Since my last blog about the importance of starting early on the road to good nutrition, I have received many questions about breastfeeding. One that keeps recurring is, “You’re a dad. Why are you so into breastfeeding?” Well, lets get this straight. I’m a Dad but not a Breastfeeding Dad, at least in the literal sense! The question I keep getting refers more to the inability of the father to provide the same type of nourishment mothers can provide. While I can talk about the benefits of breastfeeding from a physical, mental and emotional state, it is true I can not talk about it from a personal state. But, what I can talk about is how the father can benefit from and provide benefit to the nursing mother. When our first child was born, there was no question that “we” would breastfeed. Being dietitians, many people expected that from us. What we didn’t expect was the difficulty, frustration and anxiety that came with it. It was our first child, so naturally, we were a little cautious about every thing. Because he gained weight slowly after we left the hospital, Angie worried about her breastfeeding techniques, was she making enough milk, was he not latching on correctly, should she just give up and go with formula? Next came the problem of thrush, a fungal infection in the baby that can spread to the breast, making feeding painful.
Things eventually eased up and became much more enjoyable and manageable. As the father, and unable to truly share in the process, I did all I could to support and comfort Angie. I knew she was tired and needed her rest so when the baby cried, I’d make sure I got up to get him. That way, I could have a small bonding time with him, singing him the “Good Ol’ Song”…(yep, that song that you sing at Virginia football games when they score a touchdown!)…as we walked through the house to deliver to mom. I’d put him back in his crib when he had finished his snack and made sure I changed diapers any time he needed it. I saw my role as Dad to provide the support for Mom. That included, and still includes, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. What it didn’t include was mixing formula, warming formula, checking formula to be sure it was not too hot, not too cold, but just right. I didn’t have to clean up bottles, nipples, and other paraphernalia associated with using formula. Anything I could do to make things easier for Angie was what I wanted to do. This is the team approach we have always subscribed to. Plus, it teaches children that every person has a responsibility in the family and we must all pitch in and do our part.
All the difficulties we experienced with our first certainly made the second much easier to deal with. We continued with the same pattern of assistance. Most of the difficulties we had the first time around did not occur the second time. But now, having two little ones meant quadruple the responsibility and more fatigue. Keeping on top of things, providing support and encouragement helps to ease the frustration levels. What a great learning experience.
I continue to recommend and discuss breastfeeding to all expectant mothers. There are some mothers that can not breastfeed and others that choose not to. That’s fine. You have to do what you can to help your child the best way possible. But at least have the discussion about breastfeeding with a health care provider. Learn all you can about it. And dads, provide the support that the mother of your child needs.
It may not be easy but parenting is not easy. Teamwork is key!
It’s Your Health. It’s Your Life. Make That Change!