Breastfeeding isn't easy and, more often than not, can feel like a sacrifice. The insane expectations and high demands us moms (and society, not to mention family and friends) place on ourselves only makes those difficulties more severe. However, and while motherhood does require change, there's no reason why your choice and ability to breastfeed should take over your life. In fact, there are more than a few things you shouldn't stop doing in order to breastfeed, no matter what.
Breastfeeding is a choice that each mother is free to make, and sometimes that choice is already made for her if she is not physically able to sustain her child with her body. Regardless, and probably before her baby is even born, a mother has to consider her own personal circumstances, health, and level of comfort when deciding how to (or how not to) fit breastfeeding into her every day life. While nursing should absolutely be supported, breastfeeding isn't a requirement to be a mom, or a "good mom." It's just one of the many thousand decisions a mother will make as she raises her kid, and that choice, while a sacrifice in many aspects, shouldn't become more important than a mom's quality of life.
So, when a new mom is exhausted and struggling to breastfeed and in need of some support, I believe it's vital that she is made aware of the many things she doesn't need to sacrifice in order to nurse her baby, or live up to some perceived ideal forced on her by friends, family, other mothers, or society at large. Motherhood is hard enough, so cut yourself some slack and make sure you don't give up the following:
Leaving The House
Some moms, rightfully so, are uncomfortable about nursing in public. As a result, they stay inside their homes and don't go out at all. While I know our society's warped idea of women's sexuality (especially when it comes to mothers and the functionality of their breasts) has created toxic environments in which nursing in public is met with shame and judgment, the idea of a new mom being housebound just makes me so incredibly sad.
You shouldn't feel the need to stay pent up all day long. If you're able and are comfortable doing so, try your hand at a nursing cover. If not, surround yourself with supportive people who will advocate for you, and come to your defense, should someone say something about you feeding your child in public. After all, it's your right to do so whenever you want and/or need.
Enjoying A Coffee
It was difficult enough to have people tell me I "shouldn't have coffee" when I was pregnant. So, honestly, the last thing I needed was people suggesting that I shouldn't have my regular cup of caffeine when I was breastfeeding, too. Believe me, getting through sleep deprivation and the 30 months I breastfed my son required liberal doses of hot coffee.
So, don't feel the need to give up your morning cup of coffee. According to BabyCenter, less than 1 percent of the caffeine you ingest ends up in your breast milk.
Wearing Nice Clothes
Yes, usually when you're breastfeeding you'll need to be able to access your breasts easily. For example, I attended a wedding when my son as few months old, and wore a beautiful dress that had a zip up the back and a fitted waist. Six times during the party I had to go to a hotel room and remove my entire dress to feed him, so it wasn't exactly practical.
However, there is no reason that you have to wear purely utilitarian clothing just to breastfeed. You can, honestly, wear whatever you want with just a few adjustments, like breastfeeding tank tops under your regular shirt.
Expecting Bodily Autonomy
It's so easy to feel touched out when you are breastfeeding. Babies are already time-consuming and demanding, so having them attached to you multiple times a day can make you feel like you don't have control over your own body.
However, it's really important to maintain bodily autonomy and remember that you are always in charge of you. Take some time to yourself, pump so someone else can feed the baby, or have someone tend to the baby directly after a breastfeeding session. You deserve to feel at home in your own skin.
Enjoying Your Alone Time
Yes, it's definitely harder to coordinate some "me time" when you're the one responsible for feeding your baby. However, we all need and deserve time by ourselves and for ourselves, especially a new mom who is already going through a significant amount of change.
So, make a schedule that allows you to enjoy yourself between feeding sessions, pump and freeze your milk, or even feel free to supplement with formula if that's something you're comfortable doing. Just fine some time for you.
Enjoying Your Food
So many people tried to control what I ate when I was pregnant, and that didn't end when I started breastfeeding. From suggesting I avoid spicy foods, to strange food combinations, to banning peanut butter and chocolate, everyone seemed to know what was "OK," and what wasn't, to eat.
Unless your doctor has specifically advised you to avoid a particular food, there is no need to change your eating habits when breastfeeding.
Enjoying A Bubble Bath
When I first started breastfeeding I would have a huge milk letdown when I stepped into a bath of warm water. As a result, I didn't necessarily enjoy taking baths. However, I decided I loved them so much that I wouldn't give them up, even if it took some "getting used to."
Besides if a milk bath was good enough for Cleopatra, it's good enough for me.
Most moms aren't going to down an entire bottle of wine and immediately start breastfeeding their baby. I mean, obviously it's not a good idea to care for an infant when you'er drunk, let alone feed them. However, nursing mothers don't need to give up the booze entirely.
According to La Leche League, if a mom drinks occasionally, and limits her consumption, it's perfectly safe to breastfeed. They also advise that there is no need to pump and dump milk after they've enjoyed a cocktail. Instead, the alcohol will pass out of your system in a few hours. A good rule of thumb? If you're OK to drive, you're OK to breastfeed.
In my experience, when your breasts are being used for a purpose it can be easy to forget you can use them for other things, too. Of course, if breastfeeding is putting you off to sex, that's OK. Because, you know, consent.
However, you don't have to view your breasts as 100 percent functional, and that's it. You're still a sexual being, and your breastfeeding boobs can still be used for pleasure, too. Our bodies are not just for mothering. They are ours to use in any way we wish. Breasts can offer comfort, they can be sexual, and they are also a food source for our children (if we are able to and want to).