Prior to giving birth to our second son, my husband and I had a serious conversation about him being the gatekeeper for visitors at the hospital. I was inspired by how my sister initiated breastfeeding right away after delivery, and wanted to do the same with our son. My husband's job was to determine when people came to visit. This allowed me to feel comfortable nursing openly. Little did I know the countless ways of him assisting and supporting me with breastfeeding would be revealed throughout this journey. He provided us with an eternal sense of peace.
I was exhausted the first night at the hospital, because of waking up every 2 ½ hours to feed. My body was tired after giving birth, and sleep deprivation was starting to kick in big time. The last thing I wanted to do was put a hungry baby on my sore breasts. With love and knowing my intentions, my husband was very supportive in getting me water and adjusting my pillow to nurse. Sometimes he felt helpless and indicated that there wasn't much he could do to assist me with various positions to feed. I felt the same way, until we had a visit from the lactation consultant, Catharine Monet.
Ms. Monet, a certified International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiner, tiptoed into our dim lit room and spoke in a very soft voice. She is petite with coke-bottle glasses, grayish brown hair, and exudes a nurturing spirit. I had just begun nursing as she approached the bedside and glanced down at our baby. Ms. Monet smiled as her voice matched her sweet persona and graceful motions, while reiterating to us the importance of breastfeeding. Intrigued by her wisdom, my intuition was correct in sensing that she had been teaching mothers for years about breastfeeding. In fact, she has worked in the field for over 22 years and believes that "God put the great desire in her to teach mothers how to feed their babies."
Her guidance and support led me to interview her and to share her knowledge and truth with other moms and dads. Ms. Monet helped my husband feel a part of the breastfeeding experience. Her tips on getting your partner involved with breastfeeding were both useful and powerful. These tips are summarized in her own words.
Communication: When you first think about bringing a new life into the planet, you must remember that communication is important, not only with yourself, but your belief system and partner. Discuss the benefits of breastfeeding with your partner and weigh out the pros and cons. Have an open mind and remember that it doesn't work for everyone. Don't feel pressured to nurse. We have had cases where as consultants the father has pushed the mother to breastfeed and she for whatever reason doesn't have it in her heart or mind to nurse. That puts her in a terrible situation and can be humiliating. It is the best thing for the child, but lots of women end up hiding how they feel, and may sabotage their own breastfeeding. Some women may have a lot of guilt and pain. If dad can be understanding and supportive of what's in her heart, then they can grow closer together.
Be Supportive: The story of Hannah in the Bible is a good example of a husband being supportive to his wife about wanting to have children and breastfeeding. The story in short is about a woman who asked God to give her children. She was one of two wives, in which the second wife produced sons and daughters. This caused Hannah great grief. She asked God to give her a male child and promised him back to God. The priest told her to sober up. She said, don't look unkindly unto me, because I'm pouring my heart out to God. Hannah conceived a son, stayed at home and nursed him until she weaned him. Her husband, knowing that they've made this promise, was supportive of her decision to stay home until their child was weaned. In other words, the most supportive thing to do is what is best for the mother and child. It is between you, your child and your God. Support her.
It is important for a partner or husband to honor the woman and do what her heart desires. Showing interest in what the woman wants to do is a great gift. Breast milk is more than food. It's spirit. The relationship itself is designed to create divine communication where the child is able to receive and prepares to receive. With God, we have to be quiet, open our hearts and receive.
The mother is very pleased when the husband or partner tells her that he is supportive and encourages her that she can do it. Bringing the baby to the mother, helping the baby latch, telling the mother the baby is getting relaxed and what the child needs are also helpful.
Attend a breastfeeding seminar: For dads, sit there, look interested, and be supportive. Believe me, you will gain from the experience and build a stronger relationship with your partner.
Online: Get online and learn more about breastfeeding. There are all sorts of information available online to readers.
Focus: Remember that we live in a web of energy and that we are all connected. When you are breastfeeding your baby in the hospital, and if the father or partner (as a support person) is not involved, then in can be difficult. For example, if your partner is focused on TV, reading, on the computer, texting or talking on the phone, then that can be a distraction. Involvement means shutting it all down and encouraging baby. Focus on the breastfeeding time and not on something else.
A husband or partner is not outside of the relationship. He is an integral part of this, and when he pulls back or is not involved it doesn't go as well. By divine design he shows support, just standing there. What's cool, after telling him, he gets involved. It's not just her thing to do. Creatively pull him in and make him see what a big impact he has on the success on this relation. If he helps this relationship develop, then the child has a better relationship. If an environment is created where focus is on mother and baby, and the father or partner is part of that then he can change the bond.
Massage: As a dad, there are things that you can learn about that helps the process: massage, getting snacks, and holding acupressure points at the base of mother's neck, to help the milk let down. If you have a happy mother, you have a happy baby.
Positioning: Help mom learn what positions are most comfortable for her and baby when breastfeeding. Father and mother should act as a team.
Remember that if you want to breastfeed your child then wonderful! However, if you choose not to breastfeed then that's OK too. You can still be a wonderful parent without breastfeeding. It usually takes 2-3 weeks until the baby is comfortable. Milk may not come in right always, or breasts may be very sore. It's difficult in the beginning. However, if your milk supply is good and you want to give it a try, then ask your partner to come along for the journey.
DADS TO DO LIST:
1. Adjust the positioning of the pillow
2. Provide water and food
3. Adjust the lighting in the room
4. Burp the baby
5. Change the baby if needed after feeding
6. Swaddle the baby after feeding and changing
7. Clean / cook
9. Take a shift
10. Encourage with love
Sojourner Marable Grimmett is a constituent services director, social media strategist, and global advocate for women and children. Her experiences in government and higher education spanning over a decade have involved her in college admissions, student services, and community affairs. Sojourner has been widely recognized for writing and speaking about the joys and challenges of being a "stay-at-work" mom and connects with moms, both new and experienced, who have the responsibility of raising a family and maintaining a full-time job. She has a BA in communications from Clark Atlanta University and an MA in media studies from Pennsylvania State University. Sojourner has been featured in Women's eNews, FitPregnancy, Real Simple, iVillage, Fox News, Huffington Post, and CNN. Sojourner invites readers to visit her blog: http://sojournermarablegrimmett.blogspot.com. Like her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/marriedwithtwoboys and follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/sojournerruth.