When we brought our new babies home, we had already figured out this question. Exploring our thoughts and feelings on the issue, we were set. It is still a tricky question today.
I was raised on infant formula. Most of the kids my age were raised the same way. Breast feeding was considered a hassle, un-modern (almost peasant) and some said unhealthy because of pollutants transferred from breast milk.
My wife, on the other hand, came from a family that embraced breast feeding. In her mind there was no question as to how she was going to feed our kids. She staunchly held fast that she would breast feed them.
Her strong conviction startled me. I knew it was her decision and she would bear the brunt of the responsibility. Nonetheless, it made me examine my upbringing.
As a scientist and a Dad, I needed to see the proof. A movement that started in the 1970′s claimed that breast feeding was better than formula. I researched the evidence. Momma‘s milk had all the right nutrients and immune boosters. It was also readily available and less expensive. Breast feeding promoted emotional bonding between mother and child.
After poring over every detail, I rationalized a risk/benefit conclusion. I wanted the best for my children. I agreed with the intuitive reasoning of my wife. If all went well, my preference was to breast feed.
We were blessed with all three births that her milk came in with no problems, in sufficient quantity and the kids latched on immediately. If there had been any medical issues with her or the kids, we would have switched to formula. Health was of prime importance.
I was in awe watching my wife breast feed. Coming so soon after the miracle of birth, a woman with a child to her breast holds its own mystery and wonderment. She was sustaining a new life!
This brought new questions. What was my role and duties as a Dad during this breast feeding phase? When I cuddled the kids they would try to suckle my nipple…which only reminded me that I had nothing to offer. Or did I?
My role was to support my wife with the seemingly interminable feedings. At times, she was so tired that she couldn’t get up at night to feed our child. I’d rise and bring them to her to feed in bed. I stepped up completing of household duties. Our third child had colic. I did my part in holding him, rocking him, walking him during the daily six hours of constant crying from a sore belly.
One thing that kept us going was knowing that breast feeding was for a short time. Our children were quickly weened after the first chomp on a nipple by a newly cut tooth!
I could not participate directly in the wonder of breast feeding my children. However, I did share with my wife the experience of sustaining life because we were a team. As a scientist and Dad, I found the emotional bonding as a family immeasurable.