There is no getting around it, Breastfeeding is difficult. Even for Dad’s it’s difficult, and we aren’t even the ones doing it!
I am a Stay at Home Dad to our (almost) 9 month old boy Toby, and my very hardworking and driven wife just so happens to be the PR Manager for Medela UK – you can read her breastfeeding story here.
Given Lisa works for Medela, we had talked about breastfeeding and breastpumps since our first date (yes, weirdly we did still get married!), so it was a forgone conclusion that when the time came, it would have to take something huge to stop her from nursing our baby.
As it happened, nothing did stop her; everything went well, and even then it was difficult. Even for someone with prior knowledge, it was still an extremely steep learning curve.
For us, breastfeeding and expressing on Lisa’s return to work was a team effort. Here are some of my observations and tips as the Dad of a breastfed baby:
Be Patient and Supportive.
In the first few days, it was try after try to get Toby to drink a few precious drops of colostrum. It would be easy for a Dad who is on the Breast/Formula fence to encourage the mother of his baby to give up and use a bottle. Trust your healthcare professionals – Breastfeeding is the most natural thing, but neither a first time mother nor a newborn baby have ever done it before – it’s a process which has to be mutually learned.
Beware Bringer Downers!
When you have a breastfed baby, it seems some people love to tell you that the baby isn’t getting fed enough simply because you can’t see it in the way you can a bottle. It might be her parents, it might be your parents, it might be a random lady in the queue in your local shop. As a Dad, you are there to stick up for your family and the choices you have made. “He’s got his hand in his mouth he must be hungry” was a classic for us right after he had just been fed. We knew he was latching and feeding well, we knew he was gaining weight absolutely fine. Don’t let people bring you down.
I did the cooking, so you do the washing up.
Your significant other is providing the food for baby, so you do the washing up! If you are combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding expressed milk, or later on perhaps when mum goes back to work; take on the role of washing and sterilizing the bottles, teats, and pump parts. Expressing can be a time consuming process, and you can split this by getting everything ready on her behalf! A great product we used was Nimble Babies; Breastmilk has quite a high fat content and washing up liquid doesn’t do a great job of cleaning bottles. A few sprays of Nimble breaks up the enzymes in the milk and it rinses off like a dream!
I got into the habbit of giving Lisa a pint of water when she sat down to feed/express, as I knew if I didn’t she’d just have to ask for one. It seems universally recognized that breastfeeding is very thirsty work, so keep her topped up with water, hey maybe even a snack if you can stretch that far!
Specifically around storing expressed milk. I ended up creating a spreadsheet to log the dates and volumes of our frozen expressed milk! (Sad I know!) To avoid fresh milk getting mixed up in the fridge, I bought a ball of multicoloured elastic bands for £1 and then stuck a notice on the cupboard door assigning each day of the week a colour. I would then put the corresponding band on any bottles pumped on that day, that way you always know when it was pumped, and how long you have left until it is no longer fresh!
All Good Things Come to an End. Including Breastfeeding.
For us, it came to an end at 6 months. Toby grew two little razor teeth on the bottom which popped in shortly after 5 months. Unfortunately he took to biting and despite trying every trick in the book Lisa couldn’t stop him doing it. Sadly, this meant feeding him was making her anxious which affects the whole experience and at 6 months it had to stop. I never quite appreciated how big a deal stopping would be to Lisa. There were many teary moments, and a feeling of failure. Whether it ends like in our case because of teeth, or maybe medication, or the baby weans themselves off it naturally, appreciate this is going to be an emotional time and just be there.
So there you have it, 6 of the main tips which spring to mind from our breastfeeding experiences. I never had any opinion either way on breastfeeding prior to meeting Lisa. My nieces and nephews had all been bottle fed and it had never really crossed my young childless mind that there was another option! Having since been exposed to articles and research I’m pleased that our baby was breastfed and the benefits he will have gained from it, and I’m very proud of my wife for going through the pain and sleepless nights in order to make it happen! That said, if you can’t breastfeed or you choose not to, then don’t let anyone judge you for that either, the fact that your baby is fed and happy is the main thing!