Bonding with your baby as the non-breastfeeding parent


Recently, a New York Times opinion piece was published that caused quite an uproar in the breastfeeding community. The author unabashedly admits:

Part of me was hoping for the experiment [breastfeeding] to fail, which it eventually did. I didn’t want to miss out on all those endless hours of providing my baby with exactly what he needed.

Nathaniel Popper

What I, as a lactation consultant, wanted to scream after reading this was:

There are so many things that your baby needs outside of feeding, and so many ways that you as a parent can provide them.

After my anger had cooled, a thought came to me. Maybe non-breastfeeding parents don't always know how to connect with and provide for their baby if they aren't responsible for feeding. Maybe we need to provide some education to change that. Below are some ways for a non-breastfeeding parent to bond with their child.

1. Skin-to-skin

Take some time before the baby needs to be fed to put them skin-to-skin. The process of undressing them and letting them feel your body wakes them up and helps them prepare for feeding. You can also take time after the baby has been fed to provide skin-to-skin time. This can be if the baby is alert and awake or is ready to go back to sleep.

2. Baby wearing

Get ready, because baby's love to be held. It is much easier to hold your baby as much as they would like to be held if you also have use of your arms while doing so. Invest in a comfortable baby wrap or other baby wearing device so they can be close to you during non-feeding times.

3. Tummy time

Tummy time provides an excellent opportunity to engage your child, especially if they find tummy time frustrating. Get down on the floor where they can see you and participate with them! Play with your child and show them how fun and easy tummy time can be.

4. Take charge of another necessary non-feeding responsibility

Whether this is diapering, bathing, changing clothes, rocking/singing/reading the baby to sleep....take another required responsibility and make it yours. During bathing times this could be getting into the bath with your child and having extra skin-to-skin. During diapering this could be extra time playing peek-a-boo after the diaper is changed. While changing clothes this could be a short tickle session to get them smiling while you are in the process of changing. After they get older, let them pick out their clothing with you! Pick a book that you read to your baby every night. Sing the same song or listen to the same music together. Make something yours.

5. Be a supportive partner to your spouse during breastfeeding sessions

The best thing that a child can see is their parents ability to love and care for one another. If you want to get involved in breastfeeding - then do it. Bring your spouse water or a meal when they are breastfeeding and feed them or hold the cup while they drink. Give them a back rub! This will even allow you to gaze adoringly at the little one over their shoulder. During the early days, you can help to keep the baby awake at the breast by rubbing their back, head, or feet lightly.

These are just some of the many ways to provide for and bond with your child AND support your breastfeeding spouse. What others can you think of?