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Fathers, Breastfeeding & Bonding

By Dr. Lucas Godinez, DO, IBCLC

Reprinted with permission from the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh

At the special moment a baby is born a lot of changes occur instantly.  For the father, new relationships and responsibilities begin.   They transform from being a husband and “expectant” father to the husband and “new” father.  Their role in the family dynamic becomes structured with guidance, strength, teaching, leadership, support and encouragement.  They must nourish and love more than one person and divide their time into multiple unpredictable circumstances.  As a father of three children myself, fatherhood is the most wonderful, frustrating, exciting education to embrace.

Photo by Ben Heine via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Ben Heine via Flickr Creative Commons

One of the first important decisions to make as a father and mother is to choose the nutrition for your baby.  Breastfeeding is the best natural way to feed an infant to help them grow.  This essential nourishment also causes change for the father.  It “continues the exclusive relationship the mother and infant experienced during pregnancy” as stated by Pamela Jordan (She is a researcher and associate professor in Department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington.)  However, a father may feel inadequate because he cannot provide his own nutrition and does not know how to even assist with feedings.  The baby’s nutritional needs can begin to physically interfere with a father’s intimate desire with the mother.  What fathers need to learn is how to support breastfeeding and to develop their special bond with the child.  As Anne Altshuler (RN,MS,IBCLC, LLL Leader) states “a father is the first person to teach his baby that love doesn’t have to come with food.”

Ways to be there for mother and baby:

  • Love and nourish your baby’s mother.  Mother’s physical wellbeing will help her milk production and longevity of breastfeeding.  Listen intently and offer encouragement when necessary.  Be patient if the mother is less interested in intimacy after the baby is born.  Hormones, tiredness, anxiety can lessen their physical desires.
  • Take over mother’s chores and responsibilities when she cannot perform them and be there to help out whenever you can.
  • Help the mother with breastfeeding – your eyes can make sure the infant is latching appropriately at the breast (I tell dads to look for the fish lips of the infant) and you can help position the baby for the mother.  Often times, you can get an extra pillow to make it just right.
  • Talk and sing to your baby.  A baby can recognize your voice at birth and hearing is one of their most precious senses in infancy.  Take the opportunity to read or tell stories.
  • Hold your baby any moment you can and providing skin-to-skin contact will enhance other senses – touch and smell.  Baby carriers or slings can free up your hands to do other things and allow the baby to experience what dad is doing.  Holding the baby to sleep/nap allows them to feel your heartbeat and the rhythm can be mesmerizing/soothing.
  • Bathe your baby and get a little wet yourself.
  • Change diapers.  Diaper duty begins in the hospital with the first meconium poops the baby makes.  Make it a fun experience – opportunity to talk and laugh face to face with the baby, challenge/perfect your techniques and efficiency with changing a diaper, learn about/appreciate smells (sometimes challenging how long you can hold your breath to avoid the smell).
  • Become the go-to-person for the other children in the family – they need time to adjust to a new baby and its distractions for the mother.  Your relationship with your other children can become stronger and deeper with this opportunity.

Enjoy being a father and embrace the new roles with it.  The more supportive you are of mother and baby the longer breastfeeding will be and the more confident the mother will feel about their ability to do so.

Dr. Lucas Godinez

Dr. Lucas Godinez graduated from the University of Dallas and went on to complete his medical degree at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his Pediatric residency at the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh and immediately joined Kids Plus Pediatrics in July 2004. He is board certified in Pediatrics and is also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Association. His special interests in medicine include breastfeeding medicine, preventative pediatric medicine, sports related injury including concussions, and osteopathic manipulative treatments. When not at work, he enjoys fishing, gardening, biking, and carpentry, but most of all he enjoys “being a kid” with his three children.

 

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Care for a Virtual Cuppa? Australia’s first Online Breastfeeding Café launched.

Written by Maddy Knight

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has welcomed the newest addition to its stable of services for breastfeeding families, the Online Breastfeeding Café(OBC).

With so many blogs on the web about breastfeeding (ILCA’s Lactation Matters recently referred to BlogHer’s study where over 98% of respondents said they trusted the information they received on blogs), the Online Breastfeeding Café has been developed by the ABA as an online community where users can share, discover and chat with guaranteed reliable, up to date information.

The OBC also has families in mind. This means the inclusion of  an additional men’s parenting section and private, log-in only forum for Dads.

The new site was launched on behalf of NSW Minister for Health, the Hon. Jillian Skinner by State Member Roza Sage at Glenmore Park Child and Family (NSW real estate Australia) precinct on Tuesday 26 June. Also present at the launch were Cr Greg Davies, Mayor of Penrith and Todd Carney representing Federal Member the Hon. David Bradbury.

The Online Breastfeeding Café was three years in development and was designed with Generation Y parents in mind, knowing that for today’s families both mums and dads want to share in the breastfeeding and parenting journey.

“The OBC can help make sure mother’s and fathers both have a place to go to ask and share about their experiences. It really helps them to parent from the same page” says Nicole Bridges, Australian Breastfeeding Association Assistant Branch President.

“These days dads aren’t passive breastfeeding supporters, they want to know what’s going on and how they can help and support mum in any way they can. If she’s happy then the whole family is happy.”

The Online Breastfeeding Café features many of the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s reliable resources and information, but packaged in a new, vibrant and easy to use website that compliments its existing website.

The concept of the breastfeeding café as a physical venue first took off in the UK a couple of years ago. The OBC is the first attempt to take the concept of a comfortable, relaxed place to share and chat about breastfeeding and turn it into an online community.

A café theme runs through the website, with areas such as The Breastfeeding Couch, full of great tips, latest articles and breastfeeding videos; a dad’s-own section of the website aptly titled Dad’s Espresso Bar; great stories and inspiration in A Cuppa and a Read, as well as a long list of popular tools such as finding your local breastfeeding-friendly café.

More features of the Online Breastfeeding Café:

  • Most asked breastfeeding questions, and tips on making breastfeeding easier.
  • How to find your local breastfeeding class or breastfeeding-friendly café or lactation products.
  • Information on breastfeeding and returning to work.
  • The latest breastfeeding articles from the ABA and other trusted sources.
  • Great forums to get involved in, including a general/mum’s forum and completely private Dad’s forum.
  • In “Dad’s Espresso Bar”, a new father can find some practical ways to develop his own special unique bond with his baby even though mum does the breastfeeding. He can also chat with other dads in a private forum about some of the unique concerns of fathers.

The Online Breastfeeding Café also has forums that are fully mobile (containing every post) so you can take it with you and have a virtual cuppa and chat with other parents, all while you enjoy your latte at your local breastfeeding-friendly café.

We would love new mothers (and dads) to know all about this great new online community.

Log in today at www.onlinebreastfeedingcafe.com.au or contact the community manager@onlinebreastfeedingcafe.com.au for more information.

Maddy Knight is Project Director of the Online Breastfeeding Café. She is an experienced journalist, media advisor, publicist and graphic designer and has worked extensively with non-profit organisations including the Australian Breastfeeding Association. The Online Breastfeeding Café was her brainchild for which she developed the website plan and layout, edited and wrote much of the content and even designed the logo and slogan. She spends her spare time singing and writing her blog Bondi Sourdough 101. She lives in Bondi Beach with her husband and cat, Luna.

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The Breastfeeding Team

Fathers influence mothers’ breastfeeding decisions and experiences! Fathers’ perceptions of their roles as members of the breastfeeding family are probably important components of that influence. Previous studies asking men directly about their breastfeeding-related roles have predominantly focused on the “dark side” of the father’s experience – particularly their limited ability to nurture and bond with their babies. Our study more fully explored fathers’ experiences by interviewing twenty-one involved fathers of breastfeeding babies about fathering a breastfed baby and about their role in the breastfeeding family.

Fathers identified their unique roles as team members ensuring that their babies received the benefits of breastfeeding. When asked “What is it like to be the father of a breastfeeding baby?” fathers generally focused on the pleasure of knowing that their baby was obtaining the benefits of breastfeeding and their role in supporting the breastfeeding mother. They frequently used the term “we”, suggesting their roles as integral members of the breastfeeding team and characterized themselves as the supporting cast member to the mother’s starring role. One father summed up his role as “…a support person…almost like a checking line as opposed to scoring line. She’s doing the big good stuff and I’m just supporting her to get that done.”

A primary fathering role was supporting breastfeeding by learning about breastfeeding both with the mother and independently. Some fathers became the mother’s memory when she could not take in all the advice she was being given and others used their knowledge of breastfeeding resources to encourage mothers seek out professional breastfeeding support when needed. As well, many fathers supported breastfeeding by sharing housework and childcare and some provided assistance “in the breastfeeding moment” by facilitating mothers’ comfort during breastfeeding or assisting with the use of breastfeeding equipment.  Perhaps most importantly, fathers supported the breastfeeding mother by valuing her and by trusting, respecting, and supporting her personal choices.

Fathers insisted that being the father of a breastfeeding baby was not unique in general, but they often identified their own special ways of nurturing and fostering positive father-infant relationships as they “waited their turn” to bond with their babies through feeding. Some fathers chose to be involved while the mother was breastfeeding so that they could bond while the infant “is still in the feeding zone.” Others developed rituals for spending time with baby or found their own masculine way of nurturing, such as holding their infant with their strong arms and talking to the infant in their deeper voice. These supportive and nurturing behaviors were not seen as compensating for the “dark side” of breastfeeding, but as important contributions in their own right.

Many fathers want to be involved in the lives of their breastfeeding children. Health care providers should be encouraged to acknowledge fathers as members of the breastfeeding team and engage fathers in learning about breastfeeding and the many possible forms of breastfeeding support. Each father should be encouraged to communicate with his partner about her goals and desires for breastfeeding and regularly negotiate the type and amount of involvement both parents want the father to have. We suggest that fathers should be presented with the range of possible supportive behaviors and empowered to explore and determine their own unique roles as an integral part of the feeding process in which, although they may be the “supporting actor” and the mother the “star”, both roles are essential and worthy of acclaim.

Lynn Rempel, RN, PhD

Associate Professor, Chair,

Department of Nursing

Brock University

lrempel@brocku.ca

Rempel LA, Rempel, JK. The Breastfeeding Team: The Role of Seo Services Involved Fathers in the Breastfeeding Family J Hum Lact. 2011:27;115-121.

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