How can dads and partners support breastfeeding?

This article looks at how dads and partners can help support a new mum who is breastfeeding in the early days.

Many parents see breastfeeding as a natural process but it can take time for mum and baby to learn this new skill together. In reality, many women experience some problems with breastfeeding and can find it challenging. This is when support and encouragement can really help; for many new mums, their partner is their main source of support.

A woman is more likely to choose to breastfeed if she’s sure her partner is positive about it and a mum who decides to breastfeed is much more likely to have a good experience if her partner supports her decision.

Why is breastfeeding important?

Breastfeeding has health benefits for mum and baby, as well as being free and convenient. Overall, babies who are breastfed suffer from less sickness and diarrhoea, and fewer ear and chest infections. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer, some forms of ovarian cancer, and diabetes in later life.

How long should a mum breastfeed for?

Women can breastfeed for as long as they and their baby want to. In fact, breastfeeding for three months makes infections less likely for at least a year and breastmilk is a complete food for babies for around six months, supplying all a baby needs in fluid and food. Toddlers also continue to benefit from breastfeeding.

What do I need to know about breastfeeding?

You may find it helpful to know how breastfeeding works and what normal behaviour is for breastfed babies. Here are some useful facts:

  • Babies are happier if they’re fed as soon as they show signs of being hungry.
  • Babies usually feed frequently (anything from eight to 12 times or more in 24 hours) in the early weeks, especially during the evenings.
  • Some babies are slow feeders at first, but they get quicker as they get older.
  • The more a baby feeds, the more milk their mum makes because it’s the removal of milk that drives the production of it.
  • Women enjoy feeding more when they are comfortable and relaxed.

Nipple soreness or pain during feeding may be a sign that a baby needs some adjustment to their attachment at the breast. In some cases, the baby may have tongue tie that hinders comfortable attachment. If there is soreness or pain when breastfeeding, talking to a healthcare professional or breastfeeding counsellor can help.

How can I help with breastfeeding?

There are lots of things that partners can do to support and encourage breastfeeding:

  • Boost your partner’s confidence by encouraging her; like any new skill, reassurance and praise help.
  • Listen and talk honestly about how you each feel about finding your way with your new baby.
  • Be involved with your baby in other ways so that the caring is shared.
  • Help to reduce the household chores so your partner can feed baby for as long and as often as they need.
  • Encourage your partner to eat and drink regularly.

If your partner is struggling with breastfeeding, encourage her to get specialist help.

Can I really make a difference?

Yes. A woman is more likely to choose to breastfeed if she’s sure her partner is positive about it. In addition, a woman who decides to breastfeed is much more likely to have a good experience if her partner supports her decision.

You might have lots more questions about breastfeeding, which is very common for new dads and partners so take a look here for further information.

Further information

NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.

National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.

Watch Best Beginnings Bump to Breastfeeding DVD

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