FFF Friday: “I was very confused….”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.


Censie Sawyer’s FFF entry made me think about the argument against formula samples. In a self-reported study, she’d probably have provided data in favor of the samples-impede-breastfeeding hypothesis. But there were obviously multiple layers to her story; if there was no formula in the house, she would have probably sent her husband out to get some (and he sounds like a sweetheart so I bet he would’ve done it even at 3am in the snow, if that had been when Censie asked for it). This mother tried breastfeeding even though she had no real vested interest in the practice; she gave it a fair shot and had ample assistance, and in the end, found that formula was a better option for her family. And she’s still open to breastfeeding the next kid, so perhaps formula saved her from the hell that has made some of us so adverse to giving it another go.

Thanks to Censie for sharing her story, and as always…

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***


I am a Fearless Formula Feeder. I am proud to say that I fit that category perfect! Let me start from the beginning with a little introduction of myself and my family.

My name is Censie (pronounced Kenzie) I am married to Jeremy and we have a son named Jude. Jude was born on June 25th 2010! We fell in love instantly when he arrived. You can find more of Jude and our stories on our family blog called Building Our Story. (For the record the reason there are turtles everywhere is because we love Turtles and that is Jude’s nickname- since about 1 month he has been “Turtle”!)

My pregnancy went just as planned and pretty much the normal. I never had any medical problems and Jude was healthy the whole time too. Now when I first got pregnant I started reading everything I could about pregnancy and birth and about bringing an infant home. I was prepared – I am a bit anal like that! One example – Jude’s nursery was planned at 10 weeks! Lol Yeah I am a planner too. Well because that is my personality it also led into how I would be feeding my son as well.

Okay – another background story. I am adopted. My brother is also adopted. Breastfeeding and nursing has never been a topic around my family, in fact I never remember talking to my mother about nursing EVER.

Well because of my up-bringing I honestly was not really committed to nursing from the beginning. Now this is where the pro-breastfeeding groups would just ring me. I wasn’t committed, I can say that now. I look back and I was nervous about nursing – maybe because I couldn’t imagine myself in the mall or out to dinner with a baby attached to my boob or maybe because I knew that my womanly support (my mom) had never done the nursing thing either. On top of that it was pretty clear that my brother and I were alive and healthy so formula must work fine! 😉

Now for the story of feeding baby Jude. Jude was perfect (duh!) 😉 He latched on perfectly and ate well while we were at the hospital – even had a few of our nurses praise Jude and me for the great nursing! Fantastic! I left the hospital happy, excited, and proud of myself and my baby. Our first night home was great. The second day was HORRIBLE. This child would not stop crying! He would not latch. My boobs were sore and huge and my milk was in.

I was very confused. Yay for my milk but OMG what happened to my happy latching baby? Talk about tear fest! My poor hubby! We were lucky enough to have a home nurse visit us every day for the first 4 days at home after our release from the hospital – THANK GOD! I am pretty sure we would have been back in the hospital with a screaming baby in tow if we didn’t have those nurses visiting us at home.

Now the nurses helped a ton but they too were very confused. This kid wanted to eat and from our notes it was clear that he was a GOOD LATCHER. I had those nurses all up in my junk, tugging at my boobs, pushing my baby onto the nipple, trying new holds, massaging my boob, ect. Yeah truly exciting – all with a screaming baby! The nurses were at a loss. I was too.

It was decided on the 2nd day home that Jude needed more food. He had lost a lot of weight – more than a pound. Thankfully we had a sample can of formula. Jude drank that formula like he was one starving baby. For the next 2 days the nurses tried to help me get him to latch. He wouldn’t. Queue one sad and frustrated mommy! I wanted to feed him but I couldn’t. It is funny, like I said I wasn’t completely committed in the beginning but when it came down to it I think I really did want to excel at this nursing thing. It just didn’t work.

Over the next couple of days of Jude’s life we decided that I would exclusively pump and then supplement with formula. Actually it became more of using formula and then supplementing with breast milk. I just wasn’t producing much at all. In a whole day of pumping in would maybe end up with 5 ounces of breast milk. So frustrating! I even tried taking Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek in hopes of a little help but nothing seemed to do the trick. I did this exclusive pumping routine for almost 6 weeks. It was seriously the most exhausting 6 weeks of my life. I don’t know if I will do that again because of how much work it was for the little amount of breast milk that I produced.

I look back at how I was feeling and now I have used that experience to help other friends with struggles in the nursing department. The bottom line is that you need to feed that life you created – bottle or boob! No matter how you do it that kid has to be healthy and happy and so does mom (and dad!). We are going to start trying to conceive in the beginning of 2012 – God willing we will have another baby soon and with that birth I hope that nursing works. But if it doesn’t there is formula. And formula provided my son with nutrients and food for 12 long months and let me tell ya, he is one healthy 16 month old now.

Maybe Breast Feeding isn’t for you. Maybe it is. Either way remember to be respectful of every woman’s choice.

I am honored to be a Fearless Formula Feeder!

***

Viva la revolution. Send your story to formulafeeders@gmail.com.

The FFF Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Formula Feeding: How much and how often should you feed your formula-fed baby?

There are a ton of charts and calculators online claiming to help you figure out how much you should be feeding your baby. Unfortunately, they are all missing one fundamental message: your baby is an individual. He probably doesn’t adhere to static feeding rules any more than you do. For instance, I tend to eat barely anything during the day, but I chow down like a Sumo wrestler at night. Although this runs contrary to all advice given by nutritionists (I think the breakfast like a king, lunch like a pauper, dinner like a peasant concept is pretty well-accepted across the board), this seems to work for my body and my metabolism. Likewise, there are some kids who eat more, some who eat less, some who eat a ton and then throw it all up because they have god-awful reflux, and some who comfort eat due to stomach distress. The latter two might need some medical help (or a formula switch) to remedy their issues, but my point is that not all babies play by the Baby Rulebook.

I hesitate to give a formal “guide” on how much you should feed your baby, because I believe that for the most part, parental instinct is superior to over-generalized prescriptives. But I know there’s a need for non-judgmental practical advice, so here goes.

Before talking amounts, let’s just go over some basics:

1. You cannot overfeed a newborn. You cannot make a newborn fat. Yes, I know there have been recent studies linking rapid weight gain in infants to later obesity, but come on, people… how many scrawny people do you know who were chubbilicious babies, and vice versa? Newborns do not have the brain power to binge eat. They eat when they are hungry (there is one exception to this, which I will talk about in a second, so bear with me), and when they are full, they will pull away from the bottle or, when they are teeny tiny, they may just unlatch. I’ve heard the warnings about formula feeding parents forcing their kids to finish the last few ounces while the poor babies flail and choke helplessly, but the fact is, any baby who is strong enough to to do the “breast crawl” or handle breastfeeding can make it pretty clear when they are done with a bottle. Just watch your baby – if she pulls away or suddenly doesn’t seem interested in eating, that means she’s done. Doesn’t matter that the feeding guide that came with your formula says she should be eating 3 oz in a sitting; if she acts finished after 1.7 oz, that’s all she needs at the moment. On the other hand, if she downs the 3oz you prepared and is still screaming at you or sucking desperately at the nipple, offer her another few ounces (this is where a formula pitcher or even just a salad-dressing mixer comes in handy – if you make like 10 oz at a time, you can offer smaller amounts off the bat and give only an ounce or tow more at a time, so as to avoid wasting formula.

2. As for knowing when to feed your baby, that’s a matter of learning his hunger cues. All babies have them; the most common ones are “rooting” (moving his head from side to side or opening his mouth wide like a guppy, especially when you touch his cheek or chin); shoving his hands in his mouth; sucking on whatever is in reach; crying (this is what many baby sites deem as a “too-late” hunger cue, implying that if it gets this far you must have been negligent in some way); fussing; or my favorite, sticking out his tongue.

3. As your baby gets older, hunger cues aren’t always so easy to read – babies lose the rooting reflex at a point, and sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s hunger-related fussiness versus plain old fussiness. This is where it’s easy to fall into the trap of giving a bottle for comfort and not hunger. It’s unfair, because one wonderful perk of breastfeeding is that you can pop a baby on the breast at the first cry and no one thinks anything of it; do the same with a bottle and you’ll be warned against obesity and blamed for your child’s emotional eating problem in 20 years. Fun times. Professionally, I know the right thing to say is that giving a bottle to calm a baby is probably not the best idea – in fact, I kind of think giving the breast to calm a baby would have many of the same negatives. But personally, as an ardent supporter of Path of Least Resistance Parenting, let’s just say I would never fault someone for giving a comfort bottle when their baby is screaming bloody murder in the car or whatever. Sometimes, you just need to calm the kid down, and if other things aren’t working… well, do what you need to do. As long as it isn’t a daily habit, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

4. Okay, remember I mentioned there was an exception to the stuff I’ve been saying? That exception is if the baby has an underlying GI or health issue which may make eating challenging in any number of ways. For example, if your baby has an allergy or intolerance to formula, or severe reflux, the “classic” presentation is that she will refuse the bottle altogether, and show signs of failure to thrive. But sometimes this can manifest in what’s known as comfort feeding. Imagine that you’re a baby, and your stomach is constantly hurting or your esophagus feels like fire. And then imagine that when cool, smooth liquid is running down your throat, and you have that lovely sucking motion going on…. not all babies are going to make the association that it’s eating which is causing all the pain to begin with.

Reflux is tricky too, because some kids may eat a ton and throw up the majority of it; it might appear that they are over-eating, but really they’re keeping down the bare minimum of daily calories. Confusing matters further, kids who do eat too much for their little bellies will simply spit up the extraneous amounts; some might assume this is reflux – and a vicious cycle can begin. But I’ll tell you a little story: my Fearlette was consuming about 32 oz of thickened formula (fed in frequent, small amounts) a day. About 15 oz of that was getting regurgitated on a daily basis. She was the scrawniest baby you’ve ever seen, sometimes scarily so. But to read the “how much should they be eating” charts, you’d think I was doing everything wrong.

Bottom line? There are exceptions to every rule. I’ll say it again – every child is an individual. It’s far more helpful to focus on getting to know your kid- her quirks, her cues, her special needs – rather than knowing what the experts say you “should” be doing.

I know you’ve probably skimmed to the end of this novella and are probably wishing I’d get to the point – FFF, just shut up and tell me how much and how often should I feed my baby, dammit – so here you go. The basic rule of thumb for formula feeding:

For every pound your baby weighs, s/he should be eating approximately 2.5 oz of formula. So if she is 10 lbs, that’s 25oz per day. Most kids top off at 32 oz; the general consensus is that anything between 16-32 oz per day is in the realm of “normal” (god, I hate that word). In terms of how often, most sites/experts advise every 2-4 hours in the beginning, with longer stretches at night as the baby grows. Again using our 10-pounder as an example, this might mean five 5-oz bottles per day. But some kids are snackers, so this could also mean feeding a baby every 2-3 hours with 2-oz bottles. Just depends on the kid.

Let’s assume you have the most textbook child on the planet, though; in this case, your best bet would probably be to distribute those 25 oz primarily in daytime hours, assuming the 10- pounder is at least 8 weeks old and can go longer stretches at night. You might do a 5oz bottle at 9am; 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, and then top him off with 3 oz around 9pm to help him go through the night, with probably another 2oz around 5am. Figure out the schedule that works best for your baby; my point is just that many kids will only be able to handle a specific amount at a time, and at certain times they may want more than others. Many breastfed babies do what is called “cluster feeding”, meaning they have numerous short nursing sessions all clumped together in a short time period. Formula fed babies can do this too (obviously), by drinking smaller amounts every hour or so. (If she usually takes a 4oz bottle every 3 hours, you can do a 3-oz bottle an hour before bedtime and then another 2 right before she goes down.) Some claim that this allows babies to sleep longer stretches at night; kind of the equivalent of carbo-loading before a marathon. I did find with both my kids that if they did some cluster feeding around bedtime, they slept better. Could have been a fluke though.

During growth spurts, you may find that your typical amount isn’t enough. I think that as long as you have spent time getting to know your baby’s hunger cues, you can feel pretty safe just feeding on demand. But also keep in mind that kids can get might ornery during these growth spurts, so it is possible that they will cry a lot and it won’t necessarily mean they are hungry. Do whatever it is you do to comfort them, and if it doesn’t work, let them eat. Babies don’t play mind-games: if something else is wrong, your baby will probably keep freaking out despite your sacrificial offering of Enfamil. If she’s hungry, she’ll eat and hopefully sleep… well, you know.

Like a baby.

Whatever the hell that means.

Could environment or genetics affect milk supply? (File under, “will never be answered in our lifetime.”)

I’m a real estate fiend. I peruse the MLS like it’s a covert issue of Playboy. I love watching the prices rise and fall; seeing how trends change; and I especially adore reading the descriptions of properties and how they are marketed. Realtors often highlight the “walkability” of a location, the proximity to good schools, and any unique features of the home. I have yet to see any real estate professional describe a listing based on its health merits… but maybe they should start.

Last summer, an article on Harvard Health pointed out the health ramifications of where we live. “Laden’s research group has found a number of links between environmental factors and health,” the authors explain. “For example, the results of one study showed that greater exposures to UV light correlate with a higher incidence of squamous cell carcinoma. In some regions of the U.S.—for example, the Southwest—people are more exposed to UV light and thus face a higher risk…Other research from Laden’s group has shown an association between fine particulate levels in the air and mortality rates—the more fine particles, the higher the rate. The researchers found relationships between particulates and increased levels of cancer, renal failure, coronary heart disease and cognitive decline. They also observed associations of some negative health outcomes—for instance, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes—among people living closer to highly traveled roads. In regions of the U.S. where air pollution has decreased over time, Laden said, there has been an improvement in public health.”

This makes sense: your health can be affected by where you live, and how you live, and who you are. Not only does your environment play a role in health, but your gene pool may, as well. For example, since both my husband and I are Ashkenazi Jews, we had to get a “panel” of genetic testing done prior to conceiving to ensure we weren’t both carriers of a few key diseases which tend to strike only members of our ethnic group. Black Americans have to worry about Sickle Cell Anemia. And my husband has an eye condition which typically only strikes people descended from British of Irish stock (making us suspicious that someone in his family tree must have slept with the redheaded mailman, considering his peeps ain’t from that part of the world).

I’m talking about all of this because I came across another study today – this one of the “self-reported”, survey breed – which claims that 72% of new parents surveyed in a group encompassing mothers from the United States, South Africa, Egypt, U.S., Brazil, China and India wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible. “The main reason that stopped women from breastfeeding within the first three months was pain, whilst lack of supply commonly caused women to give up breastfeeding between three and seven months,”  states the study, which was funded by Philips (the makers of Avent bottles and pumps). However, “67% of American women compared with 40% of women globally reported that their reason for stopping was a lack of milk supply, and in comparison to 41% of mothers globally, 73% of American women completed a breastfeeding course.”

Hmm.

Something doesn’t quite compute, here. American women were more likely to be educated about breastfeeding, and also more likely to cite lack of supply as a reason for quitting. Presumably, the more educated about breastfeeding you are, the more you’d know about what constitutes a true lack of supply; how to pick up on hunger cues; how to recognize growth spurts; and how to avoid the “booby traps” which could adversely affect supply. So either these classes we’re taking are teaching all the wrong things, or American women really are having more trouble with supply.

If it is a widely accepted belief that genetics and environment can impact health both positively and negatively, why do we have a hard time believing that on a population level, one country’s breasts might be short-circuiting? It could be something social in nature; maybe it is something as simple as a lack of good breastfeeding help in the hospital, which is impeding the second stage of lactogenesis (the process which the body must go through to start producing milk). Even this would be good to know, because regardless of the cause being an avoidable one, it speaks to the point that women are having trouble with supply and are not just using it as an “excuse”. But maybe it is something in our water or environment. Maybe lack of supply is more prevalent among certain ethnic groups or geographic cohorts – have there been any studies done examining “perceived” lack of supply in eastern versus western states, for example? The rural south versus the Pacific Northwest? I’d be interested in that. Or you know what else would be cool? A study which actually examined the breasts and overall physical health, down to the cellular level, of women who “claim” insufficient supply. Maybe we could find enough proof for people to stop accusing new mothers of lying or giving excuses, and actually make some real strides for women who want to breastfeed and find themselves unable to do so without going to extreme lengths.

A girl can dream, right?

FFF Friday: “What’s best is what works for the whole family”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.




FFF Christina’s story is a perfect example of how “legitimate reasons” for choosing formula don’t need to be physiological in nature, nor do they need to be deemed “legitimate” by a medical professional or government official. She made an educated choice to breastfeed, gave it a fair shot, and decided it wasn’t the best choice for her family. That’s really all we should be asking for when we advocate breastfeeding. Give women the resources they need, the support they want, and the autonomy they deserve.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

My background: I am a first time mom. Both my sister and sister-in-law formula fed. Most of my close friends (let’s say 3 out of 4) exclusively breastfed. When I found out I was pregnant, I did my research. Breastfeeding was the obvious, inexpensive and natural choice for me. And it was the one part of having a baby that I planned. I figured I would pump when I went back to work. Easy, right? I should have known better.

I was a natural at breastfeeding. My milk came in on day 3, and my baby had a great latch. We had a rough Day 2 (she didn’t eat for 8 hours in a row), but quickly overcame that. We came home, and I spent my days and nights nursing. When I wasn’t nursing my baby, she was crying. She barely slept. And when she did sleep, it was such a light sleep that she would only sleep on me. I forged on, thinking that my baby just didn’t like to sleep. My breastfeeding friends admired my daughter’s latch, and told me to keep going, despite the fact that I expressed feeling uncomfortable and that my baby had dark circles. My mom even expressed her concern that the baby wasn’t sleeping enough. I brushed her off. She had her last kid 30 years ago! She doesn’t know, I thought.
Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t have the magic bonding feeling. I felt trapped to my chair, to my bed, to the couch. I went to a family barbecue and spent the ENTIRE day breastfeeding. Sitting in a chair, with a hot baby attached to my chest. I have large breasts and felt uncomfortable pulling them out even around friends to feed her. Because she was crying all of the time, my mom suggested cutting out caffeine, chocolate and dairy to see if it helped her. To have someone else dictate what I could and couldn’t eat me irrationally angry. I thought I was a horrible person because I didn’t want to “get over my issues” to give my daughter the best. I was feeling almost resentful of my daughter, when I finally realized that what I was really resenting were the demands of breastfeeding.
Add to that the anticipation of guilt because I thought my breastfeeding friends would judge me for using formula… and I was feeling crazier than a postpartum woman should have to feel. (Fortunately, my friends are awesome– no judgment at all). Don’t forget the screaming baby who couldn’t be put down because all she wanted to do was nurse.
I love my pediatrician. At our first appointment, I sat in her office crying while breastfeeding. She asked me what was wrong. I said I felt trapped and didn’t know if I could do this. But I was overcome with guilt. She asked me point blank: “What will happen if you feed her formula for a few feedings to give yourself a break to pump or relax?” I thought about it for days after. I thought about how helpless my husband felt every time I was unable to eat a meal because I needed two hands to breastfeed, or if I wasn’t breastfeeding I was pumping. How about that? A medical professional telling me that formula was OK. I had convinced myself that breast milk was THE ONLY acceptable food for my baby.
One day, I decided to supplement with formula for a handful of feedings. I figured I would start building a breast milk supply– hopefully to eliminate my discomfort with nursing in public and me feeling tied down. But my gut was telling me something else. I gave her formula for a whole day. She ate like a champ and slept longer than she ever had. It hit me like a ton of bricks– she was hungry, and wasn’t getting enough from me. She was hungry, and I finally fed her. I felt free. And happy. And sane.
What I was afraid of was that people would think that I was uneducated and unaware of my options. To the contrary, I’m keenly aware of the promoted benefits of breastfeeding. I read like a fiend while I was pregnant. I watched videos of babies breastfeeding. I knew what a good latch looked like and felt like. I was also afraid that it would be assumed that I didn’t have enough breastfeeding support. I had more breastfeeding support than one person needs! I had a doula on call, actively breastfeeding friends, and breastfeeding support groups at my fingertips. I chose formula not just for me, not just for my baby, but for my whole family’s health.
What I realized is that I should be proud that I trusted my instincts. I fed my baby, and today she is a happy, bouncy 4 month old who went from barely sleeping/napping to sleeping through the night. I know now that breast is not necessarily “best” for everyone. What’s best is what works for the whole family.

***

Share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday – send it over to formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Father Knows Breast: Men have breastfeeding angst, too

I’ve been re-reading Joan Wolf’s book, Is Breast Best: Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood. The first time I read it I was doing so in order to review it for this site, and also as research for my own book; this second reading is simply for enjoyment. And I have to say, it is a damn good study. If anything, its downfall is that it is too comprehensive; she covers so many issues so thoroughly that it almost gets overwhelming. But that’s a pretty good fault to have, kind of like when an recruiter asks you what your faults are and you say “Huh…well, um, I guess I’m a perfectionist…”

Anyway, one of the (many) arguments she makes is about the gender-specific nature of the breastfeeding-begets-bonding rhetoric. How come we never consider the “bonding” behaviors of fathers in regards to infant feeding? It got me thinking… we seldom discuss the male POV here on FFF, and maybe it’s time we did.

On the few male-written blogs on breastfeeding I’ve seen, the blogger always refers to the “myth” that breastfed babies can’t bond with their fathers, and how this wasn’t true for him/didn’t matter if it was true for him because nature designed it that way and it was all worth it in the end. These guys usually talk about how it makes them even more in awe of their wives; how they were able to help out in other ways (diapering, cleaning the house, bringing the baby to their wives in the middle of the night); how “real men” support breastfeeding.

Most of these sentiments are really beautiful, and I don’t doubt that all of them are 100% true. For some men. But just as with women, I think it’s unfair to assume that every man’s experience with breastfeeding is going to be identical.

I’m sure there are men who do feel left out, when only their wives can provide the comfort and food to their new infants. Babies don’t do much but eat (and poop, but changing a diaper isn’t much of a bonding activity) at the beginning; with first babies, most willing and able dads will be involved in breastfeeding because it takes time for their wives to get the hang of it (I know my own Fearless Husband was quite adept at maneuvering my nipples into my son’s mouth by the end of the first week). But after breastfeeding is established, dads don’t really get to do much in the way of feeding unless pumping and bottles are involved. I’m not saying this is a “reason” to bottle feed, or an indictment of breastfeeding, but I also believe we should feel free to voice any and all feelings about individual experiences with breastfeeding. It is an intimate experience, like birth, and sometimes it helps to tell our stories- even if that means saying things that are politically incorrect.

These are tricky subjects, in even trickier situations. We can’t censor ourselves for fear of appearing anti-breastfeeding. I actually think that in some ways, doing so is anti-breastfeeding – because if we aren’t honest about our experiences and feelings and challenges and concerns, how the hell will breastfeeding ever become the “norm”? “Norm” meaning normal, right? Normal things can be made fun of; looked at analytically; debated. Normal means that we can talk about the uncomfortable truths.

So, just in case anyone with a penis should ever stumble across this blog, I want to make a few things clear, since it’s highly unlikely anyone with actual authority will have the balls to do it:

  • It’s okay to feel left out.

  • It’s okay to feel a bit squeamish that a body part which was once an integral part of your intimate, sexual relationship with your wife is now simply a feeding tool /public domain, being seen, discussed, and manhandled by a myriad of medical professionals and lactation consultants.

  • It’s okay to wish that you could do “the most important thing for your baby”, that you could shoulder some of the responsibility for his/her future health and intelligence.

  • It’s okay to question whether this “most important thing” is really all that important, and if it will have that much impact on your child’s future health and intelligence.

  • It’s okay to feel confused about how best to support your wife when she is crying over bleeding nipples/insufficient supply/frustration/pain/mastitis/spilled milk, when part of you just wants to give the kid a damn bottle and tell her to quit already, she’s been through enough; it’s okay that you aren’t sure whether she really wants to quit or needs you to be the rock and push her through this roadblock.

  • It’s okay to feel concerned about your baby’s welfare if your wife is having trouble breastfeeding or is telling you she simply doesn’t want to do it. When every parenting book and birth-prep class you took has informed you that formula fed babies are sickly, emotionally stunted and stupid, how could you not worry?

  • It’s okay to feel uncomfortable when you see your wife’s friends nursing. Two months ago if you’d seen their boobs it would have been a federal case; now you’re supposed to think nothing of it…?

  • It’s okay that you can’t understand why your wife cares so much about what other people think of her and what she is or isn’t doing with her breasts.

  • It’s okay that you feel resentful that fathers are barely acknowledged in all the talk about infant feeding and early development, especially if you are a gay, single, or primary caregiving dad. It’s not right, it’s out-and-out sexist, and it just sucks.

We can’t leave fathers out of the conversation, because they inevitably become part of the conversation. Yes, breastfeeding is a woman’s issue, but it has become a social and medical issue revolving around babies. Babies who often have both a male and a female parent, and sometimes only a male parent, or two male parents. The physiological act of lactation is exclusive to women; feeding babies is in the purview of both genders. I hope more fathers start to weigh in on how the pressure to breastfeed is affecting them, as well.

Oh – and also – while writing this, I couldn’t help but think: First we ask men not to fixate on our breasts as sexual objects; then we ask them to fixate on our breasts as a means to a healthier, wealthier child; a healthier, wealthier nation. Either way, the attention is all on the breasts.

Paging Dr. Freud….

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...