“No,” she said. “No?” I asked looking down at my daughter as she gently pushed away from me. Dammit! I knew the day was coming, but I didn’t realize how painful the actuality of it would be on both my psyche and my body. And there it was, with that simple word and a gentle nudge from my 20-month old daughter, my breastfeeding days came to an end.
Yes, I was one of those almost militant breastfeeding moms who hung out with the La Leche League and let my daughter wean herself. I hear some of you out there saying “20 months? That’s gross. Didn’t she have teeth?” Of course, she had teeth. But as every woman knows, it is very easy to for a baby to suck without biting. And even the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding for at least two years. So to them, I’m practically a breastfeeding slacker. But the reality is that most US women stop nursing before the baby is six months old---and many do not start at all for a variety of reasons. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, the United States would save about $13 billion per year in medical costs if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed their newborns for at least six months. And Formula isn’t cheap either, usually around $1500 a year. I am such a spendthrift that I would have breastfed alone just for the money I’d save.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My mother had done it (albeit for the requisite six months), and I was going to continue that tradition. My social circle at that time was filled with young, earthy, crunchy women who espoused peace through art all while toting a baby on the hip. This group openly breastfed their children and occasionally would even breastfeed someone else’s baby if that Mom was busy. These women were amazing to me, and I wanted to be just like them. I also did exhaustive research (OK, I searched the internet and read a few books) and found out that the antibodies in breast milk help babies build their immune system, which creates healthier, less sick kids. Plus it’s free and couldn’t be easier. Step 1: Whip out the boob. Step 2: Attach baby. That’s it. No need to heat up a bottle when your milk on tap is always ready at room temperature.
Image Cat Gwynn
But besides all the health aspects of breastfeeding, and there are many, I had a more prurient reason. My boobs got huge! Overnight I went from being a Flatty Patty to a Busty Betty. It was like a gift from God. “Here you go, for sacrificing your time and energy to enriching your child through the fruits of your mammary glands I gift you with enormous Ta-Ta’s.”
Big boobs were foreign to me. Since I was a kid, I was always lean, lanky and sporty, so I had small breasts. While many of my friends grew boobs during puberty mine remained nothing more than breast buds. By the time I was 16, I was wearing a 32A cup bra and became an official, full-fledged member of ‘The Itty Bitty Titty Committee,’ where I remained till the day I became pregnant. I’d always been complimented for my gams, pins, sticks, but never for my rack. So I wasn’t used to such attention, and I loved it. So did my husband. He couldn’t stop talking about them, touching them and staring with his mouth agape at the enormity of my milk engorged boobs. The man needed a bib for the excessive drooling.
I didn’t know how big they looked till award-winning Los Angeles photographer and friend Cat Gwynn asked if I would pose breastfeeding for a photo series she was working on, called ‘The Reluctant Madonna." I told my gals about the project, and they gave the idea a resounding ‘2 tits up.’ The photos were beautiful, moody, artistic, everything I could have hoped for and more. After the images were published, I got varying types of compliments depending on the gender. Where women saw the beauty and the agenda of the photos, men mostly said stuff like “Wowza” or “Playboy anyone?” And you know what? They did look awesome, and I wanted to keep them for as long as possible.
Image Cat Gwynn
I started to fear what would happen if I quit. As my boob buddies began weaning their children, I had a first-hand look at post-nursing breasts, and it wasn’t always a pretty sight. Some looked like deflated balloons with stretch marks while others looked like meatless flesh socks. What would the fate of my post-suckled breasts be? Would I be clamoring to a surgeon for a boob job---something I vowed I’d never do? Would I go back to being a Flatty Patty? My mother’s breasts were still fairly perky, so I was hoping genetics were in my favor.
The strange part is everybody talks about the pain and frustration that eventually turns to joy in the early stages of breastfeeding, but no one talks about the painful realities of weaning. It hurts to stop. My fucking engorged breasts were screaming for relief. And everything I read said you have to, no pun intended, ‘suck it up’ and work through it. I said fuck that noise and expressed a little bit with my breast pump to relieve the pressure. I couldn’t stand the thought of throwing away perfectly good breast milk, so I put it in the freezer.
And the good news is they did shrink but not a lot. Today my breasts are a nice un-saggy 34C. And I can still pass the pencil test. So, in conclusion, I would recommend breastfeeding to every woman who can do it. And I’d be happy to discuss the pros of breastfeeding with anyone interested, over a nice plate of milk and cookies. I’ll supply the milk.
You can follow Jennifer on Twitter or Facebook @jennifervally.