Is it just me or does breastfeeding, which is among the most natural things in the universe, sometimes feel like the most unnatural of acts? I mean, I'm sure that for the moms and babies who take to it instinctively there's this, like, beautiful and delicate connection you have that feels effortless, so my assessment probably doesn't resonate. But for the rest of us? The ones who struggle and fight to figure out how to successfully breastfeed; the ones who find breastfeeding uncomfortable, or even painful, or even just awkward and decidedly un-fun? It's weird you guys, especially in the beginning. Sometimes I still can't believe some of the craziness that breastfeeding moms go through.
Like many moms, nursing did not come easily for me. It required multiple visits with a lactation consultant, hours of frustration and tears, and middle of the night sessions with a hand pump (yes, a hand pump. For the love of everything hand-cramp-inducing, you guys, please learn from my mistakes and have your electric pump at the ready before you give birth). I almost threw in the towel about 700 times. And, even after finally establishing a routine with my little, it has not been a perfect journey — not even close. Blocked ducts, supply issues, bouts of mastitis... I mean, why didn't someone tell me that motherhood involved sacrifice? (*LOL SOB*)
Kidding, kidding — of course people told me. I just assumed that by "sacrifice," they were talking about the basics. You know, like sleep and freedom and spare time to ponder what Mozart in the Jungle is actually about (I'm still wondering). It's not that breastfeeding is all bad, it's that the weird aspects of nursing never occurred to me until they happened. Here's just a few of the strangest parts:
After Your Newborn, The Next Most Important Things In Your Life Are Your Nipples
Maybe there are women who've felt strongly about their nipples their whole life. Maybe there are some who are constantly studying them and applying ointments and paying close attention to them...but I was not one of these women. There countless other things I give more thought to on a daily basis, including my child, my partner, my career, Justin Bieber's career, my extended family, and fine cheese that's not too expensive. However, in those early weeks of breastfeeding (and a few subsequent ones; shout-out to my mastitis bouts of May 2014 and June 2015) my anatomy was a high priority, way up there with the Biebs and Manchego.
Taking Your Boobs Out In Public
Once again, I don't want to dismiss the women for whom this was already normal before they started breastfeeding. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons to have your breasts out in public that are simply unfamiliar to me, like, um....uh....going to a nude beach! Yes! That's something. Anyway, I'm sure there are others, too. I just don't have much experience with them, which made doing this a really strange experience. I'm all for women's right to breastfeed openly in public without being relegated to hiding in a bathroom stall or even behind a nursing cover if they don't want to, but all the belief in that right considered, it's still a little odd the first few (OK, all the) times you bust out a boob at a restaurant table.
If you really think about it, it's not all that different from milking a cow, which is bonkers, because nursing moms are not cows. My mind went to some pretty crazy places while pumping, because looking down and seeing parts of your body getting rhythmically squeezed in and out of plastic tubing is the stuff that nightmares are made of. And I don't meant to be dramatic, but can you imagine if it was any other part of your body? I'm cringing. Pumping is the devil, is my point. A very useful devil.
No, Seriously. Pumping.
Can we just take another second to really let it sink in? IT'S THE WORST AND THANK GOD WE HAVE IT BUT COME ON.
Nursing moms don't really need to wear watches because we know what time it is based on how damp our shirts are getting. We all become experts at always having an extra layer handy. I'm sure that many of us also learned that pattern shirts hide splotches better than plain (hey there, floral Ann Taylor shirt from 2009, for the win).
Getting Bitten And Clawed On The Regular
There is a reason why I don't have a cat.
Telling Other People How To Handle Your Bodily Fluids
Including but not limited to: my partner, my mother-in-law, and my own mom. Each of them prepared bottles for my son, so in a sense, each of them delicately held a container of juice squeezed from my body, which makes me feel squidgy just thinking about it. Perhaps the theme today is that I have the maturity level of a 12-year-old boy, but still, my point stands.
Waking Up In A Puddle
Among my tips for new moms: Get blackout curtains (so you can nap whenever you want), have your pump ready (see above), and sleep on towels. Trust me.