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Fathers:  Be Sure of What you Want...

The son of some friends of ours just turned  four.  High time for them to be having number two, one might think.  However, the mother says “No”.
I remember the time when these friends were expecting this boy.  Oh, the excitement!  Father bought everything that was said to be good for the expectant mother.  Bird’s Nest* alone came up to thousands of dollars.  Nothing was too expensive, for they knew the baby was going to be a treasured male!  They even hired a confinement lady.**
When the baby was born, the mother knew what she had to do to give her child the BEST - Breastmilk.  She resisted alcohol, eating excessive amounts of Chinese herbs and sesame seed oil.  However, being a doctor, she also had access to all manner of infant formulas - for free!
Father was delighted.  So “pleased” that he did not want the baby in their room as he did not want to be awoken in the night.  Mother sleeping in another room with baby was also not acceptable as he wanted his wife with him.  He felt that the mother should take advantage of the presence of the confinement lady and rest.  He had a strong view that breastfeeding should be confined to the bedroom.  Breastfeeding in public, he felt, was all right for other men’s wives.  Although he knew of the superiority of breastmilk over infant formula, he felt that children still grew up the same - whatever milk they drank.
The confinement lady was another story.  To the mother, who was desperately trying her best to breastfeed, she appeared very helpful.  She would not feed formula unless instructed to, and she would knock on the door of the couple’s bedroom at night to wake the mother to nurse the child…sometimes.  She told the mother that breastfeeding was the right choice.  To the father, who did not see what the big deal about breastfeeding was, she told him that infant formula was better as babies sleep longer thereby giving the mother more rest.
When we first visited the family, the baby was already a few days old.  The mother was trying her best to breastfeed her baby while the father was discouraging (without being aware that he was).  My husband and I knew full well the pitfalls of bottle-feeding during the first few days.  Our first child was on a nipple shield for 3 weeks before he managed to learn how to directly latch onto the breast.  We tried to explain the importance of direct breastfeeding for the first 6 weeks.  All to no avail.  What puzzled us most was the willingness of the father to part with thousands of dollars for bird’s nest, and yet have no faith in the infant food that was perfect for his child.

During the second month, the baby became very demanding and suffered from colic.  He would cry for hours at the top of his lungs and would refuse comfort from the breast.  He would only feed when he had gotten himself tired out.  The father, not knowing what he should do, became very hands-off”.  The only way the mother could get him involved with the baby was to let him bottle-feed the child.  In order to give her baby breastmilk and still please her husband, she would directly breastfeed while her husband was at work and give formula or expressed breastmilk in a bottle for her husband to feed when he was at home.  This arrangement helped to get her husband more involved with the baby.
Fortunately, due mainly to the mother’s sheer determination, she finally managed to begin totally
breastfeeding her baby in the third or fourth month.  She continued breastfeeding the baby until he turned six months old.
The parents of this 4 year old boy are both professionals.  They can well afford having more than one child.  However, the mother has decided that the differences in their opinions about child-rearing are too great to bring another child into the world.  And although the initial disagreements of breastfeeding was not the only factor which caused the mother to come to this decision, the father need not worry about his wife having to breastfeed again in the future.

* Bird’s Nest is the Dried sputum of cave-dwelling swiftlets found in S.E. Asia.  It is usually double-boiled with rock sugar and given to pregnant mothers during the last few months of pregnancy to ensure good complexion for the baby.
** A confinement lady is traditionally hired by the Chinese to help care for both the mother and baby during the convalescent month after birth.  She is usually a middle-aged woman with great knowledge about post-natal matters by virtue of her experience.

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