WHAT ABOUT DAD?
For as long as there have been babies,
there have been fathers. But no father in the history of the world ever
nursed a baby. If fatherhood doesn't mean feeding, what does it
Fathers are different from mothers. They have fuzzy chests, deep voices, big hands, flat shoulders - differences that babies come to appreciate. "Ma-ma." "Na-na." Those are quiet, needy sounds - calls for the softness and milk that soothe away hunger and fretfulness. In fact, "Mama" was probably Latin baby-talk for breast. "Pa-pa!" and "Da-da!" are cheerful, playful sounds made by babies around the world. At the end of the day, whenMama and Baby are frazzled, Daddy may be just the different smell and feel and voice and style that perk everyone up.
Wear your baby in a sling and go for a walk. Babies are social people, and usually love to be "moving and grooving" at eye level in public. Read the newspaper to your baby, or take a nap with him on your bare chest. Talk to him about things around the house; the low pitch of your voice is intriguing. After the first few weeks, get in the bathtub together. As he learns that he can always touch base with Mom for a snack, he'll be more and more relaxed with you. Tuck your baby in bed with both of you for cozy, easy nights and a strong sense of family.
The "colic dance" is a father specialty. Hold your fussy baby by putting your hand in his crotch and his front along your forearm, so that his head rests near your elbow with one of his arms on each side of your arm. You can hold him this way upright and facing out, or horizontal and facing the floor. Almost all babies relax in this "magic hold", especially if you move around. Or sway with your baby. Babies tend to prefer ear-to-ear motion over front-to-back motion, whether on a shoulder or in a car seat, especially with a little jiggle thrown in.
Make diaper time a social time. After the first few weeks, diaper changes are usually a favorite time for games and conversation. And breastmilk diapers smell fine: popcorn, or buttermilk, or maybe cheddar cheese.
Nursing and Mama are the center of a new baby's world. Nursing is his career, his hobby, his obsession. But his world keeps getting bigger, and the first person your baby will add to his world is you. You are The Safe Person Who Is Not Mama, and your very different style will gradually teach your baby that different can be nice, too. In the meantime...
A father's first
job is to support the uniquely female process of
breastfeeding, not to compete with it,and how long your child is
nursed depends more on you than on any other person. Offering a
"relief bottle" may seem helpful, but in the early weeks it is more
likely to cause additional problems: soreness, breast refusal, extra
work, and - if the bottle contains formula - health problems for your
child. Instead, be your partner's bulwark against
criticism. See that she gets fed. Help her find informed and
positive help (1-800-LALECHE offers mother-to-mother support).
Care for her so that she can care for your child. Your two
separate jobs will link to form a strong, secure safety net for the
World's Best Baby.
©2000 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC www.normalfed.com
Return to CONTINUING
Return to HELP