As the great sage of our generation, Barbie, once uttered in the early '90s, "Math class is tough." Because math is so tough, I've stayed away from exact numbers on the subject of me breastfeeding my two children. But today, for this article, I've finally come up with a tally: I've been pregnant or breastfeeding 55 of the past 62 months of my life: 18 months of pregnancy, 17 months nursing my son, and 20 months (and counting) nursing my daughter. That is an absurdly long time. I mean, high school felt like it lasted forever and that was only 48 months, including summers. Don't get me wrong: It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be able to meet and then surpass my initial nursing goal, not once but twice. But even under the best circumstances, breastfeeding isn't all butterfly kisses and the smell of babies heads.
Look, I think all parents learn that you are tempting all the angels of Heaven and demons of Hell when you utter the phrase "I will never." "I will never let my child eat junk food"; "I will never let my child watch TV"; "I will never co-sleep." Listen, you beautiful, childless fools making those promises to yourselves: You haven't had kids yet and you have absolutely no idea what you are and are not going to do, so just stop. I don't mean to be harsh. I'm mostly talking to my past self right there. The rest of you, please interpret that in a less severe tone. You're fine. Anyway, even once you've had children, you still really don't know what's in store, so keep an open mind. So know that I do not take the following list lightly when I say...
Here are some things about breastfeeding I will never, ever, ever miss.
The "Why Can't I Have The Boob NOW?!" Tantrums
Whether you physically cannot feed your child the moment they request it because you are occupied with an equally important task, or because they just ate for the third time in an hour and you know for a fact they aren't hungry, or you're weaning them, the ensuing shrieking that can follow is never in a million years anything I am going to miss. My daughter is a sanguine, chill little girl... except when she doesn't get boob. Then it's full-on Veruca Salt... only shriller.
Constantly Being Grabbed
Whether you're being pawed at because they want to nurse or simply because your breasts have just come to symbolize comfort and so they live with their hand down the front of your shirt, your breastfed child considers your tatas their property: constantly available in one way or another. Even after he was weaned, my son would absentmindedly shove his hand down my shirt whenever he was tired, scared, or sad. It was sort of cute, but eventually I had to put my foot down because no. The cuddles are certainly something I will miss, but the randomly being groped like I'm a secretary on an early season of Mad Men cannot end soon enough.
Having To Wear Clothes That Accommodate Nursing
Guys, do you know how fabulous I look in tailored shirts? Super fabulous. But in the aforementioned 55 months, I've been largely unable to wear them because I have to allow for easy access to a baby or a breast pump or allow room for an ever expanding bump. Once my daughter is weaned? I'm going to dress like Claire Underwood every day.
Worrying About The Logistics Of Nursing In Public
I am the most laid-back person you could hope to meet in terms of my nursing in public needs: I don't require a cover, quiet, or privacy... and it's still sometimes an ordeal. Is there somewhere to sit? Will I be able to manage my other child while I feed the younger one? What am I going to do with all the shopping backs or child supplies I've schlepped with me? Sometimes this is all easy... but often it's an ordeal. An ordeal I will be more than happy to kiss goodbye.
Here are things that have caused my boobs to leak:
- Going longer than usually between feedings
- Being squeezed, like in a hug
- Hearing a baby cry... not necessarily my baby
- Watching something on TV that made me cry
- Sitting on a crowded subway which made my arms squish my boobs together
- Being cold
- Being hot
Literally anything you could think of and a million things you never would have made my boobs leak. It sucks. I'm really glad it doesn't happen too much anymore and I'll be happy when it never happens again.
I've tried to explain engorgement to non-breastfeeding friends like this: it's like getting the world's crappiest boob job every few hours if you're not careful, and it hurts like a mofo. (Do the kids still say that? "Mofo?" Whatever. I'm bringing it back.) There is nothing endearing about engorgement.
Lactating Boobs + Sex
So this isn't the worst thing, but I'm not a fan. (Some people are and good on them!) When your breasts have been tasked with feeding a child, they are on duty 24/7 and they do not take humping breaks. So you learn sort of quickly that you either have to wear a bra every time you get down (like Carrie Bradshaw!) or be prepared for the possibility that someone is going to get milk on them. Again, not a huge deal, but something I'll be happy not to have to think about.
Tiny Little Baby Nails
We need to pour as much money as we have to in order to unlock the secrets of baby nails because WTF, you guys. In theory, they're just mini versions of adult nails, right? Keratin deposits on the tips of our fingers. No big, right? WRONG! Baby nails are capable of unspeakable evil and torture. When my little ones were infants, my breasts were absolutely covered, covered in scratches. "When why didn't you clip their nails?" you scoff. I CLIPPED THEIR NAILS AS OFTEN AS I COULD WITHOUT CUTTING OFF THEIR FINGERS, YOU JERK! It's gotten better now that my daughter is older and I do not miss it. I suspect I will not suddenly start missing it once she's weaned.
I can't. Even the cute ones are dowdy AF. Once I wean my kid for good, I'm going on a bra spree and I'm going to get the prettiest, froo-frooiest undergarments you've ever seen.
Having To Have A Specific Plan In Place If You Want To Be Away From Your Baby For An Extended Period
Whether "extended period" means "going to work" or "taking an evening or — wonder of wonders — a whole weekend away," if you breastfeed, you're going to have to figure out A) how to handle your ever engorging breasts and quite possibly, and B) how to feed your child in the meantime. If your child is an infant and exclusively breastfed, you're going to have to figure out a way ahead of time to get them food in your absence, because you can't just show them where the fridge is and let them fend for themselves. Even if your child is older and will be fine without breast milk for a while, that doesn't let you off the hook entirely. Sure, you'll probably feel OK for a full day away, but beyond that you're probably going to start getting uncomfortable. I went on a vacation with my friends this summer, no kids, and my enormous breasts and pumping schedule became the subject of jokes and conversation. In short, even when your child isn't with you, if you're breastfeeding that choice is an intrusion on all your other choices. Fun fun!
Mine is not a narrative of reluctant, skeptical, or even ambivalent breastfeeding. I've enjoyed the hell out of feeding my babies this way. I was very lucky in that I caught on pretty quickly and endured few complications or challenges. I know I will look back on this experience on the whole with fondness and, yeah, I may even miss it as the years go by. But all this?