Thankfully, I was able to breastfeed my son for seven wonderful (albeit difficult and exhausting and sometimes self-doubting) months. Unfortunately, those seven months failed to reach the amount of time I actually planned on breastfeeding. I had a difficult time breastfeeding and my son weaned himself and, well, when I realized my breastfeeding journey had come to an end and it was time to bottle feed, I was sad. Thankfully, my partner did the things every grown-ass man does when you decide use formula, and while those things didn't take every guilty, disappointed feeling away, they certainly helped.
The decision to end breastfeeding can either be a forced decision, made out of necessity and something completely out of a mother's control; or one made simply because a mother no longer wants to breastfeed anymore. Either way, she needs support and understanding and encouragement. My transition from breast to bottle was a little bit of both; I was having a hard time breastfeeding and didn't necessarily fall in love with the act entirely and I definitely wanted complete autonomy over my body again, but I didn't initiate weaning; my son took it upon himself and refused to breastfeed one random day and to my total surprise. I didn't push the issue and while I was mildly relieved that the night feedings and the pain and the exhaustion were closer to being a part of my past, I was also devastated that the quiet moments that I would be able to spend with my son, feeding him with nothing more than my person, had come to an end.
Thankfully, just like breastfeeding, my grown-ass partner knew that he would be part of the weaning process and the formula feeding process and every other process in between. Sustaining a tiny life isn't a one-woman job, even if it was the woman's body who carried the burden for any significant amount of time. So, with that in mind, here are a few ways every grown-ass man can help his partner after she has decided it's time to use formula. Just like every other parenting choice, this one can be tough so, you know, all hands on deck.
He Assures Her That This Is Her Decision...
While most parenting decisions should be made by all parties involved in said parenting, there are some choices that dads just don't get to make. Sorry gents, but them's the breaks, and when it comes to what your partner wants to do with her body, she gets to make the final decision. When your partner makes the choice to stop breastfeeding and start bottle feeding, you shouldn't argue with her or fight with her or try to debate her. Chances are this was a tough decision to make, so simply support her.
...And Doesn't Make Her Feel Guilty For It
Because it's her decision, she'll probably put the burden of said decision (and the possible guilt and self-doubt and second guessing) on herself. Don't add to it by making her feel guilty and reminding her that she wanted to breastfeeding for longer than she actually did or bringing up how that one woman you both know breastfeed her child for three years. It's not helpful.
If Her Choice Made Out Of Necessity, He Reminds Her Why
There are so many reasons why a woman decides to stop breastfeeding, and many of those reasons end up, essentially, taking that decision away from her. If she's battling infections or having trouble producing or experiencing postpartum depression that needs to be treated with medication or is a sexual assault survivor and breastfeeding is a trigger; switching to formula might not be a choice so much as it is a necessity. This won't, however, make the transition any easier, so when your partner starts to feel upset or guilty or anything other than sure, remind her why this choice was the best choice for everyone.
If It Was Made Because She Was Simply Ready To Stop Breastfeeding, He Supports Her Without Question
Of course, some women just don't feel like breastfeeding anymore, and those women deserve just as much support. Honestly, breastfeeding can be difficult and exhausting and taxing and time-consuming, so if a woman no longer wants to experience any of those things, she should feel empowered to, you know, not to.
He Researches All The Formula Brands
Once the decision has been made, work needs to be done. Try researching the best formula brands and finding the brand that will work for you financially and locating a store where that brand is sold. This will make the transition easier because, well, the logistics is the last thing your partner should worry about.
He Finds The Best Bottles (If They Didn't Already Have Them)
See above, but for bottles. Seriously, there are a million baby bottles on the market and finding one that you feel comfortable using, will make this entire process easier.
He Gladly Takes Over Feedings (Especially At Night)
When breasts are no longer a requirement for feeding your kid, a grown-ass man taps his partner out and takes over. Now that you can share the responsibility that is making sure your child is properly fed, you can wake up when they need a night feeding or take over during the day or whenever your partner needs a break or a minute. Suddenly, the ability for feeding to be a 50/50 parenting job is a reality and, well, I guarantee you this will help your partner with this emotionally taxing transition.
He'll Clean Bottles And Make Bottles And Clean More Bottles
It's a never-ending cycle and, yes, it completely sucks but when two people tackle it together, I guarantee you that it will go much quicker and smoother (or, you know, at least feel like it does).
He Reminds Her That There Are Other Ways She Can Bond With Her Baby
Arguably one of the most difficult parts (at least for me) about ending breastfeeding is no longer being able to experience that particular bonding moment with your kid. I had a hard time giving up our silent moments (even if they were in the middle of the night) when it was just my son and I and I was holding him and he was falling asleep in my arms and it was, just, you know, awesome. My partner reminding me that I could still bond with my son in other ways, made this specific loss easier to accept.
And Commends Her For Breastfeeding For As Long As She Did
It doesn't matter if your partner breastfed for a few days or a few years, she deserves a pat on the back because it isn't always easy and it isn't always pleasant and she fed a human being with her body, buddy. I mean, that's just incredible.
He Defends Her If/When People Try To Shame Her For Her Decision
If your partner breastfed for an extended (or even somewhat significant) amount of time and chose to do so in public and without a cover, chances are she's well aware of the shame and judgement she can experience. What blew my mind, when I transitioned from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, was the shame and judgement I would face when I took a bottle out and fed my son. Honestly, we can't win, and a grown-ass man is aware that, these days, a mother is judged regardless of what he does. If he is going to stand up for his partner when she breastfeeds, he sure as hell is going to stand up for her when she bottle feeds, too.