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A dad's guide to breastfeeding

4-minute read

You may think breastfeeding means you will spend less time with your baby, but feeding is only a small part of being a parent. Bathing, nappy changing, massage, cuddling to sleep and playing are great ways to get to know your new baby.

While your baby is feeding, you can sit and chat to your partner or help with meals for the rest of the family, care for your other children or do things that you need to do. When it's not feed time, you can enjoy special times with your baby. It's important that baby learns that love can also come without food.

As a dad, you obviously can’t actually breastfeed your baby. But your attitude and support can be crucial as your partner learns how to breastfeed. By learning about how breastfeeding works you can be more ‘part of the team’ and support your partner through any early difficulties.

How you can help

  • Take opportunities to carry your baby in a sling, or to just cuddle them. Cuddling skin-to-skin can help settle your baby and help you bond.
  • Bathing your baby can be soothing for them, and a beautiful bonding time for you both.
  • Help with housework or cooking. Try to make sure you’re home as much as possible to take care of these things.
  • When your partner is breastfeeding, be her extra pair of hands — offer to bring her a glass of water or another pillow if she needs one.
  • For night feeds, you can bring your baby to your partner in bed. After the feed, take your child for a burp and nappy change, and settle them back to sleep if necessary. This will be a big help to your partner, even if you only do it for some night feeds, or on some nights.
  • Be patient if your partner doesn’t feel like being intimate with you. She might feel all ‘touched out’ if she’s feeding, carrying and settling a baby many times a day.
  • Breastfeeding will make your partner hungry and thirsty. You can help by encouraging her to drink plenty of water, and by supplying lots of fruits and vegetables for her to eat.

What you need to know

If your partner has difficulties with breastfeeding, encourage her to seek assistance, as nearly all problems can be overcome with the right information and a positive attitude. However, if you have really exhausted all avenues and your partner still finds she can’t breastfeed or chooses not to breastfeed, reassure her that it’s OK.

Look for the positives — one option may be for her to express her breast milk. This means you and your partner can share the feeding, while your baby still gets the best food. It might be possible for her to partially breastfeed.

  • Breastfeeding isn’t always quick. For new mums, each feeding session can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. Most newborns feed 8 to 12 times a day.
  • Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at first. If the baby is attached properly, any discomfort should subside after 30 to 60 seconds. But if the discomfort or pain continues, your baby might not be attached or positioned correctly. Pain isn’t normal and your partner needs to get assistance.
  • You might be able to settle your baby more easily than your breastfeeding partner. When your baby is fussy, the smell of milk on your partner can lead your baby to search for her breasts instead of calming down. In these situations, your child might settle better in your arms.
  • Once mum and baby have established a good breastfeeding system (usually after 1 to 2 months), you can talk about expressing breast milk for occasional bottle feeds. This means you can do some of the feeds and give your partner a break.
  • Breastfeeding doesn’t cause sagging breasts. Pregnancy, genetics, age, smoking and weight loss or gain will affect breast shape, but breastfeeding doesn’t.

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is available 7 days a week, 7am to midnight (AET) on 1800 882 436 for trusted advice and support.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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