Friday, October 7, 2011

Ways Dads (and others) Can Help Even if Exclusively Breastfeeding

One of the reasons that women choose to bottle feed is so that baby's father, and anyone else for that matter, can help with the around the clock feedings.  Some families feel that without dad helping out with the feeding, he won't be able to help mom or bond with baby.  But, this is not true.  There is still plenty dads can do, many of these tasks provide bonding opportunities.

Dad can still help out in the middle of the night.  Most obvious is for dad to change diapers and bring baby to mom so she doesn't have to get up.  In our house hold, we learned from the first time around that these tasks didn't really help us out, and the lack of sleep hindered my husband.  Since he is a groggy riser and deep sleeper, it was easier to me to just get up and do the diapers because I could have it done before he got up.  (Besides, I always had to get out of bed to pee anyway). 

But, that doesn't mean I never wake my husband.  There are still plenty of times when I ask him to get up to help me out.  We've arranged that any night he doesn't need to get up for work, he stays with us in William's room.  If he is awake, I'll ask him to get up to do diapers when they are needed.  Sleeping with mom and baby in the same room is a huge help, and provides some bonding as dad gets to know baby's routines and cries, and may even get to sleep beside baby in bed.  Along those same lines, its more important to me when he's gotten up that to rock William when he doesn't nurse to sleep.  But its really more important to me that he is just there with us, knowing that I could easily wake him up if I need him or that I can talk to him for a minute if I'm feeling frustrated.  And more important than bringing William to me is when he moves William from sleeping with me into the crib.  Its nice to have the responsibility of not waking him up on someone else sometimes.

Bath time and bed time is another part of the day when dad can still help out a lot in a meaningful way, even if he doesn't help feed the baby.  Its a good idea to start a bed time routine early on.  The routine helps signal to your child that its night time and thus time to sleep.  A bed time routine can also be a pleasant part of the day for everyone, providing dad with bonding time if he is involved.  In our house, my husband has always helped with bath time since we do baths in the evening as the start of our bedtime routine.  I usually dress our children after bath as he cleans up the bathroom, but dressing and massaging with lotion are great bonding opportunities for dad. Back when we just has one child, Mike was involved in reading to Natalie almost every night since she was a couple months old.  He would read aloud to us as I nursed Natalie to sleep.  It was a great way of bringing him into the bed time routine. 

When dads are around during the day, one of the best things they can do for nursing moms is to just physically hold the baby.  Right now, William often wants to be held, but if I hold him, he gets frustrated that I'm not nursing him, even though he isn't really hungry.  Also, it can be overwhelming to hold a baby a lot on top of frequent nursing session.  So, its a huge relief when Mike takes William from me and walks him around.  When you have two or more children, this also frees you up to give your full attention to your other child(ren).  For me, fifteen minutes of pure play with Natalie is as delightful as an hour of sleep. 

The  last area where dads can help out is the housework.  No matter what your feeding choice, moms really need dads to help out the first few weeks as they recover from delivery.  After Natalie was born, Mike cooked dinner every night for a month or more, which was a big deal for us since we used to cook dinner very rarely before she was born.  While grocery shopping, laundry, and washing dishes don't provide dad with the bonding with baby, it is a huge help to mom and the family as a whole. 

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