Saturday, June 20, 2009

June Carnival: Breastfeeding in Public

Welcome carnival goers! This is my first carnival, and I'm pretty excited about participating. Some of you may recognize this post from earlier. I wrote it when my Birdie was only a few weeks old (like she's so old now at a whopping seven weeks). Someone suggested that I submit that post for the carnival. Its been edited a bit to fit in more with the theme.

Breastfeeding Oriana

Breastfeeding is weird. I'm not sure what I mean by that. I'm sitting here, watching my baby drink from my breast and I don't quite understand what I'm seeing. She's sucking diligently with her eyes closed. She's being nourished. We weighed her today using a baby sling and a fish scale from my tackle box. She's gained two pounds. Somehow my body is making food. I am food. I wonder how she views our relationship. Does she know I'm a person? Does she know she's a person? Does she feel that I'm "mom"? Or am I just food? I feel for my husband when he apologizes to his crying baby for not having food. There's not a bottle in the house.

What does it mean to be "just food?" This food is possibly the most important thing in her life right now. Its what keeps her alive and growing. She depends on me for her survival. Every couple of hours she looks at me and makes what we call the "birdie face." She opens her eyes wide, opens her mouth like a baby bird and waves her fist in front of her face. She looks at me expectantly as if to say "I can has?" The look of joy on her face when I expose a breast is well . . . joyous. I willingly and happily give her my breast and she falls on it like a ravenous wolf. Its very primal. It almost seems out of place in this modern world.

I feel no shame when I nurse in front of others. My husband's buddies still come over to visit. When my baby makes the birdie face, I bring out the breast and give it to her, regardless of who happens to be in the room. I don't cover her with a blanket. If I did then I wouldn't be able to watch her eat and change from a ravenous little animal to a sleeping little angel. When she's eaten her fill she pops off the breast with milk still on her lips. She's slipped into what my friend Mitch calls her "zen state." She looks completely at peace with the universe.

I’ve tried to cover up a few times. At first when my father or brother would come by, I’d go in the other room or try to use a cover-up, but that didn’t last very long. I wasn’t coordinated enough to keep covered and nurse at the same time, and I didn’t want to miss our visits. It turns out that I was more concerned about it than they were. Just the other day my grandfather told me I didn’t have to leave the room to nurse, he promised that he “wouldn’t watch.” Once in a restaurant I so frustrated myself and the Birdie by trying to cover up that I gave up in anger and exposed my breast to a room full of old ladies. I don’t know if anyone noticed. My baby was hungry and I didn’t care.

I find it interesting that I felt self conscious about nursing in front of my family, but not my husband’s friends. From the start I’ve had no regard for how much breast his friends see or if they feel uncomfortable about the situation. Maybe its because I don’t care if they’re uncomfortable; they don’t care when they leave an empty Mountain Dew can on my coffee table. None of them have ever said anything inappropriate or made me feel strange about it. For single, college-age guys they seem fairly enlightened. A few have expressed support for my uncensored nursing, others have said they hope their future spouses will do the same. My husband loves to watch me breastfeed. I think part of it is because he’s still in awe of the mother/birdie bond. He has admitted to being turned on by the display. I asked him how he felt about me nursing in front of his friends. He just shrugged his shoulders. To him it’s a non-issue.

It all continues to amaze me. How is it that this edible bodily fluid that I wasn't able to produce until a few weeks ago can wholly nourish a separate human being? How can it make her so happy? Food doesn't make me that happy, but then again, my food doesn't come from something soft and warm that loves me unconditionally. I've talked to friends who have nursed their babies and some have spoken about their resentment towards their child. They saw their infants as demanding creatures set out to devour their mothers. I don't understand that point of view. I understand so little about what I'm going through. I would call it bliss, but I don't know that I've ever experienced bliss before. I have nothing to compare this to.

This little person is a stranger. Even though I grew her inside of me, she is not me. She is herself. Completely separate yet part of me. We're just getting to know one another. She has her father's temperament. Sudden changes upset her, but not for long. She is happy most of the time. Just like her father, she is happiest in my arms. On a whim she'll change which breast she prefers. She'll refuse to nurse until I change sides. When I do, she's happy again. We work well together. She signals and I respond. It feels completely natural. I can already tell the difference between I'm hungry. I'm wet. I'm lonely. I want Dad. I want Mom. I'm sad. Consciously, I can't tell a difference in the sound of the cries, but my heart can tell the difference. I don't know how I learned it. Is it instinct?

I am consumed by something. It might be love. It might be maternal instinct. It could be lack of sleep. Its like she has always been with me. I would move mountains if I thought it would improve her well-being or mood. At the same time, I'm having a hard time imagining myself doing it again. I have what I wanted: A little girl, born normal and whole, healthy and strong, at home, with no complications for mother or baby. We have made so much progress already. Because she knows that I will respond as soon as she signals her need, there is no reason for her to cry at length, so she doesn't. She wakes once during the night to eat a bit, then its a diaper change and back to sleep. While I am happy to do these things for her, I don't know if I want to do it for another.

Only three weeks into motherhood I find myself struggling with my dreams for the future. Do I have to have another baby? Will my husband pine for a son if we don't try again? Will my daughter feel deprived of a sibling if we don't give her one? Where will we go from here? Three is the magic number. Is that what I really want? A significant portion of myself feels no need to do it all again.

For the first time since I decided I wanted to be a mother, I am myself. I feel complete. She is a perfect fit. It all feels perfectly natural.

A man and a woman had a little baby
Yes they did
They had three in the family
And thats the magic number

"Three Is the Magic Number" by Schoolhouse Rock

Thanks for checking me out, now head on over and check out the other carnival posts. I'll keep updating the list as more come in, so come back and see who has shown up!

Nursing in Public: Chinatown, the Subway, the Vatican, and More

Aww, is he sleeping?

Nursing in a room full of people you know

Carnival of Breastfeeding: Here? At the restaurant?

Breastfeeding in Public- Talents- I haz it

Would you, could you nurse in public?

Carnival of Breastfeeding: Nursing in Public (Boobs) Out and Proud

Nursing in Public as an Immigrant

Breastfeeding in Public

To Cover or Not to Cover

Little Old Men… & Nursing in Public

Why Worry About NIP?

Breastfeeding and the summertime

Thank You For Nursing In Public

A wee NIP in the park

Planes,trains and automobiles

Nursing in Public: A Fresh Perspective on Nurse-In's

Breastfeeding Hats? YES! Nursing Covers? Uh... Not So Much


  1. Not sure how you managed to think so clearly with a 7 week old baby in the house, but you have captured the essence of what it feels like to breastfeed perfectly. I got goosebumps!

  2. Beautiful post! I felt the same way nursing my daughter - like if nothing else in this world is perfect, breastfeeding was.

  3. That was beautiful! I felt the same way, I EBF my son until he was close to 6 months. He doubled his weight by my milk alone, and I was so sad when another form of food entered him body. I cried. But he is still nursing and still my boobaholic. I hope you have continued success!

  4. You know, I've always felt more nervous nursing in front of *my own* family than anyone else. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has felt that way.

  5. You have a new blog don't you? It's been a little while since I was here last but I remember reading this post and I thought it was so lovely and well written. Still a pleasure to read again.

  6. This is the same blog, I just changed the name after I had the baby.

  7. i'm more conscious of nursing in front of friends than family and strangers. but that doesn't mean that i don't nurse in front of them :D

  8. This was very well-written. And don't worry right now about whether you want another child. Just take time to get to know her, and everything else will fall into place. If a second child is meant to be, your ambivilence will eventually turn into that "baby yearning" when the time is right.

  9. I am teary eyed - and I read/hear a lot of 'new mother stories'! It IS kind of a weird thought - I remember looking at my DD when she was 6 months or so and 10 lbs over her birth weight: all of that, every ounce, every roll came from my breasts. Pretty weird, but pretty cool too.
    I feel different levels of modesty too. I think more so because I don't want to have to explain or disagree on these basic issues with people I care about, so I'd rather avoid it entirely. Whereas I'm always up for a lactivist rumble with a perfect stranger :).

  10. hi i like your post it all about breastfeeding and it is nice it related to Elizabeth Wilcox
    i like it..

    Elizabeth Wilcox

  11. hi,,, im so glad w/ your post.i like your post..and your baby was so tooth full while drinking your breast.. i like it...

    Elizabeth Wilcox

  12. I really enjoyed your post. Very honest - and I just posted about breastfeeding in public today!