To those who have something to say when I breastfeed my baby,
Do you know that before I pull down my shirt and latch my baby to my breast my entire body tenses up? I brace for what you are about to say. I’ve checked out of the conversation. I’ve stopped eating my meal. I’m silently calming my panic because I know your eyes and mouth are about to come for me with insensitivity and sometimes cruelty.
And quite frankly, I am tired of it.
Parenting classes and doctors told me that breastfeeding would help protect my baby against illness, prevent obesity and even make her smarter. Our mother-child bond would be stronger from the release of oxytocin that occurs during breastfeeding. It would even fight postpartum depression.
“Breast is best” is the slogan the experts used.
It was a no brainer for me. After all, how hard could it be?
Well, it’s been really hard.
No one warned me that when a baby is first born they cluster feed. They feed on and off nonstop, leaving mothers without time for sleep.
It felt like some sort of welcome-to-motherhood hazing.
When my daughter was one-month old I was hospitalized with Mastitis, which is inflammation of the breast tissue likely from a clogged duct. I ran high fevers for a week and suffered flu-like symptoms. Mastitis is dangerous and extremely painful. My breasts were as hard and as big as cantaloupes. It’s not the easiest recovery either. The best medicine they say is to nurse your baby as frequently as possible.
I have had nights that are so sleepless I cry when morning comes. My body is no longer mine. I have a scar from my c-section and my breasts are twice the size of what they were pre-pregnancy.
Sometimes the words “I can’t do this” play like a broken record in my head.
Breastfeeding makes me super dehydrated. After I am done, I am exhausted. I feel like I just worked out and I am famished. My shoulders cramp because I am hunched over. And while some people lose weight from breastfeeding, it’s harder for me to return to my pre-pregnancy body because I constantly want and need to eat. Not to mention, I can’t exactly run and jump rope with these big girls right now. It hurts!
Sometimes the words, “I can’t do this play like a broken record in my head.”
But I am not complaining. I am telling you this so you understand that it hasn’t been easy and you haven’t made it any easier. Nurses, friends, and family acted so impressed those first few days when I breastfed my baby in the hospital. I felt like a hero. But that level of support quickly disappeared when I left the hospital and integrated motherhood into my everyday life.
Too often, I hear your comments and I see your stares.
“I could never… It’s just gross to me.”
“Are you going to breastfeed forever?”
“You’re taking your boobs out now?!”
I wonder why you think it is OK to comment or react to me feeding my child?
Is it just because I’ve made your brunch experience a little awkward with my left boob?
When my daughter was six months old, she and I traveled alone together for the first time.
On the plane she got hungry. So, I fed her.
The old man next to me said, “Wow! She is lucky. I wish I could be her.”
At a pharmacy, while waiting for a prescription for her when she was sick, I sat down in a corner to feed her. A man came uncomfortably close to us and started whistling. My daughter kept popping her little sick head up to look at him, exposing my entire breast. I don’t know if whistling is how he passes the time or if he was just trying to horrify me.
On multiple occasions, my family members and even my partner have said to me, “I can’t believe you are doing that here.”
I try to ignore all of you because I don’t have the energy for your criticism. My arms and shoulders are sore. My nipple is cracked from being bitten. My baby is cranky because she’s uncomfortable in this position. I’m thirsty. And now, because of comments like yours, I am embarrassed and want to quit.
Please understand, no one enjoys breastfeeding in public.
I haven’t met one mom who said, “Isn’t it great you get to whip a boob out sometimes?”
No one enjoys it. At times, it feels humiliating.
But when a baby is hungry, they are hungry. I could either hold my daughter, kicking, screaming and crying because she’s starved or I could just sit down and feed her.
Some people have asked, “Do you want a blanket to cover up?”
No, I don’t. I am hot and sweaty already from carrying a baby around. Not to mention my daughter is now 10 months old and 20-something pounds. Homegirl does not enjoy eating in 80° weather with a blanket over her head. Imagine someone putting a blanket over your face while you’re trying to eat.
Another option for some women is pumping ahead of time but that doesn’t work for everyone. For me, it’s super painful and a huge hassle. Also, I don’t produce as much when I pump.
And while there are some situations where I could go out of my way to find a private space, after a while it creates a feeling of isolation.
The way I see it is 50 years ago the media decided to sexualize breasts, which made mothers feel like we should be ashamed for exposing them.
Women are expected to be great moms and not to have any sweat on our brows in the process.
This unfair expectation for women to always look pretty and perfect while also constantly being sexualized is why you think your stares are warranted and your comments are appropriate.
The truth is, if you’re doing motherhood right, you should look like a hot mess. And just like if I pulled out formula or a bag of cheerios, when I go to feed my child, the rhythm of our conversation should not change.
Breastfeeding is not about you and it’s not about me. It’s about my baby and I am blessed to be able to nourish my daughter with happiness as well as, hopefully, long-term health.
I am proud of myself for breastfeeding my child. It’s incredibly hard. It’s hard when I’m alone in my living room. It’s super hard when I’m out at dinner.
And it would be really nice and much appreciated if you could make it a little easier for me and mothers like me. I am not asking for luxury, I am asking for human decency.
When you see me unlatch my bra, pull a breast out, and start to feed my baby, don’t offer your opinion. Keep your eyes focused on whatever task you were doing. And if by some miracle you decide you want to be helpful, for God’s sake, just pass me a glass of water.
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[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]
Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.
Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine
You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)
[…] Here is why you need to stop being nice and start being loud […]
Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?
So nice Roger <3
Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.