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Only People Who Breast-Feed Know These Things

Only People Who Breast-Feed Know These Things

I have been breast-feeding my son for 19-months. No, I did not plan to breast-feed this long. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it is wonderful and hard all at the same time.

Like many expectant mothers, I researched and read about breast-feeding before the birth of my first child, but I thought “how hard can it be?” Well, it can be hard. For something as natural as breast-feeding, it certainly doesn’t always feel natural.

When your child is born, someone places this beautiful little person on your body and all of sudden you’re a mom. And your body is now the food source for this new little human. You are supposed to know how to care for, feed and nourish this little being and it isn’t exactly instinct. When I first held my son he latched on immediately and fed for an hour and a half. I thought, “Oh, that was easy! This is going to be cake!”

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We experience pain.

But it wasn’t. Cracked and sore nipples are a horrifying reality in those early weeks (and sometimes months!). Applying various nipple creams becomes a daily ritual. Every time my son needed to nurse in the first few weeks of his life I was cringe as I unsnapped my nursing bra. I remember whipping my boob out for every nurse that came into my room after his birth and asking if it was normal for my nipples to look the way they did. It is normal, and I was totally unprepared for it.

We love it.

But as painful and awkward as it was in the beginning, it was also beautiful. Looking down at my sweet son as he drifts off to sleep on my chest is still one of the most precious moments of my day. I have never felt so connected to my son as when I’m breast-feeding him to sleep.

Breast-feeding is very different now that my son is a toddler. When he was a newborn I would sit propped up in bed for half the day just breast-feeding. I watched countless t.v. shows in that bed while nursing my son. Now my son will just walk up to me several times a day and pull my shirt down for all the world to see and begin to breast-feed. I call this kamikaze nursing. It simultaneously embarrasses me and makes me laugh.

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We learn new skills.

I vividly remember the first time I tried to pump. Going from a sweet, cuddly little baby suckling at my breast to a cold awkward plastic machine was not a pleasant change. I stared so anxiously at the bottles as milk slowly dripped into them. “You can’t think about.” My friend advised. How can I not think about the plastic, whirring machine that is sucking at my chest?! I even tried to devise a make-shift pump holder by cutting holes in the chest of an old tank top so I could pump “hands-free”. It didn’t make the process less awkward, but I did eventually figure out how to make it work.

While breast-feeding is challenging in the beginning, at some point it becomes second nature. I remember being surprised at how easy it was to breast-feed while using a public restroom. Gross, but sometimes necessary.

Also, the first time I realized that I could breast-feed while wearing my son in the front carry was a super convenient discovery. No more stopping to nurse while we were running errands! I could just put him in the carrier and put the little sun-cover up for some privacy. These were skills I never thought I would acquire.

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We don’t regret it.

Sometimes my friends who don’t have children will gasp when I tell them I’m still breast-feeding.

“Still!?” they exclaim. “But, why!?

Well, there are plenty of reasons I could list. My son loves it. It’s almost more inconvenient to quit right now. It’s a part of my mothering experience. I usually just say “It’s cheaper than formula or milk!” and laugh off their exasperation.

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Some mom’s aren’t able to breast-feed so even when it was painful I was grateful for the opportunity to nourish my precious son in that way. I won’t ever regret the hard work I put into figuring out the right positions that worked for us. I won’t regret the times my son woke up in the middle of the night and my husband couldn’t care for him because my son needed to nurse. I won’t regret all of the pain, work and sacrifice that breast-feeding requires, because it is a unique and beautiful bond that my son and I will have forever—and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Featured photo credit: Chris Alban Hansenlife via flickr.com

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Emily Myrin

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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