“My baby favors breastfeeding on one side, how do I correct that?”
The question was innocent enough but the deluge of horrified looks from other moms in the class left me feeling as if catastrophe had been narrowly avoided.
This educational baby group was usually pretty tame. Once a week we'd sit in a circle, discuss the best way to brush our newborn's non-existent teeth, share birth horror stories, and compare notes on who's baby was the worst sleeper. But every once in awhile we'd stumble across a hot-button topic that managed to shake us from our sleep-deprived states long enough to debate our newly acquired “mommy opinions.”
Breastfeeding was apparently one of those topics.
Desperate to save this poor mother from a milky tragedy, the room of women frantically shouted advice: “Don't let the baby win! If you let her favor one side, you'll end up LOPSIDED!”
“That happened to a friend of mine,” one mama adds, “She couldn't wear a swimsuit. She was a J cup on one side and a B on the other!” (Insert collective gasp of horror.)
The moms have a good laugh at the story of this poor, misguided friend who had let her baby dictate her cup size. Obviously this lopsided mother was a pushover. She had caved to the picky-eater infant who favored one breast over the other and was now suffering the asymmetrical consequences.
After several more minutes of amusement (at the expense of lopsided mothers everywhere) the conversation eventually moved on. I, however, spent the remainder of the class with a sleeping baby self-consciously positioned in front of my chest. I hoped that no one would notice one side that stuck out a little further than the other.
I was part of the lopsided breastfeeders club.
I didn't start out with the intention of joining. It just sort of happened. Frustrated with a baby who pushed my breast away and then ripped at my nipple seconds after latching on, I finally admitted defeat. It wasn't that he wouldn't drink – oh no, he loved breastfeeding. The problem was, he only liked to breastfeed from one side.
And so, I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Who cares?” I didn't mind being off-balance, I was just happy to be able to breastfeed.
It only took one ten-minute conversation in a crowded classroom for me to begin second guessing myself. My baby had been here for three months and according to these neighborhood moms I'd already made a terrible mistake – one that that I should immediately try to rectify at all costs.
These moms had made their feelings clear: the lopsided breastfeeding club was somehow substandard, something that no decent mother would want to do. It was a club full of women whose partners couldn't stand to look at them, who were obviously going to let their children get away with murder, and who couldn't go bra shopping without having a melt down. (That last one is true.) We had unconsciously failed a critical part of breastfeeding and more than anything else, we were just plain doing it WRONG.
I should have spoken up and defended our wonky sized boobs. But I let the conversation drift onto other topics and wondered about a world where mothers are so quick to pick apart other mothers' decisions.
It's hard work being a mom – especially a new one. The world around us spends countless hours debating whether or not women have the right to breastfeed in public, whether it's better to use breast milk or formula, and whether we should stay home or go back to work. And rather than fully supporting one another, we mothers use subtle digs to imply that our parenting methods are superior and choose to pick apart ridiculous, inconsequential details.
Now, with a fully weaned toddler running around the house, there are days when I miss being lopsided. I miss those quiet, bonding moments with my son. I'm glad I didn't let a group of women accidentally intimidate me into giving it up before I was ready.
Breastfeeding isn't easy but for those in the lopsided breastfeeding club, we've found our own way to make it work. One side of my body produced enough milk to sustain my son for ten months. And when you think about it, that's pretty cool too.