How will my partner bond with my breastfed baby?

Many families I see in their homes or at the breastfeeding clinic where I work ask a similar question; when can they “safely” introduce a bottle so their partner can feed the baby.  There are a few aspects to think about here;

 

  1. Breastfeeding takes up a lot of your time in those early days – Feeds can be long (normal), frequent(normal) and occur around the clock (normal), however this frequent milk removal and stimulation is what makes milk.  This can be overwhelming (especially if things aren’t going as well as you’d like!) and often partners want to take this on for us.  They sometimes do this by “solving” the problem.  However, in order to give you a “break” by feeding the baby, you will need to pump your breasts so that there is something to give the baby and to protect your milk supply.  This doesn’t sound quite as easy as putting the baby to the breast, does it? Pumping, washing the bottles and pump parts and then getting back to sleep.  Have your lactation consultant show you the side lying position; this can help you get more rest and protect your milk supply without adding in extra work for you or your partner.  Obviously if your current situation is more complicated than this, please seek out additional support from a lactation consultant.

  2. Flow –Most of us have seen the bottles and artificial nipples (or teats) that are “just like the breast”.  This unfortunately is all about marketing (as are most things that are being sold), and no bottle or nipple is like the breast.  Better to save your money and if you do need to give your baby a bottle, use the slowest nipple and slow down the flow(by the way you hold the bottle).  This will never be “just like” the breast, however some babies can tolerate switching back and forth between the breast and the bottle this way. Some, however, will not. If you notice your baby getting fussier at the breast, this may be in some part to that preference for the faster/easier flow from the bottle.

     

  3. How else can my partner bond with the baby? – Partners all over the world and for millions of years have been bonding to their children without directly feeding them. I know it seems, especially in those early days, that all there is to babies is eating (and sleeping and pooping!). This WILL change and in the mean time, partners can bathe, read/talk, sing, hold, rock, cuddle, do skin to skin, change all the diapers.  To support the breastfeeding parent they can make snacks, do the laundry, clean up, call/email family and friends to update them, find the lactation consultant, pick up/heat up/make the breastfeeding parents favourite meals/snacks.  And if this isn’t your first time; play with, take care of, get out of the house with any older children.

  4. And this too will pass-  Literally before you know it you will be thinking about introducing solids around 6 months.  In the first few weeks postpartum you will be shocked if anyone says it will go fast (probably because you will have been awake for most of the first month!) but it will. And once solids are introduced you can leave your partner or caregiver with solids when you go out. Nurse before you leave and then when you get home.

  5. Follow your instincts- At the end of the day, the overwhelming part is that this is YOUR baby and YOUR decision. I want parents to have all the information; to know that if their goal is to breastfeed for the better part of a year, sometimes bottles can make that easier for you but harder for your baby.  A breastfed baby doesn’t HAVE to have bottles.  Sometimes families don’t even know that not using a bottle is an option – open cup, solids, nursing before and after leaving for a few hours are all options. If this is not an option for YOUR situation, that is okay too.

Please seek out the one on one help of a lactation consultant if you have questions about getting more rest while breastfeeding, returning to paid work or being away from your baby for an extended period of time.

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