So, you're a dude who currently, recently, or will soon have a breastfeeding woman in your life. Congrats, man! This probably means there's a baby in your life or on its way, and that's some fun stuff. Whether you're the baby's father or the baby's mother's chosen beloved, or just a really good friend of the family, you have an important role to play in the life of this child. After all, it takes a village. But you know what doesn't take a village? Breastfeeding. In fact, there are things about breastfeeding that men just don't get a say in.
Don't take it too personally and please, for the love of all that is pure and good, don't say this is "reverse sexism." The fact of the matter is, no one really gets a say in anything to do with breastfeeding except the person directly involved (the breastfeeding woman) and, when called for, a pediatrician, midwife, or obstetrician.
So why am I targeting men in my observations today? Okay, I love you guys and all, but you often have, well, you have a lot of feelings. If we're being honest, you're pretty used to people catering to those feelings. Society is basically built around the idea that you blokes have authority that women do not. There are certainly confounding factors (race, age, socioeconomic status and background, religion and the like) and yes, I know, #notallmen. Still, as men are continuing to legislate against women making their own decisions about their own bodies, it's worth mentioning that when it comes to breastfeeding, you gentlemen just don't get much of a say. So, if you're watching your partner prepare for breastfeeding and none of the aforementioned is at all surprising to you, congratulations! You're on the right path. But just so we're clear moving forward, here are the things about breastfeeding that really don't concern you...
I'll just cut to the chase here. This starts and ends with what I am doing (or not doing) with my body, and I don't care how familiar you are with that body, it's not yours under any circumstances. It's mine, exclusively, in perpetuity and throughout the universe. Consider this point the tl;dr version of this whole article. However, if you want, I'll get more specific...
Whether Or Not A Woman Breastfeeds At All
So, you think breast is best. That's wonderful! Perhaps you think formula is the way to go because of convenience. Good for you! Opinions are great and you are welcome to them. The fact that you are invested in this outcome bodes well for your fathering future, but if you think your opinion trumps my decision here you've got another thing coming because nope. Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding has biologically been left up to me, my brain, and my boobies. No offense, but you're kind of the fifth wheel.
How "Hard" A Woman Has To Try Before She's "Allowed" To Stop
If I've decided to give breastfeeding the ol' college try and then decide it's not for me, you don't get to challenge that. You're not the one doing this, you can't know what I'm going through, and therefore you don't get to decide if I'm trying "hard enough" or passive aggressively ask if I'm "really sure" I want to quit. If I say I'm done, I'm done. Be supportive, be a dear, and go get some formula, please.
When A Woman Stops Breastfeeding
Whether I decide to stop after 4 hours, 4 days, 4 weeks, 4 months, or 4 years, that's between me and the kid. Uncomfortable with the idea of me nursing a toddler? Sucks to be you. I don't mean to sound harsh, I really don't. You're entitled to your feelings. What you aren't entitled to is the idea that your feelings allow you to dictate anything.
Whether A Woman Supplements*
Asterisk here in cases of medical emergency. Like, if the pediatrician has suggested or asked or decided that the child should be supplemented due to failure to thrive and the mother of your child is adamantly and stubbornly refusing, OK, you can have a say. But unless the immediate health of the child is at risk? Supplementing or not supplementing is a decision that rests with the primary food source aka the breastfeeding parent.
Whether Or Not A Woman Covers Up When Nursing In Public
Because you do not have exclusive viewing rights, my good man. If you're worried about whether I'll get comments or negative attention, well, that's a very nice instinct but I'm a big girl. I have thought of this and I can handle myself, so your concern is not necessary.
How A Woman Responds To Haters In Public
Responding or not responding to people who unnecessarily confront me about breastfeeding in public is entirely up to me. As long as those responses remain non-violent, let me handle it. I'm not asking you to jump into the fray with me, I'm just asking you to have my back and not try to shut me up because you're embarrassed or you'd rather just leave/do as they ask/ignore them. You're free to do any of those things, but I'll make my own choices, thanks.
When/Where A Woman Nurses
Pretty much all U.S. states and territories specifically protect the right to breastfeed in any location, public or private, that people are legally allowed to be. Stores, restaurants, parks, even houses of worship. As long as I'm not trespassing, I'm good to go. And if I'm good to go, then I'm going for it if I want. Or not! It's up to me, so I'll let you know.
How Vocal A Woman Chooses To Be About Breastfeeding
"Look, I'm fine that you breastfeed. But do you have to be so open about it?"
Do I have to? Nah. Am I choosing to? Yes, yes I am. (Or I'm not, which is also totally fine even if you wish I'd be more zealous about lactivism.) Again, I'm not doing any of this specifically to make you uncomfortable or unhappy. But this is, ya know, my thing. It has nothing to do with you. If it makes you squirmy that I post breastfeeding pictures, articles, or memes on Facebook or get into boisterous debates on the subject? Well, sorry not sorry.