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Advantages of Breastfeeding to the Father and to Siblings

You might not have considered the many ways your baby's father can benefit from being part of a breastfeeding family. Although fathers often worry that they will feel left out of the breastfeeding experience, the truth is that fathers are positively impacted when their babies are breastfed.

The father of a breastfed baby will reap the benefits of a healthier partner and healthier infant.
Traditionally, fathers view themselves as providers and protectors of their families. Naturally, a father wants to assure the welfare of his partner and his baby. His support, encouragement, and direct help can be the decisive factor in a woman's breastfeeding success. When his infant is breastfed, a father experiences pride and confidence, knowing he has contributed to the healthiest outcome for his baby and his partner. Fewer infant illnesses mean less disruption of family life and less expense, while the long-term health benefits to his partner can have a powerful impact on their quality of life.

Fathers appreciate the convenience of breastfeeding in the middle of the night and the increased flexibility that breastfeeding affords.
Many fathers choose to share responsibility for night feedings by bringing the baby to the mother and burping and changing the infant after nursing. Other men choose to sleep through some night feedings, especially at times when their sleep is critical to work-related activities. When the mother is breastfeeding, middle-of-the-night nursings are minimally disruptive to the parents' sleep, since no one has to shuffle to the kitchen to prepare a bottle.

The baby can be fed anywhere without any preparation or fuss, and a breastfed infant can be consoled and quieted in virtually any setting, simply by nursing. When our first son was born, my sailor husband had just returned from being stationed overseas during the Vietnam conflict. We still were getting reacquainted ourselves after enduring a six-month separation when we were suddenly thrust into our new, unfamiliar roles as parents. We had no one with whom we could leave our baby, so Larry was delighted to discover that we easily could take Peter with us and still enjoy an outing together. When our middle child, Tricie, was only a month old, we drove from Denver to California to visit Larry's family. Although Peter and Paige were only three and two, I found the trip to be thoroughly manageable because of the convenience of breastfeeding. I can't imagine trying to travel while having to deal with formula, bottles, a cooler, warmer, and other paraphernalia required for a formula-fed baby.

Fathers welcome the reduced cost of breastfeeding over bottle-feeding.
Despite contemporary changes in traditional sex role stereotypes, most fathers still bear greater responsibility for family financial commitments. With all the additional costs of caring for a new baby, they appreciate not having to spend money on infant formula. Some fathers have calculated the projected savings that breastfeeding will achieve and then suggested ways to use the unspent money-perhaps a vacation together since breastfed babies are so portable!

The father of a breastfed baby can make an important contribution to the success of breastfeeding.
One often hears expectant parents express their desire that fathers share more involvement in their babies' care than in the past generation. Certainly, feeding is one of the most gratifying and visible ways adults give care to newborns. I have even met a few parents who chose to bottle-feed specifically to allow the father to play an equal role in child rearing.

While I believe that babies ideally need and deserve both a mother and a father, I am convinced that the dual parental roles are meant to complement one another, not to compete with one another. The enlightened father doesn't lament, "I feel so left out when she's nursing my son; there's nothing for me to do." Instead, he recognizes his unique role as the principal supporter of the mother, the one who enables her to nurture the baby in an optimal fashion. He views supporting his partner through lactation as a logical continuation of his support role during pregnancy and his coaching role during labor. The enlightened father encourages and compliments his breastfeeding partner every chance he gets, brings a glass of juice to the nursing mother, gives her a back rub, changes the baby's diaper, and helps with household chores. Fathers of breastfed infants soon learn that there are many ways, apart from feeding, that they can bond with their babies, e.g., bathing, massaging, rocking, and playing with their infants.


From Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding by Marianne R. Neifert. Copyright © 1998 by Marianne R. Neifert. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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