Breastfeeding

Christian Breastfeeding Meme

Got this from a friend at Dulce De Leche. It speaks pretty well for itself…

Categories: Attachment Parenting, Bible, Breastfeeding | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breastfeeding: The Mommy Wars

Mommy wars. Destroyer of relationships. “My way is the best. How could you even consider any other?” The judgment. The criticism. It makes everyone feel inadequate, when, in fact, none of us are. We are all individuals. Do we honestly expect everyone to make the same choices as us?

Breastfeeding has its own, unique twist on the mommy wars. Even breastfeeding can be fought over. It seems totally unfair to me. There is not only one way to feed your child. In fact, there aren’t just two, either. There are many ways to feed a baby and they are all acceptable, legitimate options. Really.

Battle #1: Breast is Best!

Oh, the breast is best argument. It leaves so many wonderful mamas broken and hurting in its wake. Yes, it is proven, through research, that breastmilk is the best option for babies. However it is not always feasible for every mama. Yes, I know, God created breasts and their ability to make milk. Really, I know. But he also provided scientists with the knowledge necessary to make a substitute–formula.

I’d just like you to take a moment before you judge a mama giving her baby formula. You don’t know her life story. You don’t know why she’s choosing to put formula in that bottle. There are so many possibilities! Here are just a few.

1. Baby is unable to latch and mama is no longer producing enough milk to satisfy baby’s need.
2. Mama was sexually abused at some point in her life and when she thinks about breastfeeding, she doesn’t picture beautiful moments with a baby, she pictures the horrible, sick things her abuser said to her.
3. Baby is adopted and mama didn’t know/have the support to induce lactation.
4. Baby was, in fact, allergic to mama’s milk. No, seriously! Check it out!

There are so many possible reasons for a mama to use formula to feed her baby. Assume that she put as much time, research, prayer and thought into her feeding choices as you did into yours. She very likely did. All mamas want what’s best for their babies. We just don’t always agree on what “best” is and that’s okay.

Battle #2: Covering vs. Not Covering

~A real lactavist (who came up with that word, anyway?) never wears a nursing cover.
~Nursing covers are shameful and prove that you’re trying to hide something.
~All nursing covers do is attract extra attention to someone who’s already obviously trying to hide that they’re breastfeeding.
~Nothing like sitting under a tent to announce to the world “look at me! I’m breastfeeding!”

Any of these sound familiar? Have you said any of them, in reference to another mama? Have you had them said to or about you? I’ve seen them far too many times on blogs and Facebook groups. It’s heartbreaking, the things we say about our fellow mamas.

Let me let you in on a little secret. Covering isn’t about who’s looking. It’s all about the mama and baby being comfortable while breastfeeding. Seriously. Now, personally, I have a child who has never allowed a cover of any sort. He wanted to be able to see! Can’t do that with a cover. So, I guess I probably appear to be some big lactivist, making sure the whole world knows I’m breastfeeding, but really, I’m just meeting my little boy’s needs.

Let’s look at it a little differently. Forget the “lactivist” view point. Lets see mamas as what they are–mamas. Not all of us choose to be activists in any area, much less this one. Assume that the mamas you encounter while out and about fall under “average mamas”, not “lactivists”.

Reasons to cover:

1. Easily distracted nursling–The cover allows baby to concentrate on nursing just long enough to get the job done and move on.
2. Baby gymnast–Mama really doesn’t want to flash the whole place, so she’s wearing a cover to hide the 50 times her baby has let go in the last 3 minutes.
3. Privacy–Mama just plain doesn’t want to draw big attention. Yes, people notice the cover, but they’re more likely to leave a covered Mama alone and she can definitely rest assured that there is zero possibility of flashing random bystanders.

Reasons not to cover:

1. Nursling who can’t stand being blocked out of the world–Baby must see to feel connected. Not connected means missing out and one can never do that. Or, at least, that’s how this baby feels.
2. Baby gymnast–Wearing a cover simply results in mama and baby both tightly entangled in the cover before it ends up falling to the ground and being covered in mud anyway.
3. Forgot a cover/It’s too hot/Covers are a pain–Either mama doesn’t have a cover on hand or she just doesn’t see a point in hassling with it. Either way, covers just plain don’t matter because baby is hungry and mama’s going to feed him, no matter what.

Again, there are certainly plenty of other reasons to use or not use a cover. I never really did with Isaiah. We tried from time to time. It just didn’t work for us. When I’m nursing a different baby, maybe I will end up using a cover. Who knows? I can’t even know until I meet the baby, so why worry about it?

These are two big mommy wars topics. I see them all the time. All the time. Honestly, I hate them. I want to live in harmony with other mamas, whether we agree on every detail of parenting or not. I like people. If I like you, I don’t want to worry about whether we disagree on some minor thing like how we feed babies. I want to spend time with you, enjoying you, not picking fights. My dream for mamas everywhere would be for us to all call a truce. Let’s support each other wherever we happen to be, in this moment.

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Categories: Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Breastfeeding: Rights and Fighting for Them

So, I’ve been posting about breastfeeding for a couple weeks now. First, why I chose to breastfeed, then my own journey. Now, I’d like to talk a bit about our rights as breastfeeding mamas.

First of all, every mother has the right to breastfeed. Period. Even adoptive mothers have that right. Once that baby is yours, you can feed him or her however you wish, including induced lactation–breastmilk! You can even do it if your baby is no longer a newborn. I know people who’ve done it and it’s awesome. So, there you go: the most basic breastfeeding is the right to choose it when deciding how to feed your baby.

Many women also have the wonderful right to breastfeed in public places. However, this depends on where you live. Check the laws of your country or state. In the United States, your rights will vary from state to state, though most have some sort of law that protects your right to breastfeed in a public place. The key word in this is “public”. This does not include your neighbor’s house and other private places. If you’re hanging out at your best friend’s house and she tells you that she’s not comfortable with you sitting on the couch breastfeeding, you need to respect her. Ask if there’s a bedroom you could use, instead. Even if it’s your legal right, isn’t it better to be nice, anyway?

So, now that you know your rights, what are you going to do with that information? Well, there are a couple things you can do, actually.

First, you can breastfeed your hungry baby. Go for it! Enjoy. Cherish this precious time with your sweet little one, no matter where it happens to be. Now, this right to breastfeed in public does not come with the right to be a jerk to those around you. Yes, you have the right to feed your baby, but others have a right to their feelings. When someone says something stupid, don’t react. Be polite. In some situations, it’s even ok to say something like, “I’m really sorry about that, he’s just so hungry. We’ll be done in a minute.” with a sweet smile on your face! I know, it’s so hard sometimes to apologize for bothering someone, especially when you have the right to do it, but, it keeps the peace, so why not?

While you’re breastfeeding in public, as we’ve now established is your legal right, there are many ways to do so. You can choose to toss a blanket over your shoulder, covering your baby’s head and the exposed breast. You can use a “hooter hider” or similar device. You can wear specialized breastfeeding shirts that allow for easy access. You can choose to just pull your breast out of your shirt, over the top or lift the shirt up and quietly breastfeed your baby with no cover or special clothing at all. Any of these choices is legitimate. No one choice is “better” or “worse”. Some mothers cover because it’s the only way their baby can focus to nurse. Some choose not to cover because a cover makes their child squirm and tear it off before continuing to nurse. Each mother has a reason for the choice she has made and no choice makes her more or less of a breastfeeding advocate or amazing mother.

Second, you have the right to become a breastfeeding advocate. Fight for those who wish to breastfeed in public, or at all, really, even if your nursing days are behind you. Even daddies and brothers and uncles can fight for breastfeeding moms! Really, they can! Educate. Most people who say horrid, mean, ugly things to breastfeeding moms are just ignorant on the subject. A little information, presented in an appropriate manner can go a very long way. Trust me on this one.

Now, how does one fight for breastfeeding rights? This is where things get a little sticky. There are so many ways to do it. Some of them, I can’t say I’m much of a fan of, others, I stand behind, one hundred and ten percent.

One way to stand up for your rights is the ever-popular nurse-in. If you “like” any breastfeeding pages on Facebook, you’ve likely seen a call to action with dates and locations for nurse-ins. (If you are unfamiliar with nurse-ins, here’s an article from one that took place in Target stores across the country about a year ago. It was big news in the breastfeeding community and I was invited to participate.)

The purpose of a nurse-in is to force an offending business to face the reality of the laws protecting nursing in public. Usually, what happens, is an unsuspecting mom is spoken to by an employee while breastfeeding in the store. The behavior of the employees varies. Some politely recommend the bathroom or fitting rooms as a “more private” place to breastfeed or ask that the mother use a cover. Others yell at and bully mothers until they leave the stores. Some, foolishly and unaware of local laws, insist that the mother can be cited for public indecency. Sometimes, they even cite a store policy that allows them to remove a mother. In the case of Target, store policy was that mothers should breastfeed in a fitting room.

After the business as asked a mother to change how she is feeding her child, no matter what approach they choose, that mother has the option of contacting any number of breastfeeding support groups, preferably online, to gather support. Her story of injustice is then spread to all corners of the world. Supporters come together, angry for the mother and wanting to stand up for her right. A few dissenters come along and comment on the “event”, “group” and “like” pages on Facebook, comparing breastfeeding in public to defecating on the street corner. These dissenters are attacked, called horrible names and, eventually, blocked. The nurse-in is arranged. Breastfeeding mothers across the country and sometimes around the world prepare to arrive at their local branch of the offending business at the same time to breastfeed their children. News channels show up to document. Photos are uploaded to Facebook and Twitter in real time. And absolutely nothing is accomplished.

So, now that we’ve covered what not to do, how about we cover a few “do’s” of breastfeeding advocation? There are plenty of ways to advocate for breastfeeding that will actually encourage others and, maybe, if we’re really lucky, win a few more over to our cause. That’s what it’s all about, anyway, right?

The best way to advocate for breastfeeding rights is to go about your daily life. Breastfeed your precious child when he is hungry. Sooth him when he cries. Rock him to sleep. Be the wonderful mama you already are. Not only will you be representing breastfeeding, you represent what being a mama really is–loving your child, round the clock, no matter what. Really. That’s all it takes. I didn’t become a breastfeeding mama because of a nurse in or someone with a loud mouth. I became a breastfeeding mama because of the quiet example of wonderful women around me.

Another thing you can do for breastfeeding is fight for better, clearer laws. Please, don’t do this with your baby. He doesn’t need to be dragged around through politics. This one is for mama and daddy, not baby. Write letters. Petition for rights. Stand up for yourself and your rights at your next city council meeting. You can make a difference. Go for it! Change the world.

Become a LeLeche League leader. You have experience as a breastfeeding mama. Now, commit to sharing that experience and knowledge. If being a leader isn’t an option for you, just be there for the mamas around you. The best thing anyone did for me when I was pregnant was a woman who handed me a book. She told me that she was given the book when her youngest baby was born and it had wonderful content. She said breastfeeding is hard work. Read the book now, so you’re prepared when you’re holding that squishy new baby. I did. Thank God, I did. It was one of only two books I read while pregnant. I’m not sure I would have made it without that little book. Not only did I have that book, I had real, physical people who were happy to answer my questions. Be there for a new mama. She needs that love and support. When she tells you it hurts so bad that she doesn’t think she can go on, hug her while she cries. Offer to rock the baby to sleep so she can get just a few minutes to rest. Wash her dishes or laundry. Change a poopy diaper. Promise that it does get better. Really, it does.

You can change the world. You really can. You may not change the whole world, with all the billions of people, but you can change the world of a mama or a baby. Or both. Stand up for what you believe in. Love. Educate. Protect. Support. Feed your baby. Help another mama feed hers. That is what will make the biggest difference.

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Categories: Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Breastfeeding: My Journey

My breastfeeding journey… Oh, the things I could tell. It’s a book, really. I’ll try to keep it to a more reasonable length for this post. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, if you’d like more details.

My journey actually started in childhood, as crazy as that may seem. I was breastfed, as were my brother and cousins. It has always been a part of my story. I always knew that, one day, I would breastfeed my own babies. I had no idea it would be so soon, but, in the end, that didn’t matter at all because the determination was there, young and single or not. I breastfed toys as a preschooler. I talked about it. I remember once, asking my mom about it because she was breastfeeding my little brother. She even gave me a taste of the milk on her finger, which I promptly declared “gross” and went back to my cow’s milk.

When I discovered I was pregnant, breastfeeding came back to the forefront. It was important to me. No need to research formula to determine which would be best because I had no intention of using it. When my grandmother sent me a can of formula, I was offended. She knew I didn’t want to use formula, but told me, it was “for when you’re out and about with him”. I was told that nursing in public wasn’t acceptable and, honestly, it didn’t become legally protected in my state until Isaiah was almost a year old. During that first year, when we went out, I pumped ahead of time and gave him bottles of breastmilk. If I forgot, I found a quite place and let him breastfeed because I sure wasn’t going to let him scream from hunger.

But, back to the beginning of this story… Breastfeeding was insanely hard for me. I will be forever grateful for a book that was given to me during the early months of my pregnancy. I read it, over and over, learning about proper latch and different positions. I didn’t want to wait until I was holding my new baby to try to figure out what in the world I was doing. Really, I still ended up holding a newborn not knowing what I was doing, but I was at least a little prepared.

When Isaiah was born, our nurse was actually a friend. One of the blessings of small towns, I guess. She knew I wanted to breastfeed, since we’d been discussing it while I was in labor. When Isaiah had finally made his entrance, she helped me to get him latched. Her very first advice to me was not to use pacifiers until his latch was established. Same with bottles. It was excellent advice. For the first two weeks of his life, Isaiah nursed and sucked fingers. After that, I gave in to giving him a binky so that I could have more than 10 seconds that he wasn’t latched on at a time. While we were in the hospital that first night, a new nurse came on shift. Despite orders to bring him to me when he woke, she chose to give him a bottle and keep him until I woke and asked for him. His wonderful, first-hours-of-life latch was lost. Our struggle began.

For the first day or so, Isaiah didn’t have much interest in nursing. If I didn’t wake him and help him latch, he wouldn’t show any interest at all. When he did latch, it didn’t last long. He was mostly quiet and calm in the hospital and for the first couple weeks of his life.

Isaiah’s latch was horrible. I hurt, constantly, even when he wasn’t nursing. It was miserable. I wanted to quit, but, really, I didn’t. Isaiah wanted to nurse constantly. There were no moments that he wasn’t nursing, except the short periods when he napped. Being an awful sleeper from birth, naps were not ever long enough or frequent enough to provide any relief for the pain. Within a week, he had started clamping down. His jaw would lock and I’d struggle to get him to release me, crying in pain the entire time. With help from my mom, we tried different positions. Most didn’t work because Isaiah couldn’t figure out how to latch from different angles. I dropped by the hospital to talk to the LC, but she was new and had no practical advice. She offered a nursing shield that I would have to pay for. It also wouldn’t protect me from Isaiah’s clamping down. I decided not to get one then, figuring I could always pick it up later.

Next in our adventure was colic. Hours upon hours of screaming. My mom and I took turns pacing the floor. It was worst in the evenings, from supper time, long into the night. Isaiah would only sleep in my arms or in a sling with my mom. It never lasted long before the screaming would start again. When he was so miserable, Isaiah wanted to nurse, to try to sooth the pain, but when I offered, he’d arch his back and scream louder. Some days, he’d go hours without latching on, even though I knew that was what he needed. After days of misery, I figured out that if I stood up and walked, he would nurse, as long as I didn’t stop moving. So, I paced. Every time he nursed. For days.

Of course, then there were nights. Isaiah wouldn’t stay asleep if he wasn’t in my arms, so putting him in his own bed wasn’t working at all. I’d always been taught that babies must have their own beds, so I’d put him in his bed, be just lying down in my own and have to go back because he was crying. I would rock him the first half of the night, then my mom would take the second half. After a few weeks, he started nursing when I was lying down, so I could at least rest while he nursed. Then, one night, I fell asleep. We both slept for the first time since he was born. He wasn’t very old when he learned to latch on and nurse at night without my help. That was the biggest blessing I could have asked for.

Eventually, the colic passed. The screaming stopped. Isaiah’s latch was still horrible and painful, but at least he was nursing and gaining weight. For the first six months of his life, Isaiah nursed every hour, without fail, ’round the clock. People told me to schedule him, but I just couldn’t bear to listen to him crying for two hours because he wanted to nurse. It didn’t seem fair. As he got older, he nursed less frequently and I was able to do something besides sitting on the couch, nursing him.

Aside from still having a poor latch (I seriously suspect a tongue or lip tie, but no one is interested in fixing it when the baby is 8 months or older and not underweight), Isaiah’s nursing is great. It’s seen us through a lot. It helps calm him when he’s overwhelmed. It has been the only answer for some of the biggest sensory meltdowns I’ve seen. It saw us through his first stomach flu. It got him through surgery, when he wouldn’t eat or drink, he was still willing to nurse. Isaiah will be three at the end of this month. It’s amazing. He’s still nursing. He seems to be (finally) night weaning. He went two nights in a row without waking to nurse, then nursed once for less than five minutes last night. He’ll probably hang onto his daytime nursing for a while and that’s okay with me. He’s my sweet boy and he will get his mama milk for as long as he needs it.

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Categories: Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Breastfeeding: Why I Do It

I’ve been breastfeeding now for almost three years. It’s amazing. I never thought I’d go this long, to be perfectly honest with you. There are a couple reasons for that. One, it never occurred to me that one could breastfeed a child for three or more years. I thought it was just for babies. Two, we had a rough start. Very, very rough. You know, the kind of start that includes a screaming baby who won’t latch, cries to nurse every 45-60 minutes, has a horrible, painful latch and screams in pain from gas? Yeah, that was us.

My breastfeeding journey is a post in itself, so we’ll get back to that later. For now, I want to talk about why I was so determined to try, in spite of the difficulties we faced those first months.

I was raised around breastfeeding. I was breastfed and I knew it. I also knew that my mom, long before the laws that allow for pumping in the workplace, worked so hard to keep giving me breastmilk after she went back to work. Even though that meant sitting in the bathroom on her one break with an electric pump. It mattered to her, so she did it. Then, when I was two, my brother was born. By that time, my mom had stopped working. She’d always wanted to be a stay at home mom, anyway. I watched her breastfeed my brother for fifteen months. I’m sure he would have gone longer, but when his many allergies were discovered and my mom cut them from her diet, he protested the change in flavor by giving up nursing.

Since I was around nursing all the time, I nursed my favorite doll, much like kids you see pictures of on blogs now. Except there weren’t blogs to post pictures of me to. I had bottles for my babies and I know I used them, but then, I also knew that human milk could go into those bottles, since I’d had it that way. I was vocal and not-so-private about breastfeeding my babies. I’m sure much to the embarrassment of plenty of people.

Four of my cousins were also breastfed during my lifetime. The first is close enough in age to me that I never really thought about it, but the others I can remember clearly. My aunt believed as firmly as my mom did that breastfeeding is best for babies. My aunt had difficulties along the way, such as failure to thrive, but she still fought for breastfeeding and was successful.

Just two years before my own sweet baby was born, my youngest cousin came along. She has Down syndrome, which includes poor muscle tone. My cousins muscles were so weak that she couldn’t latch properly. After all sorts of adventures and fighting for the ability to breastfeed, my aunt ended up spending countless hours pumping, taking any supplement she could get, so that, while she couldn’t latch to breastfeed, my cousin would still get breastmilk. After watching my aunt work so hard for a breastfeeding relationship, all the difficulties I dealt with didn’t seem nearly so big, though insanely frustrating at the time.

You see, breastfeeding is normal to me because the people around me treated it as such. There was no hiding it from the rest of the family. We all knew that those babies were breastfed. We all knew as we got older that we, too, had once been breastfed. And we were so grateful to our moms for that blessing. I am pro-breastfeeding because I was taught its value. Not through words, but through example. Now, I am a breastfeeding advocate. I will fight for my right to breastfeed my son and I will help you fight for yours. I do this, not to make a name for myself or to prove a point, but because I see the value in it and have experienced the amazing relationship and experience myself. That is why I breastfeed.

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Categories: Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

100 Words

I came across this idea on ambermccann.com and thought it would be fun. I submitted my “100 words” there, but thought it would be fun to share it here, too.

100 Words about My Journey as a Breastfeeding Mother

I knew from the time I was little that I would breastfeed, just like my mom did for me. When Isaiah finally arrived, I was determined. We struggled with a bad latch, sore nipples and hours of crying because he just couldn’t get what he needed. Finally, by the time he was a couple months old, our breastfeeding relationship was going beautifully. I love every moment nursing him and cherish the memories of milk-drunk smiles and silly conversations. He’s still going strong at eighteen months. I’ll happily let him continue until he is ready to self-wean.

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One Year Breastfeeding

Before I even got pregnant, I was determined that when the time came, I would breastfeed. My mom had breastfed my brother and I and my aunt breastfed all her kids. It just seemed like the logical thing to do. Beyond that, I hadn’t put much thought into it at all.

When Isaiah was born, I was bound and determined that he was going to nurse, no matter how hard it was. More than once I wanted to quit. Thankfully, I have a wonderful mother who would look me in the eye and remind me how badly I wanted this. As someone who’d been there before, she was able to encourage me that it would get better. She helped me experiment with different positions to try to improve his latch. When he started biting, I called my aunt for pointers to stop it. After a while, Isaiah learned to latch correctly, he learned that biting wasn’t necessary to get milk and I was able to find ways to keep myself covered in spite of his silly antics.

Now, Isaiah and I have had one year of breastfeeding together. It’s been quite the journey filled with adventures and wonderful memories. It helped us to develop a stronger bond with each other. I’ve spent so many hours just holding my baby while he nursed, something I would have missed if I’d been able to just hand him a bottle around six months old. I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, even when it gets hard, but more importantly, I’ve discovered what a wonderful thing it can be.

I’ll never forget the adorable expressions on Isaiah’s face that I only saw when he was nursing. It’s kind of hard to describe… It is peace, contentment, love… I just can’t resist trying to take a picture of it because there’s nothing quite like it in the world.

I love his sweet expressions!

Sometimes, nursing was quite the adventure. Whether it was biting me because he was teething, trying to nurse from funky positions because of an ear infection or even just because he was bored or the silly games he learned over time. My mom likes to joke about Isaiah’s nursing acrobatics. He doesn’t just nurse in the traditional positions taught in breastfeeding books. That was ok until he got the hang of it, but then it was boring. Every once in a while, he has to mix it up and add a new position to our already extensive list. He loves to nurse lying down, which is great at night. He also thinks that he should be able to nurse sitting up in my lap. That always makes for quite the adventure!

When Isaiah first started really babbling, suddenly, nursing became a time to talk to me. He’d latch on and start to tell me stories about his day without letting go! Then, if he had something really important to say, he’d let go, grin at me and yell it at the top of his lungs. When he discovered his hands, he wanted to hold my hand or play with my fingers while he nursed. I love all the hours we spent just holding hands while he had his snack. Recently, he’s discovered his ability to blow raspberries and was doing it on my tummy. Suddenly it occurred to him that he could do it while he was nursing, too! It makes me laugh so hard I start to cry, which makes him do it more, in between his own laughter.

Enjoying a yummy snack!

I’m so glad that Isaiah and I have had this year of breastfeeding! I’m also thrilled that it doesn’t stop here. It’s been a wonderful time in my life and will hopefully continue at least another year. This has been one long adventure and I can’t wait to see what’s next in our breastfeeding experience. One thing is certain: it will never be boring!

Categories: Breastfeeding | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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