Breastfeeding my two children was a truly meaningful experience. It's been almost two years since I weaned my youngest, and some days I'm wistful. That's why I made sure to take pictures and videos before I stopped. Looking at those moments from the outside, I began to wonder what it was like for my husband to observe. "A little odd at first, because of how new it was, but I grew up around hippies, so breastfeeding is no big deal." I wanted to know more, so I asked other dads to describe what it's like watching their partner breastfeed.
Breastfeeding can put dads and non-gestational parents in an interesting position, especially those who want to try to create an equitable division of labor with their partners. Because, unless they are willing and able to trigger lactation (and, honestly, I blame absolutely no one for not doing so) breastfeeding is something a partner can support, but can't really help with. Like, if you and your partner are a baseball team, in this particular scenario, you can only ever hope to be the bat boy. Generally speaking, this is going to be a spectator sport for dads. But hey, that's OK. We get it, and we understood that when we were making the choice to breastfeed in the first place.
So what is it like for dads on the outside looking in? As in all things parenting related, it depends.
"Weird at first, but I got used to it fast."
When I asked Jason what he meant by "weird," he elaborated:
"I'm not exactly used to seeing boobs in that context. Before that they were always either casual or sexy. But these were working boobs."
"It sounds pervy but it was sexy. It wasn't the physical act that was hot because, you know, there's a baby right there, but knowing she was doing something so 'womanly' was a bit of a turn on."
I asked if he could elaborate.
"It just reminded me of all the Medieval paintings you see of the Virgin Mary nursing. They looked really serene and relaxed and no one was crying, which is a thing of beauty when you have a newborn."
"I never thought I'd get tired of seeing boobs, but I got a little tired of seeing boobs. Not really tired of boobs, but the first few weeks are so hard. You never stop working and you never sleep and the boobs are always out and a big part of the baby's routine. I just wanted to sleep, is what I'm saying."
"No big deal, really. I grew up with my mom and aunts and cousins breastfeeding their babies. In fact, when we started using formula they all thought we were being bougie."
"What's it called again, when they swell up really big and get ginormous? That was pretty awesome. It was like being married to Jessica Rabbit."
Engorgement, Brian, and it is the opposite of awesome. But what about breastfeeding itself?
"Fine. Nice. I don't know. It was just part of the whole baby thing, really. I didn't feel any particular way about it."
"It was frustrating because I couldn't make it easier for her. She had a really hard time. Eventually we switched to formula because it wasn't worth everything they were both going through to try to make it work. I was relieved, because that I could help with."
"Any excuse for boobs, yo. I'm not picky."
"I was grateful and appreciative that she was continuing to give so much of herself for our baby. Literally, her body. It's amazing that women can do that, and I know it's not always easy, so I try to thank her for it every now and then, so she knows I notice that she's really doing something special."
"A little annoying, actually. Only because she hated it so much and I didn't think there was enough to recommend it to keep at it for as long as she did. But she was so determined. I didn't say anything, because I knew it was important to her for whatever reason, but I kept thinking, 'You don't have to do this. You can use formula. He's not going to not get into Harvard because we gave him formula.'"
"It took me a while to stop cringing, because I was convinced it hurt. Now it doesn't faze me."
"I felt so proud of her. Because it wasn't easy but she kept at it. When people told her to quit she didn't; she asked someone else what they thought was going wrong and read and researched. Eventually our son was diagnosed with a tongue tie and things got much easier from there on out. She was a rock star about it all and she blew me away."
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