Breastfeeding, Bonnets, and Sunsets

 

Breastfeeding is not white linen dresses in sunflower fields with a child gently suckling your breast. Sometimes, it’s tug-of-war with bloody nipples and getting beat up by your baby.

With all the recent hoop-la surrounding breastfeeding and all the controversy, I have stood silently by and watched the debate. It seems to me that there are two distinct camps: those that think you need to take your baby in the depths of a bathroom or other dungeon-like place to feed him and those that feel like you should just flop one of the girls out in the middle of the mall and dare anyone to be offended about it.
I wonder why we can’t have a happy medium. My social media news feed is filled with black and white photos of shadow moms with babies at the breast, white dress-clad moms on bales of hay or in fields of tall grass with their child suckling, or women in the middle of public places with boob and child at full-on museum display mode.

My first question is, who breastfeeds like that? I am deep in the trenches of breastfeeding war with my child, so I am here to tell you, it isn’t all lace dresses and strawberry fields. For me and some other women (at least I hope it isn’t just me), it is a battle every day to remain breastfeeding vigilant. My first child was a dream. I could be discrete if I needed to and I had a clogged duct once during the 15 months that I breastfed… ONCE! Cue child 2 and 3. Bloody nipples, thrush, and frequent mastitis that made me have to miss work have all plagued me. To be honest, I am currently counting down the days until I can stop breastfeeding.

If you really want to know the truth, I don’t really feed my daughter in public. I don’t do it because, well, I’m not comfortable with it and I also physically can’t do it. Allow me to explain:
It is a personal choice for every woman. Let me say that again: it is a personal choice for every woman. I choose not to breastfeed out in the open, but I applaud those who can! I usually ask for a dressing room, or duck into a corner to feed my daughter privately. I have even gone out to the car and fed her in the backseat. Personally, I am not comfortable with random folks seeing my boob, but that is a choice that I make for me.  Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that my last 2 children have been really bad at breastfeeding.

My 2-year-old NEVER latched well. When she did get a good latch going, she could get easily distracted and jerk her head away without releasing the suction- yes, it is as painful as it sounds. She would literally grunt and growl, beat my chest and neck with an open hand or fist, kick my arm that I was trying to hold her with, or sometimes even pinch and pull all the breast tissue she could get in her teeny, violent hands.

Currently, I have a 6 month old daughter that is exclusively breastfed. She is efficient at getting the milk and latches well, but she is a picky eater. She often quits in the middle of feedings or refuses the breast even when she is hungry.  We have passed thrush back and forth for 2 months now and I never know if she is in the mood for boob or bottle. I don’t feed her in public because, most of the time, our session ends with my milk spraying on both of us. I usually go to the car to feed her so that I have towels and my pump available for the aftermath.

But… I am totally not going to shame anyone who feels comfortable letting the ladies fly free in the mall for all to see. In fact, I applaud you for feeling so inclined to do it! After all, our breast were designed to feed our children. They can do amazing things like analyze our infants’ spit and determine how calorie or vitamin rich to make the milk or pass along antibodies to fight illnesses. So, maybe if a child sees a woman feeding her baby and were to ask questions about it, it might be a great time for a parent to explain that babies are fed that way and it is why women have breasts. Think about explaining things in that way instead of letting overtly sexual advertisements dictate our children’s body image.

Also, it may be a great time to throw in that there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding. I tell my kids, “we just let the baby eat and mind our own business.” I feel like if we start explaining it that way, perhaps then there would not be such a large debate about it in years to come.

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