Can a Husband Force Wife to Breastfeed?


Guest blogger Jessica Katz: I knew it was going to be really hard for me to breastfeed because I have inverted nipples.

But I had every intention of giving it my best shot. I went through lactation training and learned to use the nipple guard (it's like a fake plastic nipple that gives your baby something to latch on to). After my baby came home from the hospital, I went to a lactation specialist who told me to offer the baby the nipple and then pump and bottle-feed.

Pumping is like a cruel form of torture, and I hated it. But I wanted what was best for my daughter. Then the pediatrician told me that my baby had lost a pound since birth; she was working too hard to breastfeed. She was burning too many calories (apparently, babies burn calories if they sneeze!). So I was to pump and bottle-feed her. That meant getting up nearly every hour in the middle of the night. One shift to pump; next shift to feed. I had to pump every three hours and she had to eat every three hours. I now knew why there was a car charger for the pump: I had to take it everywhere. 

After about eight weeks, I got an infection and was told to give up breastfeeding because I had to go into the hospital for a week. I was devastated, because I wanted to be able to do this for her. My husband was upset because, like everyone else, he knew "breast was best" and wanted her to have the best. We fought, and I felt guilty -- but finally decided to give it up. My job was to be a good, healthy mom, not a breastfeeder; if it was making me sick, then it wasn't worth it. After the agony of my milk drying up, I was happier and more rested than ever. 

Now I am pregnant again, and I told my husband I don't even want to bother trying to breastfeed. With two kids under 2, getting up every hour won't be feasible. I am diabetic and I get run down very easily. He got mad and told me he wanted me to at least pump for two months so our child would get the nutrients from the breast milk. They are my breasts. Why does he have a say? His argument? It's his baby, and he should get to decide what is best for his baby. 

So we were at an impasse. I expressed how hard it was and how much I hated pumping, how I couldn't even imagine being tethered to a pump and trying to take care of a newborn and a toddler. I was trying to do what was best for everyone. He explained that he wanted to build the baby's immunity with breast milk. It's my body and I have the final decision. He can't force me ... can he? Anyway, I said I would give it a shot, but said that if it was as taxing as before or compromised the quality of my mothering, I was going to give it up. He agreed, after saying that he would do it for me if he could. Easy to say when you know that you can't!


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