I am a self-proclaimed expert in poor body image and self-esteem. It has affected my nursing relationship with Aiden, and to a lesser extent it affects my nursing relationship with Chase. it also affects my ability to go in for annual lady appointments, get sized for bras (a recent issue I need to address) and change my clothes at the gym.
I am a lactivist, and I am a supporter of nursing in public (obviously) but I cover up. Always. I think I must be letting my less modest, nursing in public, power mama sisters down by hiding what is so normal and natural to do: nursing my baby. Except, i'm not hiding the fact that I'm nursing. I'm hiding my breasts. I don't care if people know/see that I"m nursing a baby under my little blanket. That's not my problem. I don't even care if the IDEA of me or anyone else nursing a baby, covered or not, offends or bothers others when I am in public. What I care about is the image I have in my head about my breasts, my nipples, and my body. See, it's not about others seeing my breasts, it's about how I view my breasts.
Some women worry about what pregnancy and breastfeeding will DO to their breasts. Perhaps this is a concern if you've EVER had nice breasts...but I kid my audience not...my breasts came in saggy and at my waist...even when they were little a-cups...they were saggy: \o/\o/ <---those are my boobies, ladies. I wish I was kidding. When I'm not nursing, they resemble a tube sock with tennis balls in them...really...can't picture it? Put a tennis ball in a sock...and staple it to your chest...the tube part may be a little long...but you're getting the idea. When I'm nursing...it's like a tube sock still...but with a SOFTBALL in it now. I'm also not blessed with lovely nipples. They're mostly flat and at the bottom of my breast...seriously they do NOW and have ALWAYS pointed the way to my toes...in case I wasn't aware of where those were, helpful during pregnancy when I actually lose track of them...but sure makes for unattractive breasts.
Another huge factor for me when I was nursing Aiden was MY size. When I got pregnant with Aiden I was was 252 pounds of stuffed sausage. I lost 20lbs during that first pregnancy, but I was still a big girl, my breasts were 38DDDs, totally unweildy, heavy, and nearly impossible to hide while nursing in public...I had trouble getting him latched on under a cover cuz he was so little...and my boobs were so big...it's hard to do blind. I was also extra-sensitive about people seeing my belly or fluffly hips spilling out so I was always wearing weird layers (bra, nursing tank, shirt...that's a lot of clasps and juggling) to try and conceal the fluff overflow. I was just NEVER comfortable nursing in public because it was just too difficult for me and my crappy body image. When Aiden was only one week old I attended a doula training...in a room full of breastfeeding gurus...I waited until the lights were out for a film to try and get Aiden to nurse...by this point I was engorged as hell and we both ended up covered in milk! I was still weird about the doula sitting next to me...that she might see my breast in the glow from the film...silly, considering I was sitting at the BACK of the room.
My pregnancy with Chase, however, has wielded a 40lb weight loss. I've dropped over 2 pants sizes, and even at less than 2 weeks postpartum, I think I look GOOD! The boobs are also more manageable. I'm not sure what size I am now (please refer to description above of crappy self-esteem keeping me from getting sized) but I can tell the difference nursing Chase. I'm somewhere around a 36DDD (isn't that an F or an E in some brands? I don't know), but that's smaller than what I was before, and I don't have to struggle to NOT suffocate my baby anymore. I've even been able to nurse him in the cradle hold...something I was NEVER able to do with Aiden, even at 8 months. Shoot, last week at the Pregnancy Center I was nursing and chasing my toddler at the same time! What a difference my weight loss has made both on the logistics of nursing for me, and on my general body image. I got Chase situated on my boob in front of a roomful of women I don't even know.
My problem still remains that while I"m a lot happier with my body in general...my boobs are still tube socks with softballs in them, and I have big flat, dinner plate nipples. I still insist on covering, but it's MUCH easier to do this now, and I'm not as obsessed with no one having even the possibility of catching a glimpse of what's under my little blanket. Yesterday I sat at an indoor playground, reading Henci Goer's, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth right in front of some strange man and his wife and a bunch of other people and nursing my littlest man-child right in my lap. I do have a tendancy to sit and think "I wonder if people are bothered by this...gosh I wish someone would come say something...what would I say back?" and then I have a whole internal dialogue. But the internal dialogue USED to be "gosh I hope no one can see my love handles, or my breasts, or my fat rolls..." It's incredibly freeing to have an improved, albeit still pretty shitty, self image.
Tell us, how has your body image, positive or negative, affected your nursing relationship(s)? If you are a proud and "whip it out" kind of mama, what advice do you have for moms who are more apt to cover...are you bothered by nursing mothers who cover? Why or why not?