Bonding without Feeding – Including your partner while breastfeeding
It’s not uncommon for dads to feel left out in the bonding department when a mother is breastfeeding. All the images of “good dads” we often see involve the partner giving a bottle to give the mother a break!
First, ASK YOUR PARTNER how she feels about this. Every woman is different, but most women intend to breastfeed share these feelings about letting partners help with feeds.
There are a few reasons why taking over a feed becomes tricky (and often actually LESS helpful) when a woman is breastfeeding. Here are a few:
It’s not as much help as you think…
Even if the bottle is not pumped breastmilk, she still has to pump while you feed the baby to maintain her milk supply. Pumping is A LOT more work than just putting the baby to the breast and usually less effective too.
If the partner wants to help with night feedings so the mother can get more sleep, she’s still going to have to wake up, pump, store the milk, wash the pump parts, then go back to sleep. It’s usually easier to just feed the baby! Not to mention all the work the partner is going to have to do to prepare the milk for a feeding, whether it’s breastmilk or formula.
The intentions are good, I know! But usually, it’s much harder to have the partner feed the baby than to simply put them at the breast. Try some other things to help at night! Suggestions below.
Most have heard the term “nipple confusion”, but what does it really mean? While a baby is learning to feed at the breast, any other “nipples” that enter their mouth can be a little confusing for them. In addition, nipples from a bottle or pacifier are much easier to suck on and babies tend to struggle a bit more at the breast after the “easy option”. Giving a bottle too early, even with good intentions, can cause lots of difficult problems for the breastfeeding mother and baby.
Once breastfeeding is well established (usually after 6-8 weeks) it can be much easier to introduce an occasional bottle. This is great if the mother wants a night out or has an appointment. She’ll still have to bring her pump along but breastfeeding shouldn’t be too interrupted.
Feeding doesn’t equal bonding
Who said you had to feed a baby to bond with them? There are SO many other ways to bond with an infant! If you’re the partner who really wants to feed, take a good, hard look at your reasoning about why this is so important to you. No judgment here, just explore your thoughts around the subject.
“Because you think that’s just what good dads do?”
“That’s what your father did”
“You just want to help take some burden off her”
“Maybe you’re jealous of the bonding time she’s getting”
Be honest with yourself, your own feeling about the topic might surprise you. There are more ideas for what you can do instead of feeding, down below!
It’s a short phase
Relatively speaking, the couple of years a child spends breastfeeding is short compared to the time you have to bond with them throughout childhood. Breastfeeding mothers do the feedings. It is what it is. But there are SO many other ways to bond with a child during infancy, toddler years, and beyond.
Sit down and ask your partner about breastfeeding, why it’s so important to her, what her goals are, how you can support that, and what would be the most helpful to her while she does this important part of parenthood for a while. I bet there are several other things that would make you “Father of the Year” in her books (and even yours).
What YOU can do instead!
Now the fun part! Let’s talk about what the partner can do to ACTUALLY be helpful and bond with the new little baby. Here are some ideas, add your own too!
- Skin-to-skin – This is NOT just for mothers! Find any time you can to put your baby directly on your skin. This is one of the fastest and best ways to bond with your baby, and truly only a task that those individuals closest to the baby do.
- Diaper changes – Definitely not a glamorous job, but this may actually help her rest more than taking over a feeding, especially at night! If she doesn’t have to get out of bed to change the diaper and can feed lying in bed, she’s likely to get much more rest.
- Feed the MOTHER! – She needs to eat, drink, and snack to maintain a good milk supply. The better fed and calm the mother, the more (and better) milk she makes! Due to the hormones involved, breastfeeding also makes women VERY hungry and thirsty, especially in the middle of a feeding. Make sure she has a snack and a water bottle close by. This will be more helpful than you know.
- Take the baby in-between feeds – Check with your partner to see what is most helpful here, but often when the baby is fussy even when fed, changed, and well, a simple break from the “milk-machine” can be extremely helpful. A partner doesn’t smell like milk and can be less distracting while the baby calms himself down. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT because you’re teaching your baby that they can be loved, calm, and cared for without being fed. This is INVALUABLE to teach a baby, and only you can do it.
- Do the burping – This can make partners feel empowered when they’re the ones who can get the best, big burps out of the baby! Even breastfed babies need to burp after feeds, take on this task and become the “master-burper”.
- Take a breastfeeding course – Understanding the basics of breastfeeding will likely help you to understand what is going on and the importance of keeping the baby at the breast. You can also be her 2nd pair of eyes if struggles arise. She’s hormonal and trying to figure this out, so having a little knowledge base can really help her keep her sanity and continue to feed and nourish your new baby.
- Baby-Wear – Being close to your baby is one of the best ways to bond. Check out this Bondaroo Shirt made especially for new babywearing dads! Here’s another kangaroo style shirt to look at. So fun for partners!
- Baby Massage – I’ve attended many baby massage classes full of mothers and babies, but I LOVE to see partners there too! Learning this skill can be a great way to bond with the baby at home. Imagine being such a source of comfort and love for your baby during a 30-minute massage for them. Not to mention all the skin to skin contact, trust me. They’ll love it more than a bottle full of mom’s milk!
- Be supportive! – Studies have shown that mothers with supportive partners have better outcomes for breastfeeding. Even if you feel a little left out, find other ways to bond and care for your newborn. Happy mothers, mean happy babies, which means happy partners. Reach out to other dads for support if you’re really struggling.
Comment below if you have other ideas! Share this article with a partner, family, or friend. Good luck and happy bonding!
~ All things for you and your New Little Life ~