A Dads Guide to Breastfeeding

A DAD’S GUIDE TO BREASTFEEDING

So you and your partner are considering to breastfeeding your baby. Well, don’t fall into the trap of just assuming that because you don’t have breasts, feeding will be just “mum’s ‘job”! You should know that your opinion, input and support throughout the process is fundamental, and it can really help to shape your baby’s feeding journey in more ways that you can imagine! Studies show that mums whose partners are supportive of breastfeeding feel a lot more confident in their ability to feed their baby and also go on to breastfeed for longer, so it’s really important that you know the basics, understand your role and know how you can support your partner.

Breastfeeding benefits:

When making the decision to breastfeed, it’s important that neither of you feels pressured to do so. You should talk about how you both feel about breastfeeding your baby, and it might be good for you both to consider the nutritional and health benefits to both mum and baby.

For baby:

• Breast milk is the perfect food for baby – it changes composition and calories content throughout the day, and it meets baby’s nutritional needs perfectly, in a way that cannot be replicated by formula milk.
• Antibodies are passed from mum to baby through breast milk, and this can help them fight infections a lot easier.
• A breastfed baby is less likely to have diarrhoea, constipation and vomiting.
• Breast milk also reduces the risk of chest and ear infections, eczema and obesity in later life.

But there are also health benefits for mum!

• Did you know that breastfeeding significantly lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer?
• Breastfeeding uses up approximately 500 calories per day, so it can also help some mums to re-gain their pre-pregnancy shape a lot quicker.

And let’s be honest, breastfeeding can be quite a ‘convenient’ choice for your family as a whole – the milk is always there, ready when needed, and at the right temperature. You don’t need any equipment, preparation and sterilisation time (and that can only be a bonus when baby wakes up for that 3am feed), and it doesn’t cost you a penny either!

So if it’s good all round, where’s the catch?

Preparing and making it work:

As natural as it may seem, breastfeeding is a learned skill, for mum AND for baby! It takes some time (a few weeks) for mum to feel comfortable and confident in her newly learnt skill, and you will play a massive role in how she feels.

If you want to help and make it easier for your partner from the start, the best thing you can do is to prepare.

Make sure that, together with your partner, you learn how breastfeeding works. Yes, you read that right. Learn all about colostrum, foremilk and hindmilk; learn about feeding on demand and about latches and positions (or holds). If your partner is attending a class or course, make sure you go along, and if not, be ready to look for some inclusive classes in your local area.

You knowing your facts will pay dividends later as, whenever your partner is feeling unsure and not 100% confident, or if she experiences discomfort and pain, she’ll know you’ll be there to help her. And she’ll trust that even if you don’t have all the answers, you’ll know how to get help.

So make sure that you use your midwives and health visitors whenever you can in those early days, and arm yourself with a list of helplines (listed below) which will give you access to organisations who can support you and your partner in your journey.

Top 10 breastfeeding tips for dads:

So, once your baby has arrived and mum has started breastfeeding, how do YOU fit in? How can YOU practically help?

1. First things first, remember that when it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting, everyone has an opinion! Be prepared to be the one defending your family’s feeding choices in front of not-so-understanding family and friends who either don’t agree with your methods or decide to share well-meaning (but unsolicited) tips and advice.

2. Being positive about breastfeeding is crucial, so make sure that you compliment mum and tell her how proud you are of her and how well she’s doing. You’re doing this as a family, so try and fend off any negative comments coming from anyone else who doesn’t appear as supportive as you are.

3. All that preparation that you did in advance will come in handy now – be prepared to know how important a good latch is, for both mum and baby, and help your partner to get herself comfortable and well supported whilst feeding so that she can achieve a latch that she feels happy with.

4. Remember that for most mums, breastfeeding can take some practice at first. Make sure that mum is comfortable and well supported wherever she decides to feed the baby. Babies are all different in the way they feed, and whilst some of the feeds will be really short, others can be quite long, so it’s important that mum is comfortable in the position that she has chosen and that her back is well supported. If she’s feeling self-conscious when feeding, help her to find privacy in the house by keeping visitors at the door when you know that baby needs a feed or by helping her to use a muslin, sling or breastfeeding scarf or cover, if she wants to feed and cover herself in front of visitors or when in public.

5. Also, breastfeeding is thirsty work, so make sure that once she’s settled herself comfortably for a feed she has plenty of water to drink.

6. Breastfeeding mums need an extra 300-500 calories per day when breastfeeding, so make sure that she doesn’t skip meals. If baby wants to feed when you’re having lunch or dinner let them! Just make sure that you allow mum to eat as well, by helping cutting her food up so she can feed herself with one hand.

7. Give mum a break and a rest from time to time – resting is fundamental for a breastfeeding mum, especially in those very early days. You can take care of nappy changing, give the baby a bath, take the baby for a walk, or just enjoy some skin-to-skin time by taking your shirt off and holding your baby close to your chest (you can just hold the baby or place them in a sling or a carrier, even if it’s just to walk around the house).

8. In the night, help mum by going to get the baby for her when they need a feed. Why not helping her to burp the baby and settle baby back to sleep after the feed? You may find that this is actually a lot easier for you to do, rather than your partner, as baby won’t be able to smell the milk on you and may settle a lot quicker!

9. If you have other children, guests or visitors around the house make sure to keep them entertained whilst mum is feeding, so she can focus on feeding the baby in peace.

10. Try not to be jealous of that feeding bond that mum has with the baby, but rather celebrate it! You’re doing this as a team, and your support IS crucial! Once the first few weeks have passed and the breastfeeding relationship feels strong and ‘established’, you can always give your baby a bottle of expressed milk, but hopefully you’ll have seen how much more you can actually do for your breastfeeding partner and your baby!

Useful Helplines
UNICEF UK baby friendly Initiative
0844 801 2414, 020 7375 6052 or 020 7375 6144
NCT Breastfeeding helpline
0300 330 0771
The Breastfeeding Network and National Breastfeeding Helpline
0300 100 0212
La Leche League
0845 120 2918
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
0300 330 5453

Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Campaign (Is it enough?)

Straight off, let’s be clear, I am 100% behind the Mumsnet Miscarriage Care campaign… Time and again we work with parents who have been treated with such a lack of compassion ,that quite frankly, it is inhumane.

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BabyBjorn One Review

one meshLast year I was fortunate to attend the launch of BabyBjorn’s latest offering to baby wearing in the form of The Baby Carrier One. I was intrigued by what I saw as a move away from the traditional carriers that BabyBjorn have always been synonymous with and took the opportunity to really explore the carrier and also talk to the designer. Continue reading

Stokke : The Dads Audit

Continuing the series on brands and dads, today I conducted my audit of Stokke to see if I felt they were using positive images of dads in their marketing and whether they were supporting their involvement. This is not about product review, this is about the company and their inclusion or not of dads in their marketing.

Before conducting the audit of their website I had a preconceived idea of what I expected to find and must confess I was wrong.

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Premature Babies. Three dads share their journeys! (part I)

Some recent occurrences and discussions have led me to ask some questions.

In 2010/11 of 522,000 births with a known gestation length, 35,775 babies were born at 36 weeks or before, 28,489 were born in their 37 week. Now officially a premature baby is defined as one born before their 37th week of pregnancy.

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Life with a new born, things to expect!

As some of you will know, amongst other things, I am quite a twitter addict. Recently I have been dealing with questions from some new dads that have surprised me. Especially when they have come from dads that had attended traditional antenatal classes.

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Why I was to blame for my husband rejecting our son (guest post from The Real Supermum)

I would like to introduce you all to Emma, Emma blogs at The Real Super Mum .  I don’t often have guest blogs, in fact this is just the second I have done, but when Emma offered to write guest pieces on twitter I decided to talk to her about it. I am extremely glad I did, as she agreed to write about her experiences with Post Natal Depression (PND) and the effects it had on her family and husband.

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Breastfeeding Dads Part II

Ok, as a family you have decided to breastfeed, so that’s it, dad’s job done… over to mum!

Absolutely not! If this is decision you have made, then you need to work together, this is a team activity and your support is crucial.

First up, lets myth bust! Breastfeeding is natural, easy and all women can do it!

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Breastfeeding Dads!

Right, before we get into this one, let’s be clear on my personal opinion: I advocate breastfeeding wherever possible. I believe it can be the best start for a child and I believe in the benefits of it. That said, I do not decry those that choose not to breastfeed, as long as it is an informed decision and has been taken in the best interests of the family, given the personal circumstances.

Ok, that’s that out of the way! So what do I have to say on the subject?

Simple, I get more and more fed up with the discussions I see taking place… I am fed up with media and their use of terms like breastfeeding zealots, breastfeeding Nazis or even Breastapo. But I am also sick of the attacks on families that have chosen to not breastfeed or for medical reason, cannot breastfeed. Yes it is true, depending on what research you read, between 1 and 5% have a medical reason for not being able to personally breastfeed. Even if it’s only 3%, that’s still over 18,000 mums a year in the UK alone who can’t. Yes, there are now milk banks, or milk sharing networks, but this are not widely available, or advertised. Unfortunately, they are also viewed as very ‘hippy’. It has also been a long while since wet nurses were commonly used, so to some the thought of it being another woman’s milk being given to their baby, for some reason repulses them.

There is still so much general discussion about the amount of women that give up in the first two weeks, or percentage who are still feeding at 3 or 6 months, and how we need to support more women to continue breastfeeding. This almost becomes self-defeating, the cycle that occurs from this are feelings of being under pressure, leading to fear of ‘failure’ and the guilt associated with that, which then allows the media to use the terms they do. Yes, a lot of women get great support that really helps, but also a lot of women also struggle, hide their struggle because they feel guilty or scared of being criticised or judged, turn to formula, AGAIN hiding this because they feel guilty or scared of being criticised or judged. I have known many women who have even hidden the formula cartons away when they know the midwife/health visitor is coming to visit, rather than ask for help.

BUT that isn’t what I want to make people think about, I want to draw attention to the crucial element that is being missed by breast feeding support workers, health visitors, midwives etc. Not all of them, but a large proportion.


DADS! Yes, dads. They are a crucial element to successful establishment and continuation. Again, those same dads, without adequate support to take a positive role, can also be the reason for failure to establish and all this is being ignored.

 

So why can Dads be the reason for failure to establish or continue breastfeeding?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, there is what I refer to as the male ‘fix it reflex’. When us men see our loved ones in distress, pain or despair our natural instinct is to ‘fix it’. And being men, we tend to look for practical ways to do this. Without proper support and understanding, this is what can make us men a liability, during pregnancy, during labour and when baby is born! We don’t do it out of malice, we don’t do it for self-gain, we simply want to help our loved one and ‘fix’ the problem. In breastfeeding, this can manifest itself when our loved one may be struggling to establish breastfeeding, or generally just finding it hard, especially in those first few weeks! For many men, if we see what we perceive to be our loved ones in difficulty, we will try to help, and often this will include (when all else seems to not be working) to reach for the formula. Why? Simply because it is an almost immediate, practical, solution, no other reason. We understand breastfeeding offers the best start for our baby, but at the time our ‘fix it reflex’ takes over, and we want to help. The decision to formula feed has been taken out of the hands of our partner, which can create a negative spiral of guilt, denial and then the very real difficulties associated with the impact mixed feeding can have on milk production… ultimately possibly leading to them discontinuing breastfeeding.

The second reason is a little more complicated. Now, men if not properly prepared, can feel excluded in a household of baby and breastfeeding mum. They can end up feeling a bit of a spare part or dogs body, if nobody has supported them, prepared them and told them how to help support their family, is that really such a revelation? If this continues, it can also turn to resentment, a feeling of exclusion, and lead to male postnatal depression. Those early days in general are quite a stressful time, complete with the torture that is sleep deprivation for the whole family.

I’m sure many of us will agree, even if just privately, at this time we didn’t always act rationally, and again this is the case here. Generally it will be men that first bring formula into the house. Normally stating “just in case of emergency” or “better to be prepared” or something along those lines.  Men long for an opportunity to simply get involved with feeding, so if opportunity presents itself they will jump at the chance, often this is through the use of formula they bought “just in case”.

Unfortunately there is a growing attitude that even expressing is not really a good idea. Yes, I know it can lead to problems, but again, understanding and preparation here is essential, and many families make this work very successfully. Men do want to share that feeling, the one women get when they are feeding their baby and can gaze into their eyes, that moment of very special connection. We men can become very jealous of that connection, especially when you also consider some of the issues I discuss in my blog on antenatal bonding. For most men they don’t feel like they are dad until baby is born, so this bonding process can be inhibited in these circumstances.

I’m not saying all men will do all, or some of the above, but a lot will. Simply, either out of misguided idea of helping our family, or simply not understanding our role. Just waiting for an opportunity, so we can become more involved.

This has all sounded very negative, Dads can do so much if properly supported and prepared. If they understand how to become involved, and are given a sense of purpose, so many of these possible pitfalls can be avoided. Dads, when mum is feeding baby, sit with her, talk with her and talk to your baby. Bring mum a drink whilst she is feeding, that simple act has so many benefits both physically and emotionally. Take a proactive role in what comes after the feed, the winding the sleepy post-feed cuddle…

I believe our current antenatal education system needs to be addressed, it needs to be MORE dad inclusive. It is why we discuss breastfeeding within DaddyNatal… it is why I prepare dads for the feelings (positive and negative) they may start to feel. It is why I give dads a list of things they can do in support of a breastfeeding partner. It is why I make dads aware of their ‘fix it reflex’ and teach them at times like this to sit on their hands. It is why I give dads a sense of purpose and get them to share in the feeling of achievement, if they as a family have chosen to breastfeed and are successfully doing so.

There is so much more I want to write on this subject and at a later date I will re visit it. I will also publish my tips and advice for Breastfeeding Dads. Go on try that term because successful breastfeeding, like all aspects of parenting is easier if everyone is pulling together. So yes, dads should breastfeed too, figuratively speaking!

 

Babywearing for Dads (Baby Bjorn and SnugBaby Reviewed)

Dads, this is something you really should be thinking about!

Babywearing is great for us dads, especially in that that we can calm our babies excellently using the closeness of a baby carrier. The bass vibrations of our voice can have great calming affect on baby. One of the things I never tired of when carrying our children was just tilting my head and being able to gently kiss the top of their head. I also previously mentioned postnatal depression and the causes, one of these being not feeling bonded with baby… well babywearing is a great way to bond with your baby.

I think for mum and dad, one of the great things about babywearing, is being able to do so many things whilst sharing the experience of what you are doing at same time. For baby, too commonly their view of the world for first 9 months or so, is the sky, from laying in their pram as we shop, walk or generally get about. Through babywearing, they get to see everything we see, which obviously has to support their development. I used to find myself pointing things out and talking about them whilst carrying the kids, but in retrospect, I realise that when I was pushing them in a pram, we didn’t really engage with them!

What one do I need?

As with everything baby-related, the choice seems to be endless!! They actually fall into four main categories (I’m bound to get contradicted with on that point but hey, my blog my rules, sorry private blogger joke…)

Baby Sling Style

Relatively simple to use. It’s also a favorite amongst mums who like the ease and privacy it provides for breastfeeding. Although they are quite versatile and can be adjusted to a hip carry for older kids, not the type I ever got on with and one I rarely see men using. The other drawback is they tend to be size dependant for wearer, so not great for couple who want to use same carrier.

Mei Tai

At the end we review the SnugBaby take on this type. They are also known as an Asian Baby Carrier (or ABC). Basically a rectangle piece of fabric with four straps, two for the shoulders and two for around the waist. The straps are criss crossed and tied for security. Mei tai carriers, tend to distribute the weight more evenly than most and can be used in almost all carrying styles. Most are not recommended for newborns (unless its a SnugBaby) but can be used right into toddlerhood. Probably too quickly dismissed by many, I know I certainly did as a new dad, but wouldn’t anymore.

Baby Wrap

These are basically just a large piece of fabric. They can be used in huge array of different styles, but the drawback is the wearer has to learn how to safely tie each style! For this reason I am not keen from male perspective, although I can see that if you are using them daily you will quickly remember the different ways to tie them. However, I feel for dads, who maybe are only getting opportunity to babywear at the weekends, just too much time and stress re learning how to tie it each time!

Back Pack (or Front Pack) Baby Carrier

Probably the most common sort that you will see dad carrying baby in. Personally, I think this is only because the manufacturers of theses types recognised huge male market and addressed it. The other types of carriers have very minimal promotion of use by dads. I am also reviewing the Baby Bjorn active carrier, one that I also used with my children. These are pretty restricted in carrying styles, but easy to use and quite masculine in appearance.

So onto our reviews!

Baby Bjorn Active

This was carrier we bought for our son and then used also with our daughter. This really became my carrier, not sure if this was because Steph wasn’t keen on it or because setting it up is like getting your seat position right in the car, only for someone else to drive it and change all the settings! So if she did use it and naturally would have to change the set up, she wouldn’t hear last of it from me! Come on guys, you know what I mean, right?

Overall this is a simple to use, functional, mid budget carrier. It is comfortable to wear and easy on the back.

When you first receive the carrier, it is in two parts, I know we hate instructions, but use them! I did the typical male thing, ignored the instructions, spent 30 mins trying to figure it out… only to then read the instructions and have it ready to go 5 minutes later! Once you have got it together, you will spend some time setting the carrier up to suit yourself. This is probably the main drawback to the Baby Bjorn, if you are going to share the carrier you will be forever re adjusting it to suit each other. It is also claimed to be breastfeeding friendly which I would dispute. I know a few women that have tried and it is certainly not easy or discreet to achieve.

All that aside, I loved MINE. Yes, once it became just mine, I really enjoyed using it. I would wear it at every opportunity and carry the kids. It is really comfortable and the large padded straps ensure you hardly feel you are wearing it. Spending time getting it set right is worth it, as you can then carry your baby for hours with back pain or discomfort. Small minor point is that it only has two positions, facing in or facing out on your chest. This also limits how long you will be able to wear it as the kids get older. They are cool looking though and I think actually one of the few baby products that strike me as male orientated, and made with men in mind. So the Baby Bjorn Active gets a FOUR Star Review

SnugBaby

I’m not sure why, but when I went out to review the SnugBaby, it didn’t exactly fill me with excitement. Maybe because of the 99% focus on women on the website, maybe just the designs were not masculine enough or appealing, or maybe it was the thought of having to learn to tie it (sounds complicated!). However, as you read on you will see my opinion changed! The SnugBaby comes in number of options and designs, and is a variation on the Mei Tai carrier. SnugBaby is suitable for use from newborn right up to toddler. (Yes, to put it fully to the test, I even carried my nearly three year old in it, quite comfortably too!)

 

OK, wow, what a convert I became, once I got the hang of it, I loved it. The basic ties are a doddle, and even the back carry takes no time at all to get a grips of. I really thought my two kids would challenge the SnugBaby claim that it is suitable even for toddlers… especially with them being 23 months and even 35 months!! Not at all, had my little girl up and carried within minutes and she loved it! My concern over back support was unfounded, I found the carrier comfortable and supportive, the wide straps where they cross the back ensure maximum support and spreading of the child’s weight. The carrier itself is so lightweight, and add to that the multiple different positions you can use it in, I really think this is superb! Also, there is no problem in any number of people using the carrier, as there are no settings to remember… put it on, tie it up and away you go… it really is that simple. Honestly guys, take long hard look at this one, don’t dismiss it because of the female-orientated website or the colour schemes. The product itself gets a resounding FIVE star review the website and marketing approach unfortunately only get a THREE star review and again thats boosted by the product.

To be clear these reviews are from a dads perspective, I am not a babywearing expert and I am aware the different opinions exist regarding different carriers types. I am hopeful we will have full guest blog on baby wearing from expert shortly.