Breastfeeding in a Perfect World

Today is Breastfeeding Topic Day at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, New York City Moms Blog, Chicago Moms Blog and DC Metro Moms (where I write). Check out the differing views on breastfeeding.

Before children, breastfeeding always seemed like the most peaceful moment shared between mother and child—mom cuddling baby, baby eating so nicely, never any mess to clean up. But those of us who have gone this route know there are some less-than-perfect things about breastfeeding. We can hope that in a perfect world things could be as they are in our imaginations—before we were all inducted into the breastfeeding mom’s club—but most of us know that as modern women of American fast-paced society, breastfeeding is what it is.

In a perfect world . . . Breastfeeding would be easy to do. For those of us who struggled with one child or another breastfeeding can be a daily or sometimes hourly struggle. One kid can take to the breast like a duck to water and with others it's like mixing oil and water--it can break a mom’s heart. In a perfect world, a baby would pop out, latch on and eat for 10 minutes and be done.

In a perfect world . . . Moms wouldn’t feel nervous or ashamed about breastfeeding their babies in public. We’ve all been there in the situation where you think I have to do it now, right here. Baby is screaming, people are watching and waiting for you to quiet him down. You know that all he wants is the boob. Do you rip your shirt off in the airplane and give it to him or let him cry? Do you risk nipple viewing in a family restaurant? The reality is that most people would probably you rather quiet your baby in a restaurant or plane, and if a breast is what does it then I say go for it. New moms sometimes have anxieties about nursing in public. I remember my friends taking the time to show me in a Starbucks how to drape the blanket over my shoulder and baby’s head. By my second child, I didn’t even care about the modesty.

In a perfect world . . . Moms would get six months or maybe even a year of maternity leave. Part of the reason Americans don’t breastfeed as long as Europeans is that we give our news moms only six weeks maternity leave. We’re not even sleeping through the night by that point and no established milk/feeding pattern has really taken shape. It wasn’t until three months into the new mom gig with my second child that I finally had the breastfeeding thing under control. Which leads me to my next point . . .

In a perfect world . . . Moms shouldn’t have to pump at work in a bathroom. For those that used hospital grade pumps, you know this can be one of the most awkward positions. Here you are tired, hunched over and hooked up to a machine like a dairy cow. Nothing says professional like the wump, wump sound of a breast pump in the ladies room. In a perfect world, if moms had a little more give on maternity leave, perhaps this would simply be a non-issue.

In a perfect world . . . People wouldn’t make you feel bad if you chose not to breastfeed or struggled with it. There is a lot of pressure for moms to breastfeed these days, and while I admit wholeheartedly that breast is best, it may not be for everyone. When I sat up at nights nursing my son hour after hour, I would crying thinking I was the only one feeling this way. My heart was in it 100 percent, but I just couldn’t make it work for me, and I felt like I had failed my baby. Every magazine I read made me feel like switching to a bottle meant neglecting my son.

In a perfect world . . . Breastfeeding wouldn’t be about watching the clock. With all the books I had read prior to breastfeeding, I thought babies ate 20 minutes on one breast and 20 minutes on the next, and then you have two hours to put up your feet. But those of us with older kids know that feeding the baby is not a time to sit, relax and watch TV. It can be a time when you’re entertaining another or thinking of all the things that we could be doing instead of sitting. In a perfect world, we’d just sit down and let the baby go to town until he/she was done.

In a perfect world . . . Babies wouldn’t spit up the milk you just produced. There is nothing worse than completing a wonderful feeding session with your sweet infant only to have him spit up all the milk you just produced. It’s not like you can just mix up another batch. And for those of us who didn’t produce much anyway, it was hard lesson to learn that we were no longer in control.

In a perfect world . . . No one would look at you while you were breastfeeding. I could never tell if the looks I got from passersby were looks of horror, pity or empathy. I just assumed that people knew what I was doing and were looking my way to smile or check out my newborn baby. (Isn't she cute?) I try to do the same. In a perfect world, you could to offer a new mom some compassion via eye contact without having the look/smile misconstrued.

In a perfect world . . . Nursing shirts and bras would be cute and stylish. I’m sure there are some cute outfits out there for nursing and I know they put lace on the bras, but it just seems like in a perfect world someone would recognize the demand for cute, affordable post pregnancy nursing clothes.

In a perfect world . . . People wouldn’t make you feel bad if you decided to breastfeed into toddlerhood. I was not one of these moms, but I think those women who breastfeed into toddlerhood are true heroes. Making moms justify nursing a two year old is highly inappropriate. In a perfect world, people would just mind their own business.

In a perfect world . . . Breastfeeding should be about just that--bonding with and feeding your baby. Many times it can be, but unfortunately unless it’s a late night feeding or the wee hours of the morning, pastoral it is not. We’re probably making a snack for someone, dodging an older child’s toy, trying to cover up our other nipple, making mental lists, talking on the phone, bargaining with someone or counting the minutes until the feed is over so we can get in the shower.

This is not a perfect world, but breastfeeding is like everything we do as moms. You take the good with the bad. For me, breastfeeding my children was a bit of challenge on many levels. I don’t regret doing it. I even loved it at times. And I would totally do it again.

1 comment:

purplemommy said...

I breastfed my youngest until a few months ago. He was 21 months old. I stopped because I had to go on antibiotics for an ear infection. When I told doctors (primary care and then ENT specialist) I was still breastfeeding, I got incredulous looks and "Well, it's about time to stop anyway. Don't you think?" Thing was it was our morning routine. For 15-20 minutes he nursed while I had a cup of coffee and watched the morning news. He was then a happy toddler. Since stopping he is crabby kid in the morning. And well, so am I.