influence of (male) partners on Bf'ing - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
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I am currently training as a BF counsellor and am a trained BF peer supporter. I see my career going in the direction of raising awareness and hopefully research, writing-based stuff in the future. One area I'm interested in at the moment, and something I think future campaigns could focus on, is the issue of the influence of partners on a) whether a woman chooses to BF, and b) whether she quits before she'd like to/before weaning age, etc. I remember reading something in a book by Bridget McConville, 'Mixed Messages: Our breasts in our lives' a while ago about how the attitude of the male partner is one of the main influences on women stopping BF'ing, which surprised me a little. I would like to explore this issue and how it is related to the sexualisation of breasts in our culture, and hopefully look at ways of getting a different message across to the men themselves. Something along the lines of, letting them know they can have a big influence on their children's health and well-being as well as partner's health, the bond of the family, etc, through their support or lack of support.

I've def. noticed this anecdotally with friends who were 'under pressure' from partners to wean from 6 months, were blamed for their babies' 'clinginess' "because you breastfed them too long", etc, and I've spoken to women who quit BF'ing bc of a new boyfriend coming into their life who they didn't want to 'put off'. Comments like 'I'll get them back (the breasts) one day'. Does anyone know any actual info sources/ statistics on this, or have anything to share on the topic?
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#2 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 04:44 PM
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I don't know of any statistics, but I can share a personal anecdote

When my first DD was born, my husband and I made parenting decisions together. I definately wanted to know what he thought about breastfeeding, duration, etc. Five months later, he was sent away on a year long military deployment. I completly changed my way of parenting. I no longer cared at all what he thought of breastfeeding, or anything else. It allowed me to learn to mother my baby without the influences of sexuality or mainstream parenting views. I'm sure I would not still be BFing her 3 years later if my DH had been there to influence my decision.

I'm very interested to see what others have experienced.

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#3 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 04:53 PM
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I would love to see statistics, as I have noticed the same thing. DH has always been supportive, but has made extended breastfeeding a little stressful. I can see how the partner, male or otherwise, could influence a woman's BF success.

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#4 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 05:29 PM
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there are evidenced based research studies to back up your societal support hunch, I've read them in the "journal of human lactation". There are all types of studies like this.

You can google it, you might have to pay to read the journal on line.
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#5 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 05:31 PM
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I know my father had sexual hang-ups about BF that caused my mom to give it up with both me and my brother. She gave up with me at 4 weeks. She says that he viewed it as dirty or sexual in some way.

My partner on the other hand was very supportive and when I gave it up at 6 weeks didn't speak to me for an entire day and had lingering anger over it for a while and told me I was being selfish.

So, there are two completely different ways men can impact BF.

I should note that I should have stuck it out with DS. I miss it terribly and will BF next baby for at least a year.

DS1 06/27/2007, DS2 03/19/2010 :::
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#6 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 05:32 PM
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My DH is a very pro breastfeeding man. If He hadn't been by my side the first 12 weeks tellingme we wouldmake it work if it cost us $5000 in LC appointments (I was crying over 3 $90 visits). He went to every visit with me and learned and evenbought a gift certificate for her services for a friend. An LC visit is what he wants to give allour expecting friends. He stronglybelieves everyone (even those nothaving issues) should see one to get an education. (I love this man!).

A 17 months later and we are stillgoing strong and he sometimes irritates me by expectingmeto immidiately drop everything to nurse my LO. It is sweet but sometimes dinner needs to get made and he can wait 10 minutes. Anyway he fully believes in CLW and he wasonly nursed for 6 months. I think our LC who nursed allher children till three and beyond had a big influence on his ideas.

He gets upset when he hears ofmen interfering in thier partners bf relationship.He says it isn't thier relationship to interfere in. That if they are having problems with bf affecting thier relationship with their wife they need to do something to fix that relationship not mess with the bf one between mom and baby.

One more little story.

I was at a free bf clinic and a man (new daddy) walked up to meand shookmy hand and said " I just want to let you know that what you are giving your child is a gift and I think all of you women here trying so hard are amazing" He then went on to personally shake the hand and congratulate every woman in the room. Blew me away andmademe get teary.

** Btw baby damagedmy spacebar**
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#7 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 05:56 PM
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I can certainly see how the attitude of your partner would have a huge impact on duration/success of BFing.

An unsupportive partner could make those first few weeks unbearably difficult for a new mom - and we all know that they're rarely a cake walk, even at the best of times. You need someone who is willing to take over all other duties while you just work on nursing and looking after the baby for those first weeks. Someone who will bring you drinks and snacks when you're a prisoner on your couch for hours on end during the cluster-feeding evenings. Someone who will encourage you when you're crying from pain and exhaustion. You don't need someone who will take advantage of your hormonal and exhausted state to bully or coerce you into giving formula instead.

And later in the relationship it's so easy for a partner to start blaming everything on BFing. Fussiness from teething, tantrums, clinginess to mommy - easy targets for an unsupportive partner to point his finger at and then refuse to help with, because mom has brought it all on herself by BFing

And with your partner it's more difficult to ignore or deal with than if it were other family members or friends. You live with your partner and see them every day (usually!). You rely on them for help and support in your day-to-day life and in raising your child(ren). You want to maintain a good relationship with them.

I think it's possible to overcome the negative influences of an unsupportive partner, but I think it's very difficult. I would expect a woman surrounded by an unsupportive society but with a very supportive partner to have a better chance at a successful nursing relationship than a woman with an actively unsupportive partner and a supportive outside society.

Lisa - mama to Eleanor Rose 01/08 and Saoirse Lily 09/10
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#8 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 06:03 PM
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MY DH's support made a huge difference--when i struggled at the start and other close family members were pushing the "formula isn't so bad, why go through this" line, he totally stood by me, never suggested I was going to fail or that it wasn't worth persevering AND he waited on me, bringing me food, water, pillows, etc. during those long nursing marathon days.
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#9 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 06:46 PM
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My husband has been incredibly supportive. He often says how beautiful he thinks I am when I am nursing our sun, he always makes sure I have water, am comfortable, whatever I need.

It has made bf'ing much easier knowing I always have his support.
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#10 of 20 Old 05-04-2009, 08:07 PM
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My dh is very supportive to a degree as well and it definitely makes a difference...though I'm sure we wouldn't be together if he wasn't pro breastfeeding since were both very natural minded people. THugh he thinks kids should be weaned around 2 I think. I just realized that he has been making lots of comments to our 2.5 y/o about weaning lately
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#11 of 20 Old 05-05-2009, 11:47 AM
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DH was super supportive of my BFing ds...for the first two years. After that, he just lost his patience for the whole thing. We had a very gentle weaning when ds was over 2.5 - DH had prepped him for it (he just didn't do as good a job prepping me!!!)

I definately agree that anecdotally, guys who are "hung-up" about the whole BFing issue will make it a very unsupportive BFing environment for the mama and this is probably a big factor in the decision to wean.

On the other hand, I have a friend who begged his wife to nurse (she had no interest in it) and because of his encouragement, she nursed for a year.
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#12 of 20 Old 05-05-2009, 06:59 PM
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I don't think I could have been successful without the support of my DH. When it was time to nurse I'd call him over to help me with positioning. He's get me food and water, diaper the baby, take care of the household, etc. I think the attitude and opinions of a partner can really make or break a nursing relationship! A lot of women aren't able to fight an uphill battle against the one person that's supposed to be there for them at one of the most venerable times of their lives. I was beside myself for at least a month when DD was born! I needed DH behind me pushing me and encouraging me.
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#13 of 20 Old 05-05-2009, 07:38 PM
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Stepping in with my experience (almost 30 years after the fact). Without my husband influence neither of my 2 children would have known anything but the bottle & formula.

I was raised in a home where I never saw nor knew of anyone who breastfed. It was a "Gross Hippy Thing" according to my family. I never really thought about it one way or another. Even with all the babysitting I did, no one I knew breastfed.

I married young & was expecting my first to be born shortly after my 19th birthday. It wasn't until my husband (all of 22 years old and having never been around babies breastfeeding or otherwise) asked me straight out "you're going to breastfeed aren't you?" I had never thought of it at all. A short discussion ensued with us both realizing that obviously this was the way babies were made to be fed.

He never once asked me when I was weaning, gave incredible support & backup against the nasty comments I faced. I truly couldn't / wouldn't have done it without him. My children were nursed to 1 year & 18 months respectively. My oldest, I gave in to outside pressure and weaned too early I felt (though at that point she was mostly uninterested -I thought). My youngest weaned during my week long absence (due to emergency surgery). When I returned home, she asked to nurse, I let her, she finished said thank you & never came back to it.
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#14 of 20 Old 05-05-2009, 08:31 PM
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I do not have any specific statistics on this issue. But, my own experience has shown that a husband's support is vital.

My DH was/is an incredible support. During my pregnancy, DH read many of the same BFing books that I did and accompanied me to BFing classes. After DD was born, not only was he helpful with the practical aspects of BFing support (helping to position DD, taking care of the home, bringing home/preparing snacks and meals, etc.) but he was/is an emotional support.

With an emergency c-section and illness for both DD and me, etc., I had a very difficult time with developing and maintaining my precious milk suppy. DD is almost 2 years old and I still mourn the loss of our breastfeeding relationship. DH is my rock and always provides a shoulder on which to cry.

He has always viewed BFing as not only incredibly important but very beautiful. DD took some lovely photos of me BFing DD...I cherish them!!! He is always quick to tell others about the importance of BFing and proud to say how I BFed our DD. Even he preferred to bottle feed DD expressed BM rather than formula, telling DD that she was, "getting the good stuff!"

Finally, support from the male partner also contributes to further bonding between momma, daddy, and baby.

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#15 of 20 Old 05-06-2009, 01:25 AM
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iKNOW that I read somestyudies that showed that not only is the male partners attitude on BFing important it is the MOST important factor in whether or not a woman will bf and for how long, etc.......I have no clue where...but i KNOW I read it...

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#16 of 20 Old 05-06-2009, 11:59 AM
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According to some women I know 'titties are for hubbies, not babies'

My DH is very pro breastfeeding and would really hate for me to formula feed (I would go so far as to say, had I formula fed, I think he would have totally reevaluated our relationship and maybe, would have left me, our children are the most important thing in his life and he expects both of us to dothe best we can for them , had I not breastfed through choice, it would have shown I wasn't as invested etc).
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#17 of 20 Old 05-06-2009, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by krystyn33 View Post
MY DH's support made a huge difference--when i struggled at the start and other close family members were pushing the "formula isn't so bad, why go through this" line, he totally stood by me, never suggested I was going to fail or that it wasn't worth persevering AND he waited on me, bringing me food, water, pillows, etc. during those long nursing marathon days.
This. Exactly this. Thank G for my DH.

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#18 of 20 Old 05-08-2009, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the responses. It is wonderful to hear the positive experiences of support as well. Dewi, thanks for that reference lead, I will look into it. I think it's true that if the partner is supportive, even an unsupportive larger environment can be overcome, but it is harder the other way round. I know when I was told I 'had' to give formula as well as bfeed, when I left the hospital, I wouldn't've had the confidence to ditch that pressure without the support of my partner and his sister. It made all the difference, them saying that I could do it (bfeed exclusively). But I have also had to put up with many comments about 'when is this going to end?' and the shock/horror from my baby's father when I announced after a year that I planned to Bf at least another year.

I also remember a discussion from my peer supporting course, when people said that it might be damaging in terms of the partner support issue, to frame campaigning around 'bfeeding helps you bond with baby' b/c it could make the men feel like then they CAN'T bond with the baby - we discussed an article with a picture of a mother nursing while the partner stands like a shadow in the background, looking all 'left out' and sad. The logic of this could lead to, well, I don't want my partner to feel left out, I want us ALL to bond, so let's share feeding equally (ie FF). I have met a few new dads who found it very difficult to be 'on the outside' when they were so longing to have this big relationship with the baby, and then found that the baby wanted and preferred mother for obvious reasons. Sigh. It just seems like in some ways feminism has backfired so much in constructing things as 'equality equals the same' when it comes to men and women's roles, esp. as parents.
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#19 of 20 Old 05-09-2009, 12:42 AM
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Well, just another one agreeing... It might sound terribly "unemancipated" but I think that the protection of the mother-baby couple, especially the nursing relationship is one of the most important jobs of a new father.
From my own BF "history" I very clearly remember how upset I got about being criticized by my MIL (assumption "I don't think the baby is getting enough" ). It meant so much to me that my husband a) noticed how upset I was and b) told me to not let comments like that get to me.
However, it takes a certain level of maturity for that role - beyond "when will I have my toys back" and "you know, you should really listen to ...".

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#20 of 20 Old 05-17-2009, 02:15 AM
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i know this is only my experience, but hey....

i was a very lucky mother. my 2 dd NEVER had any problems, latched on perfectly right away. they are now 2 1/2 and 11 months and i nursed my eldest throughout my pregnancy. she is still nursing and i feel will be for atleast another year.

my husband agreed from the beginning about CLW, but once we had the kids he changed his view to he can't believe people who wean early or don't BF. if i try to tell him a story of someone and there formula fed baby he says, "i don't listen to stories of child abuse"
he is amazing.
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