Black Women Breastfeeding: Obstacles and Motivation

by Isreal Jean Holland

If you spend any time on social medial, you’d have no idea that black women nurse their children just like white women do. Most of the images you see are those of white moms and their kids. In most movies it’s always the white granola mom whipping it out in the park, at the café and at church. There are magazine covers, movies, and more all focused on white women nursing. This is a shame because black women nurse their children too.

Historically, black women were the wet nurses for the white masters’ children. This caused them to end up neglecting their own children. This fact has left a lot of women of color questioning whether or not they want to nurse at all. You see, we don’t want anyone to think of us as subservient. However, nothing is better in life than serving your child in this manner. No matter how much infant formula has improved over the years, there is still nothing better than what God has made for your baby. This National Breastfeeding Month, let’s go over why mother’s milk is best.

Isreal Jean bfdg image - 2016

Mother’s milk is full of nutrients for your baby. What’s more is that those nutrients are specifically designed and created just for your baby. The design is so amazing that your body will produce exactly the type of milk your baby needs if he’s sick, healthy or going through a growth spurt. Breast milk, according to The Lancet is actually “very specialized medicine” created just for your child. Many women report the milk changing texture or color when their baby has a cold or is vaccinated.

Even though the milk is individually designed, any mother’s milk can nourish another baby successfully. Donated mother’s milk keeps the babies in neonatal units healthy. It does wonders for the babies and is often thought of as the only reason these special babies grow and get healthy. Think on that for a moment. Even highly funded neonatal units use breast milk to save the babies. That says something. There are even ingredients in breast milk that we don’t fully understand and cannot duplicate in the lab.

Today, black women don’t have the same blocks to giving their own children this highly nutritious food like they did in the past. However, there are still forces that try to interfere in the education of women about nursing. For example, anytime a woman signs up for W.I.C. she’s often given free formula. Many formula companies often target women of color in poor neighborhoods because they assume they’ll get W.I.C. to pay for the formula.  

As a Black American Jewish woman from D.C brought up in a not so great neighborhood, I can vouch for the fact that women like me have to overcome a lot of obstacles and stigma to succeed in one of the most natural acts a woman can do. I know, because I am part of the first generation of black American moms to breastfeed in my family. Breastfeeding isn’t supported or encouraged and those in authority seem to be doing everything that they can to stop black women from being successful at nursing. I want to change that.

I believe that we can get more women to nurse by showing more images of black women nursing, fighting the powers that be by encouraging breast feeding education in inner cities and lower middle class neighborhoods and right in the W.I.C. office. If nursing starts as the norm, the thing one does unless there is a serious problem, more black women like me will nurse their children. Nursing has proved to improve I.Q., keep kids healthier, lower obesity rates and the act itself has shown to even improve self-esteem. When you know the truth, why wouldn’t every mother who can nurse?

____________________

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Isreal Jean Holland is a Black American Jewish woman from a bad neighborhood in Southeast DC who is part of the first generation of Black American women in her family to nurse and she wants to empower black women to take back their bodies and nurse their young regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. You can learn more about Israel at www.breastfeedingincolor.com.
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I’ve Become a Creepy Mom

by Jessica Martin-Weber

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.

church quote

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.

(Look, before you judge me about that, there’s a scientific reason we feel compelled to bite cute things. It’s real and it is even a good thing!  I’ve never done it… hard.)

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.


Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Infant and Child Feeding Advocacy- Why I Continue

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Recently in a Facebook group for people of faith who are interested in egalitarian theology, I ran across a thread that surprised me. Not because there was debate, debate is common in that group and usually inspires quality conversations promoting reflection. No, what was surprising about this to me was that in a group that at least believes in the equality of the sexes and the cultural conditioning of controlling women, breastfeeding in public and how exposed a woman’s chest should be while feeding her baby was somehow debated with the same old arguments I’ve heard against breastfeeding in public and how women should be covered when feeding their babies in other settings.

It had never occurred to me that this would be an issue in that setting.

jessica copy image

I’ve moved beyond the debates, the arguments are tired as far as I’m concerned. Five and a half years into running The Leaky Boob I’ve heard all the arguments and not just online. People will say they never experience any negativity except online, as though it must not exist because they haven’t encountered it personally. But I have, I’ve heard all the arguments in person, to my face. Every day I hear from women who’ve been criticized and shamed by a family member, lost friends for breastfeeding in front of their husband, and been isolated for feeding in public. I actually had a business owner of a brand that makes nursing covers tell me, to my face, that he feels breastfeeding covers are important for society and women that breastfeed in public without a cover, whipping their breast out in front of others to feed their baby (his words, not mine) are just “selfish bitches, no offense.”

Yes, he said that even as I stood there with a name tag that read “The Leaky Boob.” And yes, offense taken. I walked out and will never work with his company.

I don’t engage in the infant/toddler feeding debates often but I do continue showing up for them. Not because I enjoy it, believe me I don’t. I hate it and I feel burned out. But I will be the voice for those reading or overhearing saying what needs to be said. For that mom reading or listening and heartbroken to hear the harsh words someone she loved said to her echoed in the words of a stranger, shaming her further. It is assumed I must not understand the reasons why this is an issue but the fact is, I do understand them. I get it. I’ve processed them. At one point in time I may have agreed and argued that position myself.

It’s just that they are wrong. Be the arguments and shaming debates about breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public, bottle feeding, pumping, formula feeding, donor breastmilk, or even introducing solids, often the arguments are short-sighted, limited, and full of vitriol. The arguments are full of fallacies and more often than not are missing the real point.

Babies are being fed.

When it comes to feeding support and advocacy (and really, anything else), you don’t get to control women. Not even if you’re another woman.

But why do I keep fighting this fight?

Because I believe that every parent should be able to parent with confidence, free of harassment and shaming from others. Because parenting is hard enough. And because women get enough shit about their bodies as it is.

Advocacy image1

Why be a parenting and feeding advocate? The biggest reason I continue fighting this fight is because I have daughters and I want better for them.

Every day I facilitate online support for thousands and thousands of women who are breastfeeding, planning to breastfeed, or have finished breastfeeding. I travel and speak all around the country on breastfeeding and parenting and sit with women as they share, in tears, the agony they have felt in being rejected by people who have told them that they “don’t want to see that.” Every single day I hear from women who find themselves struggling with confidence in feeding their babies, something that may shake them to their core because, after all, feeding your child is one of the most basic aspects of parenting.

For a parent, struggling with feeding their baby can easily lead to self-doubt in their parenting capabilities at all.

Often, it does.

These parents, for obvious reasons, mostly female, regularly express anxiety about feeding in public. That they may attract unwanted negative attention, fear someone being upset at them for what they may be exposing or even for the act of breastfeeding itself, dread that they may be asked to cover up or leave- maybe a waiter, a relative, a pastor, another woman at church, a mall security guard, an angry bus passenger, etc.- humiliating her and anyone she is with. In the quest to feed their children the best way, as society loves to claim but fails to back up with genuine support offering instead isolating platitudes that it is best but must be “discreet” or “with tact”.

Worse, so often these mothers, in a very vulnerable place as they embark on a new life stage with a new tiny human, hear they are somehow not only responsible for feeding their child the “best way” but also to be respectful of anyone else around them, to be sure grown men aren’t caused to stumble in her attempts to care for her child and that grown women aren’t threatened by her body.

And then the baby needs all her attention and lots of room to latch properly and not cause excruciating pain and damage to her nipple, or they overheat under a cover, or their personality causes them to experience anxiety under the cover, and it is impossible to manage without “wiping” it out and “flashing” the whole world.

All she wants to do is feed her baby.

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Instead of being able to focus just on that she knows that some are demanding that she focus on their comfort about what they see of her body as well. As if the worst thing wouldn’t be a baby going hungry but that they may see the skin of her breasts, her stretch marks, the fact that a child is attached to her nipple.

Eventually they either think they can’t do it or they aren’t cut out for it or that they should just never leave the house. A few get angry that this is how our society treats them and their fellow mothers. And they muscle through and turn off a part of themselves that had hoped their would have at least been solidarity from other women. They have had enough and decide to keep feeding their child as if they were doing nothing wrong- because they are doing nothing wrong- and eventually they start to believe it. So to show other women who may be struggling too, they keep going. They know they are being judged but if it helps ONE other mother to not feel isolated, judged, and fighting off shame, it is worth it. And it is the hope that it will help lead to a gradual shift in our society,  and someday every new mom will feel confident in their parenting, their bodies, their personhood and it will no longer be considered brave to feed your baby however you feed your baby.

Because we must believe that some day our bodies won’t be scandalous and feeding our children won’t be shameful and discussed with outrage.

Until that day, this is an issue I will help wrestle with. Because I know what it like to support mom after mom who feels like maybe she’s not good enough to be a mother because she couldn’t handle the stress of feeding her baby the best way while making sure nobody ever knew that it was happening. I know what it is like to hold them as they weep over the shame they have felt when someone said to them to be more discreet as if feeding their baby was something shameful and their bodies something dirty.

For those women and the ones to come, I will continue on.

_______________________

Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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TLB Comic: Preschool Boob Art

 illustrated by Jennie Bernstein

TLB comic, funny Friday, preschool boob art

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TLB Comic: Grandpa Milk

 illustrated by Jennie Bernstein

Breastfeeding, man boobs, ring sling

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TLB Comic: Proportionally Adjusted Snacking- Breastfeeding While Pregnant

by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustrated by Jennie Bernstein

 

TLB comic, funny Friday

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TLB Comic: How to Handle Breastfeeding In Public

by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustrated by Jennie Bernstein

 

09.04.15, funny friday, TLB comic

BOOBS IN PUBLIC! WATCH OUT!

Ok, that never happens. Breasts are never out in public, they are always put away in a containing device that doesn’t bring any attention to them whatsoever.

Except for beer ads.

And car ads.

And lingerie ads.

And gun show ads.

And vacation ads.

And watch ads.

And jewelry ads.

And mall ads.

And liquor ads

And that’s just what I saw today on my train ride. The lingerie ad was on the side of a bus and each breast was bigger than my head.

But otherwise breasts are totally hidden from view.

Which is good because can you imagine what would happen if we saw breasts? Specially breasts feeding babies.

Breasts are particularly always hidden from children because seeing breasts will leave them thinking breasts are a normal body part for women scar them for life. Even more so if the manner in which they see breasts doesn’t involve lacy bras or pasties or provocative poses.

We can’t have that now, can we? I mean, how would we explain to kids what is going on if they see a mother breastfeeding? The horrors! The mountain of therapy bills! The child that will think maybe women have bodily autonomy! (Here, if this nightmare should happen to you or someone you know, here’s what to tell a child should they see a mother breastfeeding. We can hold your hand through this, don’t worry, it will be ok.)

Thankfully, most of the time breastfeeding moms aren’t going to encounter any issue when they feed their babies in public. Given how often it is in the news and social media you would think it happens every single time a woman feeds her baby but alas, no. (Does anyone else wonder how all these shop owners and managers have missed the gigantic social media memo DON’T BOTHER BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS OR YOU WILL BE TORCHED ON THE INTERNET IN A HUGE PR NIGHTMARE!) Though the stories of women being harassed are what make the news, millions of mothers around the world feed their babies every day without interference. Shocking, I know. The most negative response the majority of women will ever receive may be a dirty look.

But what if you’re one of those unfortunate women who ends up with an ignorant and pushy individual demanding you leave an area or cover your baby and yourself while you feed your little one? How do you handle it? How do you handle it and keep your sanity intact?  How do you handle it and keep your sanity intact and not end up going to jail?

We have a few suggestions. Take them or leave them. They’re not all going to apply to every situation and they may not be the best in the moment but hopefully they’ll provide some levity to the situation and keep you from losing your mind. What’s left of it from baby brain anyway. (You guys, that’s a thing. For real. Science says so. Maybe not quite what you think but it is a thing.)

How to handle negative reactions about feeding your baby in public.

  1. Smile. And think whatever you want in your head. You seem nice and approachable and it isn’t going to scare your kids but you could be thinking a string of profanity and they would never know. You could even start composing your Facebook status and tweets now to share the incident with your closest 2,000 friends.
  2. Practice. In the mirror or with a friend get an idea of what you would like to say should you ever experience someone offended by babies eating telling you to leave or cover. Knowing what you want to say could help. Whether you practice your “EFF YOU” to be sure it has the right amount of conviction or elect for a more diplomatic response (to tone it down you can try “go away” for starters followed by “you’re joking right?” and then if necessary “have you ever seen the news or been on social media? Don’t you know this isn’t going to end well?”), being prepared can help you resist the knee-jerk reaction of kicking them in the crotch.
  3. Be sympathetic. That they are a repressed and confused individual regarding women’s bodies and how babies are fed isn’t entirely all their fault. They are a product of their culture that prioritizes the over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female breast and regularly objectifies women. Being offended by seeing a baby being fed may be something they haven’t yet developed the skills to accept personal responsibility for and figure out how to handle themselves. From your deep well of sympathy for their condition, you could even offer them the name of a therapist that you would recommend to help them with their issues. That would be so nice of you.
  4. Find a blanket. True, they could and probably should do this for themselves but as mentioned above, their condition may impair their ability to take personal responsibility. So you could find a blanket, a jacket, sweater, towel, dish rag, even a paper napkin for them to put over their head so as to block the feeding baby from their view. Do warn them that it may get hot under there, they may miss other aspects of life going on around them, and it could be cumbersome in general which could actually be dangerous, but let them know you’ll yell loudly which direction to step if something is coming toward them. Might they be uncomfortable? Sure, but at least they won’t be offended.
  5. Have the law handy. Is it reasonable to expect people to know the law? Of course not! Specially if they are a business, they have so much to keep track of and can’t be expected to properly train their employees on costumer service or what the law actually says. Your local breastfeeding coalition may have nifty little cards you can print on their website with the actual legal code and everything. But there are a LOT of laws out there, too many to keep up with for even the most law abiding citizen. So help them out by knowing which laws pertain to you and having it ready. They may even thank you for helping them avoid a law suit! Wouldn’t that be nice.

We could go on, there are as many ways to handle such an experience as there are people willing to make those experiences happen. We’d love to hear your ideas, comment below with your suggestions.

 

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What I Want My Daughters To Know About Motherhood- Feeding Babies

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Recently I was reflecting on why I started Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference and I thought back on my different feeding journeys with my daughters, looking back and wishing there were things I knew when I first started out that I know now. I considered writing a post to my young self but then I realized that the ones I really want to know now what I wish I knew then about infant feeding are my daughters. Before they embark on their own motherhood journey, before they begin feeding their own babies (yes, I’m assuming that out of 6 girls at least one of them will have children and I will get to be a grandparent), there are so many things I want them to know, I could write a book and not just on infant feeding. Respecting that their journey will be their own, not some version or extension of mine, what I want to share isn’t a how to nor is it a manual, it is more just… my heart. Why am I starting an infant feeding conference? My daughters are why.

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Dear Daughter,

From time to time I reflect on the days when you were new to the world, newer than you are now, which is still pretty new. Those days when you were tiny and fit snuggled on my chest with your arms and legs tucked under you, my hand supporting your little bum. I think about the smell of your head, the feel of your skin, the depth of your eyes. I smile as I remember arguing with your father and sometimes others that it wasn’t gas, you were actually really smiling in your sleep. Like precious family heirlooms, from time to time I reverently unpack the memories of your daddy gently swinging you on his arm during fussy periods of the day, how one of your big sisters would interact with you, the way you calmed when I held you, the seriousness with which you would watch light dancing on the wall, and other fragments of the time when you were the smallest big thing in my world.

Some of those cherished mental keepsakes have little barbs on them. They sting when I unpack them, no matter how careful I am. How you were taken away from me just after I had the first chance to hold you because I was hemorrhaging, the time I screwed up and dropped you due to careless use of an infant carrier (Oh sweetie, I tried to call Child Protective Services on myself), hours and hours of screaming that nothing would soothe and the obvious pain you were in (heads up, colic is hell), the stint in the hospital with RSV, and so many more. I could keep these painful memories locked up and forgotten but I don’t, though I don’t linger over them too long, they are an important part of the story we share.

A good number of those treasured memories so carefully packed in my mind are around feeding you. You, as babies do, ate often. Satiated is but a temporary state of being and babies stay there only for brief moment of visitation. Some of these memory gems are truly sublime, shining moments that reflect the light of my love, your beauty, and our connection in sparkling bursts of color from ever angel and with every turn. Some of them are more like clunky chunks of rough rock, the weight and texture of which can make me raw. There is beauty there, beauty only appreciated when the whole topography is viewed. I cherish them all.

My baby feeding story journey isn’t isolated to just feeding you. All 6 of my children have impacted me and feeding each of them has had a hand in shaping me as a mother and directly impacting how I parented. And so, there are a few things I really want you to know about feeding babies. This won’t give you everything you need to know but these, my strong, intelligent, and courageous daughter, are the things what I want you to know from my heart about feeding babies and I hope sharing this now feeds you in a new way.

Feeding is important. Very important. Feeding our babies is the most basic, most essential, most immediate, and most elemental aspect of parenting. It can be said, without fail, that not feeding your baby is parenting failure. Neglect. Abuse. This may seem obvious and it is, but it is also important in ways you wouldn’t first see.  In my experience, how our children come to us is a journey that shapes us much like rushing water can shape rock. Babies aren’t the only ones birthed, mothers are birthed through the arrival of their children into their lives. Likewise, how we feed our babies can lay a foundation for how we parent. Feeding can shore up our confidence as parents and it can tear it down.

But not that important. For as deeply as it can impact us, you’ll feed your babies so many times each day that it can become mundane. That’s ok. You don’t have to experience each moment feeding your baby as a super special time of bonding. That would be like expecting every meal with your significant other to be a candlelight dinner that you poured yourself into preparing and spent looking deeply into each other’s eyes. In the end, as long as the feeding happens, the important part is done. And because it has to be done so frequently, letting go of expectations as to how it happens can be freeing to enjoy each experience as much as possible without the stress.

You matter too. Before baby comes, everyone is all about the mother-to-be. After baby comes, everyone is all about the baby and the mom is little more than the easel holding up the masterpiece. With that comes all the opinions on how to care for, and certainly how to feed, the masterpiece. But you matter too. According to many, you’ll be doing it wrong. Even those who support the method you are using will find ways to tell you are doing it wrong. Everything is subject to such “support” when it comes to feeding your baby. Bottle feeding? You’re holding that bottle wrong, using the wrong bottle, giving a bottle at all… all wrong. Breastfeeding? You’re using the wrong position, the wrong pillows, the wrong place, the wrong timing, doing it at all… all wrong. Pumping? You’re using the wrong pump, the wrong setting, the wrong method, doing it at all… all wrong. With everyone focused on the adorable masterpiece, they will want to “help” you care for it “right.” In the process, some will forget about caring for you. Mothering may change how you see your body and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love may be the most wonderful to your child. Mothering will change your heart and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love about yourself may be the most wonderful to your child. Take care of you, your children will need you to, they need and love you. It may feel selfish but taking care of you is important in taking care of your baby. You matter. Find those that can genuinely support you and your goals in caring for your baby. Those who believe you matter too.

The system is broken. It is improving and I hope by the time you are embarking on this journey, the system will be in a much better place. Right now though, it’s broken. From uninformed health care providers to uninformed store managers, from predatory marketing to pushy breastfeeding supporters, from poor insurance coverage to poor maternity leave, from ignorant judgmental strangers on the internet to ignorant judgmental friends in person, the system of infant feeding support in our society is failing moms. It is imbedded in our culture and it is hurting people. That can change but only by addressing the system rather than individual parents. They, you, just need someone willing to support them as a person, not a conquest. There is a lot of hurt, anger, guilt, shame, fear, arrogance, and hope surrounding this and you will hear it but it isn’t really about you.

Science is cool. There’s a lot of it and you’ll want to take the time to be familiar with it before you head into feeding your babies. Not everyone agrees on the science, it’s worth hearing the various view points. Being informed and personally conscientious can help you tap into your own powerful confidence. Decide what makes sense to you, what works for you according to the information, resources, and support available to you within your personal context and individual circumstances.

But feeding babies isn’t science, it’s a relationship. At some point, all the information in the world, all the evidence, all the support, all the goals aren’t important any more. Because it is a relationship. You and your baby. You are the one who knows what that relationship needs, you are the expert, you are the one most qualified. Even when you feel like you aren’t. You taught me that what a baby really needs is a fully invested parent who lovingly cares for them. Listen to yourself and your baby and don’t let anyone else define your relationship, feeding or otherwise.

There is more, so much more about feeding I want to tell you but for now I’ll stop here. Except for this:

I believe in you. I support you. Whatever you need, I am here for you and plan to be there for you. Unless you ask me not to. But most of all, I love you. You’ve got this.

Love,

Mom

____________________

What would you say to your children about infant feeding? How will you tell them the story of feeding them? What do you want them to know?

Milk BLO event graphic

I started Milk with MommyCon founder, Xza Higgins, with the goal to bring together health care providers, parenting advocates, infant feeding influencers, and parents for workshops, seminars, and connecting centered around conversation supporting feeding our babies.

Founded on the belief that infant feeding support makes a difference and can directly influence confidence levels in parents, MiLK focuses on information sharing and mindful support that builds parents up without tearing down, respecting the unique journey of each of us. MiLK aims to actively educate and support infant feeding by connecting health care providers and the families they care for discussing breastfeeding, formula feeding, breastmilk pumping, at the breast supplementing, bottle feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding… FEEDING. This is not, to be clear, a breastfeeding conference. It is an infant feeding conference with a goal of bringing together health care providers and parents where we can learn from each other.

Most importantly, I hope we learn how to really listen and what support can really looks like.

I hope you can me join me in Los Angeles, California, July 31st and August 1st. The speakers and panelists are all people I greatly respect, people that inspire me not only in my infant feeding journeys but in supporting others in their journeys as well. Offering 9.25 CERPs (IBCLC) and 11.1 Contact Hours (BRN), MiLK is for the lay parent and the health care professional.

I would love to see you there.

__________________

We have a MiLK giveaway!
3 prizes:

Grand prize: 2 tickets for one winner with the VIP option and a set of general admission to the local breastfeeding support group of their choice, 1 Arm’s Reach Mini-CoSleeper in Santa Fe, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump, 1 [email protected] shirt, 1 box Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea, 1 Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter, 1 pair Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes.
Prize pack 1: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 manual pump, 1 Ameda nursing tank, 1 [email protected] shirt.

Prize pack 2: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai ring sling, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 [email protected] shirt.

milkgrandprizegiveaway

Open to USA residents only.

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The Real Problem With Breastfeeding is How We Are Talking About Breastfeeding.

By Kimberly Seals Allers

Spoiler Alert: We are Losing the Story War

The Story War Changing the Narrative and Winning the Story War on Breastfeeding

Lately, when my Google alerts on “Breastfeeding” appears in my Inbox, I literally hold my breath as I click to open the email and glance at its contents. If it’s not another mother being kicked out of a public place where she was breastfeeding, there are mothers staging nurse-ins in protests, or twitter wars in response to mistreatment of a nursing mother—words like “banned” “fight back” “lashes out”, “demand” “forced to apologize” are everywhere in the breastfeeding media narrative. Increasingly the language of breastfeeding is the language of battle. Sides are taken. Fights ensue. Women resort to resistance protest measures on social media and in real life. And so it has me thinking, whether the real problem of our continued embarrassingly low-for-a-world-leader breastfeeding rates is not about breastfeeding at all. After all no one can deny its immunological benefits and unparalleled preventative health properties. But perhaps, the problem of lackluster duration rates is directly related to how we are talking about breastfeeding. There is no question that we are in a story war when it comes infant feeding norms, but the language of the war we are in is all about fighting.

In this environment, everyone loses.

Perhaps in our zealousness to “defend” breastfeeding we are actually turning people away, creating more divisions and essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. After all, who wants to take up an activity that requires battle techniques or civil rights era tactics? Or may cause you to be kicked out of a public place and in the middle of a media maelstrom? And so I’m forced to ask, whether the language of breastfeeding which includes scientific terms like “evidence-based” and overly simplistic slogans like “breast is best” combined with a protest background is actually inflicting more harm than good. Is this how we win? And by win, I mean, increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates and thereby improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies.

In the breastfeeding world we often see the “enemy” as the deep-pocketed infant formula marketers who peddle misinformation and insidious ideas masquerading as mother empowerment. With such a formidable competitor we see no way to battle such a behemoth and actually be victorious, and our frustration with their deceptive tactics often leads to anger. And rightly so. And while this may be a valid human response, it may not be the best tactical response. The biblical story of David and Goliath comes to mind. David did not attempt to battle Goliath on his strengths, but he exploited his weakness and his arrogance.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu says “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Truth is, we can win the breastfeeding story war without engaging in the language of battle. We have a more powerful tool at our disposal and historically it has won wars time after time. I know you’re asking yourself right now, well, what is it? That brings me to my excitement over the July 13th debut of my dynamic, new live stream presentation, Be The Shift: Changing the Narrative & Winning the Story War in Breastfeeding and my not-to-be-missed keynote at the upcoming MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference in Los Angeles on July 31 & August 1. In both presentations, I will be drawing on my decades of experience as a media professional, expert story teller and communications strategist and applying that knowledge to one of the greatest public health issues of our time—breastfeeding. For months, I’ve been intrigued by this topic and I have been studying the art of war, the phenomenon of story wars and combining it with what I know as a media professional and a big ideas person with a passion for breastfeeding. One thing is clear, today’s story wars are not the story wars of yore because frankly our oral tradition has changed—today it is more digitally powered. And that can’t be ignored. But winning the war means the strategy needs to work on the policy, professional and people level—I’ll detail how.

On July 13th, I’ll be streaming live from the uber chic Neuehouse NYC and it is going to be an eye-opening game changer for anyone who cares about infant health. I can’t wait to share these new learnings with you. You can get more information and register here. And then on July 31 and August 1st, I’ll bring the essence of that presentation to the west coast, along with exclusive worksheets and interactive exercises to the MILK conference. I hope to see you there where we can work IRL and one-on-one in shifting your personal or organizational story to improve our breastfeeding outcomes.

Aristotle said “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” By shifting our language and understanding the elements of a winning story narrative we can organize and maintain the kind of peace that improves maternal and infant health outcomes for generations.

Now, there’s a battle, I’m willing to get behind. Please join me.

In motherhood,

Kimberly Seals Allers

Changing the narrative and winning the story war on breastfeeding

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KSA Hi resKimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, author and a nationally recognized media commentator, consultant and advocate for breastfeeding and infant health. A former writer at FORTUNE and senior editor at Essence magazine, Kimberly is widely considered a leading voice in the counterculture movement in infant feeding. Last year, her online commentaries on the social, structural and racial complexities of maternal and child health issues received over 2 million page views. Kimberly’s fifth book, a groundbreaking analysis of the social, political and economic influences on the American breastfeeding landscape will be published by St. Martin’s Press next year.
 As a consultant, Kimberly has led innovative community-based projects in the southeast and Philadelphia that explore the impact of “first food deserts”—communities that severely lack or have inaccessible resources to support mothers who choose to breastfeed—and examining how to transform these areas into more breastfeeding supportive environments. Kimberly is currently the project director of the First Food Friendly Community Initiative (3FCI), an innovative pilot project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, designed to understand the impact of “place” as a social determinant of breastfeeding success and to create multi-pronged community support for breastfeeding. Her advocacy work has also centered on connecting breast milk as the most healthful first food to the broader “good food” movement and rethinking childhood nutrition and preventative health as beginning at birth.   
In addition, Kimberly specializes in issues related to African American motherhood and breastfeeding and is the former editorial director of The Black Maternal Health Project of Women’s eNews. In 2011, Kimberly was named an IATP Food and Community Fellow, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and works to increase awareness of the first food—breast milk, in vulnerable communities. She currently leads nationwide workshops for health care professionals on cultural competency and breastfeeding and is a prominent speaker on community-based strategies to reduce the racial disparities in breastfeeding and infant mortality rates. 
 Kimberly has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Anderson Cooper, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Fox News and featured in various international and national media outlets, including The Guardian (U.K.), U.S. News & World Report, Essence, Black Enterprise, Pregnancy and in various online media properties.
Kimberly is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A divorced mother of two, she lives in Queens, New York, with her children and two turtles. Follow her on Twitter @iamKSealsAllers
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TLB Comic: Just A Little Spit Up

by Jennie Bernstein
20may15tlbcomic1
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