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My partner is breastfeeding: What should I know?

There are many advantages to breastfeeding your baby. Most dads will be aware of at least some of the following benefits:
  • Breast milk contains the correct nutrients for your child.
  • It is free therefore you save on not buying feeding formula.
  • Mother and child bond through the experience.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies or become obese.
  • Soiled nappies smell a lot worse from formula feeding than breastfeeding.
Despite all these positive factors, some dads resent breastfeeding subconsciously, due to feelings of inadequacy. Breastfeeding is a continuation of the very close and exclusive relationship mothers and babies have and due to this closeness, dads may experience the following feelings:
  • Concern about having bonding difficulties with the baby.
  • Feelings of inadequacy because of the mother's larger contribution to the child's nurturing and development.
  • Resenting the baby for being the centre of the mother's physical attention.
  • Assuming breastfeeding makes the mother a natural expert on all things related to child care.
While breastfeeding is very important to the baby's nutritional well being, the role of the father as a supporting partner should not be trivialised. By being caring and supportive, the father can help extend the breastfeeding time. Husbands can help out with breastfeeding in the following ways:
Dads should be thoughtful and helpful during breastfeeding sessions. They should help with secondary tasks and make sure that the mom is comfortable and take over some of the other chores around the house.
Dads should try to have physical contact with the baby by cuddling and holding the child in between feeding sessions. This closeness mimics the intimacy of breastfeeding and strengthens the bond between child and father.
If the father spends time alone with the baby they will become closer; playing together, going for a walk and going shopping for groceries are some of the things dad and baby can enjoy.
The dad can bottle feed the child with breast milk that has been pumped. Allow about a month for the baby to get used to feeding from a breast before introducing the bottle at feeding times. The size and shape of the plastic bottle nipple may not be ideal for your baby; experiment with different kinds until the right one is found.
Dad will have to have patience while mum adjust to the demands of caring for the baby and having a low sex drive. Mothers will have low amounts of oestrogen when breastfeeding, so sexual intercourse may be painful due to lack of vaginal lubrication due to the hormone imbalance. Water-based lubrication is recommended to ease any discomfort.

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