Justin Forsett, Best for Babes’ first NFL Celebrity Champion for Moms, will attend the Miracle Milk™ Stroll in Baltimore on May 10! We are thrilled to bring the power of dads and pro football to bear on the societal Booby Traps® that prevent breastfeeding success. Forsett, who currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens, has no qualms talking breastfeeding — a subject about which he knew little before his son Judah (15 months) was born. In this exclusive interview, he and his wife Angie, a former member of Team USA Volleyball and daughter of basketball legend and coach Paul Pressey, let us rip a page from their playbook about breastfeeding Judah. Take notes, friends. This is great stuff
Best for Babes: Everyone wants to know, what does a professional football player have to say about breastfeeding?
To be honest, I knew nothing about breastfeeding before my wife got pregnant and told me we were going to breastfeed. ZERO. I think I’d seen some things in movies but that was basically it. I did go with Angie to the birth and breastfeeding class, but had no idea how important my role would be!
Best for Babes: How would you describe your role?
My job has been to be there to support Angie and her decision — to be open to all the research she did, ask questions, learn, and just do whatever I can to help make her job easier. Especially in the beginning, when Judah wasn’t latching. What I’ve learned, now that Judah is 15 months, is that like football, breastfeeding is truly a team sport. Angie always has the ball but it’s still my job to be 100% supportive even from the sidelines.
BFB: We often highlight the special part dads can play as protectors and guardians of a healthy infant feeding experience, especially through the challenging early days. Can you share with us a glimpse of how you handled the challenges you mentioned?
I definitely was trying to protect our decision to breastfeed. But it was hard watching Angie struggle at first. She was in pain throughout childbirth, and in the first few days of breastfeeding. When the hospital started pushing formula on us during the first day, I thought, do we need to try the bottle? Is our son getting the food he needs? As a father and a husband, I just wanted to make sure everyone was safe. That’s where I called in something I learned from my days with Seattle Seahawks’ Coach Pete Carroll, the ‘Monday after the game’ play.
BFB: What do you mean by “Monday after the Game?”
When I played for Coach Carroll, he had “Tell the Truth Monday.” On the day after a game, as a whole unit, the team would watch the clips of the game, and the purpose was to tell the truth to be completely honest about our play. So I would say to Angie, “Let’s tell the truth so we can deal with it, if you’re in pain, let’s get help, let’s figure out what we need to do to turn this around, but we have to know those things in order for us to grow and improve.” Sometimes just being able to have that space to be honest about what challenges you are facing, means you can press on and stick with the game plan.
BFB: What else from football have you drawn upon to help “coach” Angie and your son through breastfeeding?
Coach Carroll also always focused on the positive. I tried to do that for Angie. I wanted to make sure that I was focusing on the positive things and encouraging her and not necessarily pushing the negative things like some of the struggle early on. I was always making sure that the glass was half full and making sure that I was encouraging and staying positive throughout the whole situation – -whether it was labor or breastfeeding.
BFB: There are so many ways besides feeding that dads can bond with their babies — we call it non-booby bonding time, can you share with us how you enjoyed your time with Judah as a young baby?
Oh yes. Early on, I would take Judah in the middle of the night so Angie could get some sleep — usually from around midnight until three. It was just Judah and me, with him snuggling up on my chest. Just the two of us on the couch. It was “our time.”
If someone gave Angela a hard time for nursing in public, what would you say or do?
She’s so outspoken, she would definitely neutralize the situation pretty quickly. My job would be to come in and make sure she’s not being harassed or verbally abused. I’m not really a confrontational guy but I would just state the facts [about our rights] and then they would have to move me out of the situation. I wouldn’t just leave.
BFB: What would you say has been the best thing about breastfeeding for you?
Even just sitting on the sidelines, there has been no other pleasure like watching that connection and that bond between my wife and son as they are nursing. I watch him eat and smile, and giggle, while they look into each other’s eyes. To see that relationship, well, that was and still is, the precious gift that I get out of this deal. And for that I am grateful.
This interview was made possible in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Forsetts appeared on behalf of Best for Babes as keynote speakers at their March 2014 First Food Forum to cheer on the heroic efforts of the dozens of breastfeeding organizations in attendance who slug it out every day to make breastfeeding attainable for as many mothers as possible. We salute the WK Kellogg Foundation for being the first major foundation to significantly invest in breastfeeding!