If you search for pictures of breastfeeding mothers (wait, why are you doing that?), you’ll find half naked women with dreamy smiles lounging in sunlit fields with flowers in their hair, babies confidently latched to their boobs, gazing lovingly into their mother’s eyes. Oh, the tranquil beauty of extracting nourishing liquid from the human teat!
It would be nice if those images represented the constant reality. They don’t. What you’re not seeing are women wincing in pain at painful mastitis, or crying through a low-burning panic as the hungry screaming baby refuses to latch (oh, rapturous joy!). You’re also not seeing dads. That’s a damn shame.
Yeah, you might not whip out your nip like a pygmy tribesman, but you can support your lady in ways that make breastfeeding much more successful. You don’t even have to drive to a flowery meadow. Here’s how to be a part of the magic.
Talk To Your Partner
The first step is to find out what your partner wants to accomplish with breastfeeding. Here are some options she might be considering:
- All boob all the time
- Some boob, some milk pumping, some bottle feeding
- 3 months of boob, then formula
- Breastfeeding until your kid is old enough to say, “No breast tonight, mother. I’m stuffed.”
Knowing her intentions will help you understand where you might be able to get in and help out. And letting her know you’re actually willing to help might take some pressure off her.
If your kid is delivered at a hospital, one of the first folks you’ll talk to after your kid comes into the world is the lactation consultant; you should be there for these appointments. It’s possible that you’ll remember tips that she might forget in her addled, sleepless, post-birth state. If your kid isn’t being delivered in a hospital, there’s a good chance they’re being delivered by a lactation consultant.
If she’s got books, crack them open and read a couple chapters. Most will likely have one dedicated to dads. But even if they don’t, it’ll help you understand what she needs and what she’s going through.
Get Into Coaching
There’s a super easy way to become the Jim Harbaugh of boobies (if she’s into it) and it’s all a matter of perspective. Literally.
There are tons of breastfeeding videos out in the world, but a precious few of them are shot from the mom’s perspective. That means if you watch the videos together, you can help her adjust positions that may lead to easier feeding. It’s like how she may have helped you tie a necktie, although you probably won’t be wrapping the baby around her neck. Probably.
Prepare For Problems
The way breastfeeding is supposed to go down is pretty simple. The kid takes your partner’s breast and “latches,” essentially horking way more of the nipple into their mouth than you probably feel comfortable knowing about.
This isn’t always simple. In fact, a 2012 study found that two-thirds of mothers who plan to nurse experience problems and give up earlier than they wanted to. Kinda like what happened with your professional poker playing career.
Whether your partner is having a problem getting the kid to latch, or experiencing an infection, it’s super easy to feel helpless as your two favorite people struggle to make things work. Plan for this by understanding what she’d like you to do in this situation. Some things that could help:
- Gentle encouragement and a back rub
- Setting up lactation consultant appointments
- Providing tea and snacks
- Going on a cabbage run (it’s for her boobs. seriously)
Having a job in these circumstances will help you feel less useless than a third nipple.
Get In On The Bonding
So you can’t breastfeed (not that you’d want to after reading how crappy it can be), but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some bonding in. One of the best things about breastfeeding is the skin-to-skin contact with the kid. And guess what! You have skin. Get that shirt off, bro.
Getting your half naked baby on your chest for a little tummy time can help you experience some of the breastfeeding goodness. Particularly when your kid is tiny. It boosts a hormone in your body called oxytocin — that’s the love hormone and it’ll make you feel groovy and closer to your kid.
Just because you’re a dad, it doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in the important process of breastfeeding. Get in there and help, buddy. No flowery meadows required.