Recently I’ve been thinking about what it means when people say they are lucky to be able to breastfeed. I hear it often, and even say it myself in some situations.
But it’s not true, and I’m going to make an effort to stop saying it.
If I had to make a list of the hurdles I overcame to be able to breastfeed, it would be long. Some honourable mentions go to cracked, bleeding and infected nipples, mastitis requiring hospitalisation, IV antibiotics, G cup boobs and a very high needs, un-sleeping baby. That’s just the REALLY bad stuff, I still had to deal with all of the “common” stuff, like physically recovering from pregnancy and birth, extreme exhaustion, erratic emotions and constant cluster feeds.
There were a lot of factors that got me through those issues – a brilliant IBCLC, an amazing husband, patient friends and family, a supportive workplace, the Kellymom website and Pinky McKay’s Sleeping Like A Baby book.
Support is makes a big difference, but only one person in my family was breastfeeding my child. I wish it was “luck” that got me through it, because that would have been a hell of a lot easier for me! Instead I swallowed tears of pain. Sometimes I didn’t swallow them enough, and I sobbed openly. I grit my teeth. I counted to ten. I held my boobs in my hands while my husband drove, because the engorgement and nipple pain made a simple drive down the street excruciatingly painful. I slept in uncomfortable positions because my son wanted to sleep in my armpit. I got neck and back pain because I was too tired to focus on my posture. I changed my clothes ten times a day because they were soaked with the stench of sour breastmilk. I missed out on social engagements because I had to breastfeed. I spent hours googling breastfeeding problems because I wasn’t always confident in the advice I received.
By saying I am “lucky”, I’m buying into the idea that the ability to breastfeed is a rare one, and one that you have no control over. That a cosmic flip of the coin is what makes the difference between breastfeeding or not. That breastfeeding isn’t “normal” – that only “lucky” people get to do it. If I say that I am “lucky” to breastfeed, I’m doing a disservice to my effort. I went to great lengths to ensure I could breastfeed, and I deserve to be proud of my success.
I chose to breastfeed. Even though it was hard, it was important to me, but I made it happen. I did. Not “luck”.