Researchers have been hypothesizing about the father’s role in the life of his child. It has been suggested that the father’s support of mom’s choice to breastfeed can significantly impact her success: “69% of the mothers were still breastfeeding at six months postpartum, compared with a national average of 21% (1).” There is even a study that shows how breastfeeding for any length of time can actually improve the quality of relationship and intimacy of the mother and father (2). Who knew? My own life experiences can validate these studies 100%. I am always encouraging the moms that I work with to bring the baby’s father if possible. The more he knows about the breastfeeding experience, the more he can directly assist and cheer on his wife/girlfriend in the moments of anxiety and panic. His involvement will impact them as a family.
I know that my husband would often say how, while the children were babies and very young, his presence wasn’t as important. Mommy is the person they want and need. And while that is true, I used to argue that he made a difference whether they remembered (which they did) or not and whether or not he could notice the difference. Since I was there with or without him, I watched how the children’s dispositions changed throughout the whole experience based on daddy’s nearness. And more importantly, how my own disposition would waver as well, which affects everything (aka: everyone) within the household. I’m not sure I can emphasize enough this truth: Dads matter. They impact their child from the first seconds of baby’s life on the other side, to the first steps, first words, first full night of sleep all through to the major decisions of adolescence and adulthood.
The first year of our oldest son was one of the most trying since he was living and working in NYC and I had chosen to stay in central NY, in our home, near the baby’s Dr., and my side of the family. Every other weekend or so, he would come join us in our home that I had continuously worked on in his absence. Then once every couple months, I would make an extended trip to stay in NYC with him in his mom’s teeny apartment, with no room for a small family, with a newborn who refused to sleep, and cried, a lot…. It was NOT easy. His love, support, and encouragement got me through those trial-ridden days of struggle, adjustment, and hormonal swings. Without him cheering me on and advocating for my (our) choice to breastfeed exclusively, I can honestly say that I would not have been so successful with my new venture into motherhood. He made every difference for the better and he most certainly can take plenty of credit for the health and behavior of our children. So, despite the distance and lack of his company 24/7, his verbal and emotional support still had an amazing impact on my spirits and determination. I suppose that only love can have such a strong influence over the miles, and if we have nothing else, we truly are blessed with much love. Love for each other, love for our beautiful boys, and love for and from our families and friends.