Breastfeeding: How Your Family Can Help

When Dad disapproves
Despite all that we know about breastfeeding’s incredible benefits, some new fathers aren’t so easily convinced. Some may not fully understand the value to both Mom and baby. Others may not like feeling excluded from feedings. Some who haven’t been exposed to breastfeeding before may feel uncomfortable with it. Others may think that it’s more trouble than it’s worth, especially when problems arise. Still others may think of their partner’s breasts in a sexual way and refuse to share them with the baby.

If a woman’s partner is resistant to breastfeeding, the woman should find out his specific concerns and then address them one by one, advises Wendkos Olds. She should be sure he understands the advantages of nursing, not just for her, but also for the entire family (see “Making the Case for Breastfeeding,” page TK). “If he wants the best in life for his wife and his child, breastfeeding is something he really needs to consider,” Wendkos Olds says. Hopefully he’ll have a change of heart once he’s informed. If not, then it might help to have him talk to the baby’s pediatrician. But if it remains a stalemate and creates tension at home, then Mom will need to think long and hard about it. Ultimately, “the most important thing for the baby is the health of his parents’ relationship,” says pediatrician Jane Morton, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and an executive member of the AAP Committee on Breastfeeding.

A call to all dads
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child—and that begins with breastfeeding, quite possibly “the most health-enhancing gift a baby can receive,” says Barbara Wilson-Clay, IBCLC, FILCA, a certified lactation consultant in Austin, Tex. “Breastfeeding must be viewed in a social context,” she explains. “Partners, grandparents, neighbors and health care providers all share responsibility for protecting the new mother as she learns to care for her infant.” So dads, it’s time to get on board, if you haven’t already. If possible, take a couple weeks off from work so you can be there to support your partner after the baby comes. When it comes to breastfeeding, your help and emotional support could be paramount to her success.