Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On Breastfeeding

*I actually wrote this earlier this evening before heading out, and didn't have time to edit it before getting home.  Once home I noticed the announcement about the Target nurse-ins going on across the country tomorrow and address my thoughts in this in the end.  

Breastfeeding was the one thing I dreamed about doing, of holding a baby in my arms and cuddling with them while they nursed, that hurt the most when I thought we were unable to have children.  Yes, I could adopt a child and do most of the things you do with a child you give birth to, but breastfeeding is nearly impossible in that situation.  So it was the one thing I have absolutely been determined to do with Nora.  When one doctor made the suggestion that we might need to supplement with formula at the end of each feeding to help her jaundice I got steely, and was grateful when the doctors at Johns Hopkins all told me that we weren't at a point where that would be a suggestion yet.

I had heard horror stories from so many people about the nipple pain, about engorgement, about leaking and trouble making enough milk.  And I'm not sure if it's I just got lucky or if I planned so well for anything and made sure I read up to know what I was doing, but I haven't really experienced any of that.  My nipples get a little tender when I'm full and they're hard, almost as if they're having to strain to keep everything in.  And I've had soaked breast pads, and one shirt that had a nice circle on it because I got overly full.  But I took a breastfeeding class, I bought the book that is considered the most comprehensive, I got a nursing pad set that has thin ones for day and thick cushy ones for night, and I've never had trouble making enough, even for my chunky monkey.

We struggled in the beginning to find the right positions for us.  A wonderful nurse helped me figure it out, and gave me suggestions for sites she'd found helpful with her own breastfeeding (http://kellymom.com).  And since then we've been great.  The position of lying down that worked best when we were learning is still my favorite, but I now find I can hold her in one arm and walk around the house getting things done without much trouble at all.  She's gotten to the point where she knows how to keep herself on the breast.  And the best part has to be that she can be having a holy fit because she's hungry, but as soon as we get her in a position she's used to, or if she sees a breast at all, she goes instantly silent, her eyes widen and she waits patiently.  It's pretty funny.

Yesterday we had just sat down at the cafe at Barnes and Noble, when Nora awoke.  It was quickly evident she was starving and ready to cry if she didn't get fed.  I got nervous.  Normally we'd leave and I'd feed her in the back of the car before we drove off, but it was the day after Christmas and cars were full of cranky people who would be pissed if we got in our car and didn't pull out immediately.  And while I had a nursing cover, the last time I tried it, it was a fail. Still, I decided to give it a whirl, and it worked perfectly so I sat there feeding her while we enjoyed our coffee and conversation.

I know not everyone has an easy time of nursing.  I know women with soreness that I've recommended things to.  But I look at this thing, this bonding I get with her, the savings (and apparent safety) of not having to buy formula, and I don't understand why the majority of women don't breastfeed.  It's a well known fact that breastmilk is the perfect food for a baby, which is why Johns Hopkins advocates for it so much.  And it's very much more common throughout the world.  I just wish more women here would not just give it a go, but make sure they have the resources in case it's not going well.  It's not supposed to hurt, though it will feel weird, and maybe uncomfortable at first.  If you don't have someone telling you that and making suggestions I could see how it would be easy to give up.  But it's been one of the most amazing experiences, so I'm writing this all down for Miss Nora to read later.

As for the nurse-in.  I know some people think it's attention seeking, and honestly I didn't give it much thought, and don't have plans to go.  However, it is about attention...attention that is greatly needed.  Breasts are for feeding a baby.  It is their biological purpose.  The reason men are attracted to them, is because biologically men are searching for women who they can procreate with, and who can feed their children well.  I do not think women should have to be covered, and in most states that is a right protected by the law. 

I have now nursed at IKEA too.  I used a cover because I'm new to nursing and have an easily distracted baby.  However, I know as handsy as she is that the time will soon come when she will pull the cover off, because she's annoyed or gets hot (the thing does raise my body temp, somewhat uncomfortably).  At which point I have every intention of continuing to nurse in public, with my breast out...and by out I mean, baby attached, whereas even at her young age, nothing shows.  G has laughed and said "God help the person who tries to tell you to cover up."  I may be a new mom, but I am not easily intimidated.  It is my right to nurse, covered or uncovered in public, any place I am legally allowed to be. 

I have heard the argument that it is immodest, or that the person speaking doesn't want their son to see it.  To that I say you need to get over it.  It is only immodest if you have become the twisted sort who only sees breasts as a sexual organ.  And quite frankly, I think more boys and men need to be exposed to breasts as a tool for feeding a baby.  It would be seen as more "normal" if we as a society had not overly sexualized so much about women. 

The nurse-in is to advocate for a baby's right to eat in public, and to not have a person harassed for doing so (though I agree she should not have been sitting in an aisle...that's just dangerous with the way people shop at Target, never looking where they're going).  It is also to continue to educate the public about breastfeeding, and to help it stop being so taboo.  And to that I add my applause. 


  1. Well said! I was approached twice while feeding Emma at our local Wal-Mart by an employee that first suggested I go into the bathroom (would YOU want to eat your dinner on the toilet?) and the second time she told me I could nurse in the dressing rooms. Seriously, I was in the very back of the store in the empty lay away section positioned BEHIND my full cart of goodies AND a coat draped over the edge so people couldn't see through the holes in the cart. The only reason she knew I was nursing is because she approached me to see the baby... which she couldn't because I WAS COVERED with a nursing coverup. So, off my soap box now. I totally agree with you... breasts are for feeding babies.. period. We shouldn't be embarrassed to use them in that function whenever our babies are hungry. The. End.

  2. A really interesting post Kate, even though I have absolutely no working knowledge of breastfeeding.

    I've often wondered as well why people (namely Americans) get so uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public. Whenever you watch documentaries on TV about other cultures in South America, India, Africa, or wherever, the women don't hesitate to breastfeed in front of the others, and as far as I know, the little boys who see it don't grow up perverted or traumatized!

    It's hard to say what the thought on breastfeeding is in France because I'm not part of the "mommy circle". For the most part, I think it's encouraged, but I know a lot of French women don't want their husbands to see them doing it because they prefer to keep their breasts as a sexual object. Come to think of it, I've never come across a woman breastfeeding here, covered or not.

    But it doesnt surprise me considering this is the country where you get a few free sessions from social security after giving birth to tighten up your perineum with a physiotherapist. Basically French women want their bodies to go back to the way they were before the pregnancy as quickly as possible to feel good about themselves and please their husbands...(I'm generalizing, but this is the impression I get and Max seems to confirm it)