For Fathers & Family

For breastfeeding moms, having the support of their baby’s father and/or their partner, family, and friends can make a huge difference in their ability to successfully breastfeed and sustain it over time to meet their breastfeeding goals. On this page, you’ll learn about what you can do to help the baby in your life get the healthiest start possible through breastfeeding.

The Maryland WIC website also offers great tips for how dads, grandparents, siblings, and friends can support a mother’s breastfeeding goals, including a quick reference guide in both English and in Spanish.

How Dads Can Participate in Breastfeeding

Fathers & Partners

You’ve probably heard before that breastfeeding provides health benefits to your baby that cannot be achieved through formula feeding. But you may not realize that while breastfeeding is natural for the baby, it can be difficult and challenging for many parents. Studies show that when a nursing parent has a significant other who is educated about breastfeeding and supportive of their choice, they are more likely to be successful. 

Here are our top tips for how you can help your partner succeed in their breastfeeding goals:

  • Learn the basics about breastfeeding. This will help you understand what is going on with your partner’s body and how to be attuned to your baby’s hunger cues. Your partner has a lot on their plate – instead of expecting them to teach you about breastfeeding, learn on your own before the baby arrives.
  • Set breastfeeding goals together with your partner. Make a plan about what specific things you’ll do to contribute to achieving them.
  • Advocate for your partner. At the hospital, be sure your care team knows your breastfeeding goals. If your partner is struggling, get a nurse to help or ask for a lactation specialist. Once you are home, you can reach out to our Breastfeeding Peer Counselor to ask for help. Advocating for your partner also includes defending against negative comments about their choice to breastfeed. 
  • Form your own special bond with the babySkin-to-skin contact isn’t just for mothers. The baby can get the same health benefits, such as better absorption of nutrients, temperature regulation, improved sleep quality, and lower stress and higher relaxation, from skin-to-skin contact with fathers and partners. It also has the added benefit of boosting your own “feel good” hormones, reducing your stress, and forming a lasting bond with your baby. Talk and sing to your baby. Whenever possible, keep your face close to theirs and your eyes on them. This will help your baby’s brain develop, including teaching them to recognize you as a familiar source of love and safety.
  • Pull your weight. Breastfeeding is physically, mentally, and emotionally difficult. You can help by doing more than your fair share of bathing, changing, dressing, and caring for the baby. If you have older children, take on the role of their primary caregiver, especially during the first three months of the new baby’s life. Do what you can to facilitate your partner getting enough sleep – it is one of the best things you can do to boost their physical and mental health.
  • Provide support and encouragement. There will likely be times when your partner wants to give up on breastfeeding. It’s your job to be their cheerleader, not their coach. Focus on how well they have done, how proud you are of them, and give compliments. Reach out to our Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for advice on how you can supportively help your partner overcome the breastfeeding challenges they are facing. 
How Dads Can Support Breastfeeding

Family & Friends

Family and friends who have not breastfed themselves may not understand why it is so important to the new parents in their lives. But if you love them, you’ll support them in their decision regardless and take actions that can help them be successful. 

Real Grandmas Answer Questions About Breastfeeding

These are our top tips family and friends should follow to support the nursing mother in their life.

  • Learn the basics about breastfeeding. This will help you give breastfeeding mothers support. New parents have a lot on their plate – instead of expecting them to teach you about breastfeeding, learn on your own before the baby arrives.
  • Be supportive. Breastfeeding may not have been your choice, or you may not understand why it is so important to the nursing mother in your life, but respect her choices. Don’t criticize and let her know you’ll do whatever you can to actively support her achieving her breastfeeding goals.
  • Give encouragement. New moms and moms who have not previously breastfed may encounter discouraging challenges. Be a cheerleader and offer words of encouragement that help the overcome doubts and anxiety. Whatever you do, don’t criticize. 
  • See to her nutritional needs. Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories and can be dehydrating. New parents are often focused on the baby and may forget to eat healthfully, eat enough, and drink enough. You can bring easy to heat up, healthy meals and bring her a glass or bottle of water frequently. 
  • Pitch in. Parents of a new baby are often physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. You can provide a huge amount of support by doing tasks like cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, cooking, and taking care of other children. The parents will be eternally grateful to the people that do these tasks and enable the to focus on the baby and to get enough rest.
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