We’re Moving!

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Amy West

Leakies, we’ve got something really special for you. We’re talking about #BFingPlaces (Oh!  The Places You Go!) for World Breastfeeding Month and we’ve taken it one step further. Literally.

We have every reason in the world to be physically active; heart health, longevity, reduced health problems, strength, endurance, lower blood pressure, stronger bones, joint health, mental clarity, better sleep, and decrease in depression and anxiety to name a few.  Several studies show that people who exercise more are just happier.  Which has always baffled me personally since exercise is kind of the opposite of happy for me.  Still, I know it’s good for me so I’ve tried to do it regularly and felt guilty when I didn’t.

With having children though, juggling family, home, and work (and yes, even when I didn’t have a job), getting exercise in is often an overwhelming challenge.  Between the media, “experts,” bloggers, friends, family, health care providers, and yes, even myself saying what is so important for children, there are just so many other aspects of a child’s development that require my attention.  There is every reason in the world to not be physically active; reading to our children, providing quality meals, addressing their social needs, researching all medications/foods/education, shopping to have the “best” deals on the highest quality (but the blanket MUST be organic, what about off-gassing?!), spending quality play time with our children, limiting screen time, grooming them, keeping house, bonding, learning and executing proper child passenger safety (installing that perfect car seat that took 3 weeks of research and a small loan to purchase) and being sure every minute of their every day is filled with only the best developmentally appropriate activities.  With all that’s on our plates, how do we find time to be physically active?

But really, how can we not?

We have perfectly legit reasons to not be moving and perfectly inspiring reasons to get moving.  It’s not easy sometimes but it’s definitely worth it.

I was born with a minor heart condition, something I’ve lived with all my life.  Doctors have told me that keeping my weight in a healthy range and staying physically active will go a long way in taking care of my health and sure enough, I can tell when I’ve put on a few too many pounds, have let inactivity sneak into my routine, or am lazy about my water intake.  I try to make it a priority but I’m just not crazy about most forms of exercise.  I’m not the type to become a health nut, I’m not likely become an exercise fanatic, and I don’t like exercise for exercise’s sake.  Something else has to motivate me to get off my butt and get moving.

Turns out I have 6 really talented motivators.  I want to be around for a long time to be with my children and eventually my grandchildren and I can’t afford to wait to get started.  They inspire me and not only for my own health, but for the health of my whole family.  And now they’ve inspired me to share that motivation with you!

Actually it was Amy West’s idea, she came to me about how regularly taking walks was helping her in her immediate postpartum time.  Her mood, emotional state, and energy levels went up as she walked with her two kids, Ava and Luke.  I agreed and we wanted to find a way to share it with the Leakies and their families.  And with that, #TLBmoves was born.

It’s time for #TLBmoves!

And I hope you’ll get moving with me for your own reasons.

Are you a runner? Walker? Cross-fit fan?  Couch potato looking to change? Or maybe you just want to be screen-free a little more often.

Whatever your goal, you can join us for #TLBmoves!  This is all about embracing an active lifestyle and making healthier choices, no matter where you’re starting from.

Us? We’re starting by walking more. Just the simple act of taking a daily stroll can do amazing things for your health–both mental and physical! Our initial goal is to log a minimum of 10 miles (about 15,000 steps) each week, or 30 very active minutes each day, but you can set virtually any goal that’s important to you and participate in any way you’d like! (Quit smoking, play with the kids more, eat more veggies, do jumping jacks at your desk, living room dance party – anything goes!)

If you’re already doing that (or more), awesome! Whatever YOUR goal is, we want to see you reach it. #TLBmoves is not a fitness campaign; yeah, we’re talking about steps and activity, but the bigger goal here is overall health and happiness. You can participate at whatever level is comfortable for you: walking, jogging, running, cross-fitting, swimming – anything. (#TLBmoves is aimed at all moms of all backgrounds and is not limited to or specifically endorsing those who breastfeed.)  And we’ll never ask what’s your excuse, we know we all have great excuses so we understand that it’s one day, one step at a time to reach your personal goals.

#TeamTLBmoves! Meet the four mamas who will be sharing their #TLBmoves journeys during the month of August:

Jessica: Founder, owner, and author of The Leaky Boob Facebook group and website; mother of six girls, ages 2, 4, 6, 11, 13, and 15.

Amy: Writer (www.amywest.co); mother of two children, a five-year-old daughter and a three-month-old son.

Kileah: Member of the TLB Reviews editorial team; mother of four children, ages 6, 4, 2 and 8 months.

Elise: Member of the TLB Reviews editorial team; mother of one two-month-old son.

Meet our partners:

#TLBmoves is a big undertaking and we are so thrilled to be working with brands we believe in to bring you this event. Our partners really want to see moms getting active and enjoying a healthy lifestyle with their families! We’ll be sharing tons of photos of #TeamTLBmoves using gear from the following brands:

Joovy

JoovyWe are all about taking small steps to a healthier lifestyle – literally! Going for a daily walk with the little ones is one of the cornerstones of what we’re doing. Joovy has partnered with us to feature four of their kick-ass strollers, which we will put to to the test over the next month. You’ll see the TooFold, Qool, Caboose VaryLight, and Zoom in action. From the big kids to the littles, Joovy is making it easy (and whine-free!) to stroll with the whole family.

tula

Tula Baby CarriersWe aren’t just pushing our little ones in the strollers – we’re going to wear them, too! Whether it’s in the uber comfortable Standard or Toddler carrier, or in one of Tula’s amazingly gorgeous woven wraps, we’ll be wearing our babies throughout the month as we get out and move! Where will the #TULAlove turn up next? Stay tuned…

thinkbaby thinksport

Thinkbaby and ThinksportIt’s August, so the weather is hot. A big part of #TLBmoves is getting active outdoors (work that natural vitamin D!). A good, safe sunscreen and water bottles are necessities. Thinkbaby and Thinksport care as much as we do when it comes to keeping our families safe from harmful chemicals. We’re staying hydrated and keeping sunburns at bay, minus the endocrine disruptors!

When?
#TLBmoves will run from August 1st-31st, 2014, but we hope you’ll keep moving long after the end of the month! (We may have something up our sleeves to that end, too!)

How?
Participation is on the honor system. Counting steps can be fun, but the point isn’t a number (on a pedometer, scale, or otherwise) – it’s making healthy choices and becoming more active in general. It’s all about feeling good! Moms can track their activity via whatever means they choose. (You can use a FitBit, another pedometer, you can time three five-minute songs for a dance party in your living room – it’s up to you!)

Where?
Anyone, anywhere can participate! We’ll be announcing some fun prizes from our brand partners, and those are limited to the United States at this time, but the world is your oyster if you want to get active with us!

JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP (Please note: this is a co-ed community where you’ll find support as we get active and make healthy choices together. Judgement free! Come as you are, this group is your #TLBmoves tribe!)

JOIN OUR FITBIT FORUM (The four #TeamTLBmoves mamas will be using FitBits to track our steps! They’re totally optional, but if you want to use one, you can grab yours here: http://bit.ly/TLBfitbit.)

Who?
You, your friends, your kids, your partner, your boss, your mom, your dad… anyone!  Though The Leaky Boob is focused on encouraging families primarily through breastfeeding, we support breastfeeding moms and everyone that supports them.  Breastfeeding isn’t a requirement to participate with TLB and #TLBmoves.  (If you are breastfeeding and you’re wondering about exercise and breastfeeding, we have an article all about that here.

We’ll have more updates soon – in the meantime, please follow TLB on Instagram to keep up with #TLBmoves. Use the hashtag #TLBmoves on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share your pics. We want to see what you’re doing to MOVE, mamas!

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Oh! The Places You Go! World Breastfeeding Week/World Breastfeeding Month 2014

by Jessica Martin-Weber

#BFingPlaces

Oh the places you go!  Families are busy, on the go in their daily life be it at the grocery store, the park, school, the museum, parents’ work, church, community activities, you name it.  And then there are special events such as vacations at the beach, mountain top weddings, saying goodbye to a loved one, excursions to historical sites, and theme parks.  And along the way, we’re doing what we do, caring for our children, like normal.

It’s about to be World Breastfeeding Week/Month.  I confess, for the last several years I’ve really struggled with this month.  It seems like it should be my favorite, certainly as an outspoken breastfeeding supporter World Breastfeeding Week/Month has a lot of meaning and significance, yet still, I have been increasingly uncomfortable with it.  There are major world wide events bringing breastfeeding moms together, thousands of blog posts sharing personal stories of breastfeeding, mainstream media coverage on the importance of breastfeeding, thousands of brands offering promotions on breastfeeding related products, memes of breastfeeding sayings, giveaways galore, and informative posts as to the virtues of breastfeeding.  Overall, this sounds like a good thing, so why was I uncomfortable

Because somehow, I felt the focus was off (at least my own was) and the audience, well, the audience was mostly the choir.  World Breastfeeding Week/Month was preaching to the choir.  And sometimes the not so thinly veiled, if unintentional message was “breastfeeding moms are better than non-breastfeeding moms.”

I considered not participating, considered taking a position that every single day is World Breastfeeding Day at TLB and just continue on as normal with nothing special for the month.  There was conversation about ignoring it completely but that seemed impractical and kind of weird. Since I see the need for awareness and supportive conversation about breastfeeding, I do believe World Breastfeeding Week/Month has a lot of value, we just needed to figure out what that was in our context and how that fit TLB’s mission. As The Leaky Boob team started discussing how we could celebrate World Breastfeeding Week/World Breastfeeding Month, we knew we wanted it to focus on the moms first and then families. Instead of announcing to the world that breastfeeding is awesome (it is awesome, it’s also really just normal) and jumping in on the megaphone that ends up just going back to the moms that are already aware, we wanted to do something a little more intentional.  Though it makes me feel a little ridiculous to say, we have lost something when it comes to breastfeeding, we have lost it being normally accepted by society.  Plenty of people seem aware of breastfeeding, maybe even too aware, and I know very few people will even debate that breastfeeding is good for babies yet it hardly seems normal.  As absurd as it may sounds, breastfeeding still desperately needs to be (re)normalized.  Since we’re mammals though, that’s like saying breathing isn’t normal, or walking needs to be normalized.

Ultimately though, regardless of how absurd it sounds, women are harassed for feeding their babies, asked to leave restaurants, fear meeting their child’s needs in public due to public shaming, face judgment for how they feed their children, and feel pressured to feed a certain way but be invisible. Weirdly enough though, women that don’t feed their baby directly at their breast or with breastmilk, face much of the same. And those women experience World Breastfeeding Week/Month too but without the cheering support that breastfeeding moms receive.

Feed your baby way up high,

Or way down low?

In the sun

Or in the snow?

By the water

At the bay?

Feed your baby every day.

Show us the path you take

As your baby eats his steak*

What you see

Or what you do

On your journey

We support you.

*or milk, snack, baby food…

Help us celebrate families and normalize feeding babies without debate or judgment by taking and sharing pictures on social media.  Whether you feed at the breast, with a cover or without, with an at the breast supplementer, or using a bottle, your journey is part of normal infant feeding.  By posting images of the wide diversity there is in infant and toddler feeding, we can help remind ourselves and the rest of the world that we are people with feelings just trying to do our best in the normal act of feeding our children and we can be trusted to make the best decisions about that according to information, our personal circumstances, and our access to resources.  The image can be of you feeding your baby or of what you see as you’re feeding your baby.  Share your journey and together we can support each other with #BFingPlaces and #ISupportYou.  Post your images on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, or whatever social media platform you love to use and use those hashtags.  Be on the look out for some amazing giveaways and remember, every day is a day for support.

This year, World Breastfeeding Week/Month is still going to be celebrated at TLB.  There will be giveaways (one huge prize pack every week for five weeks!) and information sharing, personal stories and memes posted, and events gathering together moms that feed their babies with breastmilk.  But there will also be support for all families regardless of what their journey looks like when it comes to how they feed their children.  We’re celebrating you with the goal to normalize feeding children including breast and bottle feeding.  Free of judgment, full of support, we support you where you are.  Wherever you go.  And Oh!  The places you go.

 

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Breastfeeding, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Oral Phase Dysphagia

This guest post shares a look from the perspective of a mother with a 5 year old son with neurological disorders.  Jeanie decided to share her story after seeing a thread on The Leaky Boob Facebook page asking about breastfeeding issues as potential early signs of neurological issues in an infant.   Whether you recognize yourself and/or your child in

autism and breastfeeding

My name is Jeanie and I am the author/page admin for a blog and Facebook page called Reinventing Mommy, which is all about raising my 5 year old son with Autism and multiple neurological disorders. I want to share my story in hopes that others will learn that feeding difficulties can be an early red flag for developmental concerns…

My son Jack was born on March 23, 2009 after 28 hours of labor which resulted in an emergency c-section. I had preeclampsia during the last 4 weeks of my pregnancy, so Jack was born at exactly 37 weeks. Due to the nature of my delivery, I wasn’t given the opportunity to nurse my son in the recovery room. No one even suggested it. I didn’t know it was even an option. 

The first time I nursed Jack was in our postpartum room. One of the floor nurses tried to assist me in latching the baby on and – for all I knew – it was going great. The nurse mentioned that she would be sending lactation in to see me ASAP the following day (it was nearing 11:00 PM); her reasoning was that babies born prior to 38 weeks got an automatic referral to lactation. She suggested that I send the baby to the nursery that night so I could recover a bit further, and that the baby would be brought to me to nurse. I agreed. 

The next day a lactation consultant came in. I was planning to show her just how great I was doing nursing my baby – clearly I didn’t need her at all! – but instead I was told that not only was my son not latching on at all, he wasn’t sucking properly. This began a journey of using a nipple shield, suck training, and an every 3 hour schedule of nursing Jack for 15 minutes per side then feeding him a supplemental bottle then pumping for 15 minutes. All this while recovering from major abdominal surgery. Every day I was hospitalized, lactation consultants were in and out trying to assist me. 

When I was discharged, lactation continued with phone consults. Jack’s pediatrician was of little help. No one ever said that Jack wasn’t eating normally. I just thought that this was what everyone went through. I was constantly assured that all babies can breastfeed and that I just needed to work harder. The pressure on me was enormous. I felt like a failure. 

Then came the day that Jack refused to take to the breast at all. He simply would not open his mouth for the nipple shield at all. My milk was drying up from the lack of stimulation and Jack wasn’t gaining weight, so we finally gave up and moved to a bottle and formula. 

The problem was that Jack’s feeding issues didn’t resolve with the bottle. Now that he was actually taking in liquid, he began to vomit his entire meal about 5-6 times a day. When I mentioned how much he would “spit up”, I was told that the amount really was probably no more than a couple of tablespoons. What no one truly understood was that he could fill a bowl when he spit up. No one listened when I voiced my concerns that Jack’s eating behaviors didn’t seem typical. Again, I felt like a failure as a mother, because I couldn’t do something as simple as feed my own child. 

At the age of 24 months, Jack was only able to eat purées. He couldn’t self-feed. He was nonverbal. He couldn’t climb stairs or jump. The only sounds he produced where grunts. He spent his days pacing the room and flapping his hands. He was diagnosed with Autism and – finally – someone was willing to listen to our feeding concerns. 

Jack’s developmental pediatrician and his therapy team listened to us, and we got names for what we were seeing – Oral Phase Dysphagia, which is a neurologically-based lack of coordination of the chewing and swallowing mechanisms, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Jack literally didn’t have the muscle tone in his facial muscles to chew foods, he couldn’t manipulate foods in his mouth, he couldn’t coordinate his chewing with his swallowing, but this was all assuming that we could get the food in his mouth in the first place because he was so defensive. In many ways, it was vindication in that I was not a failure as a mother, but my heart sank at knowing that my little boy had such a long road ahead of him. 

Fast forward to now…I just gave birth to my second son 8 weeks ago. My one fear – even more than him having Autism as well – was that he would have similar feeding problems as his brother. That has not happened. My new baby Andrew nurses like a champ. 

As for my sweet Jack, he works harder than any person I’ve ever known. He is an inspiration to me each day. He now speaks, though he still has a significant speech delay. He can eat foods that are either very crisp, like crackers, or bready foods. He eats about 6 foods consistently and several others intermittently. He will continue to require feeding therapy for years, but he is making slow yet steady progress. 

If there is one thing I could pass on to others about feeding concerns, it would be this – go with your gut and trust your instincts. If you feel like you child is truly struggling with feeding, don’t let doctors or anyone deter you from looking into it further. Contact Early Intervention services in your county for an evaluation, or get your child evaluated by a feeding therapist. With therapy, many children with feeding issues can expand their food repertoires, learn to enjoy eating, and become more proficient eaters.

 

Editor’s note: Does your child have a sensory processing or neurological challenges? Do you feel that has that impacted your feeding experiences? Sometimes breastfeeding problems aren’t breastfeeding problems but actually indicators of something else. I’ve heard from several moms of the last 4 years that have tried everything in addressing their breastfeeding struggles only to discover years later that there was (seemingly unrelated) neurological issues. From somewhere on the autism spectrum to high sensitivity, they have wondered if there is a connection. Maybe baby refuses to latch or latches all the time and overwhelms mom with constant breastfeeding. While it may be something else entirely, some moms do see there is a connection later on when their child is older.

I would love to hear from you if this has been a part of your journey, please comment below, share your thoughts, and if you’d like your story to be included on the website, please email content@theleakyboob.com. Thank you all so much!

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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.

 

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Breastfeeding, sexism, and public opinion polls

Oh look, another poll from a media outlet for their audience to weigh in about women breastfeeding in public or past a certain age!  Isn’t this fun?  Scary boobs, scary breastmilk, scary baby, vote now!  Breastfeeding, sexism and breastfeeding, is that even an issue?  Does everybody really get to weigh in on a woman feeding her baby?  Is it helping anyone?  Or is it just a form of sexist entertainment?

Taking a deeper look at how these types of polls are hurting mothers and why I’m over these polls and won’t be sharing them anymore:

What do you think, are polls like these helping or hurting?  Should we be voting on how women feed their children or do we have better things to do?

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Traumatic Birth: Resources for Healing and Protecting Breastfeeding

by Tanya Lieberman
This post was made possible by the generous support of MotherLove Herbal Company.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Having intrusive thoughts about your birth?  Flashbacks?  Feeling disconnected from your baby?  Do you steer clear of hospitals, or try to avoid talking about your birth?

Many women experience trauma related to childbirth, and estimates range from 18% to as high as 34%.  One third of women who experience traumatic births go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Yet despite its widespread nature, the experience of birth-related trauma can be an isolating one, as mothers are encouraged to focus on their babies and quickly “get over” their birth experience.  Trauma can affect a mother – and a partner’s – ability to connect with their baby, carry out normal activities, and can also impair breastfeeding.

In this post we’ll discuss traumatic birth – what it looks like, how it impacts breastfeeding, and where you can turn for help.

 

What’s a traumatic birth?

 

According to PATTCh, a birth trauma organization co-founded by noted childbirth author Penny Simkin, a traumatic birth is defined as one in which a woman experiences or perceives that she and/or her baby were in danger of injury or death to during childbirth.

It’s important to note that it is the mother’s experience of the events, regardless of what happened or the perceptions of other people, that determines whether she experiences trauma.

Here are some characteristic features of births that may lead to an experience of trauma, according to the Birth Trauma Association:

  • An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).  [Note that it's the mother's perception that is important, whether or not others agree.]
  • A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
  • The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
  • Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on guard all the time).

Some common triggers, according to the Birth Trauma Association, are: lengthy labor or short and very painful labor, induction, poor pain relief, feelings of loss of control, high levels of medical intervention, traumatic or emergency deliveries (e.g. emergency cesarean section), impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes, not being listened to, lack of information or explanation, lack of privacy and dignity, fear for baby’s safety, stillbirth, birth injuries to the baby, NICU stay, poor postpartum care, previous trauma (such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, trauma with a previous birth).

How can traumatic birth affect breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can be healing for many mothers after a traumatic birth, and may also repair the relationship between a mother who feels estranged from her baby.  But a traumatic birth may also cause breastfeeding problems.

A traumatic birth can delay on the onset of a mother’s mature milk (“milk coming in”), known as lactogenesis II, sometimes by several days.  This effect is well documented, and often leads to a cascade of breastfeeding problems including jaundice, poor feeding due to sleepiness, poor milk removal, and low supply.

While research on the independent effect of Pitocin on breastfeeding is not sufficient to draw direct conclusions, according to Linda Smith, author of The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding, its effects on factors related to breastfeeding are more clear.  Pitocin increases the risk of other interventions, such as IV fluids and cesarean section, which are associated with breastfeeding problems.  Linda Smith also notes that induction of labor often causes babies to be born earlier, and “early term” babies are known to be at higher risk of breastfeeding difficulty.

 

What are some steps you can take after a traumatic birth to minimize the effects on breastfeeding?

There are many steps a mother and her provider can take to minimize the effects of a traumatic birth on breastfeeding:

Skin-to-skin.  Skin-to-skin contact lowers stress hormones, promotes the release of hormones important to lactation, and helps establish a bond between mother and baby.  Some mothers are too overwhelmed by their traumatic experience to practice skin-to-skin, but for those who can it should be encouraged.

Frequent feeding and in some cases pumping.  Frequent feeding and in some cases pumping, may help to speed the onset of mature milk.  If a baby is not feeding well, pumping can protect a mother’s milk supply and prevent or lessen the downward spiral noted above.

Find support to ensure that breastfeeding is not painful.  In research on the relationship between traumatic birth and breastfeeding, authors Beck and Watson found that mothers who had traumatic births and who didn’t have the emotional reserves to work through breastfeeding pain were less likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  So finding someone who can help you feed without pain is important.

Focus on your motivation.  Beck and Watson also found that the mothers who were very determined, and those who were motivated by a desire to “make up” for a baby’s less than optimal arrival, were more likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  They suggest setting short term goals and finding respectful support.

Supplementation when medically necessary.  A brief period of supplementation is sometimes necessary in order to bridge the time before your mature milk arrives.  Ideally this would be donor breastmilk, but it is not often available for these situations.  See the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocol for supplementation.

Know where to get good help once home.  Since mothers are generally sent home from the hospital before their milk comes in, they should plan to seek help if their milk is not in by 72 hours (the period defined as normal for the onset of lactogenesis II).  This may head off further difficulty.

If breastfeeding doesn’t work out, connect with your baby in other ways.  As noted above, breastfeeding can be healing to many mothers after a traumatic birth.  But some mothers are truly too overwhelmed to initiate or continue breastfeeding.  In these cases, consider other ways to connect with your baby, such as infant massage, skin to skin, and babywearing.

 

What are some resources for recovery for mothers and partners experiencing birth-related PTSD?

Connecting with other moms.  Connecting with other moms helps you see that you’re not alone.  There are a number of online communities for mothers experiencing birth-related trauma, including Solace for Mothers, Birth Trauma Association’s Facebook page, and Baby Center.

Self care.  A number of forms of self care can aid in healing, including: getting adequate sleep, exercise, yoga, bodywork and massage.  Getting help with cooking, cleaning, and baby care from family, friends, or a postpartum doula may also help you heal.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is considered by trauma experts, including the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the American Psychological Association, to be a front line treatment for PTSD.  EMDR involves thinking about the traumatic experience while experiencing a stimulus engaging both sides of your perception.  This might mean moving your eyes back and forth, listening to a tapping sound in alternating ears, or feeling a tapping on alternating knees.  EMDR typically reduces symptoms after just a few sessions. To find a certified EMDR professional, see the EMDR Institute or the EMDR International Association.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy which addresses beliefs caused by trauma and helps to counter conditioned-fear responses related to the traumatic experience.  To find a CBT therapist, search the websites of the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapist’s or the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

Medications.  You may want to discuss medication options with your healthcare provider.  A summary of medication options is provided here.

Care for partners.  Partners can experience trauma related to childbirth as well.  Encourage partners to seek help if they are experiencing trauma

For more information, listen to Motherlove Herbal Company’s podcast interview.  You may also be interested in this podcast interview on traumatic birth with Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, president-elect of the Trauma Division of the American Psychological Association.

 Tanya Lieberman is a lactation consultant (IBCLC) who has helped nursing moms  in hospital and pediatric settings.  She writes and produces podcasts for several  breastfeeding websites, including  Motherwear,  Motherlove Herbal Company, and  the Best for Babes Foundation.  Tanya recently authored Spanish for Breastfeeding Support, a guide to help lactation consultants support Spanish-  speaking moms.  Prior to becoming a lactation consultant she was senior  education policy staff to the California legislature and Governor, and served as a  UN civilian peacekeeper.  Tanya is passionate about supporting nursing moms, and especially to eliminating the barriers so many moms face in meeting their breastfeeding goals. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her 8 year old son and her 1 year old daughter.
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Sitting in the dirt- the simplicity of (breastfeeding) support

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

I first noticed her as I knelt to read what one of the little students in my workshop had scratched into the dirt.  Exploring language together, we were using the immediate tools available to us and writing our favorite words in the earth around us, this particular boy had written love.  English isn’t his first language, he’s spoken Telegu for most of his life, only being introduced to English a few months before.  But he knew this word and he knew it well.

“Love?” I asked him.

“Yes miss” with the head bobble I was still getting accustomed to instead of nodding indicating he heard me.

I looked around for Shamma, the interpreter helping me but he was busy with another student.

“What is love?” I wasn’t sure he would understand me.  While many of the students were already quite competent with English, there were many that only understood and spoke a few words, love often being one of them.  A good number of the 83 students attending this rural school in South Eastern India had only been there a couple months.

He smiled shyly and looked away, whether to think about an answer or because he didn’t understand what I asked I couldn’t be sure.  After giving him some time I asked him if he understood me, again the head bobble.  I smiled and shifted to sit next to him on the ground and repeated my question.  Another shy smile as he looked away and thoughtfully said “love…” questioningly.  He didn’t have the words to say.  His voice trailed off and then, suddenly, his face lit up with a bright and confident smile.

“Love!”  His eyes were no longer searching and I followed his gaze.

Two women seated on the dirt quietly observing our little group.  Their colorful saris created a beautiful contrast against the dusty ground and trees around us and the women seemed perfectly comfortable.  From the lap of one, tiny legs kicked and a little arm waved absently.  I smiled.  Yes, love; a mother and her baby.  He knew exactly what the word meant.  The mother looked down at the infant in her lap and I noticed the baby was feeding.

Yes, this was love.  Not the only expression of love available to mothers but one the little boy next to me understood.  A mother feeding her child, a parent meeting their child’s needs.  Love.

I couldn’t wait for break time when the kids would scamper off to play.  This woman, sitting there in the dirt feeding her baby, drew me and she didn’t know it.  Her baby was younger than my nursling but she was the first woman I had seen breastfeeding since before we had arrived in India and I was ready to sit with her and just be.  When my students were occupied writing their words this time in bright colors in our sketch book, I braved the few steps away to say hi but as soon as she saw me approaching, she took her child off her breast and sat her up.  The baby cried, understandably upset that her meal had been interrupted.  The mother comforted her and I apologized, excusing myself.  Never wanting to get in the way of a child and their food, I headed back to my small workshop.

The women were stunning, completely comfortable sitting there in the dirt under the shade of a tree just feet away from the extra large pot over an open flame cooking the rice for lunch for the entire school.  Nobody was phased by their presence or the baby being fed.  When the break came, Sugarbaby had already joined me hanging out with my group of students and as soon as the students were released to escape their swarm of attention, she wanted to nurse.  Scooping her up, I headed back over to where the mom was still seated breastfeeding now chatting with her companion.  Once again, she went to remove her daughter from her breast as I approached but I indicated that I didn’t want to disrupt her baby’s meal, I just wanted to sit with her while I breastfed my nursling too.  She smiled and bobbled her head with a somewhat nervous expression.  Sugarbaby and I got comfortable on the ground and she hungrily latched quickly and sighed with contentment.  When I looked up from my contented toddler, the other mother was staring at me with a small smile and her friend seemed to approve.

Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

At first we just sat there quietly feeding our children.  Then we sat smiling and taking in the children playing around us.  After a moment she reached over and lightly brushed Sugarbaby’s arm and patted her head.  Following her cues, I reached out and gently stroked her daughter’s silky ebony hair.  I wanted to ask questions but had been teaching and was grateful for the break from talking.  Plus I strongly suspected neither of the women spoke any English and I certainly didn’t speak Telegu.  Finally breaking our silence, I ventured to ask if they spoke English and though they were friendly, it was clear they didn’t understand me.  So we sat for a bit smiling and occasionally affectionally touching each other’s baby.

Our moment together was brief and I did eventually ask an interpreter to join us so we could communicate but just being there in the dirt together was powerful.  In spite of a lack of words, we understood some things about each other.  Our tongues couldn’t form words the other would understand yet we spoke the language of motherhood.  The challenges we each faced may be different and in many ways we couldn’t imagine each others’ struggles but still, we care for our children, feed them, sacrificed for them, and seek education and opportunity for them.  Outside of my usual cultural context, even as experienced as I am in breastfeeding, I found comfort in their presence.  A simple support of understanding in the dirt.

Without even saying a word, these women reminded me that support, breastfeeding or otherwise, isn’t always about sharing all the same experiences, speaking the same language, or even being able to help each other with information and answers.  Sometimes, it’s just about sitting together in the dirt, as we live our own realities of the mundane but important.  Sometimes, it’s that we’re not alone.

If you are interested in ways you can sit in the dirt with other parents in India through a financial donation, consider sponsoring a child with a school scholarship at $40/month.  More information on child sponsorship can be found here.

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Breastfeeding and thinking of others

By Jessica Martin-Weber

human decency and breastfeeding

I try to avoid reading comments on just about any articles that have to do with infant nutrition, particularly on breastfeeding in public, except on those sites where I’ve come to trust the atmosphere is conducive to healthy dialogue and engaging conversation. Sometimes I can’t help it though and I get momentarily sucked into the train wreck of society’s most opinionated who found a platform to spew vitriol laced with unverified “facts” and self appointed expertise. I’ve read enough of these comments over the years that I have come to expect a certain set of responses, each presented as though it is the first time anyone has ever thought of it. From the comparisons of breastfeeding to human waste or sex to implying the mother must be an exhibitionist or even pedophile, the “enlightened” arguments, most often lay blame on the breastfeeding woman as to how her feeding her baby is damaging society.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Hundreds of thousands feel empowered by the anonymity of the internet to say that women feeding their babies the biologically normal way are damaging society. And of course, because moms can’t win, still other mothers are blamed for damaging society for not feeding their child the biologically normal way and using bottles and/or formula.

Something is wrong with society? Blame the mothers! It simply must be because of the female portion of the parenting population!

I can think of a lot of practices that are damaging society but for the life of me I can’t see how a woman feeding her child could even be fathomed as one, let alone worth commenting on anywhere at all.

One of my cynical favorites are the comments that talk about human decency and pride. How could a woman be so selfish? Some people are uncomfortable with witnessing breastfeeding, why in the world should they have to suffer so badly when a woman uses her breast in their presence to feed her child? What about human decency? Does she have no pride and self respect? It’s not that hard to show a little courtesy to others and cover yourself while you do that. Can’t she think of others and stop being SO SELFISH and just be DISCREET? What is wrong with these women that think it’s just fine to FEED their babies right there where everyone can see it? For goodness sake, WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?

All over a woman feeding her child.

I wish I was joking. I’m not. In fact, I avoid reading these comments usually because it makes me want to say bad words. All the bad words.

Then there’s the fact that I don’t only come across this in comment sections of online news or blogs, nope, people say it to my face.

You’re worried about human decency and damaging society? What about the children going to bed hungry every night in your community? The lack of health care for many in the world today? What about the dangerous, polluted water millions of people drink daily and the children who get sick from it? How about the corporations ruining the environment often in already compromised areas and successfully lobbying so they aren’t held accountable? And the million other human rights violations destroying lives, destroying children?

Not a baby being safely fed. That is not an issue of lack of human decency. Making it one and overlooking real concerns is. News flash: a mother’s first responsibility is to think of her children, that is her thinking of others. And because thinking of her children involves thinking of the good of society and making well informed decisions in her care of her children, feeding her children and meeting their needs is part of caring for society as well. Thinking of what others in society may think of how she is feeding her child? Yeah, that doesn’t really help anyone and if you think so, your privilege has blinded you. Should she choose to cover or not, how she feeds her child is her decision and whatever makes her and her child comfortable. Not anyone else. Think of others? Ok. When I’m breastfeeding I’m thinking of my child, it’s not about anyone else. Doing it in public doesn’t make it anyone else’s business either.

I have to believe that in a generation people will be shocked that this was an issue, embarrassed that it was. Like other topics that have made society uncomfortable at times, a woman feeding her baby in public will some day no longer be a topic of scrutiny, debate, or attack. I hope. Just like civil rights issues, formerly taboo health issues, and environmental concerns that used to be dismissed, eventually infant nutrition will no longer be confused with real issues of human decency. Except for where infants and their families don’t have access to nutrition. Want to get up in arms about something? Find something worthy.

There is one point these commenters sometimes make that I do agree with, what has happened to human decency? Only I wonder if we ever had it and have instead confused human decency with privilege. Because too often we turn blind eyes to the real battles moms face and focus on demeaning and petty “mommy wars.”

Let’s fight the real battles and let’s not worry about being discreet about it. Let’s really think of others.

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Normalizing breastfeeding flying the friendly skies- Delta says yes

 

20140307-071439.jpg

Worried about what it would be like to sit next to a woman breastfeeding on a plane?
It would look like this.

When the internet exploded with the news that Delta airlines had informed a woman that asked on twitter if she could breastfeed on their aircraft during an upcoming 6 hour flight she was facing with her 10 week old sides were immediately drawn.  The response was incredible with some joining in supporting a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere they have the right to be with their child, others defending the airline’s right to have poorly trained employees or to have no official policy on the matter, some ranting on how disgusting/inappropriate/unnecessary it was to breastfeed, a few wondering why the woman even asked, a startling number saying individuals advocating for breastfeeding rights were bullying the multimillion dollar company, and a handful mocking those that challenged the corporation to move beyond a basic PR apology (that sounded more like “sorry you got upset” rather than “sorry we screwed up”) to have an official breastfeeding policy expressed on their website and their employees trained accordingly.  It was both awesome and overwhelming to watch.

Isn't this tweet a gem?  Unfortunately, it wasn't the only one like this.

Isn’t this tweet a gem? Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one like this.

So when I realized just a few days later that the flight I was taking exactly one week after I wrote this post about the situation was actually on Delta rather than the airline I usually fly (Southwest) I laughed at the irony.  And got a little nervous.  I booked my flight through Orbitz weeks before and had simply looked for the least expensive option to get The Piano Man, Sugarbaby, and me to where we needed to be by the time we needed to be there.  I honestly would probably have avoided the airline if everything had happened before I booked my ticket.

But I’m glad I ended up on that ironic flight to Chicago on Delta.  Because the time honored tradition of protesting treatment and policies that are not benefiting the people still helps influence decision makers and though the venue may have changed to online rather than physical protests, the impact has not.  The airline worked on their apology and even better, they added this to their website:

Delta Breastfeeding policy on website copy

Which meant I was totally comfortable doing this:

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Normalizing breastfeeding flying the friendly skies- Delta says no

by Jessica Martin-Weber

*UPDATE as of 2.05pm 02.21.14  at the end of this post.*

I speak often about normalizing breastfeeding and what that would mean.  Sometimes this seems like a ridiculous topic, like normalizing breathing, eating, walking, or human decency.  Or like normalizing mammalian behaviors.  It just seems so… obvious.  Why in the world would you have to normalize something so… normal?

But the reality is that in many ways, though it is touted, preached, and at times elevated, in many ways breastfeeding isn’t normal.  Like it or not, I see a very real need for our culture to embrace breastfeeding as normal.  The reasons are many and I won’t go into them here right now but if breastfeeding was normal I know this twitter exchange would not have happened.

 

Delta airlines doesn't want moms to feed their babies without a cover.

Delta airlines doesn’t want moms to feed their babies without a cover.

Um, yikes.  Also, that pumping suggestion?  Completely unrealistic.  If she has to feed her baby every two hours, she’s going to have to empty her breast every two hours.  Which means she would need to pump 3 times on that flight AND give a bottle.  Wouldn’t it just be easier and less distracting if she wasn’t trying to juggle a bottle, a pump, and a baby in her handful of square inches on the plane?  Wouldn’t it be much less intrusive for everyone if she simply put her baby on her breast?

This is why breastfeeding needs to be normalized, as silly as that may sound.  It is also why discrimination against mothers, regardless of how they feed their children, needs to stop.  This isn’t even the first time that Delta has run into issues violating laws protecting breastfeeding, way back in 2006 the airline kicked a mother that refused to cover to feed her daughter off her flight.  She sued and they paid.  But apparently, they haven’t learned.  The Georgia based airline seems to be unaware of the law protecting breastfeeding not only in their home state, but the majority of the country as well:

Georgia Code – Health – Title 31, Section 31-1-9

The breast-feeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.

I’ve only flown Delta once with my nursling and thankfully had no issues but I was anxious the whole time knowing the airline’s irresponsible, anti-family past.  Since then, I intentionally only fly airlines that are clearly supportive of breastfeeding such as Southwest Airlines and not only have I had no problems, I’ve been encouraged with friendly smiles, extra water and snacks, and supportive conversations.

What has been your experience with breastfeeding and flying?  What airlines have you traveled with that were supportive of you feeding your baby as you saw fit?

*Edited to add*

I have seen numerous comments on Facebook and twitter asking why the mother asked, that she shouldn’t have asked. While I agree that she shouldn’t HAVE to ask, certainly we can all understand why she did.

This mother did nothing wrong by asking for clarification on the airline’s breastfeeding policy.  Going in prepared when traveling with an infant is perfectly reasonable and unfortunately, with the number of breastfeeding discrimination incidents in this country, a mother would have good reason to be concerned.  Please stop acting like she was wrong to ask. Our culture CLEARLY has issues when it comes to breastfeeding, she did nothing wrong in trying to be prepared. Asking was well within her right and understandable given the number of times mothers are harassed for feeding their babies. This very airline has even gone so far as to kick a woman OFF one of their flights for feeding her child. Stop with the victim blaming please. 

I understand asking, unfortunately there have been enough bad experiences to make moms want to be prepared. This same airline was sued a few years ago for kicking a breastfeeding mom off a flight for not covering.

*UPDATE* The @Delta account on Twitter responded to the storm of tweets questioning the breastfeeding policy @DeltaAssist told @Classichippie.

Delta's other verified account responds

Delta’s other verified account responds

So I asked what they were going to do about it.  They replied:

Don't worry, they apologized.

Don’t worry, they apologized.

An apology is great and an important first step.  But there’s nothing to ensure such discrimination won’t happen again.

That's nice but not good enough.

That’s nice but not good enough.

One anonymous current employee shared that they receive absolutely no training about how to handle to treat breastfeeding mothers or of the airline’s breastfeeding policy.  This employee has experienced that such lack of training can result in an employee making a misstep such as @DeltaAssist apparently did and then be terminated as a result.  This hardly seems professional or fair.  The employees and the customers deserve better treatment.  I hope the social media representative keeps their job and is instrumental in helping the company implement a successful training program for all Delta employees in support of ending breastfeeding discrimination.

But perhaps the issue really isn’t about breastfeeding discrimination at all and rather a low view of woman as being little more than sex objects?  Thanks to @KellyKautz for this capture demonstrating that the airline is more than willing to encourage women to flaunt their breasts as long as they aren’t covered by a feed baby.

Screen capture by @KellyKautz of two tweets regarding women's breast by Delta social media representatives less than an hour apart.

Screen capture by @KellyKautz of two tweets regarding women’s breast by Delta social media representatives less than an hour apart.

 

 *UPDATE 2.05pm PST on 02.21.14

@ClassicHippie tweeted that she has not seen an apology from the airline.

Delta breastfeeding policy twitter fake apology

 

 

Delta breastfeeding policy twitter apology

What do you think?  What can Delta now do to communicate a clear family friendly policy that supports breastfeeding and trains their employees (including their social media representatives) accordingly?

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