Dad Deserves Final Say in Breastfeeding


breastfeedingWhen I got pregnant, there were a few things I was absolutely sure of. I was happier than a pig in you-know-what to be pregnant, but a miserable pregnant woman. Oh, and I was going to breastfeed.

My mother breastfed me. She breastfed my brother. And every single finger-licking thing I learned from good old Doc. Google was "do this for your baby!" But as I registered for milk storage baggies and made a personal pledge never to let a pacifier pass her lips, I bypassed the most important talk of my pregnancy: I never asked my husband.

It was a major mistake, and one I can't undo. Yes, ladies, it's your body and they are your boobs. But you're not going to succeed at breastfeeding with a guy who says, "Eh, just get the kid a bottle."

My husband truly acted like a "dad" from the get-go. He cut the cord (despite his faint-inducing fear of blood) and couldn't wait to get his hands on his precious baby girl. He sat and watched lovingly as I tried to breastfeed her in the delivery room, then settled in to hold her, beaming before grudgingly handing her over to my father for his own cuddle action.

But when they wheeled her off to the nursery and wheeled me to our room for the night, he was still acting as my husband. He wanted me to get some sleep. It's a fact I won't and can't begrudge him; he was acting like the man I married, the man who had been putting me first for the past five and a half years.

And as I spiraled into postpartum depression in the days after our daughter's birth, he continued to look at me not as the mother of his child but as his wife. Breastfeeding, he saw, was making my depression worse. With no insurance coverage for a lactation consultant and no money to hire one ourselves, we were going at it alone with the books and the Internet. I was trying desperately to make it work, and feeling increasingly like a failure as nothing I tried worked.

He was watching me slip away, and he threw out a lifeboat. He didn't know it was the wrong one. "Give up," he told me. "Stop this insanity. You are making yourself nuts, and you don't have to do this to yourself." I hated him for it. If even my husband thought I couldn't breastfeed, I knew I must be the world's worst mother.

It's taken a long time for me to let go of an unjust anger. I look back and realize he was doing the best he could. In light of the circumstances, he was making the best choice not just for me but for him and for our daughter. She could live on formula. She couldn't live with a mother who hid in her room crying all day.

I can't undo my depression or the fact that we had crappy insurance. I can't undo that I had no breastfeeding support or even that I eventually gave it up much earlier than I ever intended. But I can undo future pain for other mothers.

Don't do what I do. Don't expect your partner will understand why you plan to breastfeed and don't expect him to be on the same page. He may very well think it's not a big deal. He may just be plain jealous that you get to do all the feedings (in the end, my husband loved that time he spent holding her with a bottle -- it's one of the silver linings in our very dark cloud). Or he may be trying to help you, but just doesn't know how. He didn't go to school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; you can't expect him to read your mind!

I may still have been forced to give up breastfeeding early -- part of living in the boonies is a lack of good healthcare, and that means good depression resources in addition to the lack of lactation support. But at least he would have known he had to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Have you talked to your partner about your feeding plans yet?

Image via ODHD/Flickr

fathers, emotions, motherhood


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mom2r... mom2reitmans

I think in your particular situation, you are using your husbands lack of knowlege of how to support you as a cop out as to why your breastfeeding relationship failed.  And I know, because this was me too after the birth of my first.  My husband just didn't know how to support me, didn't like to see me in tears, and said, "just give her a pacifier, and it will be okay".  He thought that was what I needed to hear.  And because those magic words came from him, I listened.  She never latched on to me again.  I pumped for a furious four months, and then switched to formula because I was going back to work.  Fast forward to second baby, again middle of the night, same husband...  Baby is screaming her head off, its the middle of the night, I hand her off to my husband to calm her (and me) down before I put her to the breast, he hands her back, and says "I think your doing a great job".   What's the difference? I let him know my expectations before she was here, I let him know what I needed from him, in order for breastfeeding to be successsful. 

stell... stellarluna

#1, I ABSOLUTELY would breastfeed my baby even if my husband said stop.  WOW!  My job as a mother is to provide what is best for my baby, and knowing that breast is number one, donated human milk is number two, banked milk is number three, and formula comes in dead last, I knew I had to breastfeed as long as I was able to lactate.  That was my duty as a mother whether my dd's father agreed or not.  No, sorry, he doesn't have a say.  I will listen, but that doesn't mean I'll do anything about it if it means he is asking me to stop.
#2, I have gotten help from La Leche League SO MANY TIMES I can't even count and never paid a dime.  Honestly, I haven't met a Lactation Consultant that actually helped me with anything.
#3, Is this postpartum depression or breastfeeding depression?  I have heard of post partum which happens after the birth of a baby whether you breastfeed or not, but I have not heard of depression that occurs becasue you breastfeed. 

This is a very misinformed article/author.  I'm sorry you struggled so much, I have been there too, and I'll say I was also very misinformed with my first because I quit, and I shouldn't have.  It really sounds like you just didn't reach out for help because you were not aware of the fact that you had more support than you thought... I was in the same boat with my first too, but live and learn.  Hopefully you learn more about breastfeeding with the next baby if you decide on one.

betha... bethany169

I agree with some of the points you mention, but the title is completely out of whack, and out of the question for me.  We are partners and we communicate, but there is no way that I'm giving him final say over anything that involves my body and our baby.  The father of my children deserves to be informed and given an opportunity to discuss things that pertain to our child, but final say?  No way.  We're dealing with this right now regarding having a home birth.  He is scared and I understand, but he's dealing with it by talking to uneducated people instead of discussing it with me and getting educated along with me.  No way in hell am I giving final say to someone who is uninformed and not being as completely affected by my decisions as I am.

nonmember avatar Anon

Yeah, my BIL was adamant that breastfeeding was disgusting (because that's how his mother felt about it). She had to fight with him for ages about it. I was even in on one of the discussions. What an a$$. Give him the final decision? I don't think so. Baby is now 1 and still being breastfed. Now her genius dad is pro-BF. Go figure.

starr... starrsitter

I agree with PP...the title is all wrong.  There's a world of difference between listening to someone who has a different perspective on what's happening to you emotionally and giving a man the "final say" in whether or not to breastfeed. 

I am blessed with a husband who would have supported whatever I chose and was incredibly proud of my determination and ability to feed our son.  He once told me I was hot while I was pumping, which as many of us know is not a time you feel very sexy.

nonmember avatar Jenna

@ DebaLa - I had NO support what so ever for breastfeeding from friends or family. They all bottle fed, so yes, in some cases there is zero support. I learned the hard way to nurse all on my own with coutless hours of reading books, talking to my pedi and researching. Spending hours on

Unfortunately it just happens like that. I am now 8 months strong with my son in nursing and everyone gave me weird looks. My husband has zero say in it because it was what I wanted to do and sure, as a first time mom, it was stressful because I had everyone telling me that I should bottle feed. At the end of it all, I knew it was important for my child and my family.

Wendi Watson

I agree with you " mommy to Mal" and Kris.

Nancy Sasser

I think this post probably did not come out exactly as you intended it to.

I agree that your husband should be involved, BUT I think the best approach is to inform him of why it is so important to you to breastfeed, and how much better it is, both for YOU and YOUR BABY.  He obviously missed the educational part.  My husband was only breastfed for about 6 weeks, yet he knew that it was important to me, and important FOR our children, so he fully supported me, and asked all the questions he needed to understand all the benefits.  He trusts me with these types of decisions, because I have done the research and talked to other moms about it.  I wouldn't suggest to leave it up to your husband to say, "she can live off formula, so get some sleep and give her a bottle" without showing him all the evidence of how big of a benefit breastfeeding is to a baby.  Once someone knows all the benefits, they would not CHOOSE formula unless absolutely necessary.  Also, breastfeeding is a HUGE benefit to the mother, and I'm sure it wouldn't improve Post Partum Depression by stopping breastfeeding.

So yes, I agree that Daddy should have a say in the decision, but ONLY an informed say.

DebaLa DebaLa

@BradenIsMySon, sorry you had such a hard time with BF. I had my daughter 14 years ago, no Internet info then either, but would have relied more on it now. I didn't have the support of mother and sisters (they both had c-sections and did bottle feeding and couldn't relate to my normal delivery and desire to BF), but friends and esp my (then) partner, an experienced father from a previous marriage, were SO supportive, and I appreciated that he was "trained." As older parents we could both spend our energy on our daughter, instead of finding fault in each other (a là article).

Wendi Watson

good for you Jenna.. I am glad I have my husband and alot of other family that support me to breastfeed. When i was in the hospital I know that brestfeeding would hurt that bad. boy.. will I be better prepared next time. It was excrutiating but my Husband Said Think That This Is The Only Way to Feed Katelyn" and it did Help me. : ) I had a lactation specialist in the hospital that helped alot and I also read alot before giving birth so that also made me succsessful. The title is obviously dumb. I agree with you Stellar Luna all the way! My husband was so supported and we were both anti formula. I would give my daughter donated milk before I Ever gave her that formula crap. Of making sure it is milk that has nothing wrong with it. The bond You get From Breastfeeding the most Natural Thing and Beautiful thing. The bond is unexplainable and I cherish that I am able to Breastfeed My Daughter every day and plan on breastfeeding til she is at least 1 to 1 1/2. : ) Even if my husband didnt want be to brestfeed I still would . What is best for our daughter? Why would I do anythig different?

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