Children deserve to be raised to appreciate the equality and complementarity of men and women in the context of lifelong marriage. Fathers offer essential spiritual and emotional support to their breastfeeding wives, and they provide for and protect the nursing couple. These early acts of service lay the groundwork for fathers' unique and irreplaceable role in their children's lives.
Commentary by Andrea Nease, CNML Board Member
God designed the female body to grow life both in the womb and with the breasts outside the womb. Rather than trusting in God’s design, many husbands and wives decide to change things and have the husband help with feedings, and comforting that would normally take place at the breast, by using a bottle, formula, or pacifier so the father can bond with his baby. This takes away from the special bonding God, in his infinite wisdom (which we don’t always understand), designed for the mother and baby through the nursing relationship. It’s become so common we don’t really think about a husband and wife sharing this role. But would we, as a culture, feel so indifferent if people were pushing to find a way for men to grow babies in some sort of transplanted womb? Or grow a sort of “test tube surrogacy” baby up through birth outside a human body so things are “equal” and a woman isn’t burdened with pregnancy? Should the same people supporting fathers sharing the feeding and comforting, which would normally take place at the breast, also be upset that fathers cannot physically participate in pregnancy? In both Luke 11:27 and 23:29 we see the womb and breasts referenced together. Our society seems to remember the womb and pregnancy is a blessing, but we often discredit the breasts being “blessed”.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Patricia D. Lockhart
(A U.S. Marine reunites with his family on Marine Corps Base Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, April 21, 2010, following a deployment to Afghanistan with the 3rd Marine Division' s Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7. The U.S. unit worked with the Afghan National Army to increase their effectiveness in counterinsurgency operations.)
Mothers and fathers having different roles does not take away from the family, but rather makes each role more unique and special. It gives each person a purpose and responsibility, and opportunity to grow in virtue. Ecological breastfeeding has taught me so much and helped me grow in holiness. I would not have been able to practice ecological breastfeeding had it not been for my husband supporting me along the way. Just as husbands support women during pregnancy, they can continue supporting through the nursing stage, helping in various ways. I was recently listening to Greg and Lisa Popcak on Catholic radio and Greg made an interesting remark about how young children regard the mother and themselves as one person, and therefore the husband has an essential role as being the first “other” the child is introduced to in life. What an important role for a father to have! They also gave some interesting statistics on how fathers have more influence in children maintaining life-long faith than anyone. The nursing relationship does not undermine the father’s irreplaceable role. One might argue the deep relationship and trust that is established at the breast helps the child grow and bond with the father in a deeper way.
Pope Pius XII, in his Address to Midwives, said:
"Now, the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, much less superior to the primary end, but are essentially subordinated to it."
When fathers submit to God's natural law and support the breastfeeding relationship, rather than intervene, they can rest assured they are making a decision that is in the best interest of their primary concern: their child. Not only does the breastfeeding relationship foster bonding, it is also the healthiest food for baby and provides many health benefits for the mother, too. Supporting breastfeeding is another way the father can protect his family from health risks associated with the absence of breastfeeding.