier for her while you're gone, especially as she could be sat feeding for long periods of time in the first few weeks. Don't worry though - that soon settles down.

Another great thing to do, if you have the time, is to read up on breastfeeding. Being knowledgeable about it can help avoid us men asking dumb and sometimes annoying questions to mum. I didn't read up and asked stupid and, what I found out to be, counter productive questions.

Breastfeeding in public
Our first public breastfeed. Can you tell I'm ready to jump to their defense?
Protect mumma! There can be quite a few external forces that can be against you. Different people have different experiences. The general public might tell you to stop breastfeeding, because they don't want to see it. Parents-in-law and your own parents can give different advice, or even suggest weaning. (We were blessed in this area - Laura's mum was an LLL counsellor.) Even other mothers might be counterproductive in suggesting mum move on from breastfeeding. Do stand up for mum. This is where your knowledge in the breast feeding area can go a long way. Backing up your partner can get you loads of man points, but more importantly you are doing your job of protecting your pride.

In summary, if you can, do some reading. Stand up for mum and baby and defend her like the alpha male you are. Don't hesitate to get support from other places - it really does help. Do practical things to help out mum, and remember to try and think before you speak to mum about breastfeeding. Always be positive. Never be negative. Keep her spirits up.

Good luck and all the best :-)

If you have enjoyed reading, you will find more articles about breastfeeding, and some giveaways, at these locations:
Breastfeeding in England - Support Groups 
Edspire - Who is your support? 
Mixed Bag of All Sorts - accurate info, practical help
Life, Love and Living with Boys - Key to success
Lactivist - Growth Spurts

Juno are giving away two 1 year subscriptions to their magazine. Visit their website to find out more about the natural approach to parenting:

You have found the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Logo!!
Keep Britain Breastfeeding
You can now enter to win the Grand Prize.  Remember, the more posts you read on the hunt the greater your chance of winning.  Please enter using the rafflecopter below:


  1. Yes it's a shame when the father isn't supportive and doesn't defend the mother against in-laws' misguided advice etc, so it's nice to see a couple who got it right!

  2. Lovely post! So good to hear from a Dad about his perspective on breastfeeding. My husband has definitely been my biggest support, and has done all the things you talked about. It's so important that a breastfeeding mum's partner is on her side with the feeding. Thank you for sharing with others.

  3. My biggest supporter has been my mum she has been so supportive and encouraging and my husband as been great too although I think he has a few things to learn about leaving snacks out!

  4. So great to read a post from a dads point of view. I am very lucky to have a supportive husband also he always knows just what to say to make me feel great and helps in whatever way he can :)