What? She dares question the sacred topic of breastfeeding? Oh yes, she does! Hey, look, it’s obvious that, in an ideal situation, breast milk is best for a child. It is a natural and beautiful thing. But when it comes to choosing what is best for a child, there are many factors to consider. Parents, together, should discuss those factors (financial considerations, convenience, expected pros and cons, etc.) and decide what works best for their family. When parents separate, the considerations become far more complicated. Parents need to work together to ensure their separation does not impact the child’s healthy development and opportunity to bond with each of their parents.
When it comes to child custody, this is an area where women immediately have a leg up on men; after all, a man cannot breastfeed. The family court system may use the breastfeeding aspect alone to determine the custodial parent, favoring the mother, limiting the time a father has with their child, and preventing a father from having their child overnight. The family court system does not intervene or advocate for the father’s legal rights. A father cannot interject and have their say in the breastfeeding decision or in how long a mother chooses to breastfeed. This must be a joint decision between both parents. The law says that a mother and father have equal rights when it comes to their child, so why aren’t the family courts allowing a father to contribute to the decision? Why does a court have authority over a father when deciding what is best for their child and what their child should consume?
Breastfeeding is known to be protective in terms of physical well-being and cognitive well-being. It provides certain immune factors for a child (the physical benefits) as well as aiding in the mother-child bonding experience (psychological benefits).
A father may have concerns with their child breastfeeding for a variety of reasons (age of the child, unhealthy habits of the mother, etc.) Breastfeeding mothers need to take care of themselves in order for a newborn to reap the benefits of breast milk. Too much caffeine, for example, can be unhealthy for a child; caffeine in breast milk can agitate a baby and interfere with a baby’s sleep. Smoking not only reduces milk supply, it changes the taste of breast milk and interferes with a baby’s sleep; secondhand smoke increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections. There is no level of alcohol in breast milk that is considered safe for a baby. Pumping and dumping does not speed the elimination of alcohol from a body, and there is a long list of possible negative side effects children experience when a breastfeeding mother decides to drink and breastfeed. A father should have input into what their child consumes, particularly considering the risk to their child’s health and well-being if a mother is making unhealthy choices.
If both parents agree that breast milk is the best choice for their family, the next consideration is whether or not breastfeeding will impact the time a child has with their father, or if it will prevent the father from having their child overnight.
Undoubtedly, the most important influence in a child’s healthy development is having both of their parents involved in their life; any other factors (bottle vs. breast, economic considerations, etc.) are secondary. The benefit of a child spending time with their father significantly outweighs the benefits of breastfeeding. The majority of Americans are bottle-fed, and there are no known negative long term effects of being bottle fed; conversely, it is proven that when a child loses time with their father, they will experience many negative and long term effects.
Fathers positively influence a child’s physical, cognitive, and psychological well-being. Children show significant gains in intellectual development when their fathers are involved with them as infants, and they are more active and confident as teenagers. Involved fathers are known to enrich their children’s self-image more than mothers, resulting in children who are less stressed, have longer attention spans, a greater interest in education, higher test scores, and a better sense of humor!
With all of this said, there really is no reason that breastfeeding should interfere with a child’s time with their father anyway. A woman can begin pumping breast milk soon after a child is born; breast milk generally comes in 2-4 days after delivery. The Mayo Clinic recommends pumping more often, as the more you pump, the more milk you’ll produce; you can even pump too much (and freeze it) to ensure there is always enough milk available when mom is not around. This offers the child the immune factors of breast milk (physical benefits) as well as aids in the mother-child and father-child bonding experience (increasing the psychological benefits).
So, the point here isn’t to convince you that breastfeeding is not the best choice, and it’s certainly not to convince you that Dads are more important than Moms. The point is to reconsider the social norm; consider the research, the facts, and agree that both (fit and involved) parents should have a say in the breastfeeding decision. Agree that breastfeeding should not interfere with what is most important to a child: both parents being active and involved.
Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing that needs to be a personal decision between both parents. Children are 50% of their mothers and 50% of their fathers physically, mentally and emotionally, as well as through the eyes of the law, and both parents need to evaluate all factors to determine what is best for their child.
Author: Debra Childs
Read more about Debra here…