Boy, oh, boy, nothing grabs peoples’ attention faster than a set of boobs, huh? Everyone’s got an opinion about what new mamas should be doing with their breasts and the milk that, in theory, is coming out of them. Much like my fellow Jacksonville Mom Kelsey wrote in her brilliant piece on just how hard breastfeeding really is, “I’ve found the most encouraging moments of breastfeeding to be the raw conversations with other mothers about their struggles.”
There is serenity in solidarity and confidence built from camaraderie. So if you’re finding yourself scrolling through your newsfeed at 3 a.m. wondering when you might feel normal again, or you’re beyond the breastfeeding years and feel a pang of sadness when you realize you’ll never have that exchange again: here are some thoughts you’ve probably had.
- “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Whoever sent this baby home with me and my boobs is a menace to society. We will both surely perish from having absolutely no idea what we’re doing.
- “I can’t do this.”
You’ll want to stop and, if you do, that’s fine. But if you really don’t want to, I promise this…breastfeeding gets better. So much better. Like, “best part of your day” better…and in the meantime, if you want to set a goal for yourself and stick to it—do it! Three weeks, three months, six months, or maybe nothing at all. Hear this: you can stop whenever you want or need to stop and your baby will be just fine.
- What is this new fresh hell?
Leaking, usually in public and on a silk shirt.
A baby who wants to nurse all the time.
A baby who never wants to nurse.
Lactation cookies (Okay, they’re delicious, but ingested because of the hell that is worrying about your supply.)
Their first tooth.
Their second tooth.
Their EIGHTH TOOTH. (Pro tip: babies definitely understand the word “no,” especially when screamed whilst throwing them off of your body and then trying to catch them before they hit the ground.)
- “It’s so cute—but can I wear it while nursing?”
Button-ups, oh, so many button-up clothing items. Flowy shirts and nursing tanks. Dressing for your breastfeeding baby requires the same amount of sophisticated strategic preparation as I imagine preparing to fly a plane does. And don’t forget to choose something into which the puke will easily blend. Not too dark, but not white.
- When will she start sleeping through the night?
And then when she does… “When will she wake up? My boobs are about to explode!” Not surprisingly, both of my babies started sleeping consistently through the night as soon as I stopped breastfeeding them. Oh, and also not unsurprisingly, I got pregnant when each baby was 14 months and fully weaned.
- “Can I drink that/eat that/take that/wear that/be around that while nursing?”
I swear, breastfeeding regulations feel even more restrictive than being pregnant. But mama, on those rare, rare nights you’re able to slip away and, well, sip away, don’t waste your money on those absurd alcohol test strips. And, for the love of liquid gold, before you pump and dump, do your research on timing. The smallest fraction of what is in our own bloodstream enters your milk. Chances are, that milk you’ve worked so hard to produce is absolutely fit for baby consumption.
- Can I breastfeed in public?
Abso? freaking? lutely?. I could use this piece to launch into a diatribe on the insane gender parity that exists when it comes to sexualizing our bodies, and the ways in which women are shamed for the way that others perceive them, but I’m trying to remove stress from my life. Instead, I’ll leave you with this fun list of things to say or do if you’re given side-eye or, God forbid, actually asked to cover-up while breastfeeding:
“Why don’t you go eat your meal in the bathroom?”
“Sure, I have a cover. Want to put it over your head?”
“Well sir, your face is making me uncomfortable, but I don’t ask you to cover that up.”
- Has it been three hours?
But you’ll only ask yourself that for the first few months of breastfeeding because eventually your baby, your boobs, and your mother superpowers will allow you to always know what time it is. And the uncanny ability to add three hours to that exact moment so you can logistically prepare for the next feeding.
- Pumping sucks.
Do I even need to add anything else? From musty utility closets to cramped airplane bathrooms, pumping is the postpartum indignity gift that just keeps giving. You’ll miss meetings and phone calls and portions of wedding receptions and more sleep, but chances are, you probably wouldn’t trade it for the world.
- I think we’re ready to stop. Maybe, maybe not…probably not.
I don’t think we’re ever really ready to give up that precious relationship that we’ve worked so hard to form, but eventually, we must. Whatever that looks like for you, just know that it’s definitely harder on us than it is on them. I was staying home with our first when I weaned her at 13 months. I anticipated absolute devastation on her part, and though the first few days were a little tough, soon it was like it never happened. Just one of many lessons my children have taught me—when it’s time for something to be finished, just let it go.
So yes, breastfeeding is very hard. And aside from the fact that it’s free, (Did you know that the amount saved on formula over the course of a year of nursing puts a great dent into a breast augmenta—I mean college savings account.) I’m skeptical that it provides cognitive or long-term health benefits. My toddlers still get sick. It’s one of the greatest gifts I gave myself as a mother. Those moments when we could sneak away and sit in a quiet place as the oxytocin washed over us. The nights when all I had to do was latch you and all was well in the world. The way I could (and can) calm you down like nobody and nothing else could (and can). Those are among the numerous selfish gifts that I stockpile in my mama brain and heart to help make up for the lack of sleep.