Between my wife and I we have two things that we are really passionate about. For very personal reasons those two things are mental health awareness and breastfeeding. We have supported each other through difficult times in these areas and there are lots of overlapping themes in the care for the two.
From experience I can say that the main thing that mental health illnesses and breastfeeding have in common are the need for support. Strong unconditional support.
The breastfeeding support for my wife started the moment that she decided she wanted to breastfeed our first child. As soon as she knew that this was the route she wanted to take it was important for me to support her 100%.
The decision to breastfeed is such an emotive, emotional and ultimately empowering one for any woman to make. It's about nature, nurture and care.
With this is mind it was never a question of practicalities. It was about support, encouragement and perseverance.
Once our son was born my wife took on the scary, painful and often soul destroying responsibility of breastfeeding. The first weeks were particularly bad, not helped by an undiagnosed tongue tie which made feeding impossible. There were times when I'm sure my wife felt like giving up, although she never gave that impression. She was strong, perseverant and brave.
All she needed from me was support. She needed me to tell her what a great job she was doing, how the pain would go away and how the distress would all be worth it. She needed lots of hugs and comforting words. I would cook meals and do housework, things that it was impossible for her to do. It's really not much to ask for but unfortunately not all new mothers have this support.
The support that my wife provides to me with my mental health issues, albeit over a much longer period, has many similarities to the support described above.
In my times of need my wife provides me with love, care and support. She reassures me and tells me that everything will be ok. When I'm feeling low there really isn't much else that can be done for me. That, I'm sure can be frustrating for the people that want to help me. I wish I could tell them what to do to make me feel better but that advice just doesn't exist.
Just knowing that people understand me, support me and believe in me is enough.
The feelings and emotions experienced during breastfeeding and when suffering from mental health illnesses are very similar. As too are the characteristics of the support needed to help people cope.
The Breastfeeding Network is a charitable organisation that offers independent support and advice to breastfeeding mothers and anybody needing support with breastfeeding.
Their website has a wealth of articles on breastfeeding and a dedicated National Breastfeeding Helpline which offers independent, non judgemental advice.
For all of the details please visit
To read more about my experiences of being a dad with anxiety and depression please visit my blog :-)