Breastfeeding: Through The Eyes Of Fathers
Throughout the month, we have brought you many amazing stories about the triumphs and tribulations of breastfeeding. You have seen inside the very heart and soul of the breastfeeding journeys of some of the Daily Mom writers, as well as many of our inspirational readers. Obviously, you know where we stand on breastfeeding. It is an amazing and nourishing gift that we Mothers are able to provide for our children. However, it isn’t always easy. Today, we share with you the other huge part of the breastfeeding equation: Fathers. They can play such a pivotal role in breastfeeding. Just as a mother does, they experience the fear, excitement and stress all in their own way. Check out what some of our own “Daily Dads” had to say about their take on this amazing journey. Get a good laugh and some awesome tips for helping Dad cope with this adjustment!
The Daily Dads On Breastfeeding
My daughter was born on a cold night in December. Despite all the books I read, Lamaze classes I attended, or advice I sought from family and friends – nothing could have truly prepared me for that night. I drove my wife to the birth center and within 90 minutes our daughter was in our arms. Everything changed. Everything was new.
I remember the first time I saw her. I remember her first cry. I remember watching my wife wrap our baby in her first blanket. I remember her first diaper. And one thing I remember, with vivid detail, is the first time my wife nursed our baby. The latch wasn’t secure, I’m sure the positioning wasn’t the best, but it was perfect. It was amazing to see her bring life into this world – and to sustain it. The next few weeks were a whirlwind, as it is for most new parents I imagine. I learned a new host of vocabulary in regard to nursing. I never knew of foremilk, mastitis, THRUSH…
This is one of my favorite memories – a small glimpse into the unique bond only a mother and child can share.
Over time my wife and daughter became more comfortable with nursing, and 20 months later they are a couple of pros. I will never know what it is like to nurse our daughter, but I remember the first time I gave her a bottle. Her tiny hands wrapped around my fingers, and occasionally she would pause and look up at me in the eyes. This is one of my favorite memories – a small glimpse into the unique bond only a mother and child can share. One sleepless night that winter I woke to find my wife nursing next to me in bed. I don’t know if she knew I was awake, but I laid there and watched the two of them in the dark. A mother and child – both providing an equivalent need to one another. It was peaceful. It was love.
I never thought I would see such a bond form right in front of my eyes between my partner and my daughter, through the breastfeeding experience. It was such a different experience for me to see humans interact in that way. I never actually thought about how breastfeeding makes a baby so dependent on her mother as a primary food source. I could see first hand how difficult and trying it was — both mentally and physically — for my partner to exclusively breastfeed our baby in the early stages. It was incredible to experience all of the things a couple does when they have a baby, and to experience the stress and challenges that came along with breastfeeding on top of that. In a weird way I feel like my bond with my baby and partner has grown through breastfeeding, and I am happy to be a part of that. I see how much my partner goes through and has gone through to breastfeed our daughter and I could never repay her for that.
Before our son was born my wife and I made the decision that our son would be breastfed. Given all the research we (my wife) did, we were certain that breastfeeding would offer optimal nutrients and an irreplaceable bond. What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be and I wasn’t even the one breastfeeding.
I still remember those first couple of days in the hospital as if it was yesterday. They were filled with love, excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and lack of sleep. I experienced an anxiety very difficult to even put into words when our son, Jadon, needed to be fed. It was a new process for all of us and I wanted to be as supportive as I could be. I recall how it easy it was when the lactation specialist was in the room with us and then how hard it was when it was just the three of us. It was both stressful and upsetting, at times, to watch my wife struggle and feel as though she was failing to provide for our son.
As a new parent to see your son cry of hunger and to watch your wife be so upset was very difficult.
When we left the hospital and brought Jadon home, things had only gotten slightly easier. However, there were still many times when he would have trouble latching on. As a new parent to see your son cry of hunger and as husband to watch your wife be so upset, was very difficult. Unfortunately, it led me to the suggestion that maybe we should just try formula. She, however, was firm in her decision and kept on trying. The next day we met with lactation specialist who suggested we purchase a breast pump to help with the engorgement which was hindering the latch. That was by far the best advice and best purchase we ever made!
From that point forward, breastfeeding slowly became easier and settled into a natural rhythm. It was amazing to watch it become such a natural act for my wife. I was so proud of her determination and it was amazing to watch her connecting with Jadon in such an inspiring way. Through all the struggles we had in the beginning the outcome was worth it all!
When we decided to start our family, the first decision we made was to breastfeed. And just like parenting, no matter how much you research, you don’t know what you are in for until that first precious day. Breastfeeding, for us, was really challenging. Like many babies, our son Graeme didn’t pick it up as easily as he picked up other tasks such as crying and pooping. Those first few days in the hospital (and weeks at home) were focused around getting him to latch and eat – 2am, 4am, 11pm – nurses’ hands everywhere – you get the point. But, Danielle and baby persevered enough to get the honorable discharge to go home. And then the fun started. That one good feeding seemed as far away as our family (across the country). But Danielle’s perseverance and will to make it work kicked into overdrive. We did everything breastfeeding from A to Z; trying different holds, guards, tag-team efforts, checking for tongue-tie, lactation consultations, and even supplementing with formula at times to ensure proper food consumption.
Between the lack of sleep and the fact our son was NOT on-board with breastfeeding, we kept encouraging ourselves to keep going. I would love to say it was all a team effort (easy to do when you are on the sideline cheering the bucco forward). But, honestly, it was Danielle. There she was every hour and a half to two hours around the clock with Graeme doing acrobats on her chest: Frustrated – rarely; amused – a little; determined – every hour; beautiful – always! And one day, it was just too much. I saw it in Danielle’s droopy red-eyes. The “how much longer can we deal with this look,” was staring me in the face. I didn’t want to give up. “That is not in my genes,” I thought. But little did we know, I wasn’t the only one to see that look. Graeme did as well. Maybe he was just ready, maybe it was a little ray of sun shine, but what it was to us, was relief and accomplishment. The old “you can do anything you put your mind to,” mantra rang forth. The three of us were put through what felt like a Navy Seals training exercise that tested, mind, body and soul, and we all passed.
After my wife got pregnant, she made it clear right from the start that she would be breastfeeding our daughter. It was never really a question for her whether or not she would do it. And it was never a question for me whether or not I should support the decision or not. It was her decision to make, and I would support her 100% on it. And after learning of all the benefits that I had no idea existed (because, really, why would I ever need to know them before now?) I was very much on board with the entire idea. Speaking frankly, it was a little strange for me to see at first. But that feeling quickly subsided after just the first feeding. It’s just such a natural thing, it never bothered me too much. Where I struggled the most was often feeling helpless. Here I was, a new father to a beautiful baby girl, and I couldn’t provide the most basic of her needs.
I coped by finding other ways to help. If my wife needed water, food, or anything else during the feeding I jumped at the chance to get it for her. When she was tired and needed a break from it all I was happy to care for our daughter until she was ready for another feeding. The biggest way I felt I could help was to simply be there for moral support when she was feeling discouraged or things were going less than perfect, as they inevitably do.
For any fathers or fathers-to-be struggling with feeling helpless like I did, my biggest advice is to just ask your partner how you can help. Sure you may not be able to be the one who physically feeds your child, but caring for your partner to make her experience more relaxed and enjoyable can go a long way and certainly indirectly affects your child for the better.
All in all I’d say our breastfeeding experience was relatively normal. Though admittedly I don’t have any other experiences to compare it to.
A Dad’s Short and Incomplete Guide to Breastfeeding
As told to Daily Mom by Jerald Wilkins
Author of the short book Things Not to Do or Say to Your Pregnant Wife
Staff Sergeant US Army
How to Cope When She Whips Them Out:
Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. It’s healthy for baby, cheaper on the bank account, reaps huge emotional benefits, and countless other arguments. Most dad’s are horrible at reading instruction manuals though, so even with all the reading material out there, we’re pretty clueless to what’s going on. Let’s be honest, when a mom exposes herself to feed her baby, our first thought isn’t, “What an interesting display of feeding and nurturing among homosapiens.” It’s much simpler: “BOOBS!”
Here’s a quick run down on a few of hurdles to expect, and how to clear them like a pro:
1) MAKE THE BOND:
Whether or not you realize what’s going on with your emotions, (yes you have them, too) jealousy will most likely show it’s ugly head at least once during breastfeeding. And it makes total sense when you think about it. As men, we have an instinctual urge to provide and be needed. Here is this tiny human, always crying, always in need, and there is very little we can do. Mom, however, always has the answer. Even if you could grow a set of breasts yourself, they wouldn’t provide the milk your little one is looking for, and you wouldn’t stop playing with them long enough to use them. So you need alternative means of bonding. The great thing about pumping is there is a supply of milk for Dad to work with. Take a meal or two during the day for yourself. Snuggle up with your baby in a comfy chair and get to bottle feeding. You can even try taking off your shirt, as the skin to skin contact is a huge part of the bonding that baby gets from Mom during feeding times. Fair warning though: if you both fall asleep, then you’re likely to experience the shock of gnawing gums waking you up at least once. It’s a rude awakening, and baby won’t be pleased by the sudden, unexpected, hairy feeding nozzle, but keep in mind that Mom deals with this all the time.
2) HANDS OFF:
Envy is a two-headed beast. Not only will you be jealous from the lack of bonding, you also deal with a regular intruder on what used to be your territory. Your beautiful wife’s breasts will never look fuller, larger and generally more magnificent than they will during this period. You might as well be a thousand miles away, because you’re stuck in ‘look but don’t touch’ mode. While it’s difficult to stop and think with such bountiful treasure within your grasp, consider the hell her nipples have been going through. She’s chapped, tender and feels like a dinner plate. Women deal with swollen ducts during breastfeeding, and if it’s been more than an hour or two, she’s probably full to bursting. None of that feels good. If you do get the green light, take it slow and easy. For the most part, plan on studying pictures of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and prepare to hit the summit next season.
3) SHARE THE VIEW:
This, by far, can be the most difficult hurdle for dads. Not only are mom and baby getting what you can’t have, chances are many people get to see what you can’t have. Whether you are for or against public breastfeeding, you should support mom’s decision here. All the changes and stresses over the last year or two, since conception, have taken their toll. Being comfortable is a rare commodity, so this is her choice. If mom decides that she wants privacy, help her find it. Buy her a privacy blanket that she likes, or a few of the comfortable specialty bras for feeding. Not only do you get bonus points, these can make a world of difference.
If baby feeding time is something she is at ease with doing in public, don’t lecture or make mom feel uncomfortable. If there’s someone taking a long gaze, don’t make a scene. Chances are you notice it more than she does. If you quietly move to another seat that blocks the view, she will likely never know.
Sidenote for Mom:
This doesn’t begin to cover all of the emotions and difficulties dad will go through, and what he deals with is miniscule compared to your trials. But as you truck through as super mom, remember the guy with the twinkle in his eye that helped start this adventure. Explain things to him, and be open about what you need. When it comes down to it, most of us dads are absolutely clueless, but we can be taught.
The final ingredient to any happy lifestyle is humor. Guys find it funny when we can mimic baby sounds and you leak. We’re not evil for giggling, we’re just immature and that likely will never change. The best defense it a good offense… I guarantee a dairy squirt to the eye will make him think twice.
These amazing journeys and “tips” as told by Fathers show the support and triumphs as well as the struggles and insecurities they can be faced with. However, breastfeeding can, at times, come without all of the support that mothers are in search of. There are times when women are faced with judgment, ridicule and disagreement. It is important to know that, if ever in this position, you are not alone and there are always places to reach out for people who support you!
The Breastfeeding Struggle
A different experience, as told by a reader
My husband was not breastfed as an infant. In fact, most of the children in his family were formula fed, so the idea of breastfeeding our baby was a little foreign to him. The idea of nursing a baby past 2 years old was really foreign. However, he knew how important it was for me to breastfeed and stood by me as I pumped every two hours around the clock for the first month of her life (our daughter was born 5 weeks premature). He especially enjoyed those weeks because he could feed her and bond with her. If it were up to him, I would have either continued pumping or started supplementing with a bottle to allow that bond to continue. However, I was anxious to disconnect from my breast pump and move onto nursing.
For the first year, and into the second year, he was very supportive of my decision to breastfeed our daughter. But as she moved closer to her 2nd birthday, conversations around weaning increased. “Maybe she’d eat better if she wasn’t nursing.” “Maybe she’d sleep better if she wasn’t nursing.” “Even your mother thinks you should wean.” And, my favorite, “She is NOT going to be one of THOSE 3 or 4 year olds STILL nursing!”
I’ve heard it all, but I continue to believe that she’ll quit nursing when she’s ready. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, if you find that your significant other or family members just don’t agree with you, know that you are not alone. Not everyone will completely agree with your decision to breastfeed, but if you follow your heart, you’ll never be led astray.
We hope that you enjoyed a little insight into what it is like to be on the “other” side of breastfeeding! Remember…it can be a joyous, as well as trying, time for everyone involved. Patience and perseverance is often the key to a long and successful breastfeeding relationship. To all the Fathers out there trying to help us in this journey, offering support and coming to the rescue when we are struggling, we salute you!
Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?
If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.
Tags: august breastfeeding month, babies who breastfeed, baby, breastfeeding, breastfeeding awareness, breastfeeding awareness campaign, breastfeeding baby, breastfeeding challenges, breastfeeding support, dads breastfeeding, dads supporting breastfeeding, daily dads, fathers, national breastfeeding awareness, newborn
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Jessica is a holistic health counselor and work from home mom living in the middle of nowhere USA with her sweet little boy! She suffers from a serious case of compulsive globe-trotting and is always counting the days until her next move or adventure. You can often find her trying to get in her exercise in by lunging through the park while chasing after her very energetic little boy! She is constantly fueled and energized by her love for healthy eating and occasionally copious amounts of caffeine.