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by Hank Osborne
I am a little abnormal on the subject of breastfeeding. My wife and I teach parenting classes for expectant parents and we cover the subject fairly thoroughly. We lead Preparation for Parenting which is a small group class format featuring videos of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo teaching the exact same principles found in On Becoming Babywise. In my nine years of experience leading these classes that many if not most men are initially a little weirded out by the subject of breastfeeding. They don’t get it and are very often happy to let their wives run solo and make the decisions on whether to nurse or to bottle feed. It does not have to be this way and should not be this way in my opinion. Let me explain.
In our family this subject has hit hard with more than one of our four boys and my wife wanted my input and support from the start. Three of our boys simply didn’t nurse very well and our first child was the worst. And I can say without hesitation that my wife Sherry did not give up easy on nursing. She visited with multiple doctors, lactation consultants, nurses, experienced mothers who had nursed challenging children, and even consulted with our friend Anne Marie Ezzo herself. Sherry ended up abandoning nursing/pumping somewhere between 4 weeks and 16 weeks with each of our boys for various reasons. I added pumping because with our second son Caden she never got to nurse him at all due to his medical conditions that left him unable to swallow even to this day. Caden is almost 8 years old and has been exclusively tube fed since birth. She did pump for approximately 8 weeks and that breast milk lasted Caden for nearly six months due to the volume she pumped (over a liter per day) and the fact that the doctors insisted on formula supplements while Caden was hospitalized after his first open-heart surgery during his first two months. The point here is that the fact that our children did not breast for that first year like Sherry and I both wanted, that did not make Sherry any less of a mother in any way.
So why is dad’s involvement in this subject important? While many dads may not seem to really care, I encourage you to please make sure your husband knows where your heart is on this issue and try to discuss it before you end up in an emotional battle over whether to continue or not with breastfeeding. Ask for him to support you regardless of the direction you need to go with feeding method. Nursing is the one area of parenting where it seems that dads can do little more than go get the baby in the middle of the night and maybe wash some pump accessories when applicable. But just because dad is not involved in the mechanics of nursing does not mean he should be left out of the conversation. Drag him into the conversation kicking and screaming if you must. The reason is that there will likely be days when you will need to be reminded that your success as a mom is not measured by your success in breastfeeding. When your husband says this to you in the heat of the moment, it may surprise you how much easier it is to continue to nurse when someone you love and trust removes that pressure to perform. And last but not least remember that dads are just as capable of tracking output as moms. 😉