Support Mom Emotionally
It's crucial that a man support his partner's decision to breastfeed. Reading books and attending classes on breastfeeding with his mate is a great start.
A father can also offer comfort and encouragement in the early weeks of nursing, when hormones and sleep deprivation can cause a mother to feel discouraged. Expressing confidence in the mom's ability to breastfeed her baby is one of the most important first jobs a dad can do. "Cheerleading goes a long way," says Brott, the father of three daughters. "It may sound trite or silly, but it works."
Marybeth LaRosa, of Granby, Connecticut, recalls how her husband communicated his support while she was nursing her first baby. "After three and a half weeks, my son and I were finally getting the hang of breastfeeding. My husband said how great and adept a breastfeeding mom I was. He said how truly amazed at how my son's weight gain was all due to me," says LaRosa. The cheerleading paid off; LaRosa successfully nursed her first two children and is now breastfeeding her third child, too.
"It's important for guys to understand the many things that can go wrong in breastfeeding," says Brott. "Many people have this idea that breastfeeding is this all-natural, wonderful experience—and it is for some people. But for some women, it's not. A big role for Dad is to be the one to call the doctor or lactation consultant if she's in pain." Many women may feel that they are failing as mothers if they are experiencing problems with breastfeeding and are less likely to ask for help.
"My husband was my staunchest support when we had our firstborn," says April Almeida, a mother of two from Ontario, Canada. "I was the usual new mom that knew nothing. The lactation consultants put us on schedules, and I ended up struggling so hard to learn to nurse ... I was getting depressed as the weeks loomed on and everyone around me, including family said to give it up, have a break, rest, don't force it—everyone but my husband. He knew how it mattered to me and insisted I keep going."