Monday, July 7, 2008

Partners make a difference

If you breastfeed, your child's father won't be able to participate in feeding the baby.

Dads need to be able to give the baby a bottle in order to bond with him or her.

I hear this excuse as a reason not to breastfeed a lot, both in real life and online. I think many women find it a difficult and heavy burden to be the sole source of food for their newborns. Breast babies wake more frequently throughout the night, clusterfeed for hours in the early evening and love to be comforted at the breast. And let's face it, those first few weeks, breastfeeding can be downright painful due to poor latch and nipples that haven't toughened up yet. It's understandable to want to share the feeding duties with your partner and if your partner isn't supportive of breastfeeding or ambivalent about it, it's easy to give up. It sounds so freeing to be able to leave your baby with a bottle.

This is why partners make all the difference. The breastfeeding relationship isn't just between mom and baby, but between mom, baby AND dad. Dads have to support mom when she's tired, sore and scared the baby isn't getting enough to eat. It's so easy to reach for that can of free formula you got from the hospital when you're exhausted and feeling unsure of yourself. I remember a night where my son was clusterfeeding for almost 4 hours and I didn't think I was making enough milk and asked his dad to just bring me a bottle of formula. I felt like a failure and like I was starving my poor baby because of my own selfish need to breastfeed. Thank God my partner calmly talked me through it, helped me get the baby latched on again, and sat up in bed with me, rubbing my back. About 15 minutes later, my son fell asleep and we put him back in his bassinett. We made it through. I often wonder what would have happened if I was with a different kind of man. It's a slippery slope once you start supplementing. I might no be breastfeeding my son 7 months later. I might have given up.

The USDA created a whole marketing plan called "Fathers Supporting Breastfeeding" aimed at African-American men. Even the government gets that dads really can make all the difference! The plan talks about all the ways dad can bond with the baby, like giving her a bath, changing diapers, singing to the baby, etc. Dads can help mom the most by doing the cooking and the cleaning. That's so much more meaningful than a bottle! Helping your child receive the best possible nutrition is such a priceless gift! OK, not even priceless: it's free!

I was reading a wonderful post by a breastfeeding father yesterday about how important dads are to the breastfeeding relationship. He totally rebuffed the argument that dads have to be able to feed a baby via a bottle in order to bond. He talks about being the foundation that kept his wife going through plugged ducts, mastitis, thrush. My favorite quote from the piece was this:

"When my wife became pregnant, we agreed to try breastfeeding. The first thing we learned about it is best summed up by Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (though, I believe, he was discussing a different subject): 'Do or do not. There is no try.'"

And that really sums it up for me. Breastfeeding takes dedication and the love and support of those around you. You have to be committed to it, as does your support team. The same way you were partners in creating this new life, you have to be partners in nurturing the breastfeeding relationship.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts with Thumbnails