I'm due in two-three weeks. I'd like breastfeed my son exclusively for at least a month or two (circumstance permitting). My question is: how do I include my husband in breastfeeding? We've talked about naked cuddling while breastfeeding because of oxytocin and skin contact. But I was wondering if there were any other ideas out there. I really want him to be included!
What a great question! Congratulations on your first baby and your decision to try breastfeeding. It's much harder than you think, but don't give up because it is very rewarding. Anyway, some ways your husband can help are:
Before feeding, dad can change the baby and get her undressed. It'll give him some skin time, and some face time. My kids used to light up on the changing table-they loved the one on one time.
While you are feeding, dad can stroke and tickle the baby to keep her awake. Newborns often struggle to stay awake to eat enough. Dad can get you some water, decaf tea, or whatever beverage suits you (because you should get in the habit of drinking fluids at every feeding to keep yourself hydrated and the milk flowing) and a snack to keep your hunger at bay.
When the baby is bigger, he could read, sing, or play an instrument to entertain a fidgety baby who doesn't want to finish a feeding because she's too busy.
After the feeding, you can have dad burp the baby, and if your child is like mine who had bowel movements at every feeding early on, change her again. Once the baby is burped, dad can swaddle her and put her to bed, or, set her up for play time (even newborns will have a few hours of alertness-hopefully it won't be at 2am.) Having dad put the baby to bed is a GREAT habit to get into now if you do end up breastfeeding exclusively because when the baby is older and you are trying to eliminate night feedings, she will already be used to dad doing the soothing.
When you aren't breastfeeding the baby, if your goal is to promote bonding, absolutely have dad and baby do some skin to skin time. Your husband can also wear the baby in a sling or harness while he goes about his day to get even more contact. (I think only slings can be used for newborns; harnesses usually require the baby to have control of her head) And finally, you can encourage dad to bathe the baby. (My husband showered with our babies as soon as their cord fell off. It was their special time together. All my kids loved being held in the warm water, until they got too big and squirmy, and we switched to baths, which my husband is still in charge of.)
My final bit of advice for how to involve dad in breastfeeding, which might be the most important, is to have your husband support YOU. Breastfeeding a newborn is very demanding, both physically and emotionally so it's important to have your husband there for you, encouraging you, taking care of you when you are too worn out to do it yourself.
Pumping is a great way to get the father (or non-lactating parent) involved with the breast feeding process.
Pumping provides most of the same convenience benefits that using formula provides:
- It allows the other parent to actively participate in feeding
- It allows the other parent to take care of the infant during sleeping hours, so that the lactating parent can get some much-needed rest
- It allows for feeding the infant during times when it's inconvenient to breastfeed (for instance, during traveling where you may not want to be in the cramped car/busy gas station/airplane when you stop to feed)
- It allows you to have more control over the feeding schedule by having bottles available even if the nursing parent isn't
Pumping isn't without drawbacks. For one, you have to acquire a pump and then all the bottle and storage accessories. It can add a significant initial cost that doesn't exist with solely breastfeeding. Another downside is that some women have a harder time producing as much milk from pumping as they do from nursing. These drawbacks can be mitigated by your choices such as purchasing more economical items, pumping more or less often as needed
The act of feeding a young infant can be a very positive bonding experience for both parents. Pumping allows for the other parent to be directly involved in providing sustenance to a cherished little one.
Yes, I intentionally wrote this answer (and some of my others) to also apply to for non-traditional family units.