I read Katie Allison Granju’s piece today about breastfeeding her daughter in public until she was 4 with great interest. Or admiration. Or awe. Or something. Particularly since I couldn’t do it even once successfully without quitting.
I took a breastfeeding class when I was pregnant, quite determined to do all the things that so many will tell you (or insist) that good mothers do. I also scrapbooked. And I set up an email address with my unborn daughter’s name so I could send her emails in utero. And I established a 529 plan for her before she was born (OK, the 529 plan people wouldn’t actually let me set it up until I had a Social Security number for her. And the Social Security people wouldn’t give me a number for her until she was born. But I tried.).
I was to be a breastfeeding mama. I wanted to build my daughter’s immunity, reduce the risk of childhood obesity and stop people from looking at me funny if I bought formula. Until I breastfed in public. Once. And then it was all over.
To be fair, I had issues from the get-go. A day after we came home from the hospital we were back and consulting with a breastfeeding specialist because my daughter didn’t latch on. And then we realized I had very little milk. And then I got mastitis. And then I woke in the middle of the night to check on my days-old infant and she had blood coming out of her mouth, which was apparently from my nipples that she hadn’t latched onto. It was a bit of a horror show.
I tried. Really, I did. When my parents came to visit two weeks after she was born we were taking a walk through town and I told my mom we had to go home so I could breastfeed. Instead, she suggested we go to the hotel across the street. So I sat in the lobby with a towel awkwardly slung over my shoulder even though I couldn’t see what I was doing and my daughter was getting hot and people were staring at me (or at least it felt like they were) as I fumbled around to make it happen. It didn’t. She cried. I cried. And then I went home and used a breast pump for the first time. It was like I heard the angels singing. My breastfeeding non-streak ended at that moment.
I pumped for four months before stopping. It would take me an hour to extract 4-6 ounces. (Remember? Low milk supply.) Fortunately she’s barely been sick in two and a half years, her weight is completely normal for her height and if we were any more bonded she would be back inside my uterus.
Still, I wish it had been more successful and if there is a next time, I’ll try harder (and buy one of those My Breast Friend things, or whatever they’re called so that having some privacy in public isn’t out of the question while also suffocating or feeling blinded). I felt like a failure for a time, but the most important thing to me is my daughter’s health, which has proven to be strong.
This doesn’t mean I don’t advocate others breastfeeding in public, although I will admit to doing a double take if a child is old enough to come up and ask for the breast. And I certainly don’t advocate anyone telling women what they can and cannot do with their child in public as it applies to breastfeeding. Keep your laws off our boobs. I also get a little irked about people’s judgments about when, where and for how long others decide or not to breastfeed. You want to do it? Great! You don’t? Nobody’s business but yours.
As for Katie, her daughter is happy and healthy, just like mine. And that’s all that really matters, right?
Do you pass judgment on women if they breastfeed in public?
Image: Meredith Carroll