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I Am Strong Because I am Doing What I Feel is Right {An Extended Breastfeeding Journey}

I Am Strong Because I am Doing What I Feel is Right {An Extended Breastfeeding Journey}

I had my first baby when I was 24 years old. From the moment I got pregnant I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to breastfeed. My reasons were selfish, but when my son was 2 months old, I regretted that decision and I suddenly felt so heartbroken that I did not nurse him. I made a promise to myself that I would breastfeed my next baby and this is why I am strong.

I am strong because I am not afraid to admit that I made a decision I now regret.

I gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl 5 years later on September 16, 2011. I nursed her just a few moments after she was born and that was the beginning of the journey we are still on today. I am strong because even on my toughest days with sore and swollen nipples, I refused to give up.

The first month was so hard. I spent hours staying up all night nursing and trying to comfort my baby, but she would just scream and scream. I hit a breaking point one morning when she had been up crying for close to 7 hours and my husband found me sobbing and exhausted on the couch. I knew there was something wrong, but several doctors said she was fine. I am strong because I ignored those doctors and got a second opinion. My daughter was diagnosed with reflux at 4 weeks and we finally had an answer so we could make her feel better.

I unfortunately had to go back to work at 9 weeks and I pumped three times a day to try to keep up with her demand. I remember I cried the first time I had to pump at work. The sound of the machine pumping my milk could not compare to the soft sounds my baby makes while nursing. I am strong because I struggled with my supply those first weeks back to work and had to battle through blocked milk ducts, but I never gave up.

I continued pumping for my daughter for 11 months at work. I had always wanted to donate my milk so even after I no longer needed to pump for my daughter, I still continued pumping for 2 more months to build up a stash to donate. I am strong because I was able to donate 100 ounces of my milk to a mom who could not breastfeed and that was truly such a huge blessing.

My breastfeeding goal was originally 12 months, but as my daughter was approaching her first birthday, I became very sad at the thought of having to forcefully wean her. I had already been dealing with the typical question from others, “how much longer are you going to breastfeed?” I felt like I had a lot pressure to wean my child. There were days that she would still nurse like a newborn and other days, it was only when she was sleepy or hurt. It was obvious that she still needed to be nursed. I am strong because I continued to breastfeed past my goal of 12 months, despite the criticism I got from others.

Since my daughter was just an infant, I had wanted professional breastfeeding photos. She is my last baby after all and I wanted to remember this journey. A local photographer was having a mini session for World Breastfeeding Week and I decided I was going to finally get my pictures. These are the pictures that I am sharing with you

today. I am strong because I am still breastfeeding 23 months later and will continue to until my daughter decides to wean.

I am strong because I am doing what I feel is best for my child.

Jennifer's I Am Strong Post, Extended Breastfeeding

Jennifer's I am Strong post, extended breastfeeding

Twins Born Naturally in a Hospital {One Breech} and Breastfeeding Twins!

Twins Born Naturally in a Hospital {One Breech} and Breastfeeding Twins!

I am a mom of 3. I got pregnant with my twins while on the 5 year IUD. When I found out I was pregnant, I already had a baby girl that just turned 1. Finding out I was pregnant was a shock and at 11 weeks finding out I was having twins was a bigger surprise. I had to change midwives because I had my first child with a midwife at home and she wasn’t able to attend high-risk pregnancies. I went to midwives 45 minutes from where I lived to get the care I wanted. Every month after I had an ultra sound. At 20 weeks, I found out they were both boys.

I was always tired and ran out of energy quickly. I had morning sickness the entire time. The smell of toothpaste, eggs, body odor and BBQ sauce always made me sick. I woke up late took a nap and went to bed early! My ribs were popped out of place about 8 times during 30 weeks to 37 weeks. I had to keep my chest wrapped. At 34 weeks Baby B was still not turned. I started having troubles moving, lost my balance often, and couldn’t sleep more than 45 minutes with out waking up and having to stand up and move. At 37 weeks 2 days, I had my last check up I was dilated to 3 1/2 centimeters and both babies turned vertex!

I went home and took a nap, enjoyed my daughter and cleaned up a little. At 8:12PM, I started with painful back labor. When I got to the hospital at 9:35, I was dilated to 9 ½ centimeters. I continued to stand (counting the seconds in my contractions being 20 seconds apart) while they checked me and hooked me up to the monitors. I had to deliver in the operating room in case of any problems! I had my best friend with me, my midwife and 7 other people in the room. I gave birth to my son Landon Jackson at 10:13PM naturally. After Baby A was out baby B turned sideways, My midwife tried to turn him manually and instead of him turning down he became breech. About, 13 minutes later at 10:26PM, I gave birth to my second son, breech. I was able to breastfeed both of my twins for about 45 minutes after birth. My first night in the hospital was spent trying to get my bleeding under control. Around 4:00AM, I received 6 shots and a nurse pushing on my belly until the bleeding finally slowed down.

My babies born at 37 weeks on November 11, 2009 weighed 5lbs 9oz and 5lbs 12oz were healthy. Our second night in the hospital was spent trying to get the blood sugar level under control. Since I didn’t want to formula feed, I wouldn’t allow the nurses to take them into the nursery and bottle feed them. I had no sleep that night for every 45 minutes, I had a nurse coming in and switching babies and testing their levels. On the third day when everything was under control I was able to leave the hospital. I didn’t go back to work until my boys were 9 months old and I was able to EBF until 9 months. I had to start giving one boy a bottle while I breast fed the other. I switched kids each time for every feeding! My twins are now almost 3 and have been fully potty trained since 26 months. I couldn’t be any more proud of my amazing 3 kids! Everyday I learn something from them as I teach them! I have numerous blessings from God and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jessica's Natural hospital twin birth 1 Jessica's Natural hospital twin birth 2

Jessica's natural hospital twin birth 3

Facebook Removes Post about Breastfeeding {Discrimination on Women and Families}

Facebook Removes Post about Breastfeeding {Discrimination on Women and Families}

This picture and story were shared on Birth Without Fear Facebook and received a lot of love. Unfortunately it was reported and removed by Facebook, even though it does not violate their Terms of Service.

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It is a beautiful story of a mother helping another mother.

{Stacy} I am currently working on my certification to be a birth doula. My third attended birth ended in a c-section after 24 hours of laboring and being diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome. I could not attend the surgery as the hospital only allowed one support person, which obviously went to Dad. I was so bummed I had to miss out on it, but I’m glad everyone was safe. Danielle was truly the bravest woman I had met with how she handled all of her obstacles related to the birth of her previous baby girl.

Three weeks after the birth, I received a message from her mom in a panic saying that I had to call her ASAP.

That morning Danielle had passed out and had a seizure. She was in the ER and needed a test done to check for a blood clot in her lungs. The problem was that the test would restrict her from nursing for 24 hours.

Under no circumstances was Danielle planning on giving her daughter formula. She told the doctors and nurses that she would not consent to the test until she had donor milk lined up. [Insert shocked hospital staff responses here.]

This was where I came in. Her mom asked me if I could round up any donor milk for her and help ease Danielle’s mind.

I still nurse my 15 month old son, so I had some frozen donor milk that I could bring to the hospital. I also gathered up a group of women on facebook who were willing to donate milk for whatever length of time she needed.

I dropped my kids off with a sitter and came to the hospital with my grocery bag full of frozen milk. I wasn’t sure if I had enough, so I offered to nurse her 3 week old since I was going to hang out and help with the baby anyway. She appreciated the offer and gladly accepted. I nursed the baby on and off for about 8 hours, leaving only 16 hours she needed to cover with the donor milk I brought.

She thankfully did not have a clot. I feel so blessed to be a part of such an intimate moment with a mother and her child, especially after missing the birth. I am so glad I was able to help ease her mind and support her in any way she needed!

This is me acting as a postpartum doula/wet nurse.

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Here I am nursing my 15 month old.

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Milk! {A Story of Oversupply}

Milk! {A Story of Oversupply}

This is my third BWF post about breastfeeding. Previously, I wrote about an ad campaign depicting it as sexy and about how my husband supported me through nursing our son; today I’m sharing the things I learned from having an oversupply of milk. I wrote this story in December 2012 and have since birthed our second sweet little one. Once again, I make far too much milk – but this time I’ve found a family who can make use of it. If you have experience with oversupply and donating or receiving milk, please consider sharing it in the comments. I would love to hear other women’s experiences in giving this beautiful (and sticky, and somehow-always-spills-a-little-on-your-bra) gift.

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I gave birth to my first child in a Québecois birthing centre. As soon as that slippery mass of a baby (otherwise known as a ‘bony octopus‘) fell onto the bed before me, I tugged down my bra so that I could hold him against my bare breast. I had watched breastfeeding videos and taken two prenatal classes. I had read books and I had the assistance of my midwives nearby. And I had an unshakable (unreasonable!) confidence that things would go right.

Sweet Baby James latched on within the first fifteen minutes of his life and after 22 months it feels like he hasn’t let go since.

We had some early trouble with “the nursing relationship” as they call it. Only a day after the birth, my milk came in with a vengeance, inflating my breasts to painful proportions and scaring my husband. I asked my mother – who had come to visit to help out in the early weeks – if breasts such engorged would eventually shrink back to a normal size, or if I was destined to look like Pamela Anderson for the foreseeable future. “I don’t think they do, no…” she said.

Fortunately, she was wrong.
I needed the relief of cold cabbage leaves in my bra (a highly effective old wives’ remedy which made me smell like a slavic peasant’s kitchen) for only a few days.

I got a few small blisters on my nipples. In order to nurse without causing pain to the mother, infants must manage to get the nipple into the very backs of their mouths. This is often a problem for newborn and preterm babies, whose suckling is not powerful enough to pull the nipple back. Sweet Baby James was a big baby (almost nine pounds at birth) but I still had trouble getting him to latch on correctly. I tried the tactics I had learned: tickling his cheek and chin to get him to open his mouth wide, squeezing my breast, “like a hamburger” to make it easier for him… But it still hurt.

One day, I just gave up. I let him latch on like he wanted to, without any assistance from me.
To my great surprise, it didn’t hurt. He had latched on perfectly and was sucking contentedly.
I learned an important lesson in parenting: your baby is smarter than you.

I was fortunate to never have to worry that I had enough milk. Because my milk came in so soon and so strong, our baby gained back his birth weight within a few days. He nursed almost constantly and I, despite the admonishments of some older women, was happy to let him. I didn’t mind being a “human pacifier” because it felt right to me. And it gave some relief to my engorged breasts, full of milk.

So much milk. So, so, so much milk.

Milk. Milkity milk-milk… milk!

My ‘let down’ reflex came when I was nursing Sweet Baby James, when I was about to nurse Sweet Baby James, or when I was even just thinking about nursing Sweet Baby James. My milk let down when I heard other babies cry or saw other babies nurse. It let down when I was walking down the street minding my own business, or eating yoghourt in the kitchen. It let down when I cried, when I exercised, when I had sex, when I took a bath, and as soon as my nipple touched the breast pump.

I had never done so much laundry.

milky nighty

I can’t quite put into words the humbling experience of having an oversupply of milk. My body was marching to the beat of its own drummer, leaking as it went. The let-down hurt; spending money on nursing pads was annoying; and the whole thing was slightly embarrassing. There is something obscene about leaning over a sidewalk gutter so that the milk spraying out of you in seven strong jets, arcing three feet into the air, will flow onto the street and not your t-shirt. People look at you funny. There is something strange about having your bath water turn white before your eyes. And while my husband was game about it, the presence of ‘the spray’ during sex was far from a turn-on.

But our baby was healthy and gaining well. In fact, he was huge – he was busting out of his 6-month clothes by four weeks (he hearts NY because that’s where his parents met).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By three months he was the size of a one year-old: pounds of chub exclusively composed of calories derived from my body. It felt good to know that I could nourish my child in this way. I didn’t take it for granted anymore: most of my new-mama friends wanted to breastfeed but had complications during birth and were having trouble.

Anna had received an emergency C-section and, despite taking Domperidone (which, I learned, is nothing like Dom Perignon) to increase her production, began to formula-feed within a week or two. Jenny, despite having successfully nursed two previous infants, had trouble keeping up her milk supply for an unknown reason. And Tamara was not able to take her baby home from the hospital for weeks after he was born. She was so beautifully committed to nursing him that she “slept” in the hospital, waking up every few hours to nurse and hold him before the nurses would put him back under the heat lamp.

So I wasn’t sure what was normal. Most of my friends didn’t have kids yet and my oversupply problem seemed like little to complain about to those who did. After Anna politely rebuffed my offer to donate milk, I stopped talking about my hot mess of an issue with other mothers. I turned to my own mother for help, but she remembered little from that time of her/my life. And the advice I got from midwives and lactation consultants’ websites was not tailored to me: to nurse from both sides during a feeding, to use a breast-pump for the first half of a let-down so that I could toss that milk and give my baby more of the fat-rich hindmilk he needed, and to nurse throughout the night. All of this is great advice – if you want to increase your milk production.

If you don’t, this advice sucks. Literally.

I decided to go guerrilla and follow my own instinct. Since I had read that the action of suckling (and not the emptying of the breast) is what brings on milk production, I decided to “block feed” intensively. For up to fifteen hours at a time, I would nurse only from one breast. The other would be sore, hot and swollen (I do not recommend this kind of extreme block feeding – I’m lucky I didn’t get mastitis), and when I did switch to it, I would usually have to hold Sweet Baby James at bay for the first three minutes of the let-down. It was so forceful that if I let him nurse immediately he would splutter and gag, regurgitating the milk soon after feeding.

But I always nursed him when he asked for it. We breastfed everywhere: in the bath, in the sling (even when he was dressed up as Winston Churchill for Hallowe’en –  I went as… Winston Churchill’s mother), in the car.

nursing in bath

sir winston churchill

in the car

It took one year for my milk supply to “regulate” and eighteen months before I no longer needed to wear disposable (high-absorbency, high-cost) nursing pads in my bra at all times. I started to menstruate and feel “like a woman” – and of course, I was soon pregnant again. Now five months into this pregnancy, I have watched my milk supply slowly dry up. I am only a little sad about it. My breasts feel a bit useless now, but my son finally seems interested in consuming high-protein solid foods. He still nurses daily, but mostly for comfort.

I learned so many things from becoming a mother; from this experience I learned about the emotions tied to breastfeeding in our culture. The shame that cloaks women’s bodies in all their reproductive functions was present in my shock and horror at the amount of milk my body was forcing out of me, and how unfeminine(!) it felt. The fear of not being a good mother was present in my friends’ upset at not producing enough milk to exclusively nurse their babies, and my eventual decision to stop discussing breastfeeding with them. And I learned about some of the little-discussed technical details of breastfeeding: how to increase milk supply and how to decrease it, some of the cues that can spark the let-down reflex, and the value of infant-initiated nursing.

sleeping baby

It was a radicalizing experience, one that eventually led me to writing overwrought posts for Birth Without Fear. I began to grow concerned about the lack of knowledge about breastfeeding in our culture. Sure, everybody knows “breast is best” but obviously we don’t really know how to do it. I started to wonder why so many of my friends were having trouble nursing their little ones. They were healthy, well-nourished, and deeply committed to breastfeeding. I have since discovered that Insufficient Milk Syndrome is a predominantly Western phenomenon (in middle-class Swedish women, Sjölin, Hofvander, Hillervik, 1977; low-income European-American, African-American and Hispanic women in the United States, McCan, Baydar, & Williams, 2007). The jury is out as to why this is, but probable causes include insufficient (or nonexistent) maternity leave, poverty and its accompanying stress and pour nourishment, lack of education about and exposure to breastfeeding, infant care practices that keep mother and baby separate, scheduled feeding, high rates of birth interventions, the aggressive marketing of infant formula, exposure to pesticides and endocrine disruptors, and cultural beliefs that tell mothers they can’t do it.

My experience with hyper-lactation was annoying and painful, but the experience of not having enough milk can be devastating. We need to think seriously about the practices that have brought widespread lactation failure – and occasional hyper-lactation – upon us.

Breast milk is a fantastic tool. We just need to learn how to use it.

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McCann, M.F., Baydar, N., & Williams, R.L. (2007). Breastfeeding attitudes and reported problems in a national sample of WIC participants. Journal of Human Lactation, 23, 4, 314–324.

Sjölin, S., Hofvander, Y., & Hillervik, C. (1977). Factors related to early termination of breast feeding: A retrospective study in Sweden. Acta Paediatrica Scandinavica, 66, 4, 505-511.

 

The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship {Breastfeeding Journey}

The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship {Breastfeeding Journey}

I wanted so badly to breastfeed. My whole pregnancy that was what I researched most. I took classes and watched videos online- all to prepared to be disappointed. My mother couldn’t breastfeed and neither could hers. I have inverted nipples and would tell myself daily you will not give up- you will give it all you have, and than some.

February 7th baby T was born. I instructed the nurses that I didn’t want him to have a pacifier and I wanted him immediately after birth. After 17 hrs of labor I laid him on my chest and gladly welcomed the lactation consultants help. He wouldn’t latch right, and he sucked with his bottom gum, making it painfully sore. Instantly my nipples cracked, and bleed . I fed him on demand, quite frequently, and every time I wanted to cry- sometimes I would, we both did. My entire nipple was scabbed over and each time he latched my nipple would protrude it would crack open. I eventually had to stop nursing on one side , but I still would not give up.

Three weeks of this and telling myself it will get better, and it did, my baby is 2 months old this last Thursday and feel like we’re breastfeeding superstars! I knew what was best for my baby and I’m so glad I persevered.

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10 minutes old

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2 days old

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2 months old- I love when he looks up at me! Favorite bonding time! Just another reassurance I made the right choice!

-Bailey S.

Breastfeeding Week Campaign {Ashley Wright}

Breastfeeding Week Campaign {Ashley Wright}

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Ashley Wright wants young moms to know that breastfeeding a wonderful things. This is what she says about the campaign she started and why these pictures:

As much as I had envisioned the photos going viral for breastfeeding, I never thought detractors would arise in which I would need to explain my intent and photo’s purpose. As a breastfeeding advocate, I simply wanted to stop everyone in their tracks and say, “lets talk about breastfeeding!”   What better way to do that than to throw a bunch of beautiful naked women together breastfeeding their babies?!  So I thought. I remember telling the mothers, photographer, and stylists, I want to sell breastfeeding like it’s cigarettes.  I want every woman and young lady to say, “OooO I want to breastfeed my baby too!” And I want the men to encourage mothers to breastfeed.  Not only because it’s the healthiest thing to do for your child but also because its ‘THE THING’ to do for your child.

In my conquest to increase the numbers of mothers breastfeeding, I find that young mothers tend to say that breastfeeding is unattractive, only old ladies do that, my boobs are going to sag, there’s formula for that, along with it just isn’t sexy.  Yes we said it ladies and gentlemen SEXy (emphasis on the S-E-X).  In this new age, where we have taken a cultural shift to sex sells everything, women are defining their self worth with how sexy they look and feel. Is it right or wrong? Not for me to discuss at this time. Nonetheless, with seeing how large companies advertise, to get the masses to buy and set the trends, they make it sexy.  So I took note.

Now let me inform you of MY definition of sexy.  Sexy to me has never been nudity. Sexy for me is internal confidence, self-acceptance and self-awareness. Having at one point feeling unsexy and being a single mother, I found an unparalleled amount of power and confidence in nurturing my child from my bosom.  I tapped into one of the greatest superpowers of being a mom.  Then, I decided to display that behind the camera lens.

My wonderful friend Katie H. said it best, “…they are not exploiting the female form or the act of breast feeding by posing nude. Every single thing we stand for is sex, reproduction and passing on our genes. It’s what makes living things continue to exist as everything we do leads to sex. Breastfeeding is not intentionally sexual, it just is. It just IS in its essence! I realize that’s scary for some people to face but it is TRUE. That’s why you want to look away but you just can’t. For these gorgeous women to pose and have their bodies represent the organic act of providing for their children is truthful, female expression and health and beauty…”

So as you view this last picture of me feeding my daughter, take notice that there is no photo shop, no touch-ups, no editing, as I want to show you just how comfortable I am in my skin; acne scars, stretch marks and all.  Plus how far I’ll go to stand for this amazing cause. When you look at this picture and the others of mothers breastfeeding (nude or not), I want you to see confident, sexy women who bared it all for breastfeeding; who feel sexy at this very stage of life and motherhood.  Proud women, who accept where they are now and maintain confidence in the growth process to come. Courageous women in their feat to bring awareness and attention to educate and inspire others to breastfeed!

~ Ashley

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Photos by Michael Oliveri Photography

 

 

 

 

Community Support and Breastfeeding {Make a Difference}

Community Support and Breastfeeding {Make a Difference}

I would like to start this post with a story.

Imagine a mother – a fresh new mother – with a baby just barely 24 hours old. She drives to another city the day after her birth for her first post-birth checkup with her midwife. After leaving the appointment she and her husband decide to stop for lunch. It is late afternoon, so they have their pick of places as none are crowded. A Red Lobster is calling mom’s name – she is famished after the long work of labor the day before and seafood just sounds heavenly. And maybe a little indulgent too!

Mom, Dad, and newborn are seated right away and order their food. Mom orders crab legs (her favorite!) since baby is sleeping peacefully in his wrap against her chest. Surely he will stay asleep long enough for her to shell the crab and eat. (More experienced moms are probably giggling right now!)

The food comes out, hot and steaming. On cue, baby wakes up and wants to nurse. Mom stares longingly at her plate, knowing she can’t bother with it right now because it takes two hands to get this newborn latched and stable for the whole feed. Dad offers to help her but mom declines – at least one of them should get a hot meal after all.

The server comes out to check that everything is going well. She sees mom’s predicament and says she will be right back. She comes back, with gloves on, and starts to shell all of the mother’s crab legs for her. All the while she talks to the couple about her children, her nursing experiences, and how great it is to see a young mother breastfeeding. She also shares stories of many cold meals because of the uncanny ability of babies to wake just when dinner comes out.

She finishes shelling the still steaming crab and gives the plate to mom. Mom figures out how to support baby’s head with the wrap so she can slide one hand out to eat her still hot dinner! Mom and dad get full bellies with hot food, and so does baby. What could have ended in mom sadly eating stone-cold crab legs instead has a happy ending.

That mother was me. I have *never* forgotten that server’s support and love in that moment, and I never will. One mother, reaching out to another giving simple and practical support. That one encounter gave me the pride and hope and confidence to nurse in public in the years that followed. That one encounter helped my husband to feel 100% comfortable with nursing in public as well – knowing that people would not always be rude to his wife. While we have had rude encounters, I can always look back to this first one and radiate with joy.

The support of the community can make a huge difference for mothers who take the journey through breastfeeding. In fact, in studies and interviews women tend to rate social support as more important than professional support on the duration of their breastfeeding experience 5. Why is this?

The answer is simple – we spend far more time in the world at large than sitting in a professional’s office. We need support from our partners, family, and community at large. We need to feel supported by other mothers. When a person feels like they are doing something alone – no matter what it is – they are far less likely to succeed or meet goals. Emotionally, we feel more able to succeed with social support.

The United States has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world among developed nations, and when you look at the rates of exclusive breastfeeding it becomes especially dismal. While about 75% of woman initiate breastfeeding – this is a very large category and a bit misleading. This includes one attempt in the first days of life. While this is great (so many mothers attempting to breastfeed!), it gives false hope as the total rates of breastfeeding. In 2007, at 6 months of age the rate of exclusive breastfeeding was only 13% 1. Lets keep in mind that six months of nothing but breastmilk is the current recommendation from every major group with an interest in infant health (this includes the AAP and WHO). What is happening to cause a drop from 75% of women attempting to breastfeed, to only 13% succeeding at 6 months?

The simple answer for most cases – lack of proper support. Study after study shows that our support network is vital to breastfeeding success. For most women, one caring and helpful IBCLC cannot undo the “work” of a society that does not really support breastfeeding. While it is possible for a woman to physically or psychologically be unable to breastfeed that sub-section of woman is statistically small – most certainly not 87% of woman or the human race would not have made it very far.

The Surgeon General put out a “Call to Action” in 2011, urging America to support breastfeeding. Much of the document focuses on increasing community support across the board – from the family unit, to the care provider, to society as a whole. Some highlights from the document include:

“Women with friends who have breastfed successfully are more likely to choose to breastfeed. On the other hand, negative attitudes of family and friends can pose a barrier to breastfeeding. Some mothers say that they do not ask for help from their family and friends because of the contradictory information they receive from these sources.” (pg 22)

What this little gem tells us is that mother’s who DO succeed in breastfeeding need to talk about it. We need to share our wonderful experience – it actually encourages other mother’s to more seriously consider breastfeeding in the first place. This also tells us that hearing conflicting and outdated information from “well meaning” family and friends is NOT helpful. (Big surprise there, right?)

Now, there is a whole section on Embarrassment. Yes, in the great nation of America, the Surgeon General actually has to address embarrassment as a barrier to breastfeeding.

“A study that analyzed data from a national public opinion survey conducted in 2001 found that only 43% of U.S. adults believed that women should have the right to breastfeed in public places. Restaurant and shopping center managers have reported that they would either discourage breastfeeding anywhere in their facilities or would suggest that breastfeeding mothers move to an area that was more secluded. When they have breastfed in public places, many mothers have been asked to stop breastfeeding or to leave. Such situations make women feel embarrassed and fearful of being stigmatized by people around them when they breastfeed. Embarrassment remains a formidable barrier to breastfeeding in the United States and closely related to the disapproval of breastfeeding in public. Embarrassment about breastfeeding is not limited to public settings however. Women may find themselves excluded from social interactions when they are breastfeeding because others are reluctant to be in the same room while they breastfeed. For many women, the feeling of embarrassment restricts their activites and is cited as a reason for choosing to feed supplementary formula or to give up breastfeeding altogether.” (pg 23)

This section goes on more but let me pause here. No matter how you choose to feed your child, I hope that above statement leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Only 43% of adults feel that a mother should feed her baby in public. Lets not even give the cop out of breastfeeding and “modesty”. This statistic literally translates to mean that 57% of Americans are uncomfortable with a baby being fed in public in a normal way. Only 28% in this particular study believed that breastfeeding should be portrayed on television 4.

Then we see proof that managers and business owners do ask women to leave if they breastfeed and refuse to move or stop. We see this in the news from time to time, but many people think it is rare. Is it really going to be a rare occurrence when over half of all Americans are uncomfortable seeing normal infant feeding? It also goes on to say that we are not just talking about public situations, that last section literally means that within their own homes and social units, women are being made to feel uncomfortable because they breastfeed. What woman is likely to keep breastfeeding if she doesn’t even have acceptance in her own home or social group?

To continue with the “Embarrassment” section:

” In American culture, breasts have often been regarded primarily as sexual objects, while their nurturing function is downplayed. Although focusing on the sexuality of female breasts is common in mass media, visual images of breastfeeding are rare, and a mother may never have seen a woman breastfeeding. As shown in both quantitative and qualitative studies, the perception of breasts as sexual objects may lead women to feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public. As a result, women may feel the need to conceal breastfeeding, but they have difficulty finding comfortable and accessible breastfeeding facilities in public places.” (pg 23)

This section speaks to how our breasts are viewed. First and foremost in our culture they are viewed as sexual. This context of breasts as primarily sexual is actually not the predominate view in the world as a whole by the way 3. This portion also speaks to an issue that comes up more and more with social media – the posting and viewing of breastfeeding photos. These studies and surveys prove that women need to see breastfeeding. The more you see it, the more normal it becomes.

Our sexual view of breasts did not just evolve from thin air – it evolved through a constant presence of sexual images of breasts in our culture. Simply put, the more we can promote and share the non-sexual view of breasts, the less sexual our breasts will become in the culture as a whole. I, for one, would be very happy to see that happen – not only for breastfeeding rates but also for the self-worth of women in general.

In the last sentence, the Surgeon General notes that even though women may feel compelled to hide breastfeeding because of these pressures, there is no where to hide! Our society seems to insist that we breastfeed “somewhere else” but where exactly is this wonderful place we are supposed to hide? Very few places, especially outside of large cities, have breastfeeding spaces. When was the last time you saw a breastfeeding room at your local grocery?

In the section of the document about ways to help increase breastfeeding rates, special attention is given to educating the fathers/partners and grandmothers. Studies show that lack of support from those two sources can lead to shortened breastfeeding (or never starting). There is also special attention given to strengthening and supporting woman-to-woman support groups, such as local La Leche Leagues or other community breastfeeding groups. Those two actions in our communities would be especially helpful to low-income women, where studies show that social support and acceptance are paramount to breastfeeding success 2.

Now I would like to switch gears. We know that community support can make a difference, but we hear little about it. Normally, we only see stories of mothers being harrassed for feeding their babies. If positive stories and experiences with breastfeeding can make a difference in breastfeeding rates, then we need to share them. I reached out to our support group and got many stories and photos, all about positive experiences with nursing in public!

“The first time I ever breastfed in public was last summer when my daughter was 8 months old. My family and I were on vacation in Austin, TX and we were on a tour in some underground natural caverns.  We were at a resting area and I chose a rock to sit on and started nursing her.  I was so nervous that someone would give me a dirty look or say something rude, but a woman came up to me and thanked me for nursing my baby.  That one little comment gave me the confidence I needed to keep nursing her in public and I have been doing so ever since.” – Jennifer

breastfeeding

“Over Memorial Day weekend there is a big festival by the beach where we live, so my husband and I invited our folks to join us and our 2 month old daughter. It was HOT with very little shade! My daughter was getting fussy so I sat down on a bench behind one of the vender’s who had an umbrella up. My mom, who is easily embarrassed, kept trying to give me a cover but I told her no and proceeded to nurse my baby. The vender turns around to see me nursing my daughter and says, “Good for you! Not enough mother’s breastfeed any more! Keep doing what’s best for your kid.”‘ – Beverly

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“We took a vacation to Vegas with our daughter. We had just finished a limousine ride, and walked back into our hotel. I sat in the lobby and started to breastfeed my little girl. A lady came by and told me breastfeeding is the most beautiful thing in the world! I wish I had taken a picture with her. It was such a positive experience for me.” – Krystal

Below is Brianna nursing at Disneyland. Just a fun fact, from a former Cast Member – Disney Cast Members are instructed specifically in training about the importance of nursing in public and that it is 100% legal and acceptable for women to do so anywhere in the parks or property. Some companies do care!

breastfeeding at Disneyland

Below is Katelyn nursing her son at the aquarium, her supportive husband at her side!

breastfeeding

If you have a positive nursing in public experience, please share it with us! And remember that the “other person” in these stories is someone just like you. Just one person reaching out to another and saying “Good Job” – it can literally change a mother’s whole outlook on breastfeeding. Next time you see a mother nursing in public – no matter how she chooses to do it – give her a smile or even better, a kind word.

References

  1. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Washington, DC: U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surgeon General; 2011.
  2. Pugh, L., Milligan, R., Frick, K., Spatz, D., & Bronner, Y. (2002). Breastfeeding Duration, Costs, and Benefits of a Support Program for Low-Income Breastfeeding Women. Birth: Issues In Perinatal Care, 29(2), 95-100. doi:10.1046/j.1523-536X.2002.00169.x
  3. Wolf, J. H. (2008). Got milk? Not in public!. International Breastfeeding Journal, 31-3. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-3-11
  4. Pettis, C. T., & Miller, M. K. (2007). PROMOTING BREAST-FEEDING THROUGH SOCIAL CHANGE. Women’s Policy Journal Of Harvard, 439-47.
  5. McInnes RJ, Chambers JA. (2008). Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: Qualitative Synthesis. J Adv Nurs. 2008 May; 62(4):407-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04618.x.

Eating is a Family Affair: How to Support a Breastfeeding Mother

Eating is a Family Affair: How to Support a Breastfeeding Mother

I had always expected to breastfeed my babies. I was breastfed until I was two (or four, depending on which parent you ask) and it just seemed normal. But I had never considered how important it was to have a partner who supported me in breastfeeding. Like a dreamy adolescent girl who has already chosen the colours for her wedding, I knew what I wanted and figured it really had nothing to do with the man in question. He would just have to like it or lump it.

And when I did meet the man, and we did decide to have a baby, and we met with our midwives, I found that they were pretty much in agreement. It’s the mother’s decision, they said, and the father just has to ‘be supportive’. They suggested that the father (all the couples in our prenatal class were hetero) could do this by bringing the baby to its mother in the middle of the night and offering her a glass of water. That was it.

But there is so much more to supporting a mother in breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a personal decision, but the actions, ideas, and social cues of people around the mother are major factors in making that decision. The mother-infant dyad cannot be taken out of its socio-cultural context. Even for the newborn, eating is a family affair.

I was right that my partner would be supportive of my breastfeeding and I was right that it would come easily to me. But I was wrong about it having nothing to do with him. My husband supported – and continues to support – me in breastfeeding, 100%. And it has made all the difference in the world.

jaime papa

There are the practical aspects of his support, such as doing all the cooking, feeding bottles of pumped milk, and working outside the house so I can stay home with the little ones. But when I think back to our journey over the last two years, it’s the intangible things that come to mind…

He never said it was gross. He never said it was beautiful, either – he just treated it like it was normal.

He never told me to be discreet. When I had milk spraying out of me in seven distinct four-foot jets all over the sidewalk (oversupply, anyone?), he just laughed and said that he liked how I “don’t do things by halves.”

He encouraged me to feel comfortable nursing in front of his parents, reminding me that his mother had breastfed her two kids and that, frankly, it would take more than that to scandalize his dad.

Despite the fact that our baby was humungous and nursed every hour, he never suggested a switch to formula. Instead, he read the research about the short half-lives of breastfeeding hormones (indicating that the infant body ‘expects’ to be fed at least every few hours), and we agreed to feed our son on demand.

dinner

In the bedroom, lactation became quotidian, an entirely healthy part of my body. He considered ‘The Spray’ yet another womanly indication of arousal – and what could be more arousing than that?

I don’t think he was ever jealous of the time and attention I put into breastfeeding our son. If he was, he dealt with it himself – because he saw that it was his own issue, not mine. Maybe he wished that he himself had a secret milky weapon to calm our little one.

Comfort

He never called me a cow, a human pacifier, or an exhibitionist. He called me ‘badass’ instead.

Our son wasn’t night-weaned until 15 months and he never told me to do it so that we could get our bed back, go on vacation, or have more sex. When we weaned it was my decision – it was I who wanted “my body” (and my sleep!) back.

He didn’t complain about the cost of nursing pads. He acknowledged that my bras smelled rancid after sitting in the bottom of the pile for a week – but he did the laundry anyway.

park

He never made pervy comments about how our son, “Doesn’t know how good he has it!” or that, “He’ll really be a ladies’ man!” He never expressed discomfort about the fact that all of his friends had now seen my boobs.

Because that’s what it’s all about for my husband and for us as a family. To us, breastfeeding is mostly about nourishment.

It can be an emotional thing, all sweetness and comfort. Maybe even beautiful and romantic…

Nursing in Bed

But sometimes, it’s just dinner.

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How did your partner support you in breastfeeding? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Breastfeeding Through Hydrocephalus and Cleft Palate {A Mother’s Devotion}

Breastfeeding Through Hydrocephalus and Cleft Palate {A Mother’s Devotion}

Christine Curry of Storyteller Photography writes:

“This is Ellie. She was born with hydrocephalus, a cleft palate and a myriad of other issues. Because of her condition, she was never able to naturally breast feed. But that didn’t stop Ellie’s mom, who wanted to give her all she could. You see, Teresa pumped her breast milk … every day.. for EVERY feed… for over a year to give to her daughter. Although Ellie could not suckle at the breast, she was still able to receive the best her mother had to offer.

Update No. 1: Ellie was released from feeding therapy. She has been learning to take solid food by mouth for the past few months. Her mother has been diligently practicing with her and she’s gaining sufficient weight. Her doctors and specialists will now be moving towards removing her G Tube altogether!

Baby Ellie   Pumped Milk   Sleeping babe   Challenges in Breastfeeding  

Storyteller Photography-1-109

 

 

Update No. 2: here she is as a thriving two year-old!

 

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