All right… I began typing some form of this as a comment on an article a sassy new mom friend of mine had shared, but then it occurred to me that leaving such a lengthy, unsolicited tale on someone else’s wall was a breach of Facebook etiquette. So I’m posting this here because I think it’s high time I got my own nursing story out. My kid’s been off breast milk for three years now, which means it probably isn’t normal for me to grow dark and brooding and vengeful every time the subject of breastfeeding comes up. If the thought of milky boobies churns your stomach then read no further.
Nursing a baby can be difficult, frustrating, and incredibly expensive. From the onset of my pregnancy, I was determined to nurse/pump for the first six months. In the end, I managed to make it a full nine months before switching over to formula. To be honest, I hated (nearly) every moment of it, but to this day my only regret is that I couldn’t go at it a little longer.
My son had latching issues from day one, and my milk didn’t begin coming in until a few days after he was born. His first meals were the Ready-To-Drink formulas, which (consistency-wise) are more like breast milk than the powdered form. He finally took to the boob by the time he was two weeks old, this after we’d started seeing a nursing consultant ($) who recommended latching accessories ($). The “nipple guards” worked like a charm, and after a few weeks, my son was able to feed without them. (That was when I discovered the charm of “breast shells” for sore nipples — more $.)
When Evan was two months old, I returned to work. I’d purchased a top-of-the-line ($400) pump and was lucky enough that my company had an incredibly accommodating nursing-mothers policy. (At least they did something right.) I was working such long hours that Ev was feeding almost exclusively on expressed milk. By four months he had realized just how much more efficient the “baba” was compared to the boobie, and he thus began refusing the latter altogether. Racing to pump my aching boobs before my child woke up to feed was straight-up hell. (And have I mentioned my $10/week bra-insert consumption?)
I stuck with the pump for five more months, though to be honest, there were times when it seemed as if spite was the only thing keeping me going. Not towards the little baby who failed to fully appreciate the trouble I was going through so that he could get get a decent meal; no, definitely not towards him. 😉 I’m talking about all the assholes who treated me as if lactation were a kind of social disease. Yes, this from a company whose corporate office would permit me a thirty-minute break every three hours in a designated, clean, and surprisingly comfortable “maternity room.”
Besides being the constant butt of teasing and ridicule over the size of my boobs, it was suggested by my superiors that my son had “had enough breast milk,” and I was even advised to switch him over to formula on the grounds that it was “better for him after three months anyway.” (!) Yet what infuriated me most of all were the whispers that what I was doing was “disgusting” and “unsanitary,” and that I “oughtta be doing that at HOME.” Before long, those three thirty-minute breaks over the course of thirteen hours (salaried) had earned me a reputation for being lazy — amongst the other managers as well as my own staff. Pretty much all of them were 9-5ers, and (get this) MOST OF THEM HAD KIDS OF THEIR OWN!! The women, I should add, were ten times worse than the men.
I never once breastfed my child in public (which is generally the source of stigma against nursing mothers), and I’ve never thrown a single “breast is best” argument in anyone’s face. And yet I’ll never forget the looks of anger and disgust I received during those seven months of nursing at work. On the two occasions in which I finally did crack and complain to HR, I was met with the response, “Well, what did you expect? It’s a subject that makes people uncomfortable.”
When my son was nine months old, I’d had enough and began switching him over to formula. I’d have liked to have gone on a bit longer, even in light of the harassment (and let’s face it — that’s exactly what it was), only I was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain my milk supply (even while eating 3000 calories per day), let alone trying to keep up with a growing baby’s growing appetite.
I’m very proud of the fact that I not only accomplished what I’d set out to do, but that I ended up surpassing my six month goal by three more months. Oh, and once I’d ceased toting around the pump every day, people went back to treating me like I was human. Oh joy.
I’d like to close by stating that I am not an advocate of national maternity leave, nor do I support the notion of private institutions being coerced into offering paid leave beyond what is available through private disability plans. But I am very, very, VERY much in favor of treating lactating individuals (remember the Swedish guy?) with a minimum threshold of respect, if not the same level of decency reserved for non-lactating members of our species. And to those who sought to make life extra-difficult during my time on the pump: I wish you all bloody nipples, aching breasts, and untimely leaks of yellow-tinted discharge from a body part of your choice. Or perhaps even of mine.