If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. That’s the approach we adopted with breastfeeding. It is by no means a walk in the park and trust me – no matter what everyone says, it’s tough. The message (even if it is somewhat archaic now) of “breast is best” puts an unprecedented amount of pressure on women to persevere with breastfeeding.
At NCT, we were told breastfeeding wouldn’t and shouldn’t hurt. Ever. Of course in our naivety, we didn’t really even question it.
With the impending doom of labour, you don’t always consider life post-partum. The reality, for us at least, was very different to the fairytale we’d been sold. Still, my wife continued with feeding our little boy from the breast.
From a dad’s perspective, breastfeeding is painful too. Men may not have the physical pressure, but emotionally and mentally, the process is incredibly difficult.
I’m by no means taking anything away from the sacrifice and effort women put in, but men are affected by feeding too. There have been times in the first few weeks where I have literally hung my head in despair – I have been at my wits end with how much breastfeeding has impacted my wife. As a dad, you have one role in process: support your partner – no time for self-pity. At 3.46am on the 24th consecutive night of pain, being “supportive” is easier said than done. Here are a few things I found eased the pressure on my wife – dads give them a go if you haven’t already:
It’s not always easy to stay up or be awake for the night feeds if you’ve gone back to work. Make sure you give your partner plenty of time to rest though. Sometimes, taking your baby downstairs for a few hours can give mum some time to recharge. It might not feel like much, but it will be hugely appreciated.
Breastfeeding consultants aren’t just for women. I actually contacted two specialists regarding feeding and I have to say, it was one of the best things I did. They explained how I could help with positioning etc in the early days. If you’re getting your baby’s mum extra help for herself, you might want to check they want it first though. Experts are so knowledgeable and it is an art, so why not get some extra help?
At one point, my wife used a piece of teriyaki chicken as an offensive weapon during one of her “milk moments” (that’s what I like to call them). As a man, there is absolutely no way you put yourself in a woman’s shoes when it comes to breastfeeding. Being supportive in those wee hours and smiling (at the appropriate time) may give your partner that extra bit of motivation if they are finding things hard. Oh, and try to forget out of character actions – don’t hold a grudge.
One of the biggest things that helped Lis (my wife) was talking to me about what was going on. She had mastitis twice, thrush and a few other complications in the first month. Alone, she would have most likely persevered and listened to the common myth “it will get better”. These conditions are painful and they need to be treated appropriately. Dads – listen to your partners and do your research. Help them out by being knowledgeable and knowing what to do to overcome issues. Do you need to take them to the GP? Is it a matter of getting some lanolin cream? Listen carefully, you’re part of it too.
I’m sick of hearing, “just get on with it, it will get better.” It’s no help for mum and it’s no help for dad. Dads-to-be – I hope your breastfeeding experience is less painful than mine. If it’s not, think about how you can be part of the solution!