It takes 3 to Breastfeed: 9 Practical Tips for “Breastfeeding Dads”
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Breastfeeding: one of the most physically, mentally, emotionally (hormonal!) experiences in my life, but also one of the most beautiful and rewarding things I’ve ever done. It also brought me closer to God, as I would constantly marvel at what my body was designed to do and meditate on God’s sacrificial love for us.
Sacrificial: whether breastfeeding or not, caring for a child is a beautiful, ongoing sacrifice. As for me and my first breastfeeding experience, I went through many ups and downs before reaching a smooth sailing experience, but thankfully I didn’t go through it alone. My husband supported and accompanied me since the beginning and I’m pretty sure he played a key role in the success of breastfeeding our little girl.
From the moment I got pregnant and started thinking about baby stuff, I knew I wanted to breastfeed even though I had no clue how to do it. However, I knew that breastfeeding was going to affect everybody in my home so I treated it like any other life-changing experience… I discussed it with my dear husband and we agreed to team up and go on this journey together.
And now that we have a newborn baby boy, we’re following the tips that helped me breastfeed our first born daughter for 2 years and 2 months - while I was working full time (outside my home) and was constantly traveling for work. So whether you’re pregnant with your first child, currently nursing for the first time or going down this journey with another baby, hopefully these tips can help all three of you (Mom, Dad, and Baby)!
Things to do together before baby arrives
1. Become well informed about breastfeeding. There’s a lot of information to learn and it takes a team to remember it all. With our first breastfeeding rodeo, we knew that we needed help –professional help – so we (both of us) enrolled in a breastfeeding course offered at our local hospital. We spent half of a Saturday having fun, while practicing with a doll and learning from an experienced lactation consultant.
And what are the key topics we suggest you learn? Learn about the benefits for both baby and mom, when and how to breastfeed, how to know if baby is eating enough, pumping and cleaning equipment, storing breastmilk, feeding baby with stored breastmilk, and potential challenges.
*Here are some online resources we use for more information:
2. Help mom choose a breast pump. There are many options out there, but not all are appropriate for mom’s lifestyle or your pocket. So what did we do? The same thing we do whenever we want to buy electronics or expensive items… read and compare products and reviews on Amazon, watch YouTube reviews and how-to-use videos together, and ask other friends about their experiences.
*Pumps we recommend:
Medela Pump in Style Advanced (Check with your health insurance. This is how I got mine)
Spectra S2 Plus Electric Breast Pump (Check with your health insurance)
Ameda Elite Electric Breast Pump (My all-time favorite - hospital grade pump. I would rent it from the hospital for building a quick breast milk stash before traveling for work.)
Medela Breastshield with Valve and Membrane Set (Make sure you select the appropriate flange size)
Medela Spare Valves (I replace these every three months)
Things Dad can do with baby once he/she arrives
3. Take on some tasks, especially during the night and early morning feedings. Both mom and dad are pretty much sleep deprived, but here’s where things get a little harder and mom’s physical and emotional balance gets rocky. So working together with my husband not only made things easier (bearable) but it also made me feel appreciated, loved and cared for. Here’s what dads can do: change the baby’s diaper before the nursing session, burp the baby, and hold your baby (help baby fall back to sleep and/or cuddle and walk with a fussy or colicky baby).
Things Dad can do for Mom
4. Provide plenty of encouragement. There were times in which I doubted myself: Am I doing this right? Is baby eating enough? If I do this, would it affect the baby? … and the list goes on. However, because my husband had been on this journey with me since the beginning, he had the knowledge and tools needed to offer me reassurance and make me feel confident.
5. Help mom get some extra sleep. Rest and sleep are foreign words – at least for the first few months of breastfeeding. But there are little things here and there that make a big difference, especially when there’s a cute little toddler around the house. My husband helps by getting up early in the morning and taking care of our toddler’s breakfast and morning devotional time… so if the baby allows, then I have an extra 30 minutes of sleep. He would also encourage me to take a nap in the afternoon, when possible.
6. Clean and sanitize bottles and pump parts. I started pumping several weeks before returning back to work and I have to say that, although I didn’t like the task (I don’t really enjoy doing the dishes, anyway!), it wasn’t that bad. However, it was a whole different story after going back to work. Pumping was really hard for me during the first month while my body was getting used to the pump and while trying to get as much milk as possible. That meant that I had to pump three times at home and three more times while I was in the office. I had three different sets of flanges… and many parts to wash all the time.
So how did dad help with this task? He made sure there was at least one clean set ready to be used. We also relied on our dishwasher a lot so my husband helped with loading all the bottles and parts, putting the parts in the sanitizer, and/or transferring those to the drying area. This doesn’t seem like much, but it sure helped me have more time with our daughter and do other things.
*Sterilizer we recommend:
7. Protect mom’s privacy. I’m all about being free and not cover myself while at home with my husband, but I’m not like that when there are other people around. However, I found it hard to be discreet during the newborn phase because I feel more comfortable looking at the baby to make sure baby’s position and latch is correct. So my husband had a very important role: act as my protector. We had a “secret code” and he knew just by looking at my face. He would redirect visitors to another area, politely excuse me if I wanted to leave, and even “defend me” when somebody made unsupportive comments about breastfeeding.
8. Help mom feel comfortable. Thank God for the nursing pillows! However, it takes more than that to get comfortable while you’re focused on feeding your baby because you can’t really go anywhere. Here dads can help mom with additional pillows (put some in the back for support), bring something to drink or eat, and reheat the coffee mug for the 5th time!
*Nursing pillows we recommend:
My Brest Friend Original Nursing Posture Pillow (My favorite! Great during the newborn phase)
Boppy Luxe Nursing Pillow and Positioner (Good to have for when baby is 3+ months)
9. Help with the feeding and diaper log. Pediatricians and lactation consultants encourage parents to keep a log of when you feed the baby, for how long, and count wet and poopy diapers, as this would indicate if your baby is getting enough breast milk. In summary, it’s a lot of information! The solution: we both downloaded feeding apps on our phones and created a shared account so that we could input data and have it available when needed. Here are the top three apps we recommend: 1) Baby Tracker - Newborn Log (iOS, Android); 2) Baby Feed Timer (iOS, Android); 3) Feed Baby (iOS, Android)
In summary: Team up because it takes 3 to breastfeed
Breastfeeding is one of the best things we can do for our children, but it requires a lot of time, effort, love, and support. For that reason, I want to encourage you (mom) to team up and work together with your husband (dad). After all, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 remind us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up…”
And what about you? Do you have any other tips for “Breastfeeding Dads”? Please drop a comment on our Facebook page if you do!