What’s dad’s role during the breastfeeding experience?

I’ve been hearing a lot of moms talking about their partners’ disconnection from the baby. It’s sometimes difficult for new dads to soothe their crying baby when they know the mom has the ability to put their baby to the breast and he will stop crying.

Breastfeeding moms are so tuned into their baby’s needs because they’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to breastfeed and calm their baby.

Recently, a mom described her baby in her husband’s arms, banging his head on her husband’s chest as if to say, “Give me back to my mom.” She takes the baby from her husband, rocks the baby, and he stops crying. The dad feels like a failure and the mom is worried the dad isn’t connected to the baby. She’s also afraid this isn’t good for their marriage.

It’s hard for parents to hear their babies cry and it’s so tempting for moms to step in and take over. Once breastfeeding is well established, I often suggest for the mom to plan a day when she leaves the house and leaves her baby with her partner. Let the dad and baby find their own rhythm. He will learn his own way of soothing and communicating with your baby. It will be different than yours but that’s a good thing as there are many ways to communicate with a baby. He doesn’t want to feel judged by you and a failure as a dad.

Here are some suggestions for partners: support the breastfeeding experience. This means, support your partner’s choice to breastfeed, find a lactation consultant if she needs one and be present at the visit. Wipe her tears away, give her hugs and remind her of what a great job she’s doing. After all, she’s feeding your baby the most magnificent of foods and giving your baby the best start for a healthy life.

I love when I do a consult and the dad is present. He will automatically be more involved if he’s there. Dads, remember that when you’re first home with your new breastfeeding baby, it can be tempting to do a little work from home. Please remember that if your mind is on your job, it’s not engaged with your new family. Working from home in the first weeks will only reinforce your disconnection. Both mom and baby need you. Don’t be afraid to step in and figure out your own relationship with your baby. This doesn’t need to include giving a bottle but once breastfeeding is well established, it certainly could. There are so many ways for you to feel connected to your baby other than feeding her. Sing to her, rock her, walk with her, and talk to her while you change her diapers.

Be patient, as you adjust to your new roles as mom and dad. It may take a few weeks or even months, but your beautiful new family will find the right balance.

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