When you are pregnant you hear over and over again from your doctors and women in your family that “breast is best!” They encourage you to nurse your child for one to two years and they teach you how to nurse so you are prepared when your baby needs their first meal. What they don’t tell you is that breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy for every woman or child.
There are not enough doctors talking about the complications of breastfeeding or that even if you can/should, society will shun you for doing it publicly. There is so much that is unspoken about breastfeeding that women are left feeling anxious, afraid, and like a failure if they can’t make it work.
Just like every pregnancy and every birthing story is different, so is every breastfeeding journey. We need to stop considering these conversations taboo and start setting women up for success whatever that looks like for them.
I know so many women who struggled to get their kid to latch right, or their supply never came in fully, or it hurt too much that they quit early. None of this was their fault, yet they feel so guilty as a mother. Mothers shouldn’t be made to feel guilt for something so out of their control, but society tells us moms should be able to nurse no problem. We don’t prepare women for the reality that it might not work out and that it isn’t their fault.
I understand that doctors are wanting to make sure women nurse, because the science shows that breastmilk is so important for a child’s development. Formula is perfectly fine though and if a woman has complications they shouldn’t feel bad making sure their kid is fed with formula. Mothers already carry around so much guilt forced on them from society, they do not need this too.
Some women also just don’t enjoy nursing. Either way it is her body and her choice. Yet again everyone has an opinion about what women do with their bodies. On the other hand, people also have an opinion when women who want to nurse do so in public or nurse past the age of one. It’s none of your business. Stop judging women/mothers for bottle feeding their baby or nursing their baby in public.
We are told breast is best, but then when we need to nurse our kids while out in public there are no nursing rooms and people snicker if you just pull your boob out. If you want me to nurse my kid and not do it in public, provide me more comfortable places to do it in private. Otherwise, I’m left with the choice between nursing at my table or in the bathroom stall. I’ve done both!
Here’s my story: my son latched immediately, but hard. He latched so tight that my nipple was practically torn off after he finished nursing. It hurt so bad, I cried every time I had to feed him. My nipples bled and scabbed over. I had PTSD every time he needed to eat. I visited a lactation consultant several times and their tips never worked. So, I had a choice: suffer until his mouth grew or pump and bottle feed or give up.
I decided to suffer, because moms are masochists. We love pain! Just kidding, but seriously we have a high tolerance for pain when it comes to our kids. Luckily by time he was two months old, his latch was less harsh and my nipples were calloused.
Our nursing journey has gone up and down. I never had luck pumping especially when I started back at work, and my son never did well with bottles. As a result of that and COVID forcing me home 24/7, we ended up exclusively nursing. This was a blessing and a curse. Blessing because he got all the good stuff from the source for over a year. A curse, because I lost all my freedom and autonomy.
I didn’t leave my son’s side for more than 2-3 hours maximum for a whole year. I felt tethered to him and miserable because of it. My husband would go out with friends for a full day and I would envy him so much for his freedom. I would go out and have to rush home once my breast were bulging full of milk and knew my son was wailing at home without me. I hated rushing away from my friends or errands or work so quickly every time.
My supply has dipped a few times, but overall has kept up with his needs. There were moments when he would try to nurse and my milk wouldn’t let down and he would scream in frustration and I would cry. I would get stressed and just make it worse. It took a lot of stress and effort to keep up my supply for him.
He is now 16 months old and still demands baba and I honestly have wanted to wean him since he turned one. I feel trapped. I don’t judge women who love it and want to nurse much longer, but I am over it. He isn’t a good eater or sleeper, so I nurse him way more than I want to now. He has a full mouthful of teeth as well and he bites me often, for fun. He has been biting since 6 months old.
Anyway, long story short my story is unique to me and was a rollercaoster. It has included lots of tears, pain, and awkward moments nursing in bathroom stalls as well as nursing openly in public when I stopped giving a fuck. My friends all have different stories and faced lots of struggles of their own. We are all different in our mothering journeys yet doctors, media, and society do a shitty job of preparing us for the uniqueness of the nursing story. We need to do better for mothers so they never feel like failures for having different stories.