Baby Feeding and Finding Your Village- The Importance of Community In Reaching Your Breastfeeding Goals

By Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of The Village from Ameda, Inc.

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The US Surgeon General identified lack of support as one of the primary reasons families don’t reach their breastfeeding goals. Be that support in education about breastfeeding, support in health care, support in dealing with breastfeeding difficulties, support in social settings, and support related to employment environment, lack of support directly impacts breastfeeding goals.

For over 6 years, The Leaky Boob has been supporting families in their baby feeding journeys and we’ve seen exactly the impact support can have on breastfeeding goals. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Support helps the breastfeeding parent be prepared.
  • Support helps the breastfeeding parent better advocate for themselves and their child.
  • Support helps the breastfeeding parent be informed.
  • Support helps the breastfeeding parent identify problems and know when and where to go for care.
  • Support helps the breastfeeding parent not feel alone.

That last point matters more than you might think. Breastfeeding can feel like such an isolating solo act, particularly in an unsupportive environment and support can go a long way in combating loneliness that some experience as part of their baby feeding journey.

When I had my first baby, my breastfeeding supportive mom (community!) encouraged me to try a breastfeeding support group when I was having pain initially. As I walked in I felt uncomfortable right away but decided to give it a try anyway but by the end I knew it wasn’t for me. In fact, I was more anxious after that experience but not necessarily because of breastfeeding but rather it was a group that attracted families that felt frighteningly “crunchy” to me at the time (no lie, I’d probably fit in great there now). Personality and value differences made it not a good fit for me and that is ok. Unfortunately, at the time breastfeeding support was not so wide-spread and I ended up very alone and isolated in feeding my baby. Aside from my very supportive husband, neither my health care providers nor my friends were supportive or experienced with breastfeeding. Thankfully, my own mother was and though we were separated by more than a thousand miles, she continued to offer encouragement, information, and support. Just having that one experienced voice, even when her experiences were vastly different from mine, helped me in reaching my breastfeeding goals. Even with the support of my partner and my mother I felt alone in feeding my baby but I am so grateful for their support because I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been without them. Not every support community is right for every individual, even when they’re shared experience and common interest based communities. Which is why there is a wide variety of options and increasingly so. Different people are going to have different needs and ways they experience community.

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To find a community that is right for you

Determine what you need. Just looking for clinical facts and information? Find encouragement being able to ask anything and everything? Inspired by hearing the stories of others? Love seeing images of baby feeding? Enjoy connecting in the day to day? Want it to be only about baby feeding? Need focused connection on a specific feeding related experience? Value feeding as what brings you together but want to share about anything and everything else? Figure out what works for you personally and look for options that fit your needs and personality.

Clarify your values. Is there certain language that you want to avoid? Is there a controversial topic that you have a strong position on that is a non-negotiable for you? Identify your personal values and have a clear understanding of them for yourself.

Recognize what you have to offer. Community isn’t just about getting the support you need, community works when everyone gives and receives. You have something to offer in supporting others, even if you don’t feel like it, your story matters and sharing it can make a difference for others.

Ask around. Breastfeeding rates continue to rise (2007 initiation rates were around 70%, in 2014 they were nearly 80%) so more and more people have at least some experience with breastfeeding. If you know someone that has had a baby, ask them where they found breastfeeding support, you’re likely to have better results than with just a google search.

Eventually I figured out what I needed in community, particularly in a baby feeding support community. A judgment-free atmosphere that supports people over methodology, embraces the wide diversity of feeding modalities and tools (exclusively from the breast, pumping, bottle-feeding, combo formula feeding, formula feeding, etc.), promotes information, and has an emphasis on the relational sharing of baby feeding experiences with the good, the bad, the ugly, and the funny was what I needed which is reflected in The Leaky Boob and the communities we partner with, such as this one.

Once we know that community makes a difference in reaching breastfeeding goals and in supporting parents in finding their confidence, it only makes sense that we would work to be community ourselves, supporting and encouraging each other along the way. It takes a village, after all, together, we are the village.

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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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Breastfeeding Confession: I don’t love breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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As I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Sugarbaby, now 4, 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 had felt the same.

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.

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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: 

“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 my 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.

Going into breastfeeding my 6th baby, my feelings about breastfeeding had changed, the skin-crawling, teeth gritting feeling was gone and while I still couldn’t say that I personally loved it I truly and deeply loved 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. She went on to breastfeed for 4 years and no, I don’t regret doing so. 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. Though I’m not breastfeeding now, when I was, when my baby would grin 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 enjoyed so much. I will continue to support and advocate for breastfeeding 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 it 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.”

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What about you? Have you had times where even if everything was working fine, you just didn’t enjoy breastfeeding? Why do you continue?

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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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Breastfeeding, Your Partner, And Sharing the Journey

by Sarah Saucedo

This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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When you are considering breastfeeding your baby, it may seem like it will be a one-woman show. The notion that you will be the sole provider for your new baby’s nutrition may seem a bit overwhelming. However, that doesn’t need to be the case! Your partner can play a key support role in your breastfeeding success.

In the first couple days postpartum, having help to make the most of “lying in” should be a priority. “Lying in” simply means the days or week following delivery where mom and baby should be breastfeeding, bonding, doing skin to skin and little else. Your partner can help make this transition easier with a few simple acts:

  • Make sure any therapy or breastfeeding essentials are within your reach and ready to use (nursing pads, nipple balm, therapy pillows)
    • If using reusable nursing pads – make sure they are clean and ready to go
    • Heating or cooling the therapy pillows depending on your liking
  • Make sure you are hydrated and fed
    • Always have a water bottle on your nightstand
    • Place easy-to-grab snacks like protein bars or fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated, like bananas and oranges, within your reach
  • Help with any pain medications or dressings that you may have from your delivery; this can be a big help-especially if you had a cesarean or particularly hard labor.

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Once you are comfortable enough to move around the house more, there are plenty of ways that your partner can still be helpful and supportive in your breastfeeding journey. Here are a few:

  • Stock a nursing station or stations in you favorite spot(s), so you have what you need when you need it. Snacks, wipes, burp clothes, a full water battle, nursing pads and something entertaining, like a good book or magazine are essentials. Fueling you body and mind while the little one eats is multitasking at its finest.
  • Use a bottle to feed baby pumped breastmilk. This can give you some time to take that much needed shower, read a book, or even sleep if your partner is able to pick up a night feeding. It may seem trivial but these little acts of self-care go a long way in the postpartum period.
  • Clean the pump parts and bottles (they add up!)

Having your partner’s support doesn’t need to stop when you venture out of the house, either! Your partner can be just as involved in your breastfeeding journey whether out to eat, shopping, or at a sporting event.

  • Provide emotional support when you need it. It can be a huge boost to your confidence! Knowing that they support you and your breastfeeding journey can be the key to making a possibly anxious situation (like your first time out of the house) as smooth as possible.
  • Check to make sure the diaper bag is fully stocked with all your favorite breastfeeding supplies (pads, nipple balm, and nursing shawl) and whatever baby needs is also helpful. Don’t forget an extra diaper or two and a change of clothes for baby. You might want an extra shirt, too, just in case!

Bringing a new life into the world is challenging and exciting. Having a partner that supports your feeding choices makes everything a little easier. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, your partner will be looking for ways to be involved with baby and you during your breastfeeding journey as well. Happy breastfeeding!

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Sarah is a mom of two wonderful boys, and is expecting her third child in March! She is bamboobie’s support maven as well as a Certified Lactation Educator and Counselor and is passionate about all things breastfeeding. 
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Eight Things I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding the First Time Around…

by Sarah Saucedo

This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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Being pregnant with my third baby, I am fortunate to be able to reflect on two previous breastfeeding journeys. Two completely different journeys that both managed to encompass the good and the bad and fortunately were able to end on a high note, on my terms. Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting that my third time around will be all rainbows and butterflies now that I have had two previous children to ‘work out the kinks. ‘ No, unfortunately, babies and breastfeeding don’t work like that. But, thankfully, I was able to take away some helpful reminders from each of my children’s breastfeeding experiences and will be able to lean on them when baby number three makes his/her arrival. 

1. Babies aren’t born hungry, they are born to suck (literally)
When baby is born, after all the excitement of their arrival, is to latch them on the ‘eat.’ But really, baby latches on to stimulate their reflexes to rid themselves of meconium (dark green poop). Sure baby will get some much needed liquid gold (colostrum) during that first feed, but baby isn’t starving. I promise. Just wait to change those first few diapers and you’ll understand what I mean by them needing to clear out their systems!

2. Baby’s newborn tummy is tiny
Seriously, it is very, very small. Baby’s tummy at birth can actually be compared to about the size of a small cherry. To breaks that down even more, this equates to 1/2 tsp needed to fill their tummy up. Really! So, rest assured, the first few milliliters or colostrum is really all they need for the first few days.

3. Breastfeeding is learned for both mom and baby
Breastfeeding your newborn may not feel awesome the first few days or even week. It’s not necessarily because of any latch issues or positioning problems. It’s the fact that your new little one is attached and suckling your very sensitive breasts a lot. This will get better as you and baby learn. But if it doesn’t or if you start noticing trauma (bleeding or cracks) reach out for help! Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt.

4. Remember to take care of yourself
We are often so focused on baby’s needs, the onesies, toys, car seats – you name it! It is important to remember that your body is and will be going through lots of changes and being prepared and getting support for yourself can make all the difference.

Even though breastfeeding is natural, it’s not always easy. Whether you are leaking, have sore nipples, or are working on a good latch getting the right products to support your breastfeeding journey is important. I experienced sore nipples with my second baby due to a tongue tie and by the time I knew what was happening, my case was so severe I needed ointments with antibiotics. This time around, I plan to have a preventive, healing nipple balm in my arsenal . bamboobies boob-ease® Organic Nipple Balm is amazing for sore and cracked nipples. It’s new mom nipple TLC and doesn’t have to be washed off before baby nurses.

In addition to sore nipples, with my first, I leaked a lot and was going through disposable nursing pads like there was no tomorrow. Not only was it not cost efficient but the feel of the disposable nursing pads was less than ideal. This time around I plan to use bamboobies® Washable Nursing Pads. Not only are these washable nursing pads eco-friendly but they are ultra-soft and absorbent! They are also a great registry item!

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5. Bonding Time
Until you have recovered and you and baby have learned the ropes together, breastfeeding will involve a lot of couch time or at least sitting down. I was antsy at first and felt that I should be doing more. But really, what can you do when baby wants to eat every two to three hours and each feeding takes 30-45 minutes? Rest, relax, bond with baby and get caught up on all of your favorite TV series while baby is satiated. Breastfeeding will get easier and more mobile (you’ll be eating dinner while baby eats soon enough), but again, it takes time. And that’s ok!

6. Breastfeeding can happen in any position
Piggybacking on the last point, you will eventually feel comfortable to nurse in whatever position is most comfortable, convenient, or simply-the one baby will nurse in at that moment (gymnastics anyone?!) Breastfeeding looks different from mama to mama and that’s because it needs to feel right for mom and baby! I thought the cradle hold was the only way with my first. With my second, I realized that nursing can happen laid back, laying on my side, with a cross hold, a football hold, over my should (my toddler taught me this one). Once the possibilities of positioning opened up, I had a much more enjoyable experience breastfeeding in a comfortable manner.

7. Yes, dad can be involved
Breastfeeding seems like a feeding method that leaves all the responsibility on mom. However, your partner can be involved in more ways that just bottle feeding baby. Ask them to bring you snacks or water during a cluster feed, the remote/phone/book when you are trapped under a fussy nursling. Ask for a foot rub or just plain l’adult conversation when you feel you need it. Breastfeeding takes a lot out of mom so your partner’s support is always helpful and can be a moral e booster when needed. 

8. Pumping is not indicative of supply
If there comes a time when you need/want to pump, don’t be alarmed at the little amount you may see in the bottle. With my first baby, I was going to school full time. I pumped all the time with a double electric, hospital grade pump. In return, my body thought I was producing for very hungry twins and my output during my pumping sessions reflected that. I was able to feed baby on pumped milk for about six months before my supply dropped.

With my second, however, I was a stay at home mom. I had no reason to pump. So, when the occasional date night happened, I did not respond to the pump as well. I could maybe pump and ounce or two, although my second child and I had a very healthy breastfeeding relationship that lasted for over two and a half years with no issues of low supply. Rest assured, babies are very efficient at emptying the breast, more so than the pump, thinking your supply is reflected by the amount you are able to pump is not helpful and can in fact cause unneeded stress.

Every breastfeeding journey you may embark on with each new baby will be different. This is simply because every child and situation is different. I had two completely different, yet both successful (to me) breastfeeding journeys. I was able to learn from them and can only hope to use these lessons and tips from the first two with my third baby. Breastfeeding and the relationship you create with your child(ten) will never look exactly the same to the nest baby or even compared to your friend’s journey, and that is ok! Enjoy what works best for you!

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Sarah is a mom of two wonderful boys, and is expecting her third child in March! She is bamboobie’s support maven as well as a Certified Lactation Educator and Counselor and is passionate about all things breastfeeding. 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 “whipping” it out and “flashing” the whole world.

All she wants to do is feed her baby.

Advocacy2 image

 

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.

 

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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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Call for speakers- MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference, 2016

Milk Conference banner

Calling for submissions from clinicians, scholars, researchers, students, artists, mothers, fathers, and others familiar with infant feeding from clinical and social perspectives. Submissions of a wide variety are welcome, including research presentations, theoretical papers, academic papers, creative submissions including personal essays, social commentary, literature, and performance art for the 2016 Milk Conference.

Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference 2016 will be held November 11-12 in Costa Mesa, California and is open to health care providers and consumers alike aiming to a create a bridge building experience that educates and supports infant feeding by changing the conversation both systemically and sociologically.

The theme chosen for 2016  Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference is Nourish. Exploring how infant feeding provides not only physical nourishment with a look at the nutritional composition involved, we will be unpacking just how feeding our babies nourishes our minds, our families, attachment, confidence, partnerships, public health, education, and other social factors.

We are looking for presentations on topics related to infant feeding and maternal health including but not limited to: continuity of care and infant nutrition, the diagnoses and care of physiological barriers to breastfeeding, sociological barriers involved in infant feeding, anthropological perspectives of infant nutrition, analysis of marketing in the maternal baby industry, conscientious marketing, exploration of infant feeding and child nutrition controversies, policies in the workplace for family support and breastfeeding, politics of infant feeding and policy making, postpartum depression and mental health research related to infant feeding, infant feeding practices in subsequent children, sociological family support and infant and child nutrition, infant feeding education, infant nutrition in public health, feeding multiples, managing maternal health issues through breastfeeding, nonviolent communication strategies for supporting infant feeding, developing infant feeding support products, immediate postpartum infant feeding support, the impact of birth interventions on maternal breastfeeding goals, maternal and pediatric allergies and infant nutrition, premature infants and nutrition, feminism and infant feeding, natural duration breastfeeding, weaning, infant nutrition and sleep, partner support and education, breastfeeding after breast reduction, socioeconomic and racial disparities in infant feeding support, breastmilk pumping, inducing lactation and relactation, the role of infant nutrition in relation to dental care, and the future of infant nutrition support.

To submit to speak at Milk 2016, please use this form.

 

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Weight Gain in Your Breastfed Baby

by Shari Criso, RN, CNM, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

Evenflo-Feeding-Brand-Ad_25AUG15-e1453970233307

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One very common concern that comes up frequently for breastfeeding moms and dads is that their breastfed baby is not gaining weight fast enough, or as quick as other babies. This often happens when parents take the baby to the pediatrician and the pediatrician says that the baby’s just not gaining fast enough. They will use a growth chart, plot your baby’s weight on the growth chart, and then say your baby needs to be growing faster!

As you can imagine, this can be very concerning for a breastfeeding mom, because you’re thinking, ”do I need to supplement?”…”am I just not making enough?”

What I want to talk about here are normal growth patterns of breastfed babies.

Unfortunately, because we have so few exclusively breastfed babies in this country (and this really is the case, that there aren’t that many babies that are being breastfed for an entire year) their weights are being compared to formula fed infants that often grow and gain faster and weigh more, especially in the second half of the first year.

So what is a normal weight gain for a breastfed babies?

Typically breastfed babies will gain faster in the first 4 months of life. Typically somewhere around 4-8 oz or 5-7 oz a week on average, is the amount that a breastfed baby will gain.

evenflo February

When I say average, what I mean is that they won’t ALWAYS gain that amount every single week or consistently, so weighing them every week will actually be a problem. They will have growth spurts, and gain more weight some weeks and less weight other weeks. Typically this is somewhere between 5-7 oz per week, for the first 4 months, on average…and then around 4-6 months you’ll start to see this weight gain drop to about 4-6 oz per week, and then from 6-12 months, 2-4 oz per week is the average norm for breastfed babies. Remember, this is just basic standard or average, it does not mean ALL babies are going to follow the same patterns.

It’s important to watch your baby’s cues and take into account other things like your size – smaller parents, smaller baby; are they reaching all their milestones, are they hydrated, are they peeing, are they pooping, are they smiling, are they doing as expected developmentally – these are all important factors to consider in making sure your baby is healthy…not just are they gaining weight! Are they gaining length, is their head circumference growing as well?

Another very important thing to keep in mind is and to understand are the growth charts themselves.  This comes up with my clients all the time! Some pediatricians are using the incorrect growth charts to measure and plot your babies weight gain. What you should be asking is, “are you using the WHO growth charts for breastfed babies?” Many of these charts being used in these offices are charts that are based on formula fed infants. The older CDC charts actually measured breastfed babies against formula fed infants, and we know that this is not accurate. So you want to be sure that your office is using the WHO charts to make sure that they are plotting it correctly.

The other thing to do is to notice that just because a baby is at the third percentile, does not mean that your baby is not within normal parameters. Your baby does not have to be at the 50th percentile or the 90th percentile!

A baby that is at the 3rd or 5th percentile for weight is just as healthy as a baby who is at the 70, 80 or 90 growth percentile. These are the normal ranges, and what you really want to keep an eye on is that your baby is staying consistent in their growth. That is really what will tell you the difference. I’m going to post some links here so you’ll have those growth charts, and if for some reason your doctor is not using them, you’ll have access to them to bring them with you and have them use that chart to help plot your baby’s growth.

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Have you been concerned about your baby’s growth? Does your child’s doctor use the correct charts?

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Shari Criso 2016

 For over 23 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife and proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters. See the entire library of Shari’s My Baby Experts Video Program here.
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Toddlers, Breastfeeding, and Boundaries

by Adina Henry

When our babies are first born and trying to get the hang of breastfeeding and regulating Mommy’s supply, we may feel like they are attached to our breasts 23 hours a day. Every time the baby fusses we stick a boob in their mouth, because it works and please child, stop screaming at me! And then we keep nursing, because everyone is happy and it’s working!

Then one day you look at your tiny baby and she’s a tornado of a toddler, “sharing” your whole plate of lasagna before you can get a bite for yourself and talking in sentences, most of which have the word “mine!” figuring prominently. And you’re still nursing, because everyone is still happy and it’s still working, except maybe Momma isn’t always so happy anymore. (Because the nipple twiddling, for example! Gah!)

(Related: The breastfeeding toddler explains when it is an appropriate time for a toddler to breastfeed.)

It looks like it’s time for some boundaries. My training and years as a preschool teacher/director have helped me when I need to set boundaries with my own daughter, and I can tell you first-hand that boundaries can save you.

When establishing breastfeeding boundaries for your toddler, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s healthy and helpful for both Mom and toddler to have limits. You are a person and a full half of the breastfeeding dyad and your feelings and needs matter. Your child is not being punished for growing up. It’s ok to set limits as both of your needs change. Boundaries are your personal choice. The boundaries for one mom at a certain time in their breastfeeding relationship may be entirely different from those of another mom’s. Even from child to child boundaries don’t have to be the same. Maybe it’s time to only nurse before sleep. Maybe you just want to start using the bathroom alone (Crazy talk! I know!). Maybe nursing sessions need to last 10 minutes, not 45 minutes. Whatever your needs are, the approach can be the same: The key is communication, and with good communication we can set ourselves and our children up for success.

Breastfeeding boundaries for toddlers

Here’s the most important part: Talk with your child about the change that will be happening. We are so used to doing things for our babies that it’s easy to forget to fill them in on the plans. Think about how you like requests to be made of you and go from there. From a very young age, younger than most of us expect, our children can understand more of our communication than we realize.

If you think of yourself attending to your child the way we would hope a nurse would attend to us in a hospital, a new, helpful perspective may be found. Picture yourself in the hospital for whatever reason. It’s the middle of the night and you’re thirsty and so you press your call button and wait for someone to come help, but she never shows up. Or she does come, but when she arrives and you ask for a drink she announces that the new hospital policy, as of now, is that no liquids are given at night anymore. You probably wouldn’t be happy about either of these scenarios hitting you without warning. But what if you were warned ahead of time? What if, earlier in the day, when you weren’t tired and upset, but just reading a magazine and doing your thing, a nurse let you know that there was gong to be a change in the night staffing routine and let you know what was coming. And even better, if she then reminded you again later, just to make sure you heard the message. You might prepare for the night by making sure you have a little bottle of water next to your bed. Or, at least, you might not be so confused when you wake up looking for assistance, but then remember the new policy.

Giving your child a “heads up” about what’s coming is a great way to help them transition to whatever’s next. Babies and toddlers can be more receptive than you might think about being talked to about what’s happening around them. Their brains are little sponges. Remember that children are paying attention to how we talk to them and will later talk to others in the same way.

How to bring up the change in routine? Make your request positive. We all generally respond to positive ideas and solutions better than roadblocks and problems.

Think back to the nurse in the hospital scene. You’ve just had your super delicious tray of hospital food and your blood pressure and temperature have been checked for the 1200th time that day. The nurse comes in to tell you about the new “no drink refills at night” rule. She can say, “I want to let you know that we’re cutting you off for snacks at night and no matter how much you want it, you can’t have any drinks after 11pm.” Or, instead, she might say, “We’re having a change in policy later this evening and we won’t be delivering snacks and drinks throughout the night anymore. I want to make sure you’re comfortable though, so I’ve brought you an extra bottle of water you can keep by your bed in case you get thirsty. And even though the kitchen will be closed during the night, if you find yourself in pain or with a problem, I’m still here.” Personally, I would respond much better to the second option.

Now that you’ve begun to set yourself up for success, talk about it more. When it’s happening, talk about it. “Remember how we talked about how when we’re having milkies, your hands can pet me gently, but aren’t going to pinch? This is what we were talking about. I’m going to help you touch me gently by showing you that gentle touch again. Remember this? Ah, this is nice. Thank you.”

And then talk about it after, and acknowledge any efforts on the part of your child to cooperate with this new boundary. “You did better with touching me gently during nursies. Thank you! It felt better to have cuddles like that!” Or, “I know it was really hard to not have milkies right when you wanted, but you got through that frustration and are ok now. I feel much better now that I actually got to eat dinner using both of my hands and while able to reach my plate. Thank you. Next time, it will be easier, I think.”

Here’s the kicker though; toddlers will hear a really good swear word once and use it correctly everyday thereafter, but it takes 5 million repetitions of “Please wash your hands after you use the toilet” for it to become second nature. You may need to repeat this process many times before you are successful.

But it will be worth it and setting you and your child up for a beautiful future together supported by healthy, respectful boundaries.

You can do this, Mommas!

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Adina Henry
Adina Henry is a preschool/daycare director and teacher, as well as a mother. She has been teaching young children in schools, homes and playgroups since 2003. Incorporating play, music, movement and imagination into each day, Adina believes that children learn best through play and exploration. In addition to being an admin in The Leaky Boob Community of Facebook, Adina bellydances when she gets the chance, and encourages you to dance too.
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Understanding, Treatment, Prevention, and the Emotional Toll of Mastitis: The Red-Eyed Steaming Pooh Pile Jerk-Monster of Breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Ergobaby and their Natural Curve Nursing Pillow.

Ergobaby

 

Not going to sugarcoat it: Mastitis is a jerk. A real jerk. It hurts.

Other than being a jerk though, what is mastitis?

mastitis definition

Inflammation of a boob. A boob infection. A boob infection that may turn into a boob abscess. And it can spread from there.

This jerk is no joke.

Mastitis can present as a range of severity from engorgement when milk comes in to a blocked duct, redness, swelling, pain, and a fever. Sometimes bacteria or infection isn’t always actually present.

The symptoms of mastitis can include:

  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Heat radiating from the area
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Hard area under skin indicating a blocked duct
  • Abscess
  • Feeling like someone electrified your joints when you already had the flue, punched you in the boob, and then handed you a baby and told you to feed it with the boob that was punched.
  • The desire to punch someone in retaliation.

Pretty much, you feel like a steaming hot pile of aching pooh with an infant to care for and dinner to make.

the emotional impact of mastitis

It is officially miserable. Women with mastitis have been known to compare the experience to torture and generally agree that it is worse than childbirth and dental work combined.

Oh yeah, this steaming pile of pooh just got real.

There are a range of treatment options including but not limited to:
(This is not intended to be health care advice, just information. Your health care provider can address your specific needs in care.)

  • Milk removal– get it all out! Repeatedly. (This milk is safe for baby to consume unless otherwise instructed by your health care provider)
  • Heat– this may provide relief and help with let down to empty the breast. Wet heat, such as a warm compress or soaking in a tub or shower (if you can stand it) or even a bowl of warm water is effective and provides a lubricant for massaging the effected area as well.
  • Massage– Nothing like massaging the area that hurts when you touch it but some breast massage can go a long way in relieving mastitis. This method is one to try very gently.
  • Rest– you’ll want to after that massage anyway but rest has a big role in helping the body heal itself.
  • Pain relief– such as Ibuprofen. Reducing inflammation won’t just help you tolerate the pain, it can help you heal.
  • Natural remedies– from cabbage to lecithin to arnica to garlic, there are tried and true natural options worth trying if you catch it early. If you experience recurring mastitis, lecithin supplements on a regular basis may help you avoid it again in the future if mechanical issues regarding milk removal do not appear to be the cause.
  • Pharmaceuticals– If caught early, you may be able to beat this monster on your own but it can rapidly progress to a much more serious condition if left untreated. The most effective known treatment is antibiotics.

Hopefully you’ll catch it soon enough to not have to pack up your children and monster boob to see the doctor but if you end up there most women respond quickly to antibiotics.

So how do you avoid this jerk in the first place?

There are some solid steps you can take to protect your boobs but as powerful and wonderful as they are, they’re not invincible. Still, here’s what we do know.

  • Treat damaged breast tissue ASAP. Nipple damage is pretty much an invitation for mastitis. Get that taken care of and address the underlying issue with a qualified health care professional (see an IBCLC) to prevent it from reoccurring. (Could it be tongue tie?)
  • Effective milk removal. This can be more difficult to tell but if your baby or pump isn’t removing milk well from your breast you could be set up to do the tango with Jerk-face here. Reoccurring mastitis could be a sign that your breasts aren’t getting emptied. This would be the time to see an IBCLC for some answers and hands-on support.
  • Frequent milk removal. Responding to baby’s cues for feeding rather than the clock not only helps ensure you have a consistent milk supply it also helps you frequently empty the breast (which tells your body to make more milk) which in turn helps you avoid mastitis. Feel like you’re feeding baby all the time? Yay! Hopefully baby’s helping you avoid mastitis! Listen not only to your baby but also to your boobs. When they feel full and particularly if they start to become painful when you’ve missed a feeding, be sure to empty them. This goes for pumping too!
  • Different positions for milk removal. It’s normal to have your favorite position or two but changing it up a couple of times a day will help ensure that the milk removal happening is more complete. If you’re pumping, try using breast compressions to full empty the breast. If you think you may have a plugged duct or the beginning of mastitis, try a dangle feeding position. It’s not cute or fun but it can be incredibly effective.
  • Free of restrictions. Make sure your bra, nursing tanks, and anything else that comes in contact with your breast isn’t constricting (check your seat belt placement). Red lines would be an indicator that there is pressure on your breasts that could block the flow of milk and increase your chances of infection.
  • Take care of you. Rest, eat well, hydrate even better. Giving your body the resources it needs to be healthy is the best preventative measure we can take.
  • Respond. If something is up with your breast and you notice tenderness, a hard area, a white bump (called a milk bleb) on the tip of your nipple, or anything that just seems off, take care of it by resting, massaging, and calling your health care provider.

ErgoBaby breastfeeding nursing pillow mastitis prevention tip

It is important to note that sometimes mastitis is resistant to treatment. If this happens to you, you can request your health care provider to do a culture to determine if a more targeted treatment protocol is in order and to detect possible other causes for mastitis-like symptoms that don’t respond to conventional treatment measures.

The emotional and psychological impact of mastitis can’t be ignored. It’s far more than a pathology, more than a clinical diagnosis. Anyone that has experienced mastitis can tell you that it is a soul crushing, mind altering invasive monster-jerk. Women have been known to question everything about their lives in the midst of battling mastitis.

I shared my emotional unraveling and how I ended up beating the Red-Eyed Monster of Breastfeeding here, including my detailed home treatments and a “flattering” photo demonstrating dangle feeding here. It’s not pretty. It’s war.

What is mastitis and how to care for it The Leaky Boob

If you find yourself entrenched in such a battle for your soul boobs, ask for help. Virtual help (head over to our FB pageFB group, and Instagram for a real dose of virtual help that’s chicken soup for your mom soul) and in person real life help. Trying to be super mom and super boob monster-jerk fighter isn’t going to position you well to win. Beg a friend to bring dinner, reach out to a family member to do a load of laundry, be cool with Netflix babysitting so you can get down to booty kicking the jerk and getting well.

Just turn on My Little Pony, give your kids the peanut butter jar and a spoon (as long as they aren’t allergic), and sit on the floor with a warm wet wash cloth massaging your boob and cry.

There’s no sugarcoating mastitis.

Mastitis is a jerk (I’m writing “jerk” but I’m thinking a different word) but with information, help, and some mom-moxie, most moms can kick it to the curb. Demand help from your health care provider when you need it, nobody will blame you for being a bit on edge with your breast invaded by the Red-Eyed Monster of Breastfeeding, Jerk Mastitis. Do what you need to do.

This a-hole jerk is no joke.

Sources: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine mastitis protocol,  LLLI Mastitis Tear-off sheetThe Nursing Mother’s Companion,  The American Academy of Family Physicians Management of Mastitis in Breastfeeding Women, the CDC

 

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Have you survived mastitis? How did you get through?

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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 co-creator of OurStableTable.com, 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 and a children’s book.
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