By Francoise Voldoire
From the beginning of mankind, fathers have had no essential role when it comes to breastfeeding. They are usually expected to be on the sideline as far as breastfeeding is concerned. However, nowadays most dads find themselves on the frontline of breastfeeding support. Research has shown that the impact of the father’s support in breastfeeding is becoming a key factor worldwide for mothers to establish and continue breastfeeding.
Before I got pregnant, I used to see mothers nursing their babies: in my job as a nurse; at my just-became-a-mum friend’s home; on TV and in films; and even in public. For a long time, I was deceived by those images and thought that breastfeeding came naturally and easily. Well, reality sucks sometimes!
Like every form of human activity, breastfeeding will become natural when it is learned first. It takes practice. It takes ‘trial and error’ to get it perfect. And like every form of human activity, it’s better to master a skill with a support person, knowing that you can get that support you need. This is where fathers come in handy.
Support through words
I had my son 5 weeks earlier than expected. The whole mother-baby bonding didn’t came instantly and naturally between the two of us at the beginning.
We didn’t have that early skin-to-skin and latch when he was born. Because he was premature, he was immediately placed inside the incubator and was transported to NICU.
I was told by my midwife that since my baby came earlier, my breasts were not fully matured either. They were not ready for milk production.
At the beginning, I had to manually express the colostrum from my breasts. From what I can remember, it was some of the worst pain I have ever felt. The pain and anxiety from this whole breastfeeding thing didn’t stop at day one. I struggled in pain as I manually expressed milk from my breasts. In most of those moments, I was in agony. I was impatient. I was frustrated. I was crying. And in most of those moments, my husband would hold my hand and say, “Honey, it’s okay. You are doing a good job. See, you are producing more each time.” Maybe his last statement wasn’t true. Maybe he was just lying to make me feel better. But it worked! My short patience encouraged my brain to think that it’s an hourly routine I needed to do. My frustration turned it into a challenge for me to produce more.
Key Point: Encourage your wife. Tell her that she is doing well and that one day she can master breastfeeding like a achieving a PhD degree.
Support through help
Being parents for the first time can be super overwhelming in the first few weeks. We both found the new role challenging. I had to spend most of my time in NICU looking after our son while my husband was juggling between 3 things: work, spending time with our boy in NICU and running the show in the house.
Honestly, I had never seen him this involved in the household until we had our son. He would do the cleaning, the laundry and would sometimes cook.
And when we took our son home, he would do his big share of the household chores while I was nursing our always hungry baby. And he never complained. It was absolutely a breeze having him around to do the things I was limited to do.
Key Point: Even though we, women, are naturally born to be ‘one-man-show’ individuals, we still need help. We have our limits. Do whatever you can to help in the household. Even if it means you have to learn how to fold the laundry just like your wife likes to fold it.