I was prompted to write an article on this subject by a post I saw on The Dad Network page about breastfeeding, in which a member asked: “How do you feel about your wife breastfeeding in a public space such as restaurants?”
I could probably go on for some time deconstructing the opinions in the comments.
In truth, I haven’t even read all the comments, I’m just assuming that there are many different opinions from many different people with many different experiences.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the opinions of fathers on this issue are extremely important, in fact, I would encourage fathers to voice their thoughts as it’s probably one of those topics that men don’t talk about enough.
Perhaps it’s do with the (extremely outdated) stereotype of men not talking about ‘women’s things’ – periods, menopause, emotions, most things to do with the production and raising of children. A more likely explanation is that it’s symptomatic of the sad fact that breastfeeding is still seen by many as something that should be done only in private, a social taboo.
Which brings me to the question asked in the original post. My first thought when I saw this was not to respond with my opinion or tell my story, it was to feel a little sadness that this is a question still being asked.
I’m not suggesting that every breastfeeding woman should be whipping out the mammaries in public at every opportunity. They should do whatever they are comfortable with, end of discussion.
But we do need to challenge and gradually chip away at the attitude (sad to say often more evident in the older generation) that breastfeeders should go hide in the café toilet. A viewpoint voiced by a ‘gentleman’ on one occasion when my wife was feeding our daughter in a local café. I’m definitely not a person who’s keen on confrontation, but if I had been there… well, choice words would have been uttered.
It’s very simple really and there are even posters produced by the NHS such as this one that makes this point; we as adults don’t eat in the toilet, so why should we expect
a baby with a fragile immune system to do so?
As you may have gathered by now, I’m pro-breastfeeding. Not pro-choice, but pro-breastfeeding. I think that more people need to be encouraged to breastfeed, and a big part of the reason why many don’t is a lack of education about it and an abundance of myths and horror stories.
Myths such as;
- If a woman develops mastitis she has to stop feeding. A GP actually told my wife this! Wrong, in fact breastfeeding, is usually the best thing to do.
- If a baby has a lip tie they can’t be breastfed. Wrong again, it didn’t stop my milk-machine wife feeding for almost three years.
And then there are the occasions where mums have to stop because they go back to work.
A pump and a mini-fridge in her office took care of that for us.
Of course, there are legitimate reasons for parents not breastfeeding, and that’s fine where it happens, but you get my point. Sometimes it feels like it’s too easy to not breastfeed.
My other main reason for holding a firm pro-breastfeeding stance is the one that to me seems glaringly obvious but doesn’t seem to be mentioned very often. It should also be the one that appeals to dads the most.
Ready for the big revelation????
Breastmilk is FREE.
How can any self-respecting man not wholeheartedly support something that COSTS NOTHING? Formula COSTS A LOT OF MONEY.
Fair enough there are costs such as pumps and pads, but the actual product cost? Nada, zilch, zip, gratis. Case closed in my view.
In the interests of balance, let’s think about the negatives… breastfeeding can obviously be very difficult, tiring and painful for women. Not to play that down, but I don’t think men can even begin to understand.
Sympathy yes, empathy no.
And you will need a lot of sympathy because although it looks easy it takes a lot out of her (no pun intended), so she’s going to need a lot of support from you.
From dad’s point of view, I think it can make one feel a bit surplus to requirements.
A minuscule price to pay for the knowledge that your child is getting the best.