Breastfeeding, the Next Olympic Sport

Breastfeeding, the Next Olympic Sport

This week’s cover of Time shows a young mother breastfeeding her son—a boy, nearly 4 years old, who is standing on a chair to reach his mother’s breast.

The article, “Are You Mom Enough?”, talks about attachment parenting, a movement led by pediatrician Bill Sears, MD. The movement encourages, among other things, breastfeeding for an extended period, one counted in years, not months.

This got me thinking. Never mind breastfeeding beyond 12 months—how are moms supposed to breastfeed for even the first 6 months straight, as the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend (with continued breastfeeding plus the introduction of food for at least 12 months)? That’s about 182 consecutive days, 8 meals a day, 1,456 total meals. And how are they supposed to manage some of that breastfeeding outside of the house?

There have been so many stories in recent months of breastfeeding moms being run out of grocery stores, sequestered in smelly bathrooms, criticized for exposing a little skin (not nipple!) while feeding their hungry child in public.

Let me tell you, breastfeeding can be hard. I’m a first-time mom and I JUST am able to confidently say (fingers crossed) that I can breastfeed my 3-month-old regularly without placing frozen gel pads on my nipples, bleeding through my shirts, wincing at every feeding, worrying about the latch (lips flared, chin up!).

It’s hard enough trying to maintain a good milk supply. But on to top of that, trying to breastfeed in public without hunkering Quasimoto-style over your child, sheepishly scanning around to make sure you look “tastefully covered,” counting the microseconds until your baby is done eating, then juggling (literally) the baby and exposed boob and zipping it all up in with a certain flair, is quite an accomplishment.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. Every time I look down at my baby, I know I’m giving her the best I can give. (And not all women have a difficult time breastfeeding.) But if women are to attempt to breastfeed every meal while also joining the rest of the human race, they are going to need to do it out in the open.

Yet somehow, seeing Lady Gaga’s nipple pasties is more accepted than seeing a baby’s mouth attached to real nipples.  

Here’s my solution:

Make breastfeeding a new Olympic sport. Millions of people would be watching and the sight of a baby feeding would no longer make people squirm.

What other physical and emotional endeavor is so demanding, takes practice, requires specialized equipment (hello, nipple gel packs), requires perfect timing between partners, is done in the early hours of the morning and the wee hours of the night—but in the end gives so much satisfaction and sense of accomplishment?

We would be judged on such categories as latch technique and best sucking rhythm.

Think of the possibilities! People would be clambering to get the top lactation consultants. Kids would grow up bragging, “We won the 2012 gold—and no allergies!”. The public would respect the dedication and passion of breastfeeding moms as much as they do that gold-medal Olympian.

Until then, every time I look down at my little one, I’m going to whisper, “Let’s go for the gold!”

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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