It is my personal belief that a first time mom's personal support system is the most important thing for establishing breastfeeding. And for most of us, the first and most important person in that personal support system is ... the baby's daddy. He is the one we share our struggles and our secret insecurities with.
I personally have been very blessed by a very pro-breastfeeding husband. Our only disagreements with breastfeeding have been related to nursing in public and those were really pretty mild. My mother-in-law breastfed her sons and so it came quite naturally to my husband that I would also. One thing that has totally tickled me though, is when I overhear my husband discussing breastfeeding with first time daddy's to be. I have a couple of times heard him say, "You definitely want to encourage her to breastfeeding, because then you don't have to get up in the middle of the night to give a bottle." This is so true. At least at our house.
I have to give kuddos to him also for giving the bottles while I was at work. It is not always an easy task to give a breastfeeding infant a bottle. He did it so well though, that I had to have him teach me how to make a bottle of breastmilk. I had never done it, and my patients were asking questions....
I do think that daddy's want to be involved and helpful in those early days of new life and sometimes it can be hard to figure out exactly what the most helpful thing to do is when mom is breastfeeding. Here are my suggestions:
1. Change the diapers and keep the diaper log. There are many reasons for this. The most important one is that dirty diapers can only happen if baby is getting milk. Baby should have at least one wet and one poopy diaper for each day of life. For example when baby is three days old he should wet the diaper three times and have three poopy diapers. These can occur at the same time. There will be a time when mom is worried about whether baby is getting enough milk. If daddy has done the log then he is in a perfect spot to reassure mom that baby is getting enough, or confirm that there is something to be concerned about.
2. Baby has the need to suck that goes way beyond the need to eat, but baby would prefer to do all sucking on mom. When mom is exhausted this extra time on the breast interferes with much needed sleep. So, once milk is in and baby has started gaining weight, then daddy can be hugely helpful by helping mom decide if baby is hungry or not. If b If baby is happy with daddy and a pacifier, then baby is usually not hungry. If baby takes 8-10 sucks on the pacifier, spits it out and then tries to eat daddy's shirt then baby is hungry.
3. Treat breastfeeding sort of like labor and delivery. Talk together about your ideas and goals. Make a plan and then work the plan . But consider plan B. Breastfeeding is almost always really hard the first two or three weeks and then starts to go pretty smoothly around six weeks, just in time or the first growth spurt. But there are exceptions and that is when plan B might come in. Like most things it is easier to think about plan B before all the stress of the real situation has happened.