There’s a scene in an early season of Mad Men that shows the beautifully bosomed Joan P. Harris nee Holloway (played by the gorgeous Christina Hendricks) rubbing her shoulder under her bra strap at the end of a long day – presumably to illustrate the strain and weight of the day. The reality is the biggest weight she’s carried that day is her ample bosom. And those thin elastic straps have been cutting into her shoulder for hours.
It’s a reality I am all too familiar with.
There’s not a big-boobed woman who doesn’t relish the thought of removing the restraints when in the privacy of her home (when wandering around looking like a tribal woman doesn’t impact ones social standing). While support is desperately needed it’s bloody hard to find one that doesn’t make you feel like you’re trussed up like a Christmas turkey for the day.
My bras are the bane of my clothing experience. I am constantly searching for the ‘perfect fit’, the soft and simple, unpadded and comfortable bra. I’m a fuss free type of gal – I have no need of lace and appliqué and animal print (!). I’m a lover of Bonds. Alas my love is unrequited, as they don’t like big bosoms!
I also don’t see myself as an overly big woman. At a healthy weight I’m a generous size 14, which makes me think about women who are larger than me. There’s a whole army of us reaching to unbuckle and unload at the earliest opportunity!
I lost count of the number of underwear stores I’ve walked into and straight out again for lack of options. In my search for practical, comfortable, soft and well-fitting feeding bras the sexy marketing that has accompanied many of them has put me off. When did ‘sexy’ and ‘breast-feeding’ become a thing?
But these challenges that I had with my boobs before I had a baby were nothing compared to the weight I would bear while trying to keep that child alive at my breast!. Aside from the whole raising-a-child-and-not-breaking-it thing, I’d have to say my biggest concern day-to-day is keeping physically comfortable while, just like Baby in Dirty Dancing, I carry a watermelon or two strapped to my chest.
Did you know there is a whole maternity bra range called Hot Milk? I kid you not. I mean I’m sure their bras are lovely and all but, who the fuck thinks of these names and marketing strategies? Truly bizarre. I’m sorry but I didn’t feel sexy, hot or even remotely amorous when it came to feeding my baby. (If you did…I’d love to hear about it, honestly…fire away in the comments)
A friend and fellow big-bosom buddy put me onto an underwear consultant. She raved about their ‘miracle bra’. Because researching and trying on bras is my favourite past time* I decided to give it a go. Sure enough she fitted me, and my breast-feeding boobs, comfortably into her largest size. Her. Largest. Size. What? Like I said, I’m not the biggest girl I know, so even though I was accommodated I couldn’t help but think of my bigger sisters.
So if a smart bra manufacturer would like to contact me about getting an edge in the untapped no fuss, big bra market feel free to hook a sister up! We’ll make a motza!
And then there’s using my boobs for the purpose for which they were intended.
A dear, tiny-chested friend of mine who was physically unable to breastfeed her babies (who are now perfectly healthy young humans, I hasten to add) commented during my pregnancy that I’d have no such dilemmas. I was clearly built to have a tiny creature suckle at my breast.
Yes, well, let me paint a picture for anyone that may believe that one plus one equals boobs café.
It was day three of my hospital stay after giving birth that both baby and I cracked up. Together. At the same time. One of the 423 helpful midwives had a firm grip on my baby’s head which, at that stage was no bigger than an orange, and was firmly pushing it towards my watermelon. Much like a scene from a science fiction movie where a mammoth asteroid hurtles at an alarming pace towards the tiny speck called Earth, destroying all in its path.
Imagine the horror that poor three-day-old human must have felt.
“Come on love, latch, there’s a good girl,” says Helpful Midwife to my baby.
“They have a natural inclination for the breast, don’t worry, she’ll get it,” says Helpful Midwife to me.
This routine carried on for a good 30 minutes, mostly because the Helpful Midwife had more patience than me or my baby, who responded quite simply with “Whhhaaaaaaa” complete with real tears on her tiny perfect face. Translation: “Back the fuck up, I’m scared!”
I was having none of it. And given my lack of sleep and general exhausted state, told the Helpful Midwife rather pointedly. She backed away slowly and my baby and I consoled ourselves. We muddled on for the rest of our stay, which included me having to sign a form requesting formula which basically devolved the hospital of any responsibility of the potential heinous effects that formula was surely to cause my newborn. Seriously! Could they make formula out to be any more evil do you think? Do not get me started.
So it turned out my first-born wasn’t so enamoured with her watermelon-sized café. In fact she continued to get frequently upset at the counter until we both figured out that she’s perfectly content to take her coffee order lying down.
Yes. Both of us. Lying down.
On a bed. To feed.
Every. Single. Time.
A tad limiting for any trips outside of the home (bedding department of Myer not withstanding).
I found myself watching other mothers feed their babies at their average sized bosoms and smiled wistfully thinking how lovely it must be to be able to feed your baby peacefully, anywhere, anytime, sitting, standing, walking, knocking back vodka shots. Instead, when I’m wasn’t lying down feeding (and trying not to nap, which is 100% impossible when you’ve had next to no sleep), I was pumping feeds so we could at least get out of the house together.
Now I’m sure that I simply hit on the unfortunate combo of large boobs and a very (very) particular baby. And before the chorus of helpful advice starts, let me assure you, we tried it all from nipple shields and lactation consultants (three) to pillows, no pillows, football hold, sitting straight, rocking, dark rooms, noisy rooms, TV, no TV, the occasional vodka shot etc.
My baby (who is now 4) and I managed to muddle through and both became reasonably settled into our feeding set up and in the end I honestly felt blessed that I could choose to breast feed my baby at all. Even if our shopping trips were limited to the bedding department of Myer.
If, like me, you have amassed an extraordinary amount of over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders and they are now just taking up space in your drawer then please consider this wonderfully awesome cause.
For women in disadvantaged communities a bra is often unobtainable or unaffordable. Uplift Bras collects new and second hand bras and sends them wherever they have requests.
Give your unloved bras to some sisters who will truly appreciate them.