Tits Out

When my kids and I are having a slow day at home, I sometimes leave them (and myself) in their pajamas all day. Hey, less laundry for me! If there is already a stain on Archer’s shirt, I don’t bother with a bib at mealtime because it’s going to be spot-cleaned anyway. I sometimes say we are out of playdoh because I don’t want to clean up the mess. And I breastfeed.

These are all examples of my laziness.

As every new mother can attest, while we’re struggling to hold and change our squirmy newborns and icing our chapped and bleeding nipples, there is apparently never a bad time to be reminded that “breast is best”. We know this, of course, because every parenting book repeats that mantra, every nurse will call a lactation consultant just to be extra sure you’re trying hard enough, and every pediatrician harps on it even after you tell them you are indeed breast-is-best-feeding exclusively. WE KNOW. But for some families, ‘best’ is relative.

There are circumstances where a woman’s milk doesn’t come in, or doesn’t come in fast enough, and you’ve started supplementing with formula already and the baby prefers the bottle. It happens. A lot of Mommas work, and don’t even get 6 weeks maternity leave (an absolute crime) to establish a good nursing relationship with their infant. Breastfeeding does get easier after six weeks, but I imagine that’s less true if at the 6 week mark you are spending 9 hours away from your infant and trying to pump milk in a bathroom stall. Things happen. Some Mommies I know, and this was nearly my personal story, have an illness that requires medication that can show up in your milk and be unhealthy for your baby. So, you pump 8 times a day while you’re on your meds if there is an end in sight and hope this brief period on formula doesn’t destroy the foundation of breast preference. Or, you’re on the meds indefinitely, and you’re forced to wean too soon for both of you. Life happens.

With my first child I had read all the parenting books and talked to fellow future Mommies and decided I would breastfeed exclusively, and anything less was a personal failure. Women have breasts for one purpose (unless you ask men) and if I can’t provide nourishment for my child, what kind of mother am I?

And so, with determination and grit, I breastfed like crazy for a sleepy baby who took 45 minutes for a meal and was hungry 45 minutes later. I rarely put him down those first couple weeks. There is a theory that you must toughen up your nipples, and the discomfort will pass. This may be true to some extent, but upon hearing this I tried to ignore the searing pain on one side in particular, until I was afraid to hold my baby because he would smell me and want to eat. The strong suction had made a small tear in my nip, and I was hysterical.

And I’ll tell you why: GUILT. I’m not able to feed my child because I can’t just overcome this pain. I have been getting him to latch on incorrectly because I have no motherly instinct. What kind of mother tries to avoid feeding her son by having someone else hold him? I will now have to give him formula while I heal for 24 hours, and clearly there is nothing worse than this most grievous of sins. His palate will be ruined and he’ll only want formula. His latch will be altered and he’ll only take bottles. His immune system will be destroyed, he won’t get antibodies when he gets sick, and he’s more likely to be obese as a teenager (or something). And it’s all because of me.

RIDICULOUS.

I couldn’t stand to feed him the bottles of formula because I was such an emotional dumpster fire. THIS BOTTLE IS A SYMBOL OF MY SHAME. I AM ALREADY A FAILURE AS A PARENT AT TWO WEEKS.

While I’m sure the lactation consultants, nurses, doctors, preachy moms, and marketing teams (even formula has “breast is best” printed on it!) mean well and want my child to get the best possible nourishment, this is a lot of pressure on someone who hasn’t slept and, barring experience with BDSM, has never had such a tender part of her body treated this way before. Some of these Moms are recovering from C-sections which is a major surgery. We are exhausted, sore, hungry, sweaty, and have more hormones than the high school lacrosse team. While it is a delicate balance when supplementing with formula early on, and there is in fact a risk that your baby will shun the breast, take it easy on the rhetoric, k?

It is from this incident that I learned the meaning of self care. The lactation consultant looked into my manic eyes and said “if you don’t take some time to heal, you’ll never be able to feed him because it will get worse or infected. Good mothers are healthy mothers”. You mean, I have to take care of myself? Are you sure? No one has mentioned that to me…

During my second pregnancy I blew out my gall bladder and had to wait until Archer was born to have it removed. I tried to pump in preparation for the procedure, but Archer was a preemie and cluster fed for the first two months of his life. I didn’t have any milk to spare. I knew he would need formula until the drugs from surgery washed out of my system and I was nervous, but at peace with the situation. Life happens. It’s just a day or two. Formula is not the devil.

Now, to be honest, I don’t breastfeed for the same reasons I used to. Yes, breast milk is the best food for my baby and contains all manner of magical elixirs not present in formula. But hot damn, is it easier for a lazy Mother. No measuring, mixing, pouring, warming, sterilizing, assembling, purchasing, etc. Just whip them out and boom: a perfectly heated meal that is healthy and always ready on demand. My diaper bag already weighs 50 pounds without dragging around bottles, formula, distilled water, or whatever other paraphernalia bottle-feeding requires.

IMG_5743.JPGI wouldn’t stop feeding my child to protect the decency of the Pope himself (though it is now acceptable to boob your child in church, so maybe he wouldn’t mind), but I’m not showy about it. With my first baby I was so clumsy I made everyone leave my house when I nursed so I wouldn’t accidentally flash them. Now my poor family sees a nipple at least once during a visit with my kids. We are not a naked house, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

People who don’t have kids and even some fathers just don’t get it. The suckling motion is soothing for babies, even more so if there’s warm milk to go with it. Ever see a baby with a pacifier? He is pacified because he’s sucking. My younger son has never liked the paci, so *I* am the paci when he’s not feeling well or is getting vaccines or has a booboo. When I’m nursing, he isn’t always eating. Sometimes he’s just resting or soothing himself. So if my kid is crying and it’s bothering you, I suggest you tolerate the tits. It’s one or the other.

I generally use a nursing cover in public or nurse under my shirt (rather than yanking my breast out the top of a v-neck) so my whole tata isn’t exposed. I’m not trying to send a message and dare people to complain about my jubblies being exposed. I am less shy about nursing in front of others, but I don’t really want to show you my breasts, either. They are mine, or, more accurately right now, my son’s, and still private even though they are sometimes whipped out in a restaurant next to your cocktail and appetizer. If I’m nursing, you can just stop looking, but if my kid is crying and needs to be nursed, you can’t just stop hearing. Boobs for the win!

I have never had someone complain that I am nursing in public, or in a dressing room, or the grocery store. No one has told me to cover up on an airplane. It might be in small part because I tend to try and cover myself up around strangers, and it might be because department stores and airlines have had to make some public apologies for shaming nursing moms lately.

Whatever the reason, thank you, society. I am far too lazy to pump ahead of time or fuss with formula or demand my son learn to use a bottle (he has thus far refused to latch onto anything but me, which is terribly inconvenient). Thank you for at least pretending you’re supportive of my choice to breastfeed in order to avoid doing extra dishes or paying an arm and a leg for formula. I’ll do my best not to flash my nomnoms at you in the future.

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