The Aptamil Article: Dads feeling left out until they start sharing feeding responsibilities

In April there was an article in The Mirror (and other news websites) all about how Dads felt left out until they started sharing feeding…


In April there was an article in The Mirror (and other news websites) all about how Dads felt left out until they started sharing feeding responsibilities.

First things first though, this isn’t a blog post about breastfeeding vs formula. My stance on this matter has always been (and still is!) that a mother should be informed and supported to allow her to feed her child as she wishes. A big issue I have is women NOT being informed and/or supported and then abandoning breastfeeding early, or not even trying, due to misinformation or lack of support. But let’s not get into this now.

My gripe today is with the recent article published on various places online, clearly sponsored by a popular formula company. In short, the article talks about how men struggle to feel like a real parent and feel left out when they can’t help to feed their children. The article is accompanied by a lovely video by some celebrities, full of product placements of Aptamil Follow on milk (it’s illegal to advertise stage 1 milk). The celebrity parents talk about the joys of bringing up their son then emphasise Dad feeding the baby formula as a time for them to bond.

Men can bond with babies in MANY ways

I felt the need to write a blog post about this as I see this come up in breastfeeding groups ALL the time.

There is a misconception that a Dad cannot bond with their baby if they are not feeding the baby themselves and it irritates the hell out of me. It leads to women supplementing with formula so the Dad can do the odd feed, or they end up pumping so Dad can bottlefeed the baby.

An odd bottle of formula won’t hurt, pumping means the baby still gets breast milk! They sound like local solutions to the problem, right?

But it’s not that simple. Giving formal can lead to nipple confusion and rejecting the breast if not pace-fed. Also, because the baby misses that feed from the breast it leads to the body adjusting supply to produce less. This leads to not making enough, then more formula is needed and then supply just ends up nose-diving (this is known as the topup trap, where your body never makes enough milk for the baby. Pumping is an option, but you should wait until your baby is 6 weeks old as that’s when your hormones settle and milk supply regulates. Doing it early can lead to an oversupply of milk and mastitis (lumps in the breast that can become painful and infected). Breastmilk should still be pace-fed and Mum should pump to make up the feed to continue the supply and demand process.

As you can see, it’s quite complicated. Unless you really do need someone to feed the baby, it’s easier to just breastfeed, as the mother still needs to pump. If a mother has the intention of breastfeeding, keep things simple and breastfeed on demand.

When I say simple, I don’t mean to disregard all the possible issues women may have breastfeeding, I mean why add pumping, worrying about milk storage, sterilising bottles and all that into the mix?

Things men can do to bond

So the main argument in this article makes is that fathers struggle to bond with the baby when the Mum is doing all the feeding. Feeding is not the only thing that needs doing and there are plenty of other things men can do to bond!

  • burp the baby after a feed
  • change nappies
  • skin to skin
  • hold the baby while they sleep (contact naps)
  • bath times
  • read books to baby
  • tummy time
  • play a role in weaning at 6-months

When my son was a newborn, I would feed him when he was asleep, my partner would transfer him onto his chest so I could catch up on sleep while he held him. He also did most of the bath times!

Why not acknowledge men feel left out and encourage other things they can do to support their partner and bond with the baby, or talk about paternal mental health? The answer doesn’t have to be ‘give the baby formula’. But we all know why the article leans that way – because it’s a way to sell more Aptamil.

Things men can do to be helpful

If men feel lost and useless during the first few weeks or months of parenthood, there are some things they can do to help. First, he can do some research and attempt to understand how breastfeeding works and the fourth trimester. Find out the benefits of breastfeeding, how babies up milk supply, cluster feeding and normal biological behaviour of babies.

Secondly, bring that trapped, breastfeeding Mum food that is cut into bite-size pieces as well as plenty of liquids.

Thirdly, keep on top of housework.

And lastly – understand that Mum needs to feed on demand to keep producing the right amount of milk. This might mean she is breastfeeding most of the day some days while supply needs regulate and change.

Why are we putting the man first?

This is the part that annoyed me most about the article.

Why are we putting the feelings of the father before the feelings and needs of the mother and baby? It is biologically normal for a baby to need to be close to its mother. For the first 12 weeks, they still believe they are a part of their mother.

Although a lot of the biological instincts babies have are to do with survival and protection from preditors, we cannot explain this to a newborn. We just need to nurture them and help them feel sake to prevent them from becoming stressed.

So why do we put the feelings of a grown-ass man before this?

Not to mention breastfeeding increases serotonin in Mum, the happy hormone, so reduces the risk of postpartum depression – plus a load of other benefits.

The Aptamil Advanced Follow On Milk “ Share the Moments that Matter ” campaign needs to get in the bin. It’s just another way to guilt mothers who have given birth into making decisions that go against their wishes and instincts. She should be focusing on what she and the baby need, not being encouraged by a study by a formula company to use formula.

If a woman wants to use formula, that should be based on her own decision and not because someone else wants to feed the baby. Breastfeeding is an emotive subject and a sensitive topic for many. My opinion on women being given the right to decide either way, without outside pressures and guilt, comes from having many friends that have not breastfed or ended their journey early due to not being correctly informed. Now they live in regret.

I do think there is room to talk about a father’s feelings as they transition into fatherhood, but that shouldn’t interfere with a mother’s desire to breastfeed exclusively.


  1. I’m really hoping to breastfeed (while at the same time being fully aware that it may not work out!), and I would like to pump a bit further down the line in preparation for going back to work and also to give myself a bit more freedom, but none of my decisions have anything to do with my partner, he doesn’t mind as long as he gets to spend time with the baby somehow!
    Amy x

    1. I’m sure you’ll do amazing! Just remember that BF is eco-friendly ;). Let me know if you have any questions about anything!

  2. There are SO many different ways for fathers to bond with their babies. I’ve personally formula fed one & BF one and can honestly say the way I fed had absolutely no impact on the way Dad bonded with the girls. I heard about it when the campaign first came out, but I haven’t actually seen that much about it since. It does sound like an icky sort of message though. I think there’s lots that we don’t understand about formula. I remember watching a really interesting dispatches doc on channel 4 before I had Amelia. It was all about how 1st stage milk can’t be advertised so 2nd stage milk had to be made, which is exactly the same as 1st. It also mentioned about the different types of formula you can get, like ‘anti-colic’ milk or ‘milk for hungrier tummies’ – All of which is exactly the same, it’s just targeted at desperate parents looking for answers. I’m going off on a tangent now, but it’s a really interesting doc! I’d really recommend watching it.


    1. Yeah, totally! Stage 1 milk can’t be advertised or reduced so that’s how companies get around it! There really isn’t any need to change from stage 1 to 2 if your formula feed. It’s all marketing and making money. I understand it’s a business but I find it vile that companies try to exploit parents like this. Breastfeeding is hard and too often it’s ‘just switch to formula’ rather than ‘let’s get you the support you need to continue breastfeeding if that’s what you want’

      There are enough myths around formulas created to encourage parents to spend money on it without this. It’s the same with sleep products/courses – making money from desperate and exhausted parents when they need education on the normal behaviour of babies and have realistic expectations rather than this narrative that they should sleep through the night from x months (and formula will help that)!

  3. Dads of course should bond in every way that they can with their babies and celebrating that is wonderful; it sounds like this article takes a really unnecessary turn with making mums feel guilty — thanks for exploring this!

  4. This is such an important piece! I hadn’t actually came across this campaign before but it’s ridiculous trying to shame mums for this, it should be up to them what they do. Of course dads should be involved too but like you mentioned there are so many ways for dads to bond with their children. Thank you so much for sharing x

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