How you feed your baby has long been a controversial topic, but a mom's recent plea for advice has pushed a different nursing issue into the spotlight: Should dads have a say in breastfeeding decisions? And how do you handle it if his reasoning is troubling?
The anonymous mom posted her concerns in the closed Facebook support group of Breastfeeders in Australia. According to its Facebook description, more than 31,000 members "come together to share stories and ask questions without fear of discrimination."
"My husband wants me to stop breastfeeding my son," the anonymous post read. "We have daughters together, but he makes fun of my son when he cries for me, and says things like, ‘He’s such a girl’. My husband also thinks I should stop breastfeeding because he says it’s stopping me from losing weight. He isn’t open to the idea of talking to a professional about this. Has anyone got any advice on dealing with an unsupportive husband?"
No doubt the dad's reasoning would incite strong reactions. For one, how does crying because they're hungry—something babies do because they're, you know, babies—warrant a halt on breastfeeding? Moms breastfeed because babies cry and need to be soothed or are hungry. And don't even get us started on the mocking and gender stereotyping. As for the next point, it's easy to go ballistic on the husband for even mentioning mama's baby weight.
Members of the Facebook group didn't hesitate to make their thoughts known. Unfortunately, the comments were more hurtful than helpful, which led the page's creator, Lauren Threadgate (no, we didn't make up "Threadgate"), to remove all the comments except for one.
"Although all of the comments had the best of intentions, the member did not find many of comments suggesting she was being abused, or that she should leave her husband, very helpful," Threadgate wrote in a post on the Breastfeeders in Australia site. "While it can be triggering to hear of a fellow woman being treated by her husband in a way that we would not consider acceptable in our own relationship, if we are to help someone, we need to be able to meet them where they are. We need to be mindful that coming on too strong could leave someone like our anonymous member feeling like everyone is giving her a hard time, that she is to blame and that she can’t go anywhere for non-judgmental advice."
The "very balanced" comment Threadgate did keep was from Gina Haitidis, who the forum claims has a master's degree in both social work and forensic mental health.
"I have quite a bit of training in this kind of thing, and based on what you have chosen to disclose I would say that he is possibly unsure of his role in your family dynamic and relationship," Hatidis wrote.
In regards to the dad's remarks about their son, Hatidis thinks it's because as a father, he "possibly has had fantasies surrounding the relationship he would have with his son." Because the baby cries for the mom and not him, he might be feeling jealous and insecure. "He is not the first point of protection or comfort and ... he would feel somewhat left out of your special relationship."
As for the weight comment, Hatidis admitted she doesn't know the background to the comment.
"But if you yourself have mentioned weight loss in the past, then this might be a way of him trying to persuade you in a positive supportive light (although it might not come across that way). Or if you have brought it up in a negative light, again his way of trying to somewhat emotionally provoke you to stop. He may think that if you stop breastfeeding, he can be with you and have ... a more confident role in both his relationship as a father and partner," she wrote.
As for next steps, Hatidis suggested making the husband conscious of his remarks "and talk through them in a safe, unjudgmental way," to consider "a different therapeutic approach, like going for a long walk together and cultivating your relationship with just the two of you," if he absolutely hates the idea of professional help, and to encourage private father-son time.
But Hatidis' response was also met with criticism, mainly that the response was too sympathetic toward the husband.
"I think the suggested reasons behind the husband's behavior are giving him far more credit than he deserves. I think it's less that he's jealous of the relationship and more that he has a warped view on gender roles and that boys should act like little emotionally cut-off men from birth. As for the weight loss comment, please. It seems like he's only concerned with his wife getting her figure back because he doesn't want her carrying baby weight. If he was really concerned about his wife getting back in shape, he'd suggest something like going for walks or changing up their diet, stuff that they could do together," wrote Ally in the Australian parenting site, Mamamia.
If you're a dad who feels left out while your partner's breastfeeding, don't take it out on Mom or Baby. Instead here are 12 ways you can support breastfeeding moms and even more ways to get involved with your baby's nursing schedule.