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What National Breastfeeding Awareness Month Means to Me

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on August 19, 2014 in Anecdote, Family |

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so I thought I’d share my own breastfeeding journey. I come to this post with no agenda other than to share. How a parent feeds their baby is a highly personal choice and many factors go into it. Breastfeeding is simply something I’m committed to and it’s been a wonderful experience, even when it’s been tough.

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The Boy way back in 2011 in a boob drunk stupor!

There was a big campaign to have all breastfeeding mothers nurse their babies out in public on August 1st. Honestly, I’m a big shy about breastfeeding in public; the thought of it gives me anxiety, not so much over the actual act or the possibility that I may expose part of my breast (after nursing two babies, modesty about my breasts is pretty much nonexistent), but more about how other people are going to react. So many people get squeamish about seeing it (even those near and dear to me), and there are even those who are downright against breastfeeding in public and are rude or belligerent about it.

However, I did actually breastfeed in public on August 1st. That evening I attended the CT Free Shakespeare’s outdoor production of AS YOU LIKE IT. We hadn’t started the baby on bottle yet (just to be clear, the bottle contains pumped breast milk, not formula), so my choices were to take the baby with the possibility of having to nurse him there or don’t go at all. So I went and I nursed him, and it wasn’t a big deal. It was pretty dark out and everyone’s attention was on the show. I don’t even think the people around me (even the ones I had come to the show with) knew I was doing it.

Once again it was a case of me needlessly having anxiety over something that turned out fine. And though this time was uneventful, I still try to schedule our outings so I won’t have to nurse the baby in public (or so I can at least do it in the car or somewhere moderately private). I know other breastfeeding moms would tell me to get over my worry and just do it, while others would agree with my strategy, and others still would never breastfeed in public. Again, it’s a personal choice and this is where I’m at with it.

Because frankly it’s nobody’s business how/when/where I feed my baby. I strongly believe women should be able to breastfeed where ever they want or need to do it. And no one can really tell me how to do it best. I know my body best and I know my baby best. I’m proud to have been able to exclusively breastfeed my older son until he was 6 months old and to have continued breastfeeding him until he was 20 months old. I plan on breastfeeding my younger son exclusively for six months as well, and we’ll see how long I continue once he’s on solid food…at least until he’s a year old, I hope, and maybe longer.

The Prince (yup, we have an official Internet nickname for the baby) positively blissed out on booby milk!

The Prince (yup, we have an official Internet nickname for the baby) positively blissed out on booby milk!

Nursing my babies has been one of the most personal, emotional, wonderful, and difficult things I have ever done. The bond truly is like nothing else. The time I’ve spend with my boys nursing them is time to be treasured. It has created so many special moments. But it’s demanding on my body and my time. Even when the baby can get the milk from the bottle (and someone else can feed them), I still have to pump around that same time to keep up my milk supply, especially in these early months.

It’s hard to describe the demanding nature of breastfeeding to someone who hasn’t done it. You literally have to drop everything when the baby needs to be fed. This has been particularly hard on my older son (The Boy), who for 2-1/2 plus years had mommy’s undivided attention. He’s been known to say about his younger brother, “I don’t want to keep him anymore.” Because, yeah, it stinks to have to share mommy! This from the child who stopped taking a bottle at five months old, before he was on solid food, and while I was still working full time. Some days I didn’t want to have to share myself with anyone else, but that sure as heck wasn’t happening! I gave up many a lunch break to drive home and nurse The Boy.

Overall, though I’ve been lucky. Breastfeeding has come somewhat naturally to me and my boys. I know other mothers who have had to struggle to keep up their supply or whose babies weren’t able to latch. I’ve been through mastitis (a nasty and painful infection that many breastfeeding moms experience), the aforementioned bottle strike, soreness, engorgement, feeling like I’d never have my old body back again (What are these huge things on my chest? Where did my tiny mosquito bump boobs go?) and that my body no longer belonged to me, and baby acid reflux (which is much more common among formula fed babies, but both my boys were afflicted with it and had to be medicated for it). But through it all I’ve been able to breastfeed very successfully.

See breastfeeding is full of contradictions. Great feelings of accomplishment that my body alone can sustain another human. Great feelings of inadequacy when things aren’t going right and overcoming the huge learning curve that is nursing a baby who has his own ideas about how things should be done. Great feelings of freedom because I don’t have to worry about toting around extra feeding supplies; I’ve got all I need right under my shirt. Great feelings of being trapped because no one else can really take care of the whole feeding the baby thing without me (even with bottle feedings, I have to supply the milk).

For me, it’s all been worth it. Nursing my babies has been made up of a million little special moments that no one else can or will ever experience. The moment when he first latched. The little half smile he gave me while still numming (that’s the word we use for the sucking motion the baby does when latched) away at the breast. The little songs and games we play to keep him awake during feedings. The boob drunk look of fulfillment and contentment he gets after a good feeding. The first night he didn’t nurse and he was fine but I cried after I left his room.

And now that I’m nursing baby #2, my older son has provided even more entertainment over nursing. He loves to point to my wet shirt and say, “Uh oh, Mommy. Your booby is leaking.” Or ask his grandmas whether they have milk in their breasts (or his father or grandfather or any random stranger for that matter). Or very wisely observing how his auntie (who has a baby girl) does in fact have milk in her boobies. Then there was the time he called the breast pump the “milk fountain” or when he wanted to play with me and insisted that Daddy could nurse the baby. Endless entertainment!

Admittedly, my boobs–much like my stomach with all those lovely stretch marks–will never be the same again. But I’ll take saggy boobs in exchange for what I’ve got with my boys and having breastfed them because my heart will never be the same again either.

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4 Comments

  • I love breastfeeding! and it wasn’t always easy. My first two kids had tongue tie and it was painful. Luckily, my baby girl doesn’t. I feel like a pro now. I nursed my firstborn with a cover. By the time, my second son came along, I said the hell with a cover. I nurse everywhere. I’ve never gotten a derisive comment but I’m sure it will happen.

    Society gives women mixed messages about bfing. We should do it because it’s so healthy for the baby, but then we ask a mother to nurse in a bathroom or stick her baby’s head under a hot nursing cover or we don’t give a mother an appropriate amount of time at work to pump. Nursing is beautiful and natural, but then Good Morning America has to blur Olivia’s Wilde’s boob when they showed her nursing photo on their show. We can talk about gruesome murders on the morning news, but nursing a baby is seen as obscene.

    Bfing my kids gives me a lot of joy, not to mention it’s free and easy nutrition, but I can see why many women give up on it. Because despite seeming supportive, society is only supportive if nursing moms are hiding in the bathroom.

    • Thanks for sharing your own experiences and thoughts, Kimberly. I’ll never understand why some people find a woman nursing her baby obscene. I agree that nursing is beautiful and natural, nothing sexual about it. I’m frustrated with myself that I let this kind of attitude from others affect how and when I nurse my baby. I wish I could just say “I don’t care” and nurse him any and everywhere.

      The other thing I didn’t mention in this post that irks me about breastfeeding is how some advocates of it can be too overbearing. I remember when I had my first son, I kept reading advice from lactation consultants about nipple confusion and how you should never give your baby a pacifier and that you should feed them on demand, even if that means every hour. Then there’s all the contradictory information you can find about breastfeeding. I wish all new mothers could be told that there isn’t one way to do it, and there’s no right or wrong way. I want to tell them, yes, there is a learning curve and you may have to try different things to get it to work. And what worked for one mother may not work for you. And breastfeeding may not work for you and your baby at all and you may have to supplement with formula or just formula feed. But if you really want to breastfeed, stick it out through the confusing, hard times because hopefully you and your baby will figure it out and will get to a happy place with it (even when it’s hard!).

      Okay, off my soapbox for now. πŸ™‚

  • Meradeth says:

    Very sweet post, Katie! I don’t have kids, but I really think breastfeeding is so important to mother and child and am so happy that it’s something that you’ve been able to do!

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