My first daughter, Nicolette, was born 8 weeks early and went directly into an incubator at the NICU. There wasn’t a choice about breastfeeding, she went straight to formula through a feeding tube. When my second daughter, Gemma, was born, breastfeeding was a whole new world. As a father, I never gave it much thought. When my wife was pregnant, she made the decision that she wanted to breastfeed, and I was like, “OK, sounds good.” Little did I know!
Here are 5 things I wish I would have known:
1. It’s hard work! Humans have been doing it for thousands of years… should be simple… hook the kid up and go, right? I was wrong. From plugged ducts to positioning, there is a lot more that goes into it. When your partner has trouble, unless you are making your own milk supply, you can’t fix it for her. But you can be supportive. If she needs water, grab her some water. If she is frustrated, tired, sore, and wants cinnamon rolls at 10:30pm, run to the grocery store and get some.
2. Don’t be offended if your baby doesn’t want a bottle from you, at first. There might be no better feeling on Earth than when your kid falls asleep in your arms while you are feeding them. But if your baby is breastfeeding, there is a good chance they will look at that bottle you are trying to give them the same way you look at microwaved leftovers at work the next day. Don’t be offended. It’s not personal. The kid knows where the good stuff comes from. Try to build a routine with your youngster and take one feeding a day at a set time. Babies have a crazy sense of smell so grab a shirt of mom’s and hang it over your shoulder.
3. Pumped milk is like gold! If your partner is juggling work and breastfeeding, you may end up with A LOT of milk in your fridge and freezer. Do not ever consider tossing it out! That substance was sucked out of their body! When your partner is ready to start parting with saved milk, they will let you know… until then, best to invest in a backup fridge if you are running short on space.
4. “How long are you going to do this?” It is natural for you to think about when your baby will be done breastfeeding. But remember this: Michael Jordan was breastfed until he was three years old. He didn’t do too bad in life, right? Before your baby comes, check in with your partner and see how long she wants to breastfeed. Once your baby comes, her goal may change (see #1). Help encourage mom and baby while they are working on that goal and if they are able to go past their goal, keep encouraging them for as long as it continues to be a positive thing for mom and baby.
5. You’ll feel left out. The hardest part of being a dad to a breastfed baby is feeling left out. All those little moments add up to a ton that you feel like you aren’t a part of. Know that breastfeeding will be something that ends eventually, and you will have tons of time with your little one. Look for ways that you can be in charge of other things. For example, I was in charge of bath time. Find a routine that can be yours and be present in those times.
To this day, I’m still pretty mystified about the biological process of breastfeeding. Lucky for me, it wasn’t a requirement as part of my job. I just tried to be a supportive partner and find ways to connect with my little one. I have learned that breastfeeding has been the start of a pretty amazing journey….