MJ asked if I wanted to write a few words for Bon + Bear for Father’s Day. I feel honoured to add a few words alongside some incredible breastfeeding stories written by some inspirational and awesome Mamas!
A bit about us; I am Sam - Papa Bear, MJ is Mama Bear, Little Bear #1 (2yr 7mths) and Baby Bear #2 (5 weeks). I am 32 years old, 5 weeks into 10 weeks Parental Leave (thank you Baringa for having such an incredible SPL policy!).
I am going to write about some of the things I love about the breastfeeding journey. Yes it is exhausting, yes it is fraught with uncertainty (is it hunger, is it wind, is she growing, is she ill?!), even more so with colic/reflux/allergies, and quite often some well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful “would it be easier to bottle feed?” type comments from friends and family. But when you look back, the challenges and how you deal with them are the fondest memories you end up with…
"Breastfeeding is a Team Sport! You’ll never feel closer."
Yes MJ is the star player on this team (she is the one with the milk after all!), but I love that while that’s true, the supporting cast is equally important. Like a great Waterboy I need to keep my star player hydrated, fed well with the right nutritious food, and mentally ready to conquer the day. And of course take those emergency trips to the shop for Pain au Chocolat’s!
I love that we try to do the breastfeeding rounds together; after all we are in this together and help each other through it; watching some great series in the process (The (American) Office, New Girl, Line of Duty…!). I am a pro at winding, and 9/10 times I can get her off to sleep. Sometimes MJ just needs a sanity check on feeding, other times it’s just encouragement or company to help – particularly in the early weeks. I do fail quite often – two kids is bloody tiring, but hopefully the thought counts.
At best MJ gets 1.5 hours of rest (3 hours between feeds is a lie – the timer starts from the start of the feed!). I can take baby bear away for a nap and genuinely feel that I am really helping MJ out. You can see the spirits lift by just having free time away from heve, even if it typically only buys a power nap, house jobs, or a shower, but at least it’s freedom of a sort.
Most of all though, a team needs to recover, recap, re-group, and go again. And this is quite possibly my favourite part of the breastfeeding journey! Sometimes nights are just rubbish, one or both of us is a bit grouchy, or she just won’t feed or settle when we expected her to; and we bottom out (tears early on with the BF challenges!). Then you wake up the next morning and think WHAT was last night about. With our oldest at nursery; our cure is a wander into Altrincham, coffee out, if it was that bad then a full blown brunch! We recover with coffee, recap on what the hell happened, and re-group by planning out what we’ll do differently for the night ahead and inevitably for a short time we feel closer than ever!
It is true there are roles in this team, but really we’re both just muddling through doing the best we can at all hours, having a laugh and the occasional grouch in the process. But most of all seeing our star player MJ feed our little one every day and every night, face down each challenge and come through the other side, is something I’ll be proud of and love forever.
"Babies are cute. But the funny names and faces they get are way more fun."
I love our little bears more than anything of course. They are/were cute as hell and I love giving smiles (the fact that smiling at them helps them develop is gold!). But it’s the challenges that give you your fondest memories; and creates the funny stuff that gets you through it all.
Not sleeping? Gremlin. Constantly hunting for milk but not latching? Hei Hei / Apple Bobber. Booby-zapping you to produce milk? Beluga. Two days ago she ‘sharted’ while changing her nappy (farted and poo went on my shorts, it almost went a whole metre – no joke). Then there are all the wind related weird stuff you do, like strategically jiggling her to help her poo, or carefully placed rocking to a made up dance that might as well be a rain dance for all the good it does. It’s this stuff that is the fuel that keeps you going through the hardest times.
"Do I have any thoughts/reflections or tips for Fathers to be...? Some."
A bit of knowledge can go a long way; you don’t need to be a breastfeeding guru but knowing the basics can really reassure your Partner and give a second opinion on whether it looks right or wrong. We did this breastfeeding class and it was great.
Beyond that work together as a team; what does MJ need to do herself vs what does she not, and pick those things up. And is it more helpful for me to not do a job but have our little girl instead of MJ (e.g. cooking is sometimes appreciated separation time for MJ!).
Most of all though enjoy doing it together and learn from the down times rather than wallow in them (which I am occasionally guilty of). If it went badly you’re certain to get another crack at it tonight!
Sam aka Papa Bear x
Read more: The First Two Weeks of Breastfeeding