Dads and Breastfeeding Medicine

March 12, 2019

As a pediatrician with a breastfeeding focused practice, moms with their babies find out about me in different ways. Commonly it’s via their primary pediatrician, obstetrician/midwife or lactation consultant. Sometimes they learn about me through a family member, a friend who breastfed or group on social media. Recently, I discovered a referral source that hasn’t been mentioned much before – dads.
A few weeks ago, a wonderful couple travelled from Brooklyn to my office in New Hyde Park with their newborn baby girl. Mom and I were working through her engorgement and getting her more comfortable with latch. As things progressed, I noted that dad, who was sitting on the loveseat in my office next to his wife, was tearful. He looked up, emotional, yet smiling. He explained how happy he was that his wife and daughter were successfully breastfeeding! He also expressed immense relief that not only was his wife feeling better and that the baby was feeding well, but also that they were able to get all of their concerns addressed and questions answered. He said he was thankful to have found a breastfeeding medicine home in my office, as well as feeling grateful knowing that they both could come back if things didn’t continue to improve or if anything new came up.
He went on to say that he found out about me from another father who had come with his wife and baby for breastfeeding care. They had talked about breastfeeding when his wife was pregnant. Recognizing the importance of breastfeeding, he kept the referral information, recognizing that when the time came, they may need some help.
These fathers are representative of the growing involvement of dads in breastfeeding. A recent study in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth found father-focused breastfeeding classes to be beneficial. The study took place in Australia aiming to prolong exclusive breastfeeding by educating expectant fathers. Six Australian hospitals held peer-facilitated, father focused breastfeeding antenatal classes. The fathers reported not always being aware of the importance of breastfeeding or potential difficulties. They valued the anticipatory guidance around what to expect in the early weeks of parenting and appreciated learning practical support strategies.
Quality breastfeeding care is essential to help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals. Their partners are also interested in learning and helping to make this happen. As mothers and fathers/partners become breastfeeding advocates, we can make powerful strides toward optimizing the health of all involved.