Many fathers feel excluded from parenting their children during the first initial stages of life. This feeling of exclusion and helplessness can be exacerbated by mother breastfeeding her baby. So, can a father get more involved when it comes to feeding his baby?
The answer is, yes.
The number one thing a dad can do to get involved is to support mum. At times, both parents will feel very tired when caring for the newborn infant, the mother especially. This is why it’s so important for the dad to support mum.
So, exactly how does dad provide support?
The most obvious thing to do is chores: preparing meals, cleaning house, laundry etc. He can also directly help take care of the baby by changing its nappy, bathing and burbing. But the most important thing he can do is to provide emotional support. To listen to what his partner is saying and to let her know how pleased he is with her as a mother. A new mother needs support at this time of life more than at any other time.
A dad can also get involved with feeding his child, even though mum is breastfeeding. A mother can express her milk and store it for later use. The baby can then be fed mum’s milk with a bottle at a later time. No reason why dad can’t do this. In fact it can be a real benefit to the mother during those nighttime feeds as she can stay in bed and catch up on some sleep while dad does the feeding.
Breastfeeding can be a ‘selfish’ activity for a mother. A lot of women who breastfeed, cherish the intimacy between mum and baby. Breastfeeding can be the most intimate experience for a woman; a physical bond between two people where one is nurturing the other in the most fundamental way. So, it’s understandable that some mothers are reluctant to hand over feeding of their baby to someone else, even if it is the baby’s father. But, if the father is feeling somewhat left-out-of-things then perhaps it’s time to let the father bottle feed the baby with the mother’s expressed milk. The level of intimacy they feel toward their baby when feeding surprises most fathers.
Be patient with dad.
When he first starts to bottle feed his child he is bound to feel a little unsure of how best to do things. Show him how to hold the baby; how to soothe; how to notice signs of when the baby is hungry and when he’s satiated. Soon, with a little gentle instruction, he’ll be feeding baby as good as mum. And, he’ll probably exchange notes with mum on the little improvements the baby is making at feeding time.
A couple raising a child need to approach it as a team effort. Sometimes, both mum and dad do things together and sometimes they swap roles. Flexibility is key. When one of the parents is feeling too tired, or fed up to take care of baby, the other can step in, thereby giving the other a rest. This swapping and sharing responsibilities can also include breastfeeding.