Father of 6 Shares: Breastfeeding, Bonding, and the Non-Breastfeeding Parent

by Jeremy Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Six times now I have seen my babies experience the sweet bonding power of breastfeeding with their mother. Six times I have marveled at their connection. Six times, in spite of the struggles that accompany the breastfeeding journey, in spite of the pain, the latch issues, the horror of mastitis, the mystery of blebs, the touch fatigue that comes with nursing every couple hours, I have watched these nourishing moments of intimacy with a mix of appreciative awe, compassion for the struggle, and jealousy.

Even though I understand and accept the natural way of things, that women are equipped both with the ability to grow and nourish a baby inside their body and the ability to nourish that baby outside their body, and that men – how should I put this? – aren’t; even though I know this to be a fact of the human experience, I see the connection between them both before birth and after with a twinge of envy.

Especially with our first, I even wondered if I should just accept that my chance to bond with my baby would come… later. Probably months later. Hopefully no more than a year or two. It’s even harder when the baby obviously prefers their mother. We had one of those. I tried not to take it personally. I decided to be present and patiently wait for her to come around, and she did. Eventually.

We’ve all heard just how important it is for babies to bond with their mother, and we also hear how important it is for kids to have both parents involved in their lives as they grow up (for those who happen to have two parents). This implies that it’s essential for both parents to bond with their little ones. So how does the non-breastfeeding parent get started, especially when it seems that their babies only seem to need one parent: the one with the leaky boobs?

Because the breastfeeding parent naturally needs to spend more time with their baby than their non-breastfeeding partner (babies eat all day, after all), it can be very helpful for them to take deliberate steps to help the other parent connect with their baby. Even though it may be easier to just do everything yourself, and indeed, our culture still encourages moms to think that they should be able to do it all, so there is a level of responsibility and personal pride that comes along with not needing your partner to help at all (and guilt if you don’t do it all), that kind of attitude only serves to speed up your own burn-out and to hinder your partner from being an equal parent. It requires intention to share the responsibility of caring for a baby. Here are some ideas to get you started based on some of the helpful ways that Jessica encouraged me to bond with our babies:

  1. Invite your partner to join the snuggle.

I never wanted to intrude on the intimate moments when Jessica and our baby were cozied up on the couch, mouth to boob, staring into each other’s eyes. It was so magical, and I didn’t want to break the spell, or distract them from their moment. A simple invitation from the breastfeeding parent is enough to change it from an intimate moment with that parent and the baby to an intimate family moment. Your first family portrait etched into all 3 of your memories. You’ll be working on intentionally welcoming each other into all sorts of situations for years to come (like when you’re on the toilet, or when you thought you were going to have a private intimate moment with just your partner), so why not get started right away? I had heard enough about sacred motherhood and the importance of the baby bonding to its mother that I needed an invitation to be a part of it. Maybe your partner does too.

  1. Offer for your partner to burp the baby.

Inviting your partner to burp your baby after nursing is a great way to get them involved and give yourself a little break from the constant skin-to-skin contact from that cuddly hot water baby. Sure it may seem easier to do it yourself since you’re right there but if you share the experience you might have a chance to get up to pee, or just to stand up and stretch. And if your baby can’t go without that skin-to-skin, invite your partner to lose a layer or two. For your partner, burping their baby is an opportunity to unlock that natural baby-holding sway. Pretty soon they’ll be practically dancing (it happened to me, and I’m not much of a dancer). And you can enjoy the sight of them bonding together.

  1. Share the other baby care responsibilities with your partner.

Once you’ve shared the responsibility of burping the baby, you’re ready to encourage your partner to take on other baby related tasks, like bathing them, dressing them, and cleaning that umbilical cord. Of course, there’s no reason for the 3 of you not to share those special moments together too.

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  1. Share the secret of diaper changing fun.

In many ways, diaper changes represent the last stand of traditional parenting roles. Guys willing to do all sorts of things for their wives and children still draw the line at diaper changes. What those dads miss entirely is that changing a diaper doesn’t have to be about changing the diaper at all. It’s a necessary task that provides the opportunity for special parent-baby time. Most anything can be turned into a game, and any event can be a bonding moment if that is the intent. Diaper changes can either be a disgusting obligation, or play time with your baby! Pee and poop, or fun and games. It’s time to let your partner in on the secret. You may have to model it like Jessica did for me. But once I understood it, I was hooked on diaper changing fun.

  1. Encourage your partner to hang out with their baby  

There is definitely something special about mother & baby time. But the part I used to downplay in my mind is that there is also something very special about babies connecting with their other parent. Encourage your partner often to hold your baby, their baby: to babywear, to cuddle, to take a nap together, to hang out in the rocking chair, etc. Bonding happens through time spent together. Your partner needs some of that time too!

  1. Spend a little quality time with your pump

This isn’t a necessary one and it is totally possible for bonding to happen without any participation in baby feeding- until introducing solids, invite your partner in on that fun for sure! But if you’re going to be pumping anyway to return to work or to have the occasional bottle for you to go out, this could be one way to give your non-breastfeeding partner the chance to participate. I loved every opportunity I was provided to give our babies a bottle, and, for my partner who gets overstimulated by touch very easily, sometimes it was just to provide her a break from all that physical contact that could get a bit overwhelming. You determine how often it will work for you – whatever the frequency, it’s such a special opportunity for your partner to connect with your baby.

  1. Ask for help and then back off

Sometimes our greatest enemy is ourselves. This is so true when one partner claims ownership of certain responsibilities. Our natural tendency is to want to make sure that the job is executed up to our standards, even when we “allow” others to do it for us. We want to control the outcome. We micromanage. We say too much. We follow too closely. We watch incessantly. We are ready to jump in (or take over) at the first hint of hesitation. And we get stressed out, anxious, and even angry, when things don’t run  by our definition of “smoothly”. This approach to letting your partner help does the exact opposite of building up their confidence. It may discourage them from even trying to be involved. And you may end up resenting an uninvolved partner that you had a role in creating. For your partner to really bond with your baby (and by “your” I mean theirs and yours), you have to really want your partner to be involved. That means you have to get out of the way. They may not do things exactly like you do, and that’s ok. Give them space, provide information when necessary, trust that they have their own parenting instincts, that they will ask you when they can’t figure things out, and that they will find their own parenting groove.

  1. Enjoy the view and tell your partner about it

Jessica has told me through the years that she loves seeing me with our kids. She loves it when they’re babies, and continues to love it as they get older, all the way up to high school! She says that the way I interact with our kids makes her love me even more. Somehow me bonding with our children brings us closer together as a couple. And it’s sexy. Not that my interactions with my children are sexy, but that she thinks I’m sexy when I connect with our children. And hearing her say how much she appreciates the view, I mean, my efforts, boosts my confidence and encourages me to keep at it.

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View More: http://yourstreetphotography.pass.us/martinwebberfamily1

Jeremy Martin-Weber is the proud father of 6 inspiring girls, and is 20 years into a love story with his partner, Jessica Martin-Weber.

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Eighteen ways to support your breastfeeding partner and a Beco Soleil giveaway

This post made possible by the generous support of Beco Baby Carrier

Babywearing daddy

When talking about breastfeeding we naturally spend a lot of time and energy working with, talking to, and sharing about women and babies so it may come as a surprise to you to hear that I feel breastfeeding is not a women’s issue, rather a humanitarian issue.  Which means it’s a men’s issue too.  Breastfeeding may seem like it’s about moms and babies but in reality breastfeeding is about the family and all of humanity.  It matters not just to those doing it and those receiving it but the value of breastfeeding extends to those that used to breastfeed, those who support those who breastfeed, those who know someone who breastfeeds, those who love someone who breastfeeds, and those that helped make the baby that breastfeeds.

Partners, this post’s for you.

I thought about having Jeremy write a post on dads and breastfeeding related to Father’s Day but that was about the equivalent of saying “hey, it’s the holiday to celebrate you… here’s more work for you to do!”  Instead we’re heading down the “brag about your partner” path.

Recent research suggests that one of the most important contributing factors in a woman reaching her breastfeeding goals is the support she receives.  Those closest to her and health care professionals can have the most impact on her breastfeeding experience.  Partners, this means you!  Your role in breastfeeding, even though you’re not the one putting the baby to your breast, is not to be minimized.  You matter, a lot.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you help support a mom according to her needs, she will fall more in love with you.  Check out this thread on The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page to see more about that.  Women are strong and determined and are equipped to breastfeed just fine on their own without support but when we don’t have to… it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m confident I could breastfeed just fine without The Piano Man’s support but I am grateful I have my partner’s support non the less. With so much emphasis put on being a “real man” in culture today it could be easy for him to not be willing to support me breastfeeding or think there’s no room for his involvement but his role is important, valuable.  Real man?  There is little I find more attractive than an involved partner, equally parenting in a setting of equal support and respect for each other’s contribution in the family.  That’s sexy.  And totally worth celebrating.

Eighteen ways to support your breastfeeding partner and bond with your baby

  1. bath time- a favorite recommendation for the non-breastfeeding partner is bath time.  It gives mom a break, accomplishes an important tasks, creates an opportunity for skin-to-skin, and can’t be multitasked.
  2. play time- even from the time they are first born, babies play.  The method just changes.  As newborns, talk to them, hold a toy steady for them to examine, holding them securely rock and dance with them.  As they grow, the play becomes more active.  I love watching my husband play with our children no matter what their age, they bond, I get a break, and I see the tender, fun-loving side of my husband that I love so much.
  3. get her water and make her be comfortable for feedings- breastfeeding is primarily between the mom and baby but there is no reason others can’t be involved.  Sit with them, talk with them, physically support her and metaphorically support her, be involved in the connection.  Even if it is 2am.  By taking care of her by getting her water, snacks, pillows, or anything else she needs, you are involved in the feeding and care of your child.
  4. learn about breastfeeding- read the science behind breastfeeding and encourage her by sharing that information.  Find resources and share them with her, learn what a proper latch looks like, and ask her what you can do to help.  If she’s pumping, help set up the pump and wash parts.  You don’t have to be left out but you may have to involve yourself.
  5. encourage her- think your partner breastfeeding is amazing?  TELL HER.  Do you think the expression on her face when she looks at your baby at her breast is beautiful?  Let her know.  Are you proud of her?  Respect her?  Communicating your support and doing so often goes a long way in her feeling like you’re really present.
  6. make the call- is she struggling with breastfeeding?  Is she in pain?  Worried?  Find the name and number of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and make the call.  Then get her to the appointment.  You could be responsible for saving that breastfeeding relationship.
  7. run interference- is there an annoying individual pressuring her to use formula?  Find ways to keep them at bay.  Has someone criticized her breastfeeding?  Ask her if she wants you to say something or just wants your quiet support while she stands up for herself.  In those early days, help her get the rest she needs and hold the boundaries for her to heal from birth well so she can focus on establishing her milk supply.
  8. adjust expectations- things have changed, her body, the family dynamic, sleep, you name it.  Having your expectations remain the same simply isn’t realistic and it could greatly damage your relationship.  For everyone, have a discussion about realistic expectations in everything from financial decisions to responsibilities, from conversations to chores, from physical intimacy to sleep.  Be real and be flexible and you will all end up stronger.
  9. massage- offer to give your partner a back rub and even if she’s touched out, she’ll probably welcome that physical closeness.  Learn infant massage and give your partner some space to herself while you soothe and care for your child.  Massage is powerful.
  10. send her away- if baby is fed, consider sending your breastfeeding partner out of the house for an hour or so while you take on all the care.  Bonding with your baby while she’s gone and giving her some time to hear her own thoughts can strengthen you all.
  11. cosleep- while it may not be for everyone, done safely, cosleeping provides the space for some deep connections for the family.  Do your research before making the decision and if you cosleep make it an intentional choice (not falling asleep on accident on the couch with your newborn) and you’ll find it simplifies breastfeeding at night and puts you right there to not miss out on any of the night time parenting opportunities.
  12. get up- maybe you could sleep through all the night time feedings but if you wake and help get baby (if they aren’t right there in the bed with you already) then you become the promise of milk for your hungry baby.  It can be pretty lonely feeding a baby in the middle of the night, don’t miss out on the chance to be present with them.  Get up, change the diaper, hand baby to mom, get her a drink of water, and keep her company before you go back to sleep.  Everyone will think you’re pretty awesome.
  13. solids- when it’s time to introduce solids, get involved in the action!  However you decide to get your baby started on solids (check out baby led weaning or baby led solids- SO fun!) there’s lots of room for the non breastfeeding partner to take the led.  You’ll have a blast and so will your baby and chances are strong your partner will love watching you help your baby explore new tastes.
  14. do some chores- think about it this way, if you help with the stuff around the house like dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc., you free up more time for all of you to connect and rest.  This will help your bond with your child by modeling healthy adult behavior and balance and by making sure their mother isn’t too drained and stressed.  This will help your bond with your partner because while doing the dishes isn’t exactly sexy, her NOT having to do them is.
  15. diaper changes- sure, it’s poop and pee but it happens regularly and is a great opportunity for face to face interactions.  Hearing my husband talk to our baby or make silly faces that make them laugh as he changes their diaper always makes me smile.  I love that he’s such a good dad.
  16. cook- whatever it is, learn to cook something and do it regularly.  Humans bond over food which is part of why breastfeeding is such a bonding experience but it doesn’t stop there.  Cooking for your partner and your children forges deeper connections, sharing that meal together (and expressing gratitude for the one that prepared the food!) is sharing a nourishment that reaches the soul.
  17. soothe- if, for some strange reason, the breast can’t soothe your upset child at some point, take a turn trying to soothe them.  I’m not sure how but my husband has a magical soothing touch and there has been a point with all of our children where he is the only one that can comfort them and get them to settle to sleep.  Even the boob won’t work.  When he gets them calmed, I’m calm knowing they were in the arms of someone that loves them as much as I do.
  18. babywearing- all the celebrities are doing, wearing a baby is the trendiest accessory these days.  Seriously though, get a carrier you feel comfortable in and take turns with your parter having your baby attached to your body.

Real Men of AP Jamie Grumet

My friend Jamie Grumet from I Am Not the Babysitter celebrates these involved partners too and I just love her “Real Men of AP” series highlighting attached dads, see her post about her husband Brian, A Real Man of AP.  From babywearing to breastfeeding support, Real Men of AP are the partners that aren’t afraid to forge deep connections with their children, biological or otherwise, even if it means bucking what society tells them is required to be a “real man.”  Nurturing, giving, and in tune, these guys step up their manliness factor not in spite of but because they participate in tea parties, run the vacuum, and with lots of cuddles.

This post went live Thursday and then vanished as a result of some technical problems.  Preparing our eldest daughter to leave for the rest of the summer, I tried to juggle the issues with the site and having my attention focused on her and getting her ready to leave on Father’s Day.  The Piano Man encouraged me to let it go and just be present with my family.  So this post is late, very late, but somehow it feels right that it’s so late because it was my very own Real Man of AP that saw my stress in the midst of it all and reminded me of what’s really important and I took the time needed to pour into my family and it was good for my heart.  When I think of the guy I co-parent with I see the guy that helps me be the kind of parent I want to be even when external circumstances make that challenging.  A man that reminds me it can be ok to disappoint others in some areas so I can be so present with my family.  Today that’s what I think of when I think of my Real Man of AP.

The Leaky Boob is teaming up with Jamie and Beco Baby Carrier for a great giveaway and sharing information about how to form strong connections with our children.  We want to see the Real Men in your life and how they are attached and connecting with your children, whatever that looks like.  Then on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 10am Central, we’re having a live chat sponsored by Beco Baby Carrier with Jamie Grumet from I am not The Babysitter about developing those attachments with our children, babywearing, discussing attachment parenting, and taking a look at parenting beyond a theory or philosophy in the real world.  Share your images and stories of a Real Man of AP and enter for a chance to win one of 3 Beco Soleils (retail value $130/each) and attach drool pads, a coordinating hood, and an infant insert with accessory pack (retail value $40/each) and you can keep the attachment going with a carry-all bag (retail value $25/each) that attaches to the carrier.  Let’s show the world what a Real Man of AP looks like, use the hashtag #RealMenofAP on twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and FB so we all can see (and tag us!) and we’ll share our favorite images on the Facebook pages of I Am Not the Babysitter, Beco Baby Carrier, and The Leaky Boob and visit the Real Men of AP tumblr.

Beco Soleil dad

Quick info on the Beco Soleil:

  • 3 carry positions: front, hip, and back.
  • Built-in waist belt pocket, key and toy ring
  • Carries 7-45lbs
  • Carrier weight 1.1lbs
  • Material: 100% cotton
  • Seat: 16″ and 17″ tall
  • Shoulder straps extending from 18″ to 45″
  • Waist belt extending from 27″ to 59″
  • Recommended fit for adults 5′ to 6′ 5″
  • Compatible accessories: hood, drool pads, infant insert, carry-all

Good luck and we look forward to seeing and hearing your pictures and stories!  See the widget below to enter.
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