Vert Hu, Vert Hu, Vert Hu, Vert Hu. For the past 5 months, my white noise machine has been a breast pump. I drift to sleep at the “new parent” hour of 9-9:30 to the sound of my wife sitting in bed next to me, making food for our daughter. I hope my daughter appreciates it because my wife loathes pumping and me? Yeah, I hate it too. I want my wife back. I also want my wife’s boobs back. Hell, she wants her boobs back. Breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts a mother can give her child. But let’s be honest, it also really sucks.
We didn’t go into this thinking that breastfeeding was a serious option. The general sentiment was, “No way, it creeps me out a little…” and “They are my boobs, I don’t want to give them up like that, maybe it’s selfish but…”. Then the research happened. “Well, ok. Ok… *sigh*, ok. Well, I mean. Shit. I guess it’s probably better, who am I to deny our kid that? Right?” Right.
Here is our first bit of advice for dads-to-be. Talk about it. Sit down before you try to get pregnant, sit down while you are pregnant, sit down while you are really, really pregnant and talk things over. Your wife needs that and you need that. Seriously, she needs someone other than her sister or mother to talk to about this. She needs to talk through this whole your-body-is-not-your-own thing. This is the same girl who has been doing that crazy self-conscious bra trick where it suddenly comes unhooked and is pulled out an arm hole in her American Apparel tee shirt. Pretty soon her boobs (or talk thereof) are about to be out in the world a lot, and everyone will be talking about them in one form or another.
People love to talk about breastfeeding ad nauseam. “Are you breastfeeding?” “How much are you producing?” “Are you eating lactation cookies?” “What does it feel like?” “Can you not do that in front of me?” Yeah, that last one will make you want to flip on someone around month 4 when your kid is near hysterics. Sorry, but she’s eating NOW. Maybe you are thinking “Awesome sauce, I love tits, this will be great.” Of course you love them, it’s partly how you became a dad in the first place. Trust us, breastfeeding can get old real fast. Yes, it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful and the most peaceful, idyllic moments of young parenthood come when there is a good latch, everything is quiet in your house, and your wife is nourishing your child. But other times? It can suck.
For us, breastfeeding was a horrible, emotional, and painful process. It started the night our daughter was born via emergency C-section. She latched, but it just didn’t seem like anything was happening. Then came the chapping, the chaffing, the crying, the “I can’t do this!”, the “What the fuck is wrong with my body?” “What is wrong with ME?”. We just sat there in the middle of the night exhausted and angry that what should be so natural, just… wasn’t. The frustration continued but grew to include our daughter. She was trying so hard to find the liquid gold that we joked she looked like rabid vampire. It was amusing for like, a second, but then the reality hit. We were not making enough milk for our baby. I still say “we” because we were a team, but truly and horribly, this burden was all my wife’s to carry. I tried to help, but there is no way we men can console a woman who is devastated she is just not producing what her child needs.
We quickly supplemented with formula since our little one had lost 11% of her body weight. In that decision, we could have said goodbye to the breast for good, but we talked and decided to persevere. My wife, the champion, has this competitive edge to her that would not let her quit, so we found a lactation consultant we connected with. This was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Our consultant took the time to work with us as a family, and eventually, we found our way to what worked. Breastfeeding never measured up to what we had imagined in the bliss of pregnancy, but perhaps more importantly, we discovered what worked best for us.
That is our great advice for those just starting their breastfeeding journey. Find out what works for you and stick with it. Own it. Love it. No family is alike. You may do 50% formula, 50% breastfeeding. Perfect. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You may find that pumping 100% of the time works best. Good on you. Run with that. That is your choice and it’s the best one you can make. The breast vs. formula battle is a shit show and totally unnecessary. Every situation is different and if anyone makes you feel otherwise, tell them to piss off. When writing this piece I took a quick poll of other dads in the office. Over 75% of them had similar stories to ours. You see? Every family is different, and every family is rocking it.
Feeding your baby is a struggle no matter what route choose. After 6 months of nourishing our daughter, my wife says, “I still feel inadequate. I question what I am doing every day. Why is my baby not satisfied, why does she pull off and stare at the dogs, why am I still not making enough? Am I selfish to want to quit this every day? Why do I only produce 1oz in 30 minutes when the other moms in my office can do 6oz in half that time? It’s a deeply personal struggle that just wrecks my self-esteem.” My wife also recently said, “this journey has been so hard and unrewarding, but I am proud of it. It’s ours and we have done an amazing job given the circumstances.” Yes, you have. It is a beautiful thing she is doing for our daughter and for us as a family.
Vert Hu, Vert Hu, Vert Hu, Vert Hu. We leave you with some simple rules to follow when you embark on this breastfeeding journey.
- Never tell your wife “Well, you are not the only woman who…” Nope. Nope. Nope. Stop right there, brah. Right now, in this moment, when she is emotionally drained, yes, yes she is the only damn woman in all of history who is going through this. She could give a shit about the rest of them. In that moment it’s all about her. Embrace it.
- Grab her some Lansinoh Lanolin cream and some Soothies long before your labor and stash them in your go-bag. When her nipples are fire and she is choking back tears in the hospital, give them to her and she will thank you forever. Really, 6 months later my wife still talks about it. Pro-tip: put them in the fridge.
- Do what is best for your family. You have a family now! How great is that? Just do what is best for you. It’s simple.
- Have your lactation consultant picked out before you even go into labor. This will be a crucial relationship in the early days of breastfeeding. These amazing women can turn a nightmarish experience into tranquility in a matter of minutes.
- Buy her some sexy nursing bras. She might laugh at first but after 3 months in a beige nursing bra that looks like it belongs on a granny in the YMCA locker room, she will be overjoyed she has it. (So will you.)
- Thank her for what she is doing. Your kid can’t, but you can and you should every day. Flowers from time to time won’t hurt either.
- Most insurance plans cover at least some model of breast pump. Do the homework for her so it’s one less thing she has to worry about.
- Get up and help whenever you can. It may not be easy, but solidarity at 3am goes a long way.