Dads versus breastfeeding
Should dads have a say over when mum stops breastfeeding? Does a man have any right to intervene in this crucial mother-child bond? Can dad ever justify feeling jealous about his lack of intimacy with his lactating partner?
These questions – along with the headline – are intentionally provocative.
Personally, I’ve never had a problem with breastfeeding. There is no ‘dad vs breastfeeding’ as far as I’m concerned. But with more fathers coming clean about their feelings, I think it’s a worthy topic to discuss.
So, at the risk of becoming unpopular, here’s where I stand.
1. The whole intimacy of breastfeeding is – necessarily – exclusively for one parent alone to enjoy. Dad will never experience all the good things mum feels about breastfeeding a child. The only positive here is that he doesn’t have to put up with any of the negatives – night feeding, sore and leaky nipples are not things I’m at all keen to endure.
If dad feels like he’s not getting as close to his child as he would like as a result, then fair play. There’s not much to be done about it, but you can’t blame someone for feeling a little sore about their physical inadequacies.
2. The second ‘justifiable jealousy’, in my opinion, is reserved for dads with partners who fall into the ‘extreme breastfeeder’ category. Broadly, I mean women who continue to breastfeed their child for three, four or even five years.
I’m not making a moral judgement one way or the other about what is an appropriate age to stop breastfeeding a child.
However, I can see how having a walking, talking, tantrum-prone toddler latching onto your partner’s boob on a whim could prove difficult to deal with, especially if it prolongs intimacy problems you’re already dealing with.
1. Dads who claim some ownership of their partner’s breasts. To use a flippant metaphor, I mean the sort of man who throws a tantrum because his favourite toy (hah) has been usurped by his offspring. These men do exist, and I don’t understand them.
2. Dads who feel embarrassed by their wife’s breastfeeding. Anywhere, not just in public. Come on guys – give your woman some support. She’s the one flopping them out, not you.
3. Dads who are grossed out by breastfeeding. These are quite difficult to separate from the above category, but distinct too. I once heard a dad say “I won’t let her breastfeed, it’s unnatural”.