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Under Pressure: Dad Speaks Out Against The Breastfeeding Culture

By Monica Bielanko |

Dads can struggle with breastfeeding too!

Usually it’s moms that are up in arms over whether or not breast is best. Now, a new dad is speaking out about breastfeeding and why he doesn’t necessarily think breastfeeding is the best way to go.

In an article published in The Atlantic, Chris Kornelis, music editor at Seattle Weekly, writes about how badly his wife wanted to nurse and the difficulty the couple faced as a result.

“There were problems with the ‘latch’ and with Thomas getting enough to eat. We went to a lactation consultant, rented a pump, and were up every two hours for a hazy routine of turning on the machine, attaching the tubes, applying the supplemental nipple system, and trying to feed a crying baby. There wasn’t much milk, but there were plenty of tears.”

Kornelis writes how switching to formula immediately changed their lives and enabled them to enjoy their son.

“That meant that I could get up on my own and feed Thomas while his mom went for six hours of sleep,” he writes. “The advantages extended beyond quality REM sleep. I got to bond with my son. I got to sing him songs and tell him stories. Those hours of father-child bonding were a good thing. I got to take him to my parents’ house for the day—without worrying about having enough milk or keeping it cold—and give Betsy an afternoon to rest. Betsy and I got to go away for a long weekend—to be together, to work on our marriage, something that was not just good for us, but good for the baby, too.”

Shine From Yahoo points out that “plenty of dads manage to bond with their babies even if their wives are nursing.” So? That doesn’t mean it’s the best option for everyone. I’m so sick of the whiff of failure that seems to surround people who choose not to breastfeed for whatever reason. It’s a personal decision and the breast is best culture seems to go out of its way to shame those parents that formula feed their babies.

As Kornelis points out, the warnings on containers of powdered formula made him and his wife feel like failures.

“I’ve never seen a sticker on the outside of a box of frozen chicken nuggets that says ‘experts agree, feeding your child chicken that’s definitely chicken and not covered in breading is best’,” he writes. “Our pediatrician told us it was no big deal to switch to formula. Do you think he’d say the same for a steady diet of fast food?”

In a response to Kornelis’ article, Shine from Yahoo’s Lylah Alphonse writes how “The problem isn’t which feeding method moms choose, it’s the fact that parents who are striving to be perfect don’t stop to consider what works best for them—and that some people think “breast is best” is a personal attack instead of a medical suggestion.”

It’s not that “breast is best” is mistaken as a personal attack. It’s that so many people make it a personal attack. I’ve seen it a thousand times on websites like Babble. Moms accusing other moms of not wanting the best for their children, pointing accusatory fingers and making new mothers who choose not to breastfeed feel like failures. Friends, moms, moms-in-law all pressuring mom to breastfeed and keep at it regardless of what mitigating factors are going on in her life.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that breast milk is the healthiest option, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best option. A slew of other things need to be factored into the breastfeeding scenario to determine whether or not it really is the best option for a particular set of parents. It’s not for everyone and the constant breast is best drum beat only serves to make women feel terrible when it doesn’t work out for them or if they simply choose to formula feed because they don’t want to breastfeed. There is a way to promote breastfeed without making parents feel like they’re failures if they end up formula feeding for whatever reason.

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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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19 thoughts on “Under Pressure: Dad Speaks Out Against The Breastfeeding Culture

  1. goddess says:

    Very true. I agree with you. But then again, I’ve always viewed my own breasts as that: my OWN breasts and what I choose/chose or choose\/chose NOT to do with them was no one’s business whatsoever. My breasts, my choice, not yours, no guilt.
    Tho none of my business, since he said it and it’s public, my opinion on this guys’ story is that his bond with his child will probably be so much more important than the source of feeding over that child’s lifetime.

  2. DeathMetalMommy says:

    Even while I feel that every mother should at least attempt to breastfeed, I don’t think they should be made to feel like a failure at all if it just isn’t working out. Sometimes there are medical reasons why and sometimes it’s something else. All I ask is that you try. All of my kids have been nursed and had formula. They’re all still alive.

  3. goddess says:

    But some don’t want to at all. And it’s really no one’s place to ask them just to try.

  4. Allyn says:

    I totally agree that people who don’t want to breastfeed shouldn’t “attempt” just to make someone else happy. I am due any day now (my due date is today, but it looks like there will be very little action in my house this evening) and have so much to do to wrap up the semester at the University I teach at. There is no way I could breastfeed. I can’t breastfeed while I teach (despite what a woman at American University believes), I can’t pump when I have hours of work to do as soon as I finish giving birth. And frankly, I am not enticed to do so. I was formula fed, was and still is rarely sick, and doing quite well. I think dads should get a say in what goes on in their family, though certainly not what a woman does with her body. If a woman wants to breastfeed, even if her husband doesn’t want her to, she should be able to. If a woman doesn’t want to breastfeed, it’s her body, despite husbandly wishes. I think it’s great that we live in a country that values women and feminist ideals of respecting women’s bodies and individualism

  5. Gloria Stits says:

    The advantages extended beyond quality REM sleep. I got to bond with my son. I got to sing him songs and tell him stories. Those hours of father-child bonding were a good thing. I got to take him to my parents’ house for the day—without worrying about having enough milk or keeping it cold—and give Betsy an afternoon to rest.”

    Really? You can only sing to your son, tell him stories and take him to your parents for a visit because you were formula feeding? What a crock! You can sing to your baby any time, stories can be told no matter what else you’re doing, and with a little planning you can take him to visit your folks and let your wife rest and still give him breastmilk.

    “Betsy and I got to go away for a long weekend—to be together, to work on our marriage, something that was not just good for us, but good for the baby, too.”

    If your marriage requires that level of work, was it really strong enough to bring a baby into? And, news flash, babies can be left over night with grandparents etc, with pumped breastmilk. But again, why would you go to the trouble if having a baby, if you just want to leave him and skip off on a romantic long weekend away? See, once you have kids you are no longer “a couple”, you are a family, a unit, not just the two of you. Deal with it.

    Here’s the thing, a strong father-son bond, a happy loved up mummy and daddy, they don’t mean a thing when you’re baby is ill, if he develops one of the myriad of health problems that he’s now at an increased risk of because he’s formula fed. And all the weekends away and story telling doesn’t mean that Betsy isn’t at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.

    It’s really sad that nursing didn’t work out for you, that you were told to trust in machines (breast pumps) and science (artificial milk) when the right advice was probably very different, but don’t try and pile a load of hate on breastfeeding, and those who try to help and inform and educate parents on why it’s the optimal way to feed and nurture your baby. Don’t try to make out that those handy bottles filled with nutritionally and immunologically inferior modified cows milk are the saviour of us all, because they aren’t. The science is over-whelming, the facts speak for themselves, and you can stick your fingers in your ears and sing “la la la la I can’t hear you” as much as you want, but it doesn’t change any thing. You’re pouring your anger and frustration on the wrong people, look at the ones (in the hospital in the first 48 hours of your sons life) who should’ve helped you and advised you, but didn’t. Breastfeeding isn’t the problem here, misinformation is, and all you are doing with this article is spreading more.

  6. Larissa says:

    Both my boys are happy and healthy and very much the centre of our universe. Breastfeeding or not (as was the case for both of them) has no bearing on that at all. I wish there was less judgment and more support of other peoples choices. Being a new parent is scary enough without piling on the guilt. If a child is loved and provided, who cares how they were fed?

    Hey Gloria, next time you walk down the street, see if you can tell the difference between a breastfed child and a formula fed one….better yet, go to a cancer ward and ask the women there who breastfed and didn’t. Scaremongering doesn’t do the “breast is best” cause much good either.

  7. diane caso, RN says:

    I nursed my babies, I worked in a newborn nursery-and supported parents in whatever type of feeding that they preferred. Bottom line here is that new parents have enough to deal with, without ANYONE guilting them. Two of my daughters were successful at breastfeeding-one was not. NOt everything works for all people…We all need to be kinder…

  8. Gloria Stits says:

    My point was, his reasons for saying formula is fantastic are garbage. And the reason women are encouraged to breastfeed are all sound. To dismiss breastfeeding as unnecessary (as the author does here) and try to make out like formula is awesome (as the author does here) is wrong, misguided, misinformed and irresponsible.

    As for looking at children and knowing if they are breast of formula fed, may be not, but a set of blood tests or a look at their gastric flora will tell you. And women on cancer wards, statistically, those with breast cancer are more likely to have *not* breastfed. Fact. Deal with it. Get over it. Infant feeding is a major public health issue, not a benign life style choice.

  9. robski says:

    Just because a parent (s) can’t or won’t breastfeed, breastfeeding should not be minimized. Its like saying because an over weight person can’t or won’t workout or eat healthy, diet and exercise are unimportant. Thats stupidity! Natural is always better than procesed and should be encouraged and promoted by those who understand the benefits. For those who can’t or won’t… ok.. thats your choice. If that makes you feel bad because you can’t / won’t choose a healthier option…thats life!!! I’d love to eat all organic foods… I feel its better for you, but really can’t afford to or am not willing to spend substantally more for it. I’m not going to knock organic foods because I can’t or won’t spend the extra money. This is why the US is constantly falling behind, because we keep lowering our standards and babying everyone. No one is trying to judge anyone…. If a family can’t breast feed you can’t breast…who cares!!! lets just not promote stupidity because you cant…or dont want too…

  10. Laura says:

    Hey Gloria

    I think your judgmental ways are disgusting and you are not welcome to chiming in your totalitarian views. Get a grip!

    You’re a sad excuse for a woman. You should think about moving to a third world country where dictatorship over women prevails.

    Everyone is entitled to their own lives here. Last I checked, we lived in America.

  11. Laura says:

    Oh and by the way, before you go running your mouth again, both my children were breastfed.

  12. melissa says:

    Laura, what you wrote sounds a lot nastier than what the previous poster wrote.

  13. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    If they’d rather formula feed, whatever, but it annoys me that he feels he has to misrepresent breastfeeding in order to be okay with his decision. Getting up to pump at night is crazy and counterproductive when frequent night nursing ~ the kind you can sleep through ~ is what increases supply anyway. I think people should do what they want and quite complaining about how everyone is trying to shame them.

  14. HRock says:

    Wow Laura, this is an open forum. I don’t think it’s really up to you to say who is or isn’t welcome.

  15. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    “Hey Gloria, next time you walk down the street, see if you can tell the difference between a breastfed child and a formula fed one….” I can. Statistically, it’s the leaner one. Yeah, I said it. Sorry if science makes people upset. You don’t have any particualar right to be spared from accurate medical information because you made a choice that’s making you feel guilty.

  16. nutterbutter says:

    LINDA TOO, all the breastfed babies I’ve known have been chubbers. Statistically you may have a better than random chance of picking a BF child out in a crowd, but that does NOT mean you can tell why one child is leaner than another just by looking at them.You would incorrectly guess my 3 children to be breastfed based on your assumption. There’s this bothersome science called genetics.
    Gloria, you are part of the problem. The situation described is very similar to my own. It is not lack of education or for lack of trying that some parents have to rely on formula to feed their children. There is enough regret and disappointment as it is without heaping on guilt. Do you not understand that it was not “a lifestyle choice” but a need to feed their child? If a mother cannot produce sufficient milk for a child the result the child will fail to thrive. Surely the higher risk of having a baby that is malnourished or failing to thrive is the first concern. You seem to believe that all breasts were created equal in terms of the ability to produce milk. Sadly they are not. The stress, frustration, and despair when this occurs is crushing. The relief that your child finally getting sufficient to eat is immense but comes with sadness and unfair judgement. Of course breastfeeding is preferable, we all know that. However feeding a baby a bottle isn’t done with a 10 foot pole. As this father discovered, the act of being the provider of nourishment helps form a bond . The advantages of bottle feeding can be enjoyed with breastmilk as well as formula. No one is piling hate on breastfeeding.

  17. TBerry says:

    You said it! I am so tired of people judging mom’s who do or don’t breast feed. Being a parent is hard enough, especially in the first months and year when your baby can’t tell you what is wrong or right with words. Having someone judge choices that are perfectly legitimate options just makes it harder to be a parent. (like to feed organic or not, make your own food or not, and breast or formula) That lack of confidence can impact the child’s well being more than the formula or breast milk can. When parents are constantly questioning if they are doing the right thing they are not playing with, reading to or just enjoying spending time with their child. The baby has to sense some of that anxiety since they seem to be so good at responding to parents moods.

  18. YvonneMommyof4 says:

    Totally agree with the article. For those who said once you have kids you are no longer a couple, I really think you should reconsider that because that is one of the reasons why the divorce rate in the US is so high. I nursed my baby but I made sure it did not interfere with my relationship. A good mom is not measured by whether you conceive naturally or via artificial method, whether you deliver vaginally or c-sec, whether you breatfeed or formula feed, whether you buy your kids expensive toys and clothes, and so on. A good mom stands by her kids in every steps of their life for as long as she lives, to love them unconditionally in every circumstances. Good luck.

  19. Ami says:

    My favorite line in this whole post full of great lines was this: “Yeah, yeah, we all know that breast milk is the healthiest option, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best option.”
    Sometimes what’s better for the family as a whole or for a mother needs to take precedence. And while breast milk is definitely the healthiest, formula is still a healthy option. It’s not like the baby’s drinking diet coke.

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