The plethora of benefits that come from breastfeeding is widely known in the Mommy world. Every day we see campaigns to normalize breastfeeding and try to change the warped perceptions of our society that has sexualized breasts to the extent that public breastfeeding is viewed by some as obscene. These are all great things.
But that doesn’t change that I despised breastfeeding.
I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed my son for a little over a year. Yes, despite my feelings towards that time I still say “lucky” as it is a privilege denied to many. In a recent conversation on social media, I came across a group of women expressing how they missed nursing their infants. At the risk of being shunned, I commented simply “I’m glad it’s done, and that my body is mine again.” Perhaps it’s just cynicism on my part, but I expected to bring out the inner-sanctimommies in the group and get reamed out for my comment. Imagine my surprise when multiple women changed direction and agreed with my statement.
While we’re undeniably right to advertise the benefits of breastfeeding, are we doing so in a way that silences women from discussing their true feelings? Are we pushing the tremendous physical health benefits while depreciating the mental health benefits of sharing our concerns in fear of attack?
I had a rough pregnancy with my son. The months of invasive procedures went above and beyond the amount in a normal pregnancy. My body was treated as a vessel, rather than a separate human being. After months of being poked and prodded, I wanted only two things: For my baby to be safe and healthy, and to be in charge of my own body again.
With breastfeeding, that was not an option, yet I proceeded because the benefits to my child outweighed what I perceived as disadvantages to me.
I didn’t like being solely responsible for feedings, and the sleep deprivation that went with it.
I didn’t like missing out on food I like because it bothered my son’s stomach.
I didn’t enjoy the bovine feeling of hooking up to a breast pump.
I didn’t like that after 30 hours of labour, I had to contend with raw, chafed nipples for weeks.
I didn’t like that I couldn’t go out for an evening without weeks of advance planning.
I didn’t like the tears that came when I accidentally spilled a bottle of breastmilk because that stuff is LIQUID GOLD.
I didn’t like that I couldn’t do any heavy exercise without the risk of lowering my milk supply.
I didn’t like that after everything, my body still wasn’t my own.
And I certainly didn’t like the feeling that I couldn’t express these emotions without being harshly judged by my peers.
I didn’t like breastfeeding, but I don’t regret it; that extra time with my child could never be viewed as regrettable. However, we need to create a safe environment for mothers to be able to practice self-care, by sharing these emotions without shame and fear of backlash. We need a world that promotes breastfeeding while allowing these women to have negative feelings. We need to say “It’s ok to dislike breastfeeding” and listen during the discussion that follows.