Words by Korin Miller.
For some women, breastfeeding isn’t an option — and being reminded of that fact can be difficult to handle. One new mum and breast cancer survivor decided to address the issue head-on, by posting a sign above her hospital bed before giving birth.
“No breastfeeding zone: Though breastfeeding is a very special task, please be aware before you ask. Our miracle baby will be formula fed. And it will not affect her future ahead. This mom [sic] is a survivor,” Meghan Koziel said on her homemade pink sign, recently shared on Instagram.
“Attention please, attention please,” she captioned her post. “We do indeed have a mommy-to-be who had breast cancer and a mastectomy which means, without boobs in the houseeeee! Got the banner raised just in case people are confused at why we are NOT going to be breastfeeding our little bundle of joy. Yes I have foobs, no I do not have boobs (or nipples) therefore… my body is incapable of breastfeeding:).”
Koziel’s reference to “foobs,” or “fake boobs,” is to explain the fact that she had breast reconstruction following her mastectomy — a long and difficult process, involving tissue expanders and silicone implants, about which she shared extensively in her Instagram story on Oct. 17.
The IG story was in honor of Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day, a campaign by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Plastic Surgery Foundation, and implant makers Mentor and Allergan.
It included graphic before-and-after photos of Koziel’s double mastectomy, lighthearted commentary such as “I always wanted a boob job where I woke up looking like Barbie, not a beat up GI Jane,” and “I lived with legit rock hard balls on my chest for 9 months.”
For her breastfeeding-related post, Koziel (who did not immediately respond to Yahoo‘s requests for comment) has gotten props on social media from other mumss who, like her, couldn’t breastfeed. Some say they plan to use the idea for themselves.
“It’s a marvelous idea,” Kristen Carpenter, director of women’s behavioral health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo. “It’s such a clear but gentle way of asserting her needs while she’s receiving medical care. She knows herself well enough to know that she doesn’t want to be asked about this over and over again.”
While it will often be in a woman’s medical chart that she’s unable to breastfeed (or a woman can request to have it noted down that she doesn’t plan to nurse), “the entire medical team won’t always read your whole chart,” Carpenter says.
During the immediate postpartum period, a lot of people are in and out of a woman’s room, and it can be difficult for medical staff, photographers, food service staff, and others who may come in to be on top of a woman’s full medical history, she points out. And that’s why the sign is so effective.
“The telling and retelling of the circumstances can be distressing at an absolute minimum,” Carpenter says. “For a woman to put her needs out there and up front, that’s wonderful.”
Of course, plenty of women also find nursing emotionally difficult or may chose not to make it a part of their experience. “All of those women have a choice,” Carpenter says. It can be “distressing” for women to reach that decision, and that can make it “difficult to talk about,” she says. “It’s important to know in advance where you fall — some may feel more comfortable talking about it than others.”
That’s why she often asks patients to prepare for questions about nursing, whether from medical staff or complete strangers, and how they want to respond in a way that they’re comfortable with. “Then, when a person asks you about it — and, even though it’s deeply personal, many are happy to go ahead and ask anyway — you have a ready answer,” she says.
If you’re interested in making a sign like Koziel’s or want to find another way to convey your intentions on breastfeeding to people, keep this in mind, Carpenter advises:
“You don’t have to share the reason for your decision. It’s your decision, and putting it out there in ways that you feel comfortable with is best.”