MEN AND BREASTS

A recent episode of The Office featured a scene with a male lactation consultant (forgive me for not getting into details – I’ve never actually seen an episode of The Office). The online community, it seems, is a buzz with talk over this controversial idea. (a MAAAAAAN providing lactation consulting? Really?)

It has also become public that a chef wrote in his blog about using his wife’s breastmilk to create a human-milk cheese.  This was even featured on Today (with Kathie Lee and Hoda) – and wow, the responses on their facebook page have been both swift and brutally emotional to both ends of the spectrum.

This really leads me to this question…why is breastfeeding so controversial? When it comes to a male lactation consultant, that causes such a controversy and yet very few people even think once (more yet twice) about having a male obstetrician or a male gynecologist – and I promise you, that is MUCH more personal than a lactation consultant gets!! I am often asked how many children I have when I’m being interviewed as a midwife and it makes me wonder if they asked their doctor that same question. Nobody asks an oncologist if he’s had cancer – and I can guarantee (even without polling them) that there’s not a male obstetrician in this entire country (world?) that has EVER delivered a baby. Doesn’t make them any less effective as a physician! And while yes, it’s true, a male lactation consultant doesn’t have breasts and has never personally experienced breastfeeding…why does that make him any less effective as a consultant??

In Mesa, AZ (where I live) there is a breastfeeding supply store called Baby, Mother, and More – GREAT store, I send lots of people there! The owner of the store (and who you will see behind the counter if you visit there) is a wonderful man named Chuck. Chuck has been in the business for at LEAST 10 years that *I* have known him – and yet it comes as no surprised to him to hear that some women are initially a little “taken aback” when they walk into the store and see him behind the counter. I also know that he has gotten the question frequently “are you gay?”

*laugh* Okay…so his choice to help women feed their babies might be tied into his sexual orientation?? That makes no sense!! (why is it seemingly impossible for people to separate “breasts” and “sex”??) Not only that, but people act as if him being gay somehow makes ‘sense’ or makes it ‘better’ – HUH? So him not personally having breasts somehow brings to question his credibility, but if he were gay and therefore NEVER having ANY personal experiences with breasts EVER – well, THAT makes perfect sense? (edited to add: for the record as if it makes a difference – Chuck is not gay, just a super nice very smart man who happens to know a buttload about breastfeeding!)

Our breasts are such a sacred thing that not only is it more controversial for a man for see/touch those than it is for a man to see/touch a woman’s vagina – it’s so sacred a thing that even knowing that you are touching something that AT ONE TIME touched (or was inside) the breast makes people want to run away screaming and waving their hands over their heads. AAAAHHHHHHHHHH…..you made me THINK of a BREEEAAASSSSTTT!!!! After all, we can eat cheese made from the udders of cows, sheep, goats…..but even looking at cheese made from human milk is “gross”, “disgusting”, “yuck” and worth gagging over. Why? I’m not sure and would welcome someone’s attempt at explaining it to me. To experience how completely breast-phobic our society is, try this experiment: take an item (if it’s from an actual breast pump you get bonus points) – hand it to someone and ask them to guess what it is…when you tell them it was from your breastpump, try and catch it before they drop it to the floor and take rapid steps back away from you as if you are going to bite them. After all, it might have TOUCHED your breast at some point! (and people wonder why more women don’t do self breast exams….doesn’t that involved TOUCHING them?)

Or try this…take a cup of cows milk and tell someone as you sip on it, “This is left over breastmilk I had frozen and didn’t want to see wasted.” As they turn green and gag and threaten to report you to SOMEONE who can come and lock you up to protect society from you – smile and say, “I’m just kidding….it’s just milk squeezed from a cows udder.”

Phew….they will be relieved to hear that!

So I ask you, whoever may be reading my blog…what do you think of a male lactation consultant? (and while we’re at it: what about male doulas? Male midwives?) What about breastmilk cheese? (although knowing my readers we will probably see comments with recipes to other products breastmilk is good for!) What do YOU think?

21 Comments

  1. Noelia Waldo wrote:

    I knew a male CNM back in MD and he was awesome! He didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I can honestly say he was more compassionate and caring than a lot of women OB’s that I’ve come across over the years (and even a homebirth midwife). THe women at the birth center that he worked at were usually taken aback at the first thought of a male midwife, but once they got to know him, most of them wanted him to be the one to catch their babies.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink
  2. Melissa Jeras wrote:

    That is so funny that you wrote about this. I think about this ALL the time. For the record I’m a fan of all things dairy, but I just think humans are so weird. Why is it normal for us to drink milk from another species yet I’ve already gotten the question regarding nursing my 6 month old, “You’re STILL breastfeeding him? You’re not going to keep doing that until he can talk are you?” I think this is especially strange considering cow’s milk is made for, well, baby COWS! Not many people blink an eye at the fact that its designed to make a calf grow (rather quickly) from roughly 75 lbs to 1000 lbs. Its no wonder so many people are lactose intolerant! Silly humans.

    And to actually answer your question Stephanie, I’d be happy with a guy performing any of those jobs for me, as long as he was good at his profession. 🙂

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Julie Westover wrote:

    Ok – this one really REALLY made me laugh!!! It’s funny how much I loathe cow’s milk & my spouse is addicted to it – recently learned he was self-weaned at 3 MONTHS when, according to his mom, “He just didn’t want milk anymore!” huh!? IF a male lactation specialist met w/ her & informed her of developmental causes for a temporary nursing strike… who knows? …It might’ve helped & men can be very compassionate about women’s and babies’ health. There is an imbalance in the world regarding a woman’s body – is it perverse or sacred to breastfeed in public? I get more red-faced with embarrassment when I walk near a Victoria’s Secret store than seeing a woman nurse. Yet, the issue is raised about breastfeeding in public. I had an awesome OB/GYN – his associate ‘delivered’ my baby though – and he was very cold – I think men can be competent & compassionate caregivers… at the same time I am SO GRATEFUL I had women to talk to when breastfeeding was painful & I felt encouraged by other women’s courage and perseverance. The key is EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION…while trusting INTUITION, aka God’s power on earth. Pardon, gotta go feed my baby…

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Melanie Pizzini wrote:

    I ask these same questions all the time. Cows milk is just breastmilk from a cow but yet that is so normal and natural for us to touch, drink etc. My daughter weaned at 21 months and my 16 month old is still happily nursing. I get asked all the time, “When are you going to start giving him regular milk?” I tell them that he IS drinking regular milk…oh, you meant COWS milk! LOL I have never been afraid to breastfeed in public but know many who have. I see more boob and skin on the teenagers walking around the mall then I have ever exposed of my self while nursing. I wish I could understand what was so offensive about FEEDING my baby in a public place!

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Permalink
  5. Melanie Pizzini wrote:

    Oh Yeah….I see nothing wrong at all with having a male lactation consultant, OB, midwife…whatever! If they are educated, compassionate and dedicated that is all that matters. I have known many female caregivers who were less then caring and not very educated. I think it is great if a man is passionate about natural childbirth and helping women to feed their babies the natural/normal way.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  6. It was interesting to see a male lactation consultant on the web episode of The Office. And also interesting to see a male midwife flip out on his “what to expect when your expecting” reading patient on Private Practice. To know that there are males out there who are lactation consultants and midwives is very awesome!
    In the episode of The Office, the male consultant was far more supportive then the eye rolling, “babies do just fine on bottles” nurse.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  7. Katie wrote:

    I love Chuck!

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
  8. Lindy wrote:

    I think it’s understandably not the “norm” but if they’re professional, why would it matter? I think it’s ironic that people think breastmilk is some how gross, but that cow’s milk from a factory farm made by drugged up cows with pus coming from their overworked udders and who are seperated from their own young prematurely so that we can drink their product is somehow preferable!!! Not to mention that the dairy industry supports the veal industry- all those baby cows either go to be future milkers if their girls but if they’re boys, they’re off to become veal marsala!

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  9. Amy Drorbaugh wrote:

    I see that I will definitely be the minority here but I wouldn’t want a male lactation consultant. I also wouldn’t want a male OBGYN. This is just a matter of personal preference and comfort though. I feel much more comfortable discussing these thing and experiences with women who have already been through them. Does that make me sexist? I don’t think so. I’ve been to male OB’s before, I just wasn’t as comfortable seeing them as my midwives. (And I never felt that they were comfortable either). I’ve no doubt that many men are stellar OB’s and that they’re could be awesome male lactation consultants too. People are so silly when it comes to all things breastfeeding though, almost none of the arguments you hear are logical.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink
  10. Kelli wrote:

    A friend made me promise not to tell her boyfriend that she fed the family pancakes made with her breastmilk because “it was free and healthier anyway.” This is a food source undisputably designed for human consuption, though what evidence is there that a farm animal’s breastmilk or menstral cylce byproducts (eggs) are suited for humans? How is THAT not weird or gross, but mama’s milk pancakes would surely be gag-worthy? And on the topic of male providers, a loving father could easily strike an interest in helping other families. I could be comfortable with any person who can offer me what I’m looking for in a provider. A male doula would naturally offer something different than a female but if that is what I’m looking for then perfect. I think a male doula would be good for guiding my partner through how to comfort me. And seriously Chuck is a great help and is so geniune in his desire to help families that it is totally comfortable to talk with him, so I could see a male lactation consultant being helpful.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  11. 🙂 I was cruising through my blogroll while pumping for a friend’s baby, and here was this post! Talk about freaking people out when I tell them that I pump my extra milk for someone who has a (truly) insufficient supply. “Is that safe? Don’t you need to pasteurize it? Can’t she just use formula?”

    On the male lactation consultant question–I think a male consultant could be good, but I do fall on the side of preferring help from someone with successful personal experience. (I would definitely consider surviving cancer a positive attribute in an oncologist.) Given two people with the same level of education, I think personal experience adds a deeper level of understanding. That being said, I would take a compassionate, patient male _anything_ over a disrespectful, unkind female.

    Friday, March 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  12. Heather wrote:

    I have always said that my husband is better at breastfeeding a newborn than I am! Not that he actually does it, but he knows just how to get that tiny baby to latch on. I have nursed our 5 babies past a year each, but I wouldn’t have made it through the first week with any of them without his help. So… I am in total support of male lactation consultants!

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  13. Rebekah C wrote:

    Doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve been saying for years that everything involving reproduction, birthing, breastfeeding, etc, is EVERYONE’S issue. Not just women’s (or even just women that are having babies). The ramifications go far, far outside of “the moment”.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink
  14. Andrew wrote:

    I see nothing wrong with a male lactation consultant, of course I am a male. It also seems that many of the responders see nothing wrong either. How about a father helping with the breastfeeding? I mean actually breastfeeding himself with his on limited supply of milk or even using a supplimental nursing system? And before anyone says men can’t produce breast milk; you should check your biology books, men have the same equipment as women in their breast, their breast just have not been “turned on” by the right hormones. If you do some honest research on the net you will find many men that have begun lactating and helped with the feeding. You can start with me.

    Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  15. Homer wrote:

    From a Male Husband and Father point of view. I would never want my wife exposed to some strange male lactation consultant.

    I feel that any nudity before the opposite sex when it can be avoided is improper.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Permalink
  16. elfanie wrote:

    Okay Homer…would you also not want your wife to have a male ob/gyn? And make sure that she isn’t exposed to any male nurses?

    Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Permalink
  17. Mandy wrote:

    i actually agree with Homer (though i’m sure for different reasons) i’m sure the male lactation consultant is great & knows his stuff, i’m not concerned with that, but i’m a modest person, and i have enough trouble letting a female LC poke & prod at my breasts, i’m not letting a guy do that. i also won’t go to a male dr, so that’s just me. i even wore a gown in the tub while giving birth. i like my privacy.

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  18. Tina wrote:

    The breastmilk cheese makes me feel sad for all the mamas out there who are in desperate need of donor milk and either can’t afford it or don’t know how to access it. BM cheese for adults is like “stealing candy from a baby.”

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  19. Virginia wrote:

    This is awesome. I’m glad someone is covering these issues. About the breastmilk thing, I had a friend’s milk in my coffee (I was a little too shy to try it straight up :)) and now I’ve tasted my own and it tastes good! But I think the reason why people might be so afraid of it other than the boob taboo –which I think is very real– is that you can get diseases (hep B!) from it because it’s not generally pasteurized. Cow’s and other animal’s milk used to be have the same issues. My grandparents were farmers in Greece and they used to boil their goat’s milk before drinking it. As for the male lactation consultant I’ve often wondered if such a creature actually exists because they have to touch your boob in a very intimate situation. Its a different animal altogether from the cold interaction between a gyno and “patient”. For one thing there’s a baby who is trying to bond with mom involved! That being said it was hard for me to let any stranger in on the scene, regardless of whether it was a female LC or not. I wonder if maybe I would have felt more comfortable with a man though since I generally like male mental health therapists more than females because I personally perceive women as being more judgmental toward other women than men are(of course generally speaking). Thanks for covering these topics. 🙂

    Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  20. Meggan wrote:

    I saw the office episode, and thought it was great. Also recently on DoulaMatch they featured a male doula from Seattle. I was very curious to see and read his website. He had raving reviews from not only his clients but other birth professionals. I personally think its great. I think if you develop a great connection with the person and they are skilled at their profession gender doesn’t play a role. Go for it male midwives and doulas!!

    Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  21. Victoria wrote:

    I found this post while investigating male lactation consultants on a whim-my recently-weaned 3 year old cant keep his hands off my breasts, he has conversations with my chest, ‘the milk’ is an entirely separate entity apparently:)I joke about him growing up to be a lactation consultant or at least very supportive to the breast feeding mother of his children! He also NEVER took a bottle-trying for my husband after I went back to work 12 hour shifts. His aversion to silicone has not been lost on me, however!
    I always thought it was really gross to think about drinking the milk of another animal once I breastfed my children. I always wanted to make breast milk yogurt for my kids but never really looked for a recipe, though I’m sure there are some out there.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

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