This post originally appeared on Romper.com.
The ways in which motherhood has changed me, or at least altered my perception, are endless. Most of those changes were to be expected, and I’m not surprised that I can’t, say, watch certain movies anymore or sit through certain commercials without balling my eyes out. Other chances, however, have been pretty surprising, and it takes me a while to realize that I’m thinking differently because I’m a mum. How I talk about breastfeeding is one of those surprising changes, and I’ve realized there are so many reasons why you should never say a woman was “successful” at breastfeeding; reasons I didn’t truly understand until I experienced breastfeeding for myself, and watched so many amazing women experience breastfeeding for themselves, too.
I had a relatively easy time breastfeeding, certain things considered. My son latched with ease and my milk supply was never an issue, so from a purely physical standpoint, I could breastfeed without really trying. I did, however, experience some mental roadblocks that made the act of breastfeeding really difficult. As a sexual assault survivor, I didn’t realize that breastfeeding would act as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) trigger, so while breastfeeding was physically “easy,” it was mentally and emotionally difficult. I then paid attention to the breastfeeding women around me, and realized that while they didn’t have any mental blocks keeping them from breastfeeding, they physically weren’t able to produce enough milk. I watched some women try everything under the sun to either increase their milk production, to no avail. I witnessed other women battle infections and painful, clogged milk ducts, and more women who had their babies too early and, as a result, couldn’t breastfeed their baby because he or she was in the NICU. So many women who had made the choice to breastfeed, but were either physically or mentally unable to do so.
As a result, it didn't take me long to realize that how we talk about breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers, needs to change. While I am all for celebrating breastfeeding and the women who do it (especially the women who have to work so hard and put in so much effort) I think we need to be aware of all the women who want to breastfeed and try to breastfeed and give breastfeeding everything they have, but are simply unable to breastfeed. I think it's worth it to watch what we say, and how we say it, if it means that we are more inclusive and more women feel empowered and supported. For that reason, and so many more including the following, I won't say a woman is "successful" at breastfeeding. Honestly, you shouldn't either.