What is breastfeeding? It might seem pretty obvious, but here is Google's definition, just for reference:
Yet I'd argue (I know, I'm not supposed to argue with Google) that in today's cultural climate, breastfeeding has taken on a great many more meanings than this simple definition allows (sorry Google.)
Because breastfeeding has become so much more than the act of feeding our children...it has been given gravitas by media milk storm, after media milk storm...where we are carefully positioned into one of two competing mommy camps: Breastfeeders Versus Non Breastfeeders.
And with such sensational polarisation, a movement inevitably builds. Women become martyrs and warriors and flagships for The Cause. We lose our names, our identities and morph instead into juggernauts of emotion; hurtling in every which way we can imagine.
And through this energy, breastfeeding has almost morphed into something untouchable...something divisive...something that belongs on top of a pedestal and not something that can be considered accessible or normal.
Almost...but not quite.
Because there is hope.
You see, in between the Big Stories, just to the side of front page headlines and sensationalistic media coverage, there are real moms. There are real babies. There are real nursing relationships.
And they are happening day and night across the globe. Just as they always have...just as they always will.
So I decided to try out a thing. Just a little thing, that might potentially reach the hearts of moms, feeding their babies and getting on with their lives....moms just like you and me. This thing I've been trying out is really very simple...it's just telling stories...it's just having a conversation.
Not the all-singing-all-dancing Us Versus Them type of conversation...but instead, the very ordinary, very normal, very everyday type of conversation that actually needs to happen.
This conversation has quickly gained momentum as more and more moms have shared more and more stories with me. And every single day, another beautiful tale of normal breastfeeding lands in my inbox, ready for me to share.
Because the more we share, the more people talk. And the more people talk, the more people understand. And little by little, bit by bit, story after story, the more normal this very normal act of breastfeeding becomes.
And sometimes these stories leave us feeling grateful:
Because so many of us are in fact, grateful. Grateful for second chances and grateful for research too. Not so long ago, a nursing strike at 6 days old might have spelled the end of a breastfeeding relationship, due to a lack of understanding of challenges such as nipple confusion. Yet with continual research from the leading names of the pumping industry, like Lansinoh, these challenges are now better understood and far better navigated. We've come a very long way since the days of inflexible bottle nipples, for instance, since this research is producing teats that enable a natural, wavelike sucking action - to mimic the motions learned at the breast.
Because breastfeeding is so much more than simply nourishing our children. Sure, it finds itself in the middle of a modern day parenting battle more often than not, but in those quiet moments in the dark of night, it finds itself comforting tiny humans, filling little tummies and strengthening bonds between people.
Because this is normal and this conversation needs to happen. And although it may not always feel like it, we are in this together.
So what's your story, mama?
Thank you to each mama who told her story for this feature. For more glimpses into real life breastfeeding, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook!