Guys: If your wife is breastfeeding your baby, be prepared: breastfeeding is one of the coolest, hardest, most interesting parts of being human. Moms get (and deserve) the glory for breastfeeding, but you have a role to play. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Breastfeeding is Really Cool
We’ve come a long way in creating modern baby formulas, but nothing compares with all natural 100% free-range human breast milk. It contains all sorts of compounds and nutrients that aren’t found anywhere else.
Your wife’s body will be able to tell how old your kid is and adjust the composition of the milk accordingly to provide their changing nutritional needs. And get this: if your wife feeds your newborn from one breast, and an older child from the other, the two breasts will work independently to produce the right type of milk for each kid! WHAAAAAAT?
Breastfeeding also provides awesome opportunities for your wife and baby to bond. It’s been really cool to watch little Josie bond with Amanda. I’m sure it’s a major reason they’re so close to one another. We adopted Josie, so Amanda had to induce lactation to breastfeed. (Yes, a woman can breastfeed even if she didn’t give birth!) Breastfeeding Josie really helped us catch up on the nine months of her life (in the womb) we missed out on.
2. It’s a lot of work
Breastfeeding: pop the baby on the boob and there you have it, right? Wrong.
All sorts of issues can prevent themselves along the way: latching issues, lip and tongue ties, supply issues, plugged ducts, and nipple blisters (ouch!) are just a few. And if this is your wife’s first time breastfeeding, she’ll be adjusting to having a new bodily function and its consequences (like getting comfortable nursing in public).
If your wife is inducing lactation, you can throw a whole other set of hurdles in there on top of it all.
3. Prepare to Feel Useless
Breastfeeding might be one of the hardest things your wife ever does, and it’s easy to feel like there’s precious little you can do about it. You can’t offer to step in a take care of that hungry baby yourself, because our bodies just don’t work like that. There will be times when the only thing your baby wants is a seat at the milk bar, and you need to be okay with that. You might feel useless, but you’re not. In fact, you’re vital to your wife’s success.
While you can’t help breastfeed, you can help your wife breastfeed. Here’s how:
Help Out in Practical Ways that Support Breastfeeding
- Give your wife pep talks when she’s feeling defeated by breastfeeding difficulties.
- Make sure to pack the nursing cover (if she prefers to use one) when you pack the diaper bag.
- Offer creative solutions to problems you run into while out and about with a hungry baby. (I asked and they don’t have a nursing room, but if we go over there, I could arrange the chairs and stand in a way that should give you some degree of privacy.)
- Make sure your wife is staying hydrated by refilling her water bottle and remembering to bring it with you when leaving the house.
- If she’s taking supplements to help her supply, be the one to refill her pill-box each week.
- If she’s pumping, take care of everything related to that you can. (Cleaning the pump, bottles, store the milk, etc)
Help Out in Practical Ways that Have Nothing to Do With Breastfeeding
(this will allow her to focus on feeding the kid)
- Change. The. Diapers.
- If using cloth diapers, do the laundry.
- Pack the diaper bag, and carry it when you go out.
- If utilizing donor milk, pick it up, thaw it out, prepare the bottles.
- Buy her some flowers.
- Communicate how much her mothering means to you and the family.
- Bathe the baby.
- Entertain the baby and give your wife a break.
- Cook dinner.
- Clean the house.
4. The F Word
Whether it’s supply issues, latching issues, crazy schedules, or something else, sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work out. While donor milk is an option, I’d wager most parents go the formula route.
If you’re feeding your baby formula, remember this: you’re not bad parents. Your child will not be messed up because they didn’t breastfeed. Your wife is probably going to feel this pressure more than you do. This is your time to be the man. Let her know it’s all going to be fine and screw anyone else who tells her differently.
Sure, your family won’t experience some of the cool things related to breastfeeding, but that’s okay. You’ll get to experience some of the positives of bottles like baby accepting a bottle from a babysitter more easily or Dad taking his turn feeding the baby.
Husbands: I hope this guide has served you well and given you a good start. Breastfeeding is crazy. You’re going to need to be present for your wife in ways you’ve never imagined. This is your opportunity to step up and be the man she needs. You’re going to do great.