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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CherB... CherBearCM

Your husband was absolutely right in this situation.  I had basically the same thing happen to me with our first born.  I was struggling so much he and my psychiatrist both convinced me it would probably be better for my state of mind to 'give up'. 


Kimberly Furnell

I've read a statistic that says women with husband's who are supportive of breastfeeding are 90% more likely do breastfeed. I didn't really believe it before. But I believe it now. Unfortunately, breastfeeding, though best, does not work for every woman. And even more unfortunately, our society now makes women who were unable to (or chose not to) breastfeed feel badly about this. Which is sad. Though every woman and baby pairing is different. And so I recommend trying again, if you have another child, or for really anyone else. Because really, sometimes it isn't the mom at all, but the child who is having the real trouble! Or so I have heard! <3

Megara Megara

Sorry, my husband doesn't get "the final say" on very many things.  We talk things out and agree. With breastfeeding, it was a lot of talking.  He was brought up in a culture of formula-feeding, I was brought up in a culture of breastfeeding (extended, even!).  I had to educate him on breastfeeding, and after nursing our first to 30 months and now nursing the second, he is glad he learned and very glad that I breastfeed.  It would be stupid to give an ignorant person "the final say."

Asilee Asilee

That's B.S. honestly.

alien... alientaxi

my hubby and i talked about it before we had our son and he supported me 100% and helped me through every step. it was a little more difficult with my second child (go figure) but i think that was mostly because he had to work out of time the whole 1st year of our daughters life and i had to do it mostly alone.

Jenny Frances

This sounds EXACTLY like my story. I had great health care but a baby that couldn't latch. I tried pumping and would pump for hours on end but would only get an ounce at a time from each breast. My husband was so supportive and did everything I needed him to, but I spiraled deeper in to post pardum depression. Finally he and my therapist told me to just let go of the breast feeding ideas. It wasn't going to happen. It took me a very long time to accept that I had failed at breast feeding, the one thing that had me so excited during a miserable pregnancy. You do need to talk to your partner and really listen to them.

Lynette Lynette

Even if you can't afford a consultant you can get help from a LC going through the LLL, go to a meeting, call their 1-800 number.  Also worst case scenario you had to pay a LC it would be cheaper than formula.  My husband knew I planned to breastfeed.  He was there when I bought the breastfeeding bk.  He was there when we registered for our baby shower and I told him no bottles and went off on how they can sabotagethings.  He has been their all the way though.  He knew never to bring up the bottle.  What he did bring up when the time was right was upping my zoloft.  And then w/ our 3rd child when I was taking fish oil instead of zoloft he suggested upping the dose, lol, but it worked!

Jeanmarie Farrell Navarra

It's my body and I have the final say as to what happens with it.  Breast is best in most cases.  My husband couldn't care less what I do with my own body but he sure does enjoy saving all that money he would have spent on formula.

Laura Pisoni

Uh, you guys know that the authors don't choose the titles of their articles, right?

Athei... AtheistBitch

What??? There is so much FREE help out there not being able to *afford* a lactation consultant is such a cop-out!!! They have new mom and breastfeeding mom groups at hospitals that are usually run by lactation consultants, and they're free! Not to mention La Leche League meetings, which are generally FREE. Ugh, whatever. Just another excuse. But yeah, OBVIOUSLY you should tell your SO you're going to breastfeed. Maybe ask him for input and make sure he's informed, but the final say is NOT his!

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