You can’t get much closer to your baby than you do when he's suckling on your nipple. Breastfeeding can create a nearly impenetrable emotional and spiritual connection between a mother and child. But what about the dad? How does he get to bond with his nursing baby?
For laughs, one could point to the fake breast that Meet the Parents' Jack wears in his attempt to bond with his grandson. It makes for side-splitting comedy...but doesn’t play that well in the real world.
In some respects, the fact that a breastfed baby prefers his mother, who is his food source, over others is only natural. As Circle of Moms member Rosanne G. says, “It's normal for a young baby to prefer mommy.” In the Breastfeeding Moms community, LaChelle M. explains that bonding with mom “is a very typical reaction of most breastfed babies...they spend nine months plus inside listening to mom’s heart, and become so intimately bonded with mom even before birth, then breast feeding reinforces that bond."
But just because it's to be expected does not necessarily mean it won't cause emotional conflicts. In fact, many breastfeeding moms report that their husbands are frustrated by their inability to compete with the breast.
“My son is four months old and he screams when his dad holds him. It doesn't seem to matter what my husband does. He can't get him to stop crying. We have tried to just let him cry and have him feed him his baby food. Nothing seems to be working. I know this bothers my husband,” shares Halie H. And Amanda P., whose son is six weeks old and cries constantly until her husband hands him over to her, wonders "How can we encourage daddy-baby bonding?”
Good question. Fortunately, other moms have some answers.
1. Dad Cuddles Mom and Child During Nursing
Here’s one of my favorites that my husband and I used with our now 14-year-old son when he was a nursing baby.
“The one trick that really helped us was for my husband to cuddle us closely while baby was nursing. He got his face close to mine so the baby could focus on him as well. This let our daughters associate him with a good feeling,” advises Shelley H. as she discusses how she approached nursing each of her four children.
It’s a fabulous idea. When I look back on those times that hubby was right there with us, I do believe it not only gave him the opportunity to watch this process first hand and to see his son engaging in his first activities, but to also strengthen our bond as a couple. Watching this process really motivated my husband to be an active parent.
2. Dad Helps Baby Before and After Nursing
Trouble is the demands of life – especially when there are other kids in the household – simply do not allow for this type of intimacy each and every time mom is nursing.
But dad can be the one to bring a nursing baby to mom in the middle of the night. He can be the one to do the burping and put the baby back to bed afterwards.
3. Dad Goes Skin-to-Skin with Baby
And dads can take a cue from the skin-to-skin contact that babies love so much in nursing, and translate into his own version. No, dad isn’t going to lactate. But baby can experience the warmth and security of his body as well.
“Let them (the baby) snuggle against his bare chest (and have dad) sing deeply so they can feel the vibrations,” suggests Rosanne G.
“Cuddle with no shirt on, so he is skin to skin with the baby,” posts Christine T.
“Have dad hold the baby with the babies head on his chest so baby can hear his heartbeat. This will not only make the baby feel more secure but will allow baby to get to know dads scent and heart beat,” writes LaChelle M.
“Sometimes when a baby is breastfed, they relate the skin to skin contact. To the secure feeling they have when nursing,” shares Tammy A.
4. Pump — So that Dad Can Bottle Feed
Then there’s always the idea of pumping and letting dad use a bottle to feed.
Now, for me, that just didn’t work. Okay, so I didn’t even try it. I grew up on a dairy farm. I’ve milked enough cows and seen what the day in and day out application of milking machines does to their equivalent of a human breast. When I first saw a breast pump, I just said no way. Not doing that. Ick. Obviously that’s just me. For others, it works. But I was having too many flashbacks.
I had a very cooperative and eager baby, but not all babies nurse effectively. Bottles are often a big part of the feeding routine.
“Maybe you can pump and have dad give him a bottle if you are planning to introduce a bottle,” suggests Christine T.
It means letting go just a bit.
5. Make Room for Dad to Grow Into His Role
As the mom, we have a tendency to take on every single aspect of the baby’s care. But we have to learn to back off and make room for dad.
“We take turns during the day and I had to stop myself from running to her rescue when she cries when daddy holds her. He is just as capable of soothing her if I do not intervene,” writes Karen B.
“We tend to take over, we hear them cry and we have to do something. It's only natural. But then Dad doesn't get the chance to learn how to do it himself and when we step in and take the baby he starts believing that he can't do it. So he gives up and we get frustrated because we can't get any help,” writes Rosanne G. “Try to give them their own space to get to know each other and develop their own relationship apart from you. And remember that it's only natural that he (the baby) wants mommy above everyone else right now. It gets better, it's gets easier. And expect bouts of what my husband calls 'mommy mode' when baby starts to teethe, isn't feeling well, or is over tired. Once your husband feels confident in his new role he won't feel as left out when baby asks for mommy.”
The bottom line: dad just shouldn’t take baby’s preference for mom as a knock on his parenting.
“Let dad know it's nothing personal,” advises Allison M.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.