GUEST POST: By Laura Perkins, mom & blogger
I am a mother of three children, my son is seven, my oldest girl is four, and my youngest girl is about to turn two years old. In a few weeks, when my youngest celebrates her birthday, I will also be celebrating six years of breastfeeding. This is longer than I ever imagined and my ideas about breastfeeding have changed quite a bit over the past eight years. As a new Mother, I did not have any support system at all for breastfeeding and as a survivor of child molestation I had my own body issues to overcome.
I remember way back when I was in elementary school and my Mother made a remark to a friend of hers that embarrassed the living daylights out of me. You know, the kind that makes you wish to be invisible. Well it was in reference to my growing body. My breasts, in particular. I also remember being in Junior High and suddenly becoming aware that I was well-endowed compared to my classmates. I believe I was wearing a cup size C in High School at the age of sixteen. As a student who skipped first grade and was tested into the faster paced classes, being admired for my looks was actually refreshing.
However, once I graduated from High School, things changed. I moved to a different city. Got a job. Then another city. Another job. I met endless amounts of new people and mainly worked in customer service. I was single and young and spreading my wings. I started to notice men looking at me. Constantly looking at my breasts. It was not a good feeling and I did my best to not accentuate my cleavage.
Fast forward a few about ten years to when I got married and became a Mother. I was determined to breastfeed while I was pregnant. I read books and attended a rigorous breastfeeding class (with my husband). I thought about how long I would want to breastfeed, bought a glider to sit comfortably in while nursing, and a support pillow to use.
Never once did it occur to me that I needed to prepare for negativity while breastfeeding. The first time I was away from the house and my son needed to nurse, I was at a relative’s house. I went in a back room, per the invitation of my host. I was grateful at the time because my baby was all of three days old and we weren’t experts or anything. But man, oh man did he nurse for a loooooooooooong time. I almost fell asleep in that room.
And so it went for a few weeks. Then something happened. I started to get tired of missing things. I wanted to be out in the main part of the house, visiting with everybody else. So I did, awkwardly at first, juggling a pillow, baby, and a blanket. I was more worried about my modesty than anybody else was. It was difficult, don’t get me wrong, but it got easier. I remember the first time I nursed in public (NIP). It was at a restaurant and in the middle of us eating dinner. I thought about going to our car and decided to stay put. I just propped baby up on the table, threw a blanket over my shoulder, and we took care of it. At first, my husband was shocked but loosened up once he saw how little (if any) of my breasts were showing.
As time went on, I became more and more comfortable NIP. I would do it in the middle of a shopping mall or in the living room of my in-laws’ house during a birthday party. To me, it was all about feeding my baby, not exposing my skin in a sexual way. Currently, I am nursing my third child and about to celebrate a combined total of 6 years breastfeeding. Over these past seven and a half years, I have encountered my share of dirty looks and comments muttered under the breath of strangers that disapprove of my NIP. Every once in a while, it does bother me. I do my best to shake it off and remind myself why I breastfeed. NIP has helped me to reclaim part of my identity as a woman and empower me in a way I never planned. I am proud to use my breasts in the way they were intended, to feed my children, at home or away. If someone has a problem with that, then they should stop looking at my breasts.