“I am not “boy-lingual.”
Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting a Father of 8 children, who is also a midwife and a Board Certified Lactation Consultant? I know it may seem quite different, perhaps odd and perhaps weird to some. This is why I receive such joy out of introducing you to Tom Johnston. He served 27 years in the US Army and retired as Chief of Midwifery Services for the Womack Army Medical Center. Now that he is retired, he teaches, he speaks, he practices lactation consulting, all from a guys perspective.
What can we learn from Tom? Well, having been in the Maternal Health field and the father of 8 breastfed children, he is in a unique position to advocate for the rights of fathers in the birthing, breastfeeding and newborn parenting arena. I have been working in the maternal health field for well over 27 years and I will happily admit to being a life-long learner. There is always so much to learn. We just have to be open to new information, new ways of doing the same thing.
Since I am not a guy, I need to learn how they talk and think if I want to be most helpful.
Dads really do want to help. We need to give them the tools to do so.
When moms give birth, they are quite vulnerable and need Dads to step in and be their Protector.
I had a wonderful interview with Tom and you can listen to it right here. During our interview, he made me laugh quite a few times. He also made me go Hmmmmm quite a few times. I realized that he is so right when he said that females do not speak Dad language. We do not speak Boy language. He said: “we are not boylingual.” As an IBCLC, I am always looking for new and creative ways to bring Dads into the discussion and have them truly be a part of the whole experience. I can always use a few new tools in my toolbox and Tom gave me a whole bunch more to add.
When teaching and consulting with both parents, I do my best to face both of them. I make sure to give both good eye contact and work hard to give the guys an opportunity to talk. I am not always successful. Tom talked about one specific way to help with this. He said that he likes to give Dads something to do. Rather then just tell them about breastfeeding, he likes to give them homework. At the first prenatal appointment, he gives both parents something to do: For her: Go find someone you know who has been successful with breastfeeding and talk to them about their experience. For him: Go find a Dad whose wife breastfed and talk to them about their experience. They know that they are going to have to find a person and talk to him about it at their next appointment. What a great idea! For the full interview, click here.
One course of action that Tom really made me think about. As a lactation consultant, I may have a visit with mom shortly after the birth. However, I do not live with them. Eventually I do leave and they are on their own. Tom made me realize that my job is not only to teach moms about what they need to know, but also to help Dads learn enough so they can troubleshoot any problems. After all, he is the one who is going to be spending most of the time with her.
Things I learned from Tom:
- Breastfeeding education starts the minute the “pee hits the stick.”
- The importance of giving Dads way to take action.
- The importance of having Dads understand that they are the Protectors of the Environment.
- They are the Guardians of their wife and baby.
- When the sign on the door says: Please Do not disturb and someone disturbs mom, he is the Guardian and says: What part of Do not disturb do you not understand?