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Monday, June 11, 2007Welcome to the June Carnival of breastfeeding! This month, we're focusing on dads and their impact on breastfeeding. While I'd hoped to have Greg write today's post about what it's like to be married to The Lactivist, things just didn't work out for him to get it written in time. (I'll have him do it somewhere down the road though.)
As I sit down to write this at the last second (It's 3:51pm and I need to have it posted by 5pm) I realize that "second" is an important number in the life of a breastfeeding dad. Especially in the life of my kid's breastfeeding dad.
1.) Dads often have to come "second" to babies during those first few months.
2.) Dads serve as an essential "second" pair of hands when dealing with nurslings.
and perhaps most importantly (at least in my family)...
3.) Dads are the secret weapon that can you get through the dreaded "second night" of breastfeeding.
It's that third point that I really want to hit on, but first I need to pay a little homage to dads on the first few points.
Coming Second to Baby
Any new mother will tell you that a new baby, especially a breastfeeding baby, takes up every single second of her spare time. A breastfeeding baby can't wait to eat, especially in those early days. Since mom's the only one that can do the feeding, a dad has to be understanding and supportive while playing the waiting game.
Of course there's also the obvious issue of your baby seeing your breasts more times in a day than your husband does in a week. ;)
Greg did an amazing job of playing the patience game after the birth of each of our children. With Elnora, that meant not only coming second after Elnora's needs, but also coming after the needs of that darn pump. My schedule required me to pump at 10:30pm for more than six months. Since Greg heads to bed early, that meant going to bed without me for months on end. It was his support that allowed me to get my milk into Elnora for 14 months, despite not breastfeeding.
Second Pair of Hands
In terms of a second pair of hands, I have no idea how I would have survived life with Emmitt without Greg around to help out. Sure, I manage with two kids during the day, but what would I do at 8:30 when it's time for both of them to go to bed? How would I keep Elnora from running off in a restaurant while I'm nursing Emmitt? (Good grief, how do you single parents do it?!)
Greg has stepped up to the plate big time to become Elnora's best buddy while I nurse Emmitt. He puts her to bed each night while I put Emmitt to bed. He sits with her and helps her if we go out to eat so that I can tend to Emmitt. He brings me a drink or something to eat if I'm nursing. He does what I can't do and generally makes life much easier.
The Second Night of Nursing
This one gets filed in the "oh I wish I'd known" files. When Emmitt was a few months old, I heard a lactation consultant mention "the dreaded second night." I asked around a bit and found out that most every breastfeeding mom I spoke with ran into some type of awful problem on that second night. In fact, it was the "make it or break it" night for many moms...myself included.
To those in the "know," the second night is a night where dad's support (or the support of SOMEONE) can be an absolute lifesaver in terms of the nursing relationship.
For example, let's look back on my own "second night" experiences.
Elnora was born in the hospital at 1:30am. Greg stayed with us in our room that night and woke up with me every couple of hours to change Elnora and bring her to me to nurse. The first nice went pretty smoothly and I sailed confidently into the second day thinking this nursing stuff was pretty easy.
Until Greg decided to go home to let the dog out and check on some things and ended up staying there the second night to get caught up on sleep. I was still tender enough that I couldn't get in and out of bed while holding Elnora, so the nurses took her to the nursery. The problem was, it took me four hours to get her back. I finally had to threaten to go get her myself. By the time they brought her in, she was going nuts and wouldn't settle down to nurse.
Hours and hours of screaming and crying (by both of us) and intervention by an incompetent nurse threw us into a downward spiral. Before long, Elnora would begin screaming whenever she came near the breast. We worked with an LC and got nowhere. Jaundice and weight loss followed and not knowing much, we found ourselves "forced" to supplement. (Thankfully, I at least did it with my milk which led to my exclusive pumping.)
Fast forward 22 months later to the birth of Emmitt.
Emmitt was born on the futon on our back porch. I nursed him an hour later (in the recliner I'm sitting in as I type this) and again, the first two days went beautifully. Then we hit the second night.
Suddenly, my wonderful nursling became a screaming maniac that wouldn't settle down, couldn't organize and refused to nurse. I tried everything. Swaddling, unswaddling, singing, swaying, skin to skin, laying down, standing up...the kid would not nurse. I was still sleeping in the recliner out here on the porch because I was getting up once an hour. Greg was in our bedroom on the first floor and he heard Emmitt crying.
He came out to check on us and found me rocking back and forth on the futon saying "I will not get the pump, I will not get the pump, I will not get the pump." All I could think of was how much easier it would be to pump some milk and give him a bottle, but I was terrified of heading down the same road we'd walked the first time around.
That's when Greg became my hero.
He got me calmed down and settled Emmitt and I both into the recliner. Then as I, quite literally, passed out from lack of sleep, HE got Emmitt calmed down, latched on and nursing. It took him about 45 minutes, but soon both Emmitt and I were sound asleep in the recliner as Emmitt nursed away.
If Greg hadn't come out to check on us, I'm not sure I wouldn't have broken down and gotten that pump out. If I had, who knows where we'd be. But thanks to Greg's willingness to be patient when I couldn't, we survived that night and things picked right back up the next day.
Still Number One
Greg may play "seconds" in a lot of areas right now, but he's still the love of my life and my best friend. In fact, it's his willingness to be second, and his understanding about our children's needs that make him number one in my book.
What Does Everyone Else Have to Say?
For more perspective on fathers and breastfeeding, check out the plethora of entries into this month's carnival:
The Motherwear Blog shares the thoughts of a dad on breastfeeding.
Down with the Kids on Mother's Milk - a Dad's Perspective
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 shares A Father's Take on Breastfeeding Perception verses Reality
Nursing Your Kids talks about Partnership
Hepatitis-Epi offers up Fathers and Breastfeeding
Musings of a Crunchy Domestic Goddess pens My Hubby, the Lactivist
Breastfeeding Mums explains how her husband became her "Best Breastfeeding Buddy."
Mama Knows Breast points out that her husband is her co-author. (She's just finished a book on breastfeeding.
Fine Whine asks "Where are all the Boobs?