Dads Key to Helping Establish Breastfeeding

Research Finds New Dads Are the Key to Helping Establish Breastfeeding

One of the things that new Dad’s often talk about is how helpless they felt in the delivery suite – not being able to take away the pain of labour or speed things up for their partners. But most women would argue that their partner’s presence in the delivery suite was essential, and that they were a great support during a life-changing experience.

Interestingly, new Mums also say that their partners are the key support person in the first six weeks after the birth. Most new mothers focus on getting breast feeding established in those early weeks, and according to new research, partners play a pivotal role in supporting new mothers with the hands on care of their child.

Recent research done by Medela found that of the women surveyed, nearly 90 percent of new mothers relied heavily on their partner for emotional support in the first six weeks. They also relied on them for support with establishing breast feeding, cooking, housework and settling the baby.

When it comes to breast feeding, while Mum does the actual feeding of the baby, more than 80 percent of new Mums relied on their partner’s support during their breast feeding journey. Professor Dianne Spatz, Director of the Lactation Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says “The father’s role is critical to helping the mother to initiate and sustain breastfeeding.”

There are so many ways that a woman’s partner can support her with breast feeding, and the day to day care of a new born. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be her extra pair of hands: bring her a glass of water, her phone, the TV remote
  • Be on stand by to adjust the pillows when she is feeding
  • Look after the burping or nappy change after the feed
  • If your wife is expressing milk as well as breast feeding, make sure there are enough sterilised bottles available
  • Provide lots of cuddles and skin-on-skin time with your child so it doesn’t always fall to their mother
  • Cook meals, do house work, run your partner a bath
  • Acknowledge that while breast feeding is natural it is not always easy
  • Show her you’re a team.

Another interesting insight from the Medela research found that more than four Mums out of five said that they trusted their partners to look after their baby in the first six weeks, more than their own mothers. Dads were seen to be the most valuable source of support for new Mums, more so than the midwife or any other family member, including their mothers. For full survey highlights see here

So, while the idea that baby wrangling is a woman’s job still circulates occasionally, it is an old fashioned narrative that is being debunked by families every day. It’s more important than ever that new Dads understand how imperative they are to family life once they go from two to three. Not only do mothers of new babies want their partners to be present, supportive and hands on with their new baby, they need them to be. The more it is recognised how important new Dads are in those early days and beyond, the happier families will be.


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