January 16, 2015 This blog is what happens when two much loved things come together, breasts and milk. Sorta like Reece’s Peanutbutter Cups.
There is a massive movement afoot (or abreast) and it’s exciting to see. England and the US have been hit with a wave of “Nurse-Ins,” as women protest Victorian views about breastfeeding. Babies have to be fed on a regular basis, and sometimes that’s when mom is in a restaurant or even an Anthropologie store in Beverly Hills. And if you tell her she can’t (because some funky hang-up you should talk to a therapist about), be prepared for an army of moms to show up, armed with babies and mammaries.
For most of the 20th Century women were shamed away from breastfeeding. That was something that “primitive” women (i.e., not white) did, who didn’t have access to all that awesome baby formula. (Gee, who profited from that idea?) But now the evidence is clear, breast is best. Breast milk builds all kinds of healthy immunities and baby brains and dozens of other benefits for both mother and child. (Sorry Enfamil, Incorporated.)
So it’s a new day. Universities and workplaces have “lactation stations” where women can nurse and pump. Target has a whole row of breastfeeding supplies so women can pump the good stuff without ever missing a single post on Facebook.
But there is another part of the story that is still taboo and I’m here to break it; Breast milk is not just for babies. Google shows lots of searches for “Is it OK to breastfeed your husband?” Apparently everyone is asking about it but no one is actually talking about it. When the topic comes up, you are obligated to say, “Ew!” or “No way!” or “That milk is for the baby!” Go ahead, do it. Get it out of your system now. The reality is partners are slurping up mama’s milk for a whole bunch of reasons other than pervy ones.
Obviously, there is an erotic element. When you think about it as an anthropologist (the scientists not the store employees), it’s pretty bizarre how western culture has festishized the breast. I mean, really, their primary function is to feed children but we use them to sell burgers at Carl’s Jr.. As Abby Epstein’s wonderful 2014 documentary, Breastmilk, discusses, there’s an entire sub-genre of “lactation porn” featuring women spraying the way men spray in traditional hard core porn. (I have no idea what these films are titled. How to Train Your Dairyman 2?) But people who are intimate enough to conceive a child should be allowed to mix it up with bodily fluids in the privacy of their own barn. I mean, bedroom.
Of course, all the health benefits the baby receives can help the partner as well. (I have not had the flu this year.) However, there are concerns because breast milk has a high fat content to help the baby grow, so you might have to hit the gym if you are slipping breast milk into your coffee. Breast milk also has about six times the cholesterol of cow’s milk. That’s good for the baby but might not be good for you (unless you own stock in Lipitor).
The main reason for writing this piece (besides completely outing myself as now having an elevated cholesterol level), is that partners can REALLY help nursing moms by going on the tit. As we learned in our lactation class before Cozy was born, breastfeeding can be a lot harder than hippies make it look. And a good partner (husband, wife, boyfriend, local hobo) can really make the process a whole lot easier.
The first issue is helping with blocked milk ducts. This is going to happen a lot early on. And baby is not happy when there is no food coming down the pike. So, unless a woman in the rare position (physically and statistically) to fix this herself, Dad needs to get to work. Most people know how to suck a breast, even if they haven’t done it since they were a month old. So a good hard sucking session is going to bust up that roadblock and everybody in the house will be happy. I’m not going to say who will be the happiest. (Mom, you weirdo.)
Secondly, partners can help get the milk flowing for the baby. Sometimes baby is not willing to do the work to get the milk to let down and so, again, help is required. Some women can have a milk letdown with good Usher slow jam or an old YouTube videos of John & Kate Plus 8, but a more patient mouth usually does the trick. It’s for your family, for God’s sake.
Third is the issue of engorgement (which should be the best death metal band name ever. “We’ve got tickets to see Cannibal Corpse and Engorgement!”) Look, the milk is coming whether there is a baby on one of the nipples or not. A full breast may look “porn star,” but it can be painful, so be a good egg and help out, will ya. Momma is leaking while you are driving to a rare date night dinner? Pull the damn car over and relieve some of the pressure. No court in the land will convict you. I wouldn’t suggest doing this in a restaurant or movie theater, but in an alley behind a restaurant or movie theater is perfectly helpful (and, hot).
Of course, there is also the “pump and dump” matter. Occasionally, moms like to treat themselves to a glass of wine. Or a case of Fosters. That boozy milk has got to go somewhere besides baby. It’s not exactly like suckling White Russians, but you can always pretend that you are belly up to mother nature’s bar. Hiccup.
I know all this is “weird” to talk about. We don’t even have a term for it, it’s so taboo. “Partner nursing” seems wrong. I know I play a role in helping my wife get her supply up which helps her and our baby. It’s also an intimate bond between two parents who shouldn’t be shamed just like breastfeeding in general shouldn’t be shamed. I’ve really had enough of the Orwellian Sex Police who want to shame consenting adults. So maybe this is the next movement. A celebrity could come out as a proud “Lactation Dad.” (I’d like to nominate Kanye West.) There could be partner nursing workshops, sponsored by Lipitor. Let’s end the silence and enjoy the experience. Until then, I’ll just say, “Ew!”