When baby arrives there is one ball that can seem solely in mom’s court: breastfeeding. As a father of three breastfed children (a four-year-old and two-year-old twins) with another one on the way, I understand this dilemma. But after thousands of feedings and three years working as an engineer for leading breastpump manufacturer Medela, I have a few tips for dads who are anxious to get in the game.
Be a cheerleader. Before baby arrives, understand the value of breastmilk. For baby it means fewer ear and respiratory infections, and is also associated with lower risk of asthma, obesity, diabetes, childhood leukemia, and SIDS. For moms: lower risk of breast cancer and lower rates of diabetes and ovarian cancer. If mom hits roadblocks, remind her of the big picture.
Investigate. Check with your employer and insurance company to see if they have a reimbursement program for breastpumps. Yes, dads’ employers can provide lactation support, too.
Pack up. As you pack the hospital ready bag, make sure a breastpump, nursing bra, bra pads, lanolin, and cleaning accessories are on your check list. These may come in handy if breastfeeding gets off to a rocky start in the hospital, plus a nurse or LC can provide instruction on how to put it all together. Stay and take notes–your wife will appreciate your new-found mechanical expertise the first day she needs to pump sans LC.
Tag team. With the twins, my wife was too sore from her C-section to nurse both at once, so while one ate I was comforting the other—even during the night feedings. This goes if baby has older sibling(s), too.
Give her a break. Remind mom to pump a few bottles after breastfeeding is well established. This allows you to take a feeding or two and lets her go to lunch with a friend, take a nap or simply rest and enjoy watching you bond with baby.
Roll up your sleeves. Help clean the pump parts. New products make the process much easier than typical dish duty; label and appropriately store breastmilk; and keep track of your breastmilk stockpile.
At first glance, breastfeeding may seem a woman’s domain, but a supportive father is incredibly important. If you take these steps you can take pride in knowing that you played a vital role in reaching your family’s breastfeeding goal.
Ryan Bauer works as a Medela Engineering Team Lead and is a father of three.