From the Expert: How Fathers and Partners Can Support Breastfeeding
Mothers are more likely to initiate and sustain breastfeeding their baby when supported by their partners. But partners often lack guidance, feel frustrated and face many challenges before and after the baby is born.
“When I said to a nurse I felt helpless she said enjoy the break and laughed like it had nothing to do with me.”
“When we went to antenatal classes they did a session on breastfeeding. They sent all the dads down to the pub that night.”
“I worried that it wouldn’t be enough for him or something would be wrong. Formula seemed logical – nothing wrong with it.”
These are a few of many candid responses from fathers who responded to a questionnaire as part of a British study (Brown & Davies, 2014). Responses revealed that men often feel excluded and helpless after the baby is born. They want more information about breastfeeding and welcome practical ideas for supporting their partner.
Ways that fathers and partners can support the breastfeeding mom
In the hospital
Inform staff that baby will be breastfed.
Ask staff not to give baby bottles or pacifiers.
Learn baby’s hunger cues.
Carry baby to mom for feedings.
Burp baby and change diapers.
Make mom a snack or cook a meal.
Help around the house.
If there are other children, take them out so mom can rest.
Give baby a bath.
Make time for hugs and cuddles.
Hold the baby skin-to-skin to encourage readiness for feeding.
Bring mother water when she is feeding.
Once baby is fed and alert - hold, talk, make eye contact with baby.
If problems arise, find a professional in a timely manner; make a call or schedule an appointment.
Out in public
Sit next to mom so she feels more comfortable.
Help mom arrange a shawl or blanket to cover up.
Praise mom for her breastfeeding!
Ways that health professionals can support fathers and partners
Display father-friendly promotional material in the office. (See resources)
Include partners and dads when providing educational material.
Provide concrete facts, not just “this is better for mom and baby.”
Provide specific information on how to recognize problems, what to do, and whom to call.
Pamphlets for office
Dad + Baby. A 10 Minute Breastfeeding Guide. Available for purchase in bulk. Call (800) 397-5833 or visit www.lapllc.com. Also available in Spanish.
Fathers Ask: Questions about Breastfeeding. Health Education Associates Inc. Single copies or bulk. (508) 888-8044. www.healthed.cc.
Men ask about Breastfeeding. Health Education Associates Inc. Single copies or bulk. (508) 888-8044. www.healthed.cc.
Brown, A., & Davies, R. (2014). Fathers experiences of supporting breastfeeding: challenges for breastfeeding promotion and education. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 10(4), 510-526. doi:10.1111/mcn.12129.
Anastasia Schepers, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC
Anastasia is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a certified lactation counselor (CLC). She also educates youth and parents through Cohen Children's Medical Center's Kohl’s Cares obesity prevention grant and counsels patients in the Dept. of Adolescent Medicine’s eating disorder program.