My 3-year-old son asked me:
“Why can’t men breastfeed?”
“Well, because only women have breasts.”
“No. (Showing me his nipple): I have a breast, too.”
Of course, explaining to a little child about mammary glands and more was too much. I laughed but asked myself: why does the male human have nipples, after all?
For my surprise, it wasn’t just a “child’s doubt”. There are people doing serious researches and also publishing books about the theme. I found out, too, that it is actually more a matter of hormones than of mammary structures (fact: due to the maternal hormones during the gestation, boys can be born with milk inside their little breasts, and newborn girls can have a “pseudo-menstruation”).
I even found out cases of men who breastfed their kids. Have you ever thought about what could happen if it becomes commonplace?
If men breastfed…
… the care for the newborns could be shared. Father and mother would take turns nursing. With bigger intervals, the nipple fissures would have more time to recover.
… while one nurses, the other could take care of the oldest kids, attenuating the jealousy among brothers.
… the maternity leave would be for the couple. So, there would be no more discrimination on the labor market, since the conditions would be the same for men and women.
… the exclusive breastfeeding for twins and triplets (so common nowadays) would be easier.
… in case of impediments for the mother, this time would be calmer.
… the milk banks would have more donors.
… breastfeeding in public would be seen as natural, and not as “indecent exposure”. By the way, men usually take their shirts off.
… men would be able to feel more intimately the physical link with their children.
… children could indistinctly call “mom” and “dad”.
That last topic deserves reflection. We women always complain about the overweight and incomprehension from men. Would we mothers, however, be inclined to share that power? the power of being exclusive in the children’s preference?
More: would women approve a legion of such “maternal” men? A quick look at the photos with men breastfeeding automatically causes some discomfort.
Since men don’t breastfeed…
… they literally don’t feel what it is and, because of that, in order to comprehend the dimension of the task, they need to be INCLUDED in the process.
Let’s remember that breastfeeding is a very recent thing in our postwar society. Men just don’t understand the importance of raising this flag. Before the immense disrespect to women, an angry reaction can be natural and the most probable. Although, as my mother says, “don’t worry about the chaos; put in it the missing element.”
Diminishing men, judging them as “Homers Simpsons”, selfish, weak before pain, rowdy, inept, rude or violent people DOES NOT HELP. At least, we stay at a nil-nil draw.
Only observing the current place of men and trying to equal them with truculence and meanness are not the best way for women to find their place. I have two boys and definitely it’s not the legacy I hope to give to this generation. If I keep attached to this imagery and harp on about the same distorted values of a sickly society, what can I expect from my kids? that they become “Homers Simpsons”?
That’s the reason why I believe in a mutual respect posture.
I end this post with the phrase I said to my 3 year-old son:
“You won’t be able to breastfeed, but you will be able to hug your little kid very tight, in order for him to hear your heart. In the same way your Daddy does with you.”
You can also see:
This post in Portuguese: Se os homens amamentassem