Breastfeeding Father

Breastfeeding is, primarily, a relationship between two people – the mother and her nursing child. Even when a mother nurses more than one child at a time, she still has a unique breastfeeding relationship with each nursling, with its own individual quirks. Since breastfeeding is about a mother and child when problems arise the focus is on the breastfeeding dyad, how they are interacting and what issues they are encountering. And that is as it should be.

While a mother and child are the principal players in breastfeeding, other people often do play an important role. The support, or lack of support, from friends and family can help or harm the nursing relationship. Fathers, especially, impact the way that breastfeeding unfolds in a new family. A supportive partner is correlated with higher breastfeeding rates, which is really not surprising if you think about it. Mothers are often very vulnerable as they work through nursing difficulties, and so having someone who can help you through that time is priceless.

Jon holding newborn Hannah
Jon holding newborn baby Hannah

I credit my own husband, Jon, for getting me through the early days of breastfeeding with my daughter Hannah. She was born at 34 weeks gestation and following her birth I suffered a major hemorrhage. I spent 4 days in the hospital, and during that time I was very weak and tired. Hannah struggled with breastfeeding, and didn’t latch once in the week she spent in the NICU. I pumped, but never got enough milk. I felt extremely discouraged and was beginning to believe that breastfeeding wouldn’t work out for us.

I don’t think that Jon had very strong feelings about breastfeeding one way or the other before the birth of our daughter, or even after it. However, he knew that breast milk was the best food for our baby, and he knew that I wanted to breastfeed. He also knew that, being physically weak myself, I needed a lot of help with basic tasks. He stepped up to the plate and helped me out. He found a breast pump for me to rent when I came home from the hospital. He went shopping for anything that we needed, he did all of the diaper changing once Hannah came home and he supported me in my efforts to work through our breastfeeding struggles.

Feeding Hannah in the Special Care Nursery
Feeding Hannah pumped breast milk in the hospital

If I hadn’t had someone holding my hand and helping me through I don’t think that I could have succeeded at breastfeeding. I had some very low points in those early days. A lot of well-meaning people suggested that maybe my struggles were a sign that breastfeeding wasn’t going to work for us. There were many moments where I wanted to quit myself, just so that I wouldn’t have to struggle any more. But I didn’t, and I credit a big portion of that to my husband.

I don’t know if Jon and I always share the same parenting philosophy. Probably not, although I would say that we have more or less reached a consensus on the essentials. And that’s all fine, because we’re different people with different personalities and experiences. What really matters, though, is that we can work together and communicate and support each other. Jon has done that for me, and as I breastfeed my second child and look back on the years I spent breastfeeding my first, I am tremendously grateful to him.

Jon and the kids
Jon with Jacob and Hannah

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaI wrote this post for February’s Carnival of Natural Parenting, hosted by the fabulous Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. For more great reads on this month’s theme of ‘Love and partners’ check out the other amazing contributors.

  • A Thank You to my Husband — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl thanks her husband for keeping her grounded and giving her unwavering support in the face of discouragement from within and without. (@lactatinggirl)
  • My Reverse Traditional Husband In the Wild — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries gives us a lesson on how dads in the wild parent their young. Can you guess which male animal actually nurses its young? (@babydust)
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — TopHat at The Bee in Your Bonnet tells us how the patience of a partner can make a difficult breastfeeding relationship succeed. (@TopHat8855)
  • Parenting Together — For Alison at BluebirdMama and her husband, parenting is simply an extension of the way they live. (@bluebirdmama)
  • If We Had A MIllion Dollars — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and her husband would both agree to be crunchier parents if they had a million dollars to ease the way. (@bfmom)
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Co-Parents — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has written a letter to her husband, thanking him for his incredible support in every aspect of their natural parenting journey. (@CodeNameMama)
  • Natural Parenting Fathers — Sarah at Natural Parenting is balancing being all there for her son with being present for her husband. (@considereden)
  • Just Wonderful: Love and Partners and Natural Parenting — Zoey at Good Goog let her husband lead her to babywearing and cosleeping. (@zoeyspeak)
  • All that stuff I don’t get comes so easy to him — The Grumbles is taking this opportunity to say thank you to her husband for his mad parenting skills. (@thegrumbles)
  • The Power of Having a Supportive Co-Parent — Chrystal at Happy Mothering and her husband started with vaccinations and moved on from there. (@HappyMothering)
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners — Lauren at Hobo Mama makes do with babbling incoherently about how her husband practices natural parenting in such an effortless fashion, with bonus video. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • Love and Partners — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her husband’s moving account of her birth story, and his testament to the power of a woman. (@myzerowaste)
  • labor support… — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children is thankful that her partner has provided her immeasurable labor support through each of their last three unassisted homebirths (and will again for their upcoming fourth!).
  • Parenting With Support — How many people can say that their husband talked them into cloth diapering? Darcel at The Mahogany Way can! (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • Natural Parenting Carnival: Love and Partners — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start has been blessed with an incredibly involved partner. Her husband loves to take part in every aspect of parenting! (@pchanner)
  • Daddy’s Little Girls — Kate Wicker at Momopoly finds her husband right at home in a tangle of girls. (@Momopoly)
  • How do I love my parenting partner? Let me count the ways. — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker is thankful that she and her partner co-parent fluidly and gracefully. (@mamamilkers)
  • Interview with a Daddy — NavelgazingBajan brings us a highly amusing peek into her husband’s perspective.
  • Being Supported in Natural Parenting — Sarah at OneStarryNight has witnessed both ends of the parenting spectrum, and is grateful she found a father who is comfortable with natural parenting. (@starrymom)
  • Moments in time: a love letter — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick will make you cry with the beautiful way she describes the complete relationship between father and child. (@RaisingBoychick)
  • Natural parenting converts — Jen at Recovering Procrastinator brought her reluctant husband around to cloth diapers, bed sharing, and time-ins as a discipline method. (@jenwestpfahl)
  • A Natural Parenting Village — Acacia from Art, Body & Soul, in a guest post for Jamie at Suddenly Stay at Home, broadens the term “coparents” to embrace supportive extended family on both sides. (@SuddnlyStyAtHme)
  • A Natural Dad — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest doesn’t have a husband who merely supports her — she has a husband just as dedicated to natural parenting as she is.
  • Love and Support From My (sometimes pantsless) Man — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma describes life with the sometimes bumbling but always lovable Pantsless Man. (@kitchenwitch)
  • G-O-T-E-A-M! — Jessica at This Is Worthwhile made sure her future husband agreed with her parenting choices early in their dating. (@tisworthwhile)
  • how we come to parenthood — Michelle at womanseekingmother dances with her husband around the subject of cosleeping. (@seekingmother)
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      Comments

      1. this is great! Can I share this?

      2. Please, share away! :)

      3. thanks!

      4. FB is great! I don't have any kjds yet but I'm getting all this advice for when I do. Thanks! :)

      5. I agree with you, my husband was very much in support of breastfeeding and was incredibly sensitive to my highs and lows throughout the first few months. We had a commitment that he’d change the diapers and I’d do all the feeding. It was great until we started using bottles of expressed milk. I then had to pick up some diaper duties. But my husband’s picked up other chores around the house to help ease the transition. I don’t think he’ll ever know how much I actually appreciated him, and still do.
        .-= Sara´s last post ..___ for granted. =-.

      6. This is a great post Amber. It really made me remember how supportive and caring my husband was after I had our babies. I never felt uncomfortable around him breastfeeding like I did around some family and friends. He had great confidence in me and that was evident without him having to say it. There were so many times after having the girls that I was glad I chose Donny to father my children. If he knew how much you made me appreciate him today, he’d thank you. lol

      7. My husband was awesome. I didn’t really have breastfeeding issues, but I had a train-wreck c-section and some post-partum issues. If I had married someone less awesome, it would have been very ugly. I had one friend who had huge troubles nursing. Her husband wasn’t unsupportive, but he had trouble seeing her in so much pain, so she often resorted to breastfeeding ‘on the sly’. Ugh.
        .-= Allison McCaskill´s last post ..************Dream a (weird) little dream =-.

      8. Go John! That’s an awesome story!
        .-= Melodie´s last post ..High Tech Breastfeeding =-.

      9. Look how tiny Hannah is in that picture!

        We also had a rough start to breastfeeding, though not as rough as yours, and I seriously don’t know how I’d have managed without Sam — his encouragement, his care for me, and his extra hands to hold all the paraphernalia!
        .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last post ..February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners =-.

      10. Great post and thanks! Reminds me of our time in BC Women’s pumping for our Wee Guy – my John got so good at locating the ward breastpump, stripping it down and re-assembling, bagging up and sterilising the parts for me. I was waited on hand and foot, as a result the Wee Guy is the hale and hearty (feisty) little lad that he is now.
        Breast-feeding husbands rock!
        .-= pomomama aka ebbandflo´s last post ..friday forte! – another morsel =-.

      11. I agree that if it wasn't for my husband I may have quit too. My son bite a hole in me while he was only a week or 2 old! On top of that we had other issues with feedings. But my husband encouraged me to make it the 6 week point. By then all the issues were all worked out. It takes time and information I never had before his birth despite reading all the info I had been given on breastfeeding.

      12. I often joke with my husband that he should become a lactation consultant. Like you, without him, I would NOT have had the success that I have with breastfeeding. He was a cheerleader, he wanted it for me just as badly as I did. He paid better attention in our prenatal classes, he remembered what they said and he helped me put it into practice when all I could do was cry how hard it was. I kid you not, he could look at what I was doing and determine if the latch was good or not and fix it. He did this countless times with my first. With my second, when I was so so tired and ready to just give him formula in hopes that he would sleep, he gently encouraged me to keep at it. He did whatever he could to make it easier for me. I could go on and on about how he has supported my breastfeeding relationship with both my boys.

      13. I still get misty-eyed when I think of everything Tom did to support me during our early breastfeeding struggles. Your hubby is the epitome of awesome Amber :)
        .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last post ..February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Co-Parents =-.

      14. I completely agree! It’s so important for the father to be supportive of breastfeeding. Brian was really helpful when Zoe was born as well. We had a lot of breastfeeding struggles for the first few months, and if he wouldn’t have been supportive, I’m not sure I would’ve made it through to 13 months!
        .-= Chrystal @ Happy Mothering´s last post ..The Power of Having a Supportive Co-Parent =-.

      15. Based solely on the number of trips Anthony took to keep me fed and hydrated while I breastfed I would say a partner’s role is a major aspect of breastfeeding success. I ran that man ragged!
        .-= Jessica – This is Worthwhile´s last post ..G-O-T-E-A-M! =-.

      16. I was very much in favor of my wife breastfeeding our daughters.

        But, truth be told, I’m pretty much supportive of anything that gets her to open her shirt :)

      17. My breastfeeding journey with my first child was rough and I also had a variety of people telling me to give up. My son wouldn’t latch for many weeks and at the beginning the hospital had told us he would never ever breastfeed if we used a bottle so he was fed with pumped milk using a syringe. Syringe-feeding takes forever and pumping took forever. I’m very grateful that my husband took over most of those syringe feedings while I pumped.
        .-= Marilyn´s last post ..If He Says ‘Redrum’ I’m in Trouble =-.

      18. Amber, that is awesome. I didn’t struggle like you did at first, but my husband also made breastfeeding so much easier for me by being supportive (not always perfect, but stepping up and doing EVERYTHING else so I could focus on breastfeeding on demand and resting).
        If guys only knew… sometimes the littlest things are the most heroic because they are the hardest to do because it would be so much easier to give up when it gets tedious and tiring.
        .-= FC Mom´s last post ..My Sister Talks About Poop =-.

      19. Kate Wicker says:

        Great post, Amber. You’re so right about breastfeeding moms needing support. I remember one friend who’s husband wanted her to be secluded in some dark hole every time she nursed. Is it any wonder she weaned her baby around 8 months? My husband has always been 100 percent supportive of breastfeeding. Of course, if he wasn’t, he’d hear it from his own mama (a former LLL leader and now a lactation consultant!). :)
        .-= Kate Wicker´s last post ..Daddy’s Little Girls =-.

      20. This is a great post.
        There were lots of times I wanted to give up those first few weeks with both kids. My husband’s support really did help me through.
        .-= Capital Mom´s last post ..Songs =-.

      21. What a great story and a great guy!! Glad you were able to make it and you stuck with it. :)
        .-= Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green´s last post ..A Wake-Up Story =-.

      22. Thanks so much for sharing. My husband was an amazing support to me during those first few rough days of breastfeeding. I am so not a crier and I totally broke down when we were having hard times waking him up to feed and being afraid he wasn’t getting enough. I am so thankful for the love and support he gave which really helped me pull through.
        .-= Philippa´s last post ..Natural Parenting Carnival: Love and Partners =-.

      23. Hooray for great dads!

        I didn’t nurse for nearly as long as you, but I also credit my husband for encouraging me and supporting me when I really needed it.
        .-= Lady M´s last post ..Another Holiday Gone Awry =-.

      24. I loved how supportive my husband was breastfeeding – he even ended up with some of my biases towards how much better it was for the babies – going so far as to try and convince some of his friends/their wives that it was worth it! It definitely made it easier for me to continue breastfeeding through challenges and long nights of marathon nursing sessions.
        .-= Laurie´s last post ..Memory Lane Monday: Love Letters =-.

      25. He’s a star!
        .-= Francesca´s last post ..Corner View ~ repurposed =-.

      26. Gotta love a breastfeeding-supportive husband. I don’t think mine has any strong feelings toward it either way but he supports me 100%.

      27. It’s very important for your partner to be supportive in breastfeeding. Like your husband, mine knows it’s very important to me, so he will help in any way he can.

      28. I’m in agreement with many of the other commenters. My husband was a huge support (and continues to be) in my choice to breastfeed (and the second time around, to let it go). He encouraged me through my first baby’s jaundice and my wanting to give up. He encourages me now when, even though I am not technically producing milk and nursing, I nurse my baby with his bottle against my bare breast so that we can bond.

        On the other hand, as much as I am grateful for my husband and all his support (and like you and your hubby, we don’t always agree on everything in our parenting . . . who does?), I was disappointed by the lack of support for breastfeeding I received from my family early on in my diagnosis with ppd. I wish I hadn’t let it go . . . but that was months ago.

        Anyway Amber, this is a great topic, a great post, and your husband sure looks like and sounds like a terrific dad.
        .-= Jessica´s last post ..2: Days of Winter Beauty =-.

      29. Your hubby is awesome!
        .-= Joni Rae´s last post ..February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and Support From My (sometimes pantsless) Man =-.

      30. This was such an enlightening post. I never though about my boyfriend’s connection to breastfeeding! But it’s true that a supportive partner makes a world of difference. Good call, Amber!

        I, too, had a tough time starting out, as my son was in the NICU right after birth. But I persisted and with the help of the pump and a relentless lactation consultant I was able to nurse successfully.

        Thank you for posting this piece. It reminds us as parents that we need to support one another!
        .-= Old School/New School Mom´s last post ..You Know You’re a Jewish Mother When… =-.

      31. You know, I love it when prenatal classes talk about what the partner can do to support breastfeeding. Support of all kinds is so vital to breastfeeding success but I’d say the partner is really the most important because they are there so much. It’s so wonderful to hear a great success story like yours, despite challenges that probably seemed insurmountable.
        Have Jon’s thoughts on breastfeeding changed at all since those early days?
        .-= BluebirdMama aka @childbearing´s last post ..Trick of the Light =-.

      32. What a great husband!
        .-= Veronika´s last post ..Book of the month =-.

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      1. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

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      3. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

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      5. February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and Support From My (sometimes pantsless) Man « Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma says:

        [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

      6. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

      7. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

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      9. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

      10. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

      11. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

      12. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

      13. [...] Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel) [...]

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