The Department of Health recommends babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. Research shows there are so many health benefits to breastfeeding and babies are generally less prone to; chest, ear and kidney infections, tummy bugs, eczema and asthma. Other benefits include that breast milk is free (bottle feeding costs over £600 per year), readily available at the correct temperature, and requires no equipment.
As well as being good for your baby, breastfeeding protects your partner’s long-term health. She will lose weight more quickly after birth and the longer she feeds for, the greater the benefits. Breastfeeding lowers her chance of developing:
- Breast cancer and ovarian cancer
- Heart disease and stroke
So how does breastfeeding work and what is deemed normal behaviour for breastfed babies?
- Breastfed babies usually feed frequently (at least 2–3 hourly) in the early weeks, especially during the evenings, but every baby is different.
- Some babies are slow feeders at first, but they get quicker as they get older.
- The more the baby feeds, the more milk the mother makes, it works on a supply and demand basis.
- Babies are usually less windy, and put on weight better, if they finish feeding from the first breast before being offered the second so that they get plenty of the fat-rich hind milk.
- Mum will enjoy feeding more if she is comfortable and relaxed.
- The baby needs to open their mouth really wide, have the nipple in the top part of their mouth and have their chin against the mother’s breast to feed well, as they massage the milk out with his tongue.
- Nipple soreness or pain during feeding is generally a sign that the baby is not getting a large enough mouthful of breast.
How Dad’s can help with breastfeeding?
- Boost your partner’s confidence by encouraging her. As with any new skill, reassurance and praise help – if Mum believes she can breastfeed, she probably will listen and talk honestly about finding her way with your new baby.
- Be involved with the baby in other ways so that the caring is shared. Examples of this are playing, soothing, bathing, and changing nappies, winding, taking them for a walk, laying them on your chest, skin-to-skin or carrying them in a baby carrier or sling.
- Help to reduce the household chores your partner has to do so that she can feed the baby for as long and as often as the baby needs (even enrol help from extended family if needs be).
- Encourage your partner to eat and drink regularly, so that she feels more able to cope.
- Get specialist help if there is a difficulty with breastfeeding – most women can breastfeed if they get help when it’s needed.
- If your partner is feeling like stopping early on, while she and the baby are still learning this skill, encourage her to keep going by being positive about the progress so far; restarting breastfeeding after stopping is possible but not easy.
- Finally, accept her decision on when to stop breastfeeding, it’s not for everyone.
Breastfeeding Welcome Here Scheme
This is a scheme in Northern Ireland whereby shops, cafes and businesses display the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme window sticker to show that breastfeeding is acceptable in all areas of the business premises including those open to the general public. All members of staff will be aware of the scheme and will be fully supportive to mums. The scheme also confirms that a mum will not be asked to move to another area or stop breastfeeding.
Did your partner breast feed? What were the positives or negatives? How did it make you feel? Help other Dads out by sharing your experiences. Join or start the conversation below.