One For The Dads

My brother-in-law, Greg Wind, wrote the article to share with our Dads back in 2007. There is some great information in here on how they can participate in and support your breastfeeding endeavors. Enjoy!

Dads, you just had a screaming, beautiful, pooping, sleeping miracle.  Have you noticed the difference in how time passes yet?  Not so much in a line as in fits and starts, right?  When your baby looks at you, time can stand still, and then you make up for that golden moment trying to feed, change and bathe that child before the next chorus of “the Overtired Breakdown.”  Maybe time will crawl when you try and do the math of infant feeding schedules superimposed on infant sleeping schedules and sprint again as that math goes out the window with a missed nap.  Oh, and don’t forget to take time to enjoy every stage because you’ll never get it back.

 The feeling probably goes double for the mother of that miracle, and if she’s getting up for night feedings and pumping on a regular basis, she’s got less of a day to accomplish everything.  I’d add up the hours for you, but it might depress you and I want you to get to the happy ending below.

 In our over packed lives, why would anyone go for a Stone Age strategy like breastfeeding?  It hurts, it takes longer, it requires exposure of otherwise hidden skin, and on top of it all, if reinforces those nasty prejudices of the woman as primary-to-sole caregiver.

 If you’ve made it to this article, you’ve probably heard about the health benefits for the mother and the baby.  Even the formula people say breast milk is best.  If you’re taking the time to read this, you’re likely in no danger of dropping all of the baby care in mom’s lap.  Plus, there’s that bonding we hear so much about.  My wife, a working mom, says of breastfeeding “you have to, but you get to, too.”  The benefits are real. So why not give it a spin to see if it’ll work?  Remember that no one – no one – talks about the hidden long term benefits of formula.

 If you and your baby are lucky, the tike has a mother that lets you weigh in on baby care decisions – even if it’s to grunt and say “I dunno.”  If you chose to support the breastfeeding decision, you are now committed to supporting the breastfeeding process.  You thought you were getting off the feeding hook, right?  Sorry.  The actual breastfeeding will forever remain a mystery to me and most men, but there are things you can do to help.  Here are just a few:

> Get over it – If you’re squeamish about feeding in public or even being around during feeding, get over this as soon as possible.  Not only is America coming to the realization that breastfeeding is natural and normal, but it’s actually been legislated in many states that women are allowed to breastfeed wherever they darn well please.  If breastfeeding can take place during an outing or while enjoying your company, that’s like adding time to her day.  Doing two things at once = more time! 

> Feed the baby pumped or “expressed” milk – Expressed is actually a good word for it because it takes less time to pump than to feed a baby.  The baby will also usually take a bottle feeding faster than a breast feeding.  If you give the baby a bottle, you are putting time back into the mother’s day and you get a taste of that bonding everyone talks about.  Expressed = faster = more time + bonding for you.

> Wash stuff – You may have noticed that time has become a theme here.  A significant amount of the time required for pumping is in washing the pump components.  You can wash stuff.  You’ll still be a man when you’re done.  If you find this works for you, go ahead and find other stuff to take care of.  Every chore you take off her plate counts double during infant care.  Not that you could ever cash those brownie points in, but it might help you to know that you’re getting twice the credit.

> Keep the list of benefits top of mind – On top of being time consuming, breastfeeding will be frustrating from time to time.  It’s the stuff of thousands of support groups.  I’m not exaggerating.  When mom reaches the end of her rope, it doesn’t always mean she wants to stop.  She might just need support so she can keep going.  Remind her that her options are always open, but she chose breastfeeding for very good reasons.  And it will help you to remember the benefits, too when you aren’t getting the attention you’re used to.  Longer, healthier life for your family = more time.

> Talk to other dads – I’m lucky enough to have a sister and three sisters-in-law going though infant care at the same time.  Talking to them makes my wife feel more confident and happier.  And while they discuss pumping and feeding, I hang out with the boys.  Not only do we all get time out to talk about sports, but on the occasion we feel like talking about breastfeeding (yep, it happens) we’re all coming from the same point of view.  Trust me – you’ll feel far more comfortable talking about it with other new dads.  Try discussing a slow flow nipple with non-dads and see how far you get.

So when you add all of that time back into the day, bond with the baby and take time out to discuss the designated hitter, you’ll find that breastfeeding is a pretty good deal for you.  You get a chance to be an everyday hero just by washing stuff and understanding.  Mom will feel the pride of feeding her baby with her body and that will make you both happier.  Everyone will be healthier.  Plus (I promised a happy ending, remember?) it’s free.  Take those thousands of dollars and put it toward the college fund, or better yet, reward yourselves for all of the time you gave the baby and take some time to feed the parents at the nice restaurant or sports stadium of your choice.  Just remember to have a couple bottles ready for the sitter.