Archives for posts with tag: mothers

I’m a big supporter of breastfeeding, I understand the benefits it can bring to children and subsequently to the child’s parents. We have been lucky enough to provide this choice to our children. It’s not always an easy option but with support and determination parents can keep breastfeeding their children for many years.

Some of the main breastfeeding support services in Ireland are Le Leche League and Cuidiú – both of whom we have used. My wife was obviously the main participant in their services and she gained friendships as much as advice during her initiation into motherhood. She was so impressed by what they offered she has trained to be a qualified breastfeeding counsellor with the Cuidiú organisation.

As a breastfeeding dad my role is mainly to support my wife’s role in being the feeder of our children. That usually involves taking the slack in household duties and parenting, and also tagging along to various breastfeeding events so that my wife can listen to the various speakers and network with the other attendees. It can seem that dads are only the support parent of the household, but nevertheless an important role in the early years.

Next month, La Leche League is holding its annual conference in Ireland and the keynote speaker is Dr Jack Newman, a well known breastfeeding advocate and author. It’s great to see that a man can be included in the role of breastfeeding advisors. It’s not the first time the keynote is a man, I previously attended a conference where David Coleman was the keynote speaker. So, thankfully sexism or gender discrimination isn’t alive in the ranks of La Leche League.

However, something that sours my opinion of this organisation is their attitude to working mothers. The service is available to all mothers who need breastfeeding support. The problem arises when the ‘working’ mother wants to return the favour, and train up to be a support counsellor to other breastfeeding mothers. My wife, who works part-time, made an application to train with La Leche League but received a ‘dissuading’ letter which focused on her role as a mother who is working rather than a dedicated breastfeeder who wants to support other women. This reaction was very judgemental and hurt my wife. Thankfully Cuidiú had no such issue and welcomed the passion my wife has on the subject. I would assume that a working mother would be beneficial to Le Leche League as it provides the empathy and understanding a working mother might need during her work / life balance struggles.

The reason I wanted to write this today is that I find it slightly irritating that La Leche League have no problem asking a man who works for a living to speak about breastfeeding – to offer advice and support to mothers at their national conference. This contradicts their actions to not allow working women to do the same for the League. If training breastfeeding support advisors is only available to women who are full time stay-at-home-mothers, then it creates a diluted structure within the organisation, as mothers who want to return to work or mothers that cannot afford to stay at home cannot get involved. Why is a working mother not admired and accepted within La Leche League? Maybe there is an element of sexism after all!?

Anyway, that’s my soapbox moment, and obviously I hope it’s a policy the League will review. No matter what happens, remember that the support is there from Cuidiú and La Leche League for anyone who wants to breastfeed their children; and the conference is a great social event whereby you can gain support over the few days and in the months and years following afterwards.

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Since Monday, an organisation known as Men’s Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI) is promoting Men’s Health Week, and it comes to an end on Father’s Day. It’s an event that is celebrated worldwide to heighten the awareness of men’s health issues and hopefully prevent problems through support and information.

Each year they choose a specific theme and ask individuals, professionals and organisations to help spread the necessary message that men need to be more aware and proactive in dealing with their health. This year’s theme in Ireland is ‘Action Men: Turning Words into Actions’

So, in support of this great cause, and to coincide with the forthcoming celebrations on Sunday (Father’s Day!), I wanted to share some essential information to unmarried fathers. I want to share this information in the hope that they will take action, if necessary, to get themselves fully recognised as a father, rather than believing that they have an automatic right to this title. I want them to realise that being a father is more than helping to produce children; there’s a lot more work after the birth they can be involved in. Even if the relationship with the mother of the child doesn’t continue, the child will still need paternal involvement.

In Ireland, when a man becomes a father it’s usually officially recognised through his name inserted onto the birth certificate. However, this really only means he has biologically assisted in the creation of a child. And many of us know, the parenting of the child – i.e. the guardianship of the child – is the essential part in helping that child survive. Fathering is more than a single moment event.

Therefore, I want to do my part for Men’s Health Week by promoting an attitude of ‘turning words into actions’ in the role of fatherhood. If you want to be an active father, and want to have this role officially recognised, and don’t want some of the problems of unmarried fatherhood arise, then keep reading and then be proactive. Talk to any man who has lost access to his child(ren) and discover how his mental and physical health has been affected by his struggle to remain a guardian in their life.

Many unmarried father’s are actively involved in the rearing of their child(ren). They may, or may not, be still in a relationship with the mother of the child, but they still make efforts to care for the child on a regular basis. There are fathers who are still in a relationship with the mother of the child(ren) and therefore see themselves as a part of a family unit, like many other families. Sure why shouldn’t they?

Unfortunately, in Ireland, it’s not that simple. It’s a little bit harder for an unmarried man to be recognised fully as a member of the family he produces. It comes down to the two prong approach to parenting. Parents can be the biological producers of children, and they can also be the guardians of these children. Married couples automatically acquire the two titles when they have a child together. They are guardians as well as the recognised mother and father. However, unmarried couples have to approach this differently and get these rights recognised by the State.

The woman that gives birth to the child will usually be considered both the mother and guardian. However, the man who played the biological part in producing this newborn, has to be recognised as father and guardian. Getting his name onto the child’s birth certificate will award him the title of the biological father. However, to be legally recognised as the child’s guardian, when not married to the mother, involves a bit more paperwork. It involves recognising the legislation in Section 6 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you read it – just be aware of it and know that you need to take action to be the recognised guardian of your child(ren).

To help you with all this, there is a lot of information through various websites, namely Treoir, Citizens Information One Family and FLAC. However, it basically boils down to completing a simple form known as S.I. 5 of 1998, a Statutory Instrument of the Guardianship of Children (Statutory Declaration) Regulations 1998.

So, on this week of Men’s Health Week, and focusing on the theme of ‘Turning Words into Actions’, I ask that any man who is a father, and not married to the mother of your child(ren), to print the S.I. form and get yourself recognised officially as the guardian of your child(ren). Mothers who are reading this; are you in a relationship with the father of your child(ren) and want the State to recognise him as the guardian, not just the biological father? Do you know any other man or woman out there who is affected by this classification of parenting? It’s rarely mentioned, so it could easily go unnoticed. Start talking about it more, but also remember to stop talking, and to take action! Do the practical thing – be an Action Man (or woman, don’t want to be discriminatory) – and get the form signed.

After all, with only a few days to go before you celebrate your role of fatherhood, do you want to be just a father to your child(ren), or do you want to be their guardian as well? Your health, and theirs, could depend on your actions.

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I attended a La Leche League conference last weekend; an inspirational event for us in determining our actions and beliefs in parenting. The main task of fathers attending the conference is to do their parenting role in the lobby or hotel corridors. Each year I think I will get to listen to some interesting facts from one of the conference speakers, but it hasn’t happened yet. My wife is usually the one who attends the sessions (she is obviously more interested and appreciative of the discussion on breastfeeding than I ever will) so I’m happy enough with the way things are right now. This year’s conference was less demanding of my parenting skills as our children loved the play and crafting rooms.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write about this event is because the mothers who take on the mammoth task of feeding their child through their breasts get a lot of stick for this choice. Society, health professionals, partners, family, employers, etc can often be the critical nay-sayers of this very important role. I can appreciate the complex situations that sometimes prevent a mother taking on the breastfeeding role, but there are instances of people strongly criticising or preventing the mother from making, or continuing with, the choice to do it.

So today, on this day celebrating motherhood, a big Thank You goes out to mums who do or support breastfeeding! For those who might be struggling through it, here’s some information that might be encouraging and of interest.

2012 ESRI Figures on Average breastfeeding rates:

Ireland: 5 out of 10, UK: 8 out of 10, EU: 9 out of 10, Scandinavia: almost 10 out of 10

A study in Brazil found that infants who were not breastfed at all had a 14 times greater risk of death than those who were exclusively breastfed.

830,000 deaths could be avoided if every baby was breastfed within the first hour of birth.

Spending on formula feed is worth $25 Billion, whereas breastfeeding costs us nothing!

Ref: Superfood for Babies, Safe the Children, 2013
The Journal.ie, 2012, National Breastfeeding Week

I also include the data because, if the stats are correct (and I’ve no reason to dispute them), there are more children celebrating mothers today because of her choice to not go with the new fad of bottle feeding!

Thanks mam. x

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