Dear Dads (Soon to be dads, new dads, all dads really),
Congrats on the new baby! This new human, while incredible, may also make you feel completely confused on how in the hell to take care of it. New babies have a way of making shit get real super quick. As a mom of two, I’m here to help you so you can help your wife. And in turn… life won’t feel so fucking crazy.
Boobs are great aren’t they? They look good, you like to touch them, they make you happy, and if your wife is like most women, they probably have gotten REAL REAL big lately. But sadly, you don’t get to touch them anymore (just for a short bit, not forever). Those boobs are either about to be or are the property of the new little alien looking baby. That baby gets to bury his or her little head in them every few hours, and you’re head, well it isn’t welcome there for the next few weeks.
Since your wife is the one that is likely feeding the baby every 2 hours you might start to feel like your role doesn’t matter. Like they don’t really need you and you are nothing but a 3rd wheel. But guess what…
YOU’VE NEVER MATTERED MORE
Yep that’s right, YOU. You are so important and you are so needed right now. Your nipples might not feed that baby (I have nipples Focker, can you milk me?), but your support of your wife in her breastfeeding journey is one of the single, most important factors that will determine her long term breastfeeding success. In fact, a woman with a supportive spouse is significantly more likely to be breastfeeding at a year than a woman with a less supportive husband. So don’t sulk down to your man cave just yet.
Listen up so I can make this whole process easier on you.
You might not get to feed the baby right away, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a role in this new phase of life. Your role is to be Mr. Supportive.
Lets start by clarifying what support means. Support doesn’t mean you thinking “Yeah this (breastfeeding) is a good idea, you should do it.” That mindset is great, but what support really looks like is you getting in and getting your hands dirty.
Here are 7 ways to REALLY support your wife in her breastfeeding journey.
1. Get educated. Read a book, read some pamphlets, go to a breastfeeding class with her. The more you know, the more you can help her in the tense moments. You know, the ones where the kid is screaming and your wife is crying because the baby won’t latch on. The last thing you want to feel is inept (I’m told that is the worst feeling for a dude) so make it your job to learn something. Seriously, even if you just google some shit for 15-30 minutes you will be WAY more educated than the average dad. If you’re like most dudes, you enjoy your pooping time. During just 1 or 2 of your dates with the toilet read some breastfeeding information instead of Facebook, online forums, or playing Angry Birds.
Here are 3 places to start:
2. Offer to help her. Every time she is feeding the baby ask her if you can get her anything. It is seriously THE WORST when you find yourself feeding your baby and you realize that you’ve forgotten your water on the counter, or your iPad is in the other room. Ask her if you can get her anything to eat, something to drink, something to read. It’s simple.
3. Change diapers. She is feeding the kid every 2 hours, you can handle a few diapers. When babies are first born they often need their diaper changed in the middle of a feeding as a way to wake them up and encourage them to finish eating Be the one to do that diaper change. It sounds silly, but that 2 minute break gives your wife the opportunity to get re-situated, run and pee, or just relax. It helps us SO MUCH.
4. Wake up in the middle of the night with her. I know, this one suuuuuucks. But don’t make her be the only one awake EVERY TIME. You don’t need to get up and start your day, but just roll over, and rub her arm or leg, tell her she is doing an awesome job, ask her if she needs anything (See #3). I can PROMISE you that if you lay there sleeping away she is looking at you plotting all the ways she wants to hurt you in that moment. So in an effort for her NOT to poison your cupcakes, wake up occasionally and check in with her.
And just remember, those frequent middle of the night feedings don’t last forever, most babies are sleeping 4-5 hour stretches by 4-6 weeks, it will be over before you know it.
5. Tell other people (in front of your wife) how awesome you think she is doing. After our baby was born Tyler mentioned on Facebook how strong I was and how good of a mom I was. He told our friends and family in public how proud he was of me. Seems like a small thing, but it really was a BIG thing. It gave me some reassurance and made me feel extremely loved.
6. Unload the damn dishwasher (and other crap like this). There is nothing worse than sitting there feeding your baby and looking around at your house which appears as though a bomb has gone off in it. You feel anxious as hell because you’re stuck sitting there and you want to get up and pick up, but you can’t because you’re feeding the babe. You as the husband should tidy up. Don’t know where the dishes go, how to do the laundry, how to vacuum? Figure it out dude, you’re not an idiot.
7. Encourage her to get help if she needs it. There are these people called lactation consultants. They specialize in getting babies to breastfeed successfully. Encourage your wife to have one of them come visit while she is in the hospital (its free), this will get things off on the right foot.
Once you are home, if she really seems to be struggling, encourage her to go back and visit the lactation consultant again. Offer to drive her. Like I said, its usually a free service at the hospital. There is also an awesome resource called La Leche League. Often times they have Facebook support groups, have her check that out too. In those first few weeks a new mom really can struggle to see the forest through the trees. She might not be brave enough to ask for help, be on the lookout and suggest it if necessary.
Bonus Tip: Encourage her to take care of herself. New moms kinda suck at self-care. Carving out time for sleep, drinking an entire cup of coffee while its still hot, exercise, or reading a book does not come naturally for new moms. Encourage your wife to take some time for herself. You might be surprised how much happier and more pleasant to be around she is when she has gotten the hell away from all her responsibilities for a few hours. Moms, if you’re reading this, self-care ISN’T selfish you’ve got to take care of you if you want to have any hope of taking care of everyone else.
Dudes…you are now armed with some great tips to help make your wife’s breastfeeding journey more successful. And remember, in those moments where you feel like you don’t know WHAT to do or if you are even needed, that you definitely are. You just being there as another adult to talk with makes more of a difference than you probably realize.
In almost no time, you’ll be dealing with a toddler at a mealtime and THAT is a whole new level of fun.
Now I want to hear from you!
Mamas, what kinds of things did your man do to help make breastfeeding easier? And dudes, did I miss something? Is there something you think you do really well to help make things easier? Tell me about it in the comments below! When you share, you help out everyone else reading this!