Tag Archives: Normalizing Breastfeeding

Became Wiser About Breastfeeding – July 30

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Blog Carnival for 2012. For more information on the Breastfeeding Cafe, check out this site. If you would like to participate in this year’s carnival, just post on your personal blog and put a link in the comment section below.  To receive email updates for next year, contact Timbra landslidephotography {at} hotmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about how you’ve become wiser about breastfeeding. Please read the other posts in today’s carnival listed in the comments section of this post. The Carnival runs July 16th through the 31st!

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Krystyna Bowman, AAHCC strives to be a blissful mother to four children (2 daughters, 2 sons) and she is the wife of a very patient man.  She and her husband, Bruss, are Bradley Method® of Natural Childbirth instructors.  The Bowman family lives in Chandler, Arizona.  They enjoy sharing the joy of childbirth with other families and they celebrate every Sweet Pea and their birth.  Krystyna’s blog “Sweet Peas, Pods and Papas” covers many topics around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  You can find her other Carnival posts atwww.sweetpeabirths.com/blog

 

Today’s Prompt:If you have more than one child, how have you become wiser :)? How did your first nursing experience shape your thoughts, ideas, plans, views, etc for your future nursing experiences?

 

 

Krystyna Bowman

 first nursing relationship taught me a lot of lessons that have encouraged me and grown me as a human being.  When I nursed our first-born, I found that breastfeeding was painful, I felt like I was in a minority and I felt ashamed to nurse in public. Now I am a proud lactivist, confident in my choice to breastfeed.  I am ready to kindly and gently challenge people’s perceptions about why we nursing mamas do what we do to feed our children. 

 I have joyfully nursed three other children since our daughter was born in 2005.  We have a son born in 2007, we met another son in 2009, and we just welcomed another daughter in 2011.  All the lessons I learned with our first child have grown my confidence in our choice to breastfeed our other children:

  • –       Trust your instincts
  • –       MotherBaby are one unit living in two bodies
  • –       Be flexible
  • –       Do not apologize for your choices
  • –       Common does not mean it’s normal

 Our children have taught me that when I make choices out of love for them, and when we as parents make choices together, we can confidently stand by our choices for our family.

 Here is our story:

 I grew up watching my mother nurse my siblings.  When we got pregnant with our first child, it was a foregone conclusion that I would breastfeed.  We got a few pointers in our childbirth classes, and as part of that curriculum, my husband and I attended a La Leche League meeting together.  We expected that there was going to be a learning curve and that I would experience something called “engorgement”.

 Baby arrived.  Surprise!  Breastfeeding did not feel natural!  It hurt!  It made me cry!  I wanted to give up!  At the same time, I was motivated to persist in my efforts by our satisfied baby that was growing and thriving from my milk .  So I persevered through the discomfort and the pain until it went away. Eventually I got comfortable nursing in public covered by a receiving blanket so I would not offend anyone.

 Our pediatrician told me to introduce solids at six months.  Dutiful mother who wanted to be a good patient and follow “doctor’s orders” tried the commercial baby foods.  They made our baby sick.  So my husband and I talked and agreed to stop with the jars and “wait-and-see” if baby would continue to thrive on my milk.  She did well – no more throwing up and cranky disposition.  We had our sweet baby back, thriving on exclusive breastfeeding.

That instance of going against “doctor’s orders” gave me my first boost of confidence – it was okay to follow my mothering instinct instead of “professional advice”.  I knew my child: I had carried her for 39 weeks and 4 days when I was pregnant.  I spent most waking moments with her, and sleeping ones as well.  We were the MotherBaby and I knew what my other half did and did not like.  Lesson one:  Since we were a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, it was okay to trust my instincts above anything else.

My second lesson was accepting that we, the MotherBaby, were indeed one unit.  Back then I did not know that it was called Attachment Parenting.  I knew that our daughter and I were happy together.  My husband was happy to see both of us happy together.  He was happy to hold a baby that liked to be held.  She was a baby that hardly ever cried and observed the world with her watchful eyes.  I politely acknowledged the people that told me I was holding her too much, that I was going to spoil her.  On the inside, it strengthened my resolve to trust that we were making the best decision for our family.  The MotherBaby unit worked for or family – everyone was happy, everyone slept, life moved on and our baby did not get spoiled.  Today she is a fiercely independent seven-year old (going on 25!).

 My third lesson was that flexibility is a great parenting tool.  We had learned to be flexible through our birth experience.  It did not stop there.  We decided our lifestyle was easier to change than it was to force our baby to fit into our needs and desires.  Our baby changed how much time it took to go places.  She influenced our choice of activities.  She changed how we travelled.  In such a blessed way, living through all her firsts enhanced our lives immeasurably and we embraced our new life as a family of three.

 This flexibility served me well in relation to our breastfeeding relationship.  I initially thought that I would nurse her until her first birthday.  Then I would be done and I would throw myself back into my career outside the home.  As her first birthday approached, I realized that neither she nor I was ready to stop nursing altogether.  Although she was comfortable eating table foods by then, she and I both enjoyed nursing when she woke up in the morning, for naps, and before bedtime.

 I realized that although there were some things I could still control about our daily life, our breastfeeding relationship was not one of the things that I wanted to control.  As we celebrated her first birthday I became aware of how quickly time passes with our children.  I had the epiphany that our children are actively in our lives until they are pre-teens.  Then they start to move into the sphere of their friends.  Before we know it, they are moving out of our homes to pursue careers or schooling.  I did not want to stick to our twelve-month plan.  Why force a separation, especially one at such a tender and sweet age?

 My stubborn nature came into play again.  When people questioned me, it made me even more determined to follow my instincts and do what was best for our child.  If you are an extended nurser, you know the questions people ask. “You are still nursing?”  or, “How long are you going to nurse?”  How about this one, “Why are you still nursing if (s)he can ask for it?”  My “favorite”, usually in the form of a statement: “You are just doing this for yourself.”  I gave the same answer that I gave when people asked why we chose natural childbirth, babywearing, or co-sleeping: “This choice works for us and our family.”

 In those five words, I accept the mantle of responsibility for our choices and our family.  I hope that it relieves the guilt or feelings of judgment that other people may feel because their story is different, whether by choice or circumstance.  There are those who cannot accept that answer, and that is okay.  I am not going to change their minds anyway, so I save my energy and do some deep breathing!  

 The last lesson I learned the hard way.  All three of our older children caused the same pain when feeding on my left breast.  I could kick myself: it took until our third child to learn that something about our birth experiences was causing our babies difficulty when positioned to nurse on my left.  Our third child got an adjustment when he was ten days old.  One visit to our chiropractor for a pediatric adjustment and I was in heaven!  It eased the discomfort that did not allow him to turn his head comfortably.  He stopped stripping my nipple and chomping on the nerve that made me cry every time.  I learned that nursing could be pain-free and tear-free when baby is a newborn if you seek help at the beginning. 

 Now I am a childbirth educator.  I tell our students that while breastfeeding is a learned behavior, and that although it is common for it to hurt, “Common does not mean it’s normal.”  The lesson I learned the hard way was that a mom should not ignore pain during breastfeeding.  Seek help as soon as possible so that your breastfeeding experience improves sooner than later.

 Not all situations warrant a visit to a chiropractor.  If you are experiencing pain or difficulties of any kind, get help now.  You can make an appointment with an IBCLC certified Lactation Consultant.  Another option is to talk with a La Leche League (LLL) leader or attend a LLL meeting in your area as soon as possible.  These options offer support, encouragement and a variety of information and tools to lead you in the direction of problem solving your situation.  Generally an IBCLC charges for their time.  LLL has a time-honored tradition of peer-to-peer counseling offered at no charge.

 Today I am nursing our child about to turn three as well as our nine-month old.  I remind myself of my “epiphany moment”.  I never imagined that our journey into tandem nursing would last this long.  I expected our third child to wean sometime between 15 months and 22 months like his siblings did.  He is re-writing my parenting experiences by simply refusing to give up his daily nursing session.  Sometimes he pushes for two, and when the timing works out, he is a happy person.

 I have lost my shyness about nursing in public anymore.  I thank all the women who have gone before me. They claimed breastfeeding as the “normal”, and they advocate for our society to accept breasts as food sources above all their other uses. I was covered from my neck to my ankles when I fed our first-born in public.  Now I am a big fan of the blouses designed to nurse discreetly in public without having to use a nursing cover.  I hope to lend confidence to other mothers so that they come out of the restrooms and the uncomfortable corners, and so that maybe one person’s mind is changed about the real function of our breasts: they have functions outside of being sexualized and their use as marketing tools.  Their primary function is to be the original source of “perfectly formulated” food for our children.

 My favorite anecdote is from a friend who could not breastfeed her children.  Heretofore, their feeding paradigm was bottle-feeding.  After hanging around with our family, her daughters started to nurse their baby dolls instead of bottle-feeding them. I did not expose my breasts to them, or lecture them on the benefits of breastfeeding.  The shift happened because I nursed when the baby showed signs of hunger.  It was an acceptance that came from simply doing what I was doing for the baby, without shame or apology.

 I am grateful that the choice to breastfeed has been a joyful one for our family.  I wish all you mamas peace in the choices you make for your family.  Aspire to make your choices with intention and remember that we are all growing and learning together.  Write your story with confidence that you are doing the best that you can for your child(ren) and that you are shaping the best path for your family.

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Talking About Breastfeeding

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about language and breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


A couple weeks ago, while composing an email on my phone, I began to type in the phrase “breastfeeding.” Normally my phone is pretty good at guessing what word I am going to type, even if I fat finger a few letters. There are times when it comes up with hilarious or shocking guesses as to what I might be meaning to say.

This time though, the auto text had no clue. Even once I filled in all the letters, it didn’t recognize the word.

To me this is just another reminder of the language deficit that exists in our society on breastfeeding. This language deficit is both a cause and an effect of the lack of understanding most in our society have about nursing.

In a world full of words both sophisticated and crude on the subjects of sex, childbirth, childrearing, and politics, few people even know the words to use to discuss breastfeeding. Is it any wonder then that so many women never are able to successfully breastfeed their children if they and the society they live in are unable to even talk about the subject?

The Problem

It’s not as if the words don’t exist. Terms like latch, foremilk, mastitis, and cluster feeding become part of a successful breastfeeding mom’s vocabulary, along with the experiences she has had with her child in the nursing relationship.  However these words and experiences really aren’t part of our vocabulary as a society. Why is this?

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Stop and think about the last time you saw a movie, sitcom, or television drama that showed mothers and babies. Did the program you viewed depict these mothers nursing their babies? Most likely the baby in the program was bottle-fed.

The few exceptions I’ve seen are reality programming such as “A Baby Story” on TLC, where mothers of newborns are shown attempting to breastfeed, or “travel channel” type programs, where the viewer is exposed to the lifestyles of foreign cultures. These programs, while at least depicting breastfeeding, either show it as one of the early headaches a new mom has to deal with, or a practice of “primitive” cultures far different than our own.

To be fair to the movies and non reality TV programs, showing bottle-fed babies is probably easier from a props and acting standpoint. But this is still a reflection of the common assumption in our culture that babies drink from bottles. Many of the best  movies and television programs go to great lengths to make everything about their production seem realistic. If Hollywood thought more real babies nursed, and it were an important part of an infants’ life, it would probably portray more fictional babies as nursing. With Hollywood largely out of the picture on breastfeeding, there goes one source that people often turn to for language and culture.

Formal education is one other place that people often turn to for vocabulary and knowledge. I remember in junior high, high school and college there were many courses available on health, reproduction, human development, and childcare. I took several of those classes because the subjects interested me. These classes emphasized the harm drugs, and alcohol could do to a developing fetus. We were also taught that a pregnant mother should practice good health habits such as a balanced diet and exercise. The childcare classes I took did a great job teaching about how to keep your child safe from hazards and help them grow to be happy and smart.  Yet nursing, which is one of the healthiest things a mother can do for herself and her baby, was barely mentioned. Strike two for opportunities in our society to learn about breastfeeding.

In reality, though, the best method for learning about breastfeeding is the way people have learned about it for thousands of years, from one another. I see this as the ultimate source of our current language deficit on nursing. When most mothers around you don’t nurse, or if they do, don’t show it or talk about it, how are you supposed to learn about nursing?

I am luckier than most in this regard, I have a mother who successfully nursed me and all my siblings. As the oldest child, I got to witness firsthand what nursing was like. I was sixteen or seventeen the last time my mom had a nursing baby, so by the time I began nursing my own child this year, I didn’t necessarily remember a lot of the specifics about nursing, but I was comfortable with it. I remembered that it consumed a lot of my mom’s time and attention at first with each child, but I knew that success was possible.  Along with my mom, my mother-in-law had also nursed her babies, so I had both of them to turn to when I ran into challenges or had questions.

Most people aren’t as fortunate as me. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 70% of new mothers initiate breastfeeding, but just 36% are breastfeeding at 6 months, and 17% are still breastfeeding at 12 months. This means that most people have seen very few successful instances of nursing to the minimum recommended age of 1 year. If I hadn’t had the example of my mother, I would have been a lot more doubtful of my ability to nurse. Of friends that I know that attempted to breastfeed so many have shared stories of how they tried to nurse but it was too difficult, painful, or they couldn’t make enough milk. I knew some that did nurse their babies successfully, but they were less likely to talk about it, either because they were very private about it or were afraid of starting an uncomfortable discussion with formula-feeding mothers who were already sensitive or insecure about the subject. When so much of the language of peers and family is ignorant of nursing, or negative about it’s potential for success, that is definitely a third strike against breastfeeding.

It’s Effect

It definitely helps a new mother a lot to have people around her who understand and support her and her babies needs. With so many people in our society basically ignorant of nursing, they don’t know how to talk about it or treat it. Although their are some people who actively oppose breastfeeding out of hostility, I have come to realize that most of the negativity others have toward nursing is out of this ignorance. If you have never been around nursing mothers and think breasts are only sexual and breastfeeding was something primitive people did in the old days, of course you are going to find breastfeeding disgusting and odd. If you are an employer that is part of the same society that says babies can live off formula just fine, you are probably at a loss to understand why your employee may want extra maternity leave or need a proper place to pump.

Even friends and family members who have some idea how healthy nursing is for a baby are often baffled by a nursing baby’s behaviors. Nursing babies eat more often, grow differently, and sleep differently. Establishing a supply can be very time consuming and exhausting during the newborn phase. Mothers, working or not, are often expected to quickly get back to their old routine by people that don’t understand the schedule of a nursing baby. Even well meaning friends and family see a crying hungry baby and a tired mom and, with good intentions offer to feed the baby a bottle so mom can rest, not understanding what problems this can cause. They think the baby must not be getting enough to eat when it is hungry every hour or two and wakes up four times a night to eat, not realizing that can be very normal for a breastfed baby.

Many people, like my husband, have heard many stories of from women who were heartbroken when they weren’t able to succeed at nursing. His concern was that I would be similarly depressed if it didn’t work out for me. He was very supportive of me wanting to nurse, but told me before our baby was born that I shouldn’t feel bad if I couldn’t. This attitude isn’t completely wrong, the last thing you want to do to a new mom who is trying her best to feed and care for her baby is tell her she’s horrible when she has struggles, mothers already do a great job beating themselves up about not being good enough. But the “don’t feel bad if you can’t” language also sets up the expectation that failure is likely.

Mothers get these kinds of messages from the world around them, and if their own vocabulary and knowledge on nursing  is lacking it also hinders their success. If a first time mom has never heard of many of the aspects and challenges of nursing, or maybe worse, has only heard of difficulties and not success stories, then the actual process of learning to breastfeed can seem scary and impossible. If you haven’t been around breastfeeding moms enough to know what is normal for a nursing baby and mother, breastfeeding can be baffling and stressful. If you don’t have people or resources to turn to with questions, or even the vocabulary to describe the nursing relationship and any challenges you might be facing, then it can be easy to give up. Negative messages on the “grossness” of nursing, and its inconvenience and primitiveness sure don’t help mothers feel good about trying to nurse either.

Ultimately the loser in this environment is the baby. Babies are designed to nurse and breast milk is designed for babies. When babies lose out on nursing for reasons of convenience to others, because of lack of support when challenges arise, or because their behavior and needs are poorly understood, it is extremely sad.

What We Should Do
The problems caused by the language deficit on nursing in our society can be corrected, but it will require active action by those of us with the vocabulary and experience.

Proper educational materials can be a great help. When I was concerned before my baby’s birth about whether or not I would be able to breastfeed, I found reassurance from books, such as “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and online resources like Kellymom and online breastfeeding support groups and forums. Knowing these resources were available was a great help when I had issues after my baby was born with painful letdown, oversupply, etc. We need to do all we can to make sure new moms know they have these and other resources (such as La Leche League or lactation consultants)  to refer to with questions. If we see breastfeeding inaccurately portrayed, or not discussed enough in articles, media programs, or educational settings, we should advocate for positive and accurate information to be disseminated.

Probably the best thing we can do on an individual basis is to be willing to share our nursing experiences through word and deed. The more people are familiar with nursing, the more chance there is that babies will be successfully breastfed. This is admittedly a challenge when nursing is sometimes considered a “private” practice that is not polite to do or talk about in public. We need to get over that shyness for the sake of the babies, if for no other reason.  The act of breastfeeding and the discussion of nursing should be as normal as talking about any other aspect of childbearing and rearing.

I am naturally a very modest person and my first nursing in public experiences were nerve wracking to say the least. But I knew my baby needed to eat. After my first NIP experience, I felt bold and talented, it was actually a great confidence builder. I am making more of an effort now to be a good example of a nursing mom to friends and family. I’ve realized recently the impact my nursing has had on my four year old nephew. I babysit him sometimes and at that curious age, he has asked me questions about nursing my baby. He has shared what he learned telling his mom how I have “milk in my tummy” for the baby. He even once said to her at church, “I am thirsty, Aunt S. has a drink for her baby, do you have a drink for me?” It is fun to laugh at these cute things he says, but I also hope that I have in a small way contributed to his understanding that breastfeeding a baby is normal and good. I hope he will grow up to be a man that is ok with talking about nursing and supports the women around him in nursing their babies.

Adults in some ways are harder because they already have preconceptions and prejudices that little kids like my nephew don’t. I am at the stage in my life now where I am just beginning to make “mommy” friends, and it is sometimes more awkward to discuss or do something you are still learning to be comfortable about with peers. It is especially hard and sad to hear my new “mommy friends” repeat inaccurate things they have heard about nursing, or relate negative experiences. I try to correct misconceptions they have whenever I have an opportunity without being hurtful or sounding like a know-it-all.

The nursing relationship I have with my baby is one of the most gratifying things I have in my life. I know it makes her healthy and happy, and it gives me great fulfillment, even through the different challenges we’ve had. It is hard for me sometimes to overcome my shyness to share this special relationship and what I know about it with the world. But I know if I can help just one other mom or baby by opening my mouth and sharing my knowledge of nursing, it is worth it.

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Woodall Stoddard. Sarah is mother to an opinionated seven month old little girl who hates bottles and loves to talk to people. Along with being a mommy and wife, Sarah is a part time music teacher, freelance family history researcher, and pet parent to a very smart little dog who sits at guard duty whenever she nurses her baby.
 


 
Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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Call for Breastfeeding Photos

Hello All!

This year we’re hoping to fill our two big glass walls in the front of the Cafe with photos of moms breastfeeding!

If you’d like your photo(s) to be on the wall, here’s how it works. You’ll send your favorite breastfeeding photo (or favorite per child) to clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com by July 17th along with a release that says it’s okay for us to post it in the Cafe.

Just print off the form at the bottom of this post and sign it, then either take a picture or scan it and send it back along with your photo. If you took the photo or have the rights, all you need to do is sign the release yourself in the first section. If you don’t have the rights to the photo, you will also need the photographer that has the rights to sign the release in the bottom section.

Then tada! You’re featured in the Breastfeeding Cafe and doing one more thing to normalize breastfeeding.

Fill in the information below (please print clearly) photograph or scan and return as attachment:

Name:  _______________________________________________ Phone Number: _____________________________

Home Address: _____________________________________City: ________________________Zip: _________________

I hereby release to the Utah Breastfeeding Coalition and La Leche League of Utah, the right to display, reproduce and publish photographs of myself and my child or children, during the Breastfeeding Cafe. I agree that I have no legal or financial right to the photograph once it has been submitted.

Signature of Breastfeeding Woman ______________________________________________  Date _____________

Names of child/children in photo  ____________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________ Date ________________________

Signature of Parent or Guardian

Name of Photographer:__________________________________________ Phone Number:_____________________

I understand the above release and give my permission for these photographs to be reproduced by Utah Breastfeeding Coalition and La Leche League of Utah.

Signature of Photographer:_______________________________________________ Date _________________________

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