10 Ways Dads Can Help Ensure Breastfeeding Success


The Surgeon General's Call to Action about breastfeeding noted that family members -- especially dads and grandmas -- were important people in a new mother's life. They needed to have the opportunity to learn just as much about breastfeeding as the new mom ... and needed to learn how to support her in a way that helped her continue breastfeeding.

While a dad can't breastfeed (no matter how much we wish he could), he does play a large part in a mom's breastfeeding journey. Yet, dad often doesn't know what to do to be supportive.

I can help! We can help! Send this to the soon-to-be or new fathers that you know, send it to your own husband -- the new dad or dad-to-be.

Dear husband to breastfeeding mom: follow this 10-step guide to help your wife feel the support she needs when breastfeeding. 

  1. Be active and vocal in your support. Know that your wife generally values your opinion over her own mother's, so you really need to be there in a big way, including reading breastfeeding books and attending classes with her -- not just asking her to give you the run-down afterward.
  2. Learn how to give the right support. Dads are often the first to offer the "relief" bottle, thinking it's helping their wife who is tired and struggling. Unfortunately, that "relief" bottle is the first in a long downward spiral and can make life much harder for the new mom. Knowing instead to bring her food, water, the TV remote, help her set up a "nest," and have her involved with the family even if she is stuck on her butt is very important. Women in a survey said they wished their husbands wouldn't even mention formula.
  3. Let her know how much you appreciate her. Breastfeeding can be hard work and mentally exhausting at first. Telling your wife that you think she's amazing and that you're proud of her can mean so much to her and really help her feel supported.
  4. Get up with the baby at night even if you're not feeding him or her. You can still change the diaper, rock the baby, and help mom in many ways.
  5. Take other baby responsibilities off her plate. So you aren't the food source -- that's okay. Babies still need to be carried, bathed, talked to, loved, and all of that can be done by you. It's also the best way you can bond with baby.
  6. Take over household responsibilities as well. Help with cleaning the house, getting dinner ready, paying bills, doing dishes ... especially if you're on paternity leave. Try to make your wife's only responsibilities be healing her own body and helping your newborn transition into the big world and get off to the best start by breastfeeding. The more mom doesn't have to worry about, the less overwhelming the demands of breastfeeding seem.
  7. Don't allow her to fall prey to sabotage. If you get free formula in the mail or from a well-meaning friend, donate it to a food shelter or give it to a formula-feeding friend. Even having it in the house is akin to having a cake on the counter when someone is on a diet. Also get rid of any "breastfeeding" literature that comes from formula companies.
  8. Keep out negative "help." If your mother starts talking to you or your wife about breastfeeding in a negative way, such as telling you she needs to supplement, kindly tell her that kind of talk isn't welcome or appreciated, and if she can't be supportive, she will be asked to leave.
  9. Know when your wife needs help. If she's suffering with bleeding nipples or is convinced she's not making enough, call up the local La Leche League Leader or a certified breastfeeding counselor to make a house call and help out.
  10. Crack appropriate jokes. Don't make cow comments -- just don't. But whipping your own shirt off and declaring it a nudist colony in your house or going out and making jokes about the things you'd say if anyone dared say anything about her nursing can help lighten the mood while also showing support.

What other ways do you think dads can help mom succeed at breastfeeding?


Image via MuddyBootsPhoto/Flickr

breastfeeding, natural parenting, fathers


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Xakana Xakana

LOVE LOVE LOVE this article!

blueg... bluegfluff

This is a great article. I just had my first in November, and breastfeeding was a challenge in the beginning, but my husband helped out so much. His support was amazing, and without it I might not have worked so hard to not use formula. He still is great about bringing me water and asking if I need anything when I feed our daughter, and I love him for it. I think that seeing his brother doing the same with his sister in law helped show him how to treat a breastfeeding wife.

linda... linda_e_bryant

I am breastfeeding my baby boy who is ten weeks old now.  The first few weeks were the hardest, but my man made it so much easier.  He constantly reminded me how wonderful my body was, and how awesome he thought it was that we were breastfeeding.  He gets more worked up to negative attention toward breatfeeding that I do!!!  Partners can also help breastfeeding moms in the first few weeks by hand expression.  My boyfriend did this for me when I had my first let-down and it helped so much and felt so good.  He would wake up with me for the night feedings just to help me hand express while feeding.  He has been so wonderful, he is my rock.  I respect him so much for respecting my wishes for breastfeeding.

Shannon Piper

My husband has also been super supportive with all of our children breastfeeding. He is as radically pro-breastfeeding as I am and so he would often comment to others how proud he was or how happy and relieved he was that I was exclusively breastfeeding. How it was saving us money and giving our kids the absolute best nutrition possible. These kinds of praises would just make me feel so appreciated and whatever challenges breastfeeding might present, it made it feel totally worth it. We are now expecting our fifth and I know he will be just as there for me this time around! :)

nonmember avatar ChewyMomma

Excellent article. This should be handed out to every family member of a breastfeeding momma!!!

It's not always easy, there are days that it's downright annoying and/or painful...but we do it because it's what's best for our babies. A little praise can go a long way to get a momma through a rough patch.


Having those new cold gel pads ready to blida huge help, I think they are Laninsoh? They are Heaven.

Charlotte Elizabeth Bartee

actually, in some cultures the men breastfeed solely. and even in the us i've heard of some dads lactating, although they didn't breastfeed, it was just interesting to look into!

i do love this article and believe that its always great to have a good support system while breastfeeding!

Chiara Pozzi Perteghella

dad can do the difference between breastfeeding or not..... he is really important for the mother!


Great article. I was lucky my husband was a HUGE help and support to me,  I just wish I would have breastfed longer than I did.

ankle... anklebitr

I have a funny story (don't I always?)  After my son was born a lady at my husbands work asked him if he 'fed the baby yet.'  He grabbed his man boobs and said "These don't work!"  LMAO

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