In life, I consider myself fortunate to function in a multitude of roles, each of particular importance: environmental health advocate, author and educator, and certainly Co-founder and Chief Purpose Officer of The Honest Company. But of all the roles I hold, paramount are those of husband and father. My wife Jessica and I are the proud parents of four beautiful children: Luke, Evie, Poppy and our newest addition, Josephine, born just a few months ago.
Needless to say, being a father has had a profound impact on the other roles that I hold dear, and in fact, made the work to which I have devoted my life all the more significant. Perhaps one of the best examples of this centers around our family’s journey in breastfeeding. Like most expectant parents, the months and weeks leading up to the birth of our first child were filled with excitement and anticipation of the magical moments ahead. Yet upon Luke’s birth in 2007, as much as Jessica had wanted to breastfeed, we were deeply saddened to find that she physically could not produce enough milk.
We tried everything — every piece of advice (online & in-person), natural remedy, tincture, and a host of board-certified lactation consultants — all sadly without success. And we were understandably devastated when we received news from our trusted pediatrician that our son still wasn’t getting enough nutrition and experiencing “failure to thrive.” In this moment, I knew I needed to call on my experience in environmental health and non-toxic living to find the best newborn nutrition available to nourish my son. And in the years that followed, I worked tirelessly — consulting with countless doctors, food scientists, pediatric nutritionists and leading experts — to create a breast milk alternative with the highest standards of quality, transparency and purity, for my family and others who were seeking the same.
What this experience also allowed was a deep compassion for all families and their unique situations as it pertains to feeding. Because, as my family experienced in a very real way, though breast is best, there are often circumstances in which alternatives must be explored. With this in mind, I wanted to share some of my feeding tips for new fathers, whether breastfeeding, formula feeding or a combination of the two.
Feeding Tips for New Fathers
1. Know when to start. If mom is breastfeeding, wait until her milk supply is fully established and baby’s latch is solid before introducing a bottle. When everything’s in place, mom can pump and let dad feed the little one. If you’re formula feeding baby, dad can start right away. And, dad can always be involved during the learning stages of baby feeding — he can help mom and babe with latching techniques learned at the hospital or in breastfeeding class, finding the most comfortable feeding position and burping, to name just a few.
2. Assemble your (feeding) tool belt. As with any important endeavor, you’ll need the right tools and equipment for the job. Do your own research — online and in-store — and learn what will meet your family’s feeding needs. Think about bottles, silicone nipples, infant formula, supplementation (probiotics, DHA, vitamin D), swaddles, etc. etc.
3. Be calm and confident. Babies sense and respond to your emotions. If you’re nervous or feeling stressed, it can make your baby feel distressed as well. Take some deep, calming breaths — then go for it!
4. Try, try again. Don’t be discouraged if your baby doesn’t seem interested in a bottle at first. Try different types of nipples and even different environments until you find the experience your baby likes best.
5. Get close in those close moments. Whether breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, there is intimacy in that moment. Your physical presence is important and will be felt by your partner and baby, so get close. Embrace, stroke, speak softly and engage.
6. Skin to skin. Another great way dads can bond with their infants is through skin-to-skin contact. This regulates baby’s temperature, proves calming and attunes the infant to its father through scent. Simply place the baby, clothed only in a diaper, belly first on dad’s bare chest — if it’s chilly, both can be draped in a light blanket.
7. Swaddle the baby. Squirmy babies can make feeding a challenge. Swaddle your little one to calm him down and keep him feeling safe and secure. During the feeding, hold him close like mom would while breastfeeding. Once you’re both accustomed to the situation, you can even try skin-to-skin feedings to further enhance the bonding.
8. Clock in for the Night Shift. A big moment for all feeding, especially the littlest ones, is the nighttime feed. It’s dreaded. You’ll be delirious. But it will pass quickly as weight increases. Protect your partner’s sleep and take advantage of this precious alone time (especially if you’re gone during the day) by offering mom the extra sleep she needs. It takes good planning with a couple bottles in the refrigerator, but the time will be well worth it.
9. Enjoy. These moments are priceless! Nourishing your new baby builds a bond that lasts a lifetime. Even when you’re busy and exhausted, try to slow down and relax and relish these special times. It all goes by too quickly!