Thursday, July 30, 2009
BREASTFEEDING FATHERS’ SUPPORT IN FINLAND
By Yvonne Bekeny in Finland
Breastfeeding in general and exclusive breastfeeding in particular has been a natural practice in Finland for several years. The importance of breastfeeding is emphasized by health care staff, and families benefit a lot from this practice because of the welfare services provided by the state in addition to the gender sensitive approaches to child care. A look at two generations of parents in Finland reveals that like in most western countries, breastfeeding was not an issue or “fashioned as being sexy” some 25 years ago. I interviewed parents of two different generations in Finland to learn about how breastfeeding evolved and how fathers supported the mothers who breastfed.
Liisa is 53 years old and breastfed her two grown up children.
“Breastfeeding was not common and was not strongly supported by the health personnel 25 years ago. I breastfed my children because I felt that it was natural and I did that exclusively for six months before introducing liquids and soft food. I had so much milk that I extracted and donated to the hospital because milk banks in Finland generated income for women who gave some of their breastmilk to the hospitals to assist working mothers or others who had problems breastfeeding their babies. Hospitals made it easier by having health personnel go around from home to home to collect the milk for their first food banks. During the periods I breastfed our babies, my husband was totally supportive and helped me with house chores and carrying the baby sometimes so I can rest. He learnt how to change the diapers at night and assist me too with this task. Indeed, it was just a total agreement between my partner and me to have the children breastfed and to do it well”.
Sirpa is 53 years old and nurtured her two grown up children now aged 33 and 25.
Sirpa said, in her case, breastfeeding was very much a mothers business and her personal decision because it was not emphasized in their days like today. In her words, “To me, it was a burden because I did not get any support from my husband.” It was a religious and legalistic burden on women because the state and the church did not provide any kind of support to women in those days. The state and religious organisation considered that it was the right of the child, that a mother should breastfeed her baby. Many did not see how men could be associated to the task of breastfeed.
Annette is 23 years old and a first-time mother. Her baby is two years old already
“I did exclusive breastfeeding for four months before introducing water and supplementary food. However, I continued mixed feeding until our son was 11 months old. My husband was extremely supportive. He did the house chores and this permitted me to have enough time to breastfeed. My partner took the baby and padded him after breastfeeding and this help as father attachment to the baby. He gave me a lot of psychological support and I think most of my friends get that kind of support from their partners too”.
Matti is a 24 year-old first-time father and husband of is Annette
Matti during the conversation with Yvonne gave the reason why he supported Annette. “I supported Annette because I thought that our baby will benefit a lot from breastfeeding. I would give her pillows during the process for her to seat comfortably. I helped to make the place comfortable for her so that both mother and baby were in comfortable positions during the process. I used to get food for her because I knew that she needed to eat well to be able to breastfeed well too. I generally took care of her and made life easy for her. I tried to give her all the psychological support because it was tough for both of us. I did the house chores so she could have much time to rest”. This kept us closer in the interest of our baby boy.
Jessica is 25 year- old mother of two children aged 7 and 6 years already.
Jessica got her babies when “Breastfeeding was already quite common. “My husband was very helpful and did the house tasks, changing the babies’ diapers at night. Unfortunately, I had some allergies, so I could not practise exclusive breastfeeding completely. For this reason, my husband and I decided to introduce other foods quite early enough for the baby not to loss weight and my partner helped in preparing food for the babies too”.
Tiina is 31 years old has 3 children who are aged 7, 6 and 3.
The first two babies of Tiina were born with a difference of just one year. In Tiina’s words, “I got very good support from my husband although he didn’t stay up at night to help change the diapers. I used to have much milk and donated some to the hospital. My partner helped me in doing the extraction and because of his total support, we were able to breastfeed all three children exclusively for 1 year each before continuing with mixed feeding. Our first baby was breastfed for 14 months, the second for 20 months and the third for 29 months and this was thanks to the support I got from their father”.
The above interviews were conducted on Sunday, 3rd of May, 2009