The Success of Breastfeeding: You, as both a Husband and Father, Matter!

Being both a husband and father, you might think that breastfeeding is a “women issue” which your wife should take the lead and does not concern you. However, as many researches have proven, you do play a vital role in the success of breastfeeding. This article will discuss your role, as a husband and father of the child, in supporting breastfeeding.


The nature of human milk

In order to tell you why you should support breastfeeding, let us have a short discussion about human milk and breastfeeding. Human milk is the natural ideal nourishment for baby. Medical and nutritional experts highly recommend human milk as the main food source for baby. According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010, baby should be breastfed exclusively (or fed solely with breast milk) from birth until six months and can continue to be breastfed up to two years of age.

Human milk is so awesome and ideal that no any infant formula is able to mimic its nature. Human milk provides the right amount and balance of nutrients and fluid that ideally meet the nutritional needs of baby for optimal growth and development. Not only it is easily digested but also its nutrients are easily absorbed and used by baby. In fact, the composition and amount of human milk produced will change according to the needs of baby.

Furthermore, human milk, especially colostrums (the clear or yellow fluid secreted for first few days after delivery), is rich in antibodies and other substances that help the baby to build immunity and protect it from illnesses and allergies. Human milk is also clean, safe and readily available. So long as nursing mum is with her baby, the baby can be fed in anytime and anywhere even without the need of any feeding equipment.

Benefiting more than one

The well-documented benefits of breastfeeding as shown in Table 1 will further strengthen the need for you to support breastfeeding:-

Table 1: Benefits of breastfeeding

Extracted from American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) and Malaysia Dietary Guidelines (2012)

1. Benefits for baby



  1. Reduce incidence and/or severity of various types of infectious diseases such as meningitis, diarrhea, as well as respiratory tract and ear infections.
  2. Decrease rates of sudden death syndrome in the first year of life, lymphoma, leukemia and Hodgkin disease and asthma.
  3. Increase cognitive development in childhood
  4. Significant protective effects on blood pressure and lower total cholesterol levels during adulthood.
  5. Lower prevalence of overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes
2. Benefits for mother
  1. Decrease afterbirth bleeding
  2. Foster uterine involution
  3. Decrease menstrual blood loss
  4. Decrease risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  5. Decrease risk of hip fracture and osteoporosis in the postmenopausal period
  6. Plausible protective effect against cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions
  7. Less likely to become pregnant during the period of breastfeeding
  8. More likely to return to pre-pregnancy weight and hence reducing the risk of obesity
3. Economic, family and environmental benefits
  1. Decrease annual health care cost
  2. Decrease parental employee absenteeism and assure family income
  3. More time for attention to siblings and other family matters as a result of decreased infant illness
  4. Decrease environmental burden for disposal of formula cans and bottles
  5. Decrease energy demands for production and transport of artificial feeding products

Never underestimate yourself

Most of the time you may feel left out or insignificant during the period of breastfeeding. However, this is not the case. Many studies have shown the importance of the husband’s support in the success of breastfeeding. Hence you should never underestimate your role. Your goals are to motivate and support your wife to breastfeed and to create a conducive environment for breastfeeding. Here are some ways you can help:-

  • Equip yourself well beforehand. You can accompany your wife to attend postnatal care classes to get some knowledge and hand-on about breastfeeding and baby care. Books, magazines, and internet also provide plenty of useful information.
  • Always be with your wife and baby. It is crucial especially before your wife and baby establish a strong bond, plentiful milk supply and enjoyable breastfeeding relationship. Hence you should plan and use your working leave wisely.
  • Be the ‘guard’ of your wife and baby. There will usually have many people including your relatives and friends visiting you for the joy of welcoming newborn. However, when your wife and baby need to be alone, you can politely let them know. They will be able to understand your request.
  • Protect your wife from any advice that undermines breastfeeding (except for doctor’s advice). You need to stand firm even if it is come from your parents! You should also firmly resist pressures to feed your baby anything other than breast milk until baby reaches six months of age.
  • Take over some household responsibilities from your wife. You can help to do housekeeping, take care of your other children, prepare meals, do grocery shopping, and run errands. Your assistance is helpful in letting your wife to be focus in breastfeeding.
  • Get involved in baby care. It not only gives your wife more time to rest but it is also a good time to show fatherhood to baby. For instance, bring the hungry baby to the mum; sing, rock, and cuddle the baby; burp the baby, change the diapers or give him/her a bath.
  • Be generous with praise and encouragement to your wife. Your positive and motivational feedback can be of great help to encourage your wife to breastfeed with confidence and determination.
  • Care for your wife with actions. Breastfeeding is frustrating and tiring. You can help her to relief by massaging her neck and shoulder, bringing some snacks and/or beverages for her while she breastfeeds, arranging pillow for her to breastfeed or to sleep, playing relaxing music for her, and so on.
  • Seek help when necessary. During this period of time, you can be saturated with all sorts of matters. You can ask assistance from relatives and friends and delegate accordingly. They will be pleased to help you out. If your wife is facing any breastfeeding difficulties or the baby shows abnormal behaviors, you should immediately seek for medical assistance without hesitation.

Support with whole heart

The Swahili Proverb states: “A single hand cannot nurse a child.” Breastfeeding is no longer a mother-baby only issue – its success depends on the whole family. Your role as both a husband and father is important. Your support can give not only courage for your wife to initiate breastfeeding but also motivation to continue breastfeeding. The key attitudes you should have to show your support are passion, persistence, patience and, last but not least, action.


  1. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition. Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010. Ministry of Health 2010.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics 2005 Feb;115(2):496-506.
  3. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) Men’s Initiative. Available from
  4. La Leche League International. Father and Breastfeeding. Available from
  5. Fathers To Be. Breastfeeding and Dad. Available from
  6. Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.