10 ways dads can help ensure breastfeeding success

The Surgeon General's Call to Action about breastfeeding noted that family members -- especially dads and grandmas -- were important people in a new mother's life. They needed to have the opportunity to learn just as much about breastfeeding as the new mom ... and needed to learn how to support her in a way that helped her continue breastfeeding.

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While a dad can't breastfeed (no matter how much we wish he could), he does play a large part in a mom's breastfeeding journey. Yet, dad often doesn't know what to do to be supportive.

I can help! We can help! Send this to the soon-to-be or new fathers that you know, send it to your own husband -- the new dad or dad-to-be.

Dear husband to breastfeeding mom: follow this 10-step guide to help your wife feel the support she needs when breastfeeding.

1. Be active and vocal in your support. Know that your wife generally values your opinion over her own mother's, so you really need to be there in a big way, including reading breastfeeding books and attending classes with her -- not just asking her to give you the run-down afterward.

2. Learn how to give the right support. Dads are often the first to offer the "relief" bottle, thinking it's helping their wife who is tired and struggling. Unfortunately, that "relief" bottle is the first in a long downward spiral and can make life much harder for the new mom. Knowing instead to bring her food, water, the TV remote, help her set up a "nest," and have her involved with the family even if she is stuck on her butt is very important. Women in a survey said they wished their husbands wouldn't even mention formula.

3. Let her know how much you appreciate her. Breastfeeding can be hard work and mentally exhausting at first. Telling your wife that you think she's amazing and that you're proud of her can mean so much to her and really help her feel supported.

4. Get up with the baby at night even if you're not feeding him or her. You can still change the diaper, rock the baby, and help mom in many ways.

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5. Take other baby responsibilities off her plate. So you aren't the food source -- that's okay. Babies still need to be carried, bathed, talked to, loved, and all of that can be done by you. It's also the best way you can bond with baby.

6. Take over household responsibilities as well. Help with cleaning the house, getting dinner ready, paying bills, doing dishes ... especially if you're on paternity leave. Try to make your wife's only responsibilities be healing her own body and helping your newborn transition into the big world and get off to the best start by breastfeeding. The more mom doesn't have to worry about, the less overwhelming the demands of breastfeeding seem.

7. Don't allow her to fall prey to sabotage. If you get free formula in the mail or from a well-meaning friend, donate it to a food shelter or give it to a formula-feeding friend. Even having it in the house is akin to having a cake on the counter when someone is on a diet. Also get rid of any "breastfeeding" literature that comes from formula companies.

8. Keep out negative "help." If your mother starts talking to you or your wife about breastfeeding in a negative way, such as telling you she needs to supplement, kindly tell her that kind of talk isn't welcome or appreciated, and if she can't be supportive, she will be asked to leave.

9. Know when your wife needs help. If she's suffering with bleeding nipples or is convinced she's not making enough, call up the local La Leche League Leader or a certified breastfeeding counselor to make a house call and help out.

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10. Crack appropriate jokes. Don't make cow comments -- just don't. But whipping your own shirt off and declaring it a nudist colony in your house or going out and making jokes about the things you'd say if anyone dared say anything about her nursing can help lighten the mood while also showing support.

What other ways do you think dads can help mom succeed at breastfeeding?

Image via MuddyBootsPhoto/Flickr

Written by Christie Haskell for CafeMom's blog, The Stir.

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