Even with the breast (I mean, best) of intentions, it’s easy to misunderstand some things about breastfeeding. I mean, if we’re going to get personal, I can admit that I’ve done it for over two years and I’m still learning as I go, in a lot of ways. As for my partner, I can only imagine how he feels about it, especially as a man who can't physically experience the act of breastfeeding. However, there are things I need my partner to understand about breastfeeding, and I honestly do believe that these are things any partner can learn, whether they have ever or can ever breastfeed, or not.
Overall, I consider myself lucky in that my partner has been (and continues to be) wildly supportive and respectful about breastfeeding, and beyond. Still, his support doesn't necessarily make him an expert. Sure, he’s got a good sense of how a latch works and just what exactly I’m trying to accomplish when I switch sides and why dropping my phone during a feeding was and is the absolute worst. However, does he actually understand the physical feelings? The emotions? The sense of responsibility? He can try (and has), but I have my doubts. Again, it’s not exactly his fault, as we’re pretty limited by biology in that respect.
That being said, it doesn’t hurt for us breastfeeding moms to recognize what sets our experience apart from our partner's, aside from the obvious physical limitations. It's also not too much to ask that, even though our partners can't experience the following, they can work to understand them. When problems arise (and when you're breastfeeding, the chances are high) support and solidarity can go a long way.
How Engorgement Actually Feels
I suppose I could tell him something really vivid about being engorged feels (like someone blowing up balloons inside my body and completely against my will), but I won't. That's not pleasant for anyone to think even think about (and, yes, I am sorry you're thinking about it now).
The Desperate Need To Pump Or Feed Right This Actual Freakin' Second So Please Get Out Of My Way
The ration part of my brain knows that it's not possible for my chest to actually explode, but if it were (and I'm still not convinced it's completely not), I think I know what the moments leading up to it would feel like.
How Terrible Mastitis Really Is
It's like a headache in your most sensitive, overly touched parts, accompanied by feverish body aches. You know, not exactly a picnic.
That, Despite The Frustrations, You Can Still Love It...
...And, Despite Loving It, You Can Still Be Frustrated
Yes, I know that I just said I loved smelling our son, but I also don't love being required to do it eight times a day for twenty minutes at a time. Remember how we talked about keeping up?
That You Can Be Clueless About It Even While You’re Doing
I mean, if I knew how to get my son to properly latch, I'd do it every single time, wouldn't I? Yes, I'm being totally serious, that's not meant to be snark. I'm just as shocked as you are when he does it right on the first try. I mean, I'm totally buggin'.
The truth is, just because some women own breasts, doesn't mean those women know exactly how to use said breasts in order to breastfeed (or want to, for that matter). It's never safe to assume that breastfeeding mothers automatically know what they're doing. It may be a natural act, but it doesn't mean it comes naturally to us.
That, No, Pumping And Breastfeeding Are Not The Same Thing And Liking One Doesn't Mean You'll Automatically Like The Other
Pumping is to breastfeeding like snuggling a newborn is to putting him or her in an incubator. Like, sure, both result in warming the baby, but one is way, way more pleasant than the other.
That, Yes, You Wish You Could Wear Cute Bras Again, Too
Trust me, I'm not super into the extra elastic and plastic snaps, either.
That You’re Just As Shocked By The Puddle You Woke Up In As They Are
I know, it seems impossible for me to sleep through that, but I can assure you, it's most definitely not.
That It Really Is That Hard To Remember Which Side You Last Nursed On
Unless I've written it down, recorded it in an app, or tattooed it on my face, there is zero chance that I will remember.
Why The Baby Can Touch Your Breasts, But They Can’t
Look, the baby doesn't know any better and the baby needs those breasts for very different reasons than you claim you "need" them and the baby is getting fed. Being "touched out" is very real, not wanting to have physical contact with anyone (even the person you love) is completely normal and refusing to constantly go into the many reasons why is very exhausting, so back it up there, babe. Back. It. Up.