Fathers play a very important role in breastfeeding, women who have good support from their partner’s are more likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding.
Recent research has shown that father’s however do not feel supported in this role.
Overall, the findings showed that fathers were encouraging of breastfeeding and wanted to be able to support their partner. However, they often felt left out of the breastfeeding relationships and helpless to support their partner at this time. Many reported being excluded from antenatal breastfeeding education or being considered unimportant in post-natal support. Men wanted more information about breastfeeding to be directed towards them alongside ideas about how they could practically support their partner.
Simple things fathers can do in the post-natal period to support breastfeeding include:
- Helping the mother get comfortable for each feeding, by setting up pillows or keeping baby settled while she gets ready to feed
- Ensure peace and privacy if it is needed, this can include taking phone calls, and talking with guests out the front of the house until the new mother is ready for visitors (this is important when learning to feed)
- Bringing the mother drinks during breastfeeding, it is thirsty work
- Attend to other household duties as much as possible, breastfeeding women (and all women post-natal) need time to rest and recover
- Help with baby care that isn’t feeding, many men get the mistaken impression that because new babies feed a lot that they aren’t really needed. This is absolutely WRONG! Babies need to be changed, burped, settled, and cuddled. All of these activities can be attended by a father, allowing the mother rest time between feeds.
- Try to provide positive encouragement, many women feel anxious about their breastfeeding abilities when learning. It is important that they are supported and given positive feedback by those around them.
- NEVER suggest she tries bottle feeding. Unless the women is making this choice, it isn’t for others to suggest. Even a helpful suggestion can be enough for a women to feel she is failing.
- Spend time bonding as a family, this is a special time in your lives, it is about becoming a family and spending time together.
Need more support and information? Bundle of Care can provide home visits both before the baby comes and after, supporting not only the learning mother, but the father as well.
Fathers’ experiences of supporting breastfeeding: challenges for breastfeeding promotion and education.