Infant Feeding - A Fathers Perspective
Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding can be a contentious issue for many people. As a father and husband I will never understand why this is such an issue. I’m a father to three amazing children and there was always one question by health practitioners that rubbed me the wrong way. “Are you planning on breastfeeding?”
That question alone can be a source of anxiety for many women. What if we say no? Will we be shamed or looked down upon for saying no? Any time we were asked that question I wanted to answer: If you mean we are planning to feed our baby and not let it starve, love our baby unconditionally, and provide everything we have including our time and energy; then the answer is yes, thank you for asking. I am not one to judge whether a family chooses to breastfeed or not, and neither should you.
For our family we chose to do both. We made this decision based on what worked best for our family and not based on the opinion of others.
There is no denying the numerous health benefits of breast milk, or the bonding a mother receives when she breastfeeds her child. However, I personally feel a father has the right to bond just as much as a mother, and bottle feeding is a great way for fathers to bond with their child.
For my first two children, I never bottle fed as much as I would have liked and I felt I never got to bond as much as my wife did during the infant stage. I also felt a sense of sadness when my kids constantly wanted my wife for comfort (to breastfeed) instead of wanting me.
I love nothing more than being a dad; it truly is the greatest thing to ever happen in my life. Being completely involved with my children means everything to me. I work in an environment where I interact with sick kids almost every day. This has given me the perspective to never take your kids for granted. Your child can be taken away from you in an instant and I cherish every moment I have with my beautiful children. I am truly the happiest when I am around my family. The more I have been able to bond with my kids the happier I have become.
With the birth of our third child I started to bottle feed on a more consistent basis and it was amazing. I felt such a tight bond with my child that I never experienced before and it felt amazing. I can remember thinking while I was feeding and looking into my child’s eyes as they stared back at me that I needed to cherish this moment and never forget. The moments singing lullaby’s, having your child’s head rest on your chest as they fall asleep, seeing your child smile while they are sleeping. These are the moments I cherish and try never to forget. These moments come and go with the blink of an eye and I know I will miss them soon.
There are a number of reasons why we started bottle feeding more with our third child. First and foremost after three kids my wife needed a break; constantly breastfeeding is not only hard work but it is also time consuming. When you are breastfeeding, it’s hard for women to go out in the evenings and have a social life without the baby in tow. My wife also wanted to pursue her dream of becoming a doula and that meant extended time away from home.
My wife is a superhero dealing with three kids at home all day and she deserves some alone time. To make that happen we had to start bottle feeding more . Not only did I start bottle feeding more often but we started using formula as well. My wife was struggling to pump enough milk to keep up with our sons demand so we ran out of stored milk faster.
As a mother, pumping is also extremely time consuming and for my wife the only time she had to pump was in the evenings. After a long day with the kids all my wife wanted to do was either relax or go to bed so pumping became less of a priority. The combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding using formula has worked well for our family. Not only does my wife get to go out in the evenings but I get to bond more with my child as well. It’s a win win situation.
Shaming women for the choices they make is something I will never understand. Whether a woman chooses not to breastfeed their child or whether a woman chooses to breastfeed their child (especially in public) should never be an issue or anyone’s business EVER.
If you don’t like the sight of a women breast feeding their child in public I have the most amazing solution; don’t look. It’s a women’s basic right to feed their child anywhere she wants to and that will never change. Would you ever shame an adult for spoon feeding their child in public? Would you ever shame someone for feeding an adult or a child who was not capable of feeding themselves? It makes no logical sense. Breastfeeding is part of human nature and there is nothing more beautiful.
A woman choosing to not breastfeed is something else that should never be looked down upon. The scientific health benefits of breastfeeding and its recommendation by the medical community exists for good reason. On the other hand there are a number of reasons (including medical) why a family would choose not to breastfeed. Feeding your child only formula is not going to be detrimental to your child; it will still grow up to be just as healthy as a breastfed child. The physical and mental health of the mother on the other hand should be considered as well.
I have personally known some mothers that were depressed, stressed and full of anxiety while breastfeeding. Once they stopped breastfeeding they became less stressed and overall happier mothers. Whether it’s the lack of sleep, the constant need for their baby to feed and the stress that comes with that, or the simple desire to not breastfeed at all shouldn't matter. Whatever decision is made should be supported, not discouraged. The benefit for the child having a mother that is happy, less stressed, less anxious and overall healthier physically and mentally far out ways the benefits of having breast milk.
Being a parent also comes with a lot of hardships and I find myself asking during the hard times whether I made the right decision having kids and a family. When anyone of my kids says the word “daddy”, says “I love you”, or gives me a hug; it makes it worth everything and more. I feel a father and mother are parenting equals and should share the burdens that come with raising kids. A mother has important roles but a father has a role that is of equal significance.
Not everyone is going to agree with what I have to say an I'm ok with that. If you have an opinion that’s great; but when you express your opinions, just don’t shame someone else for not sharing the same opinion that you have (or the decision a mother or family makes). If you need to put someone down as you express your opinion then you need to look deeper into yourself as to why someone else’s opinion that does not jive with yours bothers you to that point.
For all the amazing mothers out there; please don’t care what others think of you or the decisions you make. Their opinions do not matter and never will. Whatever decision you make is going to be the right one for you. The only people you need to care about and be concerned about is you and your child...and maybe your husband/significant other too!
Authored by Sacha Guenette. Incredible father of two girls & one boy. Breastfeeding supporter. Bottle feeding supporter. Doula husband extrordinaire!