Breastfeeding and Support: The Snowball Effect

by Nancy Massotto, Ph.D. 

photo credit: flickr user redjar

 

When I had my first child, I was determined to breastfeed for at least six months.  Even with that modest goal in mind, I had friends and family members question my decision, ask why we weren’t using formula, and nag us about when we would start solids and stop nursing.  Along the way, breastfeeding led to co-sleeping, babywearing, and a whole host of “alternative” choices on my parenting journey.  In a blink, my son was 3 and we were still nursing.  And the questions were coming with even more intensity.

As our parenting journey evolved so, too, did our commitment to more holistic choices.  I now refer to it as a sort of “snowball” effect.  Breastfeeding brought an even deeper awareness and concern about what I was putting in my body, for health and nutritional reasons, but also as we discovered that our child had a number of food allergies.  The more I investigated, the more concerned I became about what toxins our food might contain and how genetic modification or artificial ingredients would impact our health.  That awareness quickly spread to the presence of toxins in our home – in personal care products, toys, and cleaning products.  And the snowball grew.

The bigger the snowball, the larger the pressure seemed to grow from those who didn’t agree with my now “crunchy” parenting style.  I became the wacky extremist and felt more and more alienated.  If it were not for the amazing support I found with other women, my journey would have been very different.  I could not imagine nursing a three year old when my son was first born, but seeing other moms nursing toddlers, having the voices of encouragement and support, and knowing that I was not alone made all the difference.  Surrounding myself with a community of moms was essential not only for my journey, but for my sanity.  My fellow mamas could laugh with me at the critics, brainstorm on ways to stick to my principles, and sympathize with the struggles – even when they did not agree with my choices.  That empathy, that understanding was empowering.  Being connected opened up a space to embrace my instincts and to build the parenting relationship that I wanted.  And it brought me to a place of tolerance and understanding for others’ choices, even when I did not agree with them.

Another child later and my snowball is now a mountain of holistic choices.  From homebirth and breastfeeding to sustainable and simple living, my lifestyle and my parenting continue to evolve.  My community of moms continues to inspire me to follow my own path and laughs with me at the many critics who find fault with my choices.  I have found my personal comfort zone because of that support and know that my tribe has many different members, but a common purpose and shared support.

What parenting doors has breastfeeding opened for you?  Has it forged a new journey?  And how do you deal with the naysayers?

 

 Holistic Parenting Expert and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network,  Dr. Nancy Massotto, Ph.D is a dedicated advocate for holistic medicine and green  living. She is the mother of two boys, both born at home. Before embarking on her  journey into motherhood, Dr. Massotto earned her Ph.D. in political science from  the University of Maryland, specializing in gender studies, women’s issues, and  international affairs. She also holds Master’s degrees from George Washington  University, Elliot School of International Affairs, and the University of Maryland.  Dr. Massotto has lectured at several universities on gender studies, international relations, and women’s issues, including at American University and George Washington University. She conducted research on women’s issues while working for non-profit research institutes and organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, including the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI), authoring and co-authoring publications during her tenure.  Motherhood renewed her interest in community building and strengthened her commitment to natural living, from which the Holistic Moms Network was born.
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Comments

  1. Jacklyn rymer says:

    Omg my life exactly but lo is only 9 months but its amazing how it did open the doors to all te things I now love. I eat healthy clean green and dare I say workout! I think its hugely because of the baby I want to be healthy and strong for him. It made eating healthy a no brainer I wasn’t about to feed hook anything less than the best. So naturally daddy and I eat healthy with him. I’m doing my best to lead him to a happy life by showing him how!

  2. Justine says:

    I, unfortunately, gave up nursing my first child at 3 months, but I am currently almost 7 months in with my 2nd child and still going strong! I’m disappointed with myself for not continuing to nurse my 1st child but I do sneak in some mommy milk in her cereal when she is sick or just needs a boost. Anyways, now that I am EBFing my son I have noticed a change in my parenting. I no longer just assume that things are safe because that’s what my parents did with me, or because the doctor recommended it. The word is RECOMMEND, this is MY child therefore everything regarding MY child is MY choice. I still take my doctors recommendation into consideration but in the end it’s MY say so. For instance, I don’t feed my son baby food or formula, where I did with my daughter. I let my daughter CIO, I won’t be doing that with my son. I put my daughter in a crib immediately after bringing her home from the hospital and in her own room at 6 months. My son and I are still co-sleeping. In the end, I am the one who will deal with the results of my choices, my doctor won’t.

  3. Before I fell pregnant I never imagined that I would nurse a day in my life. The thought repulsed me. Now, 9 months later almost to the day, I can barely believe that I once thought that. It is so far from where I am today. Now I’m in the process of becoming a La Leche League leader… that’s how far my thought process has come in a short 9 months. Breastfeeding changed my life and the way that I thought to such a degree I can barely believe it. But without my “boob group” friends I am not sure I would be here today. Even though I get support from family and friends, my “boob group” buddies are the ones that really understand and support me, as I do them. Without their continued support I may have been on a completely different path.

  4. melissa richardson says:

    This is exactly what Im going through now LOL!!! It all started actually with finding a list about the “dirty dozen”. Before I knew it I was changing all of my family ‘s food choices since I am the one who buys groc and cooks. It just made since! My husband has a serious heart/medical history, Im pregnant, and we have two small children. We absolutely needed to eat better! Then I began changing our soaps and hygiene products to more safer products. We now cloth diaper! And the next baby will be breastfed no matter what. As far as my choices go and people supporting me, I really have no one that gets it! My hubby is always supportive no matter if it sounds crazy. People give me weird looks especially when they find out that we cloth diaper. I think my biggest critic is MIL. She bucks against every thing, so I simply dont tell her anything anymore. It would just upset me. But all in all I have got to do whats best for us! Im happy with my parenting choices 🙂