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Breastfeeding Body Confidence Essay – Motherly

An almost universal experience among women is that our relationships with our bodies it’s complicated. We are wanted. We are ashamed. We are immodest. We are too modest. These mixed messages start early and continue throughout life. But for me, it wasn’t until I started breastfeeding that I felt a sense of control about the use and purpose of my body.

I started looking at my body differently when I was 14. It was the first time a much older man had yelled at me, which suddenly made me feel very unsafe. But, beyond that, I felt embarrassed that my body could attract such unwarranted attention. Shame crept in because it was my body that made this man react. Because of my appearance, I was laughed at and felt worse.

For many of us, our relationships with our bodies can become more complex during adolescence. Many young women quietly compare their physical features, especially their breasts. Being thin and having big boobs and wide hips is what we were taught necessary. Why? Because men wanted it.

Yet, in addition to earning jealous stares, a girl also gains an increased level of physical insecurity as her body changes. I had to choose my clothes intentionally so as not to “show too much”. Otherwise, as society taught us, I “asked” for cat squeals, objectification, and glares. As I soon learned, it wasn’t just my body that was attracting this unwanted attention. Most women, regardless of body shape or size, have felt unsafe simply because they are women.

Breastfeeding made me confront my relationship to my body

When I started breastfeeding, the shame I felt for my body was a bit overwhelming. The first few days in the hospital, it seemed like everyone was getting a glimpse of my naked body and grabbing and touching me shamelessly (while I was completely unabashed). Nurses and doctors were pushing and pushing me to make sure everything was okay. The lactation consultant, nurses and my family members grabbed and stared at my breasts to help me as I learned to nurture my new life.

I understood in my head that everyone was there to help me. I get it. And yet, I felt waves of disgust. While talking to my doctor about it, we discussed that it could be a sign of D-MER and she told me to continue to monitor the feelings over the next few weeks.

What I found following my experience was that I had no D-MER, but I was ashamed. Shame on my body. This area of ​​my body that I had been conditioned to believe was something to hide or show depending on the environment was now receiving constant attention. The very breasts that I tried to hide or cover to be “small” were now constantly searching for food or healing after feeding. I noticed that I felt so uncomfortable just looking at them.

But while that hasn’t changed overnight, my feelings have evolved over the past few weeks of breastfeeding. I now have a feeling of victory when I breastfeed. I’m sure oxytocin is one of them, but I believe something bigger has shifted emotionally, not just chemically.

My little guy looks to my body as a source of life, nourishment and comfort. When he fidgets or cries, my gentle rocking brings him immediate comfort. He leans against me during tummy time to learn how to build muscle. The warmth of my body puts him to sleep at night. And when I breastfeed him, he is nurtured and nurtured. Me, with just this body, I am able to provide for the needs of life.

What once made me feel like a girl now makes me feel like a woman. What once paralyzed me now empowers me. What once made me feel ashamed now makes me feel a mother.

I used to feel embarrassed because of how objectified my body was. Even if I was completely alone with him, I would still feel those pangs of discomfort as if someone somewhere out there was looking at me scarily. But having this little man who looks at my body and doesn’t see it as something that warrants a whistle or a howl, but sees it as something that supports and nurtures it, has changed everything. All.

What once made me feel like a girl now makes me feel like a woman. What once paralyzed me now empowers me. What once made me feel ashamed now makes me feel a mother.

The very issue of breastfeeding is accompanied by a litany of unwarranted advice, demands, insults and discouragement. A mother is reprimanded for using formula. To not use a formula. For pumping. For not pumping enough. For weaning. To continue breastfeeding after a certain age. I have listened to my friends struggling with not producing enough and trying various remedies to increase their supply to feed their child. I have heard of other women dealing with the pain of engorgement, but overcoming the pain because they know their child is being fed.

Ultimately, I’ve seen women embrace their bodies for something, for someone, greater than what society has reduced the female body to. Voices have tried to tell us what our breasts are supposed to look like and now how they are supposed to be used. But this time, for the first time in my life, those voices become white noise as I sing my son to sleep while he uses my breasts as pillows. And it feels good.

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