Learning to read minds would help, but failing that, here are some suggestions.
Breastfeeding is important and concerns both parents. Even though a dad doesn’t have breasts that can nurse, he can still be an invaluable help to his wife.
It turns out that the length of time a woman nurses her child is directly affected by the support she receives from hubby while nursing. If she gets signals that she can rely on help with daily household needs, her baby can benefit from his mother’s milk — which is the best food for him— for a longer period of time. Here, some ideas of how a dad can support his nursing wife …
Protect your wife from unsolicited advice
When a baby is born, moms, mothers-in-law, and aunts go into advice mode. They know (better, they assume) how to dress the baby, what the new mom should eat when she nurses, what comes out of her breasts (oh my, could it be water?) and why the baby is so tiny (low-fat milk!). In such situations, the father should help protect the mom from such advice; it’s usually not worth much, since it generally has little to do with current scientific knowledge. Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a complete cut-off of both grandmas. However, their need to help could be channeled in a more positive direction — you could suggest they make a stack of dinners, or help take care of the older children.
Do the dirty work
Dad could easily be the primary person responsible for baths. In his sure hands, the little one will feel safe, and the warm water will gently calm the baby before sleep and prepare him for the evening nursing session.
Ask and observe
Communication is key, obviously. Nursing women often have to rely on non-verbal communication, so as not to disturb the baby. Dads are not mind-readers, and not every husband knows how to read his wife’s signals. However, practice makes perfect. First, asking questions can help. It’s best to simply ask, “Honey, would you like a blanket or another pillow?” Of course, the wife needs to answer clearly, and also be patient if it seems her husband is missing the obvious. Second, observation is vital. Perhaps after a while, dad will be able to fulfill his wife’s wishes without words. Of course, the mother should then remember to show gratitude.
Take a kitchen run
Some babies latch themselves to their moms for a long time, and during nursing, moms often become hungry or thirsty. A change of position with a latched-on baby is difficult, and reaching for a glass of water or opening a water bottle with one hand can be a serious problem. Consequently, it’s a great idea to get mom some water and snacks when she is nursing.
Be her coach
Emotional support is essential. Even though breastfeeding is natural, it does require that mother and baby work a little bit to learn how to do it. It’s not always a quick and easy adjustment. Warm and encouraging words from a dad who sees the sense to the effort, instead of saying “Give it up, it’s not gonna work anyway,” can do miracles. It’s the words of support, such as “You are doing something wonderful,” that keep us going after a difficult, sleepless night.
Find a father’s own unique way to bond
The list of ways dad can build a relationship and bond with the baby is long. He can take the child for a walk with a stroller or a baby carrier/wrap, or rock the baby to sleep, for example. Dad can also tell the baby about his day, even if he thinks that he’s too little and won’t understand anything. He can sing songs and lullabies even if he believes he has no voice. We can go on and on. A man has many opportunities to show his world to the baby. A dad doesn’t have to replace a mom; a father’s relationship with a baby is entirely different. That’s why a man doesn’t have to breastfeed the baby to have a bond with him.