It’s 0-dark-thirty hours. You’ve been days without sleep and you’re exhausted; a bit of rest here, a bit there, never enough to make a dent in the deprivation you’ve accumulated since your assignment. Yesterday’s grime from the trenches clings to your skin. Your body aches, your chest especially – which feels as if tiny bullets have been lobbed at the most tender and vulnerable part of yourself. Wailing pierces the still night, but you can’t tell if the sound is your own or from some unearthly, helpless creature camped outside your bed. You stumble to investigate, wondering if there’s an end in sight.
No, I didn’t just describe a scene out of [insert war movie here]. I described the life of a nursing mom. “But Victoria! I thought you’re all breast-is-best and crunchy I-didn’t-want-an-epidural-thank-you-very-much. What happened!?”
What happened is reality hit me smack-dab in the forehead.
Breastfeeding can be tough. One of my favorite sound bytes from the recent documentary Breastmilk is a woman who claims “you have to almost be mean about it” when describing the determination to breastfeed. I get that. It takes heart.
But, listen. If anyone knows they are in need of some TLC, it’s nursing moms.
You don’t have to tell a nursing mom she needs a break.
What she doesn’t know is how to take one.
Breastfeeding moms often hear the refrain, “Can’t you just give that baby bottle?” Sounds simple enough, but the reality is a bit more complicated. First off, a nursing mom has to produce a bottle. Pumping is no fun. And, believe it or not, it’s difficult. In some cases a mom might pump for several session before she produces enough milk to make a bottle. Then there’s the issue of whether or not her nursling will even take a bottle (many don’t). If a mom does pump enough milk to seize a getaway and if her baby’s down with it, then there’s the issue of expressing milk while she’s gone. Breastfeeding moms have to express milk often, or serious complications could happen. If nursing in public remains controversial, you can bet your darn skippy that pumping in public is unthinkable. And another consideration, some babies experience particularly clingy stages. If baby has a meltdown every time mom leaves the room, separating the two might be painful for everybody. Remember, babies have only been doing this Earth thing for a few months. And, frankly, how would you feel if your refrigerator sprouted legs and walked out of the room? You’d probably be a bit upset yourself!
Nursing moms know they need a break. They appreciate you offering to give them one. But it needs to be on the right terms. I’ve been very blessed with friends and family eager to help as I breastfeed my daughter. It takes some planning, but there are many ways to help out a nursing mother.