Seriously cute baby. Gloriously radiant new mom. Ouch, my ovaries are punching me right now for allowing the surgeon to snip away my fallopian tubes minutes after I delivered my third and final child via breech-cord-wrapped-around-head c-section.
Beyoncé also breastfed that lovely adorable kidlet. In a recent interview with People magazine, Beyoncé said:
“I lost most of my weight from breastfeeding and I encourage women to do it; It’s just so good for the baby and good for yourself,” Knowles, who breastfed Blue for 10 weeks, says.
Then, “about a month after” giving birth, the new mom tackled the remaining pounds with a strict diet and exercise routine….
“I’m proud that my waist came back so fast. I’m proud of that and happy, but that was mostly from the breastfeeding,” the singer explains.
Got that? Breastfeed your baby for 10 weeks. That’s mostly what it will take to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
Now forget Beyoncé and that nom-nom-nom baby for a second. Let’s talk more about me.
What you need to know about me is that I’m a fierce lactivist. I think breastfeeding is aces. I think all new moms should give breastfeeding the old college try before making a final decision. I trust the real research and even entertain some of the fairy tales that breastfeeding creates super-human infants who can chew through steel cables while solving pi to fifty-nine places. Breastfeeding! WHOO HOO!
But here’s the thing:
As much as I am an advocate for educating women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and as much as I’m thrilled to milky bits when celebrities act as unintentional lacto-PR reps, I still get uneasy when new moms are presented with one more benchmark of perfection.
I like research. I don’t like guilt.
I know some advocates for breastfeeding think they need to smack people over the head with statistics to scare them into doing the “right” thing. I know a few lactation consultants who gloss over potential difficulties because they don’t want new moms to quit before they begin.
I also know that, for five weeks, I beat up myself for not being able to breastfeed my newborn without screaming through the excruciating latch on. I listened to lactation consultants and one very nasty La Leche Leader berate me for daring to feel anything but orgasmic bliss while nursing my newborn—for, in fact, continuing to cry in agony even though baby’s latch was declared “perfect” and “text book.” I felt guilty that breastfeeding hurt even though all the reading materials told me that Hera, Eve, and the Blessed Mother all whistled beatific ditties while they had a kid on the teat.
WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH MY STUPID BABY-FEEDING PARTS?
After five weeks of soldiering on, in spite of everyone being frustrated with me for adding an asterisk to “Breastfeeding feels like a butterfly alighting on your nipple” (*OMG, except for one freak lady in Pennsylvania), I broke down teary-eyed in the pediatrician’s office, confessing that I was a failure as a mother and as a woman and was making an appointment to have my vagina removed and given to someone who deserved it—like the bleach blonde guy on South Street in the Vivienne Westwood dress—or maybe I’d just have my baby tunnel turned into a nice, pink clutch bag.
And the pediatrician listened to my guilt-ridden lamentations with profound patience. After which, she took my hands in hers, gave me a sympathetic smile, then leaned close and whispered the four most compassionate words I had ever heard:
“Sometimes, breastfeeding just hurts.”
You mean IT’S NOT ME? You mean I’m NOT FAILING AT BEING A WOMAN?
Yeah, I know, I know…if breastfeeding is causing pain, a new mom should have latch checked, tongue-tie ruled out, and thrush de-thrushed before giving in or giving up. But sometimes, breastfeeding just hurts. It won’t hurt forever. And there are tactics to get through the pain. However, allowing a woman to beat herself up because she’s flunking the end-of-chapter test in some handbook based on statistical generalizations—well, how much more sucky can things get?
Which is all to say this:
I breastfed three children. Some days, feeding my child was a pastel-hued extended moment of perfect communion between mother and child visited upon by angels, rainbows, and fat little bluebirds (see Beyoncé photo above).
Other days, I absentmindedly shoved a boob in a gaping mouth to stop a kid from screaming while I slapped a cold cabbage leaf on the other breast and balanced the television remote between my feet so I could catch the end of Maury and find out who was the baby daddy.
It worked for me. It was my normal.
Now, pay attention.
It is also okay if—unlike Beyoncé—you don’t slim down to your pre-pregnancy weight two months after giving birth. Some women do retain weight while breastfeeding. Some women have to work a little harder than just expelling milk calories to regain their hourglass figure. Some women aren’t comfortable exercising in the early weeks of breastfeeding.
You could very well lose weight while breastfeeding.
But don’t judge yourself by Beyoncé’s almost-miraculous standard.
Your version of normal is just as beautiful. No guilt.