August is National Breastfeeding Month, and for good reason: the need to #normalizebreastfeeding in our culture is still critical. Unfortunately there are people in our world who think that they should not only have a say in the way we parent our own children, but that they have the right to tell mothers to cover up their feeding babies, or hide it away in a disgusting public bathroom. Just think about it: the need to eat is such a basic instinct, and to deny feeding your child for a moment longer than absolutely necessary just because you think you might offend someone by doing so … it’s absolutely ludicrous.
Any mom who’s taken on the stress of breastfeeding has so much to contend with already, let alone worrying about what society thinks of her doing it. If you’re one of these women, chances are those feelings of feeding in public, and various other emotions have hit you in this beautiful, yet challenging time in parenthood.
1. It doesn’t always come as natural to you as you may think
Breastfeeding isn’t just as simple as popping that kiddo onto your boob. Eating is instinctual, but your newborn has never done it before, and you *probably* never had someone sucking at your tender, swollen chest. Those first few weeks, your new baby is ravenous with hunger, and lets you know about it with wails that could wake the dead. You’re tired, and flustered, and probably in pain down below. It takes two to breastfeed, and it’s not always a coordinated activity.
2. Sometimes it requires more hands than you physically have
I remember those first few times when baby and I were both so tired my husband actually held my breast in my daughter’s mouth so she wouldn’t unlatch herself. And forget modesty, I think every lactation consultant at the hospital touched my breasts at some point. Because let’s face it, the entire concept of what breastfeeding is supposed to feel like is so foreign, and it was just easier to have the LC show me how to self express on my own breast than guess at what she meant.
3. It really fucking hurts … for a variety of reasons
Yes, it can take several weeks, even months, for your nipples to get used to a hungry little mouth sucking away multiple times a day, and an improper latch is likely to blame for extended pain. But sometimes the milk let down is enough to make me wanna grab my breasts in agony. And cradling a baby will give you some sick mom arms, but that pinched nerve in my shoulder and the shooting pains in my wrists aren’t worth tank top arms. How about when you let baby go a little too long between nail clippings and those tiny talons dig into your chest?
4. It’s not always the lovey-dovey bonding experience you imagined, which leads to mommy guilt
Sometimes it’s just about getting your baby fed, and getting on with the rest of your day. Because you’re not just a food source, you’re a complex being with needs and desires of your own. Like the urge to pee you’ve been holding in for 2 hours because you were worried the flush of the toilet would wake your napping baby, or just wanting to scroll through Instagram so you can see what your non-parenting friends are up to these days. Yes, you probably spend many feedings staring lovingly down at your baby, but there’s no shame in watching TV while you’re doing it either.
5. Cluster-feeding is sonofabitch
If you’ve ever said to your baby “You can’t possibly be hungry, I literally just fed you,” you’ve been in throes of a cluster-feed or two. You know, when your baby wants to eat every hour, sometimes every 30-40 minutes? And just when you’ve given baby to daddy for some much needed R&R, he brings her back for another round and you wanna cry.
6. Your child’s desire to eat doesn’t always come at the most convenient of times
The first time I fed my baby “in public” was in the car outside of a pizza restaurant, while the rest of my family sat inside enjoying lunch. Now? I would latch my kid and continue chowing down at the table with them and not even think twice about it. You hear horror stories of women being shamed for feeding in public, blanket or not. Regardless of your personal feelings about seeing another woman’s breast, I hope we can all keep in mind that there is nothing shameful about a woman who uses her breasts for the biological reason she has them. No, she does not have to go sit alone in the bathroom, so don’t expect her to.
7. Teething happens
Just when your boobs are desensitized, tiny little fangs become part of the equation. OUCH!
8. Anyone who said “There’s no use crying over spilled milk” never had to pour breastmilk down the drain
The first time we got a babysitter I forgot to mention to her that any milk my baby didn’t drink in one sitting is still good for 4-6 hours at room temperature. I came home to 3 half-drunk bottles on the counter and my baby already asleep for the night. So it was bye-bye liquid gold. *tear*
9. Your breasts no longer feel like they belong to you
And that’s (mostly) ok. There are times where I look down in horror at the giant rocks that are sitting on my chest. There are some clothes that I can’t wear because it’s impossible to hide those giant bra straps. And nursing bras are ugly and never fit right throughout the day. But someday these breasts will be just for me again, and at that point I will probably miss those times I shared them with my tiny human.
Besides, I’m saving a fortune by not splurging on bras at Victoria’s Secret.
10. You do it for your baby, but he will probably never know it
If you don’t know already, ask your mom if she breastfed you. And then ask her what it was like. She’ll either have a very spotty memory of it (like most things that come with raising children), or she’ll recall it in vivid detail. She may say she gave up because it was painful, or she had no support at home, or didn’t get any help from a professional, all of which are completely understandable. But chances are most of our mothers at least tried. So if you haven’t already done so, thank her for that, because it’d be nice for her to hear.
Breastfeeding is physically and emotionally exhausting, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to, I’m willing to bet you haven’t and won’t look back at it in anger. And no thanks will be necessary.
All images via Instagram.