One of the most common queries and type of comment we come across when supporting breastfeeding parents, both ante and post-natally, revolves around the role of fathers.
So, on Fathers Day, I'm talking to you!
You are keen to be involved, to help decide, to support, love, bond. But you are not always sure of how to achieve that or what your role in this very special relationship actually is.
· Mum and baby are so close, baby seems totally reliant on your partner and frequently nobody else will do. The act of feeding the baby seems to tie them together and their bond is incredible. But where does that leave you? How can you replicate that relationship for yourself?
· Your partner is completely exhausted, weepy, sore and overwhelmed. You hate to see her like this and are desperate to make it better, to do something to help, to take away her distress. Surely just one bottle would fix it?
· It feels like baby is feeding all the time and is permanently fixed to Mum. She is frequently 'touched out' and can't bear physical closeness with anyone else. This feels like it will never end and you won't get your own special relationship with your partner back. Is there any room for you?
I can't give you nice tidy answers I'm afraid, that isn't my role. This is something you need to work out as a family. You are the experts about your relationship, your baby, each other.
What I can tell you, though, is how important you actually are. Attendance of fathers at an antenatal breastfeeding class has been found to increase initiation of breastfeeding to 74% from 41%. Mothers frequently cite a supportive partner as being the most important factor in allowing them to reach their feeding goals. Your actions, opinions and support are vital to this little family and their success.
So. Go and do the research. You need to understand the Whys, the Hows and What to Expect. Book onto a course, watch videos. Ask questions, pick people's brains. Talk to feeding experts AND your partner. Plan how to support each other, how to share out the roles, be a team. What to do when the going gets tough. The answer doesn't have to be a bottle. Be inventive!
You can be the lighthouse to help guide them through turbulent times towards longer term goals. You are their advocate when they can't express themselves and feel like everything is against them
You are Daddy. You are important.