It didn't take pregnancy for me to realize that there are some experiences my partner (a cisgender male) would never truly understand. Catcalling, for instance, is something he doesn't encounter. Having a period is another experience my partner doesn't know anything about. As a mom, pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding were all things he couldn't live through himself. Thankfully, that didn't stop him from being supportive or thinking those experiences were "weird." My partner knew there are things no grown-ass dad would ever be grossed out by when their partner is breastfeeding because, well, turns out he's a grown-ass dad.
I was thankful that I didn't have to endure certain situations that I know, sadly, so many women have to endure. A friend of mine's husband told her birth was "gross" and, as a result, didn't want to be part of the process. Another mom-friend told me that her partner didn't want her breastfeeding in public, because it was "gross" and he didn't want people to see what was "his." Ugh. The idea that a woman's body is some fictitious, non-human thing that doesn't have normal human functions is problematic at best, and degrading at worse. The notion that a woman's body is the property of a man's, or that a man should be "embarrassed" if someone else can see his partner's breasts doing the thing they're functionally made to do, is misogynistic and sexist and all types of wrong. Still, these thought processes remain because so little is truly known about woman's bodies. People, and men in particular, are continuing to believe that when a woman's body stops being sexual or stops being sexually pleasing, it's "gross."
My partner, being a grown-ass man (not to mention a feminist) doesn't adhere to these outdated ways of thinking, so when it came time for me to breastfeed my son, he didn't find any part of the experience to be "gross." That's my hope for every breastfeeding mother (besides great milk supply and clog-free milk ducts, of course): that she is supported by her parenting partner (or any other person who is assisting her in motherhood). Having someone constantly saying that breastfeeding is "gross," isn't helpful, it's hurtful. So, having said that, if there's a dad in your baby's life, here's hoping he realizes the following things are anything but "gross."
I can't tell you how painful engorgement is, but gross? Nope. Not gross. While you can see engorgement happen (I mean, my breasts were significantly larger anytime I was engorged) it definitely doesn't warrant a turned up nose or a raised eyebrow. Unfortunately, for many women, engorgement is part of the breastfeeding process (especially if you don't have a hungry baby or a breast pump around).
A grown-ass dad would know that it's not only uncomfortable, it needs attention. Full disclosure: I was so engorged once (to the point of crying) and my baby was sleeping and my breast pump was broken, that my partner helped me hand-express. Say what you will about being "milked," by another human being, but in that moment I realized that my partner truly understood (to the best of his ability) about breastfeeding, and wanted to be part of the process, even when the process wasn't enjoyable. That's a good dad, you guys.
Leaking Breast Milk During Sex
Clogged Milk Ducts...
It happens. It happens it happens it happens and it is not "gross." Again, if anything and just like engorgement, it's uncomfortable and a breastfeeding woman needs support, not someone saying "gross" over and over again. Let's all just agree to be adults, OK?
...Or Painful Infections
Infections aren't fun, regardless of where they are on the body. However, an infection that occurred in my knee after a necessary surgery was treated very differently from an infection that occurred in my breast as a result of breastfeeding and a clogged milk duct.
It's sad that, as a society in general and among men in particular, certain ailments are deemed "gross" just because they're found on "taboo" parts of the body. A breast is just another body part; a body part that needs healthcare just like any other body part; a body part that shouldn't be sexualized to the point that an infection is "gross" or whatever other synonym someone uses to voice their unnecessary disgust.
So, if you're a grown-ass dad, you know that your partner suffering from mastitis isn't "gross," it's serious and requires medical attention and your partner is a damn warrior for breastfeeding through it all (because I did, and it wasn't fun).
Using A Breast Pump
I'm bummed out for anyone who thinks using a breast pump is gross. You guys, breast pumps (while kind of annoying, I will admit) are pretty amazing. I mean, have you ever watched them do their thing? Whoa.
I am very thankful that this technology exists, and I was also thankful that I have a parenting partner who is grown enough to realize that they're super cool. My son's father took an interest in my breast pump. He put it together and read the instructions cover to cover and figured out how to use it way before I did.
Breastfeeding In Public (With Or Without A Cover)
My partner couldn't have cared less if I breastfed in public (with or without a cover). In fact, he encouraged me to feed our son whenever and wherever and especially if my son was hungry. If we were in the mall, at a park or around family and friends — and my son started crying, letting me know he needed food — I fed him without a second thought and without a cover and without shame.
Sadly, I do know of and have heard of some dads who think breastfeeding in public (especially without a cover) is not just "inappropriate," but gross. They think that their partner should "save something for them" or, in other words, that their partner's body is actually their property and they should be ashamed if some passerby takes a look at a breast doing what a breast is functionally meant to do. Sigh. This is internalized (or maybe not-so internalized, in many cases) misogyny and sexism at it's finest, and it's so damn sad. I hope, for your sake, dear reader, that you have a grown-ass partner who doesn't think of your body as "theirs," and, if you're a dad, that you're capable of realizing that your partner doesn't owe you, and only you, access to her body whenever you want or need or think you deserve it. Her body, her choice. Always.
Breastfeeding While Going To The Bathroom
In the early morning when my son would wake up extremely hungry, and I would wake up in extreme need of a toilet, I would take my son and pee while simultaneously feeding him. My partner didn't think it was a "gross," he thought I was a damn superhero. Here I was, going about my business (literally) and living my life, while sustaining another human with nothing but my body.
Yeah, not gross. Incredible.
Massaging Your Breasts While Breastfeeding
Thanks to some clogged milk ducts, I spent a few (read: many) hours massaging my breasts while I was breastfeeding. Yeah, not gross. Necessary. My partner didn't think it was gross and, in turn, was super helpful in researching ways to help unclog milk ducts or keep them from clogging in the first place.
In fact, my grown-ass dad-of-a-partner found out that if I position my son's tiny little baby chin on a clogged milk duct, he could actually work the clog out for me. Whoa.
Honestly? Literally Anything Involving Breastfeeding, Because It Isn't Gross You Guys
No, but really. Nothing about breastfeeding is gross. It can be difficult and it can be painful and it can be exhausting and it can be stressful, but never gross. It can be amazing and it can be empowering and it can be this wonderful, gorgeous bonding moment between mom and baby, but never gross.
Get yourself a man who doesn't think breastfeeding is "gross," ladies. Trust me.