What role do dads play in breastfeeding? I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere, but it’s not difficult to see how some dads might not find it funny. It’s hard to admit when something so pure, innocent, and natural makes you feel self conscious but that’s how I felt when my child was first born.
When you’re a dad you are given the role of active supporter, protector, and cheerleader. Nature and biology require that certain elements of bringing a child into the world don’t include you directly, and that can be difficult to handle sometimes.
When I found out my wife was pregnant I was overjoyed. The months and weeks leading up to my daughter’s birth were filled with anticipation, excitement, and preparation. However, no one prepared me for was how useless I’d feel in the first few weeks and months after the baby arrived.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful, intimate act of love between a mother and a child, and as a dad I mostly felt great happiness that my wife could share that with our daughter.
But I also felt unnecessary.
It was untrue of course, I was busy building IKEA furniture, ensuring my wife remembered to eat, and, you know, working to support my family. All important things. However it was hard to escape the feeling of being a third wheel at times. Some might call it jealousy, and I’m sure Freud has something to say on that, but to me it felt more like frustration at not being able to do more. It’s hard to top the direct, life-sustaining connection of literally feeding a child from your body, and somehow hanging a mobile perfectly centered over your baby’s crib doesn’t seem to come close.
Puttering around the house building things, cooking, and cleaning seems like small potatoes when your wife is spending hours a day staring into your baby’s eyes developing the most natural bond possible. Getting some face time in between feeding sessions and sleeping is difficult and they don’t even appreciate my jokes.
It is often overlooked that men too can suffer from postpardum depression. My case wasn’t so severe but I can see how such a thing would come about. For dads, they key to supporting breastfeeding is to remember that creating and maintaining a healthy, relaxed, and nurturing environment is exactly what your partner needs.
Now whenever I meet new or soon-to-be dads the number one tip I give them is: remember, your time will come. Be there for your wife, support her, provide your child with the environment she needs to feel safe and secure, but remember that no matter how useless you feel you are needed.