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Paternal Involvement in the Breastfeeding Journey

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

The evidence is conclusive. Family members, such as a partners, do not only influence the mother’s decision to start and continue breastfeeding, but they positively impact the premature cessation of breastfeeding in the early postnatal period. Evidence has shown time and time again that when a partner is properly educated on how to help and support their spouse through the breast feeding experiences, they improve breastfeeding outcomes in many areas (Ogbo et al., 2016; Ogbo et al., 2019).

Although with the increased awareness of breastfeeding support that the partners have, there seems to be a gap. These spouses don’t know how to go about supporting the initiation or cessation of their spouses breastfeeding journey. It is interesting to note that most breastfeeding programs are created for the breastfeeding parent and not the spouse. As well mothers are given little information about their support system, and the dynamic that it could have on influencing the style of infant feeding.

Breastfeeding support can come in many forms. Once a spouse is educated on the benefits of breastfeeding it is important that the partner continue with supportive efforts to lead to positive breastfeeding behaviours. Such efforts include the responsiveness of the partner, the assistance they provide in preventing and managing breastfeeding difficulties, and stepping up to the plate by helping with household and child care duties (Abbas’s-Dick et al., 2019).

How Can a Partner Support their Spouse

When it comes to supporting a breastfeeding spouse, it is important to understand that when you are educated and knowledgeable in the area the spouse is having difficulty in, it is extremely helpful and a great source of encouragement to them. When a spouse attends breast-feeding classes with their partner, they will learn the positions and techniques necessary to successfully breastfeed. In this way they will be better able to help their partner after the birth. These classes will help the spouse understand the impact that the use of bottles, pacifiers and topping up, can have on the breast-feeding process. With these newly learned concepts the parents will be able to make decisions together about how they will care for their baby (Wambach et al., 2016).

Breastfeeding is a big responsibility and a huge commitment, emotionally and in some cases financially. From unsuccessful breastfeeding sessions to, emotional exhaustion, to investing in pumps and lactation consultants, it all add up. By understanding the commitment from the start it will help both partners with the postpartum adjustment, and curve balls that may come (Demontigny et al., 2018; Rempel et al.,2017).

Not only is this a commitment to breastfeeding, but to nurturing the nurturer, Respect her needs regarding touch, communicate with her, honour her basic needs such as sleep, showering, and eating, and ask how you can help with any lingering needs. In this light try to facilitate socializing, isolation is common for mothers at this time. Make them feel comfortable with nursing in public, and around friends, by sitting beside her using confident body language. This will provide her with a comfortable environment to breastfeed, with all her essentials nearby.

Bonding with your baby in other ways besides bottle feeding such as bathing with the baby, changing the baby, safe baby-wearing, infant massage, holding the baby skin-to-skin, and playing with the baby. This will help you create positive memories, especially by photographing the breastfeeding experience. This experience is short lived, and can be a sweet remembrance of the breastfeeding relationship. A supportive partner can be the foundation for a successful breastfeeding experience (Wolfberg et al., 2014).

Get the non breastfeeding spouse on board with the decision to breastfeed

Breastfeeding takes a village. Support, patience, and practice is needed from the dyad to have a successful breastfeeding journey. Non breastfeeding partners may harbour negative feelings such as feeling useless and jealous. To avoid this incessant drama it is imperative to allow the spouse contribute to the baby’s needs, by listing the benefits breastfeeding has for the infant and mother, giving them the opportunity to understand why the mother so badly wants her breastfeeding journey to be successful (Glenn, 2013; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, n.d.).

Before the baby arrives it is helpful to educate yourself and attend prenatal classes with the spouse on breastfeeding basics. This will help you both know what to expect for the first few days. Many parents find it helpful to set goals to help with communication and reaching goals. Once the baby arrives focus on skin to skin time with both parents. Don’t forget to ask for help, and encourage the spouse who is breastfeeding to seek out breastfeeding professionals if things get difficult (Leng et al., 2019; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, n.d.).

Secondly, invite your spouse into this experience. While it’s important to share what you have learned, it’s even more important to have the spouse do their own research. Self initiated inquiry is the best way to learn. A lack of support may be contributed by ignorance. As you both do research, you will be able to share what you have learned and clarify things that weren’t clear (Glenn, 2013).

Once the baby arrives, the partner can help the mother take care of the baby by soothing, and cuddling the infant. This can be accomplished by aiding in chores such as bathing, changing, dressing and burping. In addition, keeping your spouse company during feedings, and helping them stay nourished would be very much appreciated. Additionally, a spouse can help identify hunger cues, this will help the spouse asses these signs to that the baby can be brought to the nursing parent (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, n.d.).

In some cases underlying issues may be the cause for negativity, or dismissiveness experienced by the mother. These feelings may stem from the partner being jealous, or possibly secondhand embarrassment, perceived approval of others, or possessiveness over the mother’s body. See if you can identify where the concerns are stemming from. Breastfeeding can symbolize a deeper discord in the marital relationship which is being projected on the mother-child relationship (Glenn, 2013, Leng et al., 2019).

If the support from your partner is not easy given, try validating and sending loving support to each other concerns to find a healthy resolution. For those that would like to strengthen their breastfeeding journey, make sure that you seek support, such as friends, and professionals. The pressure that one may feel from their spouse to stop nursing before you or your child is ready can be overwhelming. Don’t keep it bottled up, share your experience with other struggling mothers and support groups (Glenn, 2013). These findings can help, health care providers provide appropriate education and support programs, to facilitate the partners involvement in the breastfeeding journey.

Supporting the Breastfeeding Parent

When it comes to supporting your spouse through challenging experiences, it is of utmost importance that the partner offer encouraging words, and remind the struggling mother that she is appreciated and that you stand behind her in her decisions. Help them create a comfortable environment, by offering pillows, a blanket, or food, all with in arms reach.

Getting your spouse involved with feedings, will show that you are a team player. Invite them to burp, change diapers, or soothe the infant. This will also allow the mother to get some time alone which can be extremely beneficial. Such as taking care of the baby, or other children between feedings, and taking on other responsibilities around the house. Being present and being an active listener can only add to the support that your spouse so badly needs.

It may feel like sometimes you may be the third wheel but remember that you can create a special bond with your baby as well. Giving your baby skin to skin time, hugs, play time, and singing to the baby will only help strengthen your growing relationship with your child (Horn et al., 2019; Wambach et al., 2016).

This research not only helps spouses, but health care providers as well. We are your first contact and need to educate and support the dyad, and partners who are actively supporting their spouses. When it comes time for check ups and appointments the spouses are always encouraged and invited to join in. This allows the partners to become active learners during these appointments, as well they can highlight and remember supportive functions the provider mentioned. This allows the mother to have a point of reference when common breastfeeding challenges arise.

If you're planning to breastfeed, it's essential that you feel confident and supported, we want to make this simple and joyful for you. From pregnancy to weaning and beyond, we're here to support you.

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By Deena Zacks.


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  • Demontigny, F., Gervais, C., Larivière-Bastien, D., & St-Arneault, K. (2018). The role of fathers during breastfeeding. Midwifery, 58, 6-12.

  • Glenn, A. W. (2013). When your partner wants you to wean: Heart advice for nursing mothers. APtly Said. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://

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  • Rempel, L. A., Rempel, J. K., & Moore, K. C. (2017). Relationships between types of father breastfeeding support and breastfeeding outcomes. Maternal & child nutrition, 13(3), e12337.

  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). (n.d.). Ways your friends and family can help you. WIC Breastfeeding Support - U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://

  • Wambach K, et al., (2016).The familial and social context of breastfeeding. In: Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. 5th ed. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2016.

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