Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A guy's guide to breastfeeding

If you're a breast man, pregnancy is better than Christmas. But this growth spurt isn't solely for your viewing pleasure. Those mammaries are about to be put to work.

Be an extra set of ears: While many expecting fathers sit quietly in the back of the breastfeeding classroom, that doesn't mean they aren't paying attention. The dads "really are listening. They often hear more than moms do," said Karen Bromberek, lactation consultant at Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights.

Moms can be a physical and emotional wreck after childbirth. Thus dads tend to pay closer attention to the advice of lactation consultants in the hospital. Those who retain the information can bring it home and relay it to the breastfeeding moms when things have calmed down, she said.

But don't think you have to take it all in. Most hospitals send new parents home with plenty of info on breastfeeding. Gobs of info are also available online. Just don't search for "breastfeeding men" unless you want to be truly horrified.

Extra set of hands: Moms have their hands full while breastfeeding. Dads can show their support by being an extra set of hands. Helping with positioning of the baby, keeping a feeding/napping/pooping log book and occupying older siblings is a big help.

"Studies have shown that if dads are supportive of breastfeeding, the woman is more likely to breastfeed longer or try breastfeeding if they are unsure," said Assunta Osterholt, a lactation consultant and doula from Chicago Heights.

Set the table: Men may not be able to make the meal when it comes to breastfeeding, but we certainly can set the table. Burping the baby after feedings, changing diapers, giving baths, dressing the baby and making meals for mom is another way to encourage breastfeeding.

Lactation takes a lot out of moms - literally and figuratively. Pitching in with these ancillary chores is a big help.

Coach ejected: As difficult as it sounds, mom needs a cheerleader more than a coach right now. Encourage her. Compliment her often. But don't become the Bobby Knight of boobs.

"Sometimes it is the dad who wants the baby to be breastfed and the mom doesn't," Bromberek said.

Parents need to be on the same page when it comes to breastfeeding. Pushing her to do something she doesn't want to do is only going to backfire.

Run interference: Many breastfeeding moms complain about dirty looks from passersby or being subjected to negative comments, said Eileen Murphy, lactation consultant at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.

"I think dads just need to totally support the mom's efforts, because so many other people are not," Murphy said.

Such instances can be an opportunity for dads to step up. Have a couple of fast facts on hand and be ready to rattle them off to naysayers. Here's a couple:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first year of life.
  • Illinois law says a mother may breastfeed in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.
  • Babies breastfed for at least 6 months have fewer ear infections, urinary tract infections and allergies than artificially fed babies.

And that's just some of the benefits. Another is that this baby is going to be seeing a lot more of mom's chest than dad for quite some time. Try not to be jealous.

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