If your partner has made the decision to breastfeed, there are some things you should be aware of so you can support her during this very special time.
Sioned Hilton, Lactation Consultant at Medela UK, has over twenty of years of experience working with breastfeeding mums and has some excellent tips for dads.
The first three weeks
In the beginning, the most important thing is for Mum to get breastfeeding established. Sioned advises that the best way to do this is by letting your partner exclusively breastfeed for the first three weeks day and night. Just because you aren’t physically involved with the feeding, doesn’t mean you can’t help out – jobs for Dads can be to make sure she has plenty of water to hand whilst feeding, that she’s comfortable and gets the chance to grab a nap when the baby is sleeping.
As your partner will be doing all the feeding during these first few weeks, a great option is to try and find something special you can do with your little one. For example, take charge of bath time, winding (burping) or dressing your baby. You can also be the one to take the baby out for a spin in the car if they’re unsettled.
Skin-to-skin contact is also a great way to bond with a baby, but it’s not just for mums. Skin-to-skin triggers the hormone oxytocin which is associated with love and caring – try it out for yourself, but remember to pop a nappy on the baby first!
It’s also worth remembering that when you’re out and about with your new baby it’s likely your partner will need to feed your little one. Find a quiet, friendly spot and enjoy a coffee together; if you feel comfortable and confident, she will relax knowing that you are supporting her. Keeping calm will also help her to latch with minimal fuss and your new baby will happily enjoy a feed regardless of what is going on around you all.
Things to remember at this stage:
Even one or two bottle feeds of formula can affect mums milk supply especially if these are evening and night feeds.
The hormones that control milk production are at their highest at night.
64% of breast-feeding babies have both night and day breastfeeds with 44% of their milk intake during the evening and night.
If your baby isn’t feeding well seek advice from a local breastfeeding group or national help lines from NCT, ABM, La Leche league or even drop a post on the Medela Facebook page.
Don’t overdo it with the visitors; this is special time for you as a family to adjust to an entirely new routine. Enjoy it while you can.
Three weeks and beyond
Of course, Dads cannot breast-feed but once mum is established in her milk production, baby is feeding well and gaining weight, Mum can start expressing. Start with just one breast until mum is more aware of her feeding pattern and frequency. Don’t worry too much about the volume of expressed milk – it’s what’s in it that makes it liquid gold! Check out this picture which shows you exactly how much milk babies really need.
Here are some great expressing tips you might like to share with your partner:
Try expressing from the left whilst you feed from the right, or vice versa. The skin-to-skin contact and act of feeding will stimulate more milk to flow.
If you are expressing away from your baby, have a photo or an item of their worn clothing to hand or something that reminds you of them, this will also make it easier for you.
Find a time to express that you know your baby is most settled between feeds – many mums find this to be mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
Your body is very clever and works with you to ensure that baby will always have enough milk. Expressing milk will not affect your supply or use up milk for later feeds!
Single pumping tip: When you pump one breast at a time, switch from one side to the other several times.
Massage your breasts before and occasionally during pumping to encourage you let-down and milk flow
Expressed milk can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 6 months. Once removed from the freezer use within 24 hrs. Make sure you use it all in chronological order.
Once you’ve got expressing cracked, you can give a few feeds with something like the Calma Feeding Device – this means that mum and baby can continue to breast-feed with a smooth transition between breast and bottle, but remember that if dads have a turn at feeding mum will still need to breast-feed or express so that she doesn’t get engorged!
Good luck and remember Dads are always welcome at the Medela Drop in Clinic every Tuesday between 8.30 am and 5.30pm and the Breastfeeding Café on the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm – both are virtual events held on their Facebook page.