New motherhood can be one of the most trying times in a woman's life. It's wonderful, but there's all kinds of stuff you have to figure out, like diapering, sleeping, and feeding. In addition to the stigma around both breastfeeding and formula feeding, many moms also have to deal with unsupportive partners. So mamas, I'm here to tell you that there are actually quite a few things that matter more than what your partner thinks about breastfeeding. That's not to say that their thoughts and your relationship should be taken out of the equation entirely, but, at the end of the day, you get to make the call.
When we decided to start trying for a baby, I had my husband join me at my monthly psychiatry appointment. I've had major depressive disorder for most of my adult life, and I have very successfully used a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to manage it. My spouse had concerns about its effects on our future children. Under the advice of my psychiatrist, we decided that having a mentally stable mommy outweighed the small risk of the SSRI to the baby. However, my husband wanted me to consider not breastfeeding. Although the amount of the drug that the baby would be exposed to was much smaller than in utero, he saw breastfeeding as a choice. In his view, we couldn't avoid exposure to a fetus while I was pregnant, but we could avoid exposure to a baby once she was born.
I was absolutely adamant about wanting to exclusively breastfeed. In the end, my husband came around and agreed that the benefits of breastfeeding exceeded the minimal risk associated with the anti-depressant. I wanted my partner to have a say, and I considered his apprehensions, but at the end of the day, he recognized my right to make decisions about my own body. Even if he hadn't been supportive I would have prevailed, because certain things are just more important than a partner's opinion.
What You Think About Breastfeeding
Yep, I'm going to go ahead and say that what a mother thinks about breastfeeding holds more weight than her partner's thoughts on the matter. I'm not saying you ignore them, but chances are, the person who gave birth is the one doing the feeding.
If you want to breastfeed but your partner thinks it's "icky," they just have to get over it. Likewise, if your partner is pushing breastfeeding but you want to use formula, you get to make that choice because it's your body.
Your Baby's Health
Let me say it again: fed is best. Making sure your baby has sufficient nutrition to thrive trumps anyone's opinion about feeding.
You Rights As A Breastfeeding Mom
Sometimes partners are uncomfortable when their partner breastfeeds in public. I know it bothered my husband when I inadvertently flashed our friends while getting my nursing cover in place. You know what, though? That's just too damn bad. There are federal and state laws that protect your right to breastfeed in public (although, unfortunately, few have enforcement provisions). Someone else's discomfort, even your partner's, doesn't supersede that right.
Your Mental & Emotional State
For some women, breastfeeding can help them cope with postpartum depression. For others, nursing can actually exacerbate their anxiety with sometimes tragic consequences. Your partner may have a preference regarding how you feed your baby, but it should go without saying that your mental and emotional wellbeing come first.
Bonding With Your Baby
Breastfeeding promotes the all-important bond between mother and child. The intimacy of nursing actually strengthens maternal affection and has soothing powers for your baby. If your partner thinks it's weird, that's their problem. Frankly, they probably need to stop sexualizing your breasts.
That being said, no one gets to say that you can't bond with your baby using a bottle. You can still hold them close and get in that cuddle time.
The Benefits Of Breast Milk
More important than your partner's breastfeeding "ew" factor (which, in my opinion, shouldn't be even be a thing) is the incredible benefits it has for your baby. It contains antibodies that protect them from infection, lowers the risk that they develop asthma and allergies, and is associated with fewer ear infections. It's pretty magical, so your partner may just need to get over themselves. Them feeling weird about it isn't a good reason to deprive your baby of all that good stuff.
Listen to your doctor, midwife, and/or lactation consultant. Even better, get opinions from a variety of experts. They're not infallible, but they can give you good information that can help you make an educated decision about the best way to feed your baby.
Your Postpartum Body
Breastfeeding has the added perk of helping mom shed those pregnancy pounds. If you want that benefit, then you should be able to take advantage of it. On the other side of the coin, nursing might not be jiving with your postpartum body, like if you have low supply like I did.
By all means, have a conversation with your partner. It's their baby, too. But remember: your body always means your choice.