In Support of Breastfeeding

mother and child breastfeeding with father present

Image courtesy of CDC

I was reading this post on immunization and breastfeeding on Birth Without Fear recently and it got me thinking about all the things I’ve been learning about natural parenting lately. I could probably say a lot about a whole number of things, but I want to focus on breastfeeding in particular. I support it and I support my wife in her efforts to breastfeed. For thousands of years it has been the sole way in which infants are nourished, and is supported by health and medical organizations for most women and infants. In particular, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has said:

Human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes.

As men, we need to support our birthing partners in achieving their breastfeeding goals. I know from experience the difficulty some women face when trying to breastfeed. It was very difficult to watch my wife struggle with adjusting to a new baby, the changes in her body, and on top of that, difficulty breastfeeding. I did my best to support her and provide help, but I was uneducated and lacked the knowledge to help from the beginning. We learned as it went on, but extra support is needed during those first days after the baby arrives. Had I been better prepared, I think I might have been able to do more.

The La Leche League is an excellent place to find support. For those that are unaware of this organization, they are one of the leading groups providing support, information and education on all things breastfeeding. They are a big promoter and have local organizations in many cities. If you think your partner needs support you cannot provide, it’s best to get with La Leche League for any support. There are also many other organizations and groups to support breastfeeding. Our local birth center has a monthly support group and many hospitals also provide support. If your partner is having difficulty, consider seeing a lactation consultant. The price you pay for their help is well worth the cost.

The La Leche League offers these helpful tips for partners:

Your first job is to support breastfeeding, not compete with it. A “relief bottle” may seem helpful, but it’s more likely to cause breastfeeding problems and health risks for your baby. Instead:

  • Protect your partner from criticism.
  • Keep her fed.
  • Help her get good help if she needs it (llli.org and ilca.org are good places to start).
  • Care for her so that she can care for your child. (see: http://www.llli.org/toolkit)

Also, try changing your way of thinking about breasts. In American culture we see them portrayed on television, the Internet, supermarket magazine displays and on billboards as primarily sex objects, but their main function is to provide food for children. I enjoy a healthy pair myself, but I’ve also been striving to change my perception of their function and to realize their important purpose in the reproductive cycle. As each person strives to change their perception, the culture will change. Breastfeeding can then be viewed by society for what it truly is: A natural, womanly art.

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