Breastfeeding Quandaries: What If Dad Stays Home?

Families today take many different forms. The notion of a married couple with a mom and a dad, where the mom stays home and the dad goes to work, has become deeply outdated and often impractical.

Instead, more couples rely on having two incomes, or, as women exceed men in educational attainment, women are remaining in the workplace as breadwinners, while their husbands become stay at home dads

These changes represent the  is the nature of the modern family, and it’s wonderful to see couples exploring what options work best for them – but it can raise questions about certain traditional and important roles. 

For example, breastfeeding is beneficial to infants and mothers alike, but what happens when dad stays home with the baby?

The Importance Of Dads

Perhaps the easiest way to understand how mothers can approach breastfeeding when their partner plans to be the parent who stays home is that it’s not unlike what you would do if you were going back to work and placing your child in daycare.

You’ll develop a pumping schedule for the office, build up a milk stash, and practice bottle feeding before returning to the office, in order to ensure your baby is comfortable. Then, when you’re home, you can still breastfeed. There’s nothing wrong with mixing breast and bottle.

Another benefit of dad being home for feedings during the workday is that fathers can feel, in a sense, useless when mom is breastfeeding. How can they contribute and bond with their child? 

Even if they’re not staying home, dads should of course be contributing to childcare, such as by soothing, burping, and bathing the baby. These things are important for building a close connection and attachment, but many stay at home fathers feel more secure in this relationship than their working peers.

This Isn’t A Compromise

Some people think that a family would only choose to have the father rather than the mother stay home with the kids because he’s already out of work or makes much less money, not because of a genuine desire for this arrangement. This perception can be even stronger when mom is breastfeeding. Shouldn’t she be the one to stay home? The question, though, is built on antiquated beliefs. Dads can handle a breastfeeding baby and any other challenge that childrearing throws their way, but we’ve built up a narrative that dads are just babysitters, rather than equal parents – and that hurts everyone. 

Babies are cared for by all kinds of people in their lives, and they can still benefit from receiving breastmilk, even when it’s delivered from a bottle. In fact, if being bottle-fed with breastmilk means building close attachments to multiple caregivers, then it may be even more advantageous than we’ve previously considered.

Breastmilk is slightly less optimized for an infant’s nutrition and hydration needs when pumped and provided by bottle, rather than directly, but attachment and relationships are also critical to children’s health and shouldn’t be underestimated. So, don’t worry about dad. Whether he’s caring for a nursing infant or at the playground with some bigger kids, dad has got it covered.