Diary of a Dad: Week 6 - Supporting Breastfeedingby Adam Riches
Something that I have really realised is that breastfeeding isn’t easy. I mean I haven’t actually breastfed a child, that’d be weird, but as a dad, you really begin to appreciate that keeping a child alive using liquid that is created inside your wife is pretty rock and roll.
Prior to the birth of our first baby, we hadn’t really considered much more than the impending doom of labour – we assumed (naively) that we would just work the rest out as we went along. I think we were so transfixed on the birth that we didn’t really delve into the “truth” of life post-partum…breast feeding was a big part of that life. Like, a big part.
Our second boy has been no different. He has packed on the pounds and has gone from the 2nd percentile to the 79th percentile in 12 weeks (lad). Reflecting on how incredible it is that your baby drinks milk and grows isn’t the first thing you associate with fatherhood, but as the dust settles, you begin to realise that feeding is pretty special.
Everybody has their own opinions and ideas about bottle feeding vs breastfeeding. Traditionally the message of “breast is best” has been sung from the mountain tops, but as science and formula-based milk has progressed, it is argued that there is very little that divides the two sources of feeding. What you do comes down to what is best for your family; we personally opted for exclusive breastfeeding for our baby boy.
On round 1, the message we were broadcasted (in no uncertain terms) from NCT was, “breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt…ever.” I (as I’m sure some of you reading will agree) now know this is utter rubbish. It’s not as simple as the diagrams and mannequin baby make it seem. The thing is, even on the second baby, breastfeeding wasn’t just a plug-in-and-play exercise. The whole, “Oh you’ve done it before” thing is a bit of a myth I think and this time around, we have been more aware of said myths.
Now, I’m not saying all this to scare anybody…in fact I’m trying to do the opposite. Should breastfeeding hurt? No, not once you and the baby are established. BUT getting established can be a real challenge and that’s something a lot of people don’t talk about. Babies need to learn how to feed. It’s pretty natural, but at the same time, there is a bit of work to be done on both sides.
As a dad, you are left pretty powerless with the exclusive breastfeeding route to begin with – especially whilst the baby establishes their feeding methods and habits. It’s such an important time for bonding between mother and baby and as a dad, you need to be there to support your partner. If mum is having a hard time, I’ve been a lot more clued up this time. Last time I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants. Dads, if you want to help out, think about:
-Expressing milk – with a store of breast milk, it is possible for the dad to take over and do a feed or two a day to give mum a rest. An electric pump is a good idea if you’re expressing a lot, but if you’re happy to do it by hand, that’s possible too.
– Creams – there are tonnes of creams available – go for something with a high concentration of lanoline. Get your partner something to soothe between feeds.
-Nipple compresses – Hands down one of the best things my wife has used both times were nipple compresses that we kept in the fridge. Well worth it.
-Remind them that they are doing a great job. Sounds daft really, but a bit of moral support goes a long way at 3.42am…don’t expect a positive response, but it will help.
-Get them some help and advice from other women. People have done this for years…encourage your partner to talk and listen to others. There are loads of people but some of the most helpful have been women
As I watch my boy grow, it is still strange to think how far he has come. From the little premature frame I remember in neonatal, to a podgy rounded muffin top...it’s incredible being on the journey. I think I’ve been better this time around?