By Caroline Ariba
Together with his wife, Simon Rubongo, a father of one, attends breastfeeding sessions in a Kampala suburb to learn from the experts. “I do not take the importance of breast milk for my baby’s development lightly,” he says.
Rubongo is exceptional because many men neglect their children’s development, claiming it is the women’s role. “Yes, my wife does the breastfeeding, but there are many things I can do to make it easy for her,” he adds.
Rubongo insists that through the small things men can do, their support is crucial as their partner learns how to breastfeed.
“It is a process, especially for her first child, the mother is learning, how about sparing some time to learn with her and support her?” he asks. After all, he says it is a well-known fact that there is nothing better than breast milk for your baby.
Emmanuel Gabula, another father who was involved in his daughter’s breastfeeding journey, agrees with Rubongo.
“Breastfeeding, especially for a first child, is a process. The mother is just learning, how about a father sparing a moment to learn with her and support her?” he asks.
“When my wife had just given birth, she was scared that the milk might not come, but my role as the husband was to make sure she never got worried,” Gabula proudly says.
He says he decided to learn about breastfeeding from experts. He says a real man is that one who makes breastfeeding as easy as possible for his wife. He makes her feel that it is not a burden.
“They say breastfeeding mothers have to eat certain foods and I make sure she feeds right,” he confesses.
What men can do
“By learning about how breastfeeding works, you can support your partner through any challenges,” says Rubongo.
After the mother has fed the child, he advises fathers to carry the baby in a sling, or to just cuddle them. Cuddling skin-to-skin, he says, can help settle the baby and building the bond.
Christine Namatovu, a breastfeeding counsellor, says fathers can help in bathing the baby, which not only helps them bond with the baby, but also gives the mother time to rest.
“Help with housework,” she advises. Namatovu believes that nursing mothers should not be exhausted, because breastfeeding is more than just fixing the breast in the baby’s mouth.
“A mother should not be dozing off while breastfeeding because she is exhausted. That is how babies choke on milk,” she explains.
Namatovu advises, therefore, that when a partner is breastfeeding, a husband should bring her a glass of water or another pillow if she needs one.
For night feeds, Evelyn Kisakye, a marriage counsellor, says a husband can bring the baby to its mother in bed. “Once the baby is fed, take them for a burp, nappy change and settle them back to sleep,” she insists.
This, she says, will be a lot of help to your partner, even if you only do it for some night feeds.
“When it comes to being intimate, be patient with her, talk, listen to her and let her know it is okay with you that she is breastfeeding,” Namatovu counsels.
She also advises that if one’s partner does not feel like being intimate, they should give them time to adjust.
Men, according to Kisakye, can make a breastfeeding mother feel beautiful. “If you tell her and do things that make her feel good she will produce more breast milk,” she advises.
Rubongo says breastfeeding often makes his partner hungry and thirsty and that is when the men can come in. “You can help by encouraging her to drink plenty of water and by ensuring she eats lots of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy,” he says.
Namatovu says if one’s partner has difficulties with breastfeeding, the men should encourage them to seek assistance, since all problems can be overcome with the right information and a positive attitude.