My experience of supporting my wife to breastfeed our first child

By Jean-Marie Nkurunziza, Children’s Rights and Positive Parenting Regional Trainer at Sonke Gender Justice
Originally posted on WABA

Jean-Marie Nkurunziza with his wife Gugulethu Nkurunziza and daughter Latoya. Photo by Elisabeth Ubbe.

It was a very hard period for my wife and me after we had our first child. She had delivered by C-section, and therefore it was not easy for her to take care of the baby, breastfeed, or do other work at home like cooking.

Becoming a parent was a very joyful moment for both of us. When I was younger, I couldn’t believe that one day I would become a father. Although it is a joyful experience, it is not an easy responsibility for mothers, since women often have a lot of tasks to do after the baby is born. During the time when my wife was breastfeeding, I could see that it was also not easy for her due to her recovery from the C-section. It took a lot of effort from us to care for the newborn; this care work would easily fill up a full 24 hours. My wife needed my daily practical, moral, and psychological support.

While it was also joyful for me, everything was new. I did not know what to do when the baby was crying, or whether she was hungry or sick. At the same time, my wife was still in recovery, and our child arrived in June, when it is very cold in South Africa.

I was grateful to my organization Sonke Gender Justice for providing us with paid parental leave of four weeks for fathers. This allowed me to be at home with my wife and child to provide care and support to my family. It was special to be sharing responsibility with my wife. She breastfed the baby, and I did the household work like cooking, washing dishes and clothes, and caring for our plans. It became my responsibility to do everything that was needed around the house.

Our baby often cried in the middle of the night. This made my wife uncomfortable, as she had to wake up and breastfeed her. I would support my wife by picking up our daughter to calm and console her, checking or changing her diaper, and putting her back to sleep. I would also feed her expressed milk while her mother was sleeping.

The breastfeeding period may often be hard for mothers, and it is during this time when mothers most need the support from their partners.