The day I stopped breastfeeding is the day when my boyfriend got significantly more involved in taking care of his daughter. The bottle has been the Great Equalizer in our parenting capabilities. And now I am happy to say that, on the days when I need to take some time off, leave for a few hours, I know that my daughter is just as comfortable with her daddy as she is with me.
When I was pregnant, my boyfriend actually mentioned that he was looking forward to getting to feed our daughter. Feeding time is such a special time to spend with your child. You get to sit down, relax, and look at the each other while baby gets nourished. While breastfeeding has so many advantages, it’s sad that dads don’t get to participate in this special time.
While some women use breastfeeding, not only to feed their child, but to also put them to sleep, to calm them down when they are feeling distressed, and to bond, women who don’t breastfeed need to find other ways to fulfill these tasks. You learn to sing to your child, rock him, walk around with her while bouncing up and down. You learn to sooth him through the sound of your voice and through a look in your eyes. You give her your finger to hold onto and a pacifier to suck on. These tactics aren’t less effective than giving your breast to your child. But the main advantage of them is that both mom and dad can use them.
When reading “The Attachment Parenting Book”, I was a bit angry at how much the authors downplayed the role of dad in the early months of a baby’s life. Yes, mothers are important, but I do believe that the fact that they are the primary caregivers of babies is a relic of our pre-feminist era. Women don’t have to be the primary caregivers of babies. Even if you breastfeed, your partner can still be just as involved.
I don’t think that men are less sensitive and intuitive than women, as many people including Dr. Sears claim. Put a baby in a man’s arm, and you’ll see his heart melt instantly. If men had more exposure to babies early on, learned how to take care of them as much as women did, and if we as women actually let our partners take a more active role in raising their children without hovering and feeling the need to control what they’re doing, I’m sure we’d notice how great they are at it.
If we really want to be feminists, we have to accept and encourage men in their fatherly roles. We need to give them the space that they need to establish a relationship with their children early on. The Quebec government has gone to great lengths to even the playing field: gone are the days of short paternity leaves and long maternity leaves. They are now called parental leaves, and can be divided between partners in the way that best suits them.
Just as two gay fathers can raise well-rounded children, men in heterosexual relationships can be just as important and involved. We just need to leave them the