How a man breastfeeds.
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.
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.