I want to talk about breastfeeding. This is not a platform to shower praise upon the act of breastfeeding. Nor is this a feminist critique on the laws and regulations surrounding breastfeeding. Both could be well argued by someone else. This also isn’t a ranting on how broken our health insurance system is – though it very well could be. This is about one woman and her struggle with the enigma that has become breastfeeding.
My choice to breastfeed came from a very humble place – I’m unemployed and it seemed like the cheapest solution. I’ve done the research, I know all the stats and advocacy but if we’re being honest – money was a big deciding factor to it. What they don’t tell you about breastfeeding is that, at least for me, it sucks. It’s painful, it’s frustrating, it makes you flush with heat and break out in a sweat, it’s mentally exhausting, it’s physically demanding, and if everyone knew these things no one would breastfeed. Maybe I just had a bad experience, but the blogs, the books, the near reverent nurses at the hospital, and my family did not prepare me for the absolute failure I became at breastfeeding. At my six-week check-up with my OB/Gyn I told my doctor I felt done with breastfeeding and never felt more relieved when she told me, “then you’re done.”
Yet I’m still lying to strangers. Strangers will come up to me at all the various places I am with my son and will asking the following three questions in this order: how old is your baby, what is your baby’s name, are you breastfeeding? Why is that a question that should be asked of a stranger? Something as intimate as my breasts should not be public domain. Yet, because they are feeding my child it is suddenly taken from the area of taboo and into the public conscious.
Strangest of all I’m lying to these strangers telling them that I am still breastfeeding. Why? A part of me knows that’s what they want to hear. Another part of me doesn’t want the hassle of a lecture with a stranger about the benefits of breastfeeding. Finally – I feel judged. As a new mother, your spouse, your family, your in-laws, your friends, and even you are constantly judging you. Most of the time it is in a loving and constructive way but you still feel it. You can tell that it is always on the tip of their tongue’s – “I did it this way…”
Something as intimate and personal as breastfeeding, I think, shouldn’t be at the pulse of feminist advocacy right now. It is my body, it is my choice, and I don’t think anyone – including advocacy groups – should be telling me how I should feed my son. When did women become such a bully to each other over our breasts? Why are women feeling the need to attack other woman’s choices on message boards and in public? Why is pushing an agenda of breastfeeding something women feel they need to have an opinion on?
In the end, I chose to stop breastfeeding my son because it hurt too damn much and I was sick of being covered in breast milk with a screaming, red-faced infant on my lap. He drinks his bottles of formula just fine and gives me the most amazing, loving looks as he does so. They are still my breasts, it is my choice, and I think it’s time that we stop telling other women – stranger or not – how to feed their children.