Learning to read minds would help, but failing that, here are some suggestions.
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.
Give her a massage
Sometimes a mom will find herself in an uncomfortable position while nursing; there are occasions when there just isn’t time to put yourself in a comfortable spot. So, it’s nice if her husband can offer her a massage once in a while, to help the strained muscles. If the dad isn’t quite up to it, he can always offer to hire a professional or therapeutic massage.
Let her sleep
Some babies invert day and night in their first months. It simply turns out that they are alert, observing, babbling and nursing at night, and aren’t even thinking of sleeping. Clearly, dad can’t nurse, but he can take care of the baby and let mom sleep in between breastfeeding sessions.
Help with the housekeeping
When a mom falls asleep while nursing the baby during the day, let them sleep together, even if household chores the mom usually does are waiting to be taken care of. That’s another way the dad can be quite helpful: regular housekeeping, like putting the dishes in the dishwasher or running a load of laundry. Even if mom used the baby’s nap to do some things around the house one day, the next day could be entirely different. Some women need to keep up with their usual tasks to feel good, and if they feel up to it, that’s great. However, most women in that early breastfeeding period are focused on the baby, and that can be quite exhausting. Time for dad to pick up the slack!
Give her a passionate kiss
And finally, the last (but maybe most important) idea. It’s vitally important that the parents, despite the new member in the family, not forget that they are important to each other. Sometimes when a baby is born, we become only a mother and a father. However, we need to remember that a baby is the fruit of the parents’ love, and not a replacement for it. Be sure to make time for daily kisses, saying “I love you,” and tender caresses and gestures.
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