Changing for the breast? A 14 year old shares her views on breasts, breastfeeding, sex appeal, and society.

by Ophélia Martin-Weber
Photo credit Dorothea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress, American Memory

Photo credit Dorothea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress, American Memory

I wonder when people started treating boobs as objects used just for sex.  A long time ago did people respect moms and their breasts feeding hungry babies?  Even though they didn’t see women as equal did they know that breastfeeding was the healthiest, easiest, and natural source of nutrients to feed the baby and nothing to shun?  There was a time when women didn’t have the right to vote but could freely pull out their breast and feed their baby and today it seems like we have flipped those.  In some ways we have come so far in how women are treated and viewed in society but in other ways women, particularly mothers, are dismissed as their real value being only in their appeal to the opposite sex.  I wonder if we’ve lost something.  Then I wonder what that means for me and I’m only 14 years old.

When I was younger I didn’t know breasts had amazing powers to produce milk even though my mom breastfed my sisters and me.  All that I knew was that I had little boobies and I couldn’t wait for the day when my nipples would transform into breasts.  I don’t remember when the fact that mature breasts can give milk really stuck in my head but when it did I thought humans were related to cows.  Sure, humans and cows are both mammals but when I was a kid I thought maybe women actually were cows.  Today I know that’s not true and I also understand there is a lot of attention given to the sexiness of the female breast and that makes me uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because now that I have breasts I find myself wanting smaller breasts in part because of dance but also because I know that bigger breasts are supposed draw attention from guys, are seen as more sexy, and could decide how I am treated by others.  Part of me feels that if I want to be liked I have to have big breasts.  I want guys to notice me but I don’t want guys to notice me (yes, I know this is a contradiction) and I really don’t want them to think I’m just here to have sex with.  I’m just not ready for that and don’t know if I ever will be.  To me, I’m so much more than my sex appeal.  So I’m careful about what I wear, I don’t want communicate that I want attention based on sex but that frustrates me too.  The clothes I like the best are more form fitting but if I wear yoga pants that fit my butt well will it be communicating that I want the wrong kind of attention?  Or in a leotard are my breasts speaking louder than my mind or my art?  I hope not.  I want to matter to others for more than just my body.  As a dancer, I work with my body a lot and I work hard to make it strong and healthy but not for attention.  That work is to help me tell stories, to use my body as an artist and an athlete.  Struggling with my body every day is part of my lot as a dancer and I have a love hate relationship with it and I’m ok with that.  What I don’t want is to question my natural biology simply because of how others say it should be.  Sometimes it feels as though society wants to punish those with female body parts yet tell us we’re equal without having to act like we really are.  I don’t get it, I understand that breasts are considered sex things but they don’t seem any more “sexy” than most of the other parts of my body such as my lips, my arms, my shoulders, my legs.  Men may find them sexy (is it that way in every culture or just ours?) but they aren’t sexy to me, they feed babies.

The author, Ophélia Martin-Weber

The author, Ophélia Martin-Weber

Looking back to what my childish mind was thinking and comparing it to some people’s opinions about moms openly breastfeeding in public, I wonder if they too see breastfeeding moms as cows?  Do breastfeeding mothers need to be fenced and herded together, separate from everyone else?  I know there are people that think about moms that way but not everyone does.  A lot of my adult friends have different opinions about breastfeeding but they don’t think poorly about my mom and they don’t ask her to cover when she’s feeding my little sister.  It doesn’t bother them that part of my mom’s breast is visible.  Pictures of beautiful and sexy women show off breasts at least as much as a mom’s breast is seen when she is breastfeeding.  In our culture, what is the most sexy part about women’s breasts?  The breast that is popping out of a too small shirt or the covered nipple?  Why?  If it’s the nipple, why is it such a big deal about breastfeeding in public if the baby is hiding the nipple?  Understandable because of the messages we get from certain parts of society, they might think it is sexual because a person’s mouth, even if it is a baby is on a woman’s breast but they need to get a grip and review their history lessons.   And also learn how breastfeeding works.

And why is it ok for men to show off their mammary glands but women can’t?  Why aren’t women “allowed” to expose their chest as much as men can?  Why is it considered indecent for me to be topless by my neighbor across the street can walk around just in his shorts and nobody has a problem with it?  How is that equal?  How is that not discrimination?  Stop telling me I can be equal to my male counterparts but then tell me I have to hide my body more as if there is something wrong with me.

I’m not sure I even want to have babies but if I do I will breastfeed them though I have to admit the idea of breastfeeding in public scares me because I know how people think of breasts, women, and moms.  That kind of attention isn’t what I want for myself.  I don’t know what I will do though because I know too much about breastfeeding to not breastfeed and I don’t think I’d want to just stay home all the time.  How sad is it that anyone would be afraid to feed their baby in public?  I’m a little disappointed in myself for feeling this way, I mean, my mom is The Leaky Boob, I feel like she’s the queen of breastfeeding.  But that’s where I am right now.  Fortunately, I have a long time to figure that out and I know I have a family that will support me along the way.

If all this obsession with female breasts didn’t actually happen, what would life be like?  If we could change the attitudes against breastfeeding would we actually change attitudes about women?  I hope we can learn from our mistakes.

 

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What do you think?  

Do you feel attitudes about breastfeeding are related in any way to our attitudes about women in general?  

How did you think about breasts, breastfeeding, and your own body when you were a teen?

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Completely unrelated to this post, this video shares the author’s story of dance and her dance aspirations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycG-NW1UGno

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IMG_0404 Ophélia Martin-Weber is 14 years old, the eldest of six girls.  Ophélia is in 8th grade, homeschooled, and is   passionate about dance.  A few years ago Ophélia wrote for The Leaky Boob, sharing her views as an 11 year old on breastfeeding and Jessica recently shared a proud mama moment about Ophélia.  You can see some of Ophélia’s dancing and hear her share her dance story and dreams in this video.
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Fear and Breastfeeding in Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flamingo hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegas Nudie card

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

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

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

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

Vegas showgirl and breastfeeding mom

Poster outside cafe, me feeding Sugarbaby inside cafe.

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

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

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

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

Vegas call card compared to breastfeeding

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

What would be your suggestions?  

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

_______________________________

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Babymooning- 12 signs you are the mother of a breastfeeding newborn

I’m babymooning.  Sugarbaby and I are doing very well, now 12 days postpartum.  I’ve been trying very hard to take it easy and respect this postpartum time for myself and it has been paying off.  Over the last almost 2 weeks I’ve been simply enjoying my baby, my family, and resting.  Cherishing this newborn time that goes too fast has been my priority.
I wanted to share some observations I’ve made during my babymoon, maybe you can relate and I’m sure you can add some of your own.
You know you’re the mom of a breastfeeding newborn when…
  1. You finally get to take a shower and within 10 minute of getting out you already have leaked milk all over your clean shirt.
  2. As much as you like the longer, thicker hair you grew during pregnancy, hacking it off with a dull pair of scissors is starting to sound like a good plan between the frequency of showers you get, the death-like grip of a tiny handful of hair your baby is capable of, cleaning spit up out of it several times a day, and the nagging fear of a hair tourniquet.
  3. You wonder why you didn’t invest in more yoga pants and are certain you will never wear blue jeans again.
  4. Your favorite food is: “anything someone else made.”
  5. Any time someone hugs you any way but with a side hug you wince.
  6. The old adage “never wake a sleeping baby” doesn’t apply when your boobs are rock hard boulders crushing your chest.  Yes, you will wake your baby for some relief.
  7. You wish you had jedi powers for every time you forget to grab a drink of water before you sit down to breastfeed… again.
  8. “Sleep when baby sleeps” seems like a good plan but you wonder when you’d get to pee or brush your teeth or eat.  Then you realize that sleep trumps everything else and decide you’ll pee, brush your teeth, and eat while holding your baby.
  9. Something seems really funny and you laugh hysterically only to forget what was so funny 5 minutes later.
  10. Shirts are “clean” unless the smell is too bad or there is obvious spit-up or poop on them, dried milk leaks don’t count as “dirty.”
  11. The stash of reusable breastpads that seemed so impressive before giving birth is used up in one day after your milk comes in.
  12. You’d rather sniff your baby’s head snuggled on your chest than even your favorite flower any day.

The Leakies on The Leaky Boob Facebook page had plenty more here and I hope you’ll add your own in the comments below.  Now back to my baby head sniffing!

 

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Boobs- Function and Pleasure

My life is all about breasts, it seems.  I am an IBCLC, and I spend at least 32 hours a week providing breastfeeding services to moms.  I am also a nursing mother – my nursling and I are going on 18 months right now.  And then there’s the flip side of my breasts.  My second job, you see, is modeling for a boudoir and fashion photo company, Red Petti.  This means that I regularly spend a few hours a month getting dolled up and photographed in lingerie for campaigns.  My breasts are very functional and very attractive all in one.

The dual nature of the human breast is one that we have a really, really hard time with in most Westernized countries.  Breastfeeding moms are asked to cover up or kicked out of various places, yet we use bikini clad models to sell any number of things.  With the vastly sexualized nature of the breast, is it any wonder that I have client after client who is concerned that nursing will feel sexual to her, or that she won’t be able to still be attractive if she’s nursing?

Sometimes I hear the advice of “Just retire the sexy for a little while, because you only nurse a short time in the grand scheme of things.”  And this is true.  You do only nurse for a little while.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your breasts for sexiness and functional purposes.  After all, let’s face it – your sexuality is why you have a baby, in most cases.  Babies don’t end that, or no one would have more than one.

So understand that breastfeeding is not sexual, although it can be very sensual (and by sensual I mean that it engages your senses, and the flood of hormones can make you feel very relaxed and happy.) The contact with the breast in breastfeeding is very different than sexual contact, so it is not an arousing experience for most women. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about in using your breasts in feeding your child – it is their primary biological function. And if that biological function doesn’t come easily, don’t feel like a failure – see a trained lactation professional to help you learn. Most trained lactation professionals can give you some advice or referrals if you’re having a difficult time with sexual behavior while nursing, as well.

On the flip side, just because you have become a mom doesn’t mean that you are no longer fabulous or sexy or desirable.  That doesn’t end the second you have the baby, although it’s easy to forget that.  It may take you awhile to lose the pregnancy weight (although breastfeeding may help!) and you may have a few stretch marks or some loose skin, but so what?  You are magnificent and gorgeous.  And while you’re nursing, you may even have a fuller, more voluptuous chest.  Enjoy it while it’s around.

Audre Lorde once said, “I can’t really define it in sexual terms alone although our sexuality is so energizing why not enjoy it too?”  She wasn’t talking about the breast, but it works for that, too.  Sexuality doesn’t define our breasts – if anything, the nurturing act of breastfeeding inherently does.  But it’s ok for your breasts to have dual roles, and you can and should enjoy them both.

 

 

 Star is an IBCLC and breastfeeding peer counselor for a WIC in the Midwest.  Star also supports breastfeeding locally by sitting on the  breastfeeding task force in her town.  She is helping her  community’s Early Head Start redefine  their breastfeeding support, and is the  driving force behind a local breastfeeding campaign.  In  the remainder of her free  time, she chases around her nursling and preschooler.
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Bamboobies Holidays breastfeeding survival giveaway!

As part of our LIVE Facebook chat this week with TLB sponsor Bamboobies, Kerry Gilmartin has generously offered a giveaway just for The Leaky Boob readers.  I got to meet Kerry this past September (and her adorable little boy!), she’s such a lovely person with a passion for helping moms, I am so pleased to share this wonderful company with my readers.  Read on for Kerry’s holiday breastfeeding survival tips and to learn about the products she developed and materials she uses.

 

TLB:  How did you develop your products and why do you use the materials you use?

Kerry:  I’m a hippie at heart – and a very leaky boob! When I was breastfeeding my 2nd, it really bothered me that the only pads that wouldn’t leak through my shirt and so I started stuffing some bamboo velour fabric washable baby wipes into my shirt because they were so soft and absorbent. I wouldn’t have had the instinct to start a company making breast pads if it weren’t for the funny name I thought of one day – or the knowledge of great eco-fibers and waterproof materials being used by cloth diaper manufacturers.

I developed the unique nursing shawl when I was embarrassed by the attention the bright apron-style covers drew and not confident enough to just nurse in public without any cover.  I wanted something that was stylish and could be worn all the time and wound up using a woolen shawl I owned to nurse in quite a bit. When I wanted something more lightweight I developed our unique design with a couture designer friend and found the neat soy/organic cotton fabric was really well suited to it for breathability, wrinkle resistance and keeping it’s shape.

We make all of our products here in Colorado by women making a fair wage and we’re really happy about that too!

 

TLB:  What holiday breastfeeding tip do you have to share with the Leakies?  I think our nursing shawl is such an attractive and subtle thing that whether you’re traveling on the plane or sitting at a cocktail party, no one will know what you’re doing until you pull the baby out! It’s nice to have privacy for yourself and your baby and boobies – especially at such a hectic time of year.

Kerry:  Taking time out to get naps for you and baby when you’re traveling makes all the difference too – a little nurse and nap can be a cure for even the most annoying of crazy uncles/nosy aunts etc.

 

Kerry is giving away one set of therapy pillows – value $24.99.  Bamboob-ease therapy pillows ease pains of engorgement, clogged ducts and weaning – and even big kid bruises!  They’re super-soft bamboo fabric filled with flax seeds that can be warmed in the microwave or cooled in the freezer to provide comfort and therapy for all sorts of breast issues.

Kerry is also giving away one Bamboobies Cute Little Nursing Cover – value $44 – a novel new nursing cover that looks more like a stylish shawl than a traditional apron-style cover-up.  It comes in only solid colors so it’s more discrete – you called it ‘mom-wear with flair’ !  Useful during pregnancy as well as the next couple of years as a stylish shawl, it’s a flattering addition to a new mother’s wardrobe.  Made of organic cotton and soy fiber, it’s a cool eco-garment and lusciously soft too.

Bamboobies are made in regular (ultra-thin and leak-proof) and overnight (ultra-thick).  Nursing mothers love them bc they’re the softest and they don’t show through or leak through like other washable pads.  Made of organic cotton, bamboo and hemp, they’re eco, ultra-soft and they’re money-savers in the long run over disposables.  We’ll give away a multi-pack with 3 pair of regulars and one pair of overnights – value $30.

Total value is is just over $100!

 

All you have to do to be entered to win one of these fabulous prizes is to comment on this post and share what you’d like to win in this giveaway as well as your holiday breastfeeding survival tip.  For a second entry please visit Bamboobies site and come back with the link of what you’d treat yourself to this holiday season.  Please be sure to visit Bamboobies Facebook pageand thank them for sponsoring this chat and giveaway!  And so you don’t have to wait, take advantage of this code FaLaLa25 for 25% off at Bamboobies, the code is good through the end of this week so get yourself something for your stocking this holiday season.

 

This giveaway is open to USA and Canadian entries and closes December 15th, 2011.  Good luck!

 

The winners have been randomly selected, congratulations to…

Laney:

“My 2nd entry: I’d treat myself to the http://www.shop.buybamboobies.com/Nursing-Cover-3-Pair-Regular-Bamboobies-Gift-Box-GIFT.htm Thanks!”

Sherry:

“I would love to win the nursing cover. its so adorable and not as obvious as other covers. My survival tip is to just relax and do what you know is best, forget the rest! “

Amanda:

“I would love to win the nursing pads, as baby is due in January! With my first two babies we survived the holidays breastfeeding by trying not to stress. Stress just makes everything worse for Mom and baby, plus it is a lot harder to enjoy this wonderful time of year.”

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Unsupportive Support- Cultural breastfeeding ignorance: toddlers and introducing solids

I bet at least half of those reading this are uncomfortable with that picture.

I get that society isn’t comfortable with breastfeeding in many ways, despite all the lip service given to “breast is best.”  So it’s not a big surprise that socially speaking most people don’t even have a basic idea of what’s normal or healthy with breastfeeding.  With this in mind much of what is unsupportive support comes from this place of ignorance and lack of exposure to normal, healthy breastfeeding.  It is my hope that time will change this problem because we have allowed our emphasis on the sexual nature of breasts to replace a general understanding of normal human biology.  However, waiting won’t change the unsupportive support spreading as a result of this collective ignorance of society so those unintentional acts must be addressed.  Continuing the series on unsupportive support, let’s take a look at a few of these common issues stemming from society’s lack of understanding of normal and healthy breastfeeding.

Does this one weird you out too?

 

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 6.

Unsupportive support is…

Ever asking “Isn’t he too old for that?” or “If they can ask for it they’re too old, it’s just gross.”

First thought that goes through my mind when I hear this: “Aren’t you too old to be so rude?”  Manners, people, try them.  This is not your child, this is not your choice.  Plus, the answer is no, the child isn’t too old.  Wherever you draw the imaginary cut off line for breastfeeding, it’s just that, imaginary.  What is it you’re really afraid of anyway?  That it somehow becomes sexual?  Remember, that fear is founded in an adult perception of breasts, not a child’s.  Are you concerned that the child will grow overly dependent on breastfeeding and need to breastfeed when they are in college?  Please, in cultures where it is common for children to wean on their own timeline, this is unheard of.  And even if it were to happen, wouldn’t that make it their problem, not yours?  Still, I’m not going to give this concern any more energy, I’ve never once met someone that had a college-age child breastfeeding.  You may be out of touch with what normal duration breastfeeding looks like, sometimes called “extended breastfeeding” but I have to ask, extended beyond what?  The minimum recommendations?  Extended beyond society’s distorted perception of normal breastfeeding?  Extended beyond your personal comfort level?  Extended beyond the imaginary cut off line for breastfeeding  The major health organizations in the world encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 2 years and they recommend women continue as long as it is mutually agreeable.  Mutually.  Between the breastfeeding mother and the breastfeeding child.  Not you.  It’s up to them so butt out.  Babies start using the only communicating tools they know to start asking for it as soon as they are born, you can read here about normal newborn behavior.  A mother responding to her child’s signs of hunger = good parenting, not a bad habit.  It’s important that you recognize and get comfortable now with this thought: “My opinions aren’t always right for everyone and sometimes I should just keep them to myself.”

Sneaking food to a small child without asking their parents permission or arguing with them about their choice to wait to introduce foods.

It boggles my mind how often I read “I can’t trust my mother-in-law/uncle/brother/grandpa/etc. with my 3 month old, they insist on giving him tastes of food, even stuff like ice cream or dangerous choking hazards!”  People, it’s not your kid, not your turn to make these kind of decisions.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, shoot, friends get to spoil a kid, it’s true.  When my kids are older I don’t care if my parents take them out for ice cream for breakfast when they get to have them on their own.  It’s their grandparent prerogative and I support it on occasion.  But that has to be something discussed and approved (even with disapproval) and the limits recognized and respected.  Giving a baby foods that their parents, you know, the people that are responsible for them, take them to the doctor, are reading the most up to date information on what babies need, and are up at night with them, haven’t approved is not only disrespectful but it’s dangerous.  Between ruining a virgin gut (google it), risking allergen exposure, and introducing textures they may not be physically developed enough to handle and thus pose a potential choking risk, there is absolutely no good reason EVER to sneak food to another parent’s child.  And arguing with them about their decision for the health and safety of their child, even if you think they are wrong or extreme, is not helping either the parent or the child.  If you’re truly concerned do your research before bringing it up.  In order to offer support that’s actually helpful, you need to be familiar with current information and research as well as possible controversy.  In the end you have to respect their decision or you will remain that person they can’t trust.  And yes, they can’t trust you which means they will never be comfortable leaving their child in your hands.  Coming to terms with “I am not the person(s) ultimately responsible for this child, I do not have the authority or position to make this decision and must respect the people that do.”  By the way, this goes for formula fed babies too.  Allergies, food sensitivities, immature digestive tracts, and choking hazards are real concerns for them as well.  This is their long term health you’re messing around with and you don’t have that right or responsibility.

 

Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed a small infant and child.  Just because we’re not used to it as a society does not mean that there is something wrong with it.  Before critiquing the mother willing to go against societal norms to do what she truly believes is best for her child, please educate yourself as to why she would do that in the first place.  Or at least express your thoughts and concerns by asking respectfully why she has chosen a certain path over another.  When it comes to decisions regarding that child’s health step carefully.  There is controversy surrounding just about every health decision parents are faced with today, cut them some slack and just respect that they are thinking people that may be ok with discussing their decision but deserve to be respected in them even if you disagree.  Please don’t let cultural ignorance determine how you feel about something or how you respond to something.  Challenge yourself, is the problem really what that mother is doing or is the problem that as a society we just can’t imagine anything other than what we’ve grown accustomed to.  Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and offer real support, not ignorant social judgments.

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Have you received comments about your child being “too old” to breastfeed?  How did you respond?

Are there people around you that you can’t trust because they don’t respect your parenting choices?

Have you ever had someone feed or almost feed your child something you felt was dangerous?

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Breast Cancer, Because Reduced Risk Does Not Mean No Risk

by Terry Arnold

Editor’s note: Breastfeeding activists, such as myself, excitedly share the information that the relative risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3% for every 12 months a woman breastfeeds (you can read the abstract from the 2002 study here).  This is exciting information and something that should be shared but not to the exclusion of the reality that a reduced risk does not mean no risk.  Women, your health is important.  Breastfeeding can be one way to reduce your risk of breast cancer but it is not a guarantee.  Please take the time to be educated and informed and then for you, for your children and for the people that love you, learn the signs of the different types of breast cancer and don’t neglect your breast health.  This article by a beautiful friend of mine, Inflammatory Breast cancer survivor, science teacher (she’s taught my kids!), and mother of 5 breastfed children is one of the most important articles I’ve ever shared here on theleakyboob.com.  Terry is a hero, speaking out to educate others on this silent killer she has been blessed to survive.  I deeply appreciate her sharing with us, that she cares enough about us moms to risk telling us what we may not want to hear.  This article is not intended to frighten anyone, simply to help educate and share information. ~Jessica

Photo by bingeandpurge from deviantart.com

 

“You’re upsetting me”, she says and walks away….

Breast cancer, I talk about breast cancer. Especially in October (or “Pinktober” as it is sometimes called) as it is easier to strike up a conservation with a stranger due to the social focus on this disease. Today at a volunteer event to protect Galveston Bay, I asked the young woman standing near me if she had ever heard of IBC, Inflammatory Breast Cancer? She seemed a little confused at not being versed on IBC as she clearly was an educated woman savvy in women’s health issues. After a short delay, she said no, she had not heard of this type of breast cancer. I began to tell her about IBC, the cancer that is viewed as a rare but most fatal breast cancer often striking women prior to mammogram suggested age screenings. Her face tightened; unwittingly I had hit a nerve, as she told me there was a lot of breast cancer in her family. Within seconds calm washed over her face and she smiled and said, “But I will never get breast cancer!” Then I was the one at loss for words, “Why do you say that?” Her reply, “I have breastfed two children, each child over a year, so my breasts are resistance to cancer.” I sputtered for a minute…and I said, “I hate to tell you this, but I am a mom of five children, and nursed all of them at least to their first birthday, and I talk to women about IBC because I was diagnosed with this cancer the summer of 2007”.

Inflammatory Breast cancer is the most fatal of the known breast cancers and tends to hit women in younger years often prior to mammogram suggested age screening recommendations. Proper and aggressive treatment with IBC is very important and person’s presenting with IBC symptoms need to seek a diagnosis as soon as possible.

My heart was heavy after speaking to this beautiful young woman, because I think of myself as someone who encourages, gives hope and fights for education of a most aggressive cancer, which is dubbed “The Silent Killer.” As I watched her walk away, I felt like I had taken something from her, a confidence that breastfeeding was a given protector and that she could not get breast cancer, instead of my intention of giving her information that might be of benefit to her or others. All women need to be well educated on IBC, especially breastfeeding mothers. IBC is often misdiagnosed as mastitis or breast infection; the woman is given antibiotics and sent on her way. Time might heal all wounds, but with IBC time works against you and a proper and accurate diagnosis is very important. IBC is not detectable prior to a stage three, it does not present with a lump, is typically not found on a mammogram and the symptoms don’t fit what we tend to view as possible cancer threat.

 

Quick check list of symptoms of IBC

Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms may include:

• Breast swelling, which one breast is suddenly larger than the other
• Breast that feels warm to touch and may look infected
• Itching or shooting pain
• A dimpling of the breast skin that looks like an orange peel (peau d’orange)
• Thickening of the skin
• Flattened or discolored nipple
• Swelling in underarm or only on one side of neck
• Might feel lump, however lumps are not common in IBC.

It stands to reason that breastfeeding would aid in the good health of that child, as well as the mother. However it is not a magical cloak of protection from a disease that is viewed as seriously as IBC. So please from one breastfeeding mom to another, practice good breast health, read about IBC, and talk to your friends, midwives, and daughters. This conversation might be uncomfortable as it might go against what you believe to be true as to the benefits breastfeeding gives you as a woman, but we need to be willing to be uncomfortable sometimes, as knowledge is power. We need to be educated on IBC.

Resources:

www.theibcnetwork.org
Post questions to leading specialist about IBC, http://tinyurl.com/44n7xnq

 

  Terry Arnold was diagnosed with IBC in her right breast in August of 2007 after three months of    misdiagnosis. As if an IBC triple negative diagnosis was not enough of a blow, and never one to do things in a small way, she discovered her left breast had traditional cancer as well. In treatment for almost a year, Terry was blessed with so much support by family and friends that she was able to be of support to others with this disease even while still under care. Outside of being the best wife possible to her husband Calvin of 31 years and mother, mother in law and grandmother, she is focused on educating every person to learn more about IBC, its symptoms and best treatment plans. She looks forward to the day we can all remember than once, long ago, there was a disease called IBC that is now filed under an archive of past diseases because we have a cure. Hope always.
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Nipple Shields: life-saver, supply -wrecker or just another tool for nursing mothers?

 by Jenny Thomas, MD, MPH, IBCLC, FAAP, FABM

I confess, I didn’t know what a nipple shield was back in the day when I was still a very smart but breastfeeding “knowledge- challenged” pediatrician. I did know that whatever they were, they were bad. Very bad. “Never” use them under any circumstances. Ever.

Later, when my niece was born, in a hospital hundreds, nay thousands, or millions of miles away from me, imagine my horror as I found out that she needed a nipple shield to latch. This was bad. I didn’t know why. But it had to stop. So, as unsupportively as I could imagine (in retrospect) I told my sister to stop using that thing! I hadn’t met my niece yet, but I knew that she was less than 5 pounds soaking wet and that nipple thingy was going to ruin her chances of getting into the Ivy League.

One of my dearest friends in the world needed to use a shield when her second child was born. She asked for one when her third was born and was told “no” by the staff caring for her in the hospital. To me, it just was further proof that their use was fraught with problems.

I’m smarter now, at least I’m less breastfeeding-challenged, and I know better than to use the words “never” or “always” and to deny to a request without providing education and informed consent. And I’ve heard too many stories of success to discount the benefits of nipple shields for some mothers and babies. But the fact remains that we have no guidelines for nipple shield use. We have few studies rigorously done that show they are effective.

A nipple shield is a gadget that is placed over the nipple and areolar area. It looks sort of like a nipple (sort of), or a sombrero, but is made of plastic and there are different types. You can get them online and over the counter. The problem with them stems from studies (with flaws in the method in which they were done) that concluded that the use of the shield could decrease milk supply, were associated with more supplementation, and lead to early weaning.

That meant that if they were to be used, the dyad using them would need to be carefully followed, but many mothers were getting them and no follow up was scheduled. I’m not sure the logical result of that should be a compete ban on their use, but, well, they were highly discouraged. Of course, those studies were with older versions of the shield, and other research (with flaws in the method in which they were done) with newer versions of the shield suggested this wasn’t as a big a problem as we thought. But many of those same concerns exist. We honestly don’t know the short-term or long-term effects of nipple shield use.

Nipple shields are often given out in the nursery for “flat” nipples. My guess (no data, so definitely flawed study method) is that the nipples are puffy. And if that’s the case, this might be something to try.

They are often given out for a poor latch as a quick fix to a more complex problem, but we need to remember basics: skin to skin, baby-lead latch, biological nurturing. And asking for help from someone who is board certified in lactation, an “IBCLC.” The shield should not be a first step.

If it’s given to you because your nipples are sore, then in addition to the shield, we need somebody to fix the underlying problem and be your cheerleader and you heal and transition back to the breast. (Find a Lactation Consultant!)

So, suggestions:
If you are given a nipple shield ask why. Informed consent for any intervention means that you are given the required information, in an understandable manner that allows your voluntary participation and that helps in making a decision for a course of action. Questions you can ask to help fulfill informed consent: Why am I getting this thing? How long do I use it? How will it help? Might it hurt? What other things might I try? What type of follow up do I need?

If you are given a shield, and it works, well, cool. You need follow up by somebody who knows something about breastfeeding so we can work on the underlying issue that initially caused the need for the shield.

If you were given a shield and don’t like it, well, let’s get you some assistance and fix whatever the issue is that requires a gadget to fix it so we can go gadget-less.

Shields are meant to be temporary solutions. If you are still using it when your baby is months old, we really should be able to help you stop using it, if you want us to.

If you are given a shield, it works well, you baby is growing and you’re happy but everyone around you is like “ooooooh, those things are bad’ you have my permission to hear everything that that person says after that in the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher (you remember that voice, or am I showing my age?)

Resources:
Baby led- breastfeeding:http://www.geddesproduction.com/breast-feeding-baby-led.php
Biological Nurturing: http://www.biologicalnurturing.com/
Skin-to-skin http://massbfc.org/providers/SkinToSkin.pdf
Find a lactation consultant: http://www.ilca.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3432

Health professionals’ attitudes and use of nipple shields for breastfeeding women. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20524842
Nipple shields: a review of the literature. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20807104

 

 

 

Dr. Jenny Thomas, MD, MPH, IBCLC, FAAP, FABM is a general pediatrician and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in southeastern Wisconsin. Find her sound, evidence-based and helpful advice on parenting at www.drjen4kids.com and Lakeshore Medical Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic.

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Wrap Your Leaky Boobs in a Cloud- Bamboobies Giveaway

As part of our LIVE Facebook chat this week with TLB sponsor Bamboobies, Kerry Gilmartin has generously offered 3 prizes just for The Leaky Boob readers.  I love Bamboobies, of all the breast pads I’ve used, these are my favorites.  You can read my, uh… “experienced” review of them here.

The three prizes are a $16.99 discount code to the 3 winners good for a 2-pair package of either our regular ultra-thin, milk-proof bamboobies or our ultra-thick ultra-soft overnight bamboobies.

All you have to do to be entered is to comment on this post and if you feel like it, share a breastfeeding challenge you got through and how.  For a second entry, go like Bamboobies on Facebook, let them know TLB sent you and come back and leave a second comment letting me know you did so.  If you already like Bamboobies on Facebook, share them with your friends and leave a second comment letting me know.

That’s it!  Two easy ways to be entered.  This giveaway is open just for the next 24 hours as part of today’s chat.  The giveaway is open to international entries.

As always, Kerry has also generously offered an ordering code for Leakies as part of Bamboobies regular support of TLB.  Use TLB20 for 20% off at www.buybamboobies.com.  This code is always available for Leakies, use it this week and thank her for the informative and helpful chat!

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Breastfeeding = Breastfeeding

“You look like a breastfeeder.”

I had just met the woman that said that to me and we were not even 10 minutes into our first conversation.  We met at a friend’s birthday party when the what-do-you-do question came up and I mentioned The Leaky Boob.  After explaining what TLB is to her “excuse me, say what?” response she surprised me with her response.  After I got over my own shock at her statement I wanted to say “why yes, of course I look like a breastfeeder, I’m a woman with a baby!”  Instead, I laughed.  Because I knew exactly what she meant.

I was offended a little bit though, in part because I didn’t think I did look like a breastfeeder at that moment.  Often I do but I was actually pretty not-breastfeeder looking that day, I thought.  I really thought my style was funky-artsy-cool.  Then it hit me, I was offended that someone thought I looked like a breastfeeder.  I mean, my hair was short and funky, I was wearing my cool cat style green glasses, blue jeans, halter top and a hoodie.  My nails were even done!  As you can see from the pic below, just a quick head shot on my phone I know, but taken on that very day, I don’t scream breastfeeder, do I?

Except for the female part.  And the breast part.  And the kids part.  And maybe The Leaky Boob part.

But I don’t want to look like a breastfeeder outside of those things.  Because it has a certain connotation in our culture.  Looking like a breastfeeder means you look weird.  Means only a certain type breastfeed.  It means that as of yet breastfeeding is not so normal in our society and there is a brand that goes along with breastfeeding that is more specific than a female with breasts and children.  Really, every single woman should look like a breastfeeder, not just one type.

I have to tell you something.  It’s not exactly easy for me to admit this and I’m afraid you’ll look at me differently but I need to get this out there:

The truth is I’m a pretty green mom.  Green as in… crunchy.  As in environmentally aware and “natural.”  As in we use cloth napkins and cloth diapers, have home births and don’t follow the recommended vaccination schedule.  We have almost no plastic play things and avoid most trademarked characters on clothing and toys as well.  I really, really am pretty crunchy.  But I think of myself as funky-normal, a variation of mainstream.  I can’t always afford to buy organic and I really like make up.  I haven’t recycled my glass in like 2 years because the city doesn’t pick it up and there isn’t a drop off anywhere near me and after lugging boxes of glass bottles around in my van for months I decided that I was probably wasting so much gas from the weight of the glass in my car that it totally offset recycling them- if I ever got to recycle them.  Oh, and I haven’t been to a homeopath since I had kids.  No Birkenstocks either.  There are plenty of not natural, non-organic probably bad for you products in my house, some of them we eat.  Also, I have a PILE of reusable shopping bags, I’ve even made some of them but I forget them more often than I take them with me to the store.  So I’m green but not green.  Not Kelly green, more like 1970′s linoleum avocado green and I have the glasses to prove it.

I have another confession.

While it is true that we avoid prepackaged foods and artificial colors and flavors in our foods we go to Chick-fil-a a couple of times a month and my kids get candy full of crap 2-3 times a week.  Some of you are shaking your head going “tsk, tsk, she’s poisoning her kids!” and others are going “yeah so, we go out to some place like that every meal or would if I could afford it and I freaking LOVE Skittles.”  Personally, I’m with both of you.  I wasn’t allowed to have that stuff growing up and my mom made us have healthy substitutes instead.  We’d take our own piece of cake to birthday parties, adults would never give us the candy other kids got because my mother warned them not to, we’d get these sesame honey stick things my mom called “good candy” instead and the snacks we brought to play groups looked suspiciously similar to mulch.  Everyone looked at me sympathetically.  I hated being that kid.  H-A-T-E-D IT.  So I don’t make my kids be that kid.  They eat the crap candy their teacher hands out.  And in full disclosure, my lactivist self is a traitor and I even let my kids eat the Nestlé candy they get.  Shame on me, right?

I have another confession.

Most labels make me uncomfortable.  If I were to use one to describe myself someone could quickly point out how I am not that.  Every time I try to label myself I have an immediate exception ready.  So I don’t call myself an attachment parent.  But I do wear my babies, they sleep in our room, there is almost always a parent with them when they are young (me or The Piano Man and rarely sitters), and we don’t spank.  That said, I also believe in regularly leaving them for my own sanity and because I’m a better parent when I do, I like my stroller, and sometimes I pump a bottle of milk just because I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack if I have a baby on my boob one more time.  And I LIKE it that way, it works for my family.  Which by some standards means I fail attachment parenting.  By other standards it means I win at label-rejection I guess.

I have another confession.

We homeschool.  But I don’t want to.  In fact, I have such a hard time with it I almost can’t say it out loud.  It’s been a struggle for me for the last 4 years and as a homeschool graduate myself I swore I would never, ever homeschool.  NEVER.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for it even before I had kids and I still know I’m not.  If The Piano Man didn’t homeschool with me and we didn’t have some great homeschool programs there is no way we’d be making it.  Obviously I feel our reasons to homeschool are important enough to be doing it right now but it’s not going to be this way forever because I can’t wait to send my kids to school. Besides, I don’t look like a homeschooler either.  Right?

I have another confession.

I’m a lactivist but I don’t particularly love breastfeeding.  True story.  As a lactivist I have lots of thoughts about formula and formula companies.  Shocker, right?  Here’s the real shocker: I don’t think formula is poison!  *gasp*  Though I think there need to be better standards, higher quality ingredients and a heck of a lot better regulations, I’m never going to say formula is poison.  I also don’t think a mom bottle feeds because she’s lazy or selfish even if she claims that’s why.  Nope.  Instead I think there are much bigger, much deeper issues involved that she may not even understand but are a result of the booby traps so prevalent in our society and I don’t want any mom that doesn’t breastfeed to feel guilty about it.  Should I hand in my lactivist card now?  Should I be smacked and scolded “bad lactivist!” and denounced?

I have another confession.

I was a breastfeeding mom from the get-go even when I was decidedly not “crunchy.”  Before I recycled or used cloth diapers, I breastfed.  When we ate Hamburger Helper regularly as part of my rebellion in getting to eat whatever I wanted and I didn’t even know what MSG or Red 40 was, I breastfed.  When I had one carrier I hated, kept my baby in her bucket car seat all the time and planned on spanking to discipline, I breastfed.  When I worked full time, had a hospital birth, and bought every Winnie the Pooh decoration and toy I could find, I breastfed.  The idea that it was a “natural parenting” choice didn’t even occur to me.  These things weren’t even on my radar and I’d never even heard most of these terms.  In fact, over 12 years ago I went to a La Leche League meeting and was completely freaked out by my experience there and those “natural types.”  I didn’t co-sleep, didn’t want to garden, and couldn’t handle the idea of putting a candle in an ear to cure an ear infection.  Since I didn’t fit in I never went back.  But I did keep breastfeeding in spite of having almost no support.

Recently I’ve seen conversations that almost assume that everyone that breastfeeds is on the same page regarding every parenting choice.  Like we’re a club that talks, walks, dresses, eats and sleeps the same.  But we’re not.  The mom across the street from me breastfed her son for close to a year, pumping for him when she returned to work.  Unlike me she lets her son eat prepackaged food daily, have character toys and clothing and she has him fully vaccinated.  Like me, she does curbside recycling.  Also like me?  She loves her child more than she could begin to articulate.  I admire her, she’s an awesome mom and I’ve learned a lot from her and I hope maybe she’s learned some things from me.

Here’s the thing: the natural parenting/crunchy/hippie/green/stay-at-home-mom/work-at-home-mom/gentle-parenting/natural birthing/what-ever-you-want-to-add-here communities do not have the corner on breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding ≠ all natural parenting.  Breastfeeding ≠ attachment parenting.  Breastfeeding ≠ crunchy.  Breastfeeding ≠ a parenting style.  Breastfeeding ≠ rejecting mainstream parenting.  Aside from having lactating breasts, there are no real parenting style requirements to breastfeed.  No card to carry that you’re in danger of losing if your baby sleeps in a crib in another room.  Every woman that breastfeeds is a part of the breastfeeding mom club no matter how long she breastfed, where her baby sleeps, what she eats, how she introduces solids, where she gave birth, if she stays home or works, if she loves her stroller or has a dozen carriers, if she used a form of sleep training that involved cry-it-out or if she co-sleeps, if she vaccinates or doesn’t vaccinate, if she circumcises or is staunchly against it, if she covers when breastfeeding in public or just puts her baby to her breast, or even if she uses formula to supplement.  Other moms don’t have to agree with or like her choices but it doesn’t change the fact that if they breastfeed they are all still breastfeeding moms.  Moms that are the more natural, crunchy types are just as much mothers and breastfeeders in need of support as those that are more mainstream types or those that defy labels completely.  And vice-versa.

I worry sometimes that if breastfeeding is perceived to be a part of the complete “natural” package we will discover some push back against it completely.  What if they’re not interested in co-sleeping but are willing to breastfeed and then in the experience of looking for breastfeeding help and support they discover they are also expected to co-sleep?  Or a new mom plans on breastfeeding for the first 6 weeks, encounters some difficulty but is determined to get through it only to ask for help and get chastised for not planning to breastfeed until the child self-weans?  If it starts feeling like it has to be all or nothing as though breastfeeding is some sort of lifestyle then for some it will be easier and less intimidating to choose nothing than to choose all and fail.  Breastfeeding isn’t a move to pick up any label or style of parenting.  Being a breastfeeding mom doesn’t automatically make someone a babywearing mom, or a co-sleeping mom or a gentle parenting advocate.  Being a breastfeeding mom means she’s just that, a breastfeeding mom and whatever else she chooses to be.  You don’t have to adopt all or even any of the stereotypical aspects of “those natural types” in order to be a breastfeeding mother.  Just because I eventually did doesn’t mean it’s right for you and I can respect that and still support and encourage you.  Personally, I seek to support and empower women, families, parents and breastfeeding moms and their supporters regardless of their labels and choices in parenting styles.

It’s not that we can’t talk about these different choices, we can and should.  In fact, it is through encouraging and respectful dialogue about different choices we’ve made that others can be empowered to consider something other than what they already know.  For many, that’s probably how they even considered breastfeeding in the first place.  So let the conversation flow freely but let’s be careful that we don’t have a string of parenting style requirements to breastfeed and be willing to put aside our differences and still offer genuine support.  I hope we get to the place where you can’t pick a breastfeeding mom out of the crowd based on how she’s dressed or how she interacts with her children or what baby products she has with her.  That regardless of our other parenting and even lifestyle choices breastfeeding is just so normal that we don’t assume breastfeeding women look or act a certain way other than being a mom.  Whether she’s a fashionista like Kourtney Kardashian or a babywearing, homebirthing, Birkenstock sporting hippie or something in between several different stereotypes, a breastfeeding mom deserves to be supported regardless of her parenting approach.  Nobody has the monopoly on breastfeeding.  We can all be a part of the club and we all deserve support.  Just like no matter how we feed our babies we’re all a part of the mom club too.

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Do you fit any labels?  Or find that you are a little of this, a little of that?  How would you describe your parenting style and does that have any influence on your breastfeeding?  Do you find that sometimes you look down on others that parent differently than you?

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By the way, I think all of this goes for any other parenting choice.  However we feed our children, our family and household rules, discipline, educational choices, and so much more, we all have one thing in common for sure: we’re parents that love our children.

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