by Jennie Bernstein
This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo
When it comes to breastfeeding, one of the myths that drives me absolutely crazy and could actually be dangerous for your baby, is the idea that if you as a breastfeeding mom are sick, that you should discontinue breastfeeding until you feel better.
This is advice that is often given to moms by their pediatricians or obstetricians and it’s actually the complete opposite of what you want to do!
When you breastfeed, your body passes along the antibodies of what you’ve been exposed to, directly to the baby. When you get sick, antibodies are created and immediately passed into your breastmilk. So what that means for you and your baby is that if you are breastfeeding and you have a virus or you are ill, your baby is actually immediately receiving specific antibodies for the exact illness you have at that moment. This will actually help keep your baby well, rather than make your baby sick.
What CAN make your baby sick, is to stop breastfeeding during these times! Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not, your baby is going to be exposed to you, because you will be with your baby. They will have the exposure anyway, but without the protection of your milk they are much more vulnerable.
I’ll tell you a little personal story… when I had my first daughter my husband Joe and I got the flu really bad. We were sick in bed for days! We had this little 2 month old, and I was like “what am I going to do with her?” All we could do was put her in the bed between us, and just let her nurse, nurse, nurse, the whole time! Now, we were new parents at the time, and even with all the skills and knowledge that I had, we were still scared and nervous. I was so afraid she would get sick. That never happened! Here was this little one who just nursed away in this sick bed with my husband and me and never got sick herself.
This is very typical, very normal, and what you’ll usually see – and if they do get sick, the illness will be so much less than if you weren’t breastfeeding.
So whether it’s stomach flu, regular flu, or any other kind of illness, especially if you’re sick or anyone in the home is sick, make sure you continue to breastfeed, because that is going to be the best way to keep your baby healthy.
Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC
Thanks for Evenflo Feeding, Inc.‘s generous support for families in their feeding journey.
There are so many things I never imagined I would do before becoming a mother. There was a list that I was aware of but I had no idea that there would be things I would do that I never even considered. My list had the typical items: never let child… whatever, doesn’t matter because we all know that was a joke. I thought I would never use my spit to clean my child’s face (ok, but for real, children are dirty and it is gross but my spit IS actually cleaner than some of the crust I’ve cleaned off their faces), never yell in public (but for real, they do run toward the street like it’s a bouncy house), have my kids in matching clothes (now I consider it a success if the clothes are mostly clean, bonus if they fit), not allow screen time (snort), and all the other typical I’ll-be-the-perfect-parent-don’t-have-kids-yet ideology.
What I didn’t anticipate is that I would become a creeper.
I totally have. It snuck up on me. Like reaching out to touch another mom’s hair and admiring that she showered… but it was so clean and it smelled so good. Or seeing a cute baby and saying how I could just eat them up.
Admit it, that is a totally creepy thing to thing… and I’ve actually said it out loud to people.
I was a total creeper in church on Sunday.
We go to a big church downtown, regal and very traditional with a huge pipe organ, robes, and a classical choir. And the coolest red doors. It’s beautiful and reverent.
One pew back and across the aisle there was a young mom with an adorable chubby little baby girl. She made the cutest coos and happy sounds, taking in the sights and sounds of the service.
I wanted to give her a little nibble.
But that isn’t the creepiest part of this story.
This adorable little girl finally got tired and somewhere between reading the epistle and singing the hymn before the sermon, she began to fuss. Mom-radar up, I recognized that fuss. She was hungry. I glanced back, because even hungry babies that belong to other people make my boobs ready to leak into action.
Now, I didn’t care if she was given a bottle or given a boob, I just needed to see the adorable baby I wanted to nibble being fed when she was hungry. It was important to me, an almost physical ache. So I was relieved to see this effortlessly beautiful mother (seriously, I knew she was tired but she made tired look good and her hair was a little messy but it was like the perfect sexy messy beach updo and she rocked it) fiddling and in motion to feed the hungry baby I was ready to spring over the pew to feed.
I saw nothing but I knew. No breast came flying out, no milk spraying anywhere, no nipple pointed at anyone, just a suddenly quiet baby making nothing more than happy grunts as her mother cradled her.
She was breastfeeding.
Right there, in our regal church as the Gospel was being read.
In full on creep mode, I kept looking back at the pair. Contented baby at the breast, attentive mother gazing at her.
And as cheesy as it sounds, I felt caught up in the moment of worship. Not of this mother and child, not of breastfeeding, but of the God I believe designed us to be able to do this. As songs were sung, Scripture was read, and a homily shared, I was witnessing love in action and God’s design being celebrated as all designs should be celebrated: through the beauty of their function.
(I believe I would have felt the same if it was bottle-feeding, in fact, I know I would have, I have before.)
Before anyone goes there, though some probably already have and probably will no matter what, this isn’t a debate about modesty since we’re talking about feeding a baby. If you wouldn’t bring modesty to the discussion of giving a baby a bottle, it has no business being a part of the discussion at all. To debate that point, head over here.
To complete my creepiness, following the service I went up to the mother and thanked her. THANKED HER for bringing her baby into the service and caring for her as she worshiped. What an act of worship, to show love, to embrace the body she has been blessed with, to nurture her child. I thanked her too for feeding her baby how she feeds her baby and that my daughters saw this act as well. Thank you, I told her, for helping change the culture so maybe our daughters won’t be nervous about their bodies feeding their babies in church some day as well.
We chatted a bit, her mother was with her and they both thanked me for saying something. She had been nervous about breastfeeding in worship and it was good to hear that it was ok.
I can’t imagine a place where it should be more ok, I told her. According to our faith, God made her, and acting as she is designed isn’t a flaw, it isn’t shameful, it isn’t inappropriate. Pretty sure God can handle breasts being used to feed babies even in the place of worship.
Not everyone is going to be comfortable breastfeeding in public with or without a cover and many who are fine with it in most settings aren’t in their place of worship. That’s ok, the most reverent and sacrificial act of worship any parent can do is to care for their child(ren) no matter how it is done.
From the creepy mom in the pew over, thank you for doing so.
You’ve probably heard of the idea to “pay it forward”. The concept is that any kindness you receive, instead of repaying, our society would be a better place if we payed it forward to someone else rather than the original benefactor.
Indeed, it is a moving and beautiful idea and has become increasingly popular. From buying coffee for the person in line behind you to cleaning a friend’s house when they have a new baby, more and more of us are experiencing kindness being paid forward instead of repaid. It has more than the power to make someone’s day, it strengthens us as individuals and as a community.
So it goes with support. In many ways there is no way to truly repay the support we experience as we begin our parenting journey. When it comes to feeding support, this feels particularly true. It is vital, truly essential that we feed our children. How could we ever pay the people that help us figure that out?
The truth is, we can’t.
But we can support forward. Drawing from our own personal experiences, we can provide parent to parent support for the next new parents. At The Leaky Boob, it is #TLBsupportForward that keeps us going. Leakies never graduate from TLB, even when they hang up their nursing tanks. Because we support forward.
Whether your experience was everything you imagined, nothing you expected, rainbows and butterflies, or practically the fires of Mordor, your story matters and you have valuable support to offer others. Avoiding unsupportive support that breeds fear, insecurity, lays blame, undermines, is self-serving, creates doubt for a profit, and shames, with respect and gentleness, you can make a difference by supporting forward. That difference can build up the confidence of a new mother or father.
And that makes us all stronger.
Feed with love,
*This is an excerpt from our TLB email, to continue reading, click here.
Well hello there wall, didn’t realize you were there until I ran into you… with my face.
Unless you are some kind of superhero, and even the they all have their moments of weakness, nobody can keep going indefinitely. We run out of steam. Burn out. Hit the wall.
Sometimes over and over again.
So when you hit the wall? How do you pick back up?
I don’t know. Well, I don’t know what will work for you. No tried and true way, one-size-fits-all option. There are some steps you can take to prevent hitting that wall, prevention is always the best way to go if you can (and we have some ideas for you here) but let’s be honest, sometimes we can’t prevent the wall-kiss.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to recover. These aren’t feel-good inspiring tips. These aren’t cheap spa pampering tricks you can do on your own at home. These aren’t pretty, flowery ideas of warm fuzzies.
These are the raw, real deal when you’ve smashed into a wall and you’ve got to get back up again.
Let it out. Scream, swear, cry, and throw some punches. On your own, away from anyone or to a safe adult partner who can respect your venting without taking it personally, yell about the wall and the stress that got you there. If it helps, drop a few cathartic f-bombs, punch a pillow, ugly cry, or storm outside and release a guttural yell from your primal side. While this could be scary for your children if it happens in front of your kids, if that does happen- because most of us do blow up at least once in a while in front of our kids- they’ll be ok, so will you. Apologize, share that you too sometimes have strong feelings, and work on recognizing your triggers sooner.
Scrub it out. I don’t love cleaning, I’m not one of those people that feels great satisfaction in cleaning. In fact, I hate it. But I sometimes love aggressively attacking the mold that may sprout in the caulking of our bathtub. It is a safe place for me to take my anger out and eliminate something that is just pissing me off.
Run it out. Or whatever workout helps you sweat and hurt and burn.
Turn it up. Blast the angry girl music of your teens, headbang in your living room, belt out the dance beats until you collapse from exhaustion.
Eat it up. Sure, healthy choices would be best and maybe a carrot will provide you a satisfying crunch (hahahahaha!) but it may require something more extreme such as shoving chocolate in your mouth while hiding in the bathroom. You’ll recover just as soon as you pick yourself up off the floor.
Sleep it off. Getting more of this may have helped avoid it in the first place but once you’ve run into the wall and smashed your head in, whatever it takes, sleep. Family nap time. Skip school to sleep in one day… or two. Make popcorn for dinner and move bedtime for everyone earlier. SLEEP.
Turn it on. The T.V. that is. Get yourself some space to deal with the wall you’ve crashed into by letting your child(ren) get absorbed into their favorite alternate reality. They can handle some binge watching of Sophia the First on Netflix. Everyone will recover.
Pick it up. Grab the phone and call or text someone. Maybe even someone you’ve never considered connecting with. We’re not meant to be isolated and I promise you, you are not the first parent to run into a wall. Someone else is right along with you. Ask for help- company on a walk, a play date, or even someone to watch your kids for a couple of hours so you can cry into a glass of wine.
Breathe it in. Oxygen helps clear our head and a deep breath can slow our heart rate and stop the fight or flight response. Breathe.
The wall sometimes turns out to be exactly what we needed to make changes for more sustainable choices in our lives. It can reveal where our expectations are not in line with reality, where abuse may be occurring, where isolation is defeating. After you recover from the wall, taking stock of what got you there in first place can help you recover more than anything else as you adjust accordingly.
Keep on keeping on, Leakies.
*This is an excerpt from our TLB email, to continue reading, click here.
Sometimes I feel like exercise has become a dirty word in the mommy sphere. I can understand that.
We get this message that we need to do everything – work, raise babies, maintain perfect households, create Pinterest worthy projects, not burn dinner… and erase any shred of evidence that our bodies have created life. Society settled on the idea that skinny = perfect and the backlash from that led to a movement of pride in our bodies. Which somehow turned in to “ real woman have curves “ and all kinds of craziness about skinny girls and curvy girls and…
It’s out of control.
And what has been missed in all of this is the truth of the matter – it’s not about skinny. It’s not about having curves or not having curves. It’s not about “mummy tummies” or thigh gap or muffin tops.
It’s about being healthy.
And not “healthy” in a way that has been co-opted by people meaning “stop eating junk food you fatty!” Healthy in way that allows people to live their lives in a manner they choose. Healthy in a way that allows you to lift babies and chase toddlers and carry laundry wherever you need to carry your laundry. Healthy in a way that makes you feel confident, that lets you sleep well and go about your life.
When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I began to feel a pretty distinct pain by my belly button. It was so specific that I was fairly certain I was developing an umbilical hernia. I brought it up with my midwife and was told it wasn’t a hernia. I was developing a diastasis recti – a split between the muscles and muscular tissue that runs down the center of the abdomen. The pressure inside from an expanding uterus/baby was just too much for the abdominal tissue to handle so the tissue and muscles were separating.
With my first pregnancy, I worked in an outpatient clinic that was less physically demanding. With this second pregnancy, my current position required a lot of physical lifting as a physical therapist in a subacute center for patients who were not sick enough for the hospital, not well enough to go home. I already had work restrictions due to the physical requirements of my job; working with those restrictions AND dealing with a developing case of Diastasis Recti made the restrictions even more difficult.
It was in this position that I recognized a growing group of people in need of support, awareness, and healing of Diastasis Recti: new moms.
Here were these women, trying to juggle new responsibilities, healing from the changes their bodies went through during pregnancy and subsequent post-partum recovery and there was little to no support or even awareness about the problems that Diastasis Recti presented.
Diastasis Recti can affect your body in some pretty drastic ways.
The effects are numerous.
Now it was MY body that was going to need to be supported.
My body that was going to need help carrying a car seat. A baby. My toddler. The laundry.
My body that was going to be more prone to injury- that would need me to completely rethink how I went about my day. I worked out through my pregnancy because I knew what was ahead of me. I knew my core was going to be compromised. I wanted to achieve a VBAC and I knew I would need endurance (among other things) to prevent a repeated OR experience. I went back to my books and read studies on exercise efficacy. I reviewed exercise programs for pregnant women, post partum women, and people who had just had abdominal or back surgery. I had a plan, and I HAD to be as physically strong as I could when I returned from maternity leave so I could perform my job effectively.
I ended up with a VBAC, a baby girl, and a three-finger diastasis.
*when I say “three-finger diastasis” I am describing how many fingers I can horizontally fit across the tissue separation. To find this, lay on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift up your head slightly and contract your abdomen muscles gently. Find your belly button and make the “scout symbol” with your fingers…see how many you can fit in there. i.e. 1 finger, 3 fingers, etc. Check the same line down by your pelvis, and again up towards your ribs. Different points along your abdominal muscles may be different fingers of separation.
I feel blessed that my passion and my education allowed me to understand what my body needs to function well and heal from my condition. I am grateful for my colleagues and friends with whom I can discuss ideas or count on to help me with the hands-on techniques I can’t perform on myself. I know I am lucky to have access to the information that I have.
I want other women to have this valuable access to connections and resources that are out there for those recovering from Diastasis Recti.
I want women to know that sometimes “mummy tummy” can actually be caused by a medical condition.
I want women to know that the media are not medical professionals and there is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to our bodies.
I want other mothers to know that exercise and eating well are available to them.
I want women to know there are safe exercise routines that WON’T injure a body healing from Diastasis Recti. That recovering doesn’t need to be a series of scary, out-of-reach experiences. They don’t need to spend hours in the gym (Though you certainly can, if you enjoy it!).
Recovering means that you can take a walk, be it pushing a stroller or wearing a baby. You can do squats in your living room, jumping jacks, and eventually pushups and planks. (But until you’ve healed from your diastasis, it is best to do modified planks so that you don’t further separate your diastasis or have your abdominal muscles work against you or push on that separation while you’re healing!)
I feel sad when I hear people say “I can’t workout because…”
I feel sad because they are being taught that only the big efforts count.
That’s not true.
I work with people for whom sitting at the edge of their bed is enormous effort, and standing requires assistance of others. When you see the enormous joy on a person’s face brought by these small yet enormous victories, you begin to understand the true beauty of the movement our bodies are capable of. What may seem like a small victory may be an enormous triumph-a giant step towards hope and healing.
Misguided emphasis on skinny and perfect or the fear of never being _____ enough WILL STOP US in our tracks.
You are enough.
It’s ok to start small.
It’s ok to fail.
It’s ok to not be perfect.
It’s ok to be YOU.
It’s not about meeting someone else’s standards.
It’s about taking care of yourself, teaching your family that our bodies are a great gift and we should treat them well. It’s about understanding that you are worthy of the time and energy it will take to begin, to HEAL, and to build healthy habits that facilitate that healing and well being.
Let’s get moving, because moving not only transforms your body, but it transforms your mind, no matter what size jeans you wear.
Some Exercises to Get You Started:
Some Other Tips to Start Healing:
Where am I now? I’m down to a one finger split at my belly button. I am confidently back to work full time with no restrictions. I’m still doing pelvic floor exercises and modifying my workouts to protect and strengthen my abdominal muscles so I don’t re-injure or reinforce the Diastasis Recti. I’m teaching my daughters that exercise and eating well are ways to treat your body with respect, to give it what it needs so when you need your body to work for you, it will. I’m teaching them that strong is beautiful, that healthy allows you to follow your dreams, that food is a tool and a pleasure and size is just another physical trait that varies from person to person.
Final thought… can we all agree to stop using the words “mummy tummy” ? Please? Your tummy is awesome, mommy. Growing a human is beautiful. A body that shows the results of growing a human is also beautiful!
For more information on Diastasis Recti click here.
*Want to know where to get the great active wear featured in this post? In our video and corresponding exercise photos, Nicole is wearing the Belabumbum maternity and nursing active wear.