Breastfeeding My Baby Literally Saved My Life

Photo: Sabrina Bracher / Shutterstock
woman laying next to her young baby

Boobs. Breasts. Fun Bags. Boobies. Mommy's Milk Makers.

If it pertains to breasts, I've heard it all.

When I started out in the world, I was the flattest girl of them all. Growing up in a house of six people with five of them being much older, well-endowed females, getting boobs was on my "to-do" list. I couldn't wait! I thought it would be so cool. I remember the day my childhood best friend got her first training bra.

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I was so jealous I stood in the driveway until my mother got home so I could convince her to "bandage up my nipples" with a 28AAA training bra that was training, well, zilch. Even if I was nowhere near womanly, I felt like one with my white lace junior bra adorned with tiny flowers right in the center of the two cups. Damn right, you know I was pulling out all the exercises:

“I must, I must, I must increase my bust.”

Okay, so that never happened besides once or twice. I wasn’t stupid. I knew squawking like a chicken wasn’t going to grow me any ta-tas. It was either in the cards for me … or not. Time would tell.

It was all fun and games — until I actually got boobs.

I went from flat as a board to "hubba-hubba." And when you're barely over five feet tall, thin, and suddenly bosom-y, no one is your friend anymore. I went from being a very likable classmate to the pariah of the seventh grade. For an entire year (thanks to a very catty girl in my class) I was teased and taunted and lost most of my friends.

She told everyone I stuffed my bra. I was tempted to flash the class to settle the score once and for all that no, this wasn’t Kleenex but rather a blessing of good genes but thought better of it. Instead, I wore a coat in all kinds of weather, even ninety degrees so nobody could comment anymore about Laura’s boobies.

Yep. Growing breasts had backfired on me.

But it wasn't just my peers who gave me trouble. Older males leered at me in public and the ice cream men were suddenly overly accommodating if Laura didn’t have enough dough to pay for her King Cone. And the comments from familiar people like my older sister's friend who said to me, "Wow, Laura. You've really grown up," but what he meant to say was that I had grown out.

Fun bags. Eh, it wasn't much fun anymore.

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Not only did it open me up to taunting, but it was as if everything about me the person had magically melted away. BTB — otherwise known as “Before the Boobs," I was known for being funny, smart, and creative. People talked about my comedic skits or the comedic stories I used to read in class.

Ever since my boobs, though, it didn't matter that I was funny and could impersonate just about anyone. It didn't matter that I was smart and had a grin that resembled a cross between Elvis' and Billy Idol's. Suddenly I was just boobs.

Boobs. Boobs. Boobs.

My guy friends wanted to see them and random strangers wanted to touch them. When my male peers talked about them in front of me, it was as if they were talking about someone else.

What nice ones. They're so big. I want to squeeze them.

At times the attention was flattering but often, it was suffocating. Apparently how I felt about the attention — whether it humiliated me or made me feel bad or pressured — didn’t matter because, hey I wasn't a person anymore so what did I care? I was just boobs.

The attention didn't stop as I got older. And mind you, if I had been a young woman of high self-esteem and not a young woman of self-doubt, perhaps I could have nipped this (oh tee-hee—a titty joke!) in the bud sooner, but I wasn't. Suddenly, I too believed everyone else. My boobs mattered so much to other people that they had to be important and so my body (and how it was viewed or not viewed) became of the utmost importance to me.

I forgot about everything else that made me Laura because I was too busy catering to men and what they thought I should be, do, or look like. Every time I tried to rise above these devastating expectations, a toxic person in my life would make me re-believe all the lies. It was a constant fight between me trying to be true to who I was and them trying to push me back to whom I was apparently supposed to be. 

That is until I gave birth and nursed a child.

Nursing my child reframed how I viewed my breasts and my body.

My breasts weren't there just for show. They were there for "tell." I was giving my daughter life. Every pound, inch, and stride in development my daughter made was linked to my breasts and to me. Me! Laura, funny, smart, sensitive, and motivated, Laura. Remember her?

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When my brain needed to tell my breasts to make more milk, Laura ate more. When my body and brain were stressed, Laura's breasts developed mastitis. My body, brain, and moods were in absolute sync with my breasts and so was my baby.

After enduring severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum with my daughter during the pregnancy, breastfeeding got my body and spirit back on track again.

I couldn’t eat for most of my pregnancy and was severely depressed for the first part of my pregnancy while I lay sick in my hospital bed. Thanks to nursing, my appetite soared and my mood thrived. In many ways, nursing and my breasts brought me back to life after almost a year of being severely ill.

In a sense, I was a "slave" to my breasts because I practiced ecological nursing with my daughter but this was my decision and a positive one that had huge benefits for my daughter and reminded me that I am a powerful human being and woman. Even if that meant leaking every now and then at inappropriate times or massaging sore clogged breast ducts, I was happy for the baby and me to be married to the breast.

When I weaned my daughter during a second pregnancy with Hyperemesis that was unsuccessful, my mood dropped.

Nursing had given me that wonderful oxytocin high and letting go of the bond my fifteen-month-old daughter and I had developed was tearful, but I was ready and my body needed fewer demands and more weight to prepare for being ill.

Eventually, my hormones leveled out and I felt great again, and instead of being sad that I weaned her before she could wean herself, I was grateful that I could nurse as I did.

Today, as her fourth birthday has just passed, my body has a different significance to me. Sure, I love being sensual and would love to have an active sex life again but what my body means to me has changed once again.

My body is strong, lean, and fit from running off the emotional weight of a rough pregnancy and then following a divorce. My breasts? I like their physical appearance although they are hormonal buggers, occasionally plagued with fibrocystic pains, they don't carry the metaphorical and emotional weight that they once did.

Even though it took a while, I'm back to being just Laura with the crooked smile, wicked sense of humor, passion for wordsmithing, and bubbly personality. My boobs are just part of the overall package.

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Laura Lifshitz is a former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, and marriage. Her work has been featured on YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.