As my pregnancy counter continues to tick on, and my due date draws nearer and nearer - it seems both so close and so incredibly far! - I continue to think about matters which will be important to me as a new mother, such as breastfeeding.
Since this is the first time around for us, I have no idea how things will go for me - will my baby latch easily? How often will she need to eat? Will I produce enough milk? Fortunately for me, I'm in a supportive environment of experienced women - my mother, grandmother and mother-in-law - who all breastfed their babies, and see breastfeeding as the optimal, healthy, normal thing to do. Recently, my grandmother gave me a speech on the benefits of breastfeeding that wouldn't shame a La Leche League member - quite interesting, if you consider the fact that her youngest child is now close to 60 years old! That is not to say my family is fanatic about breastfeeding. We can and do realize that sometimes things happen not the way we planned - but breastfeeding, not formula, is seen as the default option.
Yesterday I came across this post by Karen. Karen discusses something I've thought about - newborns need to be fed, on average, every three hours - and new mothers cannot be expected to be locked up in their homes for months without the possibility to go out and do errands. The obvious outcome is that sometimes, babies will be hungry while out and about with Mom. How are we to handle that?
Karen points out an outrageous attitude that exists towards breastfeeding mothers, as well as some of the suggested "solutions", which in fact aren't solutions at all. The idea of nursing in a public bathroom is insulting, yucky and seems extremely uncomfortable. Giving a bottle of formula is even worse - ideally, I wouldn't want the stuff in my house. Certainly not for matters of convenience!
I've thought of milk pumps, but obviously, it can be ineffective and time consuming - and again, ideally, I want my baby to be used to breast, not bottle. Pumping milk can be a wonderful solution for women such as my mother, who had a tiny preemie who couldn't latch. The problem solved itself close to what should have been my due date, and in the meantime, she used a primitive hand pump. However, if a baby had just been, with much effort, gently transitioned from bottle to breast, wouldn't it be disruptive to give a bottle again - even if the bottle contains Mom's milk?
On the other hand, I won't try to convince myself that breasts of a nursing mother aren't tempting to men. Obviously, they are. If my breasts are beautiful and delightful to my husband, why would I think they might be ignored by others? To me, the very thought of exposing my flesh where it might be seen by a man who isn't my husband - even if it's for feeding a baby, even if it's just for a few seconds - is absolutely mortifying.
Of course, this only refers to being seen by men. I would have no problem at all nursing in front of other women, or small children, and honestly don't understand why a woman would feel uncomfortable at the sight of another woman nursing her child, if no men are present.
I must say that from what I hear, the situation in Israel is better than in other countries. Breastfeeding is common and normal, and almost every shopping center I know has a nursing/diaper changing room. But there are still plenty of situations when a nursing room is unavailable. What if you are doing errands around town? What if you are in the bank? What if you are on a long bus trip?
Obviously, since I have zero experience, I can't provide answers to these questions. I'm convinced it will work out somehow. If I have a good nursing relationship with my baby - and I intend to do anything and everything to make it work - I optimistically believe it won't be disrupted by the simple fact of me needing to go out sometimes.