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Dads enter the boob wars

To breast-feed or not to breast-feed — should Dad get a vote?

By Sally Wadyka Nov 13, 2012 6:16PM

The presidential election is finally behind us, but there are still plenty of topics up for ongoing debate. One that consistently gets moms — and apparently many dads, too — riled up  is the decision about whether or not to breast-feed.
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It may seem like a straightforward sort of decision for a new mother, with the argument being “This is my body, I’ll decide what to do with my boobs.” But as any mom knows, it is definitely not that simple. First, there’s tremendous social pressure these days to breast-feed. In certain circles, admitting that you’re not nursing your newborn ranks up there in the bad-parenting pantheon, right along with feeding your kids fast food while they’re watching TV. And there is plenty of scientific evidence in favor of breast milk for babies — studies have linked it to myriad health benefits including better brains and heartier immune systems.

So it’s no wonder that many women decide to breast-feed. The question is does Dad get a say in the decision? It’s delicate territory for sure. If a father doesn’t support breast-feeding (even for a good reason, like he wants to be able to take over the middle-of-the-night feedings to give Mom some rest), it may seem as if he’s saying he doesn’t want what may be healthiest for his baby. But if a dad is so emphatic that breast is best — and doesn’t want the mom to quit even if the process isn’t going well — does that make him the bad guy? Or should he just keep his mouth shut?

I guess that kind of depends. Not many guys are willing to go public on this issue. My husband encouraged me to persevere with breast-feeding for longer than I probably would have if I hadn’t taken his opinion into account. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, and my daughter may have reaped an extra month’s worth of breast milk benefits thanks to that.

But guys, if you are going to speak up, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. One writer recently opined on the topic for The Atlantic , and, not surprisingly, received some harsh backlash. One of the things for which the writer got taken to task was admitting that after he and his wife switched to formula they were able to go away for a weekend without the baby. I agree that alone is no reason to make the switch, but being able to take a break from baby sure is a nice perk (for both parents). But if your hormone-addled, guilt-stricken wife is struggling and breast-feeding really isn’t working for her and the baby, a few very gentle suggestions may be in order.

            As psychologist Diane Sanford, one author of Life Will Never be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide,  told me: “The most important thing for a baby is to have a happy mother, not how much breast milk the baby gets.” And I’m willing to bet that having a happy dad doesn’t hurt either.

103Comments
Nov 13, 2012 9:17PM
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If these people feel the need to get away for an evening and the mother is breast feeding - did they not ever hear of a breast pump and baby bottles. Simple refrigeration of the breast milk and warming before feeding the baby-sat baby shouldn't be too difficult a task. Nothing says that a switch to formula is necessary. Common sense people. It's so simple.
Nov 13, 2012 8:58PM
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"Boob wars"?  Jesus, grow up.  What is this, sixth grade? 
Nov 13, 2012 9:38PM
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IF you are married to a little boy then he probably will have a problem with using boobs for food for the helpless infant you've just had. IF on the other hand you are married to a mature man - I'm sure he will think it is a good idea ... just depends!
Nov 13, 2012 10:06PM
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This is probably one of the dumbest articles I've ever read.. You don't give birth and THEN decide whether or not you will breastfeed. During the pregnancy at some point the couple should discuss the plans to breastfeed and talk about what the husband's role will be, how he will be involved. (burping the baby, bringing the baby to mom during the night, etc). They can discuss how her partner can encourage her and remind her that she's doing a great job etc. If the husband is prepared to support her properly and do it in a non-judgemental way that's the most you can ask for. A dad that doesn't support the basic decision to breastfeed is selfish, period. I'm a mother of 4 children, all fully breastfed, at the breast (no pumping/bottles). My husband was pretty naive with our first child, and never gave much thought to breastfeeding. All he knew was that if the baby cried, hand baby over to mom and all is right with the world. After having 3 more children he will be the first to tell you that breastfeeding is best for the husband because not once did he have to wake at night to care for a baby. He never knew any different or realized he had it so easy.
Nov 13, 2012 10:13PM
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Have we become so **** that we're even considering discussing encroaching on nature's boding ritual between a mother and her child?

Leave what happens to a woman's bodies up to the woman. Its her body for pete's sake!

How would you like a world controlled by women considering "mandatory castration" as a possible new law?

 

Speaking as a man, I'm becoming more and more ashamed of my gender each passing day. Try loving and appreciating the women in your lives instead of trying to rule over them. They're human too you know...

Nov 13, 2012 10:17PM
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I was pro-breastfeeding (and still am) while I was pregnant with my first (and only) child.  My husband was along for the ride but had the mindset (and still does) that he was raised with formula and turned out fine.  When our daughter was born she latched perfectly from the first attempt.  However, she ended up going under the bili lights and the lactation nurse strongly encouraged formula.  I did everything I could.  I was devastated that my child had to have that nasty stuff.  My husband could have cared less.  Over the next 4 1/2 months I killed myself trying to produce breast milk.  I bf on demand and after bfing I pumped.  In between  feedings I pumped.  At night, if she slept more than two hours I set an alarm to wake up to pump.  When I went back to work at the 8 week mark I pumped 1h on my way into work, 15 min twice a day on my "pumping breaks" that I had to produce a doctor's note for, and 30 min on my lunch break.  I also took medications and herbal supplements to increase my milk supply.  The most I ever pumped was 3 1/2 ounces in a DAY.  Of course we had to supplement with formula.  I never would feed her the formula though...I couldn't bring myself to do that.  It made me feel like a failure.  After 4 1/2 months my daughter self weaned.  For those 4 1/2 months my husband and I fought constantly.  It really was a huge issue in our marriage.  He had gotten to the anti-bfing thought process and I was anti-formula.  It almost caused a separation.  After a year we found out why I couldn't breast feed...I was in heart failure.  (Peripartum Cardiomyopathy that went to heart failure and lung failure)  I did everything I could but to no avail I failed.  Each person has their own ideas...you just can't put this situation into a blanket issue.
Nov 13, 2012 9:27PM
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If you love your husband and value His opinion, then you will take that into account. Sometimes its not all about you.
In fact, after you have a baby, very little is "about you".

Nov 13, 2012 11:23PM
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I was absolutely dedicated to breastfeeding but, sadly, I did not produce enough milk to nourish my son.  I know there are zealots out there who think I didn't give it enough time but I absolutely did.  The breaking point for my husband came after I pumped for an hour to gather just under an ounce of milk; my nipple split open and bled into the pumped milk.  He told me I was done, went to the store and bought formula, and my son began to thrive more so than ever before.  I also changed pediatricians because, even though my son was losing weight, the doc kept insisting breastfeeding was best.

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