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Dads and Breastfeeding

storkAlthough many of us tend to think of the breastfeeding relationship as purely a mother and child thing, dads are actually ESSENTIAL to a successful breastfeeding experience. There are so many different topics to discuss on the subject - Dad's Emotional Support of Breastfeeding, Dad's Opportunity to Bond with Baby, Funny Dad Experiences related to Breastfeeding, Mom & Dad's Intimate Relationship, etc.

One of the reasons often given for bottle feeding is so that Dad can be a part of the experience. But there are SOOOOOOO many other ways dad can bond with and nurture baby, that I do NOT feel that this is a necessary concern. A quote from LLL that I like says, "A father does not need to feed his baby to form a close, loving bond; however, he does need to spend time holding, loving, playing with, and just being with his baby."

To me this is SO true. Dads *DO* need to be a part of the experience, but the physical act of placing food into the baby's mouth is NOT an essential part of the daddy/baby relationship. Dad can sit with mom and baby during feedings, making eye contact with baby, stroking baby's skin, talking softly to baby, etc. And if the family chooses to supplement with bottles of expressed breastmilk, Dad can give baby a bottle very soon and Dad can feed baby cereal and baby food within a few more months.

And a dad's support can be essential to a new nursing mom. Here is a link to a beautiful personal account called "Richer for His Love". It brought a tear to my eye just thinking of what a wonderful loving bond there is between mom, baby and dad when dad supports breastfeeding.

Some women are concerned that breastfeeding will affect their intimate relationship with their husband. And while some men ARE squeamish about breastmilk, other's love it! (sorry to be blunt, but it's true) A mother who is exhausted from taking care of a new baby may not feel as sexual as she or her partner would like, but this could be the case whether she breastfeeds or not. Though for some women the constant (though non-sexual) nipple stimulation of nursing DOES reduce their desire for sexual stimulation.

So, I do believe that each couple must reach their own compromises in dealing with their intimate relationship while baby is nursing. But it is important to remember that the baby will only nurse for a few months or years and then daddy can 'reclaim' his territory. I say this jokingly, so please don't lecture me on the 'territory' issue. Some men never seem to have a problem with sharing and as long as neither baby nor dad is sick, there is no reason for him to avoid his wife's breasts though some couples do prefer to do so. This is such a personal issue. I feel that there is no right or wrong. We each must find our own 'comfort' zones.

Remember, as with most parenting issues there are no ABSOLUTES nor right and wrong. We're all sharing personal feelings and experiences so don't feel as if you have to agree with everyone, but also don't feel as if they must agree with you. ~ Elaine

storkThis is such an important part of breastfeeding. I have talked to so many women who have said that the main reason they did not chose to breastfeed is because of the lack of support from their husbands. One women told me her husband would leave the room if she breastfed in front of him. Thankfully my husband has been extremely supportive since the day we decided to breastfeed long before our son was born. Throughout my pregnancy we would read to each other articles about the benefits of breastfeeding, the views of other cultures, and the societal trends here in the US.

During our first days home with Jakob when my milk still hadn't come, in my husband would help by putting drops of formula on my breast using a syringe to get our son interested in sucking. After five months of successful breastfeeding, my husband has been more supportive than I could have imagined. Every afternoon he is alone with Jakob and feeds him a bottle of expressed milk. Once he ran out of milk and instead of grabbing a back-up of formula (which the hospital supplied us with) he rushed to my work for a "quicky." It's funny how this used to imply sex but now means a short feeding ~ my how things change.

It is hard for me to understand how some men are turned off by breastfeeding. My husband and I think it is a wonderfully feminine and maternal process. Laboring, giving birth and breastfeeding are the essence of a woman's body. It is why our hips are wide and our breasts voluptuous ~ the hour-glass shape. My husband jokingly says to our five month old son, "so when does daddy get some? You're always on the breast, give me some room." Also, while I breastfeed my husband will look over and gaze eye to eye with Jakob. At this age though he has begun to get distracted and will stop nursing. My husband finds other ways to bond. He sometimes feeds our son cereal and a bottle of expressed milk almost everyday but the quality time where they truly enjoy each other is playing on the floor, sitting in the rocker reading a book, or just laying chest to chest dozing on the couch.

Funny story: My husband often tells my mother embarrassing things. Like the Mad About You episode where Paul wants to taste Jamie's breastmilk, my husband tells my mother that he drank a sip of my breastmilk when filling the bottle the other day. As I turn to tell my husband that this is not something other people are interested in hearing, my mother says, "I know. When I watched Jakob the other day I tasted it too; it was so sweet!"~ AmandaK

storkWhat a wonderful post!!! I think it is GREAT that your husband is so supportive. It really does make things easier/better, doesn't it? My hubby will also bring Skye by the office for a 'quickie' . . . especially on days when he keeps her in the morning instead of taking her to daycare. He'll bring her by here to nurse around lunch-time.

My hubby has often joked about 'sharing' Skye's milk, and my son has drank it from a cup but I've never even imagined my Mom tasting it. That seems so odd to me!!!!! But not in a bad way, just not something I would have ever thought of. But here is a REALLY embarrassing story (for my dad anyway) that sort of relates . . .

My parents are fairly supportive of my breastfeeding, but not 100% comfortable with it all the time such as, my dad usually leaves the room while Skye nurses. But a while back he was laying in the floor playing with her, right after she ate. He kept lifting her up over him like an airplane, and of course she spit up . . . RIGHT into his mouth!!!! He sputtered and spit and had the oddest look on his face, and before he realized what he was saying, he told my mom, "Now I know what . . ." and he stopped himself and the words trailed off but we all knew he was about to say ". . . breastmilk tastes like" and I was so embarrassed . . . for him more than for myself. I could deal with it, but I think he was ready to crawl under the sofa and hide! Poor Daddy! *LOL* Have a GREAT day! ~ Elaine

storkHi Elaine, what a laugh - your post brought back memories of my husband's reaction sometime after the birth of our first son when he had his first 'experience' with a breastfeeding wife. Seriously though, I know of one male workmate who was very supportive of his wife and her breastfeeding - but he insisted that he get to bottle feed the children (they had 3) with expressed breastmilk. She used to regularly pump so that he could - but could never work out why she always had to 'top-up' the baby afterward. I let her in on the secret which I found out by accident at work - seems he got a taste for it and was using it in his coffee at work rather than using it for the baby. He was a very sick puppy. As this was their third, she was pretty annoyed to find out she had been nursing an extra all this time (as she nursed for the full year or so, so this totaled four and a half years he had been bringing his own milk to work). No accounting for taste?? ~ Ngaire

storkMy husband has to be about the most supportive man in the world when it comes to breastfeeding. All went really well with our first child nearly fifteen years ago, and when we finally had the opportunity to nurse again (I say we because his support is essential to me!), there were some really tough times. I had to have a c-section as the baby had turned breech at the last minute, so nursing was a lot harder this time around. In addition, the baby had jaundice so needed to be under the lights and we were told to give water for 24 hrs. I know now this part of the advice is wrong, but at the time had no other ideas about what to do. As a result he ended up with nipple confusion and refused the breast for over a week. IT was (at the time!) the hardest week of my life. I pumped every two hours and my husband fed the baby my milk. I was post surgery, post partum, and so ready to throw in the towel. My husband would not let me. He kept saying to give it another day, let's try something else, who can you call . . . he was incredible! Finally an old LLL'r told me to try corn syrup on my nipple, and it worked!!!!! I know that some say you should never give babies corn syrup, but for us it was a lifesaver, and it only needed to happen that one time as the baby went on to nurse and still is (he will be four years in August!).

My next breastfeeding experience was even harder. My son was born with a severe birth defect that usually ends up being fatal either before birth or shortly after. He was on a ventilator for three weeks, had surgery at one week, and was not even able to try nursing for seven weeks. I pumped like crazy, froze milk, and kept on going so as to have milk available for tube feeds if nothing else (most of these babies are not able to nurse). He finally got to try at seven weeks and did great! He then nursed for seven weeks before having a serious illness that nearly cost him his life. As a result, he lost a large portion of his intestines, had a pouch for pooping, and was again not able to nurse for another 7-8 weeks. Again I pumped, had to take reglan so as to maintain and increase the milk supply, and he again came home nursing. Granted, he was unable to continue as he developed an oral aversion and would take nothing at all in the mouth. He is on IV nutrition at this time and has been for the last 13 months. I never could have gone through the turmoil of nursing this child, and pumping for so very long without the support on my husband. He was our lifesaver and this baby above all of my children needed as much of my milk as I was able to give him. Those antibodies and nutrients were essential to growing and thriving. He was able to avoid most illnesses for quite a while. My older child was also incredibly helpful, as he continued to nurse throughout this time, which helped with let down, production, and just knowing that at least he was getting something from nursing. I could never have gone through these two difficult nursing times without my husband. He is truly an awesome man. ~ Heidi

storkHeidi, WOW, you are really dedicated and you and your husband are wonderful role models for all of us out here breastfeeding. I'm currently breastfeeding twins and it's going really well. My husband is mostly very supportive. Our 4 year old nursed until she was 3.5! My husband really doesn't want the twins to nurse so long. I'm of the "wait and see" attitude. ~ TwosAJoy

storkA Question of Intimacy - On another message board someone expressed a concern over her partner's enjoyment of her breasts. She wasn't totally turned off by it but still said, "I can't help thinking of them as a food source for my baby and not my husband's sex toys."

I think this is a common issue among many breastfeeding families. And I really believe that every couple must do whatever works best for them. But I thought that since it is a topic many moms are hesitant to discuss, I would post my response to her post just in case anyone here is interested, or has comments to add

My Response - This is one of those "a lot of people wonder about it, but not many have the nerve to ask" sort of questions! So I bet there are a lot of readers out there who are silently thanking you for asking! Personally, I think it is much better for the 'significant other' to be fascinated with our lactating breasts than to be grossed out by them, however, I do know that an 'obsession' can be annoying. My first husband used to get a kick out of making mine squirt and THAT bugged me! But I didn't mind normal 'romantic' attention to them.

But from a less personal standpoint, this is really an issue between you and your fiancé. Perhaps you can find some 'middle ground' so that you don't feel badly towards him, but also so that he doesn't feel 'left out'. Yes, your breasts are a food source for your baby, but yes, they can also still serve a sexual purpose. Unless your fiancé is physically ill, there is absolutely no health related reason your breasts have to be off limits to him. And even though it probably is best for him NOT to have contact with them if he is sick, your body would actually begin to produce antibodies to fight off his germs! Thus, protecting your baby from his illness, and also helping him (fiancé) get better sooner!

The one 'downer' might be that the more your fiancé drinks from your breasts, the more milk your breasts will produce so if he makes a regular habit of actually nursing, you may end up with an over-abundant milk supply. However, if you are having any difficulties establishing a good supply, his suckling can actually help improve things! (I'm not trying to be gross or perverted, just honest . . . please forgive me if my bluntness offends anyone.)

On the physical end of things, if you really have a hard time dealing with his mouth being on the baby's food source, you can always wash your breasts afterwards, but remember NEVER use anything but clear water on your nipples. Cleansers and soaps are much too harsh and can lead to dry cracked nipples. Breast milk is sterile, so you could also rub your nipples with a bit of hand expressed milk and allow them to air dry to 'clean' them.

You might also need to caution your fiancé that your nipples may be more sensitive and so he should be extra careful not to bite you. And that he can 'handle' your breasts, but NOT to squeeze them too tightly nor to pull on them or do anything 'rough' that might damage the tissue or the milk ducts.

Anyway, I say . . . don't feel guilty or embarrassed. Be glad that you have a happy active sex life! Find what both you and your partner are comfortable with and enjoy! ~ Elaine

storkI wish I could remember more of the details, but the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia recently published the results of a study which said the father's opinion and support or lack thereof is the most important factor in influencing a mother to or not to breastfeed!

On another note, I just heard of a book about health and nutrition in pregnancy Eating For Two: The Complete Guide to Nutrition During Pregnancy, by Mary Abbott Hess, R.D., M.S., and Anne Elise Hunt. Apparently, in the final chapter, entitled The Feeding Track: Breast or Bottle?, one of the authors, Mary, the dietician, chose to bottle-feed (meaning formula only in this case), and writes about how her husband had a fulfilling role in the bottle-feeding and especially nighttime bottle-feeding of her two daughters. This rests very uncomfortably with me, as this woman is a dietician and should know better about the nutritional differences between breast milk and formula.

I do get weary of the argument that formula feeding is the only way for the father to bond with the baby especially since it seems to support the myth that "food = love," which many believe is the basis for future eating disorders. Surely as parents we can all think of ways for the non breastfeeding parent to bond with the baby. Hmm . . . cuddling comes to mind ~ Cath

storkI told my husband from the GET GO that I was going to breastfeed, and he was very supportive, and what really helped were my doctors. When we would go to my appointments, there was a very good Nurse Practitioner who would always recommend books, and would always take Vince to the side (within earshot) and joke with him about not getting in my way when it was time to breastfeed.

He also urged me to breastfeed - but for him it was more of a practical matter . . . M-O-N-E-Y!!! when Vince saw how much we would save on food/formula, he was the BF Advocate then!

Since I had a c-section, (I was knocked out - and he was thrilled to have a boy!), it was my husband who followed the nurse into the nursery, and it was my husband who learned first how to give the baby a bath. And still to this day, six months later, Vince feels that since "my time" is breastfeeding, then "his time" is bathtime. I haven't given Christian a bath yet! I think there are so many other ways fathers can get close and bond with their babies. Breastfeeding shouldn't be something we have to give up. But sometimes Vince does want to feed the baby, so I always make sure I have some milk in the freezer so he can feed the baby too. Matter of fact, Christian wouldn't take the bottle from me for a long time, and would ONLY take it from my husband. Needless to say, my husband takes pride in that still!! ~ Kenyatta

storkI had not seen this post until today and was about to bring up the dad/partner issue. I was very concerned until the other about how my hubby felt about breastfeeding our little one due in February. His first wife tried to breastfeed my stepson for 14 hours and then gave up. I personally feel that his lack of interest and lack of persistence could have had something to do with the excessive amounts of Demerol she was given. I had never known why Alex didn't breastfeed until the other night. My hubby said he couldn't stand to see him starve for so long. I just laughed at him. He was 19 when Alex was born and had no idea about babies and they fed him nothing for the 14 hours, and she didn't bother to pump. I feel so much smarter than they were already!

But, we finally discussed the issue, per my insistence. My dh said that he knew breastfeeding was best and most cost efficient and was all for it and asked his ex to give it a try. But, she was a stay-home mom and he felt that since I'm planning to go back to work after 8 weeks that my schedule may be too crazy for it. He said he could never ask me to give up something so precious as my body and time for however long I would breastfeed. When I expressed my deep want to do this, he was overwhelmingly supportive and almost relieved. I find it funny to think that I was concerned with his "jealousy" and turnoff with breastfeeding and this whole time he has been hesitant to talk about it due to the thought it may pressure me!~ Holli

storkHi Holli! I wanted to suggest that you get hubby to read the Working and Breastfeeding messages (and any of the others, too) on this board. It sounds like he is wonderfully supportive of you and maybe just reading about how other moms manage will help him know that breastfeeding won't be a 'burden' on you. And if you can, get him to post here. Dads are VERY welcome though rather scarce on the message boards. ~ Elaine

storkBefore our first dd was born my husband actually brought up breastfeeding. I admit I wasn't really thinking about it. I was a 19 year old college kid and just assumed we'd bottle feed. I hadn't yet discovered the great parenting and breastfeeding resources on the internet. He convinced me to at least give it a try, those first few days of colostrum at the least. Well, we made it about a week. Katie never did latch on correctly and when he came home one day and found us both in tears because she hadn't eaten all day, we popped open a bottle of formula and that was the end of that story. We tried to get her to breastfeed a couple more times and she'd already chosen the bottle over me. We had a follow up visit with a lactation consultant at the hospital and she literally screamed at me that I was killing my baby. Let's just say that didn't help us any!

I didn't regret stopping at the time. She's a very healthy two year old now, but I'm really enjoying nursing our second dd (now 12 weeks!) and wish I had continued with Katie. Live and learn I guess. Scott wasn't too thrilled when I told him I was definitely breastfeeding Kassie. I guess he thought we'd do the week and we'd have problems like before. Well, not so with this child! She latched right on in the recovery room and nursed for 40 minutes before the nurses had to literally drag her away because she wasn't done! We've never had any problems (well, she tries to use me as a pacifier sometimes but I can live with that, I guess) and I can't imagine stopping anytime soon. Hubby is supportive in the "Whatever you want to do. She's obviously very healthy and happy . . ." attitude. He's asked me a couple times how long this will continue, however, and I humor him with "a couple more months." I probably will not continue past one year (just a personal thing with me) but we've got several more months of our special relationship that I'll cherish forever.

It's funny . . . I'm only 21 now but so much more knowledgeable about breastfeeding and parenting in general. Two short years ago I was learning to change a diaper and hold onto a wiggling baby to give her a bath. Now I have two of the little critters and they're the best thing that's ever happened to me (well, aside from meeting my hubby!). Thanks for listening to my sappy story! ~ Amy

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