Why take and share breastfeeding photos?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
why women share breastfeeding photos

Photo credit: Cleo Photography

What is the deal with all those breastfeeding photos moms are doing?  Breastfeeding selfies, professional photo sessions, family snapshots, they’re showing up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, even birth announcements and Christmas cards, and hanging on walls.  This hasn’t always been a thing, has it?  (Check out these and these historic photos that show it isn’t quite as new as you may think.)  When TLB was kicked off Facebook in 2011, allegedly for posting breastfeeding photos, I was asked frequently why post breastfeeding photos in the first place.  What is the point, they wondered, why do women feel the need to share such an intimate moment with the world?  I have been patiently explaining this phenomenon for years, sharing blog posts like this one from Annie at PhD in Parenting, this one from sons & daughters photography,  and personal stories as to why and content to leave it at that.

Still, comments on websites, social media threads, and some times in person continue to come in comparing these photos to sharing an image of someone taking a dump, calling the women posting them “attention whores”, and sometimes even accusing them of sexual abuse.  The reasons why these people may be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding totally aside (and here are 9 potential reasons), it’s obvious they don’t understand why this would be important.

Over the years I’ve seen the power of breastfeeding photos being shared.  Much like images of other aspects of every day life, seeing breastfeeding photos reminds us of the importance of the mundane in our daily lives.  There are more reasons than I can list, but there are real reasons none the less.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering support.  Many women haven’t seen breastfeeding or have only seen it briefly.  Seeing breastfeeding and hearing the breastfeeding stories of other women supports women where they are in their journey and gives them the space to ask questions and know they aren’t alone.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering information and options.  For some women, breastfeeding is as natural as breathing, everything just works.  Others encounter difficulties.  Seeing how another woman navigates the obstacles she experiences in breastfeeding, such as when Jenna shared an image of feeding her daughter with a supplemental nursing system, mothers who had never heard of such a thing suddenly had a new option.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering community.  Because breastfeeding has been replaced in some cases with alternative feeding methods, some breastfeeding mothers find themselves feeling isolated.  Thanks to the global community now accessible via the internet, mothers can connect with others that can relate to their journey.  While many are willing to walk alone, it is comforting to know you don’t have to.  Sharing the visual builds a community built on more than words.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering encouragement.   When Serena Tremblay shared her photo of breastfeeding in the ICU with the help of a nurse, she never imagined how it would touch and reach so many with encouragement and inspiration.  But that’s exactly what her photo did.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering recognition.  It’s not for attention, the sharing is more about connection and celebration.  But when a woman shares her breastfeeding journey through images, she is recognizing (and helping others recognize for themselves) this very important aspect of her life.  She does it day in and day out, it consumes much of her time, and sometimes it can feel quite invisible.  Or worse, shameful.  Recognizing the time and commitment breastfeeding requires can be a reminder of why it’s all worth it.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering normalization.  More times than I can count people have written in to say that before they joined The Leaky Boob community they thought breastfeeding was gross and creepy.  They didn’t want to see it because they thought it was like watching sex.  But then they saw it and learned that it wasn’t that at all, in fact, it was oddly normal.  Then there are the mothers that discovered they weren’t freaks for continuing to breastfeed past the first 12 months when they discovered there are many others like them.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in rehumanizing.  I know, I know, that’s not really a word.  But the objectification of women has reached such high levels that unless a woman is airbrushed, painted, surgically altered, pushed up/in, and posed, she isn’t seen as being a woman.  A woman’s worth is almost entirely wrapped up in her looks.  Women are barely seen as human or at least, aren’t allowed to be human.  Images of woman that aren’t airbrushed, painted, surgically altered, pushed up/in, and posed remind all of us what living, breathing, human woman really look like.  Breastfeeding women remind us that a woman’s body is for her to use as she pleases and her worth not dictated by how sexually attractive she is.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in celebrating.  Parenting is hard work and much of it goes unnoticed and under appreciated.  Celebrating the milestones and goals reached, be they breastfeeding, potty learning, educational, or any other important aspect of parenting, is energizing.  Celebrating them with others even more so.

Leilani and her daughter Ava featured in the photo at the top of this post, understands this, which is why Leilani sent this beautiful photo in with her story:

I made the decision to try breastfeeding while I was still pregnant. I read Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding (religiously), and it gave me the confidence I needed during that very first time Ava latched on. Knowing that I was capable of producing the best nutrition for my child is what inspired me to nurse. There were a handful of bumps in the road during this past year of breastfeeding, but I’m proud to say, we surpassed them. My daughter had jaundice (pretty bad) her first week of life. Due to an incompatible blood type between her and I, the doctors encouraged me to supplement, in order for her jaundice to go away faster. I refused, and as scary as it was, the jaundice went away, and she didn’t need one drop of supplement to assist. I also thought I needed a pump and bottles to nurse more effectively. Turns out that the pump caused my supply to dwindle, and I forced to deal with a baby that wasn’t getting the correct amount of milk she needed. Rather than giving up or supplementing, I was patient and nursed her as often as she’d allow. My supply finally was back to normal. Between those hurdles and moving cross-country TWICE in two months (military family), I am proud to say that Ava at (almost) thirteen months is still nursing and the bond we share is something even more special than I imagined.

 

Share

What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Child with birthday balloon

What does it look like to breastfeed a 2 year old?  Is it gross?  Creepy?  Or is it just a continuation of the sweet and simple nurturing experience the mother and child already have together?  I can’t keep her safe and protected from everything but while she still wants to be in my arms and finds comfort at my breast, I’ll continue to do what I can.

What does it look like?  This:

This past weekend we celebrated Sugarbaby’s 2nd birthday.  The day was fun, special, and she understood it was all about her.  And cake.  With 6 big girls in the family, it was a loud and energetic, ushering in her next year of life with enthusiasm.

And without much notice, I now am breastfeeding a 2 year old.  This doesn’t feel significant to Sugarbaby, nor to my family.  The only reason this is noteworthy is because breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months is hardly normal in our society, let alone breastfeeding beyond the first 24.  Many myths surround breastfeeding in general and they just increase after the deadline some have assigned (see Six myths about breastfeeding toddlers and preschoolers).  For many, breastfeeding this long is strange, extreme, extended, and questionable, at best.  Abusive, pedophilia, and psychologically damaging at worst.  A view point I don’t understand and research doesn’t support and when I asked a 12 year old that breastfed until she was 4 to share, she didn’t see what the issue could be either.

Breastfeeding beyond the first year makes many, many people uncomfortable.  Breastfeeding a child that walks and talks and plays, going well beyond the 2nd year makes most people uncomfortable.  It’s understandable too.  In our culture the majority of babies aren’t breastfed past 6 weeks and of those that are they usually are weaned off the breast by 12 months.  It’s rare in the majority of western culture to see a child over the age of 1 breastfeed, let alone 2.

But imagine you were in a different culture.  A culture where the average age of weaning was between 2-5 years old.  It would be common place to see a young child breastfeeding and nobody would think it’s odd.  In fact, if those people were to come here they would probably wonder why our children don’t continue breastfeeding at that age and perhaps find it unsettling and concerning.

What it boils down to in many ways is what we’re conditioned to.  The WHO and the AAP both recommend breastfeeding until it is mutually agreeable to the mother and child.  Which, for a good number of families would be well beyond that 24 month mark.  But we rarely get to see it.  For that to become an acceptable reality in the States it needs to be seen and not just as something to be laughed at in movies.  In other words, we need to start conditioning our culture to accept a new normal and we need to start doing it ourselves.  Which is totally possible.  Just look at standards of dress.  What was once considered inappropriate attire is now every day wear.  Adjusting our standards to accept a new normal is something that happens in culture on a daily basis.  Over time, we’ll get there and it may not ever be common place (though I sure do hope so) but it will seem less odd.  So while I don’t breastfeed to make any kind of point or in pursuit of any particular agenda, I do share the breastfeeding images and videos to help bring about that change.

breastfeeding 2 year old

This isn’t to say that women have to breastfeed beyond any point at all.  In fact, women don’t have to do anything and manipulating, shaming, or attempting to force someone to do something they really don’t want to do only serves to make the issue a controversial one and doesn’t help society to accept it as normal.  How could they when a portion of the population would resent it.  The messaging isn’t that it’s better to breastfeed longer or that those that don’t aren’t loving parents willing to sacrifice for their children.  The message is simply that there are reasons to and every family has to weigh those along with their personal reasons to make the right decision for their situation.

For our family it is simple.  Breastfeeding beyond societal accepted norms isn’t about anything but the simple, sweet, loving continuation of what we already have.  As I shared on Facebook, the decision to continue wasn’t about or for anyone else but us, and at 2 years old now she’s quite happy with our arrangement and blissfully unaware that others may look down on her continuing to find nourishment and comfort at my breast. A strong and confident little girl, I know that when Sugarbaby is ready to move on, she will have no problem doing so. For now though, I won’t be cutting her off even though some don’t understand. No arbitrary deadline can dictate how I care for my daughter and continue to meet her needs as she experiences them. Your breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be, are about you and your child, reach for them and don’t worry about what others think or say. Two weeks or two years (or more or less!), we support you.

For more on natural duration breastfeeding or breastfeeding beyond infancy, see what a toddler has to say here.

 

 

Share

Peer Support and a history of World Breastfeeding Week- Celebrate WBW 2013

this post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Fairhaven Health.

Nations around the world continue to make progress in terms of normalizing and supporting breastfeeding, whether in public or in the privacy of a mother’s home. Last week, Guam senator Aline Yamashita introduced a bill to protect the right of women to breastfeed in public or private spaces. In fact, most U.S. states and territories have passed some sort of law regarding breastfeeding.

This is exactly what the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action had hoped for when they launched World Breastfeeding Week in 1992. Each year, World Breastfeeding Week celebrates women’s breastfeeding rights from August 1-7. The global campaign aims to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, while raising public awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding. 

This year’s theme is all about breastfeeding peer support. Approximately 77 percent of moms begin breastfeeding after delivery, however only 47 percent of moms continue to breastfeed at six months old, and by 12 months old only 25 percent of moms breastfeed their infants. Community support after delivery is essential to successful and sustained breastfeeding. Traditionally, families provided this support but with the global community available via the world wide web, women can seek peer support from Internet communities including The Leaky Boob.

To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week 2013 and breastfeeding peer support The Leaky Boob is hosting The Ultimate World Breastfeeding Week giveaway along with The Boob Group, and the San Diego Breastfeeding Center. Two lucky winners, announced August 8, will each receive an enormous gift basket of breastfeeding support products including teas, nipple salves, breast pads, baby carriers, and much, much more. Last year’s Ultimate World Breastfeeding Week giveaway had over 19,000 entries and the sponsors anticipate having even more this year!

In keeping with the theme of the week, Fairhaven Health plans to host contests and giveaways on their Belly to Breast Facebook page where Facebookers can enter to win natural breastfeeding support products like:

  • Nursing Blend: A doctor-designed breastfeeding supplement that offers optimal vitamin and mineral support for breastfeeding women, and helps increase milk production.
  • Nipple Nurture Balm: An organic, all-natural nipple balm designed to soothe, protect, and heal sore or cracked nipples.
  • Fenugreek: A concentrated, all-natural Fenugreek supplement designed to help increase breast milk production.
  • Nursing Time Tea: A natural nursing tea to help increase breast milk quality and quantity.
  • Nursing Postnatal: A comprehensive postnatal multivitamin designed to meet the unique nutritional needs to breastfeeding women.

World Breastfeeding Week also brings The Big Latch On, a global event where women and their children come together to breastfeed for one minute. The goal of the event is to break the record for the number of women breastfeeding simultaneously. Last year’s record to break: 8,862 women and their children. Valuing supporting breastfeeding mothers, Fairhaven Health is working with numerous local organizations to supply breastfeeding support products for Big Latch On events across the country and encouraging online events and interactions that raise awareness of breastfeeding around the world.

For a full list of this year’s events, visit worldbreastfeedingweek.org.

About World Breastfeeding Week

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) was formed in 1991 to act on the Innocenti Declaration passed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The declaration recognizes that breastfeeding is a unique process that provides ideal nutrition to infants, contributes to healthy infant growth and development, reduces disease, contributes to women’s health, provides social and economic benefits, and provides women with a sense of satisfaction. World Breastfeeding Week, launched on August 1, 1992, is WABA’s main global campaign to support and promote breastfeeding, and commemorates the adoption of the Innocenti Declaration.

Share

The Milky Way- Every Mother Has a Story

I am happy to share this guest post from Chantal Monal, RN MA IBCLC.  Chantal partnered with friend Jennifer Davidson, RN BSN IBCLC to produce a film about breastfeeding, society, and the incredible power of breastmilk.  The Milky Way film reveals the real power vested in women’s bodies and how that affects their babies – even the tiniest of preemies.  Chantal shares how breastmilk and babies at the breast make a difference for preemies in Berlin.  The film is in the final stages of production and the film making team needs more funds to finish their post production work.  You can be a part of their project and supporting others in reaching their breastfeeding goals by helping to normalize breastfeeding through participating in the kickstarter campaign to finish the film.  It ends at midnight on July 10, 2013, so only two days to help them reach their goal.  Your pledge will make a difference.

milky way collage

The nursing mother is truly a phenomenon. Not only does her body produce milk for her baby that is specifically designed for her baby(ies), the milk is alive with immune qualities, stem cells, growth factors, and much more, but her body provides habitat for her very immature and needy baby. Placing a baby on its mama’s chest immediately after birth triggers primitive neonatal reflexes that express the breastfeeding program that is vested in the baby.  Lying skin-to-skin activates a feeding sequence that results in a baby finding and often self-latching to its mother’s nipple.

At its mother’s breast, a baby is at home. This is where all things begin. Our babies learn to socialize, their brains develop, their little bodies learn to regulate temperature, breathing, and heart rate, and their physiology stabilizes. All this happens on the chest.

Babies who are kept in a mother-environment, with baby-wearing and co-sleeping, learn to synchronize their breathing and heartbeat with their mothers’.  All babies fall out of synchronicity periodically, but babies who are nursing and in close proximity to their mothers, develop the ability to re-synchronize, which is a protective factor against SIDS. These babies become very competent and self-reliant. They know where their food comes from and can navigate in the dark to their food source. How many of us have awakened to a latched-on baby?  That is a baby who feels secure and in control of his environment.

This stabilization and development is illustrated beautifully with premature babies. The Milky Way team traveled to Berlin to film this phenomenon in action with preemies in a very special NICU. We had the opportunity to film the power of Kangaroo Mother Care, which is care at the mother’s breast. Instead of a room full of incubators, where mothers have to sit in a chair and visit their baby, this hospital provides a room for each family to stay with their baby for its entire stay.

Each room has a bed big enough for mom and dad, a warmer and incubator, and some comfy chairs. There is a large common room provided as well, where parents can gather with their families and have a meal, or just visit.

The mothers keep their fragile babies on their chest for about 19 hours a day. They are taught to hand express colostrum, which they give through a feeding tube until their baby can latch and suck. Babies are at the breast frequently, nuzzling and licking until they naturally begin to suckle. In this setting, the authority is with the mother and father, the medical and nursing staff are there to “stand behind” the parents and to assist them as they are the primary care-givers of their own baby. This kind of care results in 3 pound babies being discharged home, fully breastfeeding, with confident parents.

MOM PREEMIE the Milky Way Film

The Milky Way is a film to empower mothers. The Milky Way reveals the extraordinary power vested in women’s bodies and how that affects their babies – even the tiniest of preemies. Nursing is so much more than food. The profound capacity inherent in a woman’s body has been ignored, overlooked and dismissed for far too long.  It is time that we collectively see nursing as the profound act that it is and place value on the product, the process, and recognize the mother as a powerful phenomenon.

 __________________________

 Here at The Leaky Boob we know that every mother has a story and believe that sharing those stories provides mom-to-mom support in the wide variety of breastfeeding journeys women experience today.

We want to hear your story.  Share in the comments your breastfeeding story.

Did hearing the stories of others encourage and inspire you?

Did sharing your own story help someone else?

Has breastfeeding helped you to develop confidence and see how your body is a powerful phenomenon?

____________________________

 

Share

Fear and Breastfeeding in Las Vegas

Breastfeeding is not porn, nudity, or obscene The Leaky Boob

Since starting The Leaky Boob 2.5 years ago I have said and photographed things I would never have imagined doing before.  I’ve said things such as “breastfeeding is not about sex, it’s about feeding a baby.”  Nothing like stating the obvious.  Most recently was texting my husband “do you know where that nudie card is I brought back from Vegas?  I need it.”  Yep, I brought a nudie card home from Vegas.

Say “Las Vegas” and most of us conjure up images of slot machines, black jack tables, show girls, stripers, booze, and buffets with obscene quantities of food.  Sex and money seem to flow freely.  Clothing requirements are little more than sequins, triangles, stars, and stilettos for women, the range is a little more diverse for men.

Say “mommy conference” and you probably picture babies in strollers or carriers, baby toys, tennis shoes, snack cups, and a chatty group of women.  Breastmilk and cheerios seem to flow freely.  Clothing requirements range from diapers and onesies or soft outfits in bright colors for the smaller ones in the crowd and something comfortable covered in spit up for the adults.

Say “mommy conference in Las Vegas” and you might get a little confused.

However, as much as it may seem like a collision of 2 very different worlds, the MommyCon conference in Las Vegas hosted at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino was anything but confused.  It was fun, vibrant, and sometimes a little comical (I doubt Vegas has ever seen so many babies in carriers going through their casinos).  The Flamingo Hotel did a great job securing extra cribs for the influx of young guests and the conference area hosted workshops like dancing with your baby and it didn’t even involve a pole.  While there was room for improvement, the host hotel handled the influx of moms and dads with babies and young children well and the juxtaposition wasn’t as weird as I anticipated.  I was thrilled to be there as a speaker and enjoyed my first ever trip to Las Vegas.  It seemed appropriate that I was in Vegas speaking about Sex, Lies, Parenting, and the Rest.  I had a great time with my fellow speakers and meeting the attendees of the event.

I have breastfed 6 children now, in all different settings, sometimes covered and sometimes not.  Over time, however, I stopped covering completely thanks to babies that fought the cover, me realizing that I don’t show much when I feed my baby, and eventually a belief that covering was actually hindering breastfeeding for some women either because they didn’t see others doing it or because they couldn’t navigate breastfeeding in public with a cover.  In all my breastfeeding in public experience, I have never, not once, been asked to cover or leave.  There have been times I thought I received disapproving looks or was shunned for feeding but I’ve never experienced any kind of real negativity about my feeding my baby.  Actually, I’ve experienced several positive and affirming exchanges as I fed my babies in public, more people expressing support than disapproval.  Today I’m experienced and confident when I feed my babies, well practiced and well informed about my baby’s right to eat.  Even now though, when I need to feed my baby in a public setting I will have a moment of anticipatory nervousness as though I expect something to happen.

Flamingo hotel

Feeding Sugarbaby at the Tropical Breezes cafe at the Flamingo in Las Vegas

Except in Vegas at a mommy conference that highlighted breastfeeding and where I was speaking because I created “The Leaky Boob.”  It didn’t even occur to me that someone could have a problem with me breastfeeding there, of all places.

Following my first talk in the morning of Friday, January 4, 2013, I met up with my friend, Sue, who was helping take care of my 8 month old daughter, who I call Sugarbaby, while I spoke.  We decided to have lunch in the Flamingo’s Tropical Breeze Cafe so I could feed my baby and myself before speaking at another session after the break.  Wearing a simple button up shirt and a Rumina Nursingwear tank with Bamboobies breastpads (I may be The Leaky Boob but I didn’t want to leak during my talks), I fed my hungry baby shortly after we were seated while we skimmed the menu.  She was hungry and had missed me so she got down to business pretty quickly and stayed focused.  Our server brought us our drinks and a random cup of coffee neither of us ordered and took our food order.  As we sat joking about the random cup of coffee and waiting for our food (I think he thought I looked like I could use some caffeine), a lovely woman in a suit approached us.  She smiled and asked us how we were then very politely requested that I use a cover, nodding in the general direction of my baby at my breast.

People, I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  I laughed and asked her to repeat herself.

After confirming that she was indeed asking me to cover while I fed my baby I returned her smile, barely suppressed my laughter, and informed her of my legal right to breastfeed my baby anywhere my baby and I have the right to be, covered or not.  (Do you know the laws where you are?  This helpful resource compiled by You Can Breastfeed Here is a great place to start to find out.)  Her smile waining ever so slightly and her eyes widening ever so noticeably, she gently, though firmly, informed me that I could do whatever I wanted to do but that if I covered I would be making others feel more comfortable as there had been four tables that complained about what I was doing.

I laughed again.  Harder.  “They do know they are in Vegas, right?” I asked her through my laughter.  Because this is what is on the sidewalks and shoved into the hands of those walking on the strip:

Vegas Nudie card

She looked around and I kept looking at her, still chuckling at the irony of this situation.  She knows that just before walking into her cafe I walked past a platform where that very evening, like every night, a woman exposing far more than I was while feeding my baby, dances with moves intending to sexually entice.  She knows that the sidewalks in front of the hotel are littered with photo cards of naked women with tiny stars on their nipples.  She knows that this very hotel advertises a burlesque show featuring breasts (bare), butts, and spread eagle moves on a video that loops endlessly in each guest elevator.  She knows that the very people that complained have seen all that and probably more in the 10 minutes before they sat at their table.  I know she was just trying to do her job.  I know she had no idea that there was actually a law stating I had the right to breastfeed anywhere my baby and I were legally permitted to be.  I know that in her line of work making the customer happy is a delicate balance when one customer may be making another uncomfortable.  I know that in that moment she was wishing I had never walked into her cafe.  I wondered if news coverage of irate breastfeeding moms flashed through her mind.

When she looked back at me I felt sorry for her.  She was probably a mom, I don’t know, but she wasn’t trying to make my life hard, nor was I trying to complicate her job.  In her mind it was simple, I could cover.  In my mind it was simple as well, putting the comfort of others over my child’s right to eat without a blanket on her head just wasn’t ok.  Her smile gone but her face still pleasant she stated again that I could do what I want but it would really help if I covered.  I thanked her and kindly told her that I would continue feeding my baby as I was.

Note that she didn’t yell at me, she never touched my baby or me, she did not call me names, she did not go over to the tables that complained and loudly inform them that I wouldn’t comply, she didn’t ask me to leave, and she didn’t threaten me in any way.

My friend and I laughed once she walked away, we could hardly talk as we shook with laughter.  Jamie Greyson, TheBabyGuyNYC,  joined us for lunch and we all talked about what had just happened.  This was a big deal but I didn’t want to do much about it before giving the hotel and casino the opportunity to make things right.  As I had another session coming up there wasn’t much I could do in the moment but finish feeding my daughter, eat my lunch, and tweet about the irony of the situation.  Jamie and I both shared the story on Twitter, tagged Flamingo, ordered our food, and discussed the entire situation over our meal before heading to my next session.  We all agreed that how I was feeding Sugarbaby at the moment showed far less than the poster outside the cafe and the cards handed out on the Vegas streets.

Vegas showgirl and breastfeeding mom

Poster outside cafe, me feeding Sugarbaby inside cafe.

Here’s where it gets most interesting.  In the 2.5 years I’ve been running The Leaky Boob I have watched how companies handle such fumbles when they receive public scrutiny for harassing a breastfeeding mothers and precious few navigate the rocky terrain well.  That very weekend Hollister Co was facing a national nurse-in protesting their handling of one of their store managers humiliating a Houston woman for breastfeeding in their Galleria store.  Over a week later and the company still hasn’t responded adequately.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Las Vegas hotel and casino but was pleasantly surprised to discover tweets from them responding not only to mine and Jamie’s tweets regarding the situation but individual responses to each of our followers that tweeted Flamingo about the situation as well.  It wasn’t long before I had a direct exchange with Flamingo on Twitter, in direct message, over emails, and then a phone call.  The representatives of the Flamingo asked if they could meet with me before I left and they publicly informed Twitter that they would be working with me to make it right.

My day was full of events and meetings so I was unavailable until Saturday, just before I had to leave.  It would have been easy to brush me off on a Saturday but instead Scott Farber Director of Food Operations, met with me personally Saturday morning to apologize, let me know that he had a meeting with his staff on Friday and informed them of Nevada state law permitting a woman to breastfeed her child where ever she has the legal right to be, and instructing his staff that should customers complain about a woman breastfeeding again they would not address the mother but would work with the customers that complained.  Kind and genuine, Scott laughed with me at the irony of being in Vegas and asked to cover.  Scott offered to make it up to me with a free meal and more and was genuinely concerned about how I was after the experience.  He shared that Estella, the manager, was horrified that she had misstepped in saying anything to me and he extended her apology as well as I didn’t have time to meet with her.  We discussed how the Flamingo could better welcome families and some changes that could be made to do so well.  The possibility of me returning to train their staff and sister hotels to consult with them on how to be set apart in Las Vegas as a family friendly destination came up.  These weren’t the actions of a company that wanted to embarrass their customer families, these were the actions of a company that cared to stand apart and understands the value of doing things right.

Yes, the cafe manager should have been aware of the law prior to asking me to cover but it isn’t a well-known law and probably not something they would have even anticipated needing to know.  Now that they are aware, however, they are responding and preparing to not make the same mistake again.  Instead of ignoring or responding heatedly to the situation, the Flamingo has become a model for other companies that find themselves in what could be a PR disaster.  A company that will receive my repeat business because of how well they handled their mistake.

The problem is a simple fix for the historic Las Vegas hotel and casino and they are well on their way to making it right.  The experience reflects more on society as a whole though.  That the most scandalous sight for some Las Vegas visitors was a baby eating is a little mind boggling.  Thankfully, I’m not easily intimidated, am informed on the law, am more than happy to help educate, and in the end I’m glad this experience happened to me because I believe through it The Leaky Boob and the Flamingo hotel and casino can work together to better support breastfeeding moms be they in Las Vegas or on the other side of the world.  If it happened to someone else it could have greatly damaged their breastfeeding relationship or intimidated them to not risk leaving their home setting them up for postpartum depression and extreme isolation.  Hopefully, by raising awareness others can become informed of the laws and their right to feed their baby and more companies will work to educate their employees on how to better support breastfeeding mothers and more and more mothers won’t have to be afraid to breastfeed their babies in Vegas or anywhere else.

Vegas call card compared to breastfeeding

_______________________________

 The Flamingo Hotel and Casino has asked me for tips and suggestions as to how their staff could handle breastfeeding situations in the future in a way that would be supportive and informed.  

What would be your suggestions?  

What tips would you give the employees that may encounter a breastfeeding pair and possible complaints from other guests?

_______________________________

Share

My Mommy Bliss

I peeked around the corner into where I heard the sounds of baby babble.  She had been on the look out for me, immediately rolling over onto her tummy and smiling tentatively.  Stepping into the room I greeted her softly and she laid her head down and smiled, a shy lopsided smile.  She was happy to see me and I her.  We had been apart for several hours.  Now, after a long nap, we were finally reconnecting.  I told her I missed her, she lifted her head and kicked excitedly, a grin filling her face showing off the 2 tiny white teeth that protruded from her bottom gums.  Both legs kicked the bed, arms flapping rapidly, broken only by the super baby pose and intense grins at me.  Overwhelmed with excitement she buried her face in the mattress, her body tense with an excited delight.  I leaned in, nuzzling her cheek and kissing her neck and she squealed glee, a squawking sound that dissolved into a giggle and ended with a sigh.  My whole being sighed too.  This was right.  This was mommy bliss.  She rolled toward me and I kissed the top of her head, breathing in her intoxicating smell, treasuring the velvety softness of her peach fuzz.  Her diaper still dry, I climbed onto our bed to snuggle and feed her.  Expectation and excitement mingled as she realized she was hungry and her kicking intensified, she began to fuss lightly.  Her hungry sound.  Little hands opened and closed, grabbing at the bed.  Her eyes watched my every move, anticipation building, I was not moving fast enough now.  As I got comfortable, I encouraged her to make her way to me but desperation set in quickly, we had been parted too long and she needed to eat now, not a second later.  Drawing her to me and lifting my shirt, I watched her calm with knowing.  More skilled at this than anything else, she was like a artist at work, anxious and itching to get started, smooth and calm in the moment of delivery.  Her mouth enveloped my nipple, her hand rested on my breast.  Laying side by side our breathing synched and I watched as she got in the zone, filling her tummy with my milk.  My milk let down quickly to her masterful technique and soon she hummed contentedly between swallows.  Finally she lifted her eyes to my face and I smiled my own lopsided smile at being noticed again.  Still in the zone, she held my gaze, never interrupting her pace as she satiated her hunger.  Her soft hums felt like a lullaby and a content relaxed sleepiness came over us both and I closed my eyes.  A contented gurgle beckoned me to open my eyes and I looked down to see her gazing up at me, no longer latched to my breast.  When our eyes met her face relaxed into the lopsided smile and she raised a hand to my face.  Staring and smiling, we stroked each other’s face, savoring the contact.  She told me about her day and I murmured about how I missed her.  Contentment in this moment of perfection clouded the reality of dirty dishes, unanswered emails, and a thousand other tasks requiring my attention. There was just her and me.

 

This is right.  This is my mommy bliss.

 

Share

I don’t love breastfeeding

This past March, as I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Sugarbaby, I had noticed a few women commenting online that they hated breastfeeding or at least didn’t love it.  Not that they were stopping or refused to do it but that they didn’t have any of the warm fuzzy feelings they’d heard others talk about and they were looking forward to experiencing themselves.  Often with their confession came the question: “does this make me a bad mom?”

My heart ached with them.

I watched as some people responded making suggestions as to how they could maybe enjoy the experience more, or how it may take some time to get to that place, some sharing how much they love breastfeeding and are sorry the poster didn’t, and sometimes a few responding that they could relate.  These women would respond that they were really struggling or felt broken, or questioned that maybe they didn’t love their child enough and that there was something wrong with them.

And again my heart ached with them.

I was 35 weeks pregnant that week, preparing for a new nursling.  Expecting baby #6, I was fairly confident that everything would be fine with breastfeeding.  Not overly so, as I know each breastfeeding experience is different but there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be breastfeeding and that if there were any challenges we’d be able to work through them with our incredible support system.  Still, there was this tiny part of me that wasn’t really looking forward to it.  Maybe even dreading it a little.  Which is almost heresy coming from the person that started The Leaky Boob.

Feeling for those women struggling I posted this status update on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page:

Swing by the wall, you’re needed here. I don’t *love* breastfeeding. Nope, I don’t. It doesn’t give me warm, fuzzy feelings. I don’t look forward to sitting down with my nursling. I don’t particularly care for the sensation. But I breastfeed and I actively advocate and educate about breastfeeding. Why? Because I believe it’s the biologically normal way to feed a human infant. I don’t see myself as a martyr, just doing what I need to do to care for my children. I also don’t think this makes me a bad mom any more than the fact that sometimes I really hate making dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. Or changing diapers and doing laundry. What about you? Anyone else not “love” breastfeeding? What’s your breastfeeding confession?

Responses started pouring in and in less than an hour there were close to 200 comments.  The first 20 or so comments (I didn’t count, it could be a dozen or 50) are either people sharing they can relate, thanking me for such an honest confession because they felt less alone or freakish, sharing that it’s a love/hate relationship for them, the random “don’t like seeing people breastfeeding in public” (what’s that doing there?), the super excited ones that LOVE it and can’t relate, and the true confession of wanting to go out drinking (one brave soul shared that).  Most of the 200 responses were from women grateful to hear my confession, thanking me for letting them know they weren’t alone and weren’t a bad mom for having these feelings.  Then came the handful of comments saying that status was terrible and would discourage moms from breastfeeding.  A few said that if they had seen that post when they were first breastfeeding and things were rough it would have made them want to quit.  They asserted that we shouldn’t lie but we have to be selective with our words so as not to scare someone off.  A few came down hard saying they were disappointed to see a post like that on TLB and called into question if I really support breastfeeding with posts like that.

I told my #4 nursling at the time that I didn’t like breastfeeding.  Apologizing that I was gritting my teeth through her nursing sessions, I stroked her cheek and told her that even though I didn’t love breastfeeding I did very much love her and so she was worth it.  Too young to understand, I felt my little girl sleeping in my arms and my chest tightened as the truth of my love for her surged through me making it hard to breathe.  In that moment I vowed that even if I never loved breastfeeding I would focus on how much I love my daughter while she’s at my breast and I could take pleasure in how much she enjoyed breastfeeding even if I didn’t personally enjoy it.

Today I’m breastfeeding my 6th baby as I type this.  My feelings about breastfeeding have changed, the skin-crawling, teeth gritting feeling is gone and while I still can’t say that I personally love it I truly and deeply love how much my baby loves to breastfeed.  As her mother, there is an expansive satisfaction in making her happy that overwhelms even my own discomfort.  I don’t see myself as a martyr, just as a mother who, like most parents, has to give up some of my own personal comfort for a time for the benefit of my child.  As my baby grins up at me briefly letting go of my nipple, a little dribble of milk coursing down her cheek, I feel privileged to share and be the source of this moment she enjoys so much.  I will continue breastfeeding for my baby girl and I will continue being honest about my own breastfeeding journey and feelings because in the long run we all need the kind of support to be who we really are if we’re going to grow.

I followed up with this that day on Facebook: (edited here)
So sometimes breastfeeding isn’t an amazing experience, sometimes it is. We can be honest about our feelings with ourselves and with others and need to have safe places to do so. If that’s announcing loving the experience or sharing that it’s a struggle not enjoyed, it’s important to have that place. Even for me. Being brave enough to be honest enough to admit the hard stuff is where true support is found. When I first started breastfeeding and hated it deeply it wasn’t helpful to only hear how wonderful it was for everyone else. I needed to hear a balance of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t believe anyone actually enjoyed it, they just said they did because it was expected. Today, 6 nurslings later, I’ve learned that it’s complicated and that’s ok. Everyone’s experience is different and nobody should have to hide it because what we need is to be honest, supportive, and real. Some things are going to encourage you, some are going to discourage you, either way, own YOUR experience.
________________________________________________________
What about you?  Have you had times where even if everything was working fine, you just didn’t enjoy breastfeeding?  Why do you continue?
Share

Breastfeeding, the ICU, support, and Facebook- Support that keeps on giving

Have you seen this image?

 

When Serena Tremblay responded to a call to share breastfeeding photos on The Leaky Boob Facebook wall, she didn’t think she was sharing anything extraordinary as she sat at the computer with both her sons, Gooney Bear-17 months  and Gorgeous-3 years, with her and her husband making dinner.  It was the first breastfeeding photo she had of Gooney Bear and she just wanted to share.  Including a bit of explanation, the Alberta, Canada mom celebrated her breastfeeding success with the community on The Leaky Boob:

“A nurse helping my 1 day old son nurse while I was in the ICU following his birth. At this point I was a quadriplegic and could only feel his soft hair and skin when he was placed by my neck to cuddle. Breastfeeding is the reason he was allowed to stay with me in the hospital for 5 months while I lived on the physical rehabilitation unit learning how to walk again (complications from when he was born). It’s amazing how much baby stuff you can fit in a hospital room. We are still breastfeeding strong at 16 months! If this is not a success story I don’t know what is :D”

Within minutes there were hundreds of responses and within hours, thousands of shares.  The photo went viral, moving across the internet as an inspirational image and celebrating not just one woman’s breastfeeding success story against all odds, but celebrating every breastfeeding success story for all women.

Even if that photo captured Gooney Bear’s one and only feeding at the breast, this is a breastfeeding success story.  As it is, however, Gooney Bear is now 17 months old and still breastfeeding and these weren’t the only issues Serena and Gooney Bear had to overcome.  Together the pair battled tongue tie for 9 weeks, needing to use a nipple shield, dairy, soy, and gluten sensitivities, and all that on top of the 5 months Serena was hospitalized.

The magnitude of attention sharing this one photo received was a bit overwhelming for Serena.  To her, while this photo documents a personal success story and extraordinary time in her own life, it is also something that just is.  We don’t always realize how our stories, our struggles and triumphs, can impact someone else.  People were so inspired by Serena’s photo; moms told her they were getting ready to quit breastfeeding due to difficulties and her photo encouraged them to find a way to keep going.

“Someone else is in tears, not sure they can keep going, but they see my picture and they think they can do it, they can get through what they are struggling with.”  Said Serena when she and I talked on the phone last week.

The result of a rare birth injury, Serena was fully quadriplegic after the birth of her second son on October 19, 2010.  Her memory of everything following his birth is full of different events but lots of holes and no sequential order.  She was intubated, lucid, in the ICU, and could only feel sensation from her neck up.  The nurses and her husband would place Gooney Bear in the crook of her neck so he could snuggle and so she could feel him at least a little.

Nobody really knew what to expect for Serena’s recovery.  She regained the use of her arms on day 2 and finally saw Gorgeous again for the first time on the 24th, 5 days after the birth of his little brother.

“One of the hardest moments I’ve ever gone through, you know?  When he walked into the room, it felt like he was shy and didn’t know me anymore.  He was 22 months at that time.  After a little bit he came and sat on the bed with me and had a snuggle.  It was very hard.”  She shared.

There’s no doubt Serena Tremblay is an incredibly strong woman.  Fighting an uphill battle with her body, she never gave up.  But she says that’s not how she got through that difficult time.

So how did she get through it?  In talking with Serena one main theme emerged: support.  Her husband.  The nurses.  Her family.  The other patients on the rehabilitation floor when she moved there.  Family members of other patients.  The hospital volunteers.  The lactation consultant.  How did she get through it?  With support.  Lots and lots of support.

In the face of not knowing what was going to happen to his wife, Serena’s husband, a heavy duty mechanic, stayed with her and then with Gooney Bear.  When she was in the ICU, he slept in her bed on the maternity ward so he could be with their baby.  He advocated for breastfeeding for the pair and he and the nurses took turns helping their precious baby boy latch.  Without asking, he took pictures, a bunch of pictures and that’s how the first feed was captured on film, something for which Serena is very thankful.

Support.

The nurses on the maternity ward went above and beyond, the first nurse coming down to hand express Serena so her little boy could have his mom’s colostrum that first day.  There is much love and gratitude in Serena’s voice as she speaks of her nurses, they were heros that got her through every day.  From that time hand expressing her milk, the nurses just kept bringing the baby over on demand, whenever he was hungry, to the ICU to breastfeed until her husband or grandmother could help her or she could do it herself.

Support.

Never once did she hear anyone say “why don’t you just put him on the bottle.”  People said that, people that weren’t involved, but not the nursing staff.

Support.

It’s clear to Serena not only how she got through, but how she went on to have a positive and ongoing successful breastfeeding experience with Gooney Bear.  “Support, support, support.  I’d like to narrow it down and say it was one person but it was everyone.  Why am I successful?  Probably only because of support and because I was determined, I just wanted to do it. Gooney Bear was able to stay with me in the hospital because I chose to breastfeed.  If we had given him bottles they would have sent him home with my husband.”

At a time when nurses, doctors, and hospitals often get a bad rap about providing insufficient breastfeeding support and sometimes down right sabotaging breastfeeding relationships, Serena’s story not only offers encouragement for moms encountering breastfeeding struggles or indeed as a testimony to the strength of the human spirit; her story also gives hope for what true breastfeeding support in the hospital can look like.  Serena’s hospital didn’t realize at the time, but they’ve gone on to provide breastfeeding support extending well beyond this one patient.

When her tube was removed and she was finally able to speak, Serena refused to say anything until she was holding Gooney Bear: she had yet to tell him she loved him.

“I wouldn’t speak to the nurses because I wanted my first words to be ‘I love you Gooney Bear.”

Through out her 5 month hospital stay, ICU for 4 days, maternity ward for 1 month, and the rehabilitation unit for 4 months; Serena was able to keep Gooney Bear with her, breastfeeding on demand and pumping for him to have expressed milk while she was at one of her regular therapy appointments.  Managing her way around the ward and even the whole hospital, Serena says how it’s amazing how much you can do in a wheelchair with a nursing pillow and a baby on your lap.  Often a breastfeeding baby.  During that time she dealt with many of the common issues breastfeeding moms face.  Once a nurse pulled a double shift and helped care for Gooney Bear during the night so she could work to get rid of a stubborn clogged duct before it turned into mastitis.  Even for the regular every day challenges of parenting life she had support, the nurses and other patients or family of patients would take turns holding Serena’s little guy so she could eat, after all, who would turn down cuddling a precious baby?

Today many of those relationships continue, their support and all that Serena and Gooney Bear gave back formed bonds of friendship that last.  Friends from the rehabilitation unit remain in their lives.  Serena and her family go back and visit the hospital staff regularly and they are all happy to see them, often crying at the progress Serena has made since she left the hospital over a year ago.  Her recovery has been remarkable and though it’s ongoing she’s accomplished so much and doesn’t take for granted what she can do.  Their family is like any other family, they like to do things every normal family likes to do, “we just have to do them a little differently” Serena shares.  Their friends understand, they were there, they have seen where they’ve come from, they supported them in the journey and in the ongoing part of that journey today.

One of the nurses that helped Serena so much is expecting her first baby soon.  Serena is looking forward to being able to support her now, encourage her in her own breastfeeding and parenting journey.  Understanding how crucial support is, Serena is already there.

“It was a horrible thing and I wish it hadn’t happen – but it did and so many good things came about from it… if my story can help one mom to get support, receive support, or give support then it was worth it.”  And so Serena shares her photo and her story.

Sometimes I am asked why people share breastfeeding photos on Facebook and other social media settings.  This is why.  It’s celebrating our personal triumphs- whatever they may be; sharing a special moment, encouraging the global community of mothers by normalizing breastfeeding, inspiring others, and giving support.  Thousands of people have been inspired and encouraged by one photo with a simple caption.  Our stories make a difference and if a picture is worth a thousand words then sharing breastfeeding photos is like breastfeeding support spreading exponentially around the world.  In the global community we’ve moved on to via the internet, sharing our photos and stories online can often be the start of support for someone.  Just ask Serena, you never know how one image can make a difference.

 

My gratitude to Serena for being so brave in sharing the original photo in the first place and then to be willing to open up and share more of her story for my readers here.  All photos in this post are the property of Serena Tremblay and used with permission.  To protect the privacy of her family, Serena opted to use nicknames for her children and as the details regarding the birth injury were not important to the point of the story, she asked that they not be included in this article.  With an open medical investigation into Serena’s case, we appreciate your respect of her privacy on these details.  ~Jessica 

Share

Dear Nurse Julie- a letter to my labor and delivery nurse

Dear Nurse Julie,

You were in my life for about two and a half days 13 years ago, I’d never met you before nor have I seen you since.  It may have been brief but you made a huge difference in my life and I owe you a deep debt of gratitude.

I had prepared so much for the birth, read everything I could get my hands on including an OB text book, took a childbirth education class, and practiced Bradley method relaxation for weeks at home with The Piano Man.  We knew what we wanted for our birth and after a complicated pregnancy, we were prepared to fight for it.  When I went into labor at 41 weeks and 4 days we were ready.  The Piano Man was an amazing advocate for me, actively intercepting anyone that entered the room and questioning every procedure (no enema!) while helping me relax and focus on the work of birthing our daughter.  Together, he and I made a great labor and birthing team.  I’m pleased to say that 5 babies later and one on the way, we still do.

Our bags were packed, there was film in the camera (remember that?  Cameras that used film?), we were so ready to have a baby.  Except for one thing: we had done nothing to prepare for breastfeeding.  The thought hadn’t even occurred to us.  We knew that was how we were going to feed out baby once we had her in our arms but we read nothing, took no classes, and never even thought to see if there was anything we needed to know before breastfeeding.  Both of our mothers had breastfed, we knew a few friends that had so really, how hard could it be?

All our nurses were nice enough and the birth was mostly amazing with some traumatic experiences.  Earth Baby was born at 6.39am and we met you shortly after with the shift change.  Instantly I felt connected to you, your smile, your warmth, and your genuine congratulations on our baby as if you hadn’t seen hundreds of births and newborns every week.  After I was all stitched up, hydrated, and my blood loss dealt with you asked me an incredibly important question: “are you ready to breastfeed your baby?”

Nobody had mentioned it.  I knew it was in my chart because something I had read about birth plans suggested to ask for it to be put in my chart.  Still, you were the first to say anything about it.  Having just lost a lot of blood with a partially retained placenta and manual DNC, I was feeling weak and more tired than I had ever felt in my life.  Holding my baby, let alone breastfeeding her, completely wore me out.  Like a dear in headlights I told you yes, but only because I remembered that it was the plan.  Your response: “good, because she’s hungry and I think she’s ready to eat well for you” jarred me out of feeling my exhaustion and into the reality that my baby needed me to meet her needs.  I really was ready to feed my baby.

I don’t remember how long you stayed in my room but somehow, you made me feel like I was the only mom that needed your attention.  Perched on the side of my bed, you helped me get into a position I found comfortable, plumped plenty of pillows to support Earth Baby and I, encouraged me to drop the shoulder of the hospital gown, and talked me through latching Earth Baby for the first time.  Your encouragement for how well we were doing, what a healthy strong latch Earth Baby had, and suggestions for positions made me feel like not only could I breastfeed my baby, I already was and doing great!  You answered every one of my questions, no matter how basic or obvious the answer may have been, as though it was a pleasure to answer my important concerns with patience and care.  Even when Earth Baby was latched and I was comfortable, you stayed and chatted, telling me about your 2 boys, that you had breastfed your second one but not the first, and telling me about how you were drawn to OB nursing and how you loved helping moms.

It showed.

Once I was moved to the postpartum wing, you continued to visit me.  You’re ongoing support regarding everything I was experiencing from peeing for the first time after giving birth to changing my baby’s diaper to breastfeeding helped grow my confidence that I could, in fact, take this baby home and not kill either of us.  When I told you my nipples were hurting you showed me how to position my baby’s chin lower on my breast so she took a big mouthful of nipple.  When I was still drained from the birth, you explained different positions and helped me practice using them.  Constantly considerate, you never touched me without asking and receiving my permission first and even then you rarely handled my breast choosing instead to carefully and patiently explain how I could do it myself.  I can’t even begin to tell you how far that went in helping me not be afraid or feel strange about my own body.  From the bottom of my heart I thank you for that gift, it has remained with me to today, growing stronger over the years.

When the grumpy nurse, who’s name I can’t recall because for the last 13 years I’ve referred to her as “grumpy nurse,” told me I was starving my baby because my breasts were empty and not meeting my baby’s needs, I cried.  A lot.  Earth Baby had lost over a pound in just a matter of 2 days and the grumpy nursery nurse that made me cry told me I’d never be sent home with my baby if I didn’t agree to give her formula.  Oh the things I know now!  All those fluids we had in labor… but back then I had now idea.  I caved.  Still weak from the blood loss, recovering from a 4th degree tear, and afraid my baby was hurting I agreed to a bottle of formula.  My heart ached, I never meant to starve my baby and my fears were confirmed, I was already failing as a mother.  She whisked my baby away, a satisfied smile on her face as she told me I was making a good choice for the good of my baby, and ran off with my daughter to feed her the bottle of formula.  I sobbed.  You came in shortly after and was surprised Earth Baby wasn’t with me.  When I told you why I saw the storm clouds gather in your normally incredibly friendly eyes and you told me you’d be back.  What I didn’t know is that you must have marched out to that nurses station, called our pediatrician, asked him about the situation, advocated for our breastfeeding relationship, asked him to call the nursery, and headed down there to get my baby back for me.  When you walked in about 15 minutes later with grumpy nursery nurse and my daughter, I had already spoken with our pediatrician who called me to assure me our baby was going to be fine breastfeeding and at this point did not need any formula.  He told me that he had spoken with you and trusted you that Earth Baby and I were doing great breastfeeding, that my milk was coming in, and that I was already a pro.  I cried again.  Someone believed in me.

Somewhere I still have the picture of you and I and Earth Baby just before we were discharged.  My face is red from crying having just gotten Earth Baby back.  You had told me that we were going to be fine, that I was a natural, that Earth Baby was lucky to have me as her mom, and that you enjoyed working with me.  That’s what you told me.  Some many had dismissed me as a young mom and at 20 I was, but you stuck with me respectfully teaching me as though my age was of no consequence.  What you taught me without directly saying so was that I could feed my baby, my body was amazing, I didn’t need to be afraid of my breasts, and I could advocate for myself and my baby.  My husband believed in me but I knew he was just as clueless as I was.  But you?  You were not only an experienced mother, you were a nurse that saw mother after mother with new babies and you believed in me.  If you said I could do it, I probably really could.

Today, 13 years later, I owe a lot to you.  For starters, my breastfeeding relationship with Earth Baby which lasted a year and then extending on to 4 (now almost 5!) babies.  Thanks to you, today I now help support other mothers with their birthing and breastfeeding journeys.  Thank you for supporting me even when I wasn’t sure how to support myself.  Thank you for giving me the courage to be the kind of mother I naturally was but was insecure about stepping into.  Thank you for being kind and encouraging when I was most vulnerable.  Thank you for making a difference in my life and the lives of my children.  You have touched more than you know.  I want to be like you and just love helping moms.

I hope it shows.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jessica Martin-Weber

The Leaky Boob

 

Share

Embracing “Beyond”

Those readers active on TLB Facebook page know that {Laura} is one of our admins there offering balanced support, information, and a reasonable but caring voice to our community.  I’m so grateful for all our admins and thrilled to bring you a guest post from Laura, sharing where she is in her breastfeeding journey.  Though we are separated by an ocean, I can related to Laura and feel as though she is indeed one of my breastfeeding sisters.  I hope you enjoy this post and please, take the time to leave a comment sharing your thoughts and where you are on your journey.

The World Health Organization recommends that “infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond”.

When we started out, and for the first few weeks of M’s life, our goal was always “tomorrow”. We overcame initial difficulties (which I won’t go into here), tomorrows became todays became yesterdays,  and soon our goal was 6 months. In the blink of an eye 6 months came and went and we revised our goal to 1 year. This in turn passed, as did 18 months, and now we find ourselves a short few weeks from 2 years!

So, what next? Well, that would be “beyond”. Beyond is defined as “at or to the further side of”. Beyond can be something that women aspire to, and would love to reach. Beyond can be something that elicits negative reactions. Here in Ireland, beyond is RARE.

About 47% of infants here are breastfed on discharge from maternity care, and this already low figure drops to 22% at 3 months and less than 10% at 6 months.  I cannot even find statistics after 6 months!

A recent interview with a breastfeeding mother on national TV highlighted the often skewed public perception of “extended” breastfeeding.  This included the interviewer reading out the wrong HSE (Health Service) guidelines on breastfeeding! Friends of Breastfeeding (an Irish charity who can be found on Facebook) have details of this incident, and are also lodging an official complaint. When mainstream national media spread blatant misinformation, and barely stop short of ridicule, it’s no wonder that “beyond” is beyond comprehension for many.

So, we know that (here at least) “beyond” is rare, and not without controversy. Outside of the 2010 and 2011 breastfeeding challenges, I’ve only ever seen 2 other women NIP, and both of the children were infants. “Beyond” started off for me as an ideal and something we would most likely never attain. If pushed, I still could not answer why I thought that way, but I did.

However, there’s something about 2 years of tomorrows filled with closeness, love and nourishment that can change a girls mind. Not to mention the copious health and emotional benefits for both Mammy (n ; an Irish Mom,  pl mammies)  and baby that are *obviously* too numerous, complex and amazing to mention here!

At this stage, beyond does not feel like the big, gaping chasm it had seemed to be in those first few “tomorrow” weeks. It doesn’t seem much different to the transition from Tuesday to Wednesday. Each day my little lady is but one day older than the day before, and each day that she continues to find nourishment and comfort at my breast is a gift to us both. I feel so grateful to have made it to 2 years of breastfeeding my little girl. Here’s to beyond!

 

Laura Griffin lives in Limerick, Ireland with her partner of 10 years Keith and MooMoo (23 mos). She is a nurse and a student midwife who hopes to be an IBCLC one day.  She is a passionate advocate for breastfeeding and support for families, currently volunteering as a TLB admin on the Facebook page.  She dabbles in crochet while listening to Dream Theater in her limited spare time.
Share