As someone who has talked about his struggles finding his role as a parent, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not very often that I feed Raife.
Don’t worry, it’s not because our family is based on 1950s values, where I’m the macho man breadwinner while Emma does all the housework and take care of the baby.
I often get a funny look when I tell someone it’s rare that I feed my son. No, there is a very good reason for it. And it’s one I’m very proud of. Mums often talk about ‘Mum guilt’, and it’s becoming more common for men. As Dads become more and more involved in caring for their children, I feel like there’s a growing sense of judgement when they don’t do certain things. Feeding is one of them…
To explain why I don’t often feed Raife, I need to take you back to the first few months of his life.
Emma has breastfed Raife since the word ‘go’. She wasn’t sure she would until a few weeks before he came. But she did and she has loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it has been tough for her, as it is for any woman, but she has loved it nonetheless. She’s adored the closeness with our baby and the feeling that her body is essential to his growth and development.
Emma initially targeted six months. If she could manage six months of breastfeeding, she would be happy, she said. And then we’d switch the formula milk and solids.
Raife is a dwt (‘he’s small’, for non-Welsh readers!). Around four months in, we were recommended to put him on baby rice to help gain some weight. That advice has since been discredited by another professional, but that’s by the by.
Giving rice didn’t sit well with Emma. Not because she didn’t want to do what was necessary to help Raife, but because she felt like it was the start of a diminishing importance.
Around this time we also started to introduce the occasional formula feed before bed to take some of the strain off Emma, becoming more and more frequent as the weeks went on.
Giving Raife the rice wasn’t so bad, but Emma hated introducing the formula milk. I can still remember her sitting on the sofa with tears rolling down her cheek as she held the bottle to Raife’s mouth. On the bright side, she said, it would give me the chance to feed him.
Of course, I was excited to be more involved. Seeing my wife so upset, though, really dampened my excitement. How could I be so excited about something that makes my wife so upset?
I told Em that she should still feed Raife the formula milk the majority of the time. I could how upsetting it was for her, and looking forward to a time when Raife isn’t breastfed at all, I wanted to help Emma cope for that eventuality. Taking most of the bottle feeds now would help her feel more positive about it when the time comes.
Then we started to introduce solids – fruit and vegetable purees. I’ve probably done more solid feeds than I have bottle feeds, but I still let Emma take most of them, all leading to helping her prepare herself for a time without breastfeeding.
Do I feel bad for not feeding my son much?
Not one bit.
Now Raife is nearly seven months and Emma is still breastfeeding, alongside a bottle feed or two per day and two solid feeds. I’m still involved. I do give bottle and solid feeds. I’m there when Emma takes them, as well. But the important thing is that it helps Emma to enjoy those types of feeds. And I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all.