Heads up: this post is about breastfeeding. I don’t want to freak anybody out, so I figured I’d spring it on you right off the bat.
Before I became a mom, I fell into the “I support breastfeeding, I just don’t want to see it” camp. Then I had Phineas.
We struggled to feed Phin in the early months of his life. He was labeled by a specialist as “failing to thrive” (a diagnosis we refused to speak over him ourselves), he needed a lip and a tongue tie revision in order to suck effectively, and by the time we figured all this out my supply was so low I had to nurse him at least 15 times a day. Do the math on that one, folks. 24 hours in a day, and remember even mamas try to sleep here and there. I couldn’t miss a feeding for fear it would hurt my crippled supply. I was also pumping to encourage my body to produce more, which I supplemented right back to Phin. We gave him a couple bottles of formula daily. We tried early introduction of solids that left him writhing in pain with terrible gas because his body wasn’t ready to process them. There were doctor visits, weight checks, and hours spent with a lactation consultant. We kept a borrowed infant scale in our bedroom to regularly weigh him and make sure he was gaining. When we missed the mark, we were devastated. It ruled our lives for months.
With that schedule, if I wanted to go to church, get my hair cut, or simply get coffee with a friend, I had to make peace with the fact that I’d need to nurse Phin outside our home. In some instances I was able to find an empty office or some other more private place to get the job done, but that wasn’t always the case.
We dropped some serious coin on paraphernalia to make nursing in public more discreet. I found the fancy (and expensive!) nursing tanks most effective. I could layer them under my clothes and get him to latch with minimal exposure. Nursing covers, which you’d think would offer maximum discretion, did me wrong. They lulled me into a false sense of security, allowing Phin to rip them off and leave me more exposed than ever. Of course, this was just how things were for us. Every mom/baby pair is unique.
Firsthand experience with an issue can often change your position. When I see a nursing mom in public, even if they’re not as covert as I tend to be, I assume the best. We mamas are just trying to do whatever we can to raise healthy children. Never once while I nursed in public did I think, “Wow, I’m really sticking it to those puritanical folks offended by public breastfeeding.” You know what I was thinking? I’ve gotta feed my son. Most mamas aren’t doing it to make someone uncomfortable or make a political statement. They’re just trying to feed their children and still live their life. They’re doing whatever it takes to get by.
I’m the mother of a little boy. I want to raise him to be a supportive husband and father, just like his daddy is for us. Part of that involves teaching him about the human body and helping him not to be ashamed or grossed out by God’s grandest creation. Should an older Phineas one day witness a nursing mother, I hope I’m brave enough to use it as a teachable moment.
The path we walk often dictates our passions. When people poke fun, bash, or mock moms who I know firsthand are doing a very taxing service for their baby, it’s personal because I am that mom. We struggled and fought to breastfeed our son, and our success was hard-won. I share our story not to change anyone’s mind about the issue, but rather to encourage empathy. When you see a mama nursing in public, consider the fact that you don’t know everything about her situation and extend a little bit of grace instead of judgment.