The One Thing Breastfeeding Taught Me About My Own Body
I've come a long way in accepting and loving my body before I got pregnant. As a young married woman in my 20s, through the help of my partner, I let go of wanting my teen body back. I realized I was a woman now with a woman's curvier body, no longer a girl. I developed a positive body image by believing in my own self-worth, having talks with my other girl friends, talks with my husband, and even watching the way celebs like Tyra Banks and Kelly Clarkson love themselves for who they are, and I decided that fretting over the way my body would change in years to come was not something I wanted to waste my time on. But so far in my life, there's been nothing like having a baby to make me reassess the way I view and speak about not only my postpartum body but also my postpartum breasts. And I've been surprised by how much breastfeeding has taught me about my body.
Growing up, I struggled with my breast size. Even as a 130-pound teenager, they were larger than most of my friend's boobs. I'd figured out even back then that my nipples were also larger than what was perceived by media to be attractive and sexy. My mom always encouraged me in this particular struggle since she knew full well what I was going through because she also had bigger breasts. She taught me how to dress to neither accentuate them nor hide them. She taught me how to come to terms with them, for the most part, and I appreciated that. One day in college, after talking about our boobs with my suite-mates, I had an epiphany: My kind of boobs were actually pretty awesome for sex, and they were likely to be ideal for breastfeeding one day. I was so floored because these were two things I knew I wanted to do in life, so this realization definitely helped me in my journey to breast acceptance.
But I also realized that I wanted to love them for myself because they were mine, not solely because they were great for other people, even if those people were my partner and future kids.
Breastfeeding isn't the only reason why I love my breasts.
Before I had my baby, I could look in the mirror, grab more than my handful of my boobs, and appreciate them for being a part of me. During pregnancy, I fell in love even more with my body. Something about the divine life-making process just made me feel strong, powerful, and incredibly gorgeous. After I had my baby, though, the combination of hormones, lack of sleep, occasional painful latches of my baby to my breasts, zero sex drive, and no time for myself, made me doubt my acceptance of my breasts all over again. I felt like an insecure teenager in many ways during that immediate postpartum time.
As the months went on and I continued breastfeeding, I noticed the distinct change in shape of my breasts. They were obviously saggier and more limp despite being full of milk. I was confused, because I'd always gotten the idea from movies and TV that my boobs would be plumper in this time period of life. But this was not true for me at all. Plus, the shape of my nipples changed, too, because they were suddenly being used multiple times a day to nourish my child. I was sadly becoming dissatisfied with my breasts, even though they were fulfilling their main purpose, and wasn't that one of the things that helped me come to terms with them and their potential earlier in life?
I've literally sustained my daughter with my breasts, and the intimacy that's taken place while breastfeeding has bonded us in a way that has improved both of our lives.
Again, I had to decide if I accepted my body — most notably my breasts — because of what they could do for other people or simply because of what they did for me. Letting my body's functions be a part of why I love my body so much has helped me to see the good that comes from my amazing human makeup and form. I mean, I've literally sustained my daughter with my breasts, and the intimacy that's taken place while breastfeeding has bonded us in a way that has improved both of our lives. So I'm not ashamed of how my breasts look postpartum, but breastfeeding isn't the only reason why I love my breasts. I love them because they display an aspect of femininity, they set me apart, and ever since I hit puberty, they've made me who I am to a fairly large (literally!) extent.
Breastfeeding simply reminded me, thankfully, of how awesome my body is and how amazing my breasts truly are.
My body, my breasts — all of me is to be valued — and if I want anyone else to do that, I have to do that first.
Being a traditionally feminine woman, my femininity is predominately shown in the way I look, the way I move, and the vibe I give off in my personality. Loving my breasts has helped me to not shame myself for who I am: the voluptuous and often bigger woman in the room. But it's not just owning a certain sex appeal that I'm talking about. It's cherishing and acknowledging my own uniqueness, my own value and worth for how I was formed, this body I was given. Sure, I could manipulate my shape through a variety of ways — and my breast shape has obviously changed recently — but the shape and curve that's there naturally through life (and through having and nursing a baby) is, what I've come to realize, a gift. My body, my breasts — all of me is to be valued — and if I want anyone else to do that, I have to do that first. Most importantly, if I want my daughter to be able to accept, love, and value her body as she grows up, she needs to see it coming from me firsthand.
I hope to breastfeed more babies as my family grows. I have no idea how more pregnancies and nursing babies will change my body yet again, but having done it once now, I trust that I can take my experience of accepting my postpartum body into the next experiences and ultimately in my daughter's life as well.