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How a man breastfeeds.

2010 May 17
by distracted daddy

Baby with Medela bottle“So are you going to breastfeed?”

That question was heard a lot. Not directed at my wife, but at me when I told people I would be taking manternity leave. Am I – a man – going to breastfeed? The quick answer is no. I wasn’t even going to try.

My wife breastfed our daughter exclusively for the first few months of her existence and continues to do so whenever she’s home. Of course, now my wife and her breasts are back at work. Leaving my daughter with nothing but my barren bosom during office hours.

Now before you go quoting that Robert Deniro/Ben Stiller scene from Meet the Parents, let me tell you that men can’t be milked. It’s not naturally possible. Not that I’ve tried. I haven’t. But other men have.

There was the well-publicized story of Ragnar Bengtsson, a Swedish man who tried to breastfeed for years. He even used a breast pump for hours a day. The ends result? Sore nipples and ridicule.

So how does a man breastfeed? The answer is formula.

Baby formula scoop

Street legal

Formula is a white powder that you mix with water to feed the baby. Or it can come premixed if you’re lazy and have money to burn. There’s dozens of options available, organic, with omega 3s, and even chocolate-flavored. The chocolate flavor is not a popular product offering with responsible parents.

I’d always assumed that I’d be boiling water, testing the temperature of the formula on my arm, like I’d learned from the movies. But no need. Formula doesn’t need to be hot. It just needs to liquid. Seems straightforward enough, but some of the formula labels have an explicit “must be mixed with water before consumption” warning. Meaning there was a parent serving their baby the powder straight up. That baby must have looked like Scarface on a coke binge.

Formula is expensive. Other white powder kind of expensive. Cut it with a credit card kind of expensive. The first hit of formula is free. And that’s not just me extending the drug analogy. That’s actually true, when we returned from the hospital with our bundle of joy we received a loot bag. In that loot bag, a container of formula, our first free hit.

My daughter can’t go more than a few hours without some formula. Large parts of my day are devoted to the preparation, delivery and cleanup of formula. And just to set the record straight, when I feed my daughter the formula it’s from a bottle. Not one of those over the shoulder faux-boobs baby feeders. Because I’m not about to pretend that I can breastfeed.

21 Responses leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    May 17, 2010

    Couldn’t your wife leave you some milk in the fridge or does it not keep?

  2. May 18, 2010

    Why would people think that maternity is only for breastfeeding!? Does that mean adoptive parents shouldn’t get maternity leave? Or women who can’t breast feed for medical or other reasons? You are staying home with your baby because it’s a gift…for both of you. No breasts necessary.

  3. May 18, 2010

    “Manternity”… that’s classic!

  4. May 19, 2010

    It does keep, but that brings up the bigger issue of pumping milk at work. And keeping that supply up, which requires a lot of storing and pumping. Some people do it, but for us it was impractical.

  5. May 19, 2010

    Very well said. All you need for a parental leave is a parent and a child. My daughter is enjoying our time together and I don’t think she’s noticed my lack of breasts.

  6. May 20, 2010

    Have you ever tried the Walmart brand forumla? It is MUCH cheaper and the ingredients are similar to that of the expensive brand.

  7. May 22, 2010

    People are so rude! Kudos to you for taking parental leave and taking care of your daughter.

  8. Leah permalink
    May 25, 2010

    Very informative!

  9. June 8, 2010

    I’m from Seattle where there’s a very strong breastfeeding culture. I applaud your family for going with what worked best for you. It’s great to see a Dad who is so included in the feeding experience. A lot of men in my neck of the woods get left out of that equation entirely. Although we haven’t used formula with our son, I can definitely see how advantageous it would be in fostering a bond between Daddy and baby.

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  21. May 9, 2013

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