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Interview 26

Age at interview: 38
Brief Outline: Father of three. Supportive of long-term breastfeeding and co-sleeping.
Background: At the time of interview, this 38 year old, English Caucasian man had a daughter aged 12 years and sons aged 6 years and 16 months, all breastfed. An estate agent, he was married to a registered child minder & school administrator (Interviewee 03).

More about me...

The father of three, home-schooled children, this man sees his role in the breastfeeding situation as one of supporter and his role in the family as protector. For him, the most important aspect of being part of a family is making sure that the children are happy, comfortable and healthy. He says that the close bond that develops between a mother and a breastfed baby can often leave the father feeling a bit remote, and that is compounded by the fact that she is at home with the child all day while he is out at work, but that a family is about people taking different roles and that the whole unit is more important than individual relationships. He described the birth and feeding of a new baby as a bit of a 'roller coaster', very moving, quite emotional but absolute joy and that hasn't changed. He now has close relationships with each of his children. They just took longer to develop. He thinks that fatherhood changes a man completely and that it is something that he grows into. In the early days, with their first baby he would get up in the night and, after she had been breastfed, help to settle her back into her cot, with very little success. Eventually, when the baby was about eighteen months old he realised that she needed to be between her parents in the family bed. Once they did that, they all got more sleep. Subsequent babies slept in the family bed from the start and they gave up on the cot that he had built! Breastfeeding is not something that he and his friends talk about but his attitude towards breasts has changed. He sees that they have two completely different and separate connotations - sexual and feeding.

 

He felt absolute joy watching his wife breastfeeding their baby.

He felt absolute joy watching his wife breastfeeding their baby.

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How did you feel watching your wife breastfeed your baby?

It felt the right thing, it just felt very natural it just felt right really, that was the only thing I can think and very happy and quite emotional about the whole thing but of course it was, you know, the whole roller coaster of the baby arriving and then the reality dawning and seeing the whole thing sort of take place very, very touching, very moving, very moving.

Can you describe the emotion?

Joy, I mean we've got a lot of photographs of me at the time holding my daughter just sort of staring at her, and you know, I'd been at the hospital as soon as I was allowed to be and because my wife was in hospital for a few days just afterwards, first baby and, you know, a few complications, but we were, you know, I was in hospital every opportunity, just going home to get changed and occasionally to eat but that was about it, but absolute joy, absolute joy, and it hasn't changed.

 

He was surprised at how frequently their baby breastfed, having assumed that it would be every...

He was surprised at how frequently their baby breastfed, having assumed that it would be every...

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Any problems with the feeding that you remember?

It was very frequent I think.

Were you surprised?

Yes, it was, it was something that we were surprised about I think as anything you kind of assume that things will go in an in a natural, in a normal course you feed every four hours and you, and you know things just sort of go along in the usual way, but it, reality isn't like that, you know, baby wants to feed when baby's hungry and, and really it was just something that the two of them got on with when as and when it was necessary but yes, more frequent that was the only, that was the only yeah sort of surprise I guess.

Where do you think the idea that it would be every four hours comes from?

Obviously that comes from bottle manufacturers and feed manufacturers, that's what what's expected isn't it? You give a baby, you give a baby of X weight a certain amount of milk at a certain time [laughs] of course babies don't quite work like that, unfortunately they can't read.

And you can't measure what they take?

And you can't measure what they take.

 

Becoming a parent was a reality check for him. He saw his role as one of support which was not...

Becoming a parent was a reality check for him. He saw his role as one of support which was not...

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So along comes baby number one, or did, did your wife decide to breastfeed before the baby was born?

It was something at that stage as my wife was pregnant we'd started to discuss and consider and it was something that she'd said she would really give a good go to, always with the, the idea in the background that there'd be some sort of a, a dual feeding with perhaps the odd bottle here and there to, some degree to allow me to be part of the whole process and also perhaps to make that being away from the child much, much easier 'cause at the time she had intended to go back to work but it was only really as baby arrived that that became real, you know, but it was all just, just a topic for discussion but I think when a baby arrives, the, you know, the reality dawns and I guess instincts take over as well, largely.

So that idea of giving the odd bottle so you could experience feeding the baby? 

Sure, sure.

Where do you think that came from?

It, don't know I think it's just one of those things that people like to think that a father can be part of the whole process, and sometimes I think breastfeeding can be thought of as leaving dad out of the whole process so I think we'd, the idea was that we would actually involve a bottle of formula in order to sort of augment that.

Had you been to the antenatal clinic?

We did, we went to antenatal classes right up until, well we missed the last one but also we missed the one about how to look after the baby, we did all the rest of it but we missed the last one because baby was a week early.

Was breastfeeding discussed at those?

I must say I can't remember particularly although I do believe it was on breastfeeding was something that was discussed and, again I'm pretty sure it was either the last one that we went to or the one that we missed that was involved.

So you don't remember a great deal?

Don't remember a great deal about it no, no, it was all a bit of a blur really at the time.

That's interesting because I've heard other people talk about their lives and introducing a bottle'

Sure.

'so that father can feed.

Yeah.

And it's not something that I'm greatly familiar with'

Mmm.

'you know, I'm trying to get to the bottom of exactly why it happens in this country. 

I think I know I guess there are a couple of reasons that I can see, yes it's one that does involve one reason that it does involve dad that perhaps otherwise wouldn't be directly involved with the whole process and to some degree I suppose it gives mum a bit of a break at that time as well, that's the idea, to be honest we never did it, our first, my daughter wouldn't touch anything out of a bottle, she just wouldn't, some my wife tried to express and then give the breastmilk in a bottle, she wasn't interested in that either, so we just, it just fell by the wayside, we never pursued it and that was the end of it really.

So you were okay about that?

Yes, I was fine with that we, not consciously I don't think, but we got round my involvement with the baby mainly by a part of the whole pro
 

His wife breastfed each child until she became pregnant with the next one. He thinks the...

His wife breastfed each child until she became pregnant with the next one. He thinks the...

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So this baby breastfed for how long?

It's been four and a half, five years.

So by then she's quite large.

Mmm very large.

What do your friends and family say?

That she, really she should have stopped feeding by now but it had, I mean it wasn't a regular thing, it wasn't well, no tell a lie, it was regular but it was just at a particular time of day.

Such as?

I think it was just bedtime basically, it was just a night time, it really got down to that, to that point, but yes I mean it was, it was quite unusual, it wasn't something that any of not anything that our friends at the time had experienced or displayed and certainly none of the family to my knowledge had fed a child for that long.

What did you think of it?

I really wanted it to come to an end by that stage, I.

Because?

I think it was just a case that really it was time to move on, I felt that it was getting in the way of my daughter actually then moving on to the next stage of her life and to some degree it was, you know, getting in-between, not myself and my wife, but it was something that I think we just needed to move on from, rightly or wrongly. I did put a link between my daughter not being particularly settled or able to settle herself to go to sleep, she still needed this sort of contact with mum to go to sleep and she was still at that stage where she, you know, she couldn't really, settle herself and go and put herself to sleep. So of course it then meant things were very much more difficult for everybody really it couldn't, you know, we couldn't go out for example because, 'cause mum had to put her to bed, if she woke up she'd have to have mum there to put her back to sleep so it just made the whole experience of being a married couple more difficult I guess.

What did you do about that?

In the end it kind of, sort of developed, my wife fell pregnant for number two and that was pretty much it because I think then she being my wife, had actually then put a, the whole sort of situation into perspective whatever you want to call it and she decided that well, you know, I can't be feeding both of them when this baby comes then really I need to be feeding the baby and not and not the child, the five year old, or six as she almost was when the second baby came along. so it was much more of a conscious, a conscious effort at that stage that she'd that, you know, she tried to stop feeding, cut it out completely, and that's when it stopped [sighs].

Did you raise the issue of this long term feeding?

[Sighs].

Can you remember the responses you got, how a conversation like that might have gone?

We talked about it, I always take the approach that, you know, very much it's a biological thing and that, you know, there is there is a big emotional bond between mum and baby and I think that's probably more important than the yeah, you know the lifestyle issues that perhaps it was causing difficulty with, and when we discussed it wasn't particularly something, I'm not the kind of person that will say, 'Look you've got to stop and, you know, this is what you do and you do it now' because, you know, there are obviously reasons for them for it continuing. So the conversations weren't particularly forceful if I remember rig
 

Having a baby brought responsibilities and a clearer distinction in roles for him. His...

Having a baby brought responsibilities and a clearer distinction in roles for him. His...

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Can you talk a little about those changes in your relationship with your wife, with a breastfeeding wife really?

Sure.

Yeah.

Sure, I think, it I mean it just, it's more about time and I think it's whether it's, whether it's about breastfeeding, a breastfeeding wife or just, you know, a start of a young family, you know, obviously you can do things together when there's just the two of you, you have no other concerns, no other responsibilities, you know, you my parents are at the other end of the country so, you know, we want to go and see them at the weekend it was a case of Friday night you jump in the car and you drive up there with another person involved you've got to make other decisions, you know, will the child travel well? It's not quite such a drop of a hat sort of decision you have to think a lot more about what you do. And as far as the relationship is concerned, that, it again, you know, you kind of just accept and expect that things do change, we remained and are still very close and very loving, but there's somebody else there that has to be involved.

Don't answer this question if you don't want to, but in terms of breastfeeding what effect has that had on your marital relations?

The relationship generally or a sexual relationship?

Sexual relationship.

I don't think the breastfeeding's had any effect on our sexual relationship, I think the children have, but again I guess that's to be expected, simply because there are other people around, you don't always feel like it 'cause you're much more tired, but it just becomes something that you have to perhaps think about a little more but certainly yes I mean children have, I don't think breastfeeding's had a direct effect.

So these lactating breasts were never a problem for you?

No, I mean occasionally you get yourself covered in milk but, you know, there you go it's that's the hazards of the job isn't it [laughs]? But no, it didn't, it didn't cause us a problem, didn't have a, I guess the only time would be if my wife's breasts were particularly sore if she, if she'd had any problems but that was so few and far between that it, that it wasn't really an issue.

Is there anything we haven't covered from your perspective, it's hard for me to know'

Yeah, no.

'what sort of things you would find important?

No, no I don't think so, I think we've covered most, most of the things, I mean I suppose really the whole thing about the way, the way we are, tends to be that we, we do have these, we do have clearly different roles in the family but I think that works well as a team, you know, we do different things and therefore bring different strengths to the whole to the whole situation, you know, we can't always all be star players sometimes we have to we have to just sort of stand in the background and let people, let other people do things and our turn will come but, certainly as far as the relationship with the children has been concerned I have noticed that as time goes on Dad's relationship becomes much stronger and that's worth waiting for.

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