Some of you may know that I am a huge fan of the English soccer club Arsenal. One of their rising young stars is a kid named Theo Walcott. He’s 18 years old and has just lent his name to a major breastfeeding awareness campaign in the UK.
I’m not sure I know many professional athletes, let alone 18 year old guys, who are even aware that breasts have a function, so major kudos to Theo for stepping up and becoming an advocate for breastfeeding. True, he is getting a bit of media coaching from his midwife Mom, but still a big deal for someone like Theo to take this on. he realizes it isn’t without risks.
He seems unconcerned (or perhaps unaware) about the potentially lethal dressing-room combination of being baby-faced and advocating mother’s milk. “I know I’ll get the mickey taken out of me, but that’s always happening anyway. What can I say? It’s the right thing to do. It’s about healthy eating, getting healthy bones, right from the start of life, and men need to support their wives in that. That’s what I’ll be doing with my kids.”
The Breastfeeding Manifesto Walcott is promoting has been produced by a coalition of 39 organisations, including the Royal Society of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Midwives. It not only calls for health-care professionals to be fully trained to support mothers with breastfeeding but also for government support for breastfeeding in public.
I wrote a few weeks ago that the eczema on The Boy’s skin was getting out of control. Well, after meeting with a pediatrician and getting some blood work done, it looks like the final verdict is allergies. Just a few.
Wow. This is gonna change a few things.
Being exclusively breastfed means that Mom has had to, um, alter her diet a tad to bring it in line with our new reality, which is going to be tough. Rice is her best friend, at least for the next 2 weeks until she gets so sick of the stuff that she starts firebombing Chinese restaurants out of spite.
The good news is that 80% of babies will grow out of most of the allergies (the one exception is peanuts, which is around 20%), so hopefully this is not something that will continue much past his third birthday. And, with a diet that will consist of virtually no processed foods, lots of fruit, veg and protein, chances are we will all eat a little bit healthier because of it.
I’m in awe of my wife. Not once has she even considered that she would stop breastfeeding, knowing full well that breastfeeding is one of the best things she can do to give The Boy a fighting chance and help him grow out of all this. She has decided that the temporary inconvenience of giving up cheese, milk, bread, soy, ice cream, *insert any favorite food here* is minor compared to the benefits of breastfeeding.
It actually seems fitting that this is all happening around Mothers Day. After all, Mothers Day is when we celebrate all those unselfish acts that Mom undertook on our behalf to make us better people. And my wife is living it right now. And I’m very proud of her.
In the absence of the ability for many of us Dad’s to be like Mr B Wijeratne, a Sri Lankan Dad who can breastfeed his children, I thought I would list a few tips on how Dad’s can support Mom’s who breastfeed. Short of doing it ourselves (and apparently with the right conditions we can), there are many other ways we can help make the process go a bit smoother. Here are 9 tips I’ve put together. Feel free to add your own as a comment.
- Reevaluate our relationship with breasts. As men, our relationship with breasts is long and complicated. We have probably gone through most of our lives viewing breasts as sexual objects, so adjusting our skewed view of breasts and their purpose is extremely important. The boobies have changed, and it may take a bit of a mind shift to get used to seeing your partner pop them out in public, for example.
- Recognize that the physical act of breastfeeding is not easy. Especially at the beginning as Mom’s try to figure out things like positioning, latching on. It seems strange. You would think that something so fundamental to our species survival should be easy. It’s not, at least at the beginning.
- Learn all you can about breastfeeding and be her second set of ears. Like all aspects of parenting, everyone has an opinion and a strategy. Help her sort and sift through the information and learn all about tender breasts, engorgement, sore nipples, nursing injuries and cluster feedings. Read The Lactivist (aside: she has a great corporate bully story to tell about her battle with the Pork Board if you appreciate those kinds of stories). There are also, as you would expect, tons of great books out there, including
- Support her if she gets discouraged. Especially in the first few weeks, when lack of sleep and hormonal changes can sometimes make new mothers waver in their determination to breastfeed. Be positive and work with her to stick with it. Acknowledge how difficult it is, but reassure her that it does get much, much easier. This is tough because no one wants to feel like they are pressuring their partner to do something they really don’t want to do. Also, as guys, I think we tend to try to find solutions for problems that affect the people we love, when really all they need is a bit of support and encouragement. I almost blew this one and suggested in week 2 that maybe we should try a bit of formula. Fortunately, my wife was committed enough to breastfeeding that she ignored my well meaning advice.
- Should someone question any of your reasons or strategies around breastfeeding, be in her corner. Be vocal in sticking up for her with friends and family. We need to step in and run interference, even if/especially if the offender is Mom. Don’t allow your partner to be the brunt of extended family’s critical words about her breastfeeding relationship.
- Bring her food and drinks while she is breastfeeding. Grab her a book, the TV remote or the telephone.
- Get her some help. Buy her a breastfeeding pillow or a nursing stool. If she is having problems, find a good lactation consultant in your area to help.
- Puck up more of the domestic duties. Especially true when the cluster feeds and growth spurts can keep Mom bust for long stretches at a time.
- Remind her that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get your baby off to a good start in life, and increase her health and well-being. According to The World Health Organization, “Breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness” and “Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.”
Things my 3 year old says that crack me up. I think this probably speaks more to my level of maturity than anything else.
- “No, that was just fireworks.” When asked if the toot she had signaled a poo.
- “No, Dad. I want it straight up!” When witnessing her Dad trying to dilute her juice with water.
- “Mom, we have a root!” Upon seeing her infant brother turn his head to the side and open his mouth in classic baby rooting.
- “It’s just a skidmark.” When asked if she just had a poo.