If you are the partner of a breastfeeding mum, then congratulations! You've totally bagged yourself a winner there. She can demonstrate, every day, her unselfish life-giving love to you and your fortunate baby.
Feeling slightly inadequate or left out is normal. You may sense that you are missing something special, by not being able to feed the baby.
You might experience a perceived (or real) loss of intimacy, as your lover's role is reframed. And what about your desire to reconnect physically, despite exhaustion? All this, while adjusting to the newness that this tiny person has burst into your lives with.
So, it is helpful to know there are many ways you can 'breastfeed' the baby! Shift your perspective.
Think of yourself as playing your own vital part in the breastfeeding process/relationship - or as a gallant superhero. Whichever gets you through the day!
But be patient, be near and be useful. It will be better for them and amazing for you. Though you cannot biologically produce milk, you can be a breastfeeding father - that is, being positively involved in a practical way.
Check out my tips (ahem):
1) Be her cheerleader.
Championing the breastfeeding cause to your partner, as she gets used to nursing, is recognised to increase its 'success'. It often takes a while to figure out, and you are her main supporter. Keep being encouraging and emotionally available. Mostly, tell her how well she's doing! (And bring chocolate)
2) Don't sexualise it.
Just be a tad more organic about it: that bloke's not staring at your wife's hooters - your wife is meeting your baby's immediate need for comfort and nourishment. Try not to feel weird about your partner feeding in public, or jealous of the little one for hogging the boobies! We get it. They used to be for your fun. Now they're food. But they were always there to meet any future babies' nutritional requirements. And you can have them back again in a bit...
3) Physically love her.
Not THAT! Well, maybe that. But stuff like massage her shoulders or back (not when she's actually nursing), bring pillows to prop her up if necessary, rub her feet. Run her a bath. Breastfeeding is demanding and all that taking care of the baby means she will benefit hugely from you taking care of her.
4) Keep abreast of the latest research.
Not in an annoying or controlling way. Don't be super-keen or over the top, offering endless geeky statistics or suggesting unwanted ideas about increasing her supply. But be informed. Know that there's almost always no such thing as 'not enough milk', for example. She will hear incorrect 'advice' from all over the place. So don't become just an extension of her annoying mother-in-law. Oh wait. If you are armed with up-to-date knowledge, it won't necessarily make you look cool at the golf club but you can be sure your baby is getting the best when it's time for his, um, tee!
5) Get involved.
Be the caring, interested, engaged dad, who's there with the proud smile, the protective arm and the handy muslin: not the 'lad dad' who rolls his eyes and grunts, "I don't feed him - SHE'S the only one with the t*ts!" - before sticking his head back in The Sun newspaper.
6) Feed and water her!
Nursing is thirsty work. Eating is obviously essential but it's sometimes hard for her to find energy and space to prepare a meal. Breastfeeding is regular and time-consuming. A mum can go through phases where it seems like all she does, is sit and feed. While that's utterly worthwhile, she will need food and drink too. It can feel like you are a waiter or a butler, if you are doing this a lot, but think of it as an act of love or sacrifice for your baby and partner. She is feeding a baby with milk she produces in her own fabulous breasts. She is keeping your baby alive with her miraculous body. Feeding her is really the least you can do, Jeeves!
7) Entertain her.
Partly, she will be concentrating on getting him properly latched, wiping spit-up, bringing up wind, and gazing down lovingly into his perfect wonderful eyes. The rest of the night, she might love you just a teensy bit more if you ply her with DVDs from the Breaking Bad box set. Or at least pass her the remote control when she can't get up!
8) Take your own top off.
Be sure to get some of that baby love for yourself! Skin-to-skin moments with your newborn are beautifully bonding and deliciously cosy. Cuddling your unclothed baby to your naked chest in bed, the bath or on the sofa will be a rich life-affirming experience. At other times, you can stroke his cheek or hold his hand. Touch is a glorious proven way to connect.
9) Just understand.
Have a pro-nursing attitude. If you need help with that, seek some. It can be as simple as reading a few articles on kellymom.com, getting hold of a book, or speaking to another breastfeeding parent. It's key to your relationship that you realise how invaluable breastfeeding is. If she has to go to a cafe to feed - for a second or third time that trip out - or she wants to buy overpriced nipple cream, nursing tops or a breast pump that seems expensive... Your attitude to these matters, how you respond and how supportive you are, will strengthen your bond with her and your baby.
10) Sling yourself up!
Babies who are breastfed like to be held close to the chest. They often prefer snuggling to buggy-ing. Find a baby carrier that is man friendly. Most of them have adjustable straps/ties that can be let out long enough to accommodate a large male. Wearing your baby 'close enough to kiss' (this is recommended, so you know the sling is on right) is another way to tangibly love your baby. Helping her work the sling when she wears it, also makes you stand out as a wheat kind of dad, rather than a chaff one.
And if you fancy more reasons to be cheerful, think of the money. Formula costs a bomb - breastfeeding is saving you hundreds of pounds. Drinks don't come cheap these days... Extra beer funds!