Our culture is messed up!
You may be embarrassed about your breasts and body because they don't look like the pictures you see everywhere. Jumping to the next illogical conclusion, if they don't look right, they probably don't work well either.
Another American cultural mindset is that breasts are part of sexuality. The idea of a baby suckling them is unnerving and weird to many Americans.
Embarrassment on a deeper level is shame.
Abuse, sexual assault, and shaming as a child or adult result in feelings of shame and disgust that can affects either parent. When parents are deciding to breastfeed or not breastfeed, shame can be the deciding factor. And, when some women breastfeed, it triggers feelings of shame, bad memories, or both.
Sometimes store clerks, restauranteurs, and members of the public stare or show outright hostility toward women breastfeeding their babies in public. If it happens to you, you will feel embarrassed and may not want to feed in public again. 49 states (Idaho is the exception) have legislation protecting breastfeeding as a human right. It's against the law to deny a baby's need to feed.
In the United States, we have a prudish streak from our Puritan forefathers about certain body parts, sex and nudity. Breasts are thought of mostly as sexual objects which should be hidden from children and the public.
On the other hand, there has been this tremendous push to free our culture from this constriction resulting in breasts and sex everywhere. It is now normal for women to wear clothes that accentuate and highlight breasts. But not in a functional sense like breastfeeding.
Awareness, acceptance and understanding is the process that eases embarrassment.
Being around other breastfeeding mothers helps overcome embarrassment.. The birth process and being with your newborn also helps the healing process. After birth, many women notice their embarrassment fades and they find breastfeeding natural feeling, and not at all weird anymore.
Breastfeeding is normal and babies need to eat frequently.
Breastfeeding is your baby's most basic right! Pope Francis made a point to encourage mothers to breastfeed in church because what’s good for babies and good for mothers is good for a community. Jesus was breastfed and there is a holy shrine in St. Augustine, Florida dedicated to Mary breastfeeding Jesus.
- Don’t make any decisions against breastfeeding until you have your baby. Your milk is going to come in after birth and many women feel very differently when they hold and touch their baby. You might not, and that’s OK too. It's your body and your baby.
- Talk to your partner or husband about your embarrassment. Your partner's role is to protect you and your baby. Make a plan for the early days for when you have guests and for when you feed your baby in public.
- Join a mother’s group, like La Leche League or a Breastfeeding Circle where women breastfeed and see how they do it in ways that are discreet. You are welcome to attend mother’s groups when you are pregnant. When asked, most mothers wish they had some to a group when they were pregnant. Ask what kind of clothes they like. Ask other mothers how they overcame their embarrassment or shame. Ask if anyone has a therapist who helps them cope with the stresses of mothering. We have a Breastfeeding Circle at Café Mama on the calendar.
- Look up the breastfeeding law in your state. 49 states explicitly protect nursing in public. Some people print the law on business cards to hand out while they are nursing in public.
- Thinking about all the ways breastfeeding is good for your baby and watching how your baby is thriving while breastfeeding is a good way to overcome your embarrassment.
- If you feel intense emotions or depression while breastfeeding, know that there is a name for it. (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Release, D-MER) Find a therapist who can help you with bad feelings and memories that come up.
- Buy one or two shirts made for nursing so you don't feel exposed.
If you just can’t bring yourself to breastfeed, you may want to pump and bottle feed. Your baby will be receiving the best food in the world. Many women find it fulfilling and satisfying even though it has its own set of challenges. It might be the way for you.