Following on from Sunday night’s post about supporting your partner as she breastfeeds, we thought we’d share not only our own stories of how our husbands have bonded with the girls, but lots of tips from other folk. However your baby is fed, these tips will come in handy if Dad is feeling like he cannot help – remember that, often, having a baby will be the first encounter with a newborn (just as it might be for you). The whole thing can feel a little daunting…
Lauren: “I don’t know what kind of father I expected Fred to be, but as soon as our little girl was born, I could see the wonderment and love he felt at this new little being that had just been a wriggly tummy bulge for so long. It must be hard for dads to connect with their unborn child, as we are the ones feeling them grow, move, our hormones changing etc. But Fred used to chat to the bump, and help bond our unborn baby with the toy he hoped it would favour when it was born (pictured! And Elmo is luckily one of her THREE favourite toys). When she did arrive, rather than have her taken away while I went to theatre, he wanted to hold her and have her on his chest and make friends with this new little being he helped create. And I clearly remember him stroking the side of her head to help her sleep while we were in hospital, something he still does today.
“Some people think being the partner of a breastfeeding mum makes them redundant in those early days, weeks and months. But far from it. Milla slept on Fred, had lots of skin to skin contact, he bathed her, changed her nappies, stroked her arms as I fed, talked to her, read to her (yes, even in those early days), and I always tried to make sure he was the one holding her when we met friends and family so he could proudly present her. We also had lots of family time in
those early days, watching films and box sets while the new arrival slept.
“Milla and Fred are extremely close still at nineteen months. They read together, sing together, and Fred plays a very active role in helping Milla learn…words, counting, colours and so on. We also do do a bit of roughhousing which is great for bonding. And, when gaps between feeds became greater, they were able to venture out just the two of them for shopping trips, family visits, a (nap!) drive…whatever Fred fancied.
“Fred also has his own way of doing things with Milla, and I make sure that I don’t interfere with these as far as possible. There is (generally!) no right or wrong and dads should feel confident in their ability to care for and look after their children. I think this is really important, particularly in relation establishing and maintaining a bond.”
Fred says: “I’d never been one for babies. All that changed when our one rocked up and I instantly fell for her. Our first few hours together were great; while Mum was getting sewn up we just chilled together and time flew by doing nothing in particular (just being together was awesome), the next thing I know I’m getting chucked out at 3am because ‘visiting hours are over’. I couldn’t wait to get back and see her and the missus the next morning.
“On the breastfeeding front I never had a problem with it and I don’t feel the need to be the one feeding her. I also don’t view it as a bonding tool, we do loads together such as reading, playing music, singing and generally messing about, also no night feeds to worry about, result!
“I feel super close to her and we have a couple of Papa things such as bath time and I usually pick her up from nursery; her little face when I turn up is always of pure joy (probably thinking Yessss going home to Mama!)”
Jo: “From the moment Primrose was born (and even before then, thanks to hypnobirthing), her bond with Phil has been as clear as day. Short of giving birth himself, he couldn’t have been more involved in her birth, doing skin to skin as I delivered the placenta, and his support of our burgeoning breastfeeding partnership was nothing short of awesome (just as well because I found it incredibly hard in the first few months). If he ever felt sidelined or like he was missing out somehow, he never mentioned it, but I honestly don’t think he did – his priority was making sure I was OK and he took every opportunity he could to bond with Primrose.
In the early days, we would both be awake for those loooong night feeds: me, to feed; Phil, to keep me awake, wind her, change her nappy and, at 4am one morning, to get out the stain remover to try to remove the poonami from our duvet, carpet and brand new sheepskin rug. We were in it together, no ‘him and us’, just ‘us’. He was also the master of soothing her with the ‘colic hold’ (whereas I thought I was going to drop her) and bicycle legs to soothe her tummy. When I took her to baby massage classes, he learnt all the techniques from me and massaged her every night before bed. He would often do duty (we live in a school boarding house) with Prim in a stretchy wrap, meaning that I could have a bath or a nap, or just a little time to myself.
As the newborn days segued into the six month mark, we made the decision to do Baby Led Weaning and eat together as a family every night so we had guaranteed time together each day. Bathtimes are also Daddy’s domain. In fact, if I ever give her a bath, I hear ‘Daddy?’ on a loop – baths just aren’t as cool without him, apparently. Until recently, he would get her ready for bed and pass her to me for stories and milk. Since we stopped breastfeeding, either of us does bedtime – we’re interchangeable!
The relationship and bond they have makes me feel very at ease about the arrival of Primrose’s brother in a few months – her attachment to both of us is as secure is it can be so, hopefully, the adjustment won’t feel to huge for her. Plus, the shouts of “Daddy! Daddy! DADDDDDDDDDDDY!” when she hears our front door open are just about the cutest thing I see/hear on a daily basis.”
Phil says: “I went to every antenatal class other than the ‘Bringing Baby Home’ session. This was important for me, as it helped me to get my head around a new arrival to our family. I remember speaking to Jo about whether I needed to bother with the breastfeeding one, as I didn’t think it would apply to me. I was proven wrong, with key points about how to help Primrose latch early on and some signs to look for as to whether she was feeding properly.
When Primrose arrived, being heavily involved in the birth thanks to our hypnobirth classes meant I felt part of everything from the word go. In the first few days I was able to help using the pointers we learnt about breastfeeding and my job of tickling Primrose’s feet to keep her awake whilst feeding kept me involved. I could look at the way she was feeding to see whether they are swallowing fully after the let down, meaning I could reassure Jo if she was feeling uncertain. Once they’d had got the hang of feeding I didn’t feel like a spare part as I had plenty of other things to do… nappies, baths, babywearing. And I don’t think our kettle or washing machine have ever worked so hard & I was more than happy to help to keep them both well looked after.
When Jo started expressing, I kept the parts clean & was able to feed Primrose from a bottle on the occasions that Jo needed to go out. This was a nice time, just the two of us, but I never felt like I missed out on any bonding time by not regularly bottle feeding. It was more important to me that Primrose and Jo bonded and that Primrose got all the nutrients she needed. I was able to still have plenty of skin to skin time and my favourite times were our ‘tree frog’ cuddles with Elvis (our cat) for company too.
This time doesn’t last long and I wouldn’t want to rush it away.”
Some lovely stories of bonding from the mamas in our local BF support group:
S: “My husband settled baby in the night when feeding didn’t work. He got up in the mornings to have an hour or two of one to one with baby. Baby wearing. Bath times. Story time. Teeth. PJs. When we started Baby Led Weaning we started with dinner both times so daddy was around during those important firsts.”
S: “E’s dad is in charge of bathtime. He also gets up first with her every other day, gives her breakfast and gets her dressed. He has also done a few bedtimes when I’m not there, reading her a bedtime story and giving her a drink from a cup. In the early constant boobing days, he would often take her out for a long walk between feeds so I could get some rest.”
J: “He would always get up with him in the morning to give me another hour or so of sleep, and he used to love those quiet cuddly times just the two of them. In the very early days he did everything other than feed: nappies, baths, cuddles, stories and songs. He also liked baby wearing.”
G: “Bath time and then when we did Baby Led Weaning he did all meals too.”
N: “Bath time, Baby Led Weaning, nappy changes, 2am colic cuddles, baby wearing, taking baby for a walk whilst mum rests or plays with sibling. Also, dads can snuggle up next to mum and baby whilst boobing and enjoy the cuddles too.”
C: “For me, with my new baby, my husband would take him after a feed so I could get an hour or so in bed before the next feed and same first thing in the morning. He also did all the initial nappy changes and was with him in NNU (he spent his first 24 hours there) when I was recovering from my section. Also, If you have a newborn and you are feeding all the time it can be a good time for dads to really bond more with older siblings.”
K: “My husband would put baby to bed after I’d fed him. When he wouldn’t sleep, hubby would babywear him round the house while I slept and he did nappies, nestime routine and settled him at night. My son has a fantastic bond with his dad. He is such a Daddy’s boy and looks all over the house for him when he’s at work.”
And a response to Sunday’s article by a Dad, after it was shared by Dr Amy Brown at Breastfeeding Uncovered.
Mike: “As you know, I’m a father of a breastfed baby, and a partner of a breastfeeding mom. My advice to other partners of mothers who are thinking of (or currently are) breastfeeding is to follow the mother and baby’s lead. Get involved with the breastfeeding. You won’t be shut out of the feeding process, and you won’t form any less of a bond with your child. I’ve seen literally no negatives from breastfeeding of our child, except for occasionally having to swap the side of the sofa that the tea is on. Offer support and encouragement. Have a post-boob-nap snuggle with a waking baby and you’ll never forget the look on their sleepy little face… I think one of the issues is that, quite often, it is the negative viewpoints that get shared. That just leads to people feeling doubts and pressures from all sorts of angles, when actually the vast majority is good. Sure, breastfeeding, can be hard at rare times, especially for mum, but really most of it is great (or even just downright uninterestingly normal)!”
(We’re hoping this #belikemike hash tag will catch on.)
Other helpful resources:
A great article from the BBC, about the involvement of Dad’s in things like reading, play and risk taking, right from the word ‘go’.
Breastfeeding for Dads and Grandmas (times and advice have moved on a lot since our mothers (and grandmothers) had babies, so it’s helpful to be able to point your entire tribe of BF supporters in this direction.
Forward Thinking Fatherhood: A great blog by another Dad of a breastfed baby, and the bond they share.
Finally, if you prefer your useful information in video format, Swansea University have created this and it’s brilliant!
Love, The Mother Side xx