Everyone agrees that breast is best when it comes to feeding babies. But what does it take for a woman to decide to breast-feed her baby?
The biggest influence is her husband or boyfriend. But until pediatrician Gary Freed became an expectant father, no one thought to examine men's attitudes toward breast-feeding. "No one knows what dads think," declares an incredulous Freed, assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy at the University of North Carolina.
So he studied 268 men attending prenatal classes with their partners. What most distinguished the 58 percent of women who planned to breast-feed from the 42 percent who didn't was the attitude of their husbands.
"The partners of the formula moms didn't know breast-feeding was good for their kids," says Freed. And they subscribed to assorted myths and misconceptions: that breast-feeding is bad for the breasts, that it makes breasts ugly. They also thought it would interfere with sex.
Partners of the breast-feeders, by contrast, believed breast-feeding would abet mother-infant bonding, they believed it would protect their infants against disease, and they were more likely to have added respect for their partner if she breast-fed. Interestingly, Freed reports in Pediatrics, both groups of men felt breast-feeding in public was not acceptable.