Breastfeeding. Yes, it has extreme benefits. From nutrition to bonding, I wouldn’t trade my experiences with my boys for anything. But is there a darker side to breastfeeding? It has its stressors, especially in the first weeks of the baby’s life. Is he getting enough milk? Why are my nipples still sore? It’s been like an hour, how long can one baby truly eat? But the dark side I’m talking about is the isolation no one admits or acknowledges. It gets lonely.
I breastfed my son until he was 12 months old, and now I am currently breastfeeding my 3-month-old. In both situations, I have had feelings of loneliness. There are many occasions I have had to leave the room to nurse my sons. Now, I know I could use a cover, but in the first few weeks of the baby’s life, it is hard to use since he is still learning how to eat under the sauna filled tarp I put over him. It also made me more anxious to use it in the early weeks, especially as a first-time mom. I was worried about being shamed nursing out in public, even with the cover. I was concerned I wouldn’t be covered and parts of my not-so-lovely post-baby body would be showing to people walking by. Would people stare? Would people say something? So, the easy solution was to remove myself from being around other people to make sure my son got the nutrition he needed.
As a working mom, I have had to miss numerous meetings so I could go pump. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “Missing out on boring work meetings, that’s the dream!” But there were many times I was missing valuable information, professional development, the camaraderie of being around my colleagues, sharing stories of what was happening in their life, or missing out on yummy treats during celebrations. Now, at times, missing out on these meetings was exactly what my mental state needed (Sorry, Boss!), but never being able to have lunch with colleagues, because that was the only time you could pump became lonely. I would just sit at my desk, pump, and work. There was never any socializing, and it sucked.
I have had to miss out on special events and celebrations with family and friends to leave the room to nurse or pump. I have missed large parts of weddings, due to leaving the reception to pump when my son was not at the wedding. With limited facility amenities, I had to leave the main area to find a separate place to pump. Again, I know a lot of this is my own issue that I won’t just nurse (or pump) anywhere, but unfortunately, the norm of breastfeeding isn’t quite where other women around the world and I want it to be.
I wish I could be stronger and more vulnerable to just take a stand to represent the breastfeeding/pumping mom. Until society normalizes breastfeeding, there are mamas out there being isolated for trying to feed their baby. They are missing vacation moments, special events, dinner with friends, and so much more because they don’t feel comfortable and welcome to feed their baby around others.
So, go out and check on your mama friends. Text them while they are gone. Give a mom friend who is breastfeeding/pumping a big hug when they walk out of the room they were nursing/pumping in. Tell them you missed them and catch them up on what they may have missed. More importantly, encourage them to nurse around you and others. Remember, everyone wants to have the feeling of belonging.