A couple of weeks ago, I told J that I was taking a new stance when it comes to breastfeeding –no more hiding away in my room when there’s company; no more running to the car when Ro gets hungry while we’re out at dinner; no more excusing myself because I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable. I was encouraged by articles like this and this, and by how natural it feels to nurse my son. I didn’t want to hide anymore, and so I decided to stop running away.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, I’m happy to say that I’ve since breastfed in several restaurants, at friends’ houses and just this week, on a busy street in downtown Staunton right in front of a salon where everyone was staring at me from inside while getting their hair done. And you know what? It felt freeing, and empowering, and helped me realize why I believe breastfeeding is such a powerful part of motherhood.
My own mother has photos of me when I was just 2 or 3 years old, breastfeeding my baby dolls. It was something that I didn’t have to think about when becoming a mother– I knew I wanted to breastfeed and that it was the right decision for me. In my mind, there wasn’t another option because nursing is something that seemed so natural, and because it’s natural, I thought it would be easy.
But I was surprised by how difficult breastfeeding was for me. The first few days after giving birth, my nipples were so cracked and sore that I wasn’t sure I could do it. Ro had trouble latching, and I had little patience at 2 in the morning. We had difficulties finding a position that was comfortable for both of us. I then realized that I was going to have to change my diet if I wanted to keep nursing because something I was eating was bothering Ro and causing him to be irritable and fussy. I had to keep a food journal for months, hoping I would find some sort of pattern that would help me know what I needed to eliminate. Eventually, I cut out quite a few things from my diet which made his tummy happier but my lunch options fewer. I was told that it would get easier, but some days I didn’t believe it.
When I was pregnant, I was told to give nursing at least a month before deciding it wasn’t for me, and on the really tough days, I held on to that. I read about other mama’s struggles and solutions to common problems. I tried them, and remembered to breath and be patient. And I stuck with it. It took a little over a month for me to start feeling like I could do it, and that I could enjoy it. And now you may catch me breastfeeding on a busy street where I’ll likely be smiling and holding my son’s hand while he’s nursing.
And I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable but what you should know is that breastfeeding is powerful. It’s beautiful, and I’m happy I’m able to breastfeed my baby. And I’m so happy I didn’t quit when it got tough. Nothing makes me feel more connected with my child than when we have those quiet minutes nursing, just the two of us. And it’s those quiet breaks from the day that help me stay present. They make me sit down, shut up and remember how amazing being a mother is, and just how sweet a boob and a baby truly is.
I still believe breastfeeding is one of the most natural parts of being a mama, but natural doesn’t mean easy. If there’s a struggling mom out there ready to give up on breastfeeding, I want to encourage you to give it time. It will get easier. And it will totally be worth it.
In the meantime, don’t be afraid to whip your boob out and feed your baby in public. I do, and I love it. I love it because it helped me feel like part of society again. Every time I hid away — in the car or upstairs in my house — I felt isolated and alone, and it only intensified my struggles. Being more open about breastfeeding has helped me feel empowered. It’s helped breastfeeding feel more natural, more beautiful. I’ve realized that I should never be embarrassed about breastfeeding. And I know that together, we can help break that stigma.