They give mum the space she needs and over and over again manage to maneuver the support just when it’s needed.
Dads use some of that diplomacy even when things are going well with breastfeeding. Most new parents today weren’t breastfed themselves as infants in the 1970s and 1980s. We are the generation of the formula-feeding grannies. Some of those older women become awesome champions of breastfeeding and some struggle to witness something they don’t understand. The dads are the knights at the gatehouse – letting through only the right support. They act as the barrier between new mum and mother-in-law who might not know when to step back. They make sure that the new mum and baby can make the nest they need to.
My own husband, who is a chump in about half a dozen different ways, was one of these champions of breastfeeding. It was something he knew nothing about it. But he trusted me. Not for a moment did he doubt my instincts or my drive to try and get this right. When things weren’t always straight-forward, he was able to help me find solutions without ever leaving me feeling disempowered. He knew nothing of breastfeeding through pregnancy or feeding older children but he trusted me. He never questioned me or doubted me. He knew exactly when to step in and step back. And it’s something I can never thank him enough for. I know it was largely down to his support that I felt able to train as a breastfeeding counsellor and then qualify eventually as a lactation consultant.
And I know that in a few years time, the mother I supported today will feel the same way about her husband.
And of course, sometimes it’s not a breastfeeding dad. I’ve met the breastfeeding wife/partner too, helping the woman in her life, and without her breastfeeding would NOT be working even if her own breasts aren’t involved.
Most mums won’t end their breastfeeding careers as lactation consultants but that same feeling of support will get them through their own challenges.
Breastfeeding dads might be good at nappies and burping and baths and making sandwiches and passing the remote control but that’s a tiny slice of what they can do. They can provide a bedrock where a new mother learns how she wants to be a new mother and where breastfeeding can flourish.
After a career as a Deputy Headteacher in central London, Emma initially trained with UK charity Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (www.abm.me.uk), qualifying as a breastfeeding counsellor with them in 2007. She is currently their chair. She qualified as a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 2011 and combines a small private practice with volunteering at two groups a week and answering calls on the National Breastfeeding Helpline. You can find her on Twitter as @makesmilk. She spoke at the UNICEF Baby Friendly UK conference in November this year on the theme of responsive feeding. Her book, “You’ve Got It In You: a positive guide to breastfeeding” can be found on Amazon and from other retailers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B019JE5E44