Breastfeeding occupies a weird place in our culture. We have the very clear messaging of "breast is best," which is problematic but at least highlights a woman's right to nurse her baby; a refreshing change after years of everyone, from doctors to food companies to random know-it-alls, discouraging breastfeeding. At the same time, we still have the lingering stigma attached to breastfeeding, including the idea that breasts can't be separated from female sexuality. This can be difficult terrain to navigate on your own, but if you're lucky you'll have a grown-ass dad who supports breastfeeding in your life, because it's not the '50s anymore folks.
A grown-ass man is one who does not allow himself to buy in to the garbage, patriarchal nonsense of the past — things that sexualize breastfeeding or see it as "woman's work." He recognizes that a relationship is a partnership, and that he needs to be an active partner. Gals, if you're going to be with a man, settle for nothing less than a grown-ass man, otherwise they aren't worth the trouble.
That's not saying we don't all have some less-than perfect moments from time to time. I consider myself a grown-ass woman and I once cried because the delivery guy brought me the wrong sandwich and wouldn't come back. And not two days ago I literally started yelling at the weather in my mom voice when it started doing something I didn't like. But being grown doesn't mean never faltering or screwing up, it just means having good bearings, knowing what's The Right Thing To Do, doing that thing, and, when you screw up, admitting your error. Think of being grown-ass as varsity-level adulting. Because whereas adulting takes marked effort, being grown is when one does adult, responsible, enlightened things naturally, without having to visibly exert a ton of effort or be told they have to do it.
So what can are things a grown-ass dad will automatically do in regards to breastfeeding? Here's a start:
Assumes Whenever & Wherever You're Feeding Your Baby Is An Appropriate Time & Place
No grown-ass man is going to get all pearl-clutchy about where and when a woman breastfeeds her child, because he knows that feeding a child is no big deal and, moreover, is vitally important. When it comes to making sure a baby gets proper nutrition, there is no prudish fussing about breasts (as though they're anything scandalous).
Supports Your Decision To Be Uncovered Or Covered
Because, again, breasts are never inappropriate. Besides, as an enlightened man of the 21st century, your dude gets the concept of "your body, your choice." Maybe you feel more comfortable with a nursing cover. Or perhaps nursing covers sabotage your ability to effectively breastfeed at all (for real, my kids hated them and I found them cumbersome AF). Either way, it's all the same to your grown-ass man. Whatever works for you.
Defends You From People Who Are Giving You A Problem For Breastfeeding
He won't go all Jersey Shore on the person, but he will back you up (or stand up for you) if someone is giving you trouble (probably because they are not an enlightened individual of the 21st century who is as cool with breastfeeding as your dude). He won't leave you alone to defend yourself if he's around (unless you'd prefer to deal with the issue on your own, because he'll respect that decision, too).
Asks If You Need Anything
A glass of water? Your cell phone? A granola bar? The remote control? A burp cloth? A blanket? He knows it's hard when you're trapped under a child.
Accepts That You Breastfeeding Doesn't Necessarily Mean He Won't Be Doing Any Feedings
If you supplement with formula he isn't going to get all judgmental. If you have pumped milk and would like to sleep for a change, he will happily accept that feeding your child is his responsibility as well and handle a feeding. Your grown-ass man knows the meaning of teamwork.
Doesn't Undermine You
He's not going to look at the fact that you pumped an ounce and question if your baby is getting enough to eat. He's not going to tell you to quit if you complain that it's hard. He's not going to shame you for quitting if you decide it's not working out. He's not going to tell you, "Well, it probably hurts because you're not doing it right." He is there as a pillar of support and encouragement.
Doesn't Mansplain Breastfeeding To You
Because, sometimes, support is a little too enthusiastic, and that's putting it kindly. There's a fine line between support and attempting to claim superior knowledge on a subject with which he does not have nearly as much intimate familiarity. Your guy knows the difference between help and mansplaining.
Doesn't Compare You To Other Women He Knows
"You know, my mom breastfed all of us and didn't have any of these problems."
"My co-worker Lisa breastfed her baby for four years."
"My cousin Elaina weaned her baby at six months and he turned out fine."
Absolutely. None. Of. That. Ever.
Doesn't Assume He Has Any Ownership Over Your Breasts
No "jokes" about having to share your boobs. No talking about when you "get them back." No getting weird about other people seeing them. We do not live in an age where men get to think they own any part of another person.
Checks In With You Regularly
He doesn't just assume you are some sort of baby-feeding machine. He knows that breastfeeding can bring up a lot of emotions for people and, in any case, can be downright exhausting. A grown-ass man doesn't need to be prompted to start discussions with you to see how you're doing. This is instinct for his caring, sensitive ass.
Doesn't Judge The Massive Amounts Of Snacks You're Eating
Even when it seems like it's out of hand and it will seem to get out of hand but you're starving.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.