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Dads’ Guide to Breastfeeding

Q: Everyone says that new mothers should breastfeed their babies but I’ve never really known why. Isn’t formula just as good for our child? And, I know this sounds nuts, but is there anything I can to do to stay involved while my wife is nursing? I feel so left out.

A: Before their babies are born, just about any expectant father you’d ask would say that breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby and that his partner should nurse their child for as long as possible. And why not, just consider some of these advantages:

Breastfed kids have a much lower chance than formula-fed kids of developing food allergies, respiratory- and gastrointestinal illnesses, or of becoming obese as adults. It is also thought to transmit the mother’s immunity to certain diseases. Diapers don’t stink–breastfed babies produce stool that smells almost sweet–especially when you compare it to the formula-fed kind.

After the baby comes, though, a lot of new fathers have a change of heart. It’s not that they don’t support breastfeeding–they still think it’s the best thing for everyone concerned. It’s just that the whole thing makes them feel left out.

Breastfeeding “perpetuates the exclusive relationship the mother and infant experienced during pregnancy,” writes Dr. Pamela Jordan, one of the few researchers ever to explore the effects of breastfeeding on men. As a result, it’s pretty common for new breastfeeding-spectator fathers to feel some or all of the following:

Studies of new and expectant parents show that they consider feeding to be the most important aspect of caring for an infant. And there’s no question that if your partner is breastfeeding you’re at a bit of a disadvantage in that regard. But just because she’s got control of the breasts and the food that’s in them doesn’t mean that you have to back off. There are a number of ways you can get involved in the process and help make breastfeeding as pleasant an experience as possible for everyone:

Armin Brott

A great dad himself, Armin speaks not only as a specialist in parenting, but as a parent himself. He has written several books including The Expectant Father and Fathering Your Toddler.