Dear Mr. Dad: I am newly pregnant, and even though our baby isn’t due for a few more months, my husband and I are already having a major disagreement. I want to breastfeed for at least 4 or 5 months and my husband is scared of breast milk. I have tried to tell him it is very natural and healthy but he insists that it is “gross” and doesn’t want me to do it. What can I do?
A. First, congratulations on your decision to breastfeed! It’s one of the most important choices you can make for the health of your newborn. And the science is there to back you up.
To start with, tell your husband that breastmilk is the perfect blend of nutrients for your baby, and that there are huge benefits. Babies who are breastfed generally:
- Have less colic, gas, and spitting up
- Are less likely to have diaper rash
- Have fewer cavities
- Develop fewer allergies
- Have better immune systems
- Are less likely to become obese later in life
- May have higher IQs
I also want to suggest that you consider extending your breastfeeding plan to at least six months. One recent study found that babies who were breastfed for four months were twice as likely to have recurrent ear infections and four times more likely to get pneumonia than those nursed for six months. Those extra few months can make a huge difference.
I have a feeling that you know at least some of that. But back to your husband. The goal is to get him to support your decision to breastfeed. Well, if the above benefits don’t impress him, try appealing to his practical side:
- Breastmilk requires no preparation, no heating, no bottles or dishes to wash
- It’s free—formula’s not cheap these days
- It never runs out and there’s no waste either
- Diapers don’t stink–breastfed babies produce stool that smells almost sweet–especially when you compare it to the formula-fed kind.
- Nursing your baby will help you get your pre-pregnancy body back. It also is a wonderful way for you and your baby to bond.
Of course there’s no way to know for sure why your husband is feeling the way he is. Dads—especially new ones—have all sorts of unfamiliar emotions to grapple with, and he may simply be confused. The best approach, of course, is to engage him in a conversation. It’s entirely possible that he was brought up to believe that bottle-feeding is more “proper,” that only poor people breastfeed their children, that there’s something dirty about it, or he may even have an honest-to-goodness phobia about breast milk (is he squeamish about other bodily fluids as well?). Listening respectfully and non-judgmentally to his concerns could go a long way toward resolving your disagreement.
But at the end of the day, it comes down to this: breastfeeding is best (even the formula companies agree). And your husband should not allow his personal “gross-out” feelings to get in the way of making the best choice for his baby—it’s immature and selfish. As new parents, you’re going to have to get used to the idea of putting your baby’s needs ahead of your own. This is a good time to start.