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6 Women Talk About What Breast-Feeding Is REALLY Like

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    Photographed by Sunny S.


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    This article was originally published on September 28, 2015.

    Like many aspects of motherhood, breast-feeding is a fraught topic. Discussions of breast-feeding tend to focus on its health benefits to young children, the propriety of breast-feeding a child beyond infancy, and the politics of being a nursing mother — including the ability to nurse in public and pump in the workplace. Media depictions of breast-feeding tend to cast a glow over the practice; often, we see beautiful, softly lit portraits of new mothers cradling their infants as they blissfully feed. And this is certainly a part of breast-feeding. But what many of our discussions and depictions seldom address is the fact that breast-feeding can also be really fucking hard.

    As a physical act, breast-feeding can present a host of difficulties, from chapped nipples to infections to clogged milk ducts. The rapid growth of breasts can cause women to grow several bra sizes, seemingly overnight — and with that growth often comes stretch marks and discomfort. While many of these physical issues resolve themselves over time, the early days of breast-feeding can be challenging. And beyond the physical discomfort, moms who want to or need to return to work while lactating often pump their breast milk several times a day — sometimes in closets that double as "lactation rooms."

    We spoke to six women about the breast-feeding realities we don't often hear discussed: from bloody nipples to contracting uteruses.

    Interviews have been condensed and edited.

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  2. Photographed by Sunny S.


  3. Photographed by Sunny S.


  4. Photographed by Sunny S.


  5. Photographed by Sunny S.


  6. Photographed by Sunny S.