General Advice Warning. The information on Dad Mode is intended to be general in nature and is not personal financial or product advice.
Forget teslas, the meta-verse and microchips.
The true innovators of the last 2.8 million years may very well be staring straight at you.
They can adapt in real time, scale up production, and provide essential nutrition to those who need it.
I am, of course, talking about breasts.
Or boobs, pillows, milk bags, jugs, cans, should I go on?
Before I had kids, I never knew how incredible they were, well, you know, beyond the obvious. They are so much more than the aforementioned milk bags. The complexity and sophistication involved in how they work is truly astounding, trust me.
Of all the roles that they play, breastfeeding is by far the most complex and important and, as you’ll find out, it can play a massive part in raising children.
As a father, a little understanding allows you to be a bigger part of a process that can otherwise leave you feeling left out.
Tears, Sorrow, and Boobs.
For the first six months after my first child was born, I didn’t think he loved me.
Big call, but that’s how I felt.
He was always attached to his mother and any time I tried to spend time with him, all he wanted was to get away from me.
His mum was where his food came from, but she was also his source of comfort. Someone he had been living inside for the last nine months.
I can’t really blame him for wanting her more than his dad, who he only met last week.
Of course, I knew our bond would grow, but it’s so hard to feel a part of something when you’re not physically relied upon like that. If only I had what he needed!
Eventually, my little boy became less dependent on his mum and actually realised I existed. His little eyes stared at me like I was from another planet at first, but eventually softened into a loving gaze that I’ll never forget.
Four years later, he’s my bestie, and we can’t get enough of each other. The insecurity I felt is just a distant memory now. Replaced by a deep gratitude and appreciation for my wife and how her body kept him alive for so long.
As I learnt, perhaps a little too late, mothers are intimately connected to their soon-to-be babies. As their bodies change, hormones start to rush through their blood, they are building a bond that is already mature when they are born. Breastfeeding is one of the last biological and physical connections mothers have with their children. It should be celebrated.
To fully appreciate the process, we have to ask ourselves…
How Does Breast Milk Work?
Well, before we get into the crazy stuff. I want to mention that I don’t have any breasts and the only experience I have with them is watching my wife feed our two kids and, well, the other thing too….
I’m not an expert, so if any breast owners are reading this and have any corrections to make, please do!
Not only that, but I’m also not a doctor, so yeh, don't take this as medial advice.
How Do Breasts Make Milk?
Breasts produce milk in response to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and lactation. The hormone prolactin stimulates the alveoli, small sacs in the breast, to produce milk. The hormone oxytocin causes the muscles in the breast to contract, and push the milk out of the alveoli and into the ducts, where it can be sucked out by a baby or pumped out using a breast pump.
This whole process starts during pregnancy and is why the breasts can get bigger as the months go on.
It gets crazier…..
What’s In Breast Milk?
Breast milk is composed of a variety of substances that provide essential nutrients to the infant. It contains water, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and various vitamins and minerals. The specific composition of breast milk changes over the course of lactation and also varies between individuals. Mind blown yet?
Colostrum, the first milk produced during lactation, is particularly high in protein and antibodies, which help to protect the newborn from infection. As lactation progresses, the milk becomes more mature and has a higher concentration of fat, lactose, and other substances that promote growth and development.
Breast milk also contains living cells, including white blood cells and stem cells, which help to support the infant's immune system. Additionally, it contains hormones and other bioactive molecules that promote health and development in the baby.
This is all very impressive, but it’s nothing compared to what happens when your baby gets sick.
When a baby is sick, the mother's body will naturally adjust the composition of her breast milk to provide the necessary nutrients and antibodies to help the baby fight off the illness. The specific changes that occur in the breast milk will depend on the type of illness and the stage of lactation.
WTF, is that incredible or what?!
For example, if the baby has a respiratory infection, the mother's breast milk may contain an increased level of antibodies that can help to fight off the specific viruses or bacteria that are causing the infection.
Additionally, the milk may contain more white blood cells and other immune-boosting substances that can help to protect the baby from further infection.
Move over Avengers, we’ve got new superheroes in town…
How Can I Support My Partner While They’re Breastfeeding?
The one thing that kept me going in the early days after birth was the fact that I could support my wife in the act of keeping our child alive. The way I saw it, if I fed my wife, then technically I was feeding my son, right?
Fathers and other family members can play a vital role in supporting and encouraging breastfeeding, and understanding how it works can help men provide the necessary support and encouragement to their partners.
From a man's perspective, it is important to understand that breastfeeding is a learned skill, and it can take time and patience for both the mother and the baby to get the hang of it.
One of the most significant ways men can support and encourage breastfeeding is by providing emotional support. Breastfeeding can be physically and emotionally demanding, and it is important for mothers to feel supported and encouraged by their partners. Men can also help by offering practical support, such as getting things that the mother needs, helping to prepare meals, or taking care of other household tasks so that the mother can focus on breastfeeding.
It is also important for men to understand the importance of breastfeeding and to be supportive of the mother's decision to breastfeed. This may involve educating themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding, and the challenges that mothers may face (well done you for reading this post!), and being understanding and patient when things don't go as smoothly as planned.
When my son was born, we struggled to feed him and it was an emotional rollercoaster. It’s so important to be supportive, loving, and understanding if things don’t go to plan.
Finally, dads can play a vital role in helping to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment. This may involve making sure that the mother has a comfortable, place to breastfeed, and providing a supportive and welcoming atmosphere. Don’t do what I did and only get a couch AFTER the birth…
If you want real brownie points, dive deeper into the art of breast feeding with Lactivate!: A User's Guide to Breastfeeding or The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Both incredible books that will help you understand what your partner is gong through.
Is breast feeding better than formula feeding?
This is a tricky one.
At the end of the day, it’s the mother's decision whether they want to breastfeed or not. It’s deeply personal and there are so many factors at play. Religion, comfort, convenience, safety etc… So for all the dads out there, repeat after me, “I will support my partner in whatever decision they make”.
In saying that, In this section of the post, I’m going to focus on the objective benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding:
1. Nutritional superiority: Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life, and continues to provide important nutrients in the second half of the baby's first year. Breast milk also contains antibodies and other immune supporting factors that can help protect babies from infections and illnesses.
2. Easier digestion: Breast milk is easier for babies to digest than formula, which can sometimes cause stomach upset or constipation.
3. Bonding: Breastfeeding can help mothers bond with their babies, as it promotes skin-to-skin contact and releases hormones that promote feelings of love and relaxation.
4. Convenience: Breast milk is always readily available and doesn't need to be measured or prepared like formula. This can be very helpful for mothers who are away from home or have a busy schedule.
5. Cost-effective: Breastfeeding is less expensive than formula feeding, as there are no costs associated with buying and preparing formula. You just need to feed the person doing the breastfeeding.
Now, it’s not always possible for all mothers, and it's important for them to use formula if that's what works best for them and their baby. And for some it could be a personal preference too. That’s all ok!
It is essential to consult a paediatrician or lactation consultant for guidance on breastfeeding and formula feeding to make an informed decision that's best for both mother and baby.
Whether your partner is breastfeeding or not, It’s so valuable to be aware of what is happening within their bodies during this emotional and often difficult time. With a bit of knowledge and appreciation for the process, you can be an integral part of the first few months of your baby's life.
So, next time you look at some boobs, I hope you see something a whole lot more than you have before.
Let the babies drink!
See you in the next one.