…don’t let extended family interfere with your family’s process of making decisions. Never let the new mother be pressured, shamed, judged or bullied into any choice about parenting. Be her advocate.
Advocating for mum – in public
Public breastfeeding. This is a topic unto itself and, again, everyone has an opinion. The fact is, during some phases (for instance, a growth spurt) infants feed almost constantly. So if the mother is going to leave the confines of home at all, that baby will need to nurse. (And no, not all babies will take a bottle.) It is the mother’s right to nurse her baby anywhere, anytime, and she needs to do it in the way that is most comfortable-covered or uncovered, according to mum and baby’s preference.
So what is the partner’s role here? Again, you need to advocate for mum. If she is feeding the baby in public, there is a chance she will be bothered or harassed by someone (it happens all too frequently). The mother in this situation may feel vulnerable or even embarrassed, and you can make it your job to stand up for her. Make it very clear that she is within her legal rights, and that interfering with her is a form of harassment. (I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying you should speak for her when she’s perfectly capable of speaking for herself! But there may be muments when she wants a partner to do the talking.)
There also will be moments when she wants to be extra discreet (for instance, if she notices someone staring). You can create a wall of protection by sitting right beside her. (Not that she needs to be discreet, but in certain cases this may be what she prefers.)
Supporting the breastfeeding relationship
So you are her advocate within the family, within your circle of friends, and among strangers in public. Here comes the sensitive part. You need to be her strongest advocate and biggest supporter, even when there’s no one else around. You can support what she is doing just by having a positive, healthy, encouraging attitude about breastfeeding.
I’ve talked about the way mums can be bullied or shamed by people they know, and by strangers in public. Unfortunately, sometimes the shaming and the judgment come from the woman’s own partner. Not all dads are fully supportive of breastfeeding, and this can be a real obstacle to making it work. If the dad harrumphs, rolls his eyes, or just zones out whenever the mum is nursing the baby, how will mum feel? How can she be confident that he’ll give her the moral support to get through any challenges that may come?
Not all dads are fully supportive of breastfeeding, and this can be a real obstacle to making it work. If the dad harrumphs, rolls his eyes, or just zones out whenever the mum is nursing the baby, how will mum feel?
Some dads actually feel threatened by breastfeeding. The father may feel that the baby has somehow replaced him, that there are no more special cuddles for him, that his partner’s body-her breasts-have transformed, from a source of sexual excitement to… something else.
Well, it’s true that things will change, at least for a while. After nursing all night and day, there’s a good chance the bleary-eyed mum won’t want to be touched right now. But don’t fear. Remember, it’s your child that is getting all this love and attention and nourishment. Feel reassured and happy that your precious child is getting the best your family can provide.
And you’re hardly being replaced. This is an opportunity for you to step up and be an amazing husband and father; if you do, you will be more important to her than ever. And as for those special cuddles between you and your partner-don’t worry, that will come back too. If you focus on being her partner and her unwavering advocate, your relationship (including the romantic part) will almost certainly deepen and blossom.
As I’ve said, I am not perfect. (I could definitely take some of my own advice regarding housework!) There’s no such thing as a perfect mum or dad. But I feel proud of the ways I’ve helped care for my children, including the ways I have supported breastfeeding.
One of the things that helped me was having a great role model. My own father has shown me how wonderful a loving, nurturing dad can be. What makes me proudest of all is the thought that I am passing this on to my own two sons, raising boys with healthy attitudes about love and nurture, men and women, and how all of us as a family can support each other.
Originally published HERE.
Danny Pitt Stoller teaches English and drama at a public high school in New York City. His wife, Wendy Wisner, is a lactation consultant who frequently writes about motherhood and breastfeeding. They live in New York with their two sons. Connect with Danny on Twitter (@danny_anno).