Men resent ‘quality time’ breastfeeding

// 5 February 2008

This is a guest post by Charlotte Cooper of Subtext Magazine

Another day, another burgeoning battle on the field of motherhood and breastfeeding – the pros and the cons are force fed to us like mother’s milk, only it’s not healthy at all.

In the Family supplement of last Saturday’s Guardian, Kate Hilpurn detailed Dr. Caroline Gatrell’s work on the running of the household between heterosexual co-habiting couples and her delightful findings on men’s new keen place in the home.

Gatrell’s study showed men’s new larger share of tasks in the home included an increased amount of time spent with the kids, alone. Unluckily for the Daily Mail this does not show that women are abandoning the suckling of infants for a high-powered work-centred lifestyle, but that fathers ‘cherry pick’ their family time to increase their direct contact with a child:

Men’s desire to have an equal parenting role does not extend to child related domestic chores such as washing clothes. Indirect childcare is tedious and does not further fathers’ power in the household

This also extends to daddy’s uncertainty over breastfeeding.

So strongly do some men feel about seizing all the quality time with their children that they even resent women for breastfeeding, according to Gatrell. ‘Some fathers regard it as an inconvenient barrier to the establishment of paternal closeness to babies.’

No only, then, are women under pressure because of the health benefits of breastfeeding – often used to berate new mothers rather than build confidence – and because of the social stigma attached to the clearly hideous pornography of breastfeeding, but now because it might cut into their partners’ ‘special time’ with the newborn.

Of course, if you Google male breastfeeding you’ll find there are plenty of terrifying and interesting articles. So there’s still a chance fathers can stop complaining and get in on the game, and maybe nursing mothers can get a little shut eye.

Editor: I couldn’t resist adding this lovely quote from one of the husbands interviewed by Gatrell. The only possible response is too rude to post here:

“I know that intellectually I am supposed to agree with everything that is happening to me,” he said. “And, you know, I do want a best friend, not a housekeeper. But if I am honest, there are times when this equality thing is hard. And I don’t say this to her but I think, ‘Well why haven’t my shirts been ironed, and why is there no food in the house? Why can’t [my wife] do it?‘”

Photo by jessicafm, shared under a Creative Commons license

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