I was smug. I’ll admit it. I sat through my baby classes, convinced that everything I was hearing was old hat. We, along with another couple (our dear friends, and the only useful thing to come out of that class), sat in the back giggling. We were the class clowns. One day our teacher handed around a knitted placenta. (Once she took it out of the amniotic sac crafted out of nylons.) It was not hard to be class clowns. I giggled my way through her warnings about back labor (mistake), the difficulties of breast feeding (big mistake), and fourth degree tears (OMGBF mistake). I was smug. My mother had me in three hours with no drugs, breastfed me until she got herself knocked up with my sister (a month and a half later!), and made a strong argument in support of my inner goddess. Class, schmass. What an ass.
And then I became a mother.
He nursed every 1 1/2-2 hours. For at least an hour each time. By our second day home, my nipples were bleeding. Each time he latched on, I would yelp, and then cry silently as he nursed.
Leaving the house wasn’t even an option.
People tend to freak out when your nipples bleed through your shirt.
I cried and cried, at the pain and at what I perceived as my own ineptitude. Hubs supported me, but even he was urging me not to let it ruin my early motherhood. My good friend from our class had an even harder experience, and had already started formula. Even my own mom was reminding me that I didn’t have to breastfeed.
But I was resolute. Wasn’t it supposed to be the natural thing to do? What was wrong with me that it was so hard? It’s the best thing for my baby (of course, nursing wouldn’t have been the best thing for my baby much longer at that time, since I was resisting the urge to shove him onto the floor every time he latched on.)
At my friend Chan’s urging, I finally hunted down my lactation consultant at a breastfeeding support group. Twenty or thirty women, in a circle, in various states of undress, with various shapes, sizes, and ages of babies, all nursed and chatted. Sometimes about nursing. Sometimes about babies. Most of the time this was their one time of the day around other adults.
By the time the lactation consultant came to me, I was trying to hide my tears. Of course, the lactation consultant “on duty” for that day was crazy knitted placenta lady that I had snickered at for two months.
“He’s eating me alive,” I sobbed, “I can’t do this anymore. You’ve got to help me, please?”
She looked at me with nothing but empathy. She looked at his latch, and at then at my nipple.
“Looks like you’ve got a Barracuda baby there. You’re going to need some medicine. But it’s going to be all right, and we’ll get it all figured out.”
Within a week, with some slight changes to our latch and some triple ointment (god bless you, triple ointment) Noise and I were a professional breastfeeding team. I nursed anywhere, anytime. I tried to be respectful of those around me, but feeding my baby was my first concern, and it had been so hard that I didn’t worry too much about being embarrassed. I would have been more embarrassed to let my baby cry. Plenty of people stared, but not one person dared to say anything. Not that I wasn’t ready. I was all ready to lactivate!
We nursed for 14 months. Until I got pregnant with Funk. Funk nursed for 16 months, but never was the Barracuda Baby that Noise was, thank god (although I had nipples of steel by that point, and would hardly have noticed.) I am so proud of us for this. It’s true that not every mother can/will/should nurse. But I am so proud of myself. I would never want to hide that pride in the bathroom.
There are countless reasons why women nursing in public should make your heart happy. And I can’t think of one valid reason why it wouldn’t. There are too many double standards to any argument against it. Too many loose terms like “offensive” or “indecent” all of which are incredibly subjective.
Support nursing women. Support them by welcoming their right to feed their baby in public. Your warm smile, and your encouragement of her choice, is one more positive thing for her to remember as she struggles with motherhood and the challenges of nursing.
Today is the day of the Great Virtual Breast Fest over at the League Of Maternal Justice – join in and raise your voice (showing your boobs – optional).