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Breastfeeding Lessons from the Kardashians

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A key (and overdramatic) moment on the Kardashians' reality show gave some valuable lessons about men and breastfeeding.

kourtney kardashian

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, Kourtney, 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. OMG! Kourtney 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. Kourtney 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 Kourtney's stepfather, 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.

Consider these striking findings from a recent survey by the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council (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 percent) over their mothers (21 percent), even if their mother had breastfeeding experience.

Approximately 70 percent of mothers consider their partner's support to be extremely important to their overall confidence as a new mom, and their overall well-being as a nursing mother.

This is particularly true in the black community, where we are more likely to be first-generation breastfeeders and not have the support from our own mothers and grandmothers.

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 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. In addition, 45 percent of moms would like more help with chores (umm, isn't that 100 percent of all moms!), and 36 percent 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.


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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
PlumbLucky January 15, 2010, 4:45 AM

::jaw drop::

I’m shocked that Bruce Jenner actually said this, as its correct. Holy crap!

Amy January 15, 2010, 7:56 AM

What a great article. This topic of the father’s support is not discussed a lot, yet it so crucial to successful breastfeeding. Well done!

tanyetta January 15, 2010, 9:14 AM

This is great advice from Bruce Jenner
**”It is about you. It’s about support.”**

Lexi January 15, 2010, 11:34 AM

I’ve successfully breastfed my daughter for 6 months now and don’t plan on quitting until she’s 1.5 or 2. I have to say my husbands support plays a big role in why I’ve been successful! Support is necessary. Especially in the first few challenging weeks! Good job, Jenner :D and get with it Scott! From what I’ve seen you haven’t been very supportive of Kourtney or your son.

Anonymous January 15, 2010, 12:27 PM

what do you mean by ‘an apparent first for a non-black or Latina person’?

Anonymous January 15, 2010, 3:31 PM

All their problems always get solved by the end of the show.

laura January 15, 2010, 4:03 PM

Your juxtaposition of not breastfeeding and infant mortality is a stupid, manipulative oversimplification. As an exclusive breastfeeder who appreciates your request for support, I am still offended by your illogical, guilt-inducing statement.

Chelsea January 16, 2010, 6:04 AM

I get that dads should be supportive of breastfeeding, but breastfeeding should be so normal that it shouldn’t take any special cheerleading. It should be expected that fathers know and support that the baby will be nearby, that breasts will be full of milk, that moms will need extra food/water, and all the other little lifestyle changes that go with breastfeeding.

Deborah January 26, 2010, 8:13 AM

Laura - there have been numerous studies that show the importance of breastfeeding to reduce the infant mortality rate among African-American children. There is too much detail to put here, but please Google “The Importance of Breastfeeding In Improving the Health of African-Americans: A Health Policy Perspective” for some facts that you may find surprising. Kimberly’s comments are neither illogical or stupid, and it would serve us well to continue to support breastfeeding in our community by providing facts such as these.


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