In my 33 years, I've made a lot of friends. School and college friends; theater friends; work friends and, eventually, mom friends. There are overlaps among all the aforementioned groups, but one particular subset has easily become the weirdest and most lovely I've encountered: breastfeeding friends. Unlike a lot of my other friend groups, my fellow breastfeeding moms don't have a lot in common outside of being moms and choosing to (and/or being able to) breastfeed. However, like any other group, we band together, bond together, bitch together and, of course, send texts all breastfeeding moms send each other.
Considering I don't have too many IRL mom friends, I really have to thank the internet for providing me with my breastfeeding tribe. Internet, sometimes you suck, what with all the racist memes and ranting uncles on Facebook who don't realize The Onion is satire, but every now and then you really deliver. While many people are perfectly fine not joining a mom group of any kind, for others (including yours truly) finding a mom group is a great way to have a space where, at least for this one particular aspect of your life, you don't have to explain anything. I love being able to say something like, "Went to a party for my son's friend today that started at my daughter's nap time" and not have to explain why it's frustrating and nothing short of a horrific challenge. Making friends with whom you connect, perhaps even initially, on breastfeeding may sound odd, but considering the undeniable fact that nursing takes up a lot of time and energy even under the best of circumstances, having someone who just "gets it" can be really nice.
I'm definitely not inferring that you can't talk about these issues with friends and family members who aren't parents or who didn't choose or where able to breastfeeding. (My kid-free, male best friend has been on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited texts/phone calls/in-person conversations about my engorged breasts and leaking, bless his patient heart.) You certainly don't have to get weird and cultish about breastfeeding to glean value from joining a community of people based on this one shared life choice. But when it comes down to it, the texts between two or more nursing parents is a truly beautiful thing.
"This Is Actually Harder Than It Looks..."
You'd think one-handed texting would be pretty simple, but depending on how wiggly your baby is being or how much you have to concentrate on getting your little darling latched on (or to remain latched on), successful multitasking might not be in the cards. This is especially true in the early days, weeks, and months of nursing. (For many people, after a while you can do pretty much anything while nursing.) To be fair, we probably write this out to everyone, but no further explanation is necessary for fellow breastfeeding moms.
#PumpingProblems, The Struggle Is Real
No one else will know the annoying, defeating, sob-inducing anger of crappy pumping sessions like someone who is also going through it. Because, sure, you might have great people in your life who will give you sympathy, but they don't get that potent mix of feeling simultaneously like a failure* and like you've been cheated out of something that is rightfully yours like a fellow mom who has also been acquainted with a pump.
*no one who does not respond well to a pump for any amount of time is a failure, by the way, but it's an emotional disaster and in one's more emotional moments it's easy to give in to self-deprecation; again, people who have been there will likely get what you're going through
#PumpingPride, Because Sometimes You Hit The Lactation Jackpot
The uninitiated will just feel like "Oh, okay, that's what happens when you hook yourself up to a breast pump, right?" Or maybe they'll even think "Oh wow, that's a lot for one sitting!" But beyond being (maybe) mildly impressed that's where their reaction ends. But your milky sisters will understand that this is cause for great celebration. They will know that this is an unexpected and glorious bounty. They will understand that deep sense of happiness and pride you feel: not unlike that of an old time-y prospector who has just discovered a massive hunk of gold while panning for flakes in the river.
Someone's Got Your Back In Scouting New Locations
Unless you're a breastfeeding parent, most people will not take into account the fact that being out means trying to figure out where and when you will be able to nurse. While many women (especially the seasoned experts) can nurse pretty much anywhere with minimal issues, some women require an actual seat, privacy, and/or quiet. And, honestly, no matter who you are convenience is always appreciated. So fellow nursing moms will always have this in the back of their minds when they suggest outings, and it's awesome to have someone at your level on this one.
Commiserating Over Feeling Like A Human Cow
Breastfeeding is draining. Literally, and (often) physically and emotionally. It's nice to just be able to say what's going on and not have to explain how you feel about it to someone to feel completely understood and to automatically receive the kind of support you need.
Feeling A New Camaraderie With Actual Cows
This is an honest-to-goodness, actual text I have sent. Look, after you've nursed a child and know the kind of resources of time, food, hormones, and mental preparation that goes along with it, you look at dairy animals differently. Whoever said, "There's no use crying over spilled milk," obviously never pumped 20 minutes for 1 ounce before. So when I've had to dump out expired cow's milk, I've felt just terrible for the cow who was milked only to have the fruits of her efforts thrown away. I've tried to explain my feelings of existential ennui to non-breastfeeding people and they don't get it the way someone who has ever breastfed does.
This is like when you get 10 ounces in 10 minutes, but better! And this is a weird thing to brag about to someone who doesn't have to worry about storing human milk in their freezer in order to ever hope to go out on a date or out with friends. But a nursing mom? She knows that one's freezer stash represents both security and freedom. For real, those storage bags should be emblazoned with screaming bald eagles swooping in front of a billowing American flag or something. So announcing how much frozen boob juice you keep in your house isn't weird to her: she knows what you're really saying is "GIRLS NIGHT OOOOOOOOOOOOOOUT!"
Brainstorming Solutions To Life's Biggest (And Most Painful) Problems
Having other breastfeeding moms to turn to for not only support but actual advice to particular problems is invaluable. Because who else would you turn to? The Internet? Go online for any medical issue whatsoever and you're just going to convince yourself you have cancer. Your doctor? Ummm... do you know just how many questions moms (especially new moms) have? The doctor would seriously just ban you from their practice if you called with every single question you had. So other nursing moms, who have been there and had experience with some of the things you have, are a girl's best go-to information source for all things nipple-related.
Sharing Is Caring
Because when you do stumble across a great hack (like delicious lactation cookies) what's the point in keeping it yourself?! This is also great to head off some of the aforementioned "asking for advice" texts at the pass. Look, any mom needs all the help and guidance she can get and you never know when information will come in handy. Maybe this will be advice your friend doesn't even need, but she'll have a friend who can benefit. Spread the love, people!
Because It's Not A Pity Party If You're All By Yourself
Unless you have had this you have no idea and I need to talk to someone who knows exactly how many "Oh you poor baby"s I need right now.
Because Some Things Just Sound Creepy If You Say Them To Anyone Else
Until you see the transformation your breasts make between "empty" and engorged first-hand, you just won't understand how incredibly different the same pair of breasts can look within the span of a few hours.
Needing Someone Who Will Really Feel You
Again, it's a "no explanations required" sort of statement when you're talking about breastfeeding. Other nursing moms get that you mean the little on-boob smiles, watching your baby pop off only to fall directly into a milk coma, and getting to cuddle with your soft little squish-squish on the regular. This particular experience is unique and it's nice to be able to reflect on its nicer moments.
Needing A Judgment Free Safe Space To Keep Things Real
Even when you love breastfeeding, sometimes you hate it, too. Sometimes you wish you could just stop. And sometimes you hate it because you're having a hard time and you're worried you'll have to stop. But because breastfeeding falls at a precarious three-way intersection of women's bodies, parenting, and what-people-eat-and-when (three incredibly loaded social issues), saying "I hate breastfeeding" can often make other people bristle or earn you judgmental backlash. But if you have a breastfeeding mom (or, if you're really lucky, moms) you're close enough to text on the regular, you won't get that judgment. Just the support you need to to know that even under great conditions this breastfeeding business can be trying and it's wonderful to have a safe space to vent.