I've tried, numerous times, to imagine what I thought about breastfeeding before I actually breastfed. Honestly, though, it's like another life. Does parenting change you that much, or is my inability to recall pre-baby life the lasting affects of sleep deprivation? Being the knowledgeable boob juicing professional that I am now, I wouldn't mind a brief return to the beginner's mind to get the list of questions I want to ask my former self about breastfeeding off my chest. (Pun intended.)
Ever the depth psychologist, I would adore having a conversation with my former self, digging into what that baby-free person thought about breastfeeding, how they may have been romanticizing it, and how I could help them prepare better for it. You see, dear reader, with all the "breast is best" hype that has been popular the past decade (or more) I was all sorts of confused before I started breastfeeding. That confusion led to some mighty painful, both physical and emotional, times. I honestly wouldn't mind avoiding those times, regardless of how knowledgable they ultimately made me.
Questions allow self-exploration in a way that advice never does. The opportunity to question my former self about breastfeeding misconceptions, triggers, and logistics may — in my imaginary, alternate reality where this is actually possible — make the whole process easier and more self-forgiving. I could be well prepared instead of romantically ignorant. With that in mind, here are the questions I want to ask my pre-baby, pre-nursing, and pre-exhausted self about breastfeeding:
Is It Really That Gross?
My teenage self felt very clear about breastfeeding. When my sister said, "Ew! I don't want some little thing sucking on me!" I was in complete agreement. Breastfeeding was gross.
Oh, children, what little you knew.
Do You Enjoy Your Beautiful Boobs Enough?
Because they are going to look hella different in a few years. It's totally worth it, I know. And, nope, I don't regret it at all. I'm just saying, pre-baby me? Do you enjoy those ladies? 'Cuz you need to.
Are You Ready For Lopsided Boobs?
Oh, honey. Just you wait. Lopsided boobs! If you ever want a bra to fit you correctly and comfortably again you'd better start investing in tailor-made brassiere manufacturers.
What About The Modesty Issue?
You will literally never care who sees your boobs again. Are you ready for that?
Breastfeeding was extremely triggering for me as a sexual assault survivor. The idea that I might never care about modesty after breastfeeding my second baby never crossed my mind.
Do You Have Enough V-Neck Shirts?
Start stocking up now. I know you don't like the unflattering cut but, believe me, you'll thank me later.
Why Is It So Important To You?
I mean, truly, as long as your baby is fed isn't that what really matters?
Former me, I encourage you to really think about this question. Please be open to the possibility that your first child doesn't need your breast to be healthy. In fact, the misinformation that you're getting on how to make sure to exclusively breastfeed your baby might just be starving her. Thinking about it now wells me with tremendous guilt. I wish I had known and I'm so grateful my ignorance didn't cost my daughter's life.
Are You Making Eye Contact?
Because it seems important. Not all the time. After all, my kids nurse a lot. But at least some of the time, you should nurse with intention. Make eye contact.
Your Baby Is Having Trouble, Why Won't You Stop?
I've written extensively on my first baby's breastfeeding problems. As I've grown, and experienced two healthy breastfeeding relationships with my younger two kids, I've learned a thing or two about how I missed identifying the trouble with my first.
I didn't know any different when I had my first baby, of course. I didn't know what a healthy, fed baby was supposed to look like. I didn't know nursing didn't have to be as excruciatingly devastating and hard as it was with her. She hated the breast. I thought I was just not trying hard enough and, unfortunately, I had professionals who supported that thinking.
The truth is, I've never tried harder at anything in my life than breastfeeding. It consumed my life for the first eight months. Every former and currently lactating person I know who knows my story with my first child, confirms that I tried harder than some thought humane.
Why Are You Listening To The Lactivists?
I listened to the lactivists because I thought that's what a good mother did. I didn't realize some of the extremism has hurt babies and mothers.
When my firstborn was in the NICU I demanded they not put anything in her mouth because that's what all the reading about exclusively breastfeeding said was the right thing to do. Thankfully, they didn't listen to me. She had a pacifier and they even gave her some formula when my milk wouldn't come in. Sure, I was pissed at the time. And sure maybe these things did thwart our breastfeeding relationship before it even began. But, damn it, I wish I could ask my former self why I listened so religiously to other people. Instead of obsessing over my boobs and their lack of milk, I could've been focusing on bonding with my sick child.
Are You Paying Attention?
There are so many times when I don't appreciate the fleeting moments of sweetness that breastfeeding can be, and really was/is with my second and third children. I'm not judging myself, there's a lot of stuff going on, like, all the time. But before my third child, I did grieve that with an autistic toddler, full-time job, and a new baby I didn't pay enough intentional attention when my second child was nursing. There's no judgment anymore. This is just the way it was.
I vowed to myself before my third baby was born that I would pay attention this last time around. So, yesterday's self, are you paying attention?