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Bruce Jenner, Breastfeeding and Keeping it Real with the Kardashians

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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Kimberly Seals Allers

Earlier this week, after a long day of deadlines and meetings, I was desperately in need of a mindless television moment and channel surfed my way to the "Keeping up with the Kardashians" reality TV show.
 
Have you seen this quality production?
 
Three sisters on an unclear mission. One became famous for having a big booty (an apparent first for a non-black or Latina person), another recently married an NBA superstar after two months of dating, and alas, the third, Courtney, is very pregnant. At least in this episode she was. (I know from a recent trip to the supermarket checkout line that she has already had her baby and sold all the pictures.) But I digress.
 
In this particular episode, the often reviled baby daddy, Scott, did the unthinkable. He didn't show up for a breastfeeding class. O.M.G! Courtney returns home in a huff. Scott says, he didn't think he needed to go to a breastfeeding class because it has nothing to do with him. Courtney lets him know with a few well-timed F-bombs that it absolutely does have something to do with him and if he doesn't "get on her team" immediately then the relationship is over. Drama!!
 
Scott, feeling like he just received an unwarranted tongue lashing from a hormone charged pregnant woman, heads over to talk to Courtney's step father, Olympic great Bruce Jenner. Scott tells Bruce his story. "Breastfeeding is not about me," he says, looking for manly sympathy. Bruce, in his infinite wisdom and having scaled a few hurdles in his own life, sets him straight. "It is about you. It's about support."
 
Ahhhh, a teachable moment in reality TV. I feel like notifying some authorities.
 
But yes, men, breastfeeding is about you. And you don't have to have graced a Corn Flakes box to know it. In fact, many moms say their partners' attitude and support played a major role in whether or not they continued breastfeeding. This is particularly true in the black community.
 
Consider these striking findings from a recent survey by the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council, or BBIC. (Full disclosure: I'm an advisory board member).
 
When asked to choose the person who had the most important influence in her life as a nursing mom, almost three times as many women selected their partner (54%) over their mothers (21%), even if their mother had breastfeeding experience.
 
Approximately 70% of mothers consider their partners support to be extremely important to their overall confidence as a new mom, and their overall well-being as a nursing mother.
 
With our historically low breastfeeding rates and our woefully high infant mortality rates, it is really important to get our men on board. They are an important part of our "village."
 
If you or your partner don't know what he can do, I found these great tips for Dads.  Share them with your man.
 
1. The first thing a father can do to promote success is to create a positive family atmosphere toward breastfeeding. As a practical matter, breastfed babies need to accompany their mothers whenever possible. A father who views a baby's continual presence as intrusive will subtly undermine breastfeeding. The father who naturally assumes that his baby will accompany the couple to restaurants, movies, dinner parties, and meetings has given breastfeeding his strong endorsement. There's a big difference between a man who agrees to let his partner breastfeed and one who deliberately creates an atmosphere of success.
 
2. Fathers can play a key role in bolstering their breastfeeding partner's confidence by showering them with compliments, praising their efforts, and offering words of encouragement. When a woman is under extreme stress, a man may not know how best to support his mate. He may be uncertain whether she wants to hear, "Don't give up; you can do it!" or "You've done your best. It's okay to switch to bottle-feeding." If you are not sure how to respond to your partner, try explaining that you don't know exactly what to say, but you want to support her in any way you can. Just being a sounding board might be all she needs on a specific day.
 
3. A father can help in so many ways that it's hard to imagine why many men feel left out when their wives breastfeed. A father can go to the baby when he or she awakens and bring the hungry infant to his wife. While the mother is nursing, he can pour her a nutritious beverage, massage her shoulders, compliment her, and lovingly admire his nursing baby. After the first breast, he can burp the baby and help arouse the infant for the second side. When the feeding is complete, the father can change the infant and put him or her down to sleep.
 
In the BBIC survey, moms said, partners could best help by changing diapers, listening to them, praising them, supporting them with family and friends, and burping the baby as key examples of support. 45% of moms would like more help with chores and 36% would like their partners to get up with them at night.
 
So you see Scott, and thousands of other Scott-like men, we do need you. There is much for you to do. It is about the support. Thank you Bruce Jenner.
 
Watch this video to see the webcast of the full release of the BBIC's findings on women and breastfeeding.