By Sherry Eagle, WIC Director
When you first discover you’re pregnant there are so many things that run through your head as a couple…so many things that you will need to decide upon. One of these things is whether or not to breastfeed. There are a number of benefits to breastfeeding. Not only is breastmilk the perfect food for your baby because it is easy to digest, saves the expense of formula feeding, contains antibodies to prevent sickness, but also breastfed babies have fewer speech problems, grow with self-confidence, have strong and straight teeth, have better vision and higher IQ, and it gives both mom and dad the opportunity to bond with the baby.
Once you decide to breastfeed and the baby is born there are certain things that you, as a dad, can do to encourage or support mom in breastfeeding. First off be sure to tell the hospital staff that you will be breastfeeding and ask them not to give a bottle or pacifier. Babies are born with the instinct to breastfeed, but newborns do not nurse on a schedule. You can help mom by watching for hunger signs such as squirming, licking his lips, sucking his hands, turning his head back and forth or rooting. Crying is a late sign of hunger. It’s best to start breastfeeding before the baby starts crying because it’s harder for a crying baby to latch.
Helping mom to be comfortable will go a long way to making breastfeeding successful. Get her some pillows to support her back, get her a glass of water or juice, help with changing the diapers or bathing your newborn…even bringing mom a healthy snack or bringing the baby to her for nighttime feedings is showing your support. A newborn baby will eat 7-10 times during the day and 1-2 times at night with an average time of 15 to 20 minutes per breast. This is a great opportunity for mom to bond, but breastfeeding can be a bonding time for dad as well. While mom is resting you can rock, talk, or walk with the baby. You can use this time for skin to skin contact. If mom has to be gone, dad can give a bottle of pumped breastmilk. If you’re in public when mom has to breastfeed, shield her from curious stares and let others know you support her choice to breastfeed.
Sherry Eagle is the WIC Director at the Meigs County Health Department.