As a father of three beautiful babies, there are two universally accepted things that made me the happiest when they were under 12 months — how they ate and slept. And, yes, cuddling and early developmental fun are a very close second, but eating and sleeping are requirements for all things healthy. They are primary to life.
Co-founder + Chief Products Officer Christopher Gavigan enjoying breakfast with his family.
So, I could relate when a fellow dad at Honest recently shared with co-workers that he feels like he misses out and worries he won’t establish a strong bond with his son because he doesn’t get to breastfeed the baby like his wife (a genuine dad moment!). One of the moms he chatted with told him there was no reason he couldn’t feed the baby sometimes and that he should let his wife know he wanted to. Since then, he has — and he feels very confident in the relationship he’s building with his little one.
Feeding babies, especially in the first months, most commonly falls to moms, but it certainly doesn’t have to — even if mom is breastfeeding. And there are some circumstances where dad has to take a primary role in feeding. Regardless of the situation, we realized there’s a ton of support and education for moms when it comes to feeding babies, but not that much for dads. Today, we’re filling the gap just a little bit with some basic tips for dads (and sharing a couple photos of our Honest dads feeding their kiddos).
Director of Product Management & UX Derrick Dinglasan feeds his son.
1. Know when to start. If mom is breastfeeding, wait until her milk supply is fully established and baby’s latch is solid before introducing a bottle. When everything’s in place, mom can pump and let dad feed the little one sometimes. If you’re formula feeding baby, dad can start right away. And dad can always be involved during the learning stages of baby feeding — he can help mom and child with latching techniques learned at the hospital or in their breastfeeding class, finding the most comfortable feeding position, and burping to name just a few. (For additional ways to offer support, check out these seven tips for bringing home baby from a dad).
2. Skin to skin. Another great way dads can bond with their infants is by doing skin-to-skin contact. This regulates baby’s temperature, proves calming, and attunes the infant to its father through scent. Simply place the baby, clothed only in a diaper, belly first on dad’s bare chest — if it’s chilly, both can be draped in a light blanket. Enjoy the time close with your baby.
3. Swaddle the baby. Squirmy babies can make feeding a challenge. Swaddle your little sweetie to calm him down and keep him feeling safe and secure. During the feeding, hold him close like mom would while breastfeeding. Once you’re both accustomed to the situation, you can even try skin-to-skin feedings to further enhance the bonding.
Marketing Manager Rex Roberts cuddles with his twin son Riley after a happy feeding.
4. Be calm and confident. Babies sense and respond to your emotions. If you’re nervous or feeling stressed, it can make your baby feel distressed, as well. Take some deep, calming breaths — then go for it!
5. Try, try again. Don’t be discouraged if your baby doesn’t seem interested in a bottle at first. Try different types of nipples and even different environments until you find the experience your baby likes best.
6. Enjoy. These moments are priceless! Nourishing your new baby builds a bond that lasts a lifetime. Even when you’re busy and exhausted, try to slow down and relax and relish these special times. It all goes by too quickly!
Dads (or Moms): Have any other tips to share? Or questions for us? Let us know in the comments!
~ Christopher Gavigan