Hello, I’m Tom York, and I’m going to be a first-time father in December. I see several new mums each week in my role as a GP and know that breastfeeding can cause a huge amount of anxiety.
Most women in the UK start off trying to breastfeed but roughly half end up stopping within the first week and switch to bottle feeding. Breastfeeding is fantastic for numerous reasons, so here are my top tips for both new mums and new dads.
Advice to new mums:
- Aim for the nose: You should position the nipple at the level of your baby’s nose, not at their mouth. This encourages baby to tilt their head back to latch on. This should result in the nipple being in the roof of baby’s mouth which enables baby to give a nice strong suck.
- Minimise stress: Babies have an uncanny ability to pick up on emotions. It can be easier said than done, but staying relaxed really can help baby to feel relaxed. Stress can impair your milk production and can also cause baby to be restless which can then make feeding a struggle.
- Take a break: You may be certain that baby is hungry but sometimes for whatever reason, they just won’t latch on. After trying for a while, rather than struggle on, getting more and more exasperated, give baby to dad, take a break and leave the room and do something else for 10 minutes. When you come back to try a second time you’ll often find that it goes much easier.
- Watch a pro: Hopefully you’ll have a friend or family member who is breastfeeding and has it perfected. If you’re a first time mum then it’s bound to take a bit of practice and watching someone who knows what they’re doing can really help you to improve your technique and will also likely fill you with confidence when they tell you about how hard they found it at first.
- Speak to an expert: Sometimes you can try as hard as you can but breastfeeding doesn’t seem to be working for you. If you don’t get into the swing of things in the first few weeks it can be worth seeing your midwife, health visitor or a lactation specialist. Sometimes there’s a simple solution, such as correction of a tongue-tie which can solve the problem.
Advice to new dads:
- Stay busy: Breastfeeding can be really time consuming. Newborn babies basically sleep and eat, so mum is likely to be either breastfeeding or wanting to sleep herself. Most dads know their way around the cleaning cupboard but if not, now is your time to step up. Taking care of the home, plus making sure baby has clean clothes, a stock of nappies and your partner is fed and hydrated is absolutely invaluable and enables mum to focus on breastfeeding.
- Be her rock: Looking after a newborn baby is really stressful and mum tends to bear the brunt of this in the early months. If the breastfeeding isn’t going well, some mums will welcome suggestions, others will just want you to be present and available. You are an expert in your partner and you will know the best way to provide emotional support when things get tense.
- Get stuck in: After several weeks, mum might be at a stage where she can express. This is the perfect opportunity for dads to get involved. Volunteer to do the midnight feed. It will give you the most wonderful bonding experience with just you and your new baby together, not to mention giving your partner some well-deserved sleep.