It’s been almost two years since these-here boobies have made milk, but that doesn’t mean that I am not celebrating and honouring World Breastfeeding Week. I am pleased to host the words of a remarkable (this adjective seems empty when compared to the actual human I am honoured to call a friend) mama who is currently breastfeeding her toddler. She shares her candid and humourous confessions of a nursing and dating woman:
Dating as a single mom has its challenges. This, we know. Walking that fine line between giving every bit of yourself to your children and still—miraculously—having something of yourself left for a romantic evening (or even an adult conversation) is our special skill and party trick. Luckily, I like a challenge.
These are the 100% true confessions of a nursing mom on the singles’ scene.
This is not about nursing fetish play. I didn’t even know that was a thing until I decided to write this essay…and…I will suspend judgement. No, this is just about—to paraphrase Julia Roberts—a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her…when she’s not busy loving (and feeding) her kid.
The Talk (about my boobs)
I began my post-baby dating life when my son was 8 months old, and I was probably at peak milk production. A long term occasional partner came to town, and it was now or never. I was ready to have post-baby sex, and being able to take this new body for a test-drive in the controlled environment of a trusted friend made sense.
An otherwise lovely evening was, however, marked by my first inner battle with the issue of nursing disclosure.
Since it was my first try at this, I had no idea how my breasts would react to the stimulation, or the pressure! My married nursing buddies never talked about it. Suddenly this issue of my potential *issue* was staring me in the face like two giant time bombs. Should I send him a note in advance? Bring it up over drinks? Cross my fingers and hope for the best?
A host of other troubling questions followed quickly: What if I start to leak, or even spray? What if he accidentally ingests milk? What if he is repulsed? What if he is *attracted*?
In the end, I decided to raise the issue playfully when we first reached the bedroom. It went something like, “Hey, one thing to note about my boobs…” He was a little stunned, but quickly got over it. I was his first, and it had sure been a long time since I could claim that.
My next encounter was with a sweet, lovely single dad. Again, I waited for the right bedroom moment, and as a dad, he took it in stride. He was so accepting of my special situation, that I started to become careless about my “date prep”: ensuring that I nursed evenly on both sides so I would not have lopsided breasts on my date. One afternoon, I was in such a rush getting ready, I completely forgot to even out, only to realize later, while lying on my side in the “afterglow,” that I had one very full breast and a growing wet spot directly beneath it. I had leaked all over the sheet. Not your typical wet spot.
We broke up a few months later, and I haven’t found the right single dad since then, so I’ve been dating non-dads. They present a special challenge to the single mom in a lot of ways, but explaining nursing is definitely one of the weirdest.
In most cases, non-dads have never been this close to the nursing process before. I am always nervous about raising the issue, and as a result I’ve procrastinated, and started leaving it too late. With my last two partners, I’ve left it to the morning after, only to be greeted with a resounding, “Duh—I know!”
I can only imagine what they must have thought was going on in the moment before they figured it out.
Generally, they’ve been accepting, and sometimes even enthusiastic about the side benefit: my amazing expanding breasts. In a mid-sex moment, my first non-dad partner suddenly (and sort-of hesitantly) remarked, “It almost seems like your breasts have gotten bigger just since I’ve been here,” to which I casually replied, “They have! And they’ll keep growing all night!” The look of joy and wonder was priceless. We later began to routinely refer to the glory of my “6am boobs”, and he was suddenly very interested in rising early.
I’m still so uncomfortable bringing it up with someone who is not yet a lover that I will probably keep letting men find out on their own. And yes, it is certainly a much easier conversation with single dads who, in most cases, have experienced a nursing partner before. Even a few months in to my current relationship with a non-dad, I still worry sometimes that he thinks this is all a bit of a freak show.
Dinner and a show
If this partner does harbour such reservations now, I can only imagine how he’d react if I actually breastfed in front of him—which I will never do. I truly believe that seeing that would be detrimental to the sexual dynamic. Madonna/whore in full effect. I think it would even give single dads pause. I guess I just don’t want to risk jeopardizing their desire.
I don’t have dates around my son very often (he sleeps well, so guys can come and go sight unseen) but on rare occasions, there have been brunches avec bebe. A busy café provides enough distraction for my son that he doesn’t fixate on nursing. There was one time, though, when brunch turned into brunch and errands, and then more errands, and before I knew it, I had a nursling meltdown on my hands. I rushed through the mall with babe in arms and date in tow (non-dad, naturally!) trying to get to the nursing room while my son clawed anxiously at my shirt. If I was alone, I would usually just plop down on a mall bench and not bother with the special room, letting a host of mall-goers bear witness to my breastfeeding. I am indifferent to this strange intimacy with strangers, but can’t seem to risk sharing that with the person who is most intimate with me.
I don’t know when I’ll stop nursing. My timeframe evolved with every month my son grows older. He shows no signs, yet, of being ready to give it up. But that doesn’t mean I need to give up on a romantic life. I suppose the hope is that my special circumstances help weed out the guys I shouldn’t date anyways. After all, if you’re considering a life with a toddler, the squeamish need not apply.