Most of the world’s women bare their boobs to their babies because of common sense, but it’s quite the choice in other places. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I will continue to embarrass my dad.
You would think that seeing my mom breastfeed five kids would take care of some of that embarrassment. That didn’t do the trick though, because this summer while sitting in a Thai restaurant in Northern Virginia waiting on our Pho, Daddy said, “Can you do THAT here?”
“Of course,” I replied with a laugh. Because to me, it is laughable.
Is there anything more natural than a woman giving her child the nourishment that her body makes? It’s interesting when I teach about mammals. The fact that the mother produces milk is something that second graders sometimes giggle over–but others take as common knowledge. I always wonder which of my students were breastfed at this point.
I am not here to judge mamas who can’t or won’t breastfeed. That’s really their choice. But I can’t imagine doing anything different. When I see Ale’s little doe eyes staring up in me while she reaches to play with my dress, my lips, my hair, I think, “Wow. I wish I could post a picture of this for everyone to share.” When she starts to drift off to sleep, the singing often begins. Coos of contentment and sighs of satisfaction.
My breastfeeding journey has had it’s ups and downs. I also don’t judge women who quit too harshly, because without the encouragement of good mamas and self-determination to give my baby the best that could have been me. I thought that latching on would be normal and natural–the way I read it sometimes is. Ale quickly learned to suck, but it took a while for my nipples to cooperate. So blisters and bleeding arrived that first week.
Still determined, I would place a blanket or washcloth in my mouth to bite back the urge to scream from the pain. I pictured my sister when she and my niece had a bad bout of thrush. The pain would eventually leave, I told myself.
I looked to internet for advice (bad idea). Ten days later, I was still expecting the day to come when it wasn’t a horrible experience (feeding my child). I would nurse her on the good side, and occasionally pump on the other side while worrying about nipple confusion. I would hope that she would just sleep a little longer so that I could avoid the pain. Mama would say, “Jania! Look at her! She’s happy!” when I would express my concern about supply.
Alexandria was three weeks old when it stopped hurting. She was over two months old when laying down and breastfeeding began to work. She quickly gained weight on my milk alone, and on her four month birthday she weighed over 16 pounds. Woo hoo!
The discouragement came in the place I least expected it.
Because my suegra (my mother-in-law) had been another source of encouragement the whole time, I assumed her daughters would also be knowledgeable. We made a summer trip to hot Mexico, and I noticed that the baby couldn’t get enough chi-chi. I was told that I should give her water, but my husband and I agreed that the water wasn’t something we wanted to share with our little one. It also made sense to me that she was probably nursing a lot being in a new place, teething, and sweating like mad! My oldest sister-in-law wouldn’t let it go one day, telling me that I should be giving Ale water and food by now. She observed the flatness of my boobs, and assumed that I had no milk. If only her eagle eyes could have spotted the rolls of healthy fat on my daughter’s arms that waved happily around her. Maybe I should have given her diaper duty, so that she could lift her chubby legs to clean poo from places you’d never imagine it would get stuck. Instead, I lifted my chin and argued for my daughter’s sake.
I refuse to cover her when she nurses for her sake too. I am not flashy, exposing large amounts of flesh, but I don’t cover my head when I eat. Don’t get me wrong, I tried the cover thing when we first started. One of my newly married friends brought me one to help me out while she and her husband visited us for the first time after the birth. I think that may have been the last time we did that…
And I don’t know anyone who chooses to eat daily on the toilet. That’s the one place I have never nursed Ale. She’s eaten in a plane, a car, an airport, and a restaurant. We’ve latched on at a mall, in a taxi, in a bus, at my school, and in church. I’ve happily given her milk outside under the stars, inside cuddled up next to me, and sitting on the ground surrounded by family. This little girl isn’t ashamed to demand her milk in Starbucks, in book stores, or at the kitchen table. And this Mama isn’t about to shuffle into a dirty stall instead.
I am heading back to work this week, and anxiety about supply is trying to resurface. You know what? My body was made for this! No, it wasn’t made for a breast pump, but knowing that my husband can give her the best thing in the world while I am at work makes me one happy
camper pumper. I will not worry about supply.
I will cringe through the engorgment pains, the blocked ducts, the teething, etc. My boobs aren’t going to be perky, but they never were. My dad, brothers, and nephews might get embarrassed, but I refuse to. Breastfeeding is the best thing I can do for my little girl. And I won’t give her less than the best.