In an absolutely ridiculous show of Puritanism, breastfeeding in American can still be seen as a bit of a taboo subject. Because women's breasts have been co-opted to titillate and sell us lingerie and cars, they're often exclusively seen as sexual objects. This means that even in their natural environment, performing a normal, necessary function like breastfeeding, breasts are still subjected to taboo. This means we often don't get to really talk about breasts and breastfeeding and, instead, resort to incomplete information and euphemisms. Like, do you know what a breastfeeding mom really means when she says she's "uncomfortable"? Honestly, "uncomfortable" barely scratches the surface of what she actually means, but she doesn't want to make you uncomfortable so she just keeps it simple for your benefit.
Granted, no one wants to hear the gory details of someone else's bodily functions. Can we have a little bit of wiggle room here, though? Like, can we agree that we should be able to talk to the same level of details about breastfeeding woes as we allow for, say, a head cold. No one gets all squeamish of awkward of you tell them, "My nose is really runny." People don't really feel pressure to cloak that fact in a coy, unspecific "Oh. I'm just feeling uncomfortable" description. In my humble opinion, us breastfeeding moms should be exempt from feeling that social pressure, too.
"My Uterus Is Contracting Back To Size With Every Feeding & I Feel Like I'm Still In Labor"
Oh yeah, that's a thing. According to the American Pregnancy Association, over the course of your pregnancy your uterus has to stretch from the size of an orange to the size of a watermelon. Barring complications, it shrinks back to size within weeks. This requires the same mechanism that likely ushered your little one out of its uterine apartment: contractions.
Contractions suck you guys, and they're never stronger postpartum than when you are nursing. Some women don't notice it too much after their first baby (some do), but it usually gets more and more noticeable after each birth. After the birth of my first son I could grin and bear it, but after the birth of my second I would have to mentally prepare myself before each feeding during the first few postpartum weeks.
"My Baby's Inability To Locate My Nipple Hasn't Impeded Their Propensity To Latch On To My Breast"
Everyone goes on an on about how natural breastfeeding is, but the truth of the matter is that while both mother and child have good evolutionary adaptations to facilitate nursing, no one knows WTF they're doing at first. First time nursing moms are pretty clueless and babies are babies, who, like Jon Snow, know nothing. Both my children had this habit of thinking the side of my breast was where my nipple was. Ever have a baby attach to your engorged breast like a little booby lamprey? It's "uncomfortable."
"My Boobs Are Hard As Rocks"
This was especially bad in the earliest days of breastfeeding, when my children ate frequently and my body was still regulating my milk supply. Still, it persisted throughout my breastfeeding "career." If one of my blessed children were able to sleep for longer than three and a half hours, I would wake up with each breast swollen to the size of my head and as solid as stone.
Engorgement was the bane of my existence for the collective three years and two months I nursed. It was nature's way of telling me, "Oh, wait! You're a parent. You're not allowed to have any fun! More than a few hours away from your child or pump is completely unacceptable!"
"My Child Thinks They're A Puppy & I'm A Chew Toy"
This doesn't always happen, thank goodness, but some babies (like my daughter, for example) decide that the best thing to do while teething is to gum the ever-loving f*ck out of mommy's nipples, leaving tender spots that ache at the slightest touch.
"Is everything OK?" asks a concerned co-worker upon seeing you wince.
"Yeah," you sigh, trying to gather your composure. "I'm just, um, kind of uncomfortable."
"My Child Thinks They're A Kitty & I'm A Scratch Post"
Just because they're chewing puppies doesn't mean they can't also be mischievous kitties! Babies don't know what to do with their hands while they're nursing, and often times they'll just kind of default to kneading mom's boobs like clay. This can often leave your breasts crisscrossed in tiny little claw marks, which hurts both in the moment and later on.
Oh, and it doesn't get all that much better when they're toddlers, either. Just FYI.
"I've Put So Much Lanolin On My Nipples I Think I'm Legally Considered A Sheep"
Nipple cream is a godsend when you're first getting used to the demands of nursing (and the sensation of sticking a kid on your boob every few hours, because even under the best circumstances it will take some getting used to). While there are a variety of options, personally I liked lanolin (also known as wool wax or wool grease), which is derived sheep's wool. Constantly rubbing a waxy film on your boobs, however, can be sort of awkward. You might say it can make you feel a bit sheepish. #dadjoke #sorrynotsorry
(Pro-tip: if you're allergic to wool, you're allergic to lanolin so definitely don't use it. Regardless, it's best to test a little bit on your hand or arm before applying it on your nipples. Definitely not the spot you want to have an unexpected allergic reaction.)
"Ever Heard Of A Milk Bleb? It's As Awful As It Sounds."
For the uninitiated, a bleb is also known as a milk blister or a blocked nipple pore, and is the result of skin growing over a milk duct and milk filling up behind it. You know when you get a blister on your foot after wearing strappy sandals, and then that blister fills up with liquid? It's kind of like that, only smaller and on your damn nipple. Worst part? The best way to break through it is to nurse through the pain until it pops. And until it does, it's just constantly rubbing against your clothes and making you cringingly uncomfortable.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go throw up after writing about that.
"I'm Leaking Through This Shirt As We Speak"
It is both physically and socially uncomfortable to have milk leaking down the front of your shirt, either in a private or public setting. It's especially bad when you feel it coming and there's no way you can step away from your situation. So here's to breast pads (uncomfortable in their own right a lot of the time), the only thing keeping us from public awkwardness if we're smart enough to remember to put them on that day.
"My Child Has Flashed My Boobs To Everyone I Know"
Babies have zero modesty, or even any concept of modesty. They have less than zero concept of personal space. The result? They will reach down your shirt and pull out a breast whenever they damn well please, no matter who's there or what you're doing. So many people I really didn't want to see my breasts have now seen way more of my breasts than I'd like, all because my children wanted to eat.
"I Pump In The Janitor's Closet At Work"
I know a lot of offices are pressed for space. Even when management is wanting and willing to do good by its lactating employees, many companies or workplaces simply do not have the resources to provide a cushy lactation lounge. But seriously y'all? Is the best you can do really a dirty, poorly lit closet with no lock and an electrical outlet behind the slop-sink full of dirty water? This is miserable. Can't we do some sort of office swap schedule or something? Because this is very cramped and uncomfortable.