New dads can feel nervous about their partner breastfeeding. We discuss common concerns and ways you can provide help and breastfeeding support as a dad.
New dads and partners can have lots of questions about breastfeeding. This is normal and here we look at some of the most common questions and concerns.
'I’m worried I’ll feel left out'
With breastfeeding, parents do have different roles to play and it can take a while to get used to this. As a dad or partner, you may feel jealous or left out, especially as mum and baby can have a very close relationship. Remember, breastfeeding is only one aspect of caring for your baby; you can still be involved with them in lots of different and rewarding ways, such as soothing, winding/burping and bathing them.
Eventhough your baby probably won’t smile for the first four to six weeks, from birth they will be interested in looking at things, especially people’s faces, and hearing gentle sounds, so talking and playing with them is also really important.
'I really want to share the feeding'
Surprisingly, this may be less important than you expect if you’re involved with your baby in other ways (see above). But if you’re still keen to feed your baby you could give expressed breastmilk in a bottle, a cup or with a spoon. Many families find it is easier to wait a few weeks, until breastfeeding is going well, before introducing a bottle. Expressing isn’t always easy to do and finding time to express can be difficult. Whether formula milk or expressed breastmilk is used, skipping a breastfeed early on can mean a woman’s breasts can become uncomfortably full, and overfull breasts are a signal to the body to make less breastmilk. There is also no evidence to suggest that not offering a bottle early on will affect a baby taking a bottle further down the line. Once your baby starts solids, you can also become more involved with feeding.
'I feel uncomfortable about my partner breastfeeding in public'
It may help to discuss this with your partner so that you can agree how to handle it. Many men who feel like this before their baby is born change their minds later when they are used to seeing breastfeeding. In reality, there is usually little or no breast showing when the baby is feeding. You may have seen a mum feeding her baby in public before and not even realised.
Many places welcome breastfeeding now and provide facilities for mums to feed in private if they prefer – indeed, a mum's right to breastfeed out and about is now protected by law. It might also help to talk to other families where mum is breastfeeding and find out about her and her partner's experience of it.
'Will breastfeeding affect our sex life?'
Possibly, but tiredness - and your partner's birth experience and recovery - is more likely to affect her sex drive than whether she is breastfeeding or not. It might help to consider the following:
- A woman’s vagina may be drier while breastfeeding so using a lubricating gel can help.
- Any breast stimulation can cause milk to flow so keep a towel or cloth handy; it can help to feed baby before having sex.
- You may even find that your partner is more comfortable with her body as a result of giving birth and breastfeeding and enjoys sex more.
'I can't do anything to help if my partner is breastfeeding'
Breastfeeding is not always straightforward for new mums. Sometimes a woman who is breastfeeding can lose confidence if feeding isn't going well, and she may worry that her baby is not getting enough milk, for example. Support, encouragement and the right information can help her overcome these worries at the beginning.
Your help and support with breastfeeding will make a huge difference. If you are calm and confident and able to understand her concerns, you will be able to reassure and encourage her. Read our article about the benefits of support.
NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a 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
Find out more about other mums and dads' experiences of feeding