Breastfeeding Basics for Dads
What dads should know about how often babies eat, what happens during the first few feedings, and more.
There's a lot to learn with breastfeeding! Here are some breastfeeding basics to get you started, plus ways you can support and encourage mom at every step.
Why Choose Breastfeeding?
As you and your partner welcome your baby home, you will have many new experiences as a dad. Taking care of your family is a big responsibility. You want to protect them and make healthy choices. That is why making the decision to breastfeed is important.
Breastfeeding has many benefits. Breast milk is rich in nutrients, enzymes, growth factors, and antibodies to protect your baby. It helps digestion. It may lower baby's risk of ear infections, asthma, diarrhea, vomiting, childhood obesity, and more.
Breastfeeding also saves time and money. Breastfed babies may be sick less often, which may keep your family's health costs low. In addition, moms who are exclusively or partially breastfeeding can get more food for longer in their WIC food packages. And with breastfeeding, the milk is ready to go whenever your baby is hungry. That means no formula to measure and mix.
How Does Breastfeeding Start?
A woman's body gets ready to breastfeed before she gives birth. During pregnancy, her breasts change so that they can make milk. Once your baby is born, their suckling triggers the hormones that cause mom's breasts to make and release milk.
What Should I Expect in the Hospital?
After your partner gives birth, encourage her to hold your baby skin to skin. During this time, your baby will probably find their way to your partner's breast to start breastfeeding. At first, your baby will eat about every 2-3 hours. In between those feedings, make sure you get some skin-to-skin togetherness, too. This can help you bond with baby.
If your partner is having trouble breastfeeding, be her advocate. Ask the hospital staff for help. Talk with a lactation consultant who can look at how your baby is positioned and latching. This can help make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable.
While your partner and baby get used to breastfeeding, give as much encouragement and help as you can. Tell your partner you're proud of her. Pick up her favorite meal, and limit visitors so that she can rest and focus on breastfeeding. You can also change your baby's diapers and get in lots of snuggles when your partner isn't breastfeeding.
Why Is Skin-to-Skin Important?
Keep your baby skin to skin as much as possible. Even though you aren't the one breastfeeding, it's one of the best things you can do to feel connected to your baby. It also helps your baby adjust to the outside world and makes baby feel calm and comforted.
What Happens When You Get Home?
In the first few days at home, your baby will need to be fed 8-12 times within 24 hours. There is no set time or length for feedings. Some babies will eat 15-20 minutes per breast. Others eat for a shorter or longer amount of time. Your baby will let you know when they are finished feeding, and your baby's eating patterns will change from day to day. Just follow baby's lead.
How Much Milk Does My Baby Need?
It doesn't take much to fill up your baby. At birth, your baby's tummy is no bigger than a toy marble (about 1-2 teaspoons). By day 10, your baby's stomach grows to the size of a ping-pong ball (about 2 ounces).
How much milk your baby needs will go up and down as baby grows, and your partner's body will adjust to those changes. During a growth spurt, your baby might want to nurse more often or for longer. Your partner may need a little extra encouragement during this time.
How Do I Know If Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?
Watching your baby's diapers is one of the ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk. The color, texture, and frequency of poops and wet diapers will tell you a lot. Changing diapers is also a great way to support your partner.
Other signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
- You can hear or see your baby swallowing.
- Your baby seems happy after feedings, with relaxed hands and feet.
- Your baby is growing and gaining weight. Your health care provider or WIC breastfeeding staff can check your baby's weight gain.