Confessions of a Low Supply Mom

Welcome to the “I’m a Natural Parent – BUT…” Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.

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Photo by Christy Scherrer

I nurse wherever and whenever my children need. I’ve had women tell me they admire that, that they love how I normalize breastfeeding, and that they applaud me for pulling out our Lact-Aids out in public. Along with my dedication to child-led weaning and perserverance through nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing, I almost sound like a breastfeeding super-hero.

Except when it comes to breasfteeding, I’m far from it. I would do just about anything in order to exclusively breastfeed my children: pumping, eating specific foods, taking herbs, taking medications. I’ve done it all. Even though we knew prior to pregnancy that a medical condition would most likely affect my supply, I kept positive, supposedly setting myself up for success. In fact, I was setting myself up for failure – my own. When I didn’t make enough milk and I listened to my first child scream in hunger, I cried. When I first supplemented, I cried. Each time I tried something new and got my hopes up that this would be the thing that would fix everything, I would only plummet to new lows when it didn’t.

So while my dedication to child-led weaning, nursing in public, and lactivism in general stands, know that there is a crying, seething green monster inside of me that would do just about anything to shed these Lact-Aids and nurse my babies (toddlers, children) without them.

    • I hide formula in my cart. Sure, I try to be nonchalant when I do it so I don’t send the wrong message to my children. However, it always seems that something big just happens to land on top of the can of formula. I end up building a little pyramid of items around it so that I don’t have to see it. Setting items up on the conveyor belt and paying for them, I look anywhere but at the cashier. I don’t want to face what I might see reflected there: a mom with a child in a sling who can’t even fully nurse her own child. When the formula makes it home, the label comes off. Somehow, I think taking off the label lessens what it truly is and makes it easier to face. It doesn’t, but I try still do it.
  •  I am jealous of other mothers – not the ones nursing their children but the ones who gave up or didn’t even try. When a relative mentioned how she was so happy she was able to nurse her child for as long as possible (5 months) and that she had to quit because pumping at work was such a drag, it ate at me. I know what pumping is like. I pumped for the first year of my first child’s life, trying to increase supply, while also trying to nurse him. I pumped for the first year of my second child’s life once again trying to increase supply and while working through her own issues with latch, suck, and what turned out to be silent reflux, dealing with her rules for nursing that I figured out along the way. Pumping sucks and I’m glad that with my last two children we have been able to forego it, but I would do it again if it meant I could have a full milk supply. I don’t judge women who choose not to nurse, whether by culture, misinformation, or some other choice, but I am most certainly jealous of what they gave away. I know women have all sorts of reasons for choosing not to breastfeed and it isn’t any of my business, but the giant green jealous monster still rears up. If they aren’t going to nurse anyway, why couldn’t they be the one with low supply?
  • I’m afraid to go anywhere without Lact-Aids because my child might want to nurse. Even when my children are two, three, or four years old, I have Lact-Aids packed in the diaper bag any time we are out. I keep them in a littel cooler bag. I even have them in a little cooler bag around the house, a leftover facet from when my older daughter was suffering from silent reflux and gave me 30 seconds to latch her on after the very first sign of hunger.
  • I feel angry every time someone says that women shouldn’t nurse in public or talk about the benefits of breastfeeding because “some women can’t breastfeed.” Less than 2% of women who have given birth to their children cannot exclusively breastfeed, and most of them, like me, will be able to have a partial milk supply. Don’t give me the excuse that some women can’t breastfeed for not supporting nursing mothers. I am a low supply mom, and I am that 2%. The very best thing we can do for women is to give information and be supportive of breastfeeding in private or in public so that they are not being sabatoged in their breastfeeding.

So, that’s my confession. Outwardly, I’m a cool collected lactavist helping other mothers and nursing my children, with the help of Lact-Aids. Inside, I’m an insecure weeping, jealous mess who feels like a failure.

 

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I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that “natural parenting” means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

 

Feel Free to be Offended

There are those who are offended by the sight of a mother nursing her child in public. To them I say, “Feel free to be offended.”

In a world as diverse as ours, something is bound to offend another person – sexuality, race, gender, religion, clothing, speech, habits, etc. We have the right to our individual beliefs and, as a part of that, a right to feel offense. Where our rights stop is where they interfere with another person’s rights.

Personally, I’m offended by smoking. I think it’s disgusting, and I really don’t want to be anywhere near it. However, I’m not going to ask someone to quit smoking. I will quietly go somewhere else so that my children and I don’t have to be around it. I am also disgusted by the site of people chewing food with their mouths open. Apparently the memo that watching partially masticated food is unappealing didn’t make it’s way through the entire human population (or my in-laws’ house). I reserve the right to look away in my offense.

What I don’t have is the right to dictate how people legally live their lives. I may be offended by some things, but frankly it’s none of my business. I don’t have the right to dictate what they can and cannot do based on my sensibilities.

So the next time I’m out in public and breastfeed my child, feel free to be offended. Feel free to look away, walk away, cover your head in shame, or however you choose to deal with your uncomfortable feelings. You have that right, just as I have the right to nurse whenever and wherever I have the right to be.

 

This post was originally written and posted for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. I am reposting due to timely discussions.

A Matter of Choice

An Afghan woman and child in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Sean A. Terry, USA

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with my children about women covering themselves, after we saw a woman who wore a head covering. My then 5 year old daughter wanted to know why the woman’s head was covered, and we discussed the fact that some religions require women to cover their heads or bodies so that others do not see them. The next question to follow was whether or not the woman had chosen to cover her head or whether someone had made her do it.

This brought about a very insightful discussion about women’s rights, and human rights in general. Some women choose to cover themselves based on their beliefs. Others are forced to cover themselves or suffer persecution.The distinction between the two – freedom and oppression – is clear; it’s a simple matter of choice.

The choice to cover oneself, including covering when breastfeeding, is a personal choice. Women who choose to cover do so out of personal preference based on their beliefs. To tell tell others that they should cover themselves is an attempt at oppression, whether the cover is meant for the woman’s head or her child’s.

Previously posted on Living Peacefully with Children and Nursing Freedom.

If I Wanted to Show Off My Breasts…

Photo by United Nations Development Programme

If I wanted to show off my breasts, I would probably do so by…

  • wearing a very small bikini
  • wearing a low cut shirt, preferably with a push up bra
  • stand up straight and stick out my chest
  • wear a shirt asking people to look at my breasts
  • keep everything away from obstructing the view
  • go shirtless

I probably wouldn’t chose the following ways:

  • cover my chest with a baby or toddler latched on
  • wear a sling with a baby or toddler across my chest
  • cover up my cleavage with a bunched up shirt pulled up to nurse
  • be engaged with my child, especially those moments when I have a little foot in my face for me to kiss or smell and play the ew! stinky feet game
  • sit down in a comfortable spot
  • go about my business

Breastfeeding is about taking care of our children, not about showing off breasts.

To Cover or Not to Cover: A Choice

Last year I wrote a blog post entitled a matter of choice… I had originally written it after a question from my then 5 year old daughter about a woman we saw who wore a head covering. Since I knew that Nursing Freedom was gearing up for the Carnival of Nursing in Public, I saved the post and it was initially published there.

I’m not the only one to write about the topic. Many have. Most recently, Annie at PhD in Parenting has produced a fantastic video on the topic.

a matter of choice…

An Afghan woman and child in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Sean A. Terry, USA

I recently had a conversation with my children about women covering themselves, after we saw a woman who wore a head covering. My 5 year old daughter wanted to know why the woman’s head was covered, and we discussed the fact that some religions require women to cover their heads or bodies so that others do not see them. The next question to follow was whether or not the woman had chosen to cover her head or whether someone had made her do it.

This brought about a very insightful discussion about women’s rights, and human rights in general. Some women choose to cover themselves based on their beliefs. Others are forced to cover themselves or suffer persecution.The distinction between the two – freedom and oppression – is clear; it’s a simple matter of choice.

The choice to cover oneself, including covering when breastfeeding, is a personal choice. Women who choose to cover do so out of personal preference based on their beliefs. To tell tell others that they should cover themselves is an attempt at oppression, whether the cover is meant for the woman’s head or her child’s.

the reality of nursing in public…

Most stories about mothers nursing their children in public are negative. We hear the stories of discrimination and oppression. Those against breastfeeding will claim they saw a woman fling her breast out to breastfeed her child. Breastfeeding mothers tell of snide comments they heard, demands that they leave a public place or feed their child in a restroom. I’ve had my share of comments. They do exist, as much as some will have you believe otherwise. Occassionally a mother may have a positive comment or smile. Personally, I try to encourage other mothers I see nursing in public, even if it’s just with a cheesy smile. However, overall neither of these scenarios is the norm.  

I’ve never once seen a woman fling a breast, which frankly sounds quite painful. If you know where I can witness this, please let me know; I’ve never quite understood the logistics of it. The truth if the matter is, most people don’t notice a mother nursing her child. When a child shows signs of wanting to nurse, a mother matter of factly lifts or lowers her shirt enough to allow the child to latch on. They nurse and go on about their business. No fanfare precedes the event. There are no requests for cheers or hurrahs. The mother is merely attending to her child’s needs, just as she would hug the child or hand the child food.

While negative experiences sadly occur, in the thousands of times I’ve nursed in public, the number of negative comments are comparatively small. I’ve nursed in a laundromat full of college guys, out hiking, in stores while pushing a cart, while helping my older children with crafts at a children’s museum, next to a strange man on an airplane (who was kind enough to offer to pull my tray down for my water), at concerts, parks, libraries, and more. Most of the time, no one says a word.

So while we do need to normalize breastfeeding and nursing in public, new mothers shouldn’t feel frightened to do so. Chances are, no one will even notice. If they do, it’s very likely they won’t say a thing. And if they do, take confidence in the fact that you are doing the best for your child and stay firm in your rights.

This post was originally posted on Nursing Freedom.