Even though a father can’t physically breastfeed, their involvement plays an integral role to the success and establishment of breastfeeding.

Mothers who have partners support them with breastfeeding, are happier and more likely to breastfeed for longer.

Partners who were able to support their loved ones with breastfeeding, formed better bonds with their babies and felt more involved with newborn care.

These findings come from extensive research carried out throughout many cultures around the world.

How partners can help improve breastfeeding success:

  1. Attend antenatal breastfeeding classes.
  • Double the brains, to absorb and retain the information.
  • An opportunity to learn practical skills, to help the breastfeeding mother.
  • Become educated on the benefits, to understand importance of breastfeeding. This boosts momentum and helps with encouragement when motivation is needed.
  • Factual information and problem solving tips. Extremely helpful in the middle of the night when mothers are tired and partners are the number one support.
  • Prepares for realistic expectations; feeding frequency, baby behaviours, what is normal and what is not.
  • A chance to meet other fathers / partners. Connect via WhatsApp groups for moral support once the baby arrives.

2.  Help harvesting colostrum

  • After 37 weeks gestation, a woman can start hand expressing small amounts of colostrum from her breasts and save it in a syringe. If the woman is happy, partners can help with this. Learning the skill is useful for the early days of breastfeeding, especially if the mother is tired and needs help. It can come be a life saver in hospital, when staff are run off their feet.

3.  Be present at the birth

  • Sharing the birth experience can strengthen the bond as a family unit.
  • Being present at the birth helps partners deepen their understanding and awareness of a new baby and mother.
  • Observing and helping with the first feed, helps for the partners future role as the breastfeeding supporter.
  • Having skin to skin within the first 24 hours, can strengthen the father-baby relationship. Bonding frequently in this way, enables fathers to better support breastfeeding mothers, according to research. The father releases endorphins ‘prolactin and oxytocin’ strengthening feelings of love and connection with their new baby.

4.  Teamwork

  • Women with supportive partners, rate the parters as the highest level of help, above health care professionals. Partners are there in the middle of the night, when the milk comes in, early in the mornings and last thing at night.
  • Partners can help practically with breastfeeding; passing the baby to mum, holding and soothing the baby, checking the position and latch, ensuring the mother is comfortable, fetching cushions, giving shoulder massages when she’s tense.
  • Partners can help with mothers wellbeing; offering encouragement, reassurance, empathy, praise, giving hugs, bringing water and snacks.
  • Partners can help in between the feeds; changing nappies, dressing the baby, wearing the baby in a sling, playing and entertaining the baby, baby massage, bathing and winding the baby.

5.  Responding to the mother and baby

  • The partner who supports with breastfeeding, also knows when the mother and baby can be left alone to get on with breastfeeding.
  • Communicating as a couple continuously will help all three of you work together and enjoy your experiences.
  • Babies and children are more secure if they have lots of people in their lives playing different roles, such as mum, dad, grandparents and relatives.

Useful resources