"When I look at my body in the mirror, I see strength and resilience, rather than all the little things I wish I could change."

Tanya Kertsman
August 10, 2020
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Sarah Jessica Hall

I've always had a complicated relationship with my breasts, but ever since I started breastfeeding my baby, I've been thinking about my chest even more. As a teenager, I prayed that I would develop my grandmother's robust cup size and read every article in glossy teen magazines that offered tips on how to enlarge the appearance of your bust. As a young adult, I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to develop a large cup size, so I considered taking matters into my own hands and getting a breast augmentation. However, three kids later, I'm 33 years old and doubt I'll get plastic surgery.

This morning at 3 a.m., I breastfed my 4-month old baby while the rest of the house slept quietly. I keep telling myself I should start sleep training him, but a part of me loves this quiet time in the early hours of the day—just the two of us. I took a minute to really appreciate the moment: his blue eyes staring up at me, his body curved alongside mine, his tiny fingers holding my arm, my body providing the nourishment he needs. It’s exhausting, of course, but I know it’s temporary.

Breastfeeding has not come easily for me. However, despite the constant worrying about my milk supply, crying in the middle of the night from sheer exhaustion, and the endless energy it takes to feed my baby, it's the most beautiful yet emotionally strenuous activity I have done in my life. According to Forbes, a year of breastfeeding comes out to about 1,800 hours of a mother’s time, which is almost as much as a full-time job (1,960 hours based on a 40-hour work week). With that time commitment comes a lack of autonomy as you’re tethered to this fragile human being who depends on you for sustenance and on-demand feeding.

Yet out of the difficulties came an added benefit that I didn’t expect: my own strength and acceptance. I spent my entire young adult life wanting bigger breasts and was certain that breast augmentation was in my future. However, breastfeeding has allowed me to view my body differently. Now, I feel empowered with everything my body has done to bring three beautiful babies into this world. When I look at my body in the mirror, I see strength and resilience, rather than all the little things I wish I could change.

My small-breasted woes have taken up more of my brain capacity than I care to admit, but they've led me to an important realization: It's up to me to define how I see myself and how I perceive beauty. As my freed breasts and mindset make my way downstairs for a third cup of coffee, I’m thankful that breastfeeding my newborn helped me get there.