When I had my first child nearly five years ago, breastfeeding was a struggle. I had a hard pregnancy with long days of bedrest. Not knowing what nipple confusion was, I introduced a bottle very early on. For the rest of the duration of our breastfeeding relationship, I supplemented with formula (and cow’s milk when he was old enough). I really didn’t have anyone around me who was an experienced breastfeeding mom so we went with the flow. Despite relactating several times, we made it work.
By the time our third child came around 19 months ago, I knew I wanted to just strictly breastfeed at least one of my kids. His birth was so hard on me and I was very exhausted. At the time our other two children were 3 and 12 months. I went through periods of cracked nipples, mastitis, engorgement, and months of the baby having acid reflux. So many nights I sat up crying saying I couldn’t do it and telling my husband to just get him a bottle of formula.
But he said no.
He didn’t say no to be a jerk. He said no because I knew how important it was to me to succeed at this. I’d have to say that exclusively breastfeeding got easier after about week two. That’s not to say that we didn’t struggle. There were sleepless nights and exhaustion, but it’s not different from any other baby I’ve had.
A father can support a breastfeeding mother in so many ways. When Mr. A was suffering from reflux, Joe would get up with him in the night if I had done all I could do for him. He let me nap during the day (how awesome is that when you have a newborn?!) He took over with diaper changes. He would take care of the other kids when I needed a break. He would cook dinner and bring me food. Most of all, he told me that he loved me. And when others discouraged me, he stood up for me and encouraged me.
I encourage all fathers to stand by their girlfriend/wife/etc.’s side during those early weeks of breastfeeding. As a woman goes through her postpartum period, the hormone drops and moodiness can make her feel unable to do things. Your support, strength, and encouragement could be all it takes to help her press on. I know it was for me. My husband is my rock.