The following is a guest post from a Momzelle Mama, Melissa Carey.
I want to tell you a story of how encouraging a breastfeeding mom, even a stranger, can turn into a marvelous, meaningful friendship. Read on to find out how this came to be for me.
I live in Midwest U.S.A. and am married to a supportive husband and have an adoptive child, two biological children and one more on the way in a matter of weeks. We consider ourselves a pretty crunchy/hippie family. So, from the beginning of parenthood, I knew I would breastfeed. My breastfeeding journey has been relatively easy compared with some women’s, but it has also been harder than it should have been. I believe this is because we still do not view breastfeeding as “normal” in our society.
My breastfeeding journey has evolved through the years. With my first child, a son, it was incredibly difficult and I wanted to give up EVERY SINGLE DAY for the first two months. We dealt with thrush for the first 6 months. You name it, I dealt with it—cracked and bleeding nipples, the sensation of burning, like shards of glass going through my entire breast every time he latched on, and various bouts of mastitis all within that first year. And that was just me! My son would get thrush in his mouth and blistering rashes on his bum because of the terrible yeast. I wanted to give up many times, thinking that formula would just resolve the whole mess.
I was able to breastfeed him for one year until I got pregnant with my daughter. Even after all that hard work and struggle, I grieved the loss of that breastfeeding relationship more than I would have ever imagined. But that is for a different Stealthy Weight Loss blog post. 😉
My second baby, a daughter, was breastfed for two years. I found out I was pregnant again because she all of a sudden wanted to stop breastfeeding. I grieved the change in our relationship as well, but not as much, probably because we got to enjoy it for two years and it was a wonderfully sweet time for us both.
Now pregnant again, I will breastfeed my third baby for as long as she wants. That is how I came upon Momzelle, when I did a search for nursing shirts! What a terrific company!
With each child, and subsequent change in comfort level, my views on appropriate breastfeeding have changed. I have arrived at a place where I’m not shy or uncomfortable with it any longer; my belief is that each women should cover up or not cover up based on what works for her and her baby. Just like we do not expect adults to eat their steak under a tablecloth when they are at a restaurant, we shouldn’t cover a baby’s head when he is eating if that is not comfortable for him.
Sara’s blog post on The Breastfeeding Cover-up very much resonated with me. I have received varying degrees of support from my circle of friends. I consider my mother-in-law a pioneer in this movement as she was one of the very few that attempted to breastfeed in the 70’s with no support from her doctors and little support from the older generation of women around her. She was very helpful to me. My mother did not breastfeed and didn’t understand why I would choose to struggle so much when there were other options. And in my circle of peers, they pretty much all breastfeed, but some cover up in front of each other, their children, and in public. I’m sure some think that my view of breastfeeding in public may be inappropriate.
I am an Admin of one of our local crunchy/hippie groups on Facebook. I saw a post from a doula proclaiming her “support” of breastfeeding and in the same breath she was telling women to cover up or go somewhere private to feed their babies (because we don’t need to be exhibitionists). WHAT? I was in shock! In my little bubble, sometimes I forget that we have such a long way to go in this matter. She claimed that it was a matter of modesty and that we were not furthering our agenda by making others uncomfortable.
I responded in great detail that “support” does not shame. The level of comfort of others around us when we breastfeed is irrelevant and is due to the fact that this is no longer normal behavior in our society. Breasts are looked upon as sexual objects (rea the penomet review by uvu) and now-a-days, instead of for their main purpose of nourishing and nurturing our children. I encouraged her to re-assess her view of “modesty” in this subject. I assured her that our great-grandmothers were way more “modest” in all senses of the word, and yet they DID breastfeed uncovered in parks, in places of worship and in the company of friends without any notion of being “indecent”. Why was this? If you trace the history of when breastfeeding became abnormal, you see a trail of propaganda and an agenda from the formula companies in order to increase sales.
I encourage you to look into this history yourself. In short, it correlates with formula companies influencing doctors of the time to the perceived nutrition and convenience of formula. Also in an era where women wanted to be seen as sophisticated and affluent and not as “backwards”, bottle-feeding was a way to be fashionable and set themselves apart. Following the feminist movement of the 60’s, some groups did not want to associate themselves with the “indecency”, and we have created a disastrous history of turning something normal and beautiful into something vulgar. To my surprise the original poster commented that she was not aware of the history and that she may need to reevaluate this new information – something that rarely happens in Facebook discussions!
Within the responses on the original post was a young mom, Maddie, who spoke up. Her bravery was awe-inspiring. She boldly told her story of having two toddlers and recently having twins. She was in the thick of young motherhood. She was living in the trenches of trying to manage her small children, nourish her twins through breastfeeding, being isolated because of her stage of life and also dealing with postpartum depression. Maddie’s comment informed the original poster that in no less words, she was sending the message that despite Maddie’s struggles, she needed to further isolate herself by either staying home, or excusing herself to a private place while out– because there is no way to feed twins and completely cover up.
Maddie expressed her desire to have more breastfeeding-friendly environments outside of her home where her kids could play and she could feed her babies openly, without the societal hassles. Although I didn’t know her personally, we have some mutual friends, so I quickly responded to her with an invitation to a play date in my home. She could feed her twins openly without feeling weird because I have breastfed openly in front of my children, in hopes that one day my boys will be encouraging husbands and my daughters will have less of a struggle by having seen it exemplified. To my delight, she took me up on my offer and we have gotten together every other week or so for the past few months!
We are becoming closer friends as we share the struggles and joys of motherhood over a cup of coffee. And she can breastfeed her babies in a welcoming environment. She has encouraged me by coming over and being a good friend in my own struggle with fatigue these last few months of pregnancy. Overall, I would call that a win-win-win outcome!