On the surface, it doesn’t appear that Dad’s or Partner’s role could be very important in the breastfeeding department. But the truth is a Father/Partner’s role is essential to successfully breastfeeding multiples. Detailed communication between the parents before the babies’ arrival and a commitment to give them the best start in life, sets the stage for a successful breastfeeding experience for the whole family.
Here are some hints and tips to guide you in your breastfeeding support role:
- You and your partner have discussed in detail that you want to give your babies this important start to their lives. Reinforce this decision whenever it is necessary, to other family members, friends, to each other.
- Consider asking for extended parental leave from your job so that you can be available in the first few weeks after your babies are home. Even if your workplace doesn’t offer extended leave, ask anyway. Explain why this extended would be an asset. Each time an employee asks for this type of extended leave, a seed is planted. Companies are often rethinking employee benefits and extended leave for the parents with multiples might become automatic.
- Bring your partner a nutritious snack and a glass of water each time she breastfeeds. Help to get her comfortable by putting pillows under her elbows, behind her back and a stool under her feet.
- Actively involve yourself in the care of the babies. Don’t wait to be asked. You may change diapers before breastfeeding and burp, cuddle and talk the baby who finishes first so that Mom can focus on the other (next) baby.
- Take breastfeeding classes, ask questions and check out the vast array of books on breastfeeding. Learn how to put babies to the breast, and about proper latching on so that you can assist your partner at those important first feedings. You will be a big support during those initial attempts at simultaneous breastfeeding.
- With the birth of multiples, it isn’t unusual for there to be a shift in the family roles, especially if the babies were delivered by c-section. A c-section is major surgery and it takes at least six weeks for recovery. Dad/Partner needs to be prepared for a variety of duties: grocery shopping, laundry, childcare for other children and food preparation, for some examples.
- As breastfeeding progresses and the milk supply established, Mom can express breast milk so that you can feed one of your babies with a bottle, if this works for the both of you.
- Breastfeeding is a learned art for both a mother and baby. Don’t stay on the sidelines. Get involved, offer encouragement and problem solving techniques to your partner as they are needed.
- It is important to remember to look after your relationship with your partner. Try and do something together at least once a week: Go for a walk or for a coffee and conversation. Arranging time together as a loving couple will help reinforce your togetherness and decision to breastfeed.
- You may need to reevaluate your feelings about your partner’s breasts. While initially you may have thought of them sexually, after a birth, things turn can around as those same breasts become a source of nutrition for your babies. Be aware of your feelings and keep the lines of communication open with your spouse. These conflicatual feelings are normal.
- It isn’t unusual for a father/partner to feel jealous of the mother and babies’ physical connection. Try not to feel rejected or displaced. You continue to be an important person and a leading role player both with your babies and with your partner.
- If you feel that Mom is having difficulty with breastfeeding, encourage her to attend a La Leche League meeting or arrange for a consultation with a Lactation Consultant. Some of the latter make house calls and with a quick consultation, matters can quickly be rectified.
- It isn’t unusual for multiples to arrive early, i.e. before their due date. One of the amazing miracles of breastmilk is that each mother’s milk is specifically suited for her child’s gestational needs. During the early days after your babies’ births, you may need to provide encouragement and support as Mom pumps for your babies, if they are unable to breast feed independently.
- Have faith in yourself and your capabilities. These are your children too and looking after yourself as well as your partner and babies, will help you all have a satisfying breastfeeding experience.
For more information about fathering, parenting, breastfeeding:
Written by Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator
Reviewed and with very helpful input provided by Erin Shaheen, Child Birth Educator and Social Service Worker, Ottawa, Ontario.