Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, people say.
From my experience, this is like saying that twisting yourself into a pretzel while preparing sushi is equally as simple. For those who have been through breastfeeding and think it is the most natural thing in the world, please stop reading this article.
Breastfeeding, for me, was very, very difficult.
And if it hadn’t been for having a husband who deeply believed in breastfeeding and wanted me to do it, I would never have made it through. He was determined to help me. He rubbed my back in the middle of the night while I cried from the pain and exhaustion of thinking I didn’t have enough milk. He sat by as I learned to use the robotic and invasive breast pump. He encouraged me to keep going when I didn’t think I could, and he lovingly pried the formula box from my hands when I begged to give up.
This may sound like no big deal, but believe me it wasn’t. Let me say that my husband is Danish and in Denmark, breastfeeding is pretty much a given. I don’t mean to say that in a hard-core “breastfeed or die” kind of way. I just mean that it’s very much a part of the culture in Scandinavia and men help women because they want it for their babies too.
Danish men believe in breastfeeding so much that it becomes a team effort rather than just a woman’s experience who decides when to stop or whether to try at all.
Want to support your female partner in her breastfeeding journey? Ask how you can help. Bring her water each time baby’s at the breast. Take up extra tasks around the house to free her up to nurse. Encourage her to pick up products that make feeding baby easier. It’s the little things that go a long way.
Research shows that women who get support from their partners and family members are more likely to achieve the breastfeeding outcomes they desire.
Breastfeeding never went out of style in Denmark, as it did in the U.S., so there are not gaps in generations that received conflicting messages about its efficacy. These conflicting messages, regardless of what we know now, get passed on.
You see, many people don’t realize that only about 20 percent of American women breastfed in the early 70’s. This was an all time low in our history.
Doctors were very powerful people in those days and if they told you that formula was better for the baby, then people believed it. My mom was given a shot in the hospital to stop her milk when I was born. She wasn’t even given the choice to breastfeed. It just wasn’t the done thing then.
I am not saying formula is bad, or that bottlefeeding is wrong or anything of the sort. Believe me. I was certainly ready to use it (desperately) and stared longingly at it many times. But what I am saying is that for those who really want to breastfeed but are on the fence about it, or it gets too difficult to follow through with, then the man can be essential in making the difference to keeping going.
From cracked nipples, to not having enough milk, to breast infections and the like-those first months are hard! Having someone there to support you literally and physically, with encouragement, understanding or even a back rub at 3am can be key.
Someone who is accepting of unintended boob exposure that inevitably comes from nursing and helping you manage the embarrassment that still exists around this, is also a big help. I still don’t get why bouncing boobs on MTV are more acceptable then nursing boobs on a park bench but hey….let’s hope the times they are a changin.
While it’s clear we need better maternity and paternity support in the U.S. we can at least start by seeing breastfeeding as a team effort that dads can get in on too. If both parents want it and the man is well-informed to help her through, then a woman has a much higher chance of succeeding at it.
We already knew that dads love boobs. But when men find ways to support of breastfeeding and the mamas who do it?