June 27, 2015 marks the first official International Day to Normalize Breastfeeding (#IDTNB). August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. In honor of these breastfeeding events, I am sharing 16 things that breastfeeding mothers want you to know. I am a proud breastfeeding mother and have been nursing my oldest child for over 2.5 years and my youngest child for 7 weeks. I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs, failures and triumphs, awkward situations and built my confidence. There’s so much to share about this topic, but here are some of the top things you should know:
1. Our nipples are always hard. Get over it!
Even when I wear a bra and two other layers, my nipples feel the need to stay nice and perky so they can say “hello” to everybody. I find myself awkwardly folding my arms just to try to cover the perma-hard headlights under my layers of clothing. This may not be a problem if your boobies are nice and perky, but I have to constantly adjust the girls to make sure that my nipples are pointing in the same general direction. Nobody likes cross-eyed nipples.
2. We are ALWAYS hungry.
Just 20 minutes after eating a 12 course meal, I can hear my stomach growling. I am constantly eating. Of course I try to eat healthy snacks throughout the day, but can’t a girl hope that those swiss rolls help my milk production?
3. Feeding My Baby Is NONE Of Your Business.
I swear this is the postpartum version of people touching your beautiful pregnant belly without asking. Why do people feel the need to ask if I’m breastfeeding or using formula? Why is that any of their business? What if I said I was formula feeding? Would I be ridiculed for making that choice? Stop asking mothers this question. It really is not any of your business unless the MOTHER brings it up.
4. Yes, the wet spots on my shirt are milk.
Ugh! Those first few months are the worst when it comes to leaking. While your supply adjusts it’s common to have some leaky valves. I remember one time I was holding my son on my chest and I felt dripping on my foot. I looked down and my shirt was saturated and milk had leaked all the way down to my shorts. This is another one of those things that I can’t really do much about… That is, unless you wear breast pads. Which leads me to number 5:
5. Breast pads suck!
What could be worse than having permanently hard, sensitive nipples? Adding an itchy breast pad to the mix! I have yet to find a breast pad that is comfortable and does not create the ever-so-discrete circle around my nipple. Not only that, it’s hard to accept that my liquid gold is being absorbed into a pad that I’m going to THROW AWAY?!? Try investing in Milkies to save that precious milk and store for later use! (You can buy them here)
6. Cover or no cover, mind yo’ business!
I WISH my son would have let me use a nursing cover. Once he hit 6 months he ripped that thing off of him and I had to learn how to discretely nurse without a cover. I personally do not feel comfortable nursing without a cover. I have pretty big boobs and it’s hard to keep everything covered with my blouse. So please don’t act disgusted when you see me nursing my child in public. He’s hungry, and it is my legal right to feed him with OR without a cover. If you have a problem with it try this beneficial exercise: Simply turn your head in the opposite direction of which I am nursing. Problem SOLVED!
7. Yes, I’ve squirted my own milk. And yes, it goes pretty far.
I genuinely believe that I have set a world record for breast milk squirting. When my husband gets a little moody, I always threaten to squirt him with my milk. Do it once, ladies. They’ll never mess with you again.
8. When I see a nursing mother, I instantly want to be her friend.
I’m not sure what it is that makes me want to high-five a nursing mama, but I feel like we are part of this milky sorority when I see a breastfeeding mom in public. I feel like we need to have a secret hand signal to say, “Hey girl, you’re awesome. Keep up the milky work!”
9. I don’t need to explain why I’m STILL nursing!
This goes hand in hand with the probing breastfeeding question mentioned above. For some reason, some people feel the need to advise you when it’s time to end your breastfeeding relationship with your own child. Learn the facts, Jack. Breast milk does not lose its nutritional value and the World Health Organization suggests to breastfeed until at least the age of 2. A toddler can greatly benefit from breast milk AND the comfort they get from receiving that milk from the breast.
10.The health benefits rock!
My grandmother recently passed away from breast cancer. It’s a very scary and sad thing. But did you know that I can lower my risk by breastfeeding? Pretty awesome way to help me and my child, right? Obviously breast milk is also great for my child even beyond the first year. Did you know it can clear up pink eye too? Breast milk is AWESOME!
11. Just because I’m proud to breastfeed doesn’t mean I hate moms who formula feed.
Didn’t want to breastfeed? That’s cool. We can still be friends. I don’t think you’re a lesser mom for doing so. The mommy wars and shaming need to stop. But please don’t think that because I do breastfeed I think formula is evil or poison. Just sometimes, breastfeeding is really hard and I feel like it’s something I can be very proud of. There are so many awesome things that go along with it and I tend to get overly excited and it can come across like it’s the only choice.
12. It can be awkward…
I personally don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of family and friends. I don’t think it’s wrong, I just can’t comfortably get a good latch without showing my ginormous boobs. So at family functions when everyone is talking in the living room, I’m in someone else’s bedroom feeding my baby and missing my uncle’s funny story and feeling a little like an outcast. Not to mention the times that I’m nursing in public and someone comes up to talk to me and they’re distracted by the slurping sounds coming from my chunky milk baby.
13. Sometimes it sucks ass.
I struggled with supply issues with my oldest child. I supplemented with formula, felt like a failure, spent a ton of money on wives tales to increase my supply, ended up with mastitis, had chapped nipples, nursed every 45 minutes some days, cried from the pain, couldn’t eat dairy or soy, had to pump when I wanted to go out on a date, and sometimes felt “touched out.” It’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s really hard and I find myself wondering if I should have chosen another method, but…
14. It’s so rewarding!
It’s amazing to see your baby grow when he’s relying solely on YOU. You are his life source. You are producing the yummy goodness that is helping him grow and develop. You are the one sacrificing so that you both can benefit from this beautiful relationship.
15. Posting a #Brelfie isn’t TMI
Because breastfeeding is so rewarding, and at times very difficult, I feel proud and post the occasional “brelfie” (a brelfie is a breastfeeding selfie, for those unaware). It is important to try to normalize breastfeeding. The more we expose breastfeeding to others (including men and children… gasp!) the more we can de-sexualize the breast and embrace it for its purpose: breastfeeding. Kathy Lee and Hoda recently said that sharing this beautiful bond on social media is TMI. Really? Why would we shame a nursing mother but not think twice about a picture of a baby with a bottle? It is the exact same thing. And back to #6, if you don’t like seeing those images, simply unfollow the person or keep scrolling. While my boobs are fantastic, they don’t have the power to burn your retinas. It’s not hurting anyone.
16. I am not trying to make a point by nursing in public.
There is definitely a movement to normalize breastfeeding. I will share a photo of myself now and then breastfeeding my child. I will “like” a post that details the benefits of breastfeeding. I am part of this movement. HOWEVER, when I am nursing in public, the reason is not to necessarily take a stand, prove a point, make someone feel uncomfortable, or to flaunt my cause. The reason I am nursing in public is simply that my child is hungry or needing the comfort of my breast. Quite frankly, I am not thinking of anyone or anything other than my baby at that point. If I happen to inspire or offend someone by breastfeeding my child, then so be it.
I encourage you do join the #normalizebreastfeeding movement, learn more about the benefits of breast milk, look into donor milk if you cannot produce milk for your baby, seek advice from a lactation consultant and reach out to the breastfeeding communities on Facebook if you are needing a helping hand… or boob.