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The first few weeks with a new baby can bring a host of changes and emotions to the lives of new parents. For many women, their partner is their main source of support with breastfeeding. It has been shown that if fathers are supportive of breastfeeding, women are much more likely to continue.

Dads can really make a difference!

A woman is more likely to choose to breastfeed if she is sure her partner is positive about it. Also, a mother who decides to breastfeed is much more likely to have a good experience if her partner supports her decision.

How long should a mother breastfeed her baby for?

As long as she and her baby want to:

  • Breastfeeding for three months makes infections less likely for at least a year.
  • Breastmilk is a complete food for the baby for at least 6 months.
  • Babies who are breastfed for a year don’t need to have formula at all.
  • Breastfed toddlers continue to benefit from breastfeeding.

How can dads get involved?

You may find the decision to breastfeed your baby a difficult one. For dads, you may know the benefits of breast milk for your partner and your baby, but many dads get concerned that they will feel left out as they are physically unable to breastfeed.

This is not something you should be worried about as there are lots of ways you can still get involved. Talk to your partner as much as possible when looking after your baby and discussing breastfeeding. Agree together the ways you can support her to breastfeed and to look after baby in other ways.
Although childcare was traditionally seen as a mother’s role, nowadays many more fathers want to be involved in their baby’s upbringing. For example, you could help get your partner comfortable for feeding, bring her drinks to keep her hydrated or take the child after feeding to wind him. This way you can have the same skin-to-skin contact as your partner has with the baby.

As a father, begin by connecting with your child through touch, one of the most powerfully developed senses at birth. You can hold, carry, rock, massage, and stroke your baby and let her fall asleep against your bare chest. Newborn babies can see best at a distance of eight to twelve inches, they prefer to look at the human face over any other visual stimulus.
Your baby already recognizes your voice from hearing it while in the uterus. Babies respond best to a higher-pitched voice, so don’t be embarrassed to use baby talk with her. You can sing to her, read to her, or make silly noises. Within a few months, babies already perceive their fathers as principal sources of play and motor movement. If your partner is more confident at comforting, bathing, changing nappies and entertaining your baby, don’t be tempted to let her be the main carer. Ask your partner to show you how to perform certain tasks and arrange to care for your baby alone. Start with very brief periods until you feel you don’t need to be “rescued”. Fathers say there’s a big difference between being “on my own-just me and the baby” and merely “helping out,” with mum looking over their shoulder to see if they’re doing everything right.

You can also bond with baby at other times, such as bathing him, changing nappies, playing, singing and putting him to bed. Co-bathing is also a lovely way for dads to bond with your baby.
You are often your partner’s biggest support – let her know that you support her and be with her when she breastfeeds to reassure her of that fact. You are helping much more than you may realise.

Many dads are often quite surprised by how much they enjoy simply watching their partner breastfeed their baby. It can be a very relaxing, wonderful and intimate time for the whole family to share, increasing the bond between all of you, not just between your partner and your baby.

Some quotes from Sheffield Mums:

Daddy does bathtime, brushes her teeth and puts her to bed every night from birth!

He entertained my babies during the day so I could catch up on the sleep I missed. My babies were more important to me than a full nights sleep and it doesn’t last forever.

I found he (my partner) was much more useful if he’d had a good night’s sleep so he could take over in the day while I caught up!

He helped with nappy changes, fetching me drinks and settling the little darlings when I just couldn’t!

My husband doing the bath time and taking over cooking and cleaning duties, worked a treat.

Hubby gets involved in bedtime by doing bath, story, getting in peejams etc. One of us does this and the other does the washing up. And if I get up in the night I get a lie in, in the morning.

Crumpets and camomile tea at 3 in the morning brought by hubby was what meant we could persevere through an extremely difficult start to breastfeeding. Without that we wouldn’t be 11 months on with no plans to stop.

I did the feeding, hubby did the winding for first few weeks x

Hubby made me food, brought me drinks. Did skin on skin time with little bubba when he needed a cuddle.

Download UNICEF’s ‘Caring for baby at night – A guide for Parents’ leaflet.

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