I’m no hero.
This is what I want to say every time someone compliments me on my decision to breastfeed.
I’m lucky enough to live in a time and place where most of the people around me seem to recognize the value of breastfeeding. I live in a blue city, in a blue state, and this set of circumstances seems to have conferred upon me and mine a certain level of protection from the anti-nip police.
It’s actually more common to find myself fielding unsolicited accolades. Total strangers have stopped in the course of their otherwise busy day to let me know how great they think it is that I’m breastfeeding my son. It’s so brave, so profoundly GOOD of me to give him this gift. Breast is best. BREAST IS BEST!
And as much as I love being the recipient of flattery (why yes, I AM brilliant and selfless and let’s just add flawless while we’re at it, thanks for noticing), I can’t help but end up feeling a little disingenuous. Like when your boss gets up in front of the entire office at the all-staff meeting to formally thank you for leading the effort to plan the holiday party, when really all you did was spend less than 5 minutes on a cheap looking flyer. You give a sheepish aw-shucks grin while everyone turns to look at you and clap politely, while internally you’re feeling more than a little embarrassed and thinking “what if they knew that I just threw this thing together using a template in Word and some cheesy clip art?”
Because here’s the thing. Even though there are lots, LOTS, of legit reasons to breastfeed – apparently my children will end up healthier and smarter and less likely to live in my basement into adulthood all because of a little lactation (I’m sure I have those sources somewhere, just give me a minute to find them…) – my main reasons are purely selfish. I breastfeed because I’m lazy and cheap.
What? IT’S THE TRUTH.
I can barely remember to leave the house with my wallet and keys; I can’t imagine maintaining my sanity (such as it is) in a world where I’d most likely be constantly failing my infant by ending up in some random public place without the bottle, or nipple, or formula, or formula-dispenser-thingie, or un-sketchy water, or any of the other little accoutrements that make formula-feeding possible. No matter how much of a mess I may be at any given moment, I CANNOT forget or misplace my boobs.
And I’m seriously one of the cheapest people I know. I will walk to hell and back on my lunch break for the promise of some free food. Even if it’s just a platter of those gross wrap things with unidentifiable spreads and meats inside. If there’s free coffee to be had, I will stubbornly pour myself a cup, even though I’m already jittery and overcaffeinated and the thought of yet another cup of coffee makes me nauseous. Because it’s free.
And guess what’s not free? Formula.
Boob milk, on the other hand, is completely, 100% free. I get to feel like I’m sticking it to The Man on a DAILY BASIS. I love this, all of this. More of this please, Mother Nature. If I could somehow create a bunch of other expensive kid-friendly food items de novo from my body with little to no effort (those overpriced baby puffs would be lovely, but that’s just a suggestion), I would be all in.
Now, I totally get that there are many women who have a variety of very, very good reasons for not breastfeeding. But I also think there’s a bunch of us who may want to, or may have wanted to, but decided that they just weren’t quite up to it. They just weren’t quite…enough.
And this is where I think the breastfeeding worship becomes problematic. The second we feel compelled to canonize every mom who chooses to breastfeed, it sends a message to the rest of us that successful breastfeeding is only obtainable though painful feats of self-sacrifice, and loads of effort, and possibly more than a little blood, sweat and tears, after which you are handed your trophy and halo for all to admire.
But breastfeeding shouldn’t be hard. I’m not gonna lie, it may be tough in the beginning, when some of our less with-it babies may struggle to figure it out (I’m looking at you, kid #1). But it shouldn’t be something we look upon with such reverence that it intimidates all the average ladies that weren’t planning on angling for supermom status out of giving it a fair shake.
Now there is, of course, an unequivocally awesome side benefit to all this boob worship: the growing support for making it even easier to do something that should be one of the easiest things in the world. Free breast pumps for everyone (thanks ACA!). Protected time and space for pumping at work. Laws protecting the rights of women to BF in public. Public approval of giving the side-eye to anyone who says things like “so how long are you planning to breastfeed?” or “are you sure he’s getting enough?”
So let’s keep doing all we can to collectively make breastfeeding as easy as possible. Because when presented with an option that speaks to both the selfless and unabashedly selfish sides of each of us, most of us are far more likely to choose it.
I’m as selfish as the next human. I want what’s best for my baby, and my family, and, y’know, the universe, but I also want what’s best for ME.
So that’s what I’m going to say the next time a well intentioned stranger sees me pull out my boob at Starbucks to quiet down my squealing baby and starts chatting me up about how great it is that I’ve chosen to breastfeed:
Thanks, but I’ve got to be honest. I do this for him, but I also do this for me. See this overpriced gingerbread latte? I’m choosing to pay for that instead of a bottle of formula. Because gingerbread lattes are ridiculously tasty.
Breastfeeding as a selfish act. Own it. Celebrate it. Love it.