One of the best parts of my job is working with new Dads. Often, they are the ones who call to set up the appointment for their wife. Many times, they are in a panic. Their wife is in pain, their baby not gaining weight, and they just want someone to come in and fix it all. I am welcomed into their home and have the opportunity to help them figure it out. It is a privilege that I don’t take lightly, as I am not sure there is a more vulnerable time for a couple than when they bring a new little person into their life and home. They are at once elated and terrified. There is usually a whirlwind of well meaning visitors, and plenty of unwanted and conflicting advice. My goal is always to reassure parents and point out what they are doing well, teach them what they need to know, and come up with a plan that works for their family. And Dads, or wives, as the case may be, are such an integral part of the success of this experience, and they need to be included and listened to, sometimes to the chagrin of Mom. Can there possibly be anything more annoying to a woman than a man telling her how to breastfeed? Probably not!
But as the mother of four boys, I find myself having a special affection for many of these men I come in contact with. They have just as many questions as their wives do, and provide insight and honesty that Moms don’t always give me, in an attempt to appear that they have it all under control. They also truly want to help, and just don’t know what to do. Sometimes it’s the record keeping that makes them feel in control of the situation. You wouldn’t believe the spreadsheets I saw before baby tracking apps became a thing! Mostly, they just want their wife and baby to be okay and to be supportive in a way that is helpful to Mom. If I can show them how to know everything is going well, they can reassure Mom, and a situation fraught with anxiety becomes one in which their confidence grows.
Many times too, Dads can see what Mom is doing in a way that she can’t. Women sometimes have awful posture when nursing, as they contort their body to get the baby to latch. In the long run, this causes back and neck problems with body tension that can be easily avoided. Showing Dad how to help make Mom comfortable goes a long way toward making breastfeeding a pleasant experience. You can see the relief in the faces of both parents when that happens, and it just thrills me.
One thing I am often telling Moms is to listen to Dad. Women tend to try and overdo it, which usually ends in a meltdown and exhaustion. If I sound like I am harping on our gender, I don’t mean to, it’s just that I have been than woman. I was teary, snippy, and bossy. There were times when my husband couldn’t do anything right. If that continues, Dad will eventually stop helping, which no one wants. Honoring your husband, letting him take over for awhile, or going to bed when he suggests that you really need to, is really in your best interests. Everything is much easier to deal with when you have had a good stretch of sleep or some time to yourself. Let him help you. Everything doesn’t need to be done your way. Look at it as the beginning of him developing a relationship with your baby, and let it happen.
What excites me most for my sons is the change I am seeing in parental leave that men are getting from work. When I had my last baby, 16 years ago, I came home from the hospital on a Saturday. My husband went back to work on Monday, and my Mom left on Tuesday. It certainly wasn’t what we wanted, but we didn’t have a choice. We needed that paycheck. I am now encountering Dads that have weeks and months of leave, something that was unheard of 10 years ago. If Dads could do it, they often wouldn’t, because it was a career killer and just not manly. But men are now home to help their wives after the birth, and/or care for the baby themselves for a month when Mom goes back to work. I am excited that my sons might have that opportunity, Mostly, I am excited for my sons to be Dads. It really is such an important role, and one that shouldn’t ever be overlooked or dismissed. Whatever they can do, men need to know that we value it and will accept it gratefully. And this Father’s Day, let your baby’s Dad know it!