A few weeks ago, my wife was talking to a health visitor about our (then) eight-week-old, and specifically about his feeding during the night. Not huge problems, but just checking up on a few things. Anyway, the conversation ran thusly:
"And what is your husband doing while you're feeding during the night?" asked the health visitor. "Oh, he's sleeping because..." started my wife, only to be cut off with "Ah, they always are."
Men, eh? For shame! Even though in this case, what was cut off was "because he then gets up at 4.30am and takes the baby downstairs so I can sleep during the 5am-7am gruntfest".
But the comment did make us think about whether that really was the best way for me to be helping out.
I'll admit it: breastfeeding is a scary subject for many men, but not for the commonly-assumed reasons (oh, you know, jealousy-type 'they're MY boobs' issues).
No, it's scary because we don't always see what we can do to help. Men like to help - we make our partners enraged with our constant desire to Sort Things Out, preferably by Taking Some Kind of Decisive Action. Which isn't much use at 3am when the baby and/or boobs aren't playing ball, and everyone's crying.
This, I suspect, is why many dads end up slumbering peacefully through this situation, whatever our officially stated reason is.
We can't pick up the baby and give it a talking to, we can't whip out a gadget with a magic letdown button to press (if only!), and for some arcane reason, saying 'Calm down, it'll start working / he'll stop crying in a minute' doesn't seem to have a calming effect. Incidentally, saying 'I don't see why we don't switch to bottles' is even worse. Seriously.
So we sleep and leave our partners to it. No wonder health visitors think we're eejits.
Because really, we can help with breastfeeding. Often by Sorting Something Out, too - such as grabbing a muslin at the right moment, or deploying a manly shoulder for a burp when other methods have failed, or doing the post-feed two-poos-and-a-sick nappy change while our partners flop back into bed.
Nowadays, that's what I do, and even though the original plan was an attempt to share the load, actually this way of sharing the load is working better for us.
It turns out dads can help with breastfeeding after all.