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Empowering Dads: A Guide to Involving Dads in Breastfeeding Journey

There are lots of resources available to breastfeeding mums, but what about Dads? Sometimes, their role in the breastfeeding journey can be overlooked but we’re here to tell you that their role is equally important and should be encouraged and nurtured so that families can benefit from a positive breastfeeding experience.

The Role of Dads in Breastfeeding

The number of benefits breastmilk provides proves it’s importance for a newborn’s nutrition and development. Breastfeeding also helps parents to establish a special connection with their newborn which helps to build a strong bond as they grow older. For parents who choose to breastfeed their baby, it can take some time to adjust to the demands it can require and also how it shapes the role for each parent and caregiver involved in that child’s early days.

Father nurturing a strong emotional connection while bottle-feeding his baby

The role Dad’s have alongside a breastfeeding mother are often overlooked and their role as parents has evolved significantly over the years. Typically, men were seen as the ones who would go to work to provide for their family whilst mothers were caring for their children at home. The evolution of this over the last couple of decades has seen this stereotypical family setup be completely thrown out of the window! Even more so since the pandemic, it has highlighted that this is no longer the norm and more Dads are choosing to stay at home with their children or work flexibly around their family’s lifestyle to have a more even share in childcare arrangements.

As a women goes through pregnancy, labour, and postpartum recovery with a newborn, a lot of the support and resources are focused on supporting Mums. However, it can certainly be argued that Dads, although they are not growing a human, need support in their role too. Postpartum depression isn’t just a mum thing, it’s a very real Dad thing too and we believe that emotional encouragement and a supportive environment are key to supporting both parents in their new roles.

Learn more: New Dads, You Need (And Deserve!) Support Too

How Dads Can Support Their Breastfeeding Partners 

Whilst some partners are very supportive of breastfeeding, others find it more difficult to adjust. Although a mother is the parent producing milk and exclusively breastfeeding, there are lots of different ways that Dads can be involved with their newborn to build a strong bond with them and support Mum in the journey too. 

We asked Dads how they got involved in their children’s breastfeeding journey, how they felt and what they did to support their partners. 

How does a baby latch to breastfeed?

When you know how, everything else falls into place. Baby won’t latch? Perhaps they feel too distracted with the environment around them, or they could have wind, or they’re tired and cannot feed efficiently, or maybe it’s none of those things and it’s just one of those things! 

Dads can support Mums with checking a baby is latched correctly and learning what that looks like. For Mums who have limited mobility due to surgery, having an extra pair of hands to move herself and baby into a more comfortable position can be beneficial for her recovery and settling baby. When you’re due visits with the midwife or doctor, tag along and ask any questions you have, so you can be given the correct information to help you support your partner. 

Learn more: Common Challenges with Breastfeeding - What to do?

Mother providing nourishment to her baby with a secure and proper latch during breastfeeding

Feeding time equals quality time

Breastfeeding can make a bond between a mother and their child flourish and sometimes babies want to feed not necessarily because they are hungry, but because they want to be close. Nursing can take it’s toll on Mums because it takes a lot of energy to produce enough milk for their baby, as well as staying awake to feed them! 

Use feeding times to sit with your partner and spend quality time together. You will appreciate each other’s company and it’s an opportunity for you both to feel heard. When Mum’s finished feeding, Dad can burp the baby and have skin-to-skin time. 

Bottle feeding

You don’t have to introduce bottles to feel involved. Feeding your baby is one of the ways you care for them and in the early days, the demands they make on feeding times is can feel overwhelming but this settles down and becomes more routine. It is recommended that exclusive breastfeeding is established first and if you want to introduce a bottle, it is best to do this from 6 weeks. 

Expressing breastmilk gives Dads the opportunity to feed their baby and freeing up Mums time. Both parents can be involved with preparing, cleaning, and sterilising bottles, and managing stored breastmilk supplies. 

A supportive space for Dads

Dads also benefit from being involved in sessions with a lactation consultant so they can understand and support a mother’s choice to breastfeed. Aligning your goals beforehand and setting expectations will help you to both be on the same page so you know how to support each other throughout. 

Dads need advice and expertise from healthcare professionals, family, and the communities they have links with to help them fully engage in the whole breastfeeding journey. 

Examples of ways Dads can support their breastfeeding partners

Besides feeding, there are lots of different ways that Dads and partners can be involved in their little ones daily routine. Before you start scrolling the internet for answers to “what breastfeeding essentials do I need?” and “can you eat peanut butter whilst breastfeeding?”, take a glance through all of the lesser obvious ways that you can support Mum through breastfeeding. 

  • Help with breast pump preparation and ensure that there’s a clean, sterilised bottle ready to use. Two minutes can feel like a long time when you’re waiting for a bottle to sterilise in the microwave with a hungry baby in tow!
  • Do your homework on what helps a baby to latch and how you can support your partner to overcome any challenges they may experience whilst feeding. Having a partner to console and encourage you when you feel ready to give it all up will be more appreciated than you know. 
  • Share out daily tasks such as changing nappies, bathing your baby, dressing them, and settling them for sleep. It’s normal for babies to fall asleep on the breast but it’s best to settle them whilst they are semi-awake so they do not start to associate sleep with feeding and come to rely on this. 
  • Carry baby, whether it be around the house or enjoying skin-to-skin time. Not only will this help to build a bond between you and baby, but also give Mums body a rest whilst she recovers from surgery or other postpartum symptoms.
  • Make sure that Mum is comfortable and offer her company while she’s breastfeeding. During the night, you can choose to share the night feeds or simply ask if there’s anything she needs, e.g. a glass of water. 
  • Offer her a massage. I can’t think of many mums that would turn down that offer! Massage is a great way to relax and alleviate any breastfeeding pains and it can help to reduce engorged breasts or stimulate milk production.
  • Get clued up on how to store breastmilk safely and prepare it when Mum’s hands are tied. How do you thaw frozen breastmilk? How do you sterlise a breast pump? Finding the answers to these common questions as a parent new to breastfeeding will help you to feel confident when preparing for a feed. 
  • Cook or source nutritious meals featuring ingredients that are specially designed to help with milk production and slowly release energy. Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories and breastfeeding Mums will need to consume more to accommodate their baby’s feeding demands.
  • Be the support network she needs. Being a new parent can be a challenging time and having someone to lean on and encourage you can make a huge difference to your mental health and wellbeing. 
A joyful father cradling his baby in his arms, sharing a tender moment as the mother bottle-feeds the baby

Tips to get Dads involved in Breastfeeding

Partnerships are like a two-way street, you’re in this together and you need to support each other. There’s a lot that Dads can do to support a breastfeeding Mum but there’s also things that nursing Mum can do to support their partner through the breastfeeding journey too. 

Let him know why you want to breastfeed

Not everyone knows about the benefits breastmilk has for newborns and infants. For some Dads, the initial thought of a Mum choosing to breastfeed can trigger the “fear of missing out”. When in reality, it is very much the opposite! Talk through the benefits of breastfeeding together and get on the same page so you both know how you feel about it. Make an effort to learn about breastfeeding together so you can celebrate the highs and overcome challenges as a team. 

Should I introduce a bottle so my partner can feed the baby too?

This is a decision that you need to make together. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons and how it will impact your daily routine or lifestyle by choosing to express milk into bottles or not. Pumping breast milk in addition to feeding your baby exclusively does require more of your time as you will need to pump each time your baby has a bottle. However, the long term benefits are that others can feed baby to give you some down time, and if for any reason you cannot feed your baby or you are away from them at any point, there’s a milk stash ready to go. 

What are your breastfeeding goals?

Being clear from the start what your breastfeeding goals are and knowing why you want to breastfeed will help you to pull through the more challenging times during your breastfeeding journey and it will also help your partner to know how to support you through it too. Will you let them self-wean from the breast? How often do you want to give expressed milk, if at all? Let your partner know what’s important to you so you can celebrate the milestones together. 

Enlist him as your breastfeeding coach

We don’t mean that he needs to bouncing around you with high energy, performing a cheerleading routine during feeds (although that would be amusing!). When you’re both learning about breastfeeding and going on this journey together, having someone to support and encourage you throughout will help you when doubt starts to trickle in and your mental health needs a boost. 

Hands-on support

Especially if you are recovering from a c-section, or you’re feeling tender from interventions during labour, having your partner there to be hands-on will allow you to recover from the birth and rest. Simple things such as moving baby from the cot to your lap for a feed, or settling them in the night, or wearing them in a baby carrier so you’re not pushing a stroller around can make all the difference to your recovery postpartum. 

Encourage the relationship between Dad and baby

Especially in the early days, babies can spend a lot of time nursing as they will fluctuate between more frequent short feeds and fewer longer feeds. As they grow and develop, their bodies will demand milk to support this. With this in mind, when baby isn’t feeding, encourage your partner to take baby and have their own time with them so they can equally spend time developing a bond. 

Be his cheerleader

With the pivotal shift that’s happening in society now with more Dads staying home with their children and taking paternity leave to support Mums with a new baby, Dads also need to feel supported. The only way that the best care can be provided to babies is if both parents feel informed and supported.

The Role of Electric Breast Pump

Since breast pumps came into existence, Dads now have a new way of being involved in the breastfeeding journey and actively taking a role in feeding their baby. Having the opportunity to feed their baby can help to build the bond between them and they can share a special experience together. 

Electric breast pumps, compared to a manual breast pump, are more efficient at expressing breast milk and it is less work for nursing mums to stimulate the breast to encourage the flow of breast milk. A single electric breast pump also allows breastfeeding mums to pump on one breast whilst feeding on the other, which can be a big time-saver when you’re expressing milk for your partner to feed with later on. 

Lola&Lykke’s Smart Electric Breast Pump has a sleek modern design which allows mums to pump directly into a bottle or breastmilk storage bag, and then simply hand it straight to Dad to feed with, or store for later. The range of breastfeeding accessories that come with the single electric breast pump allow Dads to engage in the feeding experience. 

Mother pumping breastmilk with Lola&Lykke electric breast pump while  tenderly holding her baby

Benefits of involving Dads in breastfeeding

The bonding opportunity that Dads can experience by being involved in feeding their baby helps to establish a strong connection between the two of them, which in turn increases their involvement in their caregiving duties. Being able to share responsibility allows their partner to rest and have a break from feeding. Opportunities like this can be a way to relieve mums if they are experiencing any discomfort while feeding or they are spending time away from their baby for extended periods of time, e.g. returning to work. 

As Dads learn more about breastfeeding and become confident in the skills and techniques that it requires Mum and baby to learn, they are in a better position to offer support and understand how to help through challenging times. Skin-to-skin time between a mother and baby during feeds can help a baby to foster a feeling of closeness and a sense of security. Dads can replicate this by enjoying skin-to-skin time with their baby and their deeper voices and rhythm of their heartbeat can be equally soothing to settle baby.

In our e-guide “Becoming Dad“ we mention “A father’s involvement can have a positive impact on maternal wellbeing and coping abilities, pregnancy outcomes, parental roles and the child’s continued physical, mental, behavioural, social and emotional development”. 

Balancing Work and Parenthood

The conversation around rights to longer paid paternity leave are getting louder and slowly, employers are starting to recognise the ever-changing role Dads play in their family’s routine. One Dad took to Instagram to encourage new Dads to take any paternity leave they are entitled to so that they can enjoy the milestones and first moments with their partner. 

For Dads, just as much as Mums, it’s crucial to have flexibility in their work so that they can relieve themselves of the pressures of balancing work and childcare whilst navigating parenthood. There are more jobs now that offer flexible working setups such as hybrid or remote work options which can help Dads to be at home more and enable them to support their partners and children.  

Moving forwards, workplaces and employers need to recognise the increasing demands on working parents and incorporate family values into their workplace culture. By doing this there would be more workplaces that encourage Dads being involved in their partners breastfeeding journey, promoting a healthier work-life balance and stronger family connections.

Final thoughts

Parenting and breastfeeding certainly does not come to any new parent overnight. If you’re feeling unconfident or out of your depth in those early days, just know that you’re not alone and there are different resources and support available to new parents that you can tap into. 

As your baby’s Dad, you will help to shape their life in a unique way and no one will do it quite the same as you. With your two awesome parents by your baby’s side, you’ll navigate the journey together, hand in hand.