by Nikki Graham, posted originally at Philly Parent Circle
With the overwhelming amount of research that supports exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding along with solid food introduction for at least another 6 months as the optimal way to nourish a baby, many new parents and parents-to-be are 100% committed to doing just that. Still, many wonder how a non-breastfeeding partner will find ways to bond with baby.
Since having your partner’s support is paramount to breastfeeding success, it’s important for your partner to feel as though they’re playing an integral role in providing the best possible care and nutrition for their son or daughter, too.
So, what can your partner do to help support you, and feel like they’re engaging with the baby?
Below you’ll find a list of just some of the many ways to help get your partner involved with baby’s care, even if they’re not doing the feeding:
- Diapering - diapering doesn’t just involve the obvious. Time on the changing table is often fraught with positive interaction between parent and baby… expect coos and smiles from baby as the two of you are in the perfect position for face-to-face communication. The changing table is also the perfect place for baby to receive a bit of infant massage from your partner.
- Bath time - many babies enjoy bath time, and having your partner take over bathing duty provides yet another avenue to develop their special relationship. Be sure to include singing (“Rubber ducky you’re the one, you make bath time so much fun…”); babies love to hear their parents’ voices!
- Baby wearing - after spending nine months in the womb, babies generally prefer the closeness and security of being “in-arms.” Slings and other soft carriers provide the perfect womb-like environment for babies who are still getting used to being in the outside world, and they aren’t just made for mom. You partner can wear baby too! My husband preferred to carry our babies in a soft, front carrier such as the Baby Bjorn or the Moby Wrap, as he felt he didn’t have the hips for a sling. That said, I’ve seen many a sling-wearing dad. I encourage your partner to try out a few different carriers in order to find one that suits their preferences.
- Skin-to-skin - the breastfeeding baby obviously gets lots of skin-to-skin contact with mom, but your partner and baby can both benefit from the bonding that takes place when baby is placed, belly-down, on a bare chest. The baby benefits from listening to your partner’s heartbeat, breathing in their familiar smell, and hearing their familiar voice. Baby snoozing on your partner’s chest can afford you a much-needed break and turn into a favorite napping spot.
- Reading - by the time baby is just one year old, she will have learned all the sounds she needs to know in order to speak her native language. This is how adept human babies are at receptive languages skills. In other words, the more parents read and talk to baby, the better she will verbally communicate later on. It’s that simple. When babies hear words, the sounds become imprinted in their brains. So, your partner reading a wide variety of books to baby will insure that she not only hears all those sounds she needs to imprint for language development, but also that the two begin developing their own unique form of communication and emotional bonding.
- The baby dance - many babies have a distinct time of day when they are generally more fussy, often occurring in the evening when mom is “touched out” and ready for a break. In comes your partner, ready for action! Partners can bounce, rock, sway, walk, and dance with baby, easing her through her fussy period. We could almost set the clock to our second baby’s fussy time (which began conveniently right about the time my husband came home from work), at which point I would hand her over to my husband, who would take her outside for a walk/bounce/dance/change of scenery while I prepared dinner.
It’s important for your partner to find ways to connect and bond with baby; through diapering, baby-wearing, story time, dancing and singing. Offering support and encouragement to mom helps her navigate the often-times challenging waters of breastfeeding.