This may come as a bit of shocking news, but I’m a slightly modest person when it comes to clothing apparel. Despite the blog My Body Wears Bikinis, I tend to fully cover up on all occasions. Seeing as I am a tall female, shorts, skirts, and dresses must fall below a certain length or else I feel like my butt is hanging out. Most items that were created by a designer to be a dress for the average woman ends up looking like a perfect shirt for me to pair with jeggings. My shirts must cover chest and belly alike. Should that fail, undershirts make up the extra inch or two or missing fabric.
Whether it’s personal style, or personal opinion, I don’t feel comfortable wearing certain articles of clothing in public, or flaunting my assets in public.
… Not like I have “assets” to flaunt.
Like every other adult female on the planet, I went through puberty as a teenager. It happened later than most of my female friends, which could be the reason why I missed one key aspect of being a female going through puberty: growing breasts. My longest running joke is that I have no boobs. Sometimes I claim to have them, but they’re size Negative.
I have never told a man to look at my eyes instead of my chest. I have never had to worry about a bra being uncomfortably tight. I have never had to worry about anything slipping out of my bikini. I have never dealt with an abundance of cleavage making my shirt look weird. I’ve never been strangled by my breasts at the gym. My boobs have never been affected by the effects of gravity.
See? It’s easy to have a lot of “nevers;” I don’t have boobs.
After dealing with no cleavage throughout High School, college, and early adulthood, I fully expected to have some major perks when I became pregnant with Tiny Tot. I expected even bigger perks after the pregnancy. What I wanted was what every other pregnant and breastfeeding female gets: a really big chest. Did I get that?
I was about fourteen weeks pregnant with Tiny when I realized that my body was just going to skip that step. I got sciatica, I got mood swings, I got morning sickness, I got pudgy, and I got a butt that expanded exponentially with my growing stomach. But the chest? Nope. Every other pregnant female I knew while I was pregnant was buying new bras to harness their ample additions in cleavage … except me. My only perk was being happy that my bra was finally not sagging off the girls. It almost fit, for once. That’s a bonus, right? The fact that my training bra finally fit … fourteen weeks pregnant.
And so, after I had Conner, I was still holding onto the breastfeeding cleavage hope. I thought, “Now it will happen! When my milk comes in, I’ll finally get those boobs!”
My boobs refused to make room, making breastfeeding a completely painful experience. In fact, the whole experience was one massive catastrophe after another. I was really bad at breastfeeding. I mean, really bad. Tiny Tot seemed to eat every 45 minutes, but it took him twenty minutes to finish just one side. So most of my days were spent feeding Tiny Tot. He never gained weight, he was always a tiny little thing (my how that has changed!), and I was always one, frustrated momma.
By the time I tried to pump, so that I could go back to work, I was ready to call it quits. Pumping produced next to nothing, defeating the entire purpose. Therefore my mom couldn’t feed Tiny Tot breast milk when she watched him; there was nothing extra for me to give her. So while I went back to work, I had to supplement with formula. I should have realized then what was happening then, because after he drank formula with Grandma, my tiny human would sleep for hours. He never did that on breast milk.
Around five or six months of age, Tiny became constantly attached, even more than before. He was constantly cranky, he was losing weight, and he refused to sleep. It didn’t take rocket science for me to finally throw in the towel and admit defeat. My nonexistent boobs had failed the one person that boobs were made for: my tiny human.
We switched to formula only, and Tiny Tot became a happy, beautiful, thriving baby boy. The transition wasn’t difficult; my child had to eat to live. Therefore I had very little qualms about formula feeding my child.
Years have passed since then. Tiny is the giant size of a six year-old, he’s smart as a tack, and my brain has nearly forgotten the trauma we went through during his infancy and early baby stages. That is, until this past week, when I started hearing pro-breastfeeding commercials on the radio, and reading about more breastfeeding sit in on the news. Then I started thinking, and thinking, … and thinking.
As we all know, I think too much on a chronic basis.
When I breastfed Tiny Tot, I primarily stayed at home. I had to go out a few times, because I had him during holiday seasons. So, if it was a long Christmas shopping trip, I fed him in the car. Once, I even fed him in a crowded restaurant bathroom. The last part was disgusting, but I was more upset that dinner couldn’t have been scheduled around his eating schedule, so that I didn’t have to stand against a dirty wall of a bathroom stall and finagle bra straps while holding a screaming infant for close to forty minutes. I don’t even remember whether I ate that night, but I do remember the smell of the bathroom, to this day.
Feeding a baby in a dirty, smelly bathroom stall is nothing short of heinous. Having done it once, I would never do it again. I don’t like using public restrooms for even five minutes. Forty seemed like a lifetime.
Still, I guess I could have been one of the mothers who breastfeeds in public, in a restaurant, with diners sitting at her elbow. Except for my pesky modesty issue. I wouldn’t have sat on a park bench and fed Tiny, sat down at a restaurant to feed him, or stopped to buy coffee in the middle of the grocery store while providing my tiny human some milk, even if it was accepted by society at large–which is, unfortunately, not the case. I would have been nervous, embarrassed, uncomfortable, and turned a lovely shade of neon red. Tiny would have picked up on that, and started screeching wails, which would have brought attention to my otherwise awkward situation.
Sure, I might strap on a bikini at the beach, but I would never bare my breasts in public, even if only for seconds at a time. And, as established, I don’t have breasts, anyway.
Breastfeeding in public issues aside, what most upsets me about the recent breastfeeding commercials is the angle. I’m sure I’ve seen a mother feeding her child in public, and the image never even filtered through–which should tell my modest side that people don’t really care about breastfeeding in public, except for the select few who stare women down because they were probably ogling her breasts, anyway. Like I said before, men don’t stare at my chest. The commercials I’m hearing lately, however, seem to have a slight slant to them. It’s almost like a breast-shaming slant. Sure, it could be from my former failed attempts at breastfeeding making me hear the advertisements in a skewed manner, but I don’t think that’s it.
The commercial is a bit creepy, so I’ll share it with you. It states, “Healthy baby, healthy momma. Healthy baby, healthy momma. Start your baby’s life off right. Mother’s milk can make your baby smart and bright. Not only can it boost your baby’s IQ, breastfeeding can do good things for you, too. Like, release endorphins that will make you feel great, burn calories that will take off weight, protect you from breast cancer, save you money, day after day. Healthy baby, healthy momma.” It’s from an Every Ounce Counts campaign. I think the producers were trying for a lullaby approach to a breastfeeding commercial, while informing the public about the benefits of breastfeeding.
In this momma’s mind, they failed.
I mean, I get it. Promotion of something that is natural for mothers and babies to do, in order to change the minds of people who are against the idea of breastfeeding. It sounds like a great approach, if there are people who are truly against breastfeeding. If people like this exist, they probably don’t have children or want children, so this commercial isn’t likely to change their minds. And, as a side note, moms who breastfeed still get pesky things like breast cancer, and postpartum depression. Breastfeeding won’t stop those from occurring, though studies have shown a slight decrease in the risk of those occurring.
Some mothers do choose to exclusively formula feed, but I cannot imagine that it’s because they are against the idea of breastfeeding their child. The moms I know who exclusively formula fed did it for two reasons: like me, they sucked at it, or it wasn’t convenient with their never-ending work schedule. Some moms do have to work immediately after having their baby, and there isn’t time for breastfeeding, or for pumping.
I know, because I never had time to pump at work; I didn’t even have a place to pump. I would wait five to eight hours to feed my tiny tot, or pump … which could have also aided in my suckfest breastfeeding ability. Also, after the restaurant incident, I wasn’t all that inclined to pump in a bathroom stall at work–not like I had forty minutes in which to pump. I don’t get lunch breaks; I don’t get bathroom breaks. I don’t get breaks, period.
I get to work at work.
So, for mothers like me–and there are a lot of us–no amount of belief in the naturalness of breastfeeding can make up for something we failed so miserably at (for multiple reasons) during our child’s infancy. Our breasts didn’t work; they didn’t get the message that they were made for a bigger life purpose. They don’t need to be shamed into remembering one of the hardest parts of early motherhood, or told that they didn’t try hard enough to provide enough immunity for our tiny creations.
Every ounce might count, but the commercials aren’t going to change my breasts’ minds in terms of feeding an infant. Just like sit ins aren’t going to make me display my breasts in public in order to feed my child. Some people, and some breasts, just weren’t made that way.
** Here’s the jingle if you want to take a listen: Healthy Baby, Healthy Momma