Before my son was born, I just knew I wanted to breastfeed him. I had heard about the positives and I wanted to experience those bonding moments and, honestly, I was excited to continue to provide for my son, even though he would be living outside of my body. I didn't know, however, that breastfeeding would make me feel so very uncomfortable, and I would (eventually and consistently) need to hear all the things a person should tell a mom who feels uncomfortable breastfeeding. I thought I could do breastfeeding on my own and I thought I wasn't the kind of woman who needed to be validated or hear positive comments but, well, I was so very wrong. Like, the most wrong. I don't think I have been ever wrong in the history of wrongness.
The moment my son was born, he was laid on my chest and quick to breastfeed. I didn't face the problems so many breastfeeding women face; issues latching, issues with milk supply, issues with a clogged milk duct or an infection. I did, however, experience an issue I didn't even consider: I am a sexual assault survivor and, well, breastfeeding was a trigger. My body could breastfeed no problem, but my mind had a very big problem. I felt uncomfortable breastfeeding, and that feeling left me in a puddle of self-doubt, guilt, and an unrelenting pain that I couldn't seem to shake. In those moments, I had friends and family and a wonderful partner, say things to me that either helped me push past those feelings of uncomfortableness, or recognize that those feelings were valid.
At the end of the day, that's all any mother wants and/or needs: to feel validated in her feelings. Motherhood, like life in general, is never a one-size-fits-all experience. So, if you have a breastfeeding mother in your life who has bravely told you that feeding her kid makes her feel uncomfortable, consider telling her the following things:
"Your Feelings Are Valid..."
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to feel about breastfeeding. I know that there are social expectations that moms (especially new moms) feel they have to fulfill, but that in no way should determine how you should actually feel. Breastfeeding is difficult and taxing and exhausting and so many things, all wrapped into one extraordinary ability, and how you feel about it (whether it's good, bad, indifferent or a combination of all three) are valid.
"...And You're Not A Bad Mom For Feeling This Way"
Whatever feelings you have, especially if it's of the uncomfortable nature, doesn't make you a "bad mom." Trust me. I felt very uncomfortable about breastfeeding and I had plenty of moments when I absolutely hated breastfeeding. Did my feelings concerning breastfeeding have any impact on how I parented? Absolutely not. I still loved my son and cared for my son and made sure my son was healthy and happy and thriving, and my feelings concerning something as difficult as breastfeeding didn't change any of the aforementioned. You're not a bad mother if you feel uncomfortable. Again, trust me.
"This Doesn't Make You A Bad Feminist..."
If you breastfeed with a cover, you're not a bad feminist. If you don't like breastfeeding in public, you're not a bad feminist. If you don't breastfeed for a specific period of time and, hell, if you don't breastfeed at all, you're not a bad feminist. Feminism isn't about adhering to a specific set of emotions or choices or pre-determined standards; it's about making all emotions and all choices valid and accessible and equal.
"...And This Definitely Doesn't Make You A Bad Mom"
It should go without saying or typing or regurgitating, but hating breastfeeding doesn't make you a bad mom. So, if "hate" doesn't do it, I guarantee you that "uncomfortable" won't do it either. You're not a bad mother for feeling, regardless of what that feeling is. No one should have the right to tell you how to feel in order for you to feel validated in your role as a parent.
"You Don't Need To Put Yourself In An Uncomfortable Position To Prove A Point"
Motherhood and martyrdom are not synonyms, and you shouldn't feel the need to put yourself in an uncomfortable position in order to prove a point; even if that point is so very valid and very obvious to those that aren't narrow-minded. I can understand, and definitely respect, the sentiment; but don't do that to yourself. As a mother, you're already sacrificing so much for someone, so don't feel like yo have to sacrifice your comfort in order to educate the masses. That is not your job. Not as a mother. Not as a woman. Not as a human.
"There Are Things You Can Do To Make Yourself Feel More Comfortable..."
If you feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding, there are options. Of course, if breastfeeding in public is an issue, you can bottle feed via a breast pump or you can use a cover. If you feel uncomfortable with the act of breastfeeding itself, there is counseling available to you, to figure out why those feelings exist. Basically, your feelings aren't a prison sentence; you're not trapped and you're not at their mercy.
"...But Only If You Want To Do Them"
However, you don't need to work through those feelings if you don't want to. Sometimes, you feel what you feel and it's as simple as that. If you don't feel comfortable breastfeeding, you simply don't feel comfortable breastfeeding, and if you don't have the energy to work through those issues (or you just, you know, don't want to) then you shouldn't feel obligated to try.
"You're Doing A Remarkable Thing For Your Baby..."
In my lowest breastfeeding moments (when I felt exhausted and disgusting and uncomfortable and just didn't want to do it anymore), having my partner and my mother and my dear friends tell me that I was doing something remarkable, really did help. Sometimes, it's so easy to lose sight of the overall goal, and I definitely did a time or two (or three or four or seventy-five). So, to have people who loved and supported me, remind me that I was doing something I wanted, was so wonderful and necessary and one of the reasons why I was able to breastfed for as long as I did.
"...But How You Feel Matters, Too"
Then again, the amazingness that is breastfeeding doesn't (or shouldn't) trump a mother's feelings. I, for one, felt like I had to breastfeed because I was familiar with the benefits and wanted my son to have the best of the best. Unfortunately, that want overshadowed my PTSD and kept me from reaching out, because I am a sexual assault survivor and breastfeeding, for me, was a trigger. There is a healthy balance (somewhere, I've been told) and motherhood is all about weighing your options and finding out what is best for both your family and yourself.
"You're Not Alone In Your Feelings"
I guarantee any breastfeeding woman that feels uncomfortable of this one very simply but very poignant fact: you're not alone. I thought I was alone, because I saw so many women just absolutely loving breastfeeding, but I realized (after talking about my struggles and my feelings) that I was far from alone. So many women have so many feelings when it comes to breastfeeding, because it is exhausting and difficult, and a lot of those feelings include being uncomfortable.
"I'm So Glad You're Telling Me You Feel This Way"
This is arguably the best thing you could possibly say to a woman who has expressed that she feels uncomfortable about breastfeeding. So many women (myself included) stay silent about their feelings concerning breastfeeding when they don't include anything other than absolute bliss and thankfulness and love and comfort. But the truth is, breastfeeding is difficult and breastfeeding is exhausting and breastfeeding is really damn difficult, and if you feel uncomfortable doing it, you should speak out and talk to those you trust. I did, and it made all the difference.