I read this article just now from a woman claiming that she won't nurse her next baby because breastfeeding gave her an unfair advantage in parenting and bonding with her wee one. She, as a feminist, found this to be unequal and a problem in her marriage and damaging to her husband's relationship with their child.
Wow. There is just so much wrong with this idea! EEEEEKKKKKK! Where to begin?!
First, I am going to really tick people off and pull out my "mom of four with kids older than yours" diploma and claim more experience than this woman. (She says her baby is about one now.) So, families who are having or had their first and are a little perturbed by what might seem in the beginning like excessive mom bonding (as opposed to less dad bonding) let me tell you a few things.
1) You don't really know it yet, but each kid is DIFFERENT.
(Boy- how irritating is it when somebody who claims to be into equality doesn't accept people, including children, when they are different? Puke.)
Some kids will just cling to or be more easily comforted by one parent over the other. This might be a gender thing, it might be a personality thing, it might be circumstance at the time of birth. Whatever it is, children and babies are people too and as such they sometimes prefer one parent for certain things over another.
For instance, I am not always the world's best listener and my hubby happens to be a Chiropractor. For a living he listens to people complain about their aches and tries like heck to help them out. When my kids fall and get hurt, they don't come to me, they go to him. I don't think this makes us unequal- I think it makes us different. It doesn't make me jealous and it doesn't make him jealous when for some things they prefer me. Total equality doesn't have to be total sameness.
2) Bonding with children changes drastically over time and with age.
There are simply SO MANY examples of this in the short lives of my four children. Some were immediately tight and bonded with daddy from the first day. Others took time.
For example, my oldest is a boy and while his father always felt bonded to him from day one (talk to them during pregnancy- they recognize your voice!) he spent the bulk of time and nurturing with me for the first few years of his life. But as time goes on this changes. Now my son (who is around 9) much prefers the company of his dad over me. I am sure some of this is healthy gender identification. Some of this is also just the attention he wants and needs from dad. And some of this happens as a natural progression as you add more children to your family.
Somebody told my husband when we were pregnant with our second that you (as a dad) really bond with the children when they are replaced by a new baby. Suddenly (even if mom is the primary caregiver) dad must step up and help more with the older child. This is a change but it is a beautiful one and a totally NORMAL one. This is not however something that you would really understand when you have just one kid.
I have another who really bonded with daddy when I left on a trip when she was young. She has ever since been his girl. That is OK- I am not jealous of their healthy relationship. I love that they love each other and have their own special connection.
My youngest was instantly so attached to daddy (partly because he was the one catching her) and their bond has always been strong. Just because I spent hours nursing her doesn't mean he is too dumb or emotionally dense to figure out how to love her.
3) Breastfeeding isn't the only way to bond.
Seriously people...I don't know how to say this nicely so I am just going to say it honest. What kind of feminist who claims equality is her goal really believes that her husband is incapable of finding another way to bond with their baby?! I mean I consider myself a feminist. I also consider my husband intelligent and loving and perfectly capable of figuring something out without me sacrificing a normal biological (yet female) function like breastfeeding.
If you respect men then you respect that they are smart enough to find a way to bond with a child that doesn't involve an artificial nipple. Come on now! Men are not that stupid! UGH!
I have a hard time taking a pee standing up but that doesn't mean I am going to make my husband squat over a urinal when he is perfectly capable (because of his slightly different biology) of taking a wee while standing. We have some different (but still equal) capabilities because of our different bodies. Why can't people be OK with that?
One of my kids once said, "Daddy is strong and can lift lots of weights, and mommy is strong and can push out babies."
Both mom and dad are strong. But mom and dad are strong in different ways. Even a child can figure this out. Why not the rest of our culture?!
Men are smart. Bonding doesn't have to involve nipples. Men can and will find a way to bond with their children. Maybe it won't be on day one. Maybe it won't be for months. But it will happen if he wants it. This, I am sure of. Please show men a little respect for their own abilities and stop thinking that the unique things that women can do somehow lessens the unique things that dad can do.
Breastfeeding by mom doesn't prevent bonding by dad. DUH.
For some people the answer to "how to get dad to bond" is to still breastfeed but to pump and have him give a bottle or two a day. That is perfectly fine if you want to do it- but is NOT necessary for bonding.
~~~Lastly, I am really disappointed in academia and that fact that it has produced a woman who sincerely (???) feels that breastfeeding creates inequality in a relationship AND has gone to great lengths to promote an opinion that is based on no science and incredibly limited parenting experience.
This makes me have a sad face.
To sum up:
Kids are different.
Bonding changes with time.
There are many ways to bond with a child that don't involve some kind of nipple.
This is so simple, so obvious, and yet so forgotten. What a shame that we have come to a place where we find women discouraged to breastfeed because it causes inequality and where we treat men like they are too dumb to do anything without a stand-in breast.
Who is the feminist now?