10 Things About Breastfeeding That Still Don't Make Sense To Me, Two Years Later
I pride myself on at least attempting to educate myself on something before I either speak on it, or experience it. I'm a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" kinda gal, but that doesn't mean I go into everything completely uneducated, especially when it comes to parenting. Having said that, there are things about breastfeeding that don't make sense to me. They didn't make sense when I was pregnant. They didn't make sense when my son was born and I started our breastfeeding journey. They certainly don't make sense now that my son is a toddler, and I'm two years removed from nursing my kid.
To be fair, science isn't really my thing. I mean, I took the necessary classes in high school and college, but I've always struggled with math and science stuff. It's just not my thing. While that didn't stop me from researching the benefits of breastfeeding, learning about colostrum, or figuring out the best and most effective breastfeeding positions, it certainly made a few things difficult to completely comprehend. The human body is incredible, but when you attempt to learn how it is capable of feeding and sustaining another human body? Mind. Freakin'. Blown.
So, while I don't like admitting that I am over-my-head, there are just some things about breastfeeding I will never completely figure out. It's OK, though. Honestly, you don't have to know every single reason why something is awesome, to just sit back and appreciate its awesomeness.
How It Actually Works
I'm not very science-minded, in that I don't understand science at all. I can now admit I have cheated on almost every science test I've ever been given (Sorry, Mr. Jurkowski) and still don't understand how plants plant. So, even though you tell me milk production is hormonally driven by the endocrine control system, then switches to the autocrine system in which the breast controls milk production, I would have to respond with a, "Um, what?"
All I know is that I put my kid up to my breast and when he started doing his thing, my body started doing its thing. Very scientific, I know.
How Breastfeeding Can Stop Your Period
Not that this wasn't one of my favorite parts of breastfeeding, or anything.
It turns out, the same hormones that produce breast milk suppress the hormones that cause eggs to mature and become fertile and the lining of the womb to nourish fertile eggs. Whoa.
Now, I see those words. I mean, I wrote them. However, if you ask me to really wrap my head around the fact that what's going on when breastfeeding can affect other parts of my body in a way that isn't harmful is just, you know, insane. The human body is insane, and trying to really comprehend just how all these moving parts of my person work in harmony hurts my brain.
How Breastfeeding Helps Shrink Your Uterus
I would like to imagine a happy Wayne Szalinsk pointing a ray gun at my uterus, than accidentally-but-sort-of-on-purpose shrinking it back to its normal size. I mean, any time I can envision the unbelievably talented and kind Rick Moranis helping me in my day-to-day life, I'm a happy camper.
Oh, you mean a somewhat-altered plot of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids isn't how breastfeeding helps my body contract my uterus back to its normal size postpartum? Strange. Well, then I give up.
Why Breastfeeding Is Still Stigmatized...
I don't get it, you guys. I mean, I understand that our society has sexualized women's bodies to the point that breastfeeding is considered "inappropriate," but I just don't understand. I get that the patriarchy has convinced far too many people that women's bodies are sexual before they're anything else, but I still just don't completely understand.
This is the most ridiculous, preposterous thing to me (as a woman, a mother, and a human being) and I know the stigmatization of a mother simply feeding her child will never be something I comprehend (but certainly something I will continue to fight against).
...And Viewed As "Gross..."
How is a child eating their food, gross? I mean, my toddler looks like an extra on The Walking Dead after he has finished eating his macaroni and cheese. That is gross. But a baby (or toddler, for that matter) happily having lunch or dinner? That's just normal.
...And Judged When Done In Public
If someone isn't going to judge me for eating two sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffins from McDonald's at 3:00 in the afternoon, no one should be judging a mother feeding her child at the local mall.
I fed my son without a cover and in public, and the amount of people who came up to me and either said something condescending and inappropriate, asked me to stop, or simply stared and raised their eyebrows, was truly baffling. I have thought long and hard about the reasons why (the sexualization of women's bodies is powerful, to say the least) but it's just disheartening to see so many people view my breasts as sex toys rather than a way in which I can sustain my child. Ugh.
(And even if you do judge me for the McMuffins thing, hush. Keep it to yourself, just like you should keep it to yourself when a mother is feeding her child at the local park. This is dinner time. I mean, I don't go into your dining room and talk about all the unhealthy sh*t you're eating. This is people ingesting food. No judgment necessary or appreciated.)
How A Baby Automatically Knows They Need To Breastfeed...
Of course, not every baby has an "easy" time breastfeeding. Even my little one, who crawled right up to my breast after he was born and immediately started eating, ended up having a few problems with latch some days later. Still, babies have a natural instinct to start eating. It's insane. It's unbelievable. It's more than my brain can comprehend.
...And Can Smell A Mom's Milk
What?! What kind of crazy science magic is this?!
(Hint: the incredible kind, you guys. The kind we need to keep studying and learning. The kind of science that shouldn't be censored. The kind of science that highlights just how truly incredible the human body is.)
How Weaning Works
Weaning, like anything related to motherhood and parenting, is a case-by-case basis kind of a deal. My son, for example, all of a sudden just didn't want to breastfeed anymore. One day I was feeding him, the next day he wanted nothing to do with it. It was an odd and quick and somewhat heartbreaking transition, and I have no idea how it all works.
How You Can Both Be Tired Of Breastfeeding, And Totally Miss It, All At Once
I simultaneously loved and hated breastfeeding. I loved the closeness I felt with my son, how convenient and "easy" it was for us, and how powerful I felt. I hated being needed all the time, feeling touched out, and losing so much sleep because Iw as really the only person who could feed my son when he needed to be fed (because breast pumping is the worst, you guys).
So, while I was somewhat happy to have ended our breastfeeding journey, I was also sad. It was such a strange combination of emotions, and I still can't comprehend how all of those emotions can coexist simultaneously. Then again, that is motherhood in a nutshell. You are happy to see your baby grow up, and sad they're growing up so quickly.