Even people who agree that breastfeeding is preferable to formula will argue about when and where and how and for how long a woman should nurse her child. And the discussion isn't limited to mothers and their bevy of health care practitioners, midwives, doulas, birthing coaches, lactation consultants, and Instagram integration specialists. Dads have thoughts about the best way to feed their kids, too, and a group of them are participating in a campaign to advocate for breastfeeding and demystify the process.
New dad Hector Cruz wanted to be supportive when his wife, Nicole, had trouble breastfeeding their infant daughter, but realized he had absolutely zero knowledge of how breastfeeding actually worked. He turned to a Facebook group for help, likeyado, and found a knowledgeable community of people who gave him great suggestions. This inspired Hector to create Project: Breastfeeding, a campaign that aims to, in its own words, destigmatize public breastfeeding and educate dads about the process.
Part of that involves publishing photographs of mothers — sometimes alone, sometimes with their partners — feeding their children. The photo series also includes "If I Could, I Would," a collection of images of shirtless fathers emulating the act of breastfeeding.
Here, Hector himself explains the reason he launched the campaign, including its "If I Could, I Would" photo series:
Many women (and their little behbehs) would be lucky to have a dude like Hector around, but there are definite pros and cons to the campaign.
Breastfeeding can be hard. People feel entitled to dole out unsolicited advice to new mothers, and much of this can be delivered with judgment. It's a time riddled with lofty expectations, preconceived notions regarding the "right" and "wrong" way to nurse, fear that you're letting down your child if the process doesn't go as expected, self-doubt, insecurity over bodily changes, alienation, and pain. Real, brutal pain. My nipples recede entirly into my body every time I even think about breastfeeding. With all that in play, it's vital to have a support system in place, particularly if that comes in the form of knowledgeable, educated partner who wants what's best for a nursing mother and her child.
It's also a positive to have fathers feel involved and helpful when making decisions on how best to raise their children, and that includes being a part of choosing the best way to provide nourishment. Plus, new dads also face confusion and self-doubt in trying to be the best possible parent, and that's often ignored or forgotten.
Breastfeeding is not about men.
Again: Breastfeeding is not about men.
And there's a difference between offering support for an issue (e.g. making sure a nursing mother is comfortable, listening to her fears, offering encouragement, educating oneself about the process of breastfeeding in an effort to troubleshoot when questions arise or advice is needed) and making an issue about oneself.
The reality is that "if I could, I would" is a hollow statement. You can't and you won't, so the point is moot. A statement like "I wish I could put myself in your place" places the attention on the speaker, not the person who is actually in that place. A wish does not change the reality of an experience, although the empathetic sentiment might offer fleeting comfort.
Add to this the fact that the vast majority of men do not face the same stigma and sexualization of their chests that women do. A man won't have to face leers or looks of disgust when he tries to choose a place to feed his child. His body won't visibly change because of pregnancy and breastfeeding, and there won't be broad social judgment for those changes.
The bottom line is that a show of support doesn't look like a man pretending to breastfeed, however visually striking that image may be, because that image completely and literally takes women out of the picture. Support looks like standing beside the person going through that exhilarating, confusing, painful process. Of course, it's worth noting the coverage that having men emulate nursing for photographs brings to the issue of breastfeeding, including this very post. Which, PRO, can help inspire curious rubberneckers to learn more about breastfeeding and change their views towards nursing mothers.