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Hard truths about breastfeeding (Dads, listen up)

NEED TO KNOW
  • Author: Breastfeeding is tough on a family, but worth it
  • Says social backlash against nursing is 'sickening'
  • Four things moms and dads should know about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a commitment and requires significant sacrifice, but sacrificing is pretty much what parents do.

Editor's note: Eric Goldson is a father and an associate producer for HLN.

My wife and I had just come home from taking our son, Ethan, for his one-year checkup. We were happy with his glowing progress report (standard parent boast) and watching him sleep off the trauma of getting pricked with five needles and some failed attempts at getting his, umm, temperature checked.  Basking in the glow of fatherhood, I then read an article in The Atlantic called "A Father's Case Against Breast-Feeding".

The title didn't immediately turn me off. I mean, I can think of a lot of very good reasons why a woman might not want to breastfeed. But, as a man, it always feels selfish and insensitive.

The demands it carries will only last a little over a year and often less than that -- a short chapter in my life. How can I whine about something that will benefit my infant's development, then turn around and tell him to put away the tears when it's time to eat those veggies? "They're good for you… there are people living off 'sketti'." 

In defense of author Chris Kornelis, breastfeeding is extremely demanding. 

It requires significant sacrifice, but sacrificing is pretty much what parents do -- you give up some of yourself to give your children the best start possible.  Whether it's dad watching Junior instead of hitting the gym or mom providing a socially unacceptable breast, it's all part of the deal. 

What struck me about the article were the arguments Kornelis gave in his "Case Against Breastfeeding." He started off by saying that his wife, Betsy, "really wanted to breastfeed. She tried. Really hard. It wasn't easy."

After explaining how "begrudgingly, we gave up... and bought a Costco-sized pack of Enfamil" and their nursing-related family stresses began to dissolve, Kornelis reflects on the lost sleep and lack of schedule flexibility they experienced while struggling with breastfeeding. He defends using formula because it has liberated he and his wife in ways that give them more family time; it has lessened the impact the baby has on his life. But what about the potential impact it has on the baby's life?

And babies DO change your life. By the time the fake dirty diaper is passed around at the baby shower, you know your life has changed. Get over it.

I'm not attacking parents who use formula, rather pushing back on what feels like a rising tide of bullying of moms who breastfeed in general. For instance, every few weeks we see a story about a mom causing a stir by exposing her breast in public. Some people act like that mother is infringing on their rights. Anyone who's offended by a partially exposed breast nurturing a child should instead focus on dealing with their own insecurities. 

The Time magazine cover on attachment parenting stirred up fears of parents being inadequate as well as overbearing. It's sickening that our culture covets images of people who've completed 90 days of the Insanity program but will shame a mother who's nursing her baby. 

It could be that many people (and especially new parents) just aren't adequately informed about what comes along with breastfeeding.

Here's a quick list of four REAL things to consider:

-- Teaching your baby to latch will take work. Cute, newborn puppies blindly wiggling over to get milk from their mom makes you think it's going to be easy. Wrong! You may have to devote sleepless days and nights to teaching the little one how to suckle. Nothing's wrong with you or your baby. That's just the beginning!

-- Your baby might not take a bottle after he or she gets used to breastfeeding. In our breastfeeding class, the instructor skimmed over a little section called "nipple confusion" and moved on to playing with dolls. They should've spent an entire class on nipple confusion because once a baby decides that it won't take a rubber nipple, mommy and daddy have some tough decisions to make about being a single-income household for a year.

-- Mommy really can't go anywhere without the baby, and vice-versa.  At least for three hours at a time. Leaving baby with Aunt Sally who he/she has only seen once in the past two months may be terrifying. It's easy to chalk up attachment parents as overbearing for letting the kid sleep in the "family bed." But if mom has to get up every few hours anyway to go and nurse, it turns out Mayim Bialik isn't crazy, she's practical.

-- Sex may be difficult to come by. Breastfeeding affects a mother's hormone levels and menstrual cycle. So not only is she dog-tired, she may also view daddy's advances with a degree of contempt. At least human dads just push formula on moms instead of getting their mating rights back like a lion. 

The backlash against breastfeeding is ridiculous. We just spent an entire month promoting the health of women's breasts and we so often forget what nature intended for them. Breastfeeding is a parenting choice similar to choosing your child's school. You should weigh the pros and cons -- and then make a commitment.

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