Daly Response: Breastfeeding, Family Dynamics, and Communication


Starting a family is no small decision. Expected or unexpected pregnancy involve major decisions and choices. How will you parent? How will you care for the child? Who will be the primary caregiver? Will you share responsibility equally? Attachment parenting? Extended breastfeeding? No breastfeeding? There are so many decisions to be made once a child enters your relationship. These decisions affect family dynamics and should not be made independently of your partner. They should be thoroughly discussed and mutually agreed upon. One of you may end up having to compromise but ultimately, you must do what is best for your child within your personal parenting philosophy, hopefully with a partner who sees along the same lines.

Parents these days have a bevy of knowledgeable resources available to help with their decisions regarding parenting. Pediatricians, lactation consultants, other parents, and just about everyone on the planet.

We all love to chime in on how others parent, don’t we? Especially with the explosion of social media. Judgment runs amok when a parent asks even the most innocent of questions.

Today, the NY Times posted a piece by James Daly which explores the effect of extended breastfeeding on a couple’s sex life. Daly states:

“Other men — me, for example — might be driven to engage in something even worse: sexless fidelity. Mine crystallized in Central Park one evening, while watching my wife sit under a tree with my older son, a five-and-a-half-year-old young man with a full set of teeth and chores, stretched out to roughly the size of a foal, suckling. By the time they strolled back to me and my already-nursed toddler son on the picnic blanket, I had lost my appetite — and not just for the smoked salmon. There are some things in life most men cannot share with first-graders, and two of them used to be called breasts. Now, my first grader called them boobalies, and history is written by the victors.”

Breastfeeding is recommended for at least two years or beyond by WHO, exclusive nursing for the first 6 months with complementary foods added until two years. Now, the WHO code implies “beyond” is solely between the mother and child. While I don’t think Daly’s threat of infidelity based upon his wife’s choice of extended breastfeeding is kosher, I understand where he’s coming from.

A family, when a father is present, is not just a mother and child. All too often, the father’s needs and desires are often thrown out the window. He doesn’t matter and should shut up if he so much as voices any disagreement to how his wife chooses to raise their children, run the household, or anything else.

It’s not about who wears the pants in the relationship. Feminism doesn’t mean we get to make decisions without our partner. it means we are equal to them, not above them. Isn’t that what we fought for? Not to be beneath men? So why should they be beneath us and suddenly not matter? Where’s the victory in that?

Granted, women HAVE run things in the home and the childcare realm for quite some time. But more and more, men are involving themselves in these situations. Stay at home dads are increasing in number.

Sex is also an important aspect of a relationship. It’s how we’re intimate with our partners. It’s nurturing, releases hormones, stress, and brings us closer. Yes, intimacy IS possible without sex. However; intimacy is NOT possible without communication.

That’s where I believe this issue with Daly and his wife has broken down – at the communication level.

Clearly he’s not happy about his wife’s extended breastfeeding to the point of losing his appetite. Whether he’s actually considering infidelity or not is up in the air – he may just be using that as an example. I know that when I was breastfeeding, I was not terribly keen on my husband playing with my breasts. When I’m breastfeeding, my breasts are functional, not sexual.

What many men miss is that breasts are primarily designed to be functional, not sexual. Yes, breasts are visually appealing and nipple stimulation does provide sexual pleasure for many women, but ultimately, the breast is phenomenally designed to create and make milk to feed infants, a process which starts during pregnancy.

At the end of his piece, Daly states:

“I say that the foundation of the parent-child bond is the parent-parent bond. Unlike the baby chicken or the fertilized egg conundrum, partnership precedes parenthood. That’s how you got into this position to begin with: by attracting a man who liked what he saw, and wanted to see more of what even the scientists researching extended breast-feeding call mammaries, not Mommaries.”

Daly is right but he’s also wrong. The parent-parent bond IS important to the development of a child. But many successful children are raised by single parents. We’re specifically discussing a partnership here though so we’ll address this aspect. This goes back to what I stated earlier – when you decide to have a child, how that child is fed should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Granted, that doesn’t always happen as life does not occur in a vacuum. But Daly himself states that he SUPPORTS his wife’s choice to breastfeed their sons, thereby accepting the flashing of “mommaries” instead of the “mammaries” which allegedly attracted him to his wife in the first place.

Attraction should be comprised of several things –not just appearance and physical attributes– it should include intellectual capability, sense of humor, communication skills, compassion, etc. There’s a reason eHarmony is so successful –they don’t just toss the physical at you. (not a sponsored mention.)

Physical fades. It changes. Your spouse/partner may have medical conditions (mental or physical) which impede sexual interaction. What then? If you don’t have any other basis for attraction to your spouse/partner, you’re screwed, and not in the way you desire. But is that justification for infidelity?

No.

Daly and his wife need to have a discussion about the state of their relationship because for now, I have a feeling he’s going to see a lot more of the “mommaries” than the “mammaries” if he fails to vocalize his feelings about his wife’s extended breastfeeding of their sons.

You could argue that extended breastfeeding has amazing benefits – nurturing, intellectual, etc. But you could also argue, as Daly does, extended breastfeeding impinges on the sexual relationship and therefore the intimacy of the parent-parent bond.

Here’s the thing – if your parent-parent bond relies solely on sexual interaction and seeing her “mammaries” instead of her “mommaries”? Your relationship may not have the best foundation.

Communication. THAT’S where intimacy starts. Daly should give it a shot.

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2 thoughts on “Daly Response: Breastfeeding, Family Dynamics, and Communication

  1. Thank you for seeing behind the NYT author’s sensational statements and seeing his main point. I think that if we look back at our hunter-gatherer ancestors (a large part of the evidence supporting extended breastfeeding) you will see that they usually breastfed for an extended period. You would probably also see much more infidelity. Perhaps weaning before 5 is an evolutionary trait to keep the father around? As to your point that single parents often raise successful children, I couldn’t agree more. However, the point came off to me as saying who needs the father anyway (probably not what you meant). To that I provide the following quote: “Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121135904.htm

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