Boob jobs

Breasts are more than a just tool of the trade for topless dancers

Brooke Graham, 24, is a leader in Reno’s La Leche League.

Brooke Graham, 24, is a leader in Reno’s La Leche League.

Photo By David Robert

My breasts are hard as rocks, swollen like flesh-colored balloons ready to pop. I’m leaking into my bra. Damp circles form on my T-shirt. I need my baby.

And my fussing infant daughter needs me. We curl up with pillows on our squishy-soft couch. Her head turns to me, nuzzles my skin. I pinch my nipple and guide it into her mouth. Ah, relief for us both.

If you’re a woman in high school or college, it’s likely that you think of your breasts as a physical accessory. Maybe you’re even saving up for a boob job. (Note to women considering breast augmentation: About 40 percent of Canadian women with implants who were surveyed in a recent poll said they went back to have the implants removed after complications arose.)

If your breasts are bigger than normal, you might be thinking about zapping them with shrink-rays. Maybe you’re thinking about getting a chunk of metal jammed through your nipples. Maybe you already have.

Chances are, though, that you haven’t given much thought to breasts’ raison d'être. Human females have bodies perfectly designed to make and feed a warm, squirming bundle of kid. Guys can’t do this. I feel bad for them.

For starters, human breast milk contains the perfect mix of nutrients for babies. It’s cheaper than buying formula and bottles. Another big plus: Breast-feeding helped me lose weight faster after each procreative episode. A woman actually expends more calories producing milk for a baby than she does during pregnancy.

But wait, there’s more. Human milk gives an infant a running chance at fighting off the bad diseases that lurk in every public place. Breast milk infuses tiny humans with antibodies for common respiratory and intestinal diseases. It contains living immune cells.

Breastfed babies don’t get sick as often. They respond better to regular immunizations. And the longer you breast-feed, the more benefits your baby receives.

Yeah, these days you hear scary things about toxins in breast milk. But stories we read in September ("Flame Retardant in Breast Milk!") almost all included a note that infants weren’t suffering adverse health. Doctors were quoted: Don’t need to stop breast-feeding over this.

The choice can demand a degree of sacrifice. A full-time job, say, complicates breast-feeding considerably. My family lived in poverty while I breastfed most of my kids for a year each. Or more.

Having a 1-year-old attached to your mammary freaks some people out. But not Brooke Graham, 24, a leader in Reno’s La Leche League.

She fed her son Tucker for almost three years, stopping only when her daughter Emma was born. Emma’s now 7 months old.

“A lot of people are horrified that you do it up to a year,” Graham says. “Society’s more accepting, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

One of Graham’s relatives was openly critical.

“She said it was sick to nurse an 11-month-old,” Graham says. “So as Tucker got older, I just kept it to myself. Some people just can’t accept it.”

Graham never considered bottle feeding.

“After I had my son, I felt this bond,” she says. “I know bottle-feeding moms have a bond. But this is incredible.”

It’s reassuring to know that breast implants don’t necessarily mean you can’t breast-feed. If milk ducts aren’t severed during the surgery, a woman should still be able to nurse a baby, and many report doing so happily. But, oh the distress when that implant loses its shape. Graham met a mom who was upset that breast-feeding ruined the shape of her implants.

“She’s going to have her breasts redone,” Graham says. This isn’t something that concerns Graham, whose breasts are augmentation-free. “As long as they look good in my bra, I’m fine.”

She might get her nipples pierced someday, when she’s done having kids.

Most women who’ve done it report few nursing complications if their piercings are well-healed. There are reports of women who’ve leaked “profusely” through piercings and others who report infections. Check with a pediatrician before you go ahead and let a baby suck on a metallically adorned nipple.

The La Leche moms meet at least once a month to talk about breast-feeding topics like how to get the baby to latch on to the breast and how to deal with duct issues. They also get together for informal enrichment meetings—or just to hang out. Graham says it’s a good idea for pregnant moms interested in breast-feeding to come to a meeting or two.

“They can build a lot of support and learn about problems they might have in the beginning,” she says. Graham started going to meetings when Tucker was 3 months old.

“I realized I was passionate about breast-feeding,” she says. “I wanted to help moms who’re just as passionate.”

Breasts. Who’d have thought they might be more than fun toys for sex partners?

“I’m the only one who can feed my babies,” Graham says. “I’m their food source, but it’s so much more than that. I’m the one who can really calm my daughter down.”

It’s a good feeling for Graham, who stays home with her babies.

“I’m a mom. That’s all I do," she says. "That’s enough. That’s a lot."