The Importance of Dads for Breastfeeding Success: Tips to Support Nursing from a Lactation Nutrition Consultant

First of all, Happy Father’s Day! If you’re reading this, you might be a new dad or are preparing to be a new dad. Your life has (or is about to) changed a lot!

It’s safe to say that most of the focus after the baby arrives is on the new baby (as it really should be). Then comes Mom. And often, Dad is left in the shadows. Welcoming a new human to the world is hard. Women, after giving birth, usually experience postpartum discomfort (hemorrhoids, episiotomy pain, C-section healing, constipation), and the baby blues, and they might be struggling to manage the demands of the new baby and breastfeeding. Dads might feel a bit helpless and left out.

It’s important to understand that breastfeeding doesn’t come “naturally” and isn’t easy. It takes time and energy. Much of breastfeeding success, though, comes from the support of those great dads (partners, fathers, companions) in a baby’s and woman’s life. As lactation nutrition specialists, we want to provide you with some basic tips on how Dads can be great partners for breastfeeding.

  1. Be prepared. Go to the classes, learn about latching and colostrum and nipple shields. With your partner, come up with a breastfeeding plan.
  2. Be supportive. Breastfeeding is hard. 2 – 3 days after delivery, a woman’s milk changes from colostrum to transition milk. And this can be quite painful. Mom might experience engorgement (when breasts are warm, hard, and painful.) Baby might have trouble latching. Help your partner pump. Encourage her. 
  3. Be involved. Again, many dads feel a little left out during breastfeeding, but there’s so much to do! Listen for the baby’s cues and bring them to Mom. Help take out gases. Be in charge of baths and walking with baby in a kanguru pouch. Remember skin-to-skin contact (for Dad, too!). 
  4. Take charge. Of the dishes, of household chores, of doing laundry and folding those cute little baby shirts. Give Mom a break and time to heal. 

Support for breastfeeding moms makes a big difference. YOU make a big difference. Here are some nutrition tips for nursing that you should keep in mind to keep mom and baby nourished! You can become a snack and meal guru, preparing dishes that will support your partner’s postnatal healing as well as breastfeeding. 

  1. Hydrate. Make sure Mom has a glass of water next to her while breastfeeding. Keep pitchers of water in the fridge, with her favorite flavors (cut-up oranges, cucumber, mint leaves). Put on a water timer to remind her to drink. A woman loses a lot of liquid during labor and breastfeeding. She needs to replenish her body.
  2. Calories. Breastfeeding moms need calories. A mom breastfeeding a single child, according to the CDC, needs 330 – 400 more calories per day. Make sure she’s eating!
  3. Nutrients. While nursing, a woman needs to include key nutrients.
    1. Iodine. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, which are necessary for normal growth and development, including brain development, in infants. Inadequate iodine intake can lead to thyroid dysfunction in both the mother and the infant. The recommended daily intake of iodine for lactating women is 290 micrograms per day, compared to 150 micrograms per day for non-lactating women. Good food sources of iodine include seaweed, fish (especially cod and tuna), dairy products, and fortified salt. 
    2. Choline. Choline because it is important for infant brain development and liver function. Choline is also important for the mom’s liver health and helps to prevent the development of fatty liver disease during lactation. The recommended daily intake of choline for lactating women is 550 milligrams per day, compared to 425 milligrams per day for non-lactating women. Good food sources of choline include egg yolks, liver, beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. It can be challenging to get enough choline from food alone, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. In that case, a choline supplement may be necessary, but it is important to consult with your ObGyn or primary care physician before taking any supplements while breastfeeding.
    3. Protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues in the body, including the muscles, bones, and organs. It is important for the production of breast milk. During lactation, the recommended daily protein intake for breastfeeding moms at around 71 grams per day for a woman who weighs about 68 kg. Great protein sources include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
    4. Iron. When a woman is pregnant, her body stores extra iron to support the growth and development of the fetus. However, during lactation, the baby’s needs for iron increase, and the mother’s iron stores can become depleted if she does not consume enough iron-rich foods. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, in turn fatigue, weakness, and other health problems. It can also affect breast milk production, quality, and quantity. The recommended daily intake of iron for lactating women is 9 milligrams per day, which is higher than the recommended intake for non-lactating women (8 milligrams per day). Good food sources of iron include lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, fortified cereals, and dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale.
    5. Calcium. Calcium is necessary for the growth and development of a baby’s bones and teeth, and to maintain the mother’s own bone density. The recommended daily intake of calcium for lactating women is 1,000 milligrams per day, which is the same as the recommended intake for non-lactating women. Good food sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables such as kale and collard greens, fortified foods such as tofu and orange juice, and fish with edible bones such as canned salmon and sardines.

The support of Dad during breastfeeding is important for Mom’s and Baby’s health, and family health. We wish you a Happy Father’s Day!

Instant Pot seafood chowder:


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cups diced potatoes
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 pound mixed seafood (such as shrimp, scallops, and/or fish)
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Set the Instant Pot to sauté mode and heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the diced potatoes, broth, thyme, and bay leaf, and stir to combine.
  4. Close the Instant Pot and set it to manual high pressure for 5 minutes.
  5. Quick release the pressure and open the Instant Pot. Add the frozen corn, chopped kale or spinach, and mixed seafood, and stir to combine.
  6. Close the Instant Pot and set it to manual high pressure for 2 minutes.
  7. Quick release the pressure and open the Instant Pot. Stir in the milk or cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This seafood chowder is a delicious and nutrient-dense meal that provides iodine, choline, calcium, iron, and protein.