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.

Introducing the Bottle

Mothers frequently ask me “When is the best time to give a bottle and how do we do it?” For many women, it is source of anxiety, but a necessity at some point or another. Fortunately, it is fairly easy if you do it in a controlled and timely fashion, rather than at three in the morning when you are desperate!

Obviously, my goal is to help mothers breastfeed successfully, whatever that means for them. If mothers need to give a bottle, I hope to help them give a bottle of expressed breast milk instead of formula. The most important thing to know about being able to breast and bottle feed, which many women need/want to do, is that it can be done. However, it can’t be done in the hospital, right from the get go. If you want to nurse, you have to spend the time getting breastfeeding off to a good start. This process usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks of exclusive nursing. If you do that, and nurse exclusively through the three week growth spurt, your milk supply will be well established. In addition, your baby will have learned how to nurse correctly and giving a bottle at this time will not “undo” that!

Early bottle introduction causes a host of problems for the breastfeeding family. First, these babies are usually given formula and too much of it. Babies who are nursing get only a small amount of colostrum (mother’s early milk) at each feeding, which is exactly what they need. Bottle fed babies tend to get 2-3 ounces of formula, which is much harder to digest. It prevents the meconium (baby’s first waste) from being passed quickly, suppresses their appetite and keeps them from feeding frequently, which they need to do to bring their mother’s milk in. In addition, hospital bottles have a standard size nipple, which is much smaller than a mother’s breast. Babies learn immediately to position their mouth incorrectly for breastfeeding when they are given this bottle. When they replicate that on their mom, it hurts!

So, the first few weeks should be about getting a good latch and getting your supply established. If you want to give expressed breast milk in a bottle when the time comes, you can also use this time to collect some milk to give later. There may be several opportunities for this in the early weeks. If you get engorged, you can pump just enough to make yourself comfortable, which may mean only pumping a half ounce! You may also have times when the baby takes only one side, falls into a milk coma and doesn’t take the other. In that case, pump the side he doesn’t take and save that milk. You can mix the milk from several different pumping sessions to make one bottle. When you collect a total of 3 ounces, stick it in the freezer, and you have milk for your first bottle!

Develop a plan for the first time you give your baby a bottle and have someone other than you do it. I like moms to leave the house and do something for themselves. Arrange for dinner with a friend, a haircut, or shopping to get some clothes that you fit into! The reason for this is that first of all, you probably need a little alone time after three weeks of exclusive nursing. In addition, if the baby sees, hears, or smells you, the baby may protest and wonder why you are not feeding him/her. And if the baby protests at all, the person with the bottle may quickly give up and pass the baby back to you!

It is best to time it so that you leave the house right before your baby is due to eat, and pump just before heading out the door. This gives you a few hours to do what you want, and you can nurse right when you get back. This pumped milk can be used immediately, if necessary, or goes into the freezer for the next time your baby gets a bottle. When your baby gets a bottle, it should be a bottle with a wide base and nipple, not a standard size. Thaw your frozen milk, pour it in, and have it at room temperature or a little warmer for the baby.

When done this way, bottle introduction is usually pretty uneventful. Be prepared for a mix of emotions when you come home and find out everything went fine, which is after all, what you want! Then make sure that the bottle is offered every few days, especially if you will be going back to work. If you do that, though your baby will always prefer you, he will take a bottle without difficulty when he needs to!