Colds and the flu always surrounded my poor babies. Before I stayed home with them, I taught high school language arts. My students gave their nasty germs to me, and even though I nursed my children, they still got "lighter" versions of my illnesses. Seeing sick babies is always difficult for me, but it's even more tough with a nursling who struggles to latch with a stuffed nose.
My husband and I created a routine to make nursing a sick baby easier: I showered and dressed before work, and then he showered. Only about five minutes into his time, I handed him a small towel and an infant. The warm water and steam rinsed off goopy eyes and cleared stuffy noses. Daddy finished showering, and I nursed a relaxed and latch-able baby.
I no longer teach, but my older two children are in school and bring home germs to the baby. We continue our routine, as he still volunteers to shower the baby if the tiny nose stuffs up again.
This seemingly small task makes my nursing life easier, as does all of my husband's help. Nursing is an important, but fractional part of our larger parenting work. I may do the actual, physical feeding, but their father provides indispensable support as I nurse.
I've heard friends make the argument that by formula-feeding, they are not the only ones responsible for feeding -- that the father will bond with the baby and will do "just as much work" as the mom.
In our family, we have found ways, apart from feeding, for my husband to bond with our babies. Showering tiny sick ones is just one of those ways. He lifted our babies' tiny arms to wake them when they fell asleep at the breast. He carefully positioned them around my cesarean section incision for more comfortable nursing. He remembered advice from the lactation consultants and pediatrician as I sat in a new-mom daze. He helped me cover myself with a blanket as I ventured out as a new mother. As I grew in my confidence, he stood beside me as I publicly breastfed without a cover. He has listened to me discuss my breastfeeding theories and observations and defended me when family members questioned why I was still feeding our baby "on the boob." When others question why I didn't start feeding our first baby solids at four months, he quoted the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization statements about breastfeeding for six months.
Now that I nurse our third child, he provides healthy answers for our older two children when they ask: "How does the milk come out? Where does the milk go? Why does Cara not drink from a bottle? I want to see the MILK!" Most importantly, when my impressionable son asked why I nurse the baby, my husband said, "Because that is how it is supposed to be."
Normalizing the process for the next generation -- acting as a role model for a son -- is important work. My husband has defended, physically helped, and mentally supported my breastfeeding. He does it all, not because he came to our parenting relationship as an outspoken breastfeeding advocate, but because we parent the best way we know how, and we do that together.
We have always seen breastfeeding as a part of parenting -- and we parent together. I supply the food for a tiny fraction of our children's lives. He has at least seventeen years to feed our babies. I have breasts for food -- he has big bear shoulders for the kids to ride around the house. Together, we provide both the physical and mental nourishment for our children.
Lauralee Moss lives in Illinois with her husband, three children, and crazy dog. She writes at switchingclassrooms.com.