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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Wendi Watson

For a father to say "oh jsut give him or her a bottle to me seems very selfish when breast milk is best. Formula isnt the food that has all those nutrients and it doesnt give my daughter the things she needs .

ethan... ethans_momma06

Wait, WHAT??? I understand that you are trying to show how important it is that we include our other halves in the parenting decisions, even the ones we think just pertain to us, but really? There is no way ih heck that my DH has 'The Final Say' in bf.

If he says that he thinks you should bf, listen and then talk to him about why you can't/wont. If he says he thinks you shouldn't, then he needs to know why it is important for you to do so.

lovin... lovinangels

Jeanne, Kudos and much respect for putting yourself out there like this. I was SO hoping the judgy mommies wouldn't show up en masse.  Oh, well. You're a kick-butt mommy.

Krista Stephenson Perino

I know this is such a heated subject, so I won't comment on any one's experience but my own.  My husband and I discussed it, and quite frankly he didn't have an opinion on it before we had children.  It was left up to me.  I decided no with my first, no regrets.  With my second I was excited to BF.  I tried and hated it.  Something that was supposed to come naturally was awkward and painful.  Like you I became depressed that "I" was such a failure.  My husband came in while I was fighting with my baby to feed and in tears and said exactly what yours did. "Then don't do it.  Why do you want this stress?"  I was so relieved, so excited that he was not looking at me as a failure at all.  He was supportive with whatever I decided to do.  That's all I could ever want from him.  His unconditional support.

Krista Stephenson Perino

I just haveto add that supporting each other as women, as moms far exceeds the importance of spreading the message "breast is best" at all costs.  This is the reason mom's suffer in silence when they fail at breastfeeding, the severe judgement and harsh criticism from other moms. 

squish squish

To me, it sounds like you really desired to breastfeed, but precieved that you could not afford to find out good information. When your husband stopped supporting you by trying to "rescue" you from this challenge, it was your responsibility to say to him, "I need you to support me, and help me find the solution that will keep me on track for my goal of breastfeeding." He was acting in a way that he thought would help you, but really, all he did was make you feel like a failure, and your reaction to that statement proves my point. If he instead would have known how important this was too you, he could have called your local church, and asked for help. He could have called your local La Leche Legue. He could have bought you a pump to relieve sore nipples. He could have paid for an LC even if your insurance didn't (and seriously, you should challenge that policy, breastfeeding keeps babies and mothers healthy!! Why wouldn't they cover that?). He could have called your mother.

I agree with what you said about being on the same page with your husband. He needs to know how important it is to you, you should have a plan in place to combat problems. He needs to understand that you did not want to quit, no matter how hard it is in the beginning.

My point is that I feel that you are using your husband lack of support to continue as an excuse to quit. PPD sucks, but how does failure and lack of support fix that?

AllRusty AllRusty

I never realized that you would need to pay for or have insurance coverage for a lactation consultant. Our hospital offers that service for free! I had major baby blues with baby number 3, but for me, breastfeeding was theraputic. She was my hardest one to nurse, she had a poor latch, but we made it through. I think the wording of your title is a little strong for the actual message of your post. But I do agree it needs to be a joint agreement if you're going to keep your husband happy.  Do what's best for baby, but remember that your marriage relationship needs to survive, too.

LoveM... LoveMyDog

Don't you just love it when the title doesn't match the article.  This article is about PPD, not about BFing, and it certainly isn't about fathers' rights.  What a crock, but you got me to open it didn't you!

sodapple sodapple

once i ended up bottle feeding my oldest at 1 i told my husband the next child was going to be breastfed, he did not mind then and does not mind now. =)

TheGr... TheGreatCthulhu

I never actually asked my husband, but he was really supportive of my decision to breastfeed and went to the breastfeeding class I attended and actually remembered things I had forgotten once our oldest was born.  He also attended all the sessions I had with a lactation consultant after I ended up with mastitis because of a poor latch.  I ended up breastfeeding our oldest son for 16 1/2 months, our second son for 10 months (had to forcibly wean him due to having an emergency partial mastectomy), and I'm currently breastfeeding our 16 1/2 month old daughter.  I really don't think I could have gotten as far as I did with our oldest had it not been for the help and support of my husband.  That being said, had my husband told me he didn't want me to breastfeed, I would have done it anyway.

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