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Modest Breastfeeding

Shari Ann Wenzel
Hometown, IL USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 5, September-October 2002, pp. 175-176

When it comes to my chest I am not a low-cut-shirt kind of woman. I am not a tube top woman or a bikini woman. I prefer to wear oversized sweatshirts, long-sleeve t-shirts, and turtlenecks. I enjoy lounging in a one-piece swimsuit covered up by a t-shirt and shorts. My breasts are a very private for me. Breastfeeding, although a very natural process, became a personal concern when I learned I was pregnant.

I didn't worry over whether my water would break at my workplace, or whether my house would be remodeled in time for the new baby. I never worried that my body would triple in size. I had one nagging concern: my modesty. My comfortably tucked-away breasts would be the center of the universe for my new baby. I was certain I could handle all my baby's attention but uncertain if I could handle the attention I might draw from breastfeeding in front of friends, family, and the public.

I admit I am shy about my body and avoid drawing attention to my chest, but there was no way to steer clear of my breasts as I prepared for breastfeeding. I watched my small chest slowly blossom two full cup sizes and came to terms with how a shy woman could become a confident nursing mother. Fortunately, my pregnancy provided me with eight months to confront my inhibitions. I prepared for my journey by asking myself two pivotal questions. Whose presence would I be comfortable with when breastfeeding? Where would I be comfortable breastfeeding?

I decided, with not much surprise, that I would only be comfortable breastfeeding around my husband, mother, and sisters. That was where I would draw the line. I resigned myself to the fact that any visitors to our home during feeding time would not be entertained until breastfeeding had finished. I would have to excuse myself to the bedroom for mother and baby time.

Since my comfort zone for breastfeeding my child would be limited to my immediate family, this would mean I would be restricted to few public engagements after the baby arrived. I knew I would be comfortable breastfeeding in my home and my parents' home, but definitely not in public. I decided that family parties, long shopping trips, and vacations were out of the question.

Although I was certain about my pre-baby decisions, I discovered that I actually loosened up a little after Madeline arrived. I discovered I could be a little more flexible. I found I was comfortable breastfeeding in the new mothers' room at the local baby superstore. I nursed in a friend's bedroom during a huge housewarming party. I even nursed in front of my husband's best friend. I'll admit I never did reach a comfort level to breastfeed at the mall, in front of my in-laws, or during trips to the park. I didn't take many trips outside of my home and my social engagements were limited. I was still rather conservative but much braver and open about my inhibitions than I thought I could be. Having a child changed the way I thought about my breasts. Why? Maybe it was all the poking and prodding they did at the hospital, the hospital gowns that left little to the imagination, reading every written piece about breastfeeding I could find, or quizzing my friends about breastfeeding.

Maybe it was the realization that my breasts were not sex objects but rather a source of food and comfort for my baby. And certainly, it was becoming a mother and doing what I felt was best for my baby. I let go and let love happen and everything else fell into place.

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