Not quite science fiction: Fathering at the breast?

Australian filmmaker Peter Templeman directed this somewhat tongue-in-cheek ‘documentary’ in 2004 about a man breastfeeding (or at least, attempting to breastfeed) his baby:

Mind you, there have been, historically speaking, cases of men breastfeeding their babies – a relatively recent example being this Sri Lankan man. Now, it’s not entirely clear if a man can produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed a baby (as opposed to his mainly serving as a glorified pacifier), and the increased prolactin levels necessary for a man to produce milk may very well do a number on a couple’s sex life. It sounds weird, and for a good reason.

Then again, lactofanatics often wax poetic about breastfeeding being not merely a feeding method, but rather a vehicle for feminist empowerment, liberation and even self-actualization. They also often look at the issue from the baby’s point of view, i.e – the baby expects and deserves to breastfeed (with the foregone conclusion that Mom has to put out. Even adoptive moms). So why do they not ask, or even require, Dad to share in the experience and help provide the baby with her birthright?

Perhaps a well-planned ad campaign, shaming men into doing their part for the next generation? 😉 …

Now that would be feminist!

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9 Responses

  1. It seems appropriate to post from The Onion:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news/women_now_empowered_by_everything

    But seriously, men nursing is called something like galactaria and was noted by Aristotle in a goat. And in the Mishna there is a passage where someone states that Mordechai nursed Esther (not you;-) in order to help her keep kosher.

  2. So now your telling me! I could have gotten a lot more sleep when my baby was young!

  3. I had almost wiped this from my mind, but since you bring it up…

    From the “unassisted childbirth” website:

    “Although Raphael had written about milk production through nipple stimulation, perhaps, we thought, David could do it simply through suggestion. He began telling himself that he would lactate, and within a week, one of his breasts swelled up and milk began dripping out. When we excitedly showed my father (a physician) David’s breast he said, “Obviously there’s something physiologically wrong with David.” The fact that David had willed himself to do this, did not impress him. We knew, however, that this was yet another example of the power of the mind.”

    http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/miscarticles/milkmen.html

    It’s not the breastfeeding that gets me. It’s all the mystical goobledygook about attachment that underlies it.

  4. Oy, Nancy. That and the story after it seem rather made-up, don’t they? 🙂 . If it were that easy for men, how come so many women can’t manage a full-time supply even after giving birth to a baby and nursing her?

    Laura Shanley doesn’t fully follow through on her idea, though:

    “If a mother is completely out of the picture, however, as in the case of adoption, or a mother goes back to work and a baby is left in the care of its father, for some families male breastfeeding might be an acceptable alternative to formula bottles and pacifiers.”

    How come lactofanatics give fathers who are their babies’ primary caregivers – SAHDs, widowed fathers, male gay adoptive parents – a pass when it comes to using ‘crap in a can’? Especially if it’s not just about the nutrition, but also about the bonding.

    Willa, the term is glactorrhea. There is a passage somewhere in the Talmud or Mishna about a man making milk and nursing IIRC, but I didn’t remember it being specifically about Mordechai and Esther (gulp!).

  5. Esther… don’t you see? It’s just that we don’t have THE POWER OF THE MIND like David. 🙂

    My old flatmate was a nurse in the Kalihari in the 70’s and said she saw several grandmothers taking over nursing when their daughters died. . She didn’t believe it at first but then she saw it happen with a family she knew. Not quite David but still interesting.

    PS

    Have you looked at the rest of the site?!

  6. I know grandmothers can take over nursing with plenty of nipple stimulation, but then again, they are just relactating, and the hormones might actually help them. If the father of my children started to lactate I doubt my resposnse would be “Oh how wonderful;” more likely it would be, “Uh-oh, let’s go to the doctor and make sure all those female hormones aren’t going to give you cancer.”

  7. I can’t think of anything less attractive than my husband lactating… 😉

  8. Of course, galactorrhea. Galactoria sounds like a south American lottery.

    I learned about at the knees of a professor of rabbinic literature who named his talk ‘Mordechai the Milkman’!

  9. Lisa – I’m sure that for a lot of men, the thought of their wives nursing was pretty disgusting a few decades ago, too. I’m not suggesting men should be nursing their babies, just that if according to those who maintain it’s so godawful important for bonding and the like…there is no reason men should be left out. BTW, it was my husband who suggested the idea of an ad campaign – though he has never had any desire to nurse and is probably too hairy-chested to do so, anyhow 😆

    Nancy – I’ve actually long wondered if the reason some people respond so well to alternative medicine treatments is due to some sort of auto-suggestive process, which some (maybe like David) are better at than others.

    And yes, I’ve seen Laura Shanley’s website. Do you need me to spell out what I think of her? 😉

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