This evening I've been thinking a lot about breastfeeding. Nothing new there I know. I spent the day in Rex The Great British Cafe. The gorgeous poached eggs on muffins and smoked salmon with the delicious hollandaise sauce was not the only reason for my visit. I find that I study better when I'm not at home. Funny how appealing cleaning the oven/fridge/Wee Weapon's room becomes when there's studying to be done. I was reading about the trends in Breastfeeding and the Tides of practice <frantically looks at study book to check that that was indeed today's topic of study> and then I checked in on my facebook business page. I had commented on How Breastfeeding Works' link about male perceptions of breastfeeding. She suggested I wrote something about how antenatal knowledge helps Dad in supporting their partner with breastfeeding.
So... here are my thoughts (of course it's a blog so the majority of the thoughts will be mine).
I run antenatal sessions with the lovely Rebecca. We specialise in private antenatal sessions in people's homes. We cover breastfeeding in great depth and we feel that it's important that Dad/the Partner knows how breastfeeding works as well as Mum. Let's face it, in the middle of the night - and it's always the middle of the night - when Mum is exhausted and breastfeeding seems harder than it's ever been, Dad wants to rescue the situation. "Darling, it's enough. You've tried hard, this isn't easy. I'm going to go out and get you a bottle. This can't go on." If, however, Dad understands how breastfeeding works, he might take a different tack. Perhaps he'll remind her not to make decisions late at night. It's always worse at night. Perhaps he might rub her shoulders, bring her a drink, tell her how wonderfully she's doing, arrange to call an IBCLC in the morning. Don't be fooled by those with celebrity endorsements, get the real thing, not an imposter. He will support her wish to breastfeed and, using the knowledge he's gleaned antenatally, may be the reason she breastfeeds for one more day.
I confess to finding it strange that often men are excluded from the breastfeeding portion of antenatal classes, perhaps that has changed and the exclusion is less common than I think. Mum's partner is her chief Gatekeeper, or the harbinger of doom. A good partner will know when to encourage and when to gently steer Grandma, Mother In Law, Sister, Friend, Father of "recent baby who has done this all before so listen to me" away from her and encourage her to find her way with feeding. If he has been present at the breastfeeding sessions he will know the importance of stimulating the milk supply and the intensity of those first few weeks. He won't be so quick to rush to the shop.
Too many times I've heard people say "but it's not fair on Dad for Mum to be the only one to feed the baby". Really? It's not fair? Has Dad become redundant suddenly? There are so many things that Dad can do to encourage and increase his bond with the baby. All those nappy changes, baths, massages etc encourage skin to skin time and allow Dad to know his baby. I know that they just want to be supportive, but sometimes that is counterproductive.
It's all about the knowledge really. Dad needs more than glancing knowledge at how it all works. Sadly we don't live in a society where breastfeeding is the cultural norm. We are beginning to see more and more women breastfeeding and it's so lovely when men look on appreciating the art of breastfeeding rather than ogling the breasts. As the Fathers learn about breastfeeding, so will the sons. As they support their partners through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period we'll see breastfeeding return to its rightful place. Bogstandard and normal.