In It for the Long Haul: A Dad's Opinion on Breastfeeding
My name is James, and I fully support the breastfeeding mothers of the world.
“Ahhhh,” you say, “he must live in California.”
Nope. I live in New England.
“Well, then he must be one of those ‘dot-edu’ types: lectures, tweed coats and lettuce leaves all day long.”
Wrong again! I drive an 18-wheeler across all 48 states, and my ever-expanding beltline gives sincere testimony to my love affair with bacon cheeseburgers.
I also adore my wife—which some people might find odd since she is a breastfeeding stay-at-home mom to our four children. There are people who think it’s not possible for a woman to breastfeed her kids and still keep her man happy. A number of years ago, a man named Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote a column for Beliefnet saying exactly that. But I’m not interested in what the doubters have to say. What I’d like to do is give you the opinion of a real dad with a real, breastfeeding wife and real, breastfed children.
My wife has fantastic boobs. I love them. I could fill up the rest of this page telling you how I feel about them, but there’s not enough time or room to do the subject justice.
When I first met my wife, her boobs were for my enjoyment. She wore special bras to make them look a certain way…for me. She would wear lacy things on them to make them a sultry sight… for me. When she took them out, she was taking them out…for me. Then came the children.
When our kids were born, both of our roles changed, as well they should. We were still awake at 4 a.m., but instead of a post- Karaoke and beer gathering at Der Waffle House, it was tiptoeing away from a (please, Lord, let him sleep this time) lightly dozing bundle of noise. Our job as parents, above all else, is to provide what we think is the best start in life to our little adults-to-be. If this isn’t your goal as well, then perhaps you should think about doubling up on your contraception.
To this end it seems obvious to me that the best food for baby comes from its mother. Let’s review that one more time: The best vitamin-laced, antibody-rich, brain-growing, fat-having, preheat- ed, sterile, portable nummy goodness comes from the mother. For those of you who have a religious outlook on life, if you believe in a creator (doesn’t matter what name you give them) do you really think that, having created us in their image (and oh, by the way, witnessing a few thousand millennia of successful child rearing) they suddenly turned around circa 1950 and pronounced, “Holy crap! That whole mother’s milk thing was a mistake! What to do? Wait, wait, got it! Dear Nestle, please make some petrified dehydrated powdery stuff in a distant factory, get some doctors on board and sell sell sell. There, that ought to fix the problem.” I understand that some mothers have issues with breastfeed- ing complications. (I don’t actually “understand” the issues, be- cause I’m not a doctor and I don’t have breasts, but I understand that they do exist.) But what I don’t get is why a mother—given the option, with all the proper working parts—would choose formula feeding over breastfeeding.
Anyway, back to the Dad part of life.
Now my wife’s underwear drawer is still full of special bras, but now they have funny trap doors on them…for Cooper. She still gets her boobs out quite often, but now it is for Cooper (ever see a father and son drool simultaneously?). My “boobs” have become his “breasts.” And before Cooper, they belonged to Willow. And before Willow, they belonged to Patrick.
I still have a timeshare option that has become vested, but I haven’t had outright ownership since 2004.
And that’s exactly the way it should be.
Guys, listen: The reason that the bedroom activity slows down after birth has nothing to do with boob allocation schedules (thanks for the input anyway, oh wise Rabbi Boteach). It has everything to do with hormone adjustments and lack of sleep. (Oh, and by the way, fellas, as those lean weeks stretch into lean months, a maid service and a day spa is going to get you a lot farther than whining about when it’s going to be “your” turn.) Give your wife your support and do not put pressure on her to stop. She and the baby will find their own way. The mother is the quarterback of Team Baby; you are the waterboy. Shut up and do your job.
Go buy a comfy couch—if you want to sleep you are going to be spending a lot of nights there. I have spent more nights dragging my pillow out of the bedroom in the vague direction of the living room at 2:30 in the morning than I care to remember. But at least that way I can get some sleep, and so can the now-free-to- spread-out-and-not-worry-about-disturbing-me mother. And the baby gets a midnight miracle-grow top-up.
I don’t relish the split-shift nights, but as a husband and father my job is to support my wife when she is obviously more knowledgeable and better equipped to make decisions about these things than I am. Common sense, really.
Anti-breastfeeding comments from people like Rabbi Boteach, while probably drummed up to get attention, can still be dangerous and lead to the continued and unfair stigma attached to one of the natural cornerstones of parenthood. Every day that your child gets to breastfeed is a gift, a treasure that will have longstanding physical and psychological benefits for both mother and baby. Support your wife and encourage her, put a spare sheet behind the sofa and be a proud breastfeeding Dad.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #30.
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