Thesis

Male Breastfeeding: Examining the Possibilities

The participation of fathers at the earliest stages of child carework can be somewhat undistin-guished when mothers handle all of the feeding carework through breastfeeding, but a possible solution to this gender inequity could be to encourage male breastfeeding for fathers. In this study, ten fathers who have a child living with them no older than four years of age were inter-viewed. A quasi-experimental design was used to examine their thoughts on male breastfeeding before and after they watched an edited version of the film Milk Men and read a handout about facts related to the possibility of male breastfeeding. The findings were examined using a post-modern feminist approach. Fathers had entangled ideas about masculinity and the body or nature that negatively affected their thoughts about the practice, though only one of the fathers overall rejected the idea that men could or should breastfeed. Many of the fathers showed their re-sistance to the examination of male breastfeeding by tangentially exploring body ownership ideas and using other deflecting strategies. Subverting social norms, three of the fathers were proponents of the idea overall and six of the fathers were on a continuum of willingness to en-gage the idea. The positive aspects of male breastfeeding that spoke to some of the fathers were the bonding aspect this type of child carework could involve and the chance for male breastfeed-ing to lead to more equity among mothers and fathers.

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