There. I have your attention. I used the words “breast” and “sexy” in my title, which led you here.
I am writing this piece in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. I’ve thought about sharing this before but I usually shy away from stirring things up on sensitive topics. Well, nothing is more sensitive to a mother than trying to breastfeed. Trust me. But I think it is an important conversation to have, so here are my thoughts:
Breastfeeding is a very personal choice.
I feel qualified to talk about breastfeeding because I spent nearly 3 years of my life breastfeeding my babies. I choose to breastfeed for my very own personal and specific reasons.
I didn’t preach to others about why I did it.
I didn’t judge other mothers who chose not to breastfeed.
I did listen with sympathy to those who really wanted to breastfeed their babies and for whatever reason couldn’t.
And, when asked, I gave advice to friends who were trying or were planning to.
I didn’t take selfies while doing it and post them to Instagram. That’s not for me. But I also don’t judge the ones that do.
It wasn’t glamorous or easy. Being a parent is far from easy, no matter how you choose to do it.
One of the worst comments made to me when I was nursing my son was that “you never really wean a boy“.
Yeah, it’s funny. Ha. Ha. But it is also very demeaning.
It insinuates that breastfeeding is a sexual thing. A pleasurable thing. A sexy thing. And that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
It also minimizes how amazing and beautiful breastfeeding is.
Breastfeeding hurts. Some babies latch on better than others. My son was a champion nurser from the moment he started. He was also my second born and I knew what I was doing the second time around.
My daughter was another experience altogether. With her I experienced every discomfort available to a breastfeeding mother. Engorgement. An infection known as mastitis where you must keep nursing to get over it but it feels like there are tiny razors slicing you open in the process. And then having to pump when I returned to work. Do you know what a challenge it is to do your job AND try to pencil in your pumping times every 4 hours? And not really have a comfortable and private place to do so? It was a challenge. But I did it as long as I could.
With my son, I was able to stay home during the nearly two years that I nursed him. Which was great on many levels because I didn’t need to pump. But it also made me readily available to him. Whenever and wherever he wanted it. Which was all. the. time.
I nursed him everywhere.
Did I cover up? Absolutely. That was my choice.
First of all, my boobs were huge and engorged and there was no way that I wanted to expose the world to that.
But the main reason I covered up in public was because my baby didn’t need to be distracted. He needed to focus on the task at hand. Get in, get out, and be done. Plus it’s pretty painful when a baby looks off in a different direction with your nipple still in their mouth. Especially when they have teeth.
Breastfeeding is everywhere.
I think it is great that breastfeeding is becoming more widely accepted.
I think it is wonderful that businesses are creating spaces either in their stores or for their employees to pump or nurse their children in private.
I think it is amazing the network of support that is available to breastfeeding mothers.
But I think the media hype is still trying to make breastfeeding sexy.
Which goes back to my point.
It isn’t sexy.
What breastfeeding is:
Amazing. Any mother, whether they breastfeed or bottle feed, knows that there is nothing more peaceful than feeding your baby. Those quiet moments are bonding moments. Love moments. When your baby has been up screaming all night or doing anything but getting onto a schedule, the moments spent feeding them is often a moment of rest and peace for both the mother and child. There is nothing like the eye contact and connection a mother feels with her child during those moments.
A commitment. When a mother chooses to breastfeed she is making a huge commitment. She is deciding to be the source of nutrition for her baby. Wow. She also has the responsibility of taking care of herself. To stay hydrated. To eat well. To say no to the glass of wine she so desperately wants. She has to plan her time away from her baby, if she is even given that luxury.
A choice. I chose to breastfeed my children. Thankfully my body complied with that choice. Some mothers aren’t able to. Some decide to give their babies formula. That choice belongs to the mother alone. And her choice should be respected, regardless of what it is. There is no right or wrong choice.
There is no way that I would have been successful at breastfeeding without the support and encouragement of my husband. I would have given up in the first week if it hadn’t been for him cheering me on.
I also couldn’t have been successful without the help of other mothers and a very knowledgeable lactation consultant.
Mothers have a hard time asking for help because it implies that we are less than or don’t know what we are doing. I am so glad that I had the help that I did when I needed it. All women deserve that kind of encouragement and support.
I’m not going to lie. It hurt. It was inconvenient. I was tired. I wanted to stop.
Breastfeeding is an intensely personal decision.
And a mother shouldn’t be judged by whether or not she decides to do so.
Being a mother is challenging enough.
What are your thoughts? Add a comment below… or visit the Graceful Mess Facebook Page and join in the conversation.