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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My Gifts

I remember during our last pregnancy I was very anxious about everything. As a new father, I felt the need to provide for my family. We were newly married, still in school and the only way we brought in money was from financial aid and my part-time job. Pregnancies are expensive and children are even more expensive. It felt like the costs kept adding up. I know for my companion, she was dealing with the fear and anxiety of pregnancy and birthing on top of the same fears of my own. In the end, it all worked out through many timely blessings and gifts from others. We did without some things, but the love was strong and strengthened our marriage.

This time, I find I don’t feel those same fears anymore. We still face many of the same issues, but this time I have faith and experience to know it will work out. I’ve noticed my fears have been worry about our birthing experience. I am worried a special circumstance will appear and force us into the medical model with it’s many interventions. This is where I’ve noticed the Hypnobirthing® is making a big difference. I’ve learned to relax my mind and to ease those fears, so that I can be a calm and strong birthing partner. My spouse and I spent the evening before talking about our fears and talking them through. We then took the ones we couldn’t resolve to class where they were released. While I didn’t participate directly in the release, it was a peaceful experience.

As we are at the Eve of Christmas, I reflect on the many gifts in my life. I am thankful for the gift of a beautiful wife who has the intelligence to listen to her body and make the choices that are best for her and our new baby. I am thankful for a beautiful daughter and a son on the way. For me, this is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and to reunite with family members. May we each remember the reason why we each celebrate this time of year (whatever it may be) and not become caught up in the commercialism. While the main purpose of this blog is not to share my faith, this video helps illustrate my feelings:

May you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and/or Happy whatever-holiday-you-celebrate.