Since beginning IFF, a sentiment shared by Haley and myself is to let our images speak for themselves with little intrusion from our personal opinions. Yes, blogs are supposed to be safe places for soapboxes but I am a pretty strong-willed, stubborn, opinionated gal and didn't want my mouthy, journalistic tendencies to overshadow our intent of creating a virtual haven centered on health and wellness. However; we have recently decided to allow guest bloggers to share their stories. Personal, perspectives by way of meaningful conversations are always appreciated, no matter which side of the spectrum you fall on a hot topic.
With that said, we are thrilled to spotlight our fine-feathered friend, Jessica, and her baby boy Walden, as she gives insight in to motherhood with her piece titled: The Art + Acceptance of Breastfeeding.
Like so many of us, my breastfeeding journey didn’t come without its trials and tribulations. While producing milk came naturally, the world didn’t revolve around it. Being a working mother, I spent more time pumping away than actually nursing my son directly. I can now boast I’ve pumped in Atlanta parking decks, while driving down the interstate and at Regan International Airport, home of the infamous “sad nursing room.”
But now, as my supply matches my dwindling demand from my son, who is just over one-year-old, my heart is heavy. We haven’t quite closed our nursing saga, but I already find myself missing it.
No longer pumping, I relish in our quiet nursing sessions, nuzzling his soft whisp of hair, rubbing his still-so-small feet, staring down at this natural marvel of nourishment, where I was able to produce just what he needs, when he needed it the most. How many times I find myself nodding to the whispers in my head – it does go by so fast.
As August declares National Breastfeeding Month, there is no shortage of information on breastfeeding and its many benefits, for both baby and mother. Each ounce of that liquid gold is priceless when we can produce it.
But I was also surprised at the benefits the breastfeeding FAQs didn’t include – namely, the determination and willpower I would gain along the way. My body had never been more of a temple than when I was breastfeeding. And there were many times I needed to find that inner-strength to make it work like we did.
There was also the protective passion I developed for other mothers as well. I was surprised at the fire that lit in me over society’s notions of breastfeeding. Was this really debatable? Do we really find something so natural to all mammals so uncomfortable to us humans?
As the #normalizebreastfeeding waved its flag, I proudly saluted its stance. Whether we breastfeed or not, whether we are parents or not, whether we are a mother or a father, we have an obligation to kindness, humanity and our own human kind to rid any sort of discomfort in the act of a mother feeding a child.
I remember the frustration I felt as a new breastfeeding mom when I saw a man go jogging by without his shirt on – his useless nipples on full, sweaty display without so much of a second thought. And here I was filled with anxiety on nursing my son in public, blanketed with a hot apron cover and wearing the right amount of buttons so that our skin-to-skin nurturing was well hidden.
There is something fundamentally unfair with our double-standard of women’s chests. The same breast that nourishes us is prized more for its sexualization. A low-cut tank top is better accepted than an unsnapped nursing tank. A cat nursing her kittens makes us stop and aww. A woman doing the same will cause disapproving clucks. Why? Because society deemed our breasts trophy animals for all of the wrong reasons, and its innocence was somehow lost.
My fellow mothers, try to cherish this sacred, primal, precious art of breastfeeding. Don’t be afraid to demand your comfort to be the mother you want to be, in public spaces, in your work place, in the eyes of those who don’t yet understand.
And to everyone else, let us recognize those demands as powerful. Let us support the act of breastfeeding as simply normal.
Finally, for those entering their own breastfeeding journey, here are the simple tips I learned along the way:
Find a breast friend. Tap into your sage circle of mothers and find the one whose situation mirrors yours. For me, it was my mentors who had both deftly scaled the corporate ladders and nursed like the super moms they are. If they could do it in spite of their schedule and executive demands, I certainly could, and it helped immensely to have their support and encouragement.
Don’t put a time limit on it. Sure, we all want the year that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, but it can be less and it could be longer. When you put a deadline on it, it leans more towards another looming task in an already over-demanding world. This really is a journey that’s to be taken one day at a time. You know that old saying, “It’s not how fast you go, it’s how you get there”? Well, I can’t think of anything more appropriately applied than nursing.
Nurture yourself. Breastfeeding is a perpetual give and take where every woman’s body takes on the demands differently. Don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself so you can remain the ultimate source of nutrition for your baby. Muster the courage to meet your own demands, from creating a pleasant nursing environment to relinquishing some of the other baby duties, from bottle washing to burping, to a partner. My husband graciously stood by our “I feed, you clean” mantra. After all, it was the least he could do to make up for what Mother Nature left off of him.