Even before the birth of my first daughter, I knew that her father intended to be very “hands on.” The truth is, he wanted a baby way more than I did! I tried to include him as much as possible in her day to day care. Even so, I expected him to be more than a little jealous of all the time I spent breastfeeding. I’m pretty sure if he could have sprouted a pair of milk-making breasts, he would have happily participated.
My baby girl drank my milk from a bottle occasionally when I needed to be away for my part-time job. Her father was happy to give her a bottle during those times. Still, when I came home the first thing Alana did was bury her head in my chest and start nursing! Clearly, breastfeeding was so much more than the milk to my baby. It was about connection.
One of those times after I’d returned from work, the three of us were sitting on the couch, Alana happily nursing, I asked J if he felt bad that he couldn’t bottle feed more often. He said something quite profound. “I feel much closer to our baby sitting here watching you nurse then when I’m holding a bottle for her while she drinks.” WOW!
So it turns out that many breastfeeding partners feel the same way. It’s not feeding the baby that helps you feel connected. It’s, well, connecting with the baby. Doing things with the baby that helps you feel close. Breastfeeding facilitates bonding because of all the touching and mutual eye gazing. NOT because of the milk.
Here are some suggestions for bonding activities that do not involve a bottle. When baby isn’t breastfeeding you can take your pick. No need to feel left out!
- Bathe your baby.
- Bathe with your baby. The water and skin to skin contact is lovely.
- Give your baby a gentle massage. (No particular skill required)
- Hold your baby and gaze into her eyes. Change your expressions and watch her respond.
- Lie on your bed next to your baby and look at each other.
- Wear your baby and go on a walk.
- Rock your baby and sing your favorite songs.
- Dance with your baby—with or without music.
- Count and kiss your baby’s toes.
- Select the clothing and dress your baby. (Moms: no critique of his efforts!)
This is just a partial list. I’d love to hear more ideas from all of you fathers, exclusively pumping moms and non-birth moms.