Want to know one of the perks of formula feeding no one talks about? If, like me, you're ashamed of your postpartum body, you can easily cover it up because you don't have to practically get undressed to feed your baby. I know from experience. I struggled to breastfeed my first three children and turned to formula early on. My daily routine looked like this: I would quickly shower and dress in the morning, and then ignore the flabby, unfamiliar body I despised all day as I went about preparing and feeding bottles.
I've stopped looking away and instead find myself studying this body that grew and nourished my beautiful baby.
Then my fourth child was born, and it was a pleasant surprise when breastfeeding came naturally to us. The not-so-pleasant part? I could no longer keep my droopy belly under wraps and I was forced to look at it and other self-perceived physical flaws up to nine times per day when I lifted my shirt to breastfeed. At first, I felt disgusted by my rolls and stretch marks. But each day, I find breastfeeding helps me accept and even appreciate how I look after giving birth.
I learned the day my son was born that modesty goes out the window if you're breastfeeding. When your baby is crying out for food, it's a mad dash to yank up your shirt, unclasp your nursing bra, and stuff your nipple in his mouth as quickly as possible. Those first few times, as my baby latched on and we both settled into the relief and relative silence of a feeding session, I would look down at my body and almost sob. There, in plain view, was my belly, big enough to fool anyone who didn't know me into thinking that I was six months pregnant. My breasts, swollen with milk, were freakishly huge. I let out a deep sigh and averted my eyes. Who would want to see this? Try nobody, and least of all me.
But flash forward to what feels like 2,000 feedings later, and the shock of seeing my floppy boobs and big tummy has worn off. I've stopped looking away and instead find myself studying this body that grew and nourished my beautiful baby. No, this isn't the superfit physique I confidently showed off at the beach before I got pregnant. But I'm starting to warm to the idea that just because I don't think I'm bikini ready doesn't mean I'm hideous!
Now, each time I breastfeed and expose my body, I work on accepting where I am today. Today, I just had a healthy, perfect baby. My flabby stomach and milk-engorged breasts are proof of that, which makes them beautiful in their own way. Today, I don't have a flat tummy and I sure don't fit into my prepregnancy clothes, but I'm OK with that. Eventually, I'll get there. Today, my goal is to appreciate each moment during this crazy postpartum journey.
In the end, it's impossible not to let it all hang out there if you're breastfeeding. So why waste time hating yourself or feeling ashamed? After many, many breastfeeding sessions, it's clear to me that I'd much rather spend my energy embracing and feeling empowered by my soft, squishy belly. It's the perfect cushion for my newborn son to rest on while I breastfeed and help him grow into a big, strong boy. And I think that makes me pretty awesome.