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My Story: a Dad’s feeding experience

My Story: a Dad’s feeding experience

Together, my wife Erin and I decided she would breastfeed our new baby. I fully supported her decision to take on such a big responsibility. Things didn’t go as planned and our son Finn was born prematurely spending his first week in the NICU.  Unable to latch or suckle, he was tube fed initially while Erin tried to express colostrum for him. These were unforeseen and scary circumstances but gave me a chance to feed him. As I gave my son his first bottle, then held him close as he drifted off to sleep with a full belly, my heart melted.

My concentration, love and connection in that moment will live forever in my heart and mind.

From that moment on I felt like a proper Dad! I felt something special building between Finn and I. I wanted to feed him, change his nappy and do as much as I possibly could for him. When he finally came home a week after he was born our bonding didn’t stop there, it grew stronger. 

We got into a great wee routine: I would come home from work around 4 o’clock and take Finn out a walk so Erin could have a rest. I would then bath him, change him and feed him until it was time for me to go to bed.

With every feed, change and bath my confidence grew. I would chat in his ear when he was crying to calm him, I’d hold him in my arms and comfort him and I could feel our bond growing every hour of every day. Feeding him was a really special time for me. I’d hold his wee body close and sit quietly, marveling at his wee face, feeling his wee heart beat next to my big one that was swelling with love. At the weekends I would do the night feeds to allow Erin to get a bit more sleep. I loved these night time moments, where I would quietly talk to Finn as he fed, telling him about all the fun we are going to have when he grows up.   

Before Finn was born, I never understood the intense pressure on new Mums to breastfeed. It wasn’t until I saw the effect of these pressures up close that I realised the extent of it. I fully supported Erin’s choice to breastfeed but after a few weeks, it became clear that for our family, breast was not best. I watched as Erin set the alarm to wake up every few hours to express, never able to pump more than a few ounces a day, despite taking off-label medication to boost her supply. This really began to worry me.  I could see how much strain this was putting her under but partners are instructed to always support a breastfeeding Mum and never to do or say anything that might “undermine the breastfeeding relationship”. I had to weigh up in my mind whether I should advise her to stop and for her to feel that I wasn’t supporting her, or to continue to go through the agony of watching my wife slowly fall apart mentally and emotionally as she strained under the pressure to breastfeed. 

I went over this conundrum in my head a million times, mostly when I was out walking with the pram. It was so worried about Erin that on one occasion when an elderly lady stopped to admire the wee one and asked me if I was OK, I burst into tears right there in front of her!   Pure reddy for me! Finally I decided to take action. At 4am as I fed Finn, a dazed Erin came downstairs to put the few mls of milk she had pumped into the fridge. I gently asked ‘do you think it might be time to wrap this?’ She didn’t reply straight away, but a couple of weeks later, with smile on her face, she packed up the pump. In the end, she gave it her all for 3 months.

When we found out we were going to have a baby I didn’t think too much about my responsibility of a breastfeeding partner – I doubt many do. My experience made me realise that partners need better, and more realistic, infant feeding information before and after birth. We should be encouraged to speak up for our families when it is clear things aren’t working.

I can honestly say those first three months after Finn was born were the hardest of mine and Erin’s life. We were constantly second guessing ourselves to make sure our little man was getting the love and comfort he needed, and trying to support each other. Every cloud has a silver lining however, and for me that was getting to enjoy feeding my son. There’s a special contentment you get when you are feeding your baby, holding their wee body close to yours and looking into those wee eyes, and I am so, so grateful that I was able to experience that.  

Fast forward nearly 5 years and my bond with Finn just goes from strength to strength. We are having fun doing all the things I promised him we would in hushed whispers during our night time feeds. We go to the park together, play with the ball in the garden (or even in the house sometimes, much to mum’s disapproval), we go on adventures along the river and even cook together. I feel like bursting into tears with pride that I’m his Daddy. I can hand on heart say that while bottle feeding is not the only way to bond with your baby, it helped me bond with my son and left me with some of the most special memories I have of his time as a baby and I’ll cherish them forever.

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