Bottle vs breast – an argument that we cannot seem to win. Bottle feeding your baby? It’s not natural; breast is best! Breastfeeding your baby? Cover those up in public! He’s too old to be doing that!
One of the many benefits of choosing to bottle feed your baby is that both parents can be involved, especially at night.
For me, deciding and being able to breastfeed – wonderful as it is – has meant for a rather lonesome nine months of long, dark, solitary nights, rocking away in the feeding chair, scouring Instagram in a desperate attempt to stay awake.
This has been rather wonderful, however, for my boyfriend, who – on the whole – gets a good 8 hours of moderately uninterrupted sleep. And because being fed to sleep by me is the only thing my little boy knows, it’s the only way that works.
If Daddy attempts the ‘ssh and pat’ or to ‘bob around the nursery’, he is simply greeted by the frantic screams of a demonic mummy’s boy.
So, he’s laughing, surely!?
It’s not his fault his nipples don’t lactate and the baby just will not be rocked to sleep, so…I guess it’s a good night, right?
There are a few small ways you can help, dads. Just follow these simple dos and don’ts, some obvious and some not so, if you’d like to avoid ‘that look’ in the morning.
- Ask if she needs any help. We know you might wake up and pretend to be asleep, we notice. Don’t just roll over and let her do it all. That offer, even if she says no, will mean a lot.
- Replenish her water glass: breastfeeding is incredibly thirsty work and there should always be a full glass or bottle next to her as she feeds.
- Offer her a snack – sod it, just take one to her. She’ll want it, trust me. Always handy to have apocalypse-style bulk-boxes of cereal bars, flapjacks, muffins – anything. She’ll eat it.
- Change the little blighter’s nappy if needs be.
- Be ready to fulfil any requests she might have, don’t huff. Just oblige nicely. You don’t know how many hours she’s been in with your child.
- Reach for her hand in bed and give it a little squeeze, when she’s back from a stint in the baby’s room. Simple, yet incredibly effective.
- If you have time in the morning before work, or on the weekend, take the baby in the morning and let her sleep. Take her tea or coffee later. Better than any shiny jewellery or expensive perfume, guaranteed.
- Assume she’ll ask you if she needs help. This is possibly the most frustrating thing, to hear ‘Oh I was ready to help, just ask me!’ or worse still, ‘I’m not a blinkin’ mind-reader!’ No. She shouldn’t really have to ask for your help, and it only adds to her already looming feeling of ‘I feel like a naggy girlfriend/wife.’
- Huff and puff and roll over grumpily, it’s not her fault your baby’s awake and needs some love, but that sure makes her feel like it is.
- Say ‘well he was good last night wasn’t he?!’ We know it’s a guess, and it’s often wrong.
Having said all that, it must be rough on you dads, not being able to provide that instant nourishment and missing out on that lovely 1:1 time with your child, if your baby-mama is breastfeeding.
It must be pretty gruelling bobbing a screaming baby only to see his face light up and the noise subside the minute she and her milky mammaries walk in the room. We do get that, you know.
It must be pretty gruelling bobbing a screaming baby only to see his face light up and the noise subside the minute she and her milky mammaries walk in the room.
You have different roles to play and that’s ok. Dads, make sure you carve out some time just for you and your baby; bath-time is often a good one if you can make it back in time, and it comes right at the time of day when Mummy needs a sit-down.
It’s also ok if you’ve decided to keep things separate – Dad goes to work, Mum sorts the baby. Each family is different, but however, you decide to broach this part of your child’s life, one thing is for sure – you must talk about it.
Seething in silence is only going to lead to resentment; your relationship is already being tested to its limits by the introduction of this new creature and every snippet of honesty helps.
You are in this together, regardless of how useless your nipples are.
Lotte North is an English teacher and mother to eight-month-old Winston. She also co-runs The Parent Hood, a social events group for parents in Mid-Sussex. When she’s not teaching, wrangling babies or schmoozing with other mums and dads, she’s…well, sleeping, because there isn’t really any time for much else.