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Interview 20

Age at interview: 29
Brief Outline: Two bottle fed and two breastfed children. Closely involved in baby care, supportive of breastfeeding. Difficulties with an unsettled baby who was eventually diagnosed as dairy intolerant.
Background: This 29 year old, White British man had sons aged 11 & 9 (not breastfed), a stepson of 10 (not breastfed), a 3 year old breastfed daughter and a 6 month old son, who was still being breastfed. A sales/events manager, he was married (Interviewee 10).

More about me...

This man has five children, one of whom is a stepson. Two sons from his previous marriage were bottle fed and the two from his current marriage, a daughter and a son, were both breastfed. He discusses the different developmental rates of his children and observed that the breastfed children seemed to develop more quickly. He thinks that the father's role with a breastfed baby is important and that there are many things that a man can do to have 'quality time' and to establish a strong relationship with the baby, such as spending one-to-one time relaxing with them on the play mat, listening to music or watching television. He also discusses issues such as breastfeeding in public, men's attitudes towards breastfeeding, night time parenting, going out and marital relations. He feels strongly that he and his wife are a team, working closely together to provide for the children and that it is important to ensure that 'the communication lines' are open. He also talks about his experience of trying to get medical help for a baby who was eventually diagnosed as dairy intolerant.

 

He thinks that bottle feeding became so ingrained that people forgot how to breastfeed and the...

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He thinks that bottle feeding became so ingrained that people forgot how to breastfeed and the...

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Well the history of it, in my opinion, in my humble opinion, as I said back along the, it, there was a major push in this country to have, it was, basically, bottlefed, bottlefed, bottlefed, and people have very bad short, I mean, in my opinion, people have very, very bad short term memory in history, they don't remember what things were like before things happened. It's like I get people turning round and saying what was what? Yeah we have one that says, 'You can't breastfeed because you haven't sterilised your nipple, because it could be, you know, unhygienic'.

What was your response to that?

My response to this was of course back in the medieval time when knights were bold then obviously the young maidens used to go into the field and get their, you know, their [disinfectant] and put it on their nipples, no I don't think that actually happened, you know, we've been doing it as, as a species for thousands of years, why would it now be fatal? Don't think it would be. So [laughs] I was kind of '

You were going to give me another example.

What was the other example I was going to give you?

People's short term memory?

Oh people's short term memories, basically people's short term memories is they forget the times where people, because everyone is so, basically what's happened is they had this big thing back in long where bottlefed was best, bottlefed was best, bottlefed was best, then, that's got so ingrained into people's knowledge and people's memory that now you've got a situation where people are, it's the, it's unusual to have breastfeeding people, it's more usual to have bottle feeding, and people can't get their heads around it, you know, I mean I'll go back to my medieval times, they weren't, obviously they'd say people that used to go down the local chemist on horseback to get the cans of SMA from their own use it, they'd have no knowledge of it's history of what it, you know, how long it's been around and it just makes, it just, defies belief a little bit and these are also the same people though that criticise breastfeeding, that turn round to say it's not right, that it is a taboo subject, and yeah there are some extremes in it, there's been, on local, on television recently there's been extremes where, you know, you've got women breastfeeding children six, seven years, I'm not saying I advocate that, but, breastfeeding for as long as you want is your choice, if they want to do that, that's their choice but it gives them the best start in life that they can have, so yeah that's basically my kind of take on the history of breastfeeding.

What about your attitude to the breast as a sex symbol?

I think, my attitude towards it, it's like a switch, in my opinion, in respect of myself anyway I don't see it as, when she's breastfeeding, I don't see it as a sexual affair, it's a tool, it's there, it's to do a job. If you're in a sexual situation, yes I do see it as a sexual object, but I don't, but then I'm very mindful of it, because obviously if she hasn't fed, it's going to be very tender, it's going to be hurting, it's going to be sore, you know, nipples are going to be cracked, sore, painful, so you very, you have to be mindful of what it is. You know, kind of a look, don't touch situation, in that some respects, because it's pretty sore. But it's, you have to kind of get your mind into that switch on and off, which most people can do, I suppose, but you need to just basically consider it that you need to be, it's not seen as, you don't see it as a permanent sexual object, and then you just don't get embarrassed about it. It's just one of these thi
 

Having a baby brought about lifestyle changes and the social life that he and his wife gave up...

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Having a baby brought about lifestyle changes and the social life that he and his wife gave up...

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What about going out together as a couple?

Going out together as a couple? People do that? I didn't know. Basically when you're a new parent you just don't go out [laughs] basically, you have to accept that you, when you become a new parent you have to accept there's going to be lifestyle changes, and you have to accept that [laughs], you know, you going to realise that going out becomes a rumour that you hear people do but you never actually experience yourself very often. Realistically you do get people that turn round and say, 'Oh I've gone on to bottle feeding because I want to go out, I want to have a life, I want to have a career, I want to do this, I want to do that, okay. And you didn't consider all this, before you fell pregnant. Which in fairness a lot of people don't but it just goes through your head it's, a bit of an incredulous thing, I mean to be honest, when I had my first child which was a very long time ago, it was about, it was ten years ago, I have to admit I considered, and I wasn't the most responsible person at the time, I considered what might, the impact the child was going to have on my life and I knew I wouldn't be going out, I knew I wouldn't be doing bits and pieces, but you've just got to get over it, just get on with what you've got to do, you know what I mean? But with, I mean the added emphasis is that, you know, when you're breastfeeding the rumour is, apparently, you can't go out, you can't, you can't go out because you're breastfeeding a child so, it's feeding every two hours, you can't come back, you can't do this, you can't do that. If you express the milk off, the person you leave him with knows what they're doing, and you're not leaving him for stupid amounts of time, then it is possible that you can do that, you don't have to put them on bottles, you can express your own milk off which will help just as much. Or store it, freeze it, store it, use it when you need it. You know, there's no reason why you can't go out, I mean there's other aspects as well obviously, you know, whether you get childcare, whether you get someone you can trust? You know, make sure the child carer isn't an axe murderer, you know, you do get things like that, but you have to accept that you won't get time to go out and do bits and pieces that you want because yes the baby will be attached to you but if I'm honest, if someone was trading said, 'Right you can either go out, go out on the town, get hammered, or go out and have a brilliant time, or have what's best for your child' the child wins, total percent, you know, I'm not going to thing but, if, but I can, but when the baby, you gradually accept that is also, you know, most people live for eighty odd years, so you're spending the first like six months of your life, or six months out of your life looking after a child, or a year out of your life, looking after that child, well okay then well you've got another seventy-nine years to kind of do what you want with, you know? And also remembering that this is the child that you kind of, you want to give it the best start in life, you know, you want it to turn out brilliant, you want him to turn out the best he can be, because, you know, basically it's, that's just what it should be, this is, that's the focus should be. If it means giving up your social life for six months do it, you know, forget it, just get over it and just go for it, because it's either going to be that or you're going to get, or you bottle feed it, you don't get as attached, because if I'm honest, if you're putting your social life above your child now, then you're going to, chances are you're going to do it over and over and over again. I mean, that means when you're, you are eighty, he's going to be the one putting you in a home, he ain't going to care which one he puts you in, unless you're building up now to make sure he puts, you know, you got to, it builds a social re
 

He supported his wife in her breastfeeding and says that he can experience feeding with a bottle...

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He supported his wife in her breastfeeding and says that he can experience feeding with a bottle...

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Can you remember how you've felt or what you've thought when your wife said she wanted to breastfeed?

I was chuffed actually I thought it, 'Good on ya' it would be good for her to, I knew it was good for baby I, and by this point I was a bit old and so it wasn't kind of the, I mean, I thought it was good for baby, I was concerned about her get, at that time, you know, breastfeeding in public, not so much of me being embarrassed or anything but more public reaction to her. But she was, I was really, basically more impressed with her determination she had that she wanted to do it and the focus that she had, that she wanted to do it, and I just thought, 'Yeah well, you know, if that's what you want to do, that's what you want to do, you know, we'll go, you know, go for it and I'll support you any way I can'.

So what did you see your role would be in all of that?

Well [laughs], briefly I thought that (a) she's breastfeeding the child that means I don't get up at night, excellent, that changed. You know, basically my role would always be supportive and that's how I always saw myself to be as the support, support mechanism for her, and we do work very much as a team anyway. But we do but so like basically if the night feeds, I'll get up with her, you know, change baby's bum, do bits and pieces, so, 'cause obviously breastfeeding takes a lot more energy out of, out of the lady than, you know, than the feeding does. So I basically took up the role of doing the extra bits so like mum would get up and, you know, she'd get up and do the feeding and then I'd get up and like burp him, change him, do all the bits and pieces, give him another feed give her back and then he can have a feed, that's how the roles set it. To be honest that's how it stayed for both my younger children I mean even with my youngest one now I get up, I mean, for example last night I was up every two hours with him, in fact, no last night I was up from eleven, from eleven till three and then four till six with him because he was having a bit of a bad time, he's not very well at the moment. 

I have heard people say that they want to put the baby onto a bottle early for two reasons and I want to ask about each of these.

Okay.

Firstly, so that they can go out with their partner and leave the baby with someone else. And secondly, so that the father can feed the baby. Talk to me about the father feeding the baby, do you ever feel resentful that you can't feed the baby?

No, because I can, you see, you can express milk, there is no reason why, as long as the breastfeeding is at, I mean this is a personal opinion but, with breast, fathers feeding the breastfed child, you can do that because you can express milk. I mean at the moment I've got two lots of breastmilk in the freezer, my other half's going out tonight, she's going to have a couple of drinks 'cause she deserves it, fair enough, so tonight for the first few feeds, if he does wake up tonight, he's not going to be able to feed off her, I've got some milk ready to go, so I can just say alright fine I'll just take over breastfeeding. Blokes that feel resentful, in my personal opinion, I understand why blokes feel resentful for their wives breastfeeding, and feeling left out, but mostly it is a jealousy issue or it's an issue where they just feel that they're being left out of the loop altogether. But there's ways around it, you just find a way, seriously you just find a way, you know, it's expressing milk, and also not being funny and to any bloke that may be listening to this in the future to get yourself major brownie points offering to feed a child while your ma, partner's absolute
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