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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Kris Gamble

Wait a second... you just wrote a post the other day about how spouses should not influence your life changing decisions or make them for you, and now you are basically saying the opposite. Seriously, those two posts do not go together, so I do not understand how you wrote both of them. What you don't seem to realize is it's not about one person saying "no you can't." It's about both people in the relationship coming to a joint conclusion, with some compromise. You did say that, but I don't understand how you can say that your husband had final say in whether or not you breastfed, but Cliff Lee shouldn't listen to his wife. What if their conversation was his wife realizing baseball was negatively affecting his life and said "Stop this insanity, you are making yourself nuts and you don't have to do this to yourself"? I know blogs are all about opinions, but maybe you should get yours together, I don't want to sound mean, but it sounds like you need to think about this.

lovin... lovinangels

I've had both sides of the coin: an asshat (not saying your husband was) but one who was foursquare against breastfeeding, not because of any effect on me, but because he wanted me to go drinking six nights a week like we did before I got pregnant. That would be my ex.

My husband laughed when I geared myself up and yelled "i'm going to breastfeed!" three months in to the  birth of our daughter. He said "of course you are." And told me how amazing I was each and every day I did it, and held me when I cried when our daughter self-weaned at fifteen months, because I was pregnant with the next.

It sounds like  your husband was supporting you. Continuing to breastfeed while spiralling into blackness mentally is NOT the right decision. I bet he would have been behind you a hundred percent if the CHEMICALS IN YOUR BRAIN weren't malfunctioning.

This is the only problem with the mommy wars and all the judgments going around here. Someone who needs to feed formula to be a healthy, good mom, will have more guilt that anyone can possibly imagine.

Freela Freela

Sorry... did you just say to give your husband THE FINAL SAY????  On something that pertains more to you than to him?  So if I wanted to bf'd and my hubby didn't want me to, I should defer to him?  Or vice versa, if it was making me miserable but my hubby was all for it, I should just keep on slogging?  Though I don't disagree with a lot of the text of your article, I have to admit the title REALLY raises my hackles.  No way, no how, will anyone but me- including my husband- get the 'final say' over something that pertains to my body!

For what it's worth, I've very greatful for the support my dh gave me while I was bf'ing our three kids.  We went through a variety of issues with them, from dealing with tongue ties (twice) and dealing with PPD (twice.)  My dh was always there to help me to position and latch, the do research for me, to drive me appts with the lactation consultant or doctor, and generally to reassure me when I felt like a miserable failure, for intance for taking an antidepressant and bf'ing, even when my doctor and our own research made it very clear that the risk to the baby was negligeable.  I'm thakful for ALL of that.... I might not have been successful without him.  But should it have been up to him?  That's a big hell no in my book!

Mommy... Mommy2Mal

I never asked my husband with our first, who never really got the hang of breastfeeding and was always on some formula, but with out second, I asked as an afterthought. Like, Why would he care? It's my body, my boobs and one less thing that he'll ever have to do, and that's not at all how he saw it. He didn't mind that I wanted to breastfeed, mostly because he knew how hard it was on me when I was unable to nurse our first born, and because he knew I was trying to do what I felt was best for our baby. But he was annoyed that I'd become so militant about it. Breastfeeding didn't work out the first time in large part because although I read all the "how to" books about it, I never learned that I had to stand up for my rights as a mother, or my child's rights as a human being, or how important it is to trust nature. I let the NICU staff do what they wanted because I assumed they knew best, they had the degrees after all, I was just a new mom. So when it came to our second, and I had learned the hard way that some times you have to stand up and tell a bottle pushing nurse to back off or else, I was full of piss and vinegar and wasn't taking prisoners.

Now, with baby number 3 on the way, my husband and I still don't see eye to eye when it comes to breastfeeding, but we can agree that as long as we're both doing what we think is best, neither can fault the other.

MSamway MSamway

I understand the need to talk to your husband about a major decision, like breastfeeding. What I don't understand is; Why do people think that there are only 2 options? There are 3 options: Breastfeeding, Formula, and Breast milk from a bottle. I know most sources about breastfeeding say that you shouldn't give your child a pacifier or a bottle, but we as parents know what is best for OUR children. Children are not robots that are programmed to follow special rules, heck, no one is. I do believe that breast milk is the best for any child.  As many mothers now days, I was a working mom. So I knew from day 1 that I would have to pump & store my milk for our DD. I also knew that I have a wonderful husband (though he may not always support my decisions) and family to help me. I started to pump about a week after I had our DD, and that gave me the assurance that my DH had that bonding time known and feeding time and that our DD would do better at daycare. I now help my friends with the struggle of breastfeeding, as they know that I was successful in the process. Yes, good pumps are expensive, but if you total up how much you could pay for formula you will realize that it is still cheaper to buy the pump and bottles. Plus, your nature milk is also gentler on your babies system. I hope this helps new moms and dads realize that there is a great way to compromise on the feeding of your little one.

PaulaSz PaulaSz

I had a very similar situation and a husband who reacted in a similar way, and I was similarly torn about how to handle his reaction. You've got a great perspective on it now. Bottom line, if you've got a partner who's trying to be part of the solution--a solution which includes you feeling better--trust it, listen to it, and above all, like Jeanne says, don't try to be a mind reader!

DebaLa DebaLa

You only had the Internet to give you advice? No friends, family... BEFORE you gave birth? Sorry, but you sounded isolated or ill-informed about BF. It take conscious involvement and support, with a relaxed ,positive attitude to let down properly. Like the others said, there are outside sources of breastmilk, and if pumping isn't getting you the adequate supply for baby... guess what: if your husband were more on board early on about your plan to BF, he could have helped. It's controversial, and few couples will admit publicly, husbands assist in helping with the supply, at least at first, because of the taboo in our culture. I was not aware of this option back in the day hearing of it only recently, and was flabbergasted at first, then researched it. Now, I certainly would have appreciated his assistance if I had needed it. Bottom line: depression, esp postpartum depression, is terrible for an infant as well as mother. That's too high a price, and too much focus and negativity at too critical a time, around something that should be comforting, natural and positive for all concerned. I was older when I had my daughter, so I was sometimes TOO relaxed and casual. Good luck to you in the future. You, your husband and babies will benefit from your previous experience, and enjoy yourselves.

Cheri Ponto

Maybe someday it won't even have to be an issue. Someday, that will the the ONLY way babies get fed.

My SO was the most supportive person. When our son was born 8 weeks early (I had pre-e) he was totally on board with me pumping the entire 13 months I did so (baby could never latch due to sensory issues). When our second was born and I had sever issues with nipple bleeding, etc and I had to stop nursing but keep pumping until they healed, when I was crying because I KNEW that she would never latch again, he supported me and told me she would do, because I educated myself and knew how to keep her on the breast. And he was right. She got back on and didn't leave until she weaned herself at 27 months. And he never had a problem with it. <3

Pauli... Pauline3283

NO!  I haven't and won't talk to him about weather *he* wants me to breastfeed.  The baby is what matters and breast is best for babies.  Husband could have taken a flying leap if he didn't like it.

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

I talked to my husband about my desire to breastfeed. (I certainly didn't ASK, but I don't think that's really what this article is about. )  I explained to him why I wanted to breastfeed.  I sent him countless articles about breastfeeding, he read all the baby books and he went to a breastfeeding class taught by an IBCLC with me.  He knew that breastfeeding was the ONLY option for me and that if he wanted to help, it didn't have to be with feedings.  It could be with dinner or cleaning.  Actually, he said "Since you're the only one who can nurse him, there should be something that only I do when I'm here....I'll change all the diapers!"  I obviously did not argue with that! Haha

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