Pediatrician William Sears is known for his practical and innovative advice – including how dads can nurse their babies. When Healthy Mom&Baby met with him, he was eager to help parents get off to a good start when it comes to feeding and bonding with baby.
What’s the best way to begin to build those first bonds with your new baby?
When you come in for birth, help your nurses understand what you want. Nurses are interested in your and your baby’s wellbeing but every mom is different. Let them know, “unless there’s a medical reason, I want to feed my baby as soon as possible. I’d like to have my baby with me and if I’m sleeping, I’ll have my partner here for the baby.”
And once you’re back at home?
You’re going to spend more time feeding your baby in the first year than any other interaction. Make it special. You’re not only delivering nutrition, you’re bonding with your baby. Have your favorite chair, your favorite music—unplug from the TV, the cell phone, and plug into your baby.
You’re known for encouraging dads to nurse their babies. What do you mean by that?
Only mothers can breastfeed but fathers can nurse, as nursing implies feeding. Once mom’s breastfeeding is established, dads can bottle-feed their babies.
Our family’s 8th child is adopted. My wife logged 19 years of breastfeeding, and this child was our first bottle-fed baby. We had donor breastmilk and when I watched my wife feeding our baby she was still holding the baby the same way as when she was breastfeeding. To her, she had the feeling that “the milk is coming from me, I am feeding my baby,” not the milk bank or the formula company. The baby is looking into her eyes; they’re bonding.
So I tell dads, tune into your babies. You’re feeding your baby, your baby sees you at the other end of the bottle. And remember, there always has to be a person at the other end – never prop a baby up with a bottle.
Moms, let dad and baby work this out, don’t rescue baby from a fumbling dad. Go shopping, take a walk and let dad and baby work this out. I had a patient who was a policeman used to carrying a club under his arm. So, he held the bottle the same way and snuggled with his baby during feedings. You’ll be surprised what dads can come up with. Isn’t it great that he’s able to feed his baby!
What about the mom who says “I just don’t seem to be connecting to my baby at all?”
Lots of moms feel that way. So I ask, what do you want to get out of parenting? Why are you having kids? Bonding isn’t like instant glue for every mom; often those feelings come on gradually. I ask them to begin wearing their baby in a sling for at least 3 hours a day. As they do this, and interact with and check on baby, they have those small moments where they begin to think “this is incredible.” And that connection begins to form.
When baby’s happy, mom’s happy. When you’re doing it right—and by right I mean what’s working for baby and for you—the pressure goes away and you can enjoy your baby and enjoy parenting. Babies sense stress; if you’re stressed so is baby.
On those days when you wake up and you don’t feel like being a mom, just look at your baby, look into those eyes and smile, and those warm fuzzy feelings will come right into you – babies have a wonderful way of mellowing us.
Dr. William Sears is the is the father of 8 children as well as the author of more than 30 books on childcare. He is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. When we met with Dr. Sears, he was a guest speaker at a Playtex-sponsored symposia on infant feeding. Watch videos of his presentation online at Health4Mom.org
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