I see her all the time at the park – the mom that is glancing around trying to find a discreet spot in the park while her newborn screams and screams. Her feet point toward the bench next to the tall trees, but a couple of teenagers sat down before she takes even half a step. Her feet point towards the picnic benches on the left side of the grassy field but she hesitates as she would have no cover, no shelter at all while she feeds her baby. Will she accidentally flash everyone? What if a passerby comments on her breastfeeding?
Her feet shift yet again and point towards the low stone wall next to the jungle gym. At this point, she is bouncing up and down from her knees, trying to calm her hungry baby whose screaming escalates then makes the decision for her. She quickly shuffles over to sit on the low stone wall and awkwardly fumbles with her top, her eyebrows furrowed. You can feel her stress level in your own heartbeat. Every mom knows exactly how she must be feeling – the adrenaline that zooms around your body, your brain, even behind your eyes when your newborn just keeps wailing and wailing and wailing.
It is true that the media is on our side in trying to help normalize breastfeeding in public. But breastfeeding in public is not the only difficulty these days. Here at Love Comma, we are constantly getting emails from moms who are looking for support in their breastfeeding journey emotionally, socially, and physically.
Some might argue that the popularizing of breastfeeding actually makes things even harder. I know moms who feel so guilty about choosing not to breastfeed even when they cannot do so for medical/financial reasons financial reasons or their work simply does not provide them any space or time to pump.
The expectation that breastfeeding should be easy and should come naturally for women puts unreasonable pressure on the modern woman. It discounts the fact that modern life and social structures are not the same as they once were and do not necessarily support that lifestyle for women anymore.
Many women maintain their time-consuming, high-stress careers after becoming mothers and some do not get paid leave even if they want to choose to breastfeed their babies. As many studies show, even as women are gaining more equality in the workplace, we are still shouldering the majority of household chores. As any breastfeeding mom can attest, milk production drops when a new mother is tired, stressed out, or tense.
So, as much as the media is glamorizing breastfeeding, as one mom to another, please choose the path that feels right for you and your baby. Choose the path that ensures you the space to recognize yourself as a whole person first, not just as a mother or care provider. I am lucky enough to live in New York where we just passed Paid Family leave laws to allow us to take care of our loved ones without jeopardizing our financial security. If you have a moment, support other mothers and their journeys by helping support policy changes. Specifically, ones that will make breastfeeding easier by allowing families the time and space to recover from childbirth and bond with their newborns.
Take a moment to sign local petitions. Or here is one to get you started: