Moms, Don't Forget to Feed Your Marriages
Why nurturing a passionate marriage is more important than breast-feeding.
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I am surprised that when scientists discuss all the benefits of breast-feeding, they neglect its most negative consequence. If breast-feeding gets in the way of the marriage—if it means that a husband and wife never go out on dates, or that the mother is so tired from always waking up with the baby that she has no energy to ever be intimate with her husband—the child will probably end up worse off, however many colds or bouts with diarrhea he now avoids.
The crisis we have in America is not undernourished children, it is undernourished marriages. And our kids are getting screwed up, not because of their infant nutrition, but because in most households, children rarely witness a father and mother who are still passionately in love with each other.
When I was a young boy, all I wanted to see was two parents who loved each other. A daily vitamin also would certainly have done me a world of good. But only my parents' happy marriage could have provided me with peace at my center and the more secure personality I sorely lack. I would take the diarrhea and cough any day over the permanent sense of brokenness that affects children of divorce.
In the end, there are two effects of breast-feeding that we often refuse to acknowledge. One is the de-eroticization of a woman's body, as her husband witnesses one of the most attractive parts of her body serving a utilitarian rather than romantic purpose. This is not to say that breast-feeding isn't sexy. Indeed, the maternal dimension is a central part of womanliness. But public breast-feeding is profoundly de-eroticizing, and I believe that wives should cover up, even when they nurse their babies in their husband's presence.
I believe this same problem comes up when men witness childbirth up close. There are certain poses in which a husband should not see his wife. By all means, be there for the entire labor, as I have been for the births of each of my eight children. But I strongly agree with the advice of the ancient rabbis that husbands should not be staring at the actual delivery. That is just too erotic a part of a wife's anatomy for it to become a mere birth canal.
The erotic nature of a wife's body is one of the principal elements of attraction in marriage. When a husband ceases to see his wife as a woman, and begins to see her as "the mother of his children," a negative trend has begun in his mind that can only subvert his erotic interest.