Nursing My Body Image: How Breastfeeding Made Me Appreciate My BodyErin Whitehead
I don’t think I fully appreciated what the human body is capable of before I had kids. But getting pregnant — and then breastfeeding — made my jaw drop at its abilities. I grew two whole humans? And fed them both? It never stops being amazing.
Before my daughter was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I was determined to breastfeed come hell or high water, and my mind was made up that my body would cooperate. Luckily, despite the typical early breastfeeding trials and tribulations, we did it. She was a natural, and that was half the battle. I knew I wanted to hit a year of breastfeeding, and because I’ve never been the type to think that breastfeeding is beneficial until 12 months and all of a sudden not beneficial at 12 months and 1 day, I continued nursing until we hit 14.5 months.
I would have probably continued to breastfeed her a time or two a day, but as I was pregnant with my second, I felt like it was just too much for my body to handle. Plenty of women nurse during subsequent pregnancies, but with a couple of early pregnancy scares, super-fun morning sickness, and constant blinding exhaustion, I decided to call it quits. The son who made the first months of pregnancy miserably nauseating and the other months terribly painful because of fun pelvic pain took to nursing just like his big sister.
He hit a year and was going strong, and minus a pregnancy, nausea, and exhaustion, I wasn’t in a rush to quit to give my body a break like I had been the first time. At just one feed a day before bedtime, I knew he wasn’t getting a ton of his nutrition from breastmilk, but I also wasn’t in a rush to quit. Without a reason to quit, we kept going. It was our time to unwind from the day, to connect. It didn’t hurt that it gave me a quiet break after a long day with both kids, and it also didn’t hurt that he always passed out immediately after nursing.
At 15.5 months, for no real reason, I decided to be done. There was no “last nursing session” to savor the last moments of breastfeeding my son, no tears, no nursing-bra retirement ceremony. Just a moment when I decided it was time and that I wanted my body back to myself again.
Cut to a few days later, when the whole family went on a road trip. We were in the hotel room—a suite—and I almost had him asleep—a chore and a half in a strange place. Until my daughter came rushing in from the other room and woke him from his sleepy state. I spent the next two hours trying to get the child to sleep; his older sister fell asleep well before he finally did. I tried every trick in the book and in total desperation, even tried nursing. He tried; he latched. But it didn’t get him to fall asleep. Instead, afterward, he tossed and turned and giggled and laughed that he was still awake and I’m such a big boy look at me I’M AWAKE.
And that’s how I knew we were done breastfeeding for good.
I’m truly appreciative that I was able to rock the breastfeeding casbah for so long. Even with a total of 30+ months of breastfeeding, the whole process never ceases to amaze me. Those months taught me more about body acceptance and loving what my body can do for me than anything up to this point. I’m more appreciative of the amazing process, from pregnancy to breastfeeding and beyond. The changes didn’t hurt my body image—they improved it. And now that I don’t have to “share” my bod anymore, I’m truly appreciative of having it back!