Breastfeeding is how babies have been fed for centuries, or rather since the beginning of time. Our ancestors did not have the choice between breast or bottle, formula or breast milk. They were simply left with one solution – breastfeed, or your baby will go hungry…
Knowing how generations before us nursed their babies seemingly effortlessly has added pressure on today’s new moms. We are often left with the impression that breastfeeding is a natural instinct for both mom and baby, and therefore you are less if you have questions, issues, problems or even a dreaded bleeding nipple – or two.
However, that is not at all the case – every baby-mommy relationship is different and there are so many variables in the baby and in the mom’s anatomy that can cause issues with latching, milk production etc. So as a new mom, how do we overcome these obstacles, how do we stay on the course and not waiver when the baby seems hungry on day two and your milk hasn’t come in?! Or when society is shaming you into nursing in a bathroom because feeding your child on demand in a public is viewed as “inappropriate”? How do we rise above the negative comments and press, brush ourselves off and hold onto the fact that “breast IS best”?! The answer is SUPPORT!
I am not talking about a wonderfully supportive nursing bra with soft cups and wide shoulder straps – although that does sound fantastic! I am talking about the people closest to us: spouses, partners, significant others, partners in crime (whatever they are called, whatever the legal title) – the person who held your hand during delivery. The person who is co-parenting with you, ensuring that this little bundle of life is raised with values you both agree upon, providing love and comfort at all hours of the day and helping to ensure that the baby is well fed – THAT person carries a lot of the responsibility when it comes to supporting the new mom in her breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding, although an act that can only be physically performed by the mother, is equally a responsibility of the spouse – at least in our household. Let me explain further. Our oldest son was breastfed for 16 months, our second son for 22 months and our third son was also breastfed for 22 months. Each of the boys self-weaned, meaning they called the shots of when the breastfeeding relationship should come to an end. But I would not have been able to nurse one child, let along for one day without the commitment and support from my husband.
When we initially signed up for birthing and baby-care classes with our first pregnancy, I told a little white lie – but maybe one that saved my breastfeeding career – or at least ensured it came off to the best start! I told my husband that it was MANDATORY for dads to attend the breastfeeding class. Oh the sweet innocent husband of mine believed me – or maybe he feared the hormonal emotional outburst that was sure to follow if he refused to attend. So off to breastfeeding class we went together – unfortunately none of the other soon-to-be moms had received the same memo about the mandatory attendance because my husband was the only dad in the room! BUSTED! Oh well – he sure learned everything there was to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding – all the pros for the baby, the mom, the family etc. He learned about the various ways to ensure proper latching – as the middle aged lactation consultant grabbed her own breast (fully dressed of course) and pretended to nurse a doll. My dear husband took it all in stride and made mental note of all the issues that could arise and how to overcome them. He was the star of the class – at least in my eyes.
From the moment our first son was born, and especially now that we are expecting boy #4 any day now, it was understood that WE were going to breastfeed our babies. Of course, if there was a medical reason why breastfeeding wouldn’t work, well then we would have turned to formula, knowing that we tried our best. Starting from when my husband brought our first son into the recovery room after my c-section, he was by my side, helping the nurse position the baby properly so he could start his breastfeeding relationship with mama.
I also think my husband quickly realized the benefits of breastfeeding from his side of the table. Economically, even if I bought the fanciest breast pump on the market, we were still saving money over having to purchase formula and countless bottles. He was also spared from having to get up at night with a screaming baby, since all the baby wanted anyway was a dry diaper and a full tummy – provided by his mother. I never minded being the main caregiver during the nighttime hours – that time is almost sacred to me – a special time for you to bond quietly with the baby, while you fulfill his every need in just a matter for minutes – comfort and food.
I am so thankful that although my husband did not come from a breastfeeding family, and he was never exposed to nursing mothers (pun intended) throughout his life, he was still supportive and open to my wish of breastfeeding our babies. Without his support, I am not sure how long I would have nursed our babies. And by “his support” I don’t mean that he waved pompoms and passed out brochures from La Leche League whenever I had a question.
I just mean that he did not disagree with my decision. When things got tough he encouraged me to find solutions and to keep trying – he did not wave a bottle of formula under the baby’s nose. He trusted that the research I had done, and the things he learned during the breastfeeding class were correct. He believed in me – and some times that is all a new mom needs to succeed!