It’s still World Breastfeeding Week, and I hadn’t really planned on an entire week of breastfeeding posts, but since I’ve come this far, why not? Today at Healthy Child, Healthy World, there was a discussion about the breastfeeding myths that drive you crazy when you hear them. I didn’t post an answer, but here’s mine: I really hate it when people think that breastfeeding past a certain age is about the mother, not the child.
Look, I’ve been incredibly lucky with breastfeeding. I know this. I would never presume to say that nursing was difficult for me–it’s extremely difficult for a lot of moms, including moms who are educated and prepared and have perfect birth experiences, but I wasn’t one of them. I’ve had (er, continue to have–am I really still doing this?–yeah, I guess I am) pretty much a perfect breastfeeding experience. But. The fact remains that even for the lucky ones, this isn’t exactly a piece of cake. I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed it for the most part, because I have. But when people imply that I must be doing this for ME–well, come on. Yes, I enjoy snuggling with my daughter. I like being able to stop a toddler meltdown in its tracks. I love being able to put her to sleep like magic. But do you really think I get a personal kick out of having my nipples chewed on all the time? Never having my body to myself? Having a toddler’s scratchy fingernails grabbing down my shirt?
Trust me on this one–breastfeeding may be enjoyable, and worthwhile, and valuable. But that doesn’t mean it’s fun. It’s good work, but it’s still work.
And at times it can be incredibly embarrassing. Again, I’ve been lucky–I’ve never gotten a really negative reaction in public, ever. But I’ve definitely had my moments when I wished I could sink into the floor. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorites.
1. My daughter was days old. A friend–who happened to also be a single guy–stopped by to meet the baby. “Is it okay if I come in?” he asked, hesitating in the doorway. “As long as you don’t mind seeing me half-naked,” I laughed, because I was still figuring out nursing and completely incapable of even trying to be discreet, but I’d also given birth a few days before and I was sitting in my own house with my gorgeous baby and I really didn’t care who saw me at that point. “Oh, it’s okay,” he said; “your husband posted pictures of the birth on facebook so I think I’ve already seen it all.”
Until that moment, I’d had no idea my husband had done that. So much for breastfeeding discreetly. No point now, really.
2. My in-laws came to meet their granddaughter. At this point I’d gotten good enough at breastfeeding to be a little bit modest about it, although I was still baring more than I would have preferred in front of my father-in-law. But again, I was sitting in my own house, and plus it was a tiny apartment with no comfortable chairs except the couch in the main room, and really, if you can’t nurse in your own living room then where can you nurse? So I breastfed in front of my in-laws. They didn’t mind at all, but when my daughter started fussing and I moved her to the other breast, my father-in-law said, “Oh, I guess she wanted the chocolate side!” Gee, Dad…I know I’m kind of baring all right in front of you, but did you have to talk about it?
3. I wore my daughter to church in the sling. By this point I was an expert at breastfeeding in the sling. Easy, convenient, invisible. Until one of the older men at the church decided to peek into my sling so he could admire the church’s newest baby. Little did he know that wasn’t all he was going to get to admire.
4. Fast forward a few years. We were helping a friend move. There were a lot of people there, and my sensitive three-year-old daughter got completely overwhelmed. Nothing but breastfeeding was going to calm her down. I knew my friend didn’t mind, so I sat down in an out-of-the-way corner and pulled out a breast. What I didn’t know was that my friend had some potential renters coming to look at the house. When the three young, single guys arrived to view the property, the first thing they “viewed” was my bare boob–with a preschooler attached.
5. Jump back to the early days of my daughter’s life. It was a midnight breastfeeding session, one of thousands. I hadn’t mastered side-lying nursing yet, so I sat up in bed, picked up my daughter, and put her on one breast. I was shirtless and too tired to try to cover the other side like I usually did. I might have made more of an effort if I’d realized how much of an oversupply I had on that side. When my letdown started, milk shot out like a fountain and hit my husband right in the eye.
Sorry about that, honey. That really was an accident. It wasn’t revenge for the facebook pictures. I promise.