Dads for Breastfeeding

Earlier this week, Pope Francis made news when he declared that women should breastfeed their children in church. (see: Pope promotes breastfeeding in church) Apparently this set off a variety of responses supporting and condemning his suggestion. I have been blessed to be a father six times over the last 18 years and my amazing wife has breastfed all of our children. While I’m not a lactation expert or anything like that I’m certainly thankful that my wife chose this for our children. Studies have shown the benefits of breastfeeding (to both child and mother) and I’ve also observed first-hand the indelible bond my wife has formed with each child. A nursing baby is truly one of the most beautiful acts to witness in all of nature. The look of both mother and child as they gaze into each other’s eyes is priceless. There’s nothing more pure and innocent in this world. It’s truly one of the few things my wife does with/for our children that I cannot even begin to replicate in my role as stay at home dad. I can feed our 7 month old baby girl the breast milk my wife lovingly expressed for her but it’s not even close to the same as when she’s with mommy. And I’m 100% okay with that. That’s the way it should be.

And, there is nothing remotely wrong or weird about it.  With all of that being said, I’m glad that the Pope took the opportunity to publicly address the “issue” of breastfeeding in public places like church. I guess I don’t understand why it’s a big deal. With our first child, born back when we were much younger (23), my wife would retreat to the cry room at church to nurse our daughter. After a few times doing that she began to wonder why that was necessary and decided to nurse right in the sanctuary, only covering with our child’s blanket. Unless you knew what was happening you’d never be able to tell what she was doing. There was, simply, nothing inappropriate about doing that in church. Over the 18+ years of having kids my wife has nursed in the sanctuary at many churches and it’s never been a problem. Sometimes, if the baby is being a particularly noisy or active eater, she has opted to go to the quiet room but only as circumstances dictate. If there’s any place on earth that should be receptive to naturally meeting the needs of children I would think that it would be a church. I have yet to observe a time that a baby nursing has been “sexy” or “inappropriate”.

We recently returned from a trip to El Salvador with our baby. She nursed multiple times each day, including while visiting Mayan ruins and during the wedding ceremony and reception dinner/dance.

Our baby nursing at Mayan ruins in El Salvador.

Our baby nursing at Mayan ruins in El Salvador.

And not one single person cared or objected, if they even noticed at all. We had been told ahead of time that women in El Salvador don’t cover up when nursing. For one thing, it’s so hot that it might be uncomfortable for mother and child. But, I believe, the bigger issue is that Americans are so hung up on their own perversions. We’ve managed to sexualize the human body so that even something as beautiful as a breastfeeding mother is somehow inappropriate. In case you didn’t realize it, women were created with breasts to feed their young. I’ve been to the zoo with my children many times and have seen animal mothers nursing their young and not a single zoo patron complained. Same goes for field trips to a dairy farm. Yet, if a mother wants to nurse her baby in public she better go somewhere out of sight or cover up or feel the wrath. I just don’t get it.

As a dad of children ranging in age from 7 months to 18 years old, I’m glad that my kids have all seen their siblings nurse. Even though some of the older ones think it’s “gross” or “weird”, it’s my hope that by the time they become parents they will understand how natural and beautiful it truly is for both mother and child. Every time they make a negative or disparaging comment about nursing I immediately refute it, reminding them that each of them also used to nurse once-upon-a-time. I have to admit that I’ve grown so used to my wife nursing that I don’t usually bat an eye when I’m out in public with my kids and another mom sits down on a bench and starts nursing her baby. The only time that I was caught off guard was a few years ago while at a local park with two of my kids and our dog. We met a lady wearing her sleeping baby while playing fetch with her dog (multi-tasking mama!). While our dogs were playing and we were chatting the baby woke up and the lady lifted her shirt and started feeding her baby. The contented cooing that ensued was music to her ears. What impressed me was how natural it was for her to do that without feeling ashamed or embarrassed by my presence. We continued our conversation as if nothing was wrong. Which was the case. It would be wonderful if we, as dads and moms, could pass along to our children, who could then pass along to their children (and so on) that breastfeeding is a good thing, to be cherished and celebrated. It’s not awkward or weird. Moms should feel free to feed their babies wherever they are: church, park, mall, movie theater, restaurant, pool, school events and anywhere else. As dads, we should do everything in our power to support and encourage mothers who are breastfeeding. We should also encourage a positive view of breastfeeding among our children and other adults.

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40 thoughts on “Dads for Breastfeeding

  1. Beautifully written! Stumbled upon this while I was nursing, coincidentally 🙂 My husband supports me 100%. Your wife is lucky to have such great support as well!!

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  2. Just wanted to echo the “beautifully written” sentiment 🙂 and so true! Hopefully we can show our children (if not society) how natural and, well, beautiful breastfeeding is!!

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  3. Totally agree with you! I really don’t understand why anyone has an issue about breastfeeding in public.

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  4. Perfect! I am on baby four and now that I feel much more confident, skilled and at ease with nursing, I believe this Sunday is the perfect time to forgo the nursery nursing and give sanctuary nursing a go. I hate missing the sermon! Thanks for this!!

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  5. I think this is beautiful! My husband supported me 100% when I breastfed my first child. There were a few times I got told that I needed to go to the bathroom and feed my baby even though I was covered up. I wanted to ask them to take their food and go eat in a bathroom. A woman’s breast is there for the purpose of feeding. But society has turned it into a “sexual organ”. With all that being said… Way to go Dad 🙂

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  6. Very nice post. I also found this while nursing 🙂 I have nursed in church but I always cover up and retreat to the back which probably brings more attention to it than if we just stayed in our pew.

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  7. Very well written! My third child is 3 1/2 months and while I have always felt comfortable nursing in church while covered, it has taken until this baby for me to shed the cover (and misery) for us both! I regret the long summers spent covered up nursing while I and, more importantly, baby overheated and dehydrated from sweating so much. My husband was iffy at first, but now he’s on board. 🙂

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  8. It’s funny, my mom used to sing at church and she has told me a story of how one time she was nursing me while singing at church and I bit her and she yelped into the miceophone lol. I enjoyed reading this so much! I am currently weaning my 8 month old twins. I will miss it!

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  9. Just had my second son in November. My soon to be fourteen year old son is a skateboarder. I nursed his baby brother while taking pics of him doing Tricks at our local skate park. This environment is full of adolescent boys and Young men. I made the choice to be there for both of my boys. Remarkably I didn’t receive any long stares or negative attention whatsoever. For that I am grateful, and has since gave me the confidence to nurse anywhere. Thanks for sharing big cheese dad. Peace and blessings!

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  10. We definitely need more men to stand strong for this. Thank you.

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  11. Lovely and well written. It’s wonderful when dads support breastfeeding. It would be great if there were more dads like you. I fully intend to breastfeed all my children (when I am lucky enough to have them) and I know my partner will be supportive of that but I see some occasions when dads are less supportive and this can lead to the mum stopping feeding before she and baby are ready (I’m a Student Midwife).

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  12. I breastfeed and have done it at church in order to keep my baby quiet and not have to step out. I always cover myself when I’m breastfeeding not because I feel uncomfortable but because I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable around me. We all have to change our mentality and realize that breastfeeding is a natural thing and should not be hidden. If we all had a more open mind about it, I’m pretty sure more mothers would opt to breastfeed instead of giving the bottle.

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    • Good points. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    • I am a mother of 4 who were all breastfed. I agree with Miny. If out in public, I would simply toss a recieving blanket over my shoulder to cover up a little and not be so obvious. It is totally natural, yes, but many people are uncomfortable around it. An exposed breast, is not something we see every day. I guess you cover up just to be modest. If we lived in a topless society for women, I am sure it wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye.

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      • I agree with you that modesty needs to come into play with nursing in public. But with the array of nursing tops available to women it seems like there wouldn’t be much breast exposed. If you go to the mall (or pretty much anywhere) it seems to me that there is far more “exposed breast” to be seen that the momentary glimpse of a breast one might get through nursing.

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  13. I once got told to go to a bathroom, when i was breast feeding my son, But Unlike many people who are passive, or just ignore them. I told them, Your heathy why dont you go eat in the bathroom? where people take a shit. Let that feckal matter get all over YOUR FOOD. Your heahty it shouldn’t be that bad for you.
    But my premie son, WILL NOT EVER BE FORECED TO EAT IN A BATHROOM what if that fecal matter gets into his delciate digestive system. ”
    then they said whatever, your discusting making us watch.
    So i responded, *by this point everyone had stopped walking threw the mall and were staring. *other mothers also came to sit with me.* “Your the one that is discusting feeling that you are turned on by a boob in the mouth of a baby. wtf is wrong with you? are you a pedifie. those thoughts belong to you and you alone. And anyone else that has those thoughts are sick.

    I will feed my baby the true way, the way infants should be fed, Because your perverted way of seeing breasts is fucking rediciulious and stupid.

    By this point my husband showed up, he was getting me a pizza. My husband said hunny is this perverted dick face bothering you. I said yes, but it’s okay the whole mall knows he’s some kind of pedifile pervert that gets off on strange things.
    everyone else around chuckled.
    Other moms with their breast feeding babies chuckeled.
    Then the mall cops showed up and made the guy leave. 😀

    *I also worked at the mall since i was 16 so i know practially everyone in charge :P*

    Then while working i had to pump, I always cover up when pumping cause it looks werid and i dont like seeing it haha. ANd a worker asked me to go to the bathroom and i told her to shut up or i’ll report you for harassment, and then make sure every single food you bring for lunch is opened in that bathroom, or make you prepare your food in the bathroom.
    That stopped fast.

    People need to stand up.
    and You are a wonderful man.
    And people need to not stare, because that is unconfortable for me. I dont stare at you when you eat, why stare at my child? :/ If you dont like it, then dont do it, and dont pay attention to it. It’s not hurting you.
    ❤ 😀

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    • I applaud you and your hubby for standing up to that person. My wife and I have had to do the same thing (only without the name calling, but that’s just my personal preference). It’s amazing how aggressive and rude some people can become about public nursing. Your dedication to doing what is best for your child is wonderful. Way to go and thanks for sharing!

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  14. beautiful article and wonderfully written my fiance supports me breastfeeding our youngest is 17 months and still nursing… some family members have tried to talk to him about why i should stop because the baby is over a year and he just gives them the facts and tells them that him and I agree that the baby will wean when the baby wants to wean..

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    • Thanks for the comment. It can be very difficult to keep nursing toddlers when your extended family doesn’t support it. Stay strong and connected as a couple and trust yourself to know when to wean. Two of our kids nursed longer than 17 months. 🙂

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  15. Reblogged this on How to raise a tiger and commented:
    Finally, a dad’s perspective on nursing and nursing in public. I agree. Nursing should always be allowed, is never inappropriate and I just don’t have time (or care) for all the butters out there. (Butter: a person saying “I support breast feeding…but…)

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  16. Loved the article Mr. Wilke! I’m new to the breast feeding world (5 wk old) and really appreciate your views of breast feeding as a dad. It’s very interesting since we are currently living in France and here people are much more open to feeding in public. The first and only time I needed to feed in public I left my husbands game and went to a hallway where I was all alone. Later I asked a friend living here about how the french view breast feeding and she told me they are totally open to it anywhere uncovered etc. it’s kind of refreshing not having to worry about it!

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    • Congrats on your baby, Rachel! Boy or girl? I’m glad you’re breastfeeding your baby. From watching my wife with each of our six kids it looks like such an amazing opportunity to bond with your little one.

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  17. I am due in about 6 weeks and have decided to breast feed myself. My mother did it with all three of us, and I see nothing wrong with feeding your child in public. I knew plenty of women who would do so while sitting in the pews at church when I was younger. If anything it is wrong to deny them food just because your in a public place; sometimes you just have no other option because there is no place to “hide”. People need to realize that it is nourishment for your baby, and that your not just some creepy flasher….

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