Let’s talk about my breasts…

I’ve written about many different topics on my blog before. Being pregnant has brought up a topic I never thought I’d discuss: my breasts.

Breasts. Fat with glands topped off with nipples. On a biological level, one of the things that separate us from reptiles is mammary glands, which give us the ability to produce milk to feed our young. Yet, we live in a society, which has a culture. Like every culture, we give many meanings to different things. Breasts, in our culture often take on a sexual connotation. Women’s breasts have been objectified and treated as play things for other people for centuries (see: nearly any magazine, newspaper, TV show or movie).

I give this long introduction in order to say: do you even realize how much you’re talking about my breasts? Whether they’re sex objects or used for milk, someone is bringing up my breasts – and I’m not really a fan. I’ve also found that if someone is bringing up my breasts, they usually have an opinion they’re dying to share with me. I can’t think of a single time where I’ve gotten to ask a man what he is doing with his penis. “Sir, I see you have seven children. Will you be getting that vasectomy we all think you need?”

Since everyone seems to want to know what I’m doing with my breasts, I figured I might as well blog about it.

Decades ago, in a very different time, we pushed formula. In the last few decades, we as a society have come to value breastfeeding. I’m not here to tell any woman how she should choose to feed her child. I would, however, like to point out that I think it’s likely that the increased discourse on breastfeeding has led to an increase in people asking strangers the question, “So, you’re breastfeeding, right?”

I do research for a living. I’ve read A TON on the subject. I’ve come to the conclusion that people will read about what to do – and then agree with whatever conclusion they started with. Thus, I’m not about to regurgitate my own conclusions.

In the last several months, I’ve gotten asked by every type of person whether I would be breast feeding. I’ve had at least six people assume I’m breastfeeding when they’ve said, “Now when you breast feed…”

I was 7 weeks pregnant and getting my blood drawn. The lab tech, who I had never met, asked me, “So, are you breastfeeding?” It’s a simple enough question, and I’m an open person. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder whether I would be judged based upon how I answered.

I’ve thought about whether I would breastfeed, but there is another layer to the subject I’ve never heard discussed. What do we expect of breastfeeding for women that have survived assault? I’ve lived through sexual assault. As a result of that I have a strong dislike for anyone staring at or touching my breasts. Yeah – awesome side effect, right? I’ve spent years trying to overcome this shame and trauma associated with assault. Now, years later every other day someone wants to ask me about my breasts. So, I did what every logical millennial does when faced with a problem, and googled solutions.

“Sexual assault and breastfeeding”

“Breastfeeding and rape”

I did not know what I was going to get. I was hoping I would get someone who said, “Hey girl, you’ve been through enough. Screw those jerks who want to tell you what to do with your body and you do you!” Instead, the majority of websites I encountered were best summarized as, “Learn to value breastfeeding, because it’s the best!”

I felt like my experience and after effects was totally ignored. I’ve spent years trying to get over it. I know that a baby simply being born changes your life, but I highly doubt a birth helps you overcome trauma in a manner of seconds.

In the throes of feeling discouraged, I thought a long time about what is right for me and my baby. Breastfeeding sounds cool, but I also hate the idea of my boobs being attached to a baby 24/7 for six to twelve months. I want to bond, but I also want sleep and my husband’s help with feeding. So, as of today, my plan is to try good ol’ breastfeeding. If I hate it, I’ll try to pump and feed. I’ve spent way too long time feeling guilty about my breasts, so if I: hate breastfeeding, think pumping is the worst, need sleep, want more help form my spouse…. I’m grateful that formula is a wonderful option. I hear Aldi formula is affordable and well-liked.

Fed is best. Not being continually traumatized is best. That’s good enough for me – and my baby. So, can we stop talking about my breasts now?

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