this is breastfeeding
When you are in the act of breastfeeding, you are in it.
Nursing a baby demands your complete attention. You wake up thinking of latching and timing, right side or left, number of ounces needed. You nurse and nurse and nurse, and sometimes pump, and then you go to bed - briefly - worrying about sore nipples and producing enough milk.
Your life is dictated by the nursing needs of your baby and breast milk and the logistics around feeding: nurse before you leave or on the way, pump now or later, dream feed or wait and see. You are laser-focused on the little one before you and the boob, because that's how it has to be.
What you can't see, is what breastfeeding looks like beyond you. You don't have time. You are just getting from feed to feed, from day to day.
The rest of us can see, though. Or at least we should.
Because there are millions of women in the act of breastfeeding at any given moment, on any given day, and those little acts of nursing are shaping the state of breastfeeding today (not to mention shaping all those sweet babies).
The state of breastfeeding is ever-changing and currently growing. It's not what it was when our mothers nursed, or our grandmothers or their grandmothers before them. Every generation, like every mother, does breastfeeding differently, so we need to see breastfeeding as it is now (and as it will be) to shape our world around it.
We need to really see so we can make it easier for mothers to nurse and nurse longer. So they can focus on the baby and the boob and not the obstacles in their way (be they logistical, physical, or emotional). We need to see breastfeeding as a whole so we can build a culture, infrastructure and community that makes room for mothers who choose to nurse: room in our hospitals, our offices, our airports, our work schedules, our hearts.
When I look around right now, here’s what I see:
- Beautiful, nursing mothers everywhere, in backyards, coffee shops, Targets, dressing rooms, grocery stores and the middle of business meetings.
- Working mothers in record numbers pumping in mothering rooms, broom closets, shared offices, airplanes, and the back seat of cars because sometimes there is nowhere else to go and no time to get away.
- Nursing firewomen and pilots and mamas in sexy black dresses doing what needs to be done.
- Women pumping, eating, and working all at the same time.
- Young people showing support for breastfeeding moms to make up for rudeness in others or to show gratitude for paving the way.
- Mothers breastfeeding throughout their baby’s chemotherapy.
- Celebrities pumping publicly: Kristin Cavallari while on a book tour. Daphne Oz taking care of business in an airport. Author Danielle Walker pumping in an uber. Ginger Zee pumping while Dancing with the Stars.
- Dads pitching in and supporting mom, sometimes even blow drying her hair as she feeds.
- Women making nursing a part of life, not the part you have to give up to get back to life. Chrissy Teigen getting beautiful while feeding her beautiful baby. Rachel Skylar nursing while on air. My friends sitting under a table at a wedding while I pump.
- Mothers nursing twins and triplets and multiples. Mothers pumping exclusively even when they can’t hold baby to breast. Mothers even nourishing babies beyond their own, donating milk to others.
- Women are traveling and working and nursing frequently now, sometimes bringing 100 ounces of milk home on the plane, other times painfully have 500 ounces confiscated.
- Like Brooklyn Decker, sometimes they still get left behind for getting off to pump. Other times, someone makes room in first class.
- We're also not the only species learning to use breast pumps.
This is all breastfeeding. This is what breastfeeding looks like today.
It's working women and stay-at-home women. Young women and not as young women. First time timid women and fifth child on-the-boob-while-vacuuming women. It's women in every part of the country, every corner of the world.
It's with your baby or without. It's for your baby or your sister's baby or a baby you've never met. It's one-day-olds and one week olds and two month-olds and two-and-a-half-year-olds. It's hooked up to one baby or two, to a hand pump or a mechanical pump that sounds like Darth Vadar.
It's sitting in parks and hospitals and bedrooms and subway cars and pizza joints and airplane seats and bathroom stalls.
It's easy and impossible. It's nothing like you planned. It's better than you expected.
It's loaded with feelings; it's connection and sometimes guilt. It's beautiful. It's sweaty. It's magical. It's a lot of work. It's empowering yet sometimes deflating (just like breastfeeding boobs). It's bittersweet when it ends. It's very, very personal and unique each time. It's between a mama and a baby but sometimes intruded upon by someone else in the world. It's talked about in the media way too much but not enough in our homes.
It's thankfully surrounded by doulas and midwives and lactation consultants and best friends. It's also accompanied by the occasional stares.
It's a journey and a transformation, a form of nutrition and a little comfort. It's not for everyone. It's not forever. It just is.
I’m convinced that by paying attention to the acts of breastfeeding all around us we can create a more supportive world for nursing mothers.
We can drive more stories of positive experiences and optimism. We can smile - rather than stare - at nursing mothers. We can offer more resources, more mothering rooms, more time off to get the hang of nursing. We can champion more empowering, forward thinking companies (like Milk Stork, Babyation, and Mamava).
And we can use technology to build communities and get us out of the bathrooms and into the light. That’s where I’m starting. I’ve created pumpspotting so we can elevate the conversation and help make the state of breastfeeding one our generation - and all those to come - can be proud of.