As many of you know it’s breastfeeding awareness week. This week is in no way an attack at mother’s who do not breastfeed, everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. Whether it be one day, a few weeks, multiple years, it’s your journey, they are all “right”. The point of this week is to end the stigma around breastfeeding, & normalize it again. It’s one of the most natural thing we humans do & yet, so many women I know have said to me that they are afraid to or feel uncomfortable nursing in public, or even feel they have to cover up to do so. Why has society made us feel ashamed to do what is a completely normal, healthy & natural thing to do? Sure, some people think it’s not that hard to just cover up, or go away from the crowd to nurse, but man, I tell you its so inconvenient.
Generally, I am the kind of person who doesn't give a hoot what someone else thinks, especially when it comes to my kids, but even I have a sense of dread when I am at a playground full of kids, my toddler is playing & my baby needs to eat. I can’t tear my toddler away just so her sister can eat, I can’t leave her there alone, there’s no way in hell I’m covering my baby up while she eats ever, never mind in the summer when it’s 30 degrees Celsius outside. In the end I generally work up the nerve to just feed her on a bench, or a weird spot like the one at one of our favourite parks, it has a shadowy seat under a play structure where I can sit.
Unnecessary stresses & decisions like this could go away for moms simply with the normalization of public nursing, because, let’s face it, breastfeeding on its own comes with enough ups & downs & stress without help from others. I know overall, I have been very fortunate in breastfeeding my girls, but with my first, Holly, I had a rocky start to the whole thing.
I definitely knew wanted to breastfeed Holly, I was set on it, & I thought, “it’s natural, it can’t be that hard” [insert laughter here]. Labour wise, Holly’s birth wasn’t too rough, but she did get stuck for a while & I had a one-off of morphine so she was a little sleepy & just had zero desire to try latching properly or for too long. Luckily, when I had her, the hospital we were in had a fantastic lactation program, & they actually made me stay a whole extra day to keep working on it & made sure before we left, we had a plan toward breastfeeding success. Our lactation consultant ended up deciding that Holly needed “suck training” to learn how to latch & feed properly. “Suck training” entails a syringe feeding system where you attach a little tube to your finger & with the syringe, you slowly push pumped milk through & feed the baby. It works by using the curved shape of your finger to train the baby’s tongue to be the right shape while they suck. We had to do that, along with actual nursing of course, until she figured it out how to nurse properly. If I remember correctly, I think it took under a week, but it felt like forever with all the pumping on top of nursing & using the syringe.
Generally, both of my girls were bigger babies, Holly born at 8 lbs 13oz, & Penny, 9 lbs on the dot, but in that beginning with Holly & her latch issues, she lost a lot of weight & I was so paranoid she wouldn’t gain enough & I would have to stop nursing. Thankfully, she figured it all out & became the chubbiest baby with all the rolls. But even when the feeding became easy for us, it still had it’s ups & downs. With Holly I had a clogged duct twice, & even well into nursing her, probably over a year, I suddenly had an infection that was excruciating & required antibiotics to get rid of. Then there were all the usual trials like raw nips in the beginning while baby learns or during a cluster feeds, & when those first teeth come in (ouch), etc. Regardless of all the stress & pain, I kept it up for 21 months & it really was a wonderful bond I wouldn’t trade for the world. In fact, the only reason I stopped when I did was because I was pregnant with Penny & developed a severe aversion to constantly being touched, especially nursing & had to cut her off. I felt guilty at first to stop for such a selfish reason, but by 21 months, she was already down to nursing just before naps & bedtime if I was home. If I wasn’t home, she didn’t even have a bottle anymore, so it wasn’t the worst weaning for us. Now for me, with Penny, my second, it’s been a breeze breastfeeding. I am not sure if that’s because I know so much from all the craziness with Holly & knowing how to set up a good latch/how to fix a bad one or if I am just truly lucky, but I’ll take it. But even with an easy breezy breastfeeding babe, I have already had a couple of your standard nursing "ouches" in these first 6 months with Penny; of course the raw in the beginning, but early on I somehow got a hole in my nipple, yes a hole, I have no idea how exactly, something to do with cluster feeding I’m sure, but it was honestly the worst pain I’ve ever felt, maybe even more so than frigging birth. Currently little Miss Penny is juuust getting her first 2 teeth, so there have already been a couple light chomps that give me a bit of a shock during out nursing sessions. Breastfeeding truly is a challenge, & it’s even harder when your oldest tiny human running around, I hope to nurse Penny at least as long as I did with Holly, so fingers crossed.
But my point is, even as one person, & just 2 kids, my journey breastfeeding has been different with each baby. In the end I was fortunate enough to stick with nursing & didn’t have to switch to formula which I am sure saved me so much money, never mind the health benefits. So, let’s stop guilting moms for not feeding their babies breastmilk, stop guilting them for nursing for a short time, stop guilting them for nursing for an extended time, stop guilting them when they choose to feed in public, just stop. Talk about it more, open the discussion so it becomes common place & normal to talk about. Say hi to the mom feeding her baby in public, you think it would be an interruption, but I’m sure it would ease her mind about public nursing, I know it would ease mine.
“My opinion is that anybody offended by breastfeeding is staring too hard.” – David Allen