The Romanticized Myth of What Constitutes Successful Breastfeeding- An Apology

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Dear Leakies,

This is my 5th version of this letter. I’m going to finish this one.

But first I’m going to do something I’ve never done here before:

To hell with the WHO Code

That’s a picture of Sugarbaby receiving a bottle. A bottle of my milk. Taken 2 years ago by my wonderful husband, I love this photo. So much love and pride captured in this moment. A vital moment in me reaching and achieving my breastfeeding goals. And that bottle wasn’t even kind of a “booby trap” to my breastfeeding goals.

Still, I never shared it with any of you here, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Why haven’t I shared this or images like it with The Leaky Boob community before now? Why is this my 5th attempt at this letter? It’s simple:

Shame.

Yep. I have harbored shame. Not shame that my babies have received bottles, no, I have absolutely no shame that I’ve fed my children as I needed to. No, my shame came from using a bottle made by a WHO Code violating company. (To learn about what the International Code of marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is, go here.) Only, that’s not really the shame I’m holding either, do you know how hard it is to find a bottle that’s not made by a WHO code violator? Nearly impossible.

No, my shame goes way beyond even the WHO Code, bottle feeding, or supporting a WHO Code violator.

My shame is that I haven’t cared about the WHO Code for 3 years, but felt I had to in order to be a “good” breastfeeding supporter.

My shame is that I played along, even became a part of the self-appointed WHO Code policing brigade for a time, even though I knew all along, deep down in my heart, that the almighty WHO Code was creating barriers.

My shame is that I felt righteous supporting the WHO Code. The original purpose of the WHO Code was so pure, so right, so good, how could I not support it?

My shame is that I upheld an artificial picture of what it looked like to successfully breastfeed and called it supporting the WHO Code.

My shame is that my actions supported the WHO Code more than they supported women, babies, and families.

But my shame is not that my babies were fed, not that they were loved, not that they sucked on an artificial teat.

To hell with the WHO Code

Look at that big sister love and pride!

Screw shame. I’m done. And I’m sorry. I’m deeply sorry that it has taken 3 years for me to find my courage to take the stand I live but never shared here.  I’m sorry that I’ve not been honest.

Because this is what successful breastfeeding has looked like for me:

To hell with the WHO Code

And so is this:

to hell with the WHO Code

For every single one of my 6 beautiful children, bottles and breast have been a part of me reaching my goals. And not just because I had to go back to work. I choose to go back to work, I love working and am a better parent when I work, but even when I didn’t work outside the home, I elected to partially bottle feed my milk to my baby. This was a positive thing for me as I get physically stimulated very easily and as an introvert found the need to create some space for myself. I did better mentally and emotionally, which meant I was in a healthier place mentally and emotionally to parent my children. It was the best healthy choice for us. I have never, not once, regretted it. Today, with a breastfeeding 2.5 year old, I also don’t believe it ever interfered with our breastfeeding nor did bottles have a negative impact on me reaching my breastfeeding goals.

In fact, I firmly believe that without bottles, I would have quit breastfeeding early on.

And see the big child in this photo bottle-feeding her baby sister my milk?

to hell with the WHO code

Do you see that eye contact? *melt*

She was mostly formula fed.

I don’t have any shame about that either. In fact, I’m damn proud that when the time came I could make the right decision for us to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. The regret I have felt about that has been artificial and circumstantial, never true. It took a lot of courage for me to make that decision and it was the right one. I would make it again if I had to. I will support you if it’s the decision you need to make as well. We’ve been vocal here that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing to be successful, I just haven’t been visible with that reality for myself.

Through The Leaky Boob I have contributed to a beautiful yet often unattainable depiction of what it looks like to breastfeed. In my attempt to normalize breastfeeding and provide support up what breastfeeding looks like, I have held up at the breast breastfeeding as being more beautiful, more important, more viable, more worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting than any other infant feeding methodology.

I support people before I support a feeding method.

to hell with the WHO Code

Sugarbaby’s big sisters loved to give her a bottle

I look at these photos of my baby receiving bottles and I see a beautiful, important, viable feeding worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting. Normalizing breastfeeding (bottle-feeders will tell me they feel that is normalized) and normalizing bottle-feeding(breastfeeders will tell me they fell that is normalized) shouldn’t be in competition with each other. What really seems to need to be normalized is caring for children. Parenting. Without it being a contest or a platform to boost how we feel about ourselves.

Feeding your child is real, no matter what they are fed or the mode of delivery. It’s real, it’s important, it’s complicated, and parents deserve support as they navigate this terrain. I am sorry that The Leaky Boob has, at times, failed to communicate that. I a sorry if instead of being a part of building your confidence, I’ve been a part of tearing it down. Deeply sorry.

I know there are those who will tell me I haven’t failed and I appreciate that.

I also know there will be those that will tell me that I haven’t failed until now. I appreciate that too.

But for the last 4 years as The Leaky Boob I have not been entirely honest with you. As a public voice in breastfeeding support, I have contributed to a mythical image of breastfeeding. I wish I could say it wasn’t intentional but it was and of the 4 years I’ve been doing The Leaky Boob, I have wrestled with this for three years. Motivated by fear, I allowed myself to present a picture of my breastfeeding journey and an idealized image of “successful” breastfeeding that simply wasn’t true. Well, not true for me anyway and likely not true for many of you. And I know holding that ideal up was damaging for some and a sort of betrayal for others. It wasn’t that I overtly lied, it was more of an omission of truth. I was wrong to do so and I am sorry.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend of ours, a new dad who was bragging about how his wife and son had worked so hard at breastfeeding and just the day before, at close to 8 weeks old, had fed directly from the breast for all of the feeds. He said something that struck me: “you know, I think they’ve been breastfeeding, we’ve worked so hard but it’s not like you ever see pictures of breastfed babies getting bottles. Our lactation consultants were great but it’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a LOT of money, you know? The work you do is so important, we were on The Leaky Boob all the time and we have found a lot of help and support there but we still felt alone. I mean, it feels like it’s not as real if we’re giving a bottle, nobody ever talks about that. Does anyone else go through this?”

I was confronted with the reality of my failure on my couch.

to hell with the WHO code

Babies feeding babies here. So much big sister love!

Leakies I am sorry I never shared images of my babies and other babies receiving bottles. I was wrong to only ever present a side of my infant feeding journey that was safe for me as a public breastfeeding supporter. Anxious that I would be inviting drama and attacks from other breastfeeding supporters, educators, blogs, organizations, and my own readers, I didn’t want to risk being accused of being a WHO Code violator by posting pictures of my babies with their bottles. Specially since I do make some income from The Leaky Boob, I was concerned that if I ever even showed bottle feeding some would think it was sending the wrong message.

But message or not, this is the truth: my babies, all 6 of them, got bottles. One got mostly formula in her bottles. Back when I was attending women as they had their babies, often I was helping a new mother and baby pair with their first few feedings while my baby was at home getting a bottle of my milk. And every single bottle my babies have received was manufactured by a WHO Code violating company. I’ve never once regretted that, never once felt guilty for it, never once wished it was another way. But I did feel afraid to show it.

My incredible husband, Jeremy, The Piano Man, has never had a problem sharing these images though and not because he doesn’t understand the WHO Code or is unaware of the barriers women face when it comes to breastfeeding. When he came home one day with a new bottle and I stressed about having a WHO Code violating bottle in our house, that it couldn’t be posted anywhere online, and that I felt sick giving money to a Code violating company, he simply looked at me and calmly said “I thought this was about feeding our daughter.” I sterilized that bottle and moved on, knowing I wouldn’t post any photos of the offending bottle. But he did. And the very first comment on the photo was this:

WHO Code

E bottle feeding A copy IG bottle feeding comments redacted

I understand where the commenter was coming from and she wasn’t giving anyone a hard time but it’s true, because of the half truth I had shared, it was strange to see one of my baby’s drinking from a bottle. But it wasn’t strange that she was receiving one, it was actually a part of our normal infant feeding routine.

Bottles were an important part of me reaching my breastfeeding goals. Without bottles, I’m not sure I would have made it as far as I have and I’m pretty certain I would never have even started The Leaky Boob. I have talked about using bottles and formula feeding my second daughter, but I never shared images and I carefully couched sharing those experiences as safely as I could so as not to invite controversy.

I have let go of my shame and my fear.

By intentionally keeping that part of my breastfeeding journey quiet, by not sharing images of my baby receiving a bottle, by just sharing images of my babies feeding only at my breasts, and by neglecting the real life bottled-up aspects of the breastfeeding journeys of others, I perpetuated a romanticized myth of what constitutes successful breastfeeding.

I am sorry. Please forgive me.

With all my love, sincerely,

~Jessica

bottle feeding and breastfeeding The Leaky Boob Sugarbaby

Do you use bottles? How do you feel about using bottles? Do you share pictures on social media of your baby receiving bottles? Need help bottle-feeding your breastfed baby? Check out this articleFacebook page, and this book.

Share

Tips From The Leakies for Breastfeeding and Babywearing

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Breastfeeding in a Beco Baby Carrier Soliel video demonstrating how to position and adjust the carrier, baby, and breast for hands-free breastfeeding:

The Leakies on the Facebook page had some tips to share for breastfeeding and babywearing, no matter your breast size:

  • Don’t wait for baby to be super hungry and upset, it’s easier when everyone is calm.
  • If your carrier has a hood, put the hood up for privacy.
  • Use a lightweight baby blanket rolled up under your breast for support and positioning help.
  • For small breasts, be sure not to drop the waist band too low and don’t be afraid to tighten the straps for better support.
  • If you need baby higher, a rolled up baby blanket under their bum can help.
  • Practice at home before trying to do it in public.
  • Talk to your baby while you position them to help you both keep calm.
  • Stretchy necklines are your friend!
  • It’s important to get comfortable, don’t end up sore or awkward, practice positioning until it works for both of you.
  • Try to have babies head tilted a bit so nose is clear to breath safely.
  • Hip carry options can be easier for large breasts.
  • Baby’s mouth height should be just at/above nipple.
  • Hold your breast for the latch.

_______________________

What tips would you add?

_______________________

 

Share

16 Signs You’re a Breastfeeding Junkie

Breastfeeding figurine

There are fashion junkies, pinterest junkies, home decorating junkies, birth junkies, health food junkies, exercise junkies, you name it. Anything can become a passion and then sometimes slip over into almost addict patterns. It’s all you really think about, it’s all you want to do, it’s you can’t wait to get back to. There is a point where it crosses over from a normal interest level to practically accosting strangers with information and . Breastfeeding junkies can be particularly enthusiastic and start seeing breastfeeding and boobs everywhere thanks to breastfeeding on the brain, just itching to get back to breastfeeding information, support, and advocacy.

Wondering if you’re a breastfeeding junkie? They say it takes one to know one so here are 16 signs I’ve spotted in myself that may indicate I’m a bit of a breastfeeding junkie.

1. Every outfit you encounter is sized up for it’s Breastfeeding compatability. In stores, online, random women on the street… All clothing is assessed on how well one could get a boob out. That 50 year old stranger’s smart looking outfit you mentally dissed because “her baby would be freaking out by the time she got her boob out of that dress” even though it’s obvious she wouldn’t currently have a nursling.

2. When out by yourself you find yourself checking out where a breastfeeding mom could find a comfortable spot to sit and feed her baby even though you won’t be using it. 

3. If a store or business indicates they welcome breastfeeding moms you thank the person behind the counter for their support even though you don’t have a breastfeeding baby with you. 

4. Without being asked, you are ready to launch into a detailed explanation of the composition of breastmilk whenever someone mentions any kind of milk. 

5. You see what should be a somewhat disturbing nature video of something eating something else that has nothing to do with breastfeeding and think: “you know, what a good latch, look at those flared lips.”

6. You know HAMLET isn’t just a Shakespeare character. 

7. Without meaning to you spot tongue ties in pictures of babies and mentally cringe for that baby’s mom’s nipples wondering if there is restricted movement that led to nipple damage. 

8. Coffee cups, lights, signs, hubcaps, patterns, gourds, melons, you name it, you see breasts every where of everything. Life through boob colored glasses. 

9. Somehow, someway, you always end up talking about breastfeeding. It just works it’s way into every conversation, even conversations with young single men. It happens so often it doesn’t even surprise you any more.

10. Off the top of your head you can cite the recommendations for breastmilk storage including the temperature and duration of storage. 

11. It’s not uncommon for you to get texts, emails, or calls from people you know asking for breastfeeding help for themselves or someone they know. Some of these come from men asking for their partner and new baby and nobody feels awkward about it.

12. You look forward to a nurse-in just so you can spend the day with a bunch of Breastfeeding moms and their babies. 

13. It’s not uncommon for you to cry over and share the breastfeeding photos of others, even strangers, on your social media.

14. There is at least one breastfeeding crush in your life, an IBCLC, doctor, or advocate that you would love to meet and hang onto every word they say… about breastfeeding.

15. For baby gifts you put together a gift basket that includes breast pads, your favorite breastfeeding book, a list of online breastfeeding resources and support groups, phone numbers for local breastfeeding group leaders (you may be one) and IBCLCs, a water bottle for mom, a jar of nipple cream, a breastfeeding pillow, and a note to call any time she needs some breastfeeding help or encouragement.

16. Upon seeing artistic depictions of breastfeeding you pull out your phone to take photographic evidence and share it online because you know everyone will be happy and relieved to see breastfeeding depicted as normal.

If you are a breastfeeding junkie, there’s really not much you can do about it. Spend some time with your kiddos and get out some to distract yourself and find some balance but otherwise, just head over to The Leaky Boob Facebook page and help out all those moms needing the support of a junkie like yourself.

Share

We’re In Public and My Breastfed Baby is Hungry, Now What?!

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Bebe au Lait.

 

Breastfeeding in public, at once a basic concept (feed the baby when the baby is hungry and no, moms can’t and shouldn’t just never leave the house) and somehow a complex and controversial issue. As mammals who happen to be higher thinking and social creatures, it’s also unavoidable. Often I am asked by moms how to breastfeed in public or how I became comfortable with doing so. At the time I wasn’t really aware of my journey, I just had to feed my baby. Initially I went some place private and covered (just in case someone came in) but as time went on that not only became impractical for my life realities, the isolation I experienced with a frequently feeding baby made me decide I didn’t care what other people thought. With my second baby I ditched my cover as well and just went about my business of feeding her after a male nurse that played in the worship band I was leading told me that I should just feed my baby and stop fighting with her to keep the cover on because “it’s just boobs, we’ll all live. Just feed her.” It was a progression and with each of my children I became more comfortable and more skilled with feeding in general, feeding in public in particular. What do you do when your breastfed baby gets hungry and you’re out in public? Is there anything that can make this easier for anxious breastfeeding moms? If I had to break it down into the most important tips though, it would be something like this:

Don’t rush yourself. If you’re worried or anxious it may be best to wait until you’re really ready.  Your baby picks up on your stress and you both deserve a relaxed feeding time. 

Get familiar with what breastfeeding actually looks like. Look at images of other moms Breastfeeding.  If you’ve never seen anyone else breastfeed it can be intimidating to feel like a pioneer in your area. But you’re not alone, millions of women all around the world breastfeed in public. Check out the hashtag #BeautifulBfing on Instagram for a stream of breastfeeding photos.

A Leaky breastfeeding in public at a beach.

A Leaky breastfeeding in public at a beach.

There is no should. Whatever makes you and your baby comfortable and helps you accomplish your breastfeeding goals and not being stuck at home is what you should do.  Covered with a pretty Bébé au Lait or a lightweight baby blanket, without a cover at all, finding a private spot, using a bottles of expressed milk, or mixing up a bottle of formula; this isn’t a pass/fail in mothering, it’s just another progression in the parenting journey. Do what works for you and your baby and helps you reach the goals you’ve established for yourself.

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you're a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you’re a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.


Dress for success. If you find yourself needing to practically strip to feed your baby, your breastfeeding in public experience could be greatly inhibited not to mention stressful. A form fitting dress with a high neckline, non stretchy fabric, and a zipper up the back isn’t going to work out so well when your baby is hungry. Dress how you are comfortable but make sure you can get a boob out when necessary. Breastfeeding tops or dresses specially designed to make it simple are super easy (see Amamante, A Mother’s Boutique) or try layering a tank- either a regular one with a stretchy neckline or some kind of nursing tank (I’m a fan of Undercover Mama, the Naked Nursing Tank, Rumina, The Dairy Fairy nursing tank, and Melinda G‘s nursing tank) so you can pull your top up and the bottom layer down (demo video here), and necklines that stretch enough to pull a breast out are all good options. If you’re not sure then check and try it at home before you head out the door. 

Practice makes easier.  Like everything else about parenting, there is no “perfect” in breastfeeding so practice won’t make anything perfect but it will make it easier. If you’re uneasy about breastfeeding in public but really want to, practice with a cover in front if a mirror, then without a cover in front of a mirror. See what it really looks like and how much of your body actually shows. Then branch out and take a few selfies of you breastfeeding from several different angles and don’t worry about posting them on social media unless you want to. After that, try breastfeeding while attending your local breastfeeding support group or other gathering where there will be other breastfeeding pairs. From there expand to Breastfeeding in front of trusted friends within your own home, their home, and finally in the general public.

Be informed. Know your legal rights. Find out for sure what the law is where you will be and have it written down and with you. It’s highly unlikely you will be approached but it can help you relax to know your rights and be prepared with that information. And as silly as it may seem, understand the difference between feeding a baby in public vs. taking a dump in public, urinating in public, or sex acts in public.

Be confident. Feeding your child and meeting their needs is not wrong. Even if you have to pretend to overcome nervousness, having a confident air can go a long way in developing your own confidence and could just make anyone that would think twice before messing with you. Don’t be looking for trouble, be all eyes for your baby or cheerfully smile at people you see notice you. If you seem comfortable and relaxed then it’s likely the people around you will be as well.

Get comfortable. Remember that to take care of someone else you have to be taken care of too. If you need support for your arms or your breast while breastfeeding at home, you’ll be more comfortable in public with that too. A diaper bag can double as a pillow, so can a baby blanket or baby carrier and there are some neat portable nursing pillows on the market. Have a bottle of water and a little snack for you and if possible, find a spot with some back support. If you use a nipple shield or must hold your breast as you feed your baby, the more you focus on getting you and your baby comfortable, the quicker you will be through any awkward stage of the latch so try not to worry about what others may see.

If you're comfortable like this at home, you may want to take the pillow with you for out in public.

If you’re comfortable like this at home, you may want to take the pillow with you for out in public.

Focus on what is important. Look at your baby, see how much they need and enjoy being fed. Taking a moment to remember why you’re doing this can help take the pressure of on how to do it and everyone else will think and puts it on why. Your baby is the best reason there is. 

Just do it. While you don’t need to rush and force yourself, at some point you just need to jump in and do it. You may be surprised at the confidence boost you have when you realize it’s no big deal. 

Share the experience. You’re not alone and most people want to see you reach your goals, even goals for breastfeeding and being comfortable feeding your baby while out and about. Talk about it, in person and online, maybe even with photos. You’ll end up getting cheered on, hearing support, and probably encouraging someone else who has been anxious about leaving the house with their baby too. Yes, there may be nay-sayers but they aren’t as common or as loud as it seems, specially not when you can remember all you’ve gone through to get this far for your baby.

Happy breastfeeding wherever you feed your baby!

This and other breastfeeding support and information can be found at theleakyboob.com

Share

Ten Reasons to go to MommyCon

You know the Coke song? “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony… I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” I’m not going to buy the world (or anyone) a Coke but I wish I could buy the world a ticket to MommyCon. I’ve shared before that it used to be I would avoid any event targeted to women. The idea of spending lots of time with women kind of made me anxious. Ok, really made me anxious. Mom-specific events were even more scary. But then I found myself attending women in birth and I loved it. Gradually I became more comfortable with hanging out with women-only in small groups. And somehow 4 years ago The Leaky Boob happened and now I hang out with mostly women all day, every day. Oh, and I have 6 daughters. And now one of my favorite things I get to do these days is speak at MommyCon which, while dads do attend, is certainly a mom-focused event if ever there was one. I love it so much, that my motto now is ALL. THE. MOMS.*

Motherlove #MeetandLeak

All the moms I got to meet at MommyCon Memphis

So here it is, 10 reasons I wish every mom (and dad) could go to MommyCon:

  1. It’s real. There’s no sugarcoating or pretending. The event organizers, moms in attendance, and the speakers are down to earth and realistic and no matter what your journey there are people there that can relate. Laugh, cry, you’ll connect with people who’ve been there and know all about the ups and downs without pretending parenting is always rainbow farting unicorns.
  2. Fun. Chances are strong you’re going to laugh a lot at MommyCon. It’s real and it’s real fun. Stories and games, humor runs through out the event because we all know just what it’s like to have a kid spit up in your mouth and all we can do is laugh about it together.
  3. Education. Even if you happen to not learn something new at MommyCon (but there is SO much information and education happening, it’s hard not to learn something!) you can’t help but learn from the experience. I’ve been to about a dozen MommyCons and every time I’ve learned something new and am pushed to grow. Be it about babywearing, sex after baby, breastfeeding, formula feeding, birth, health care options, car seat safety, yoga, discipline, you name it, there is so much information and personal story connections to learn from.
  4. Babywearing Lounge. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The Beco Baby Ergo Baby babywearing lounge is an amazing collection of baby carriers staffed with babywearing educators and you can try them all! Not sure how to do a back carry in a woven wrap? They’re there to help. Considering investing in a soft structure carrier? Try them all and see what you like before you buy.
  5. Children are welcome. It can be noisy and a little chaotic with all the babies and toddlers around but there’s something incredibly beautiful about being in a place where families are valued in such a way that children aren’t simply brushed aside.
  6. Shopping. Seriously, the shopping is amazing (so many awesome products!) and the brands present truly are invested not only in the event but in supporting the families in attendance. I’ve seen vendors help moms trouble shoot cloth diaper troubles, talk about infant feeding options, and car seat companies CPSTs help troubleshoot issues attendees are having with another brand’s seat just because they want to be sure those kids are safe.
  7. Breastfeeding is normalized. For one day you can see what it would truly look like if breastfeeding was normalized in society today. Moms and babies everywhere feeding as needed and, because this is MommyCon, no shaming for breastfeeding or bottle feeding because when breastfeeding is normalized how someone feeds their baby is simply accepted with support extended.
  8. Interesting speakers. This one is awkward for me to list because it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back since when I’m attending MommyCon it is as a speaker. But my talks aside, the speakers I’ve been privileged to hear are not only interesting and full of information, they’re funny, smart, and moving. Bunmi Laditan from The Honest Toddler, Jamie Grayson from The Baby Guy NYC, Jennifer Labit from Cotton Babies, Alyssa Ruben MommyCon’s CPST, and so many more share their stories, experience, and wisdom. Not only do I leave with new information, I leave inspired and uplifted.
  9. Options. There is no one right way to do just about anything in parenting and MommyCon highlights the many different options available from prenatal care choices to product options. Access to a variety of products for hands-on experience as well as the different local retailers, birth professionals, and parenting support means a chance to get your questions answered.
  10. You! Ok, this is for me, but for the next two MommyCon events (Philly and Newport Beach), Motherlove Herbal has made it possible for me to be there and if you go, I’ll get to meet you! There is the Motherlove Herbal #MeetandLeak VIP session (sold out for Philly) and I’ll be at the Motherlove table following my main session presentation to get to meet you.

I can think of more reasons to go to MommyCon but I’ll leave you with these ten reasons for now and a giveaway for two tickets to MommyCon Philly and a link to information on MommyCon 2015 event locations so you can start planning for next year.

Giveaway: Two general admission tickets for MommyCon Philly on October 5th, 2014. Must be present to claim. Winners will be announced Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Use the widget below to enter.

*All the moms of preschool and younger. While moms with older children could really enjoy MommyCon, the event is focused primarily on parenting through pregnancy, birth, infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool stages.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Share

The Purpose of Baby Shows and Parenting Conferences

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of The Baby Show.

When my first baby was born I was overwhelmed with the amount of information I needed to learn when it came to caring for my baby. Initially I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult but then I learned I had to be careful how I laid her down, that car seat installation should be checked by a professional (and that there are professionals for that!), that there was a right and wrong way to introduce foods, and that there were products that would help me parent but could potentially harm my baby so Jeremy and I agonized over picking out a bouncy seat, carrier, swing, stroller, and even crib sheets. Let alone how we were going to raise our child.

So when baby number two came along I was relieved I wouldn’t have that anxiety to deal with, I had figured everything out, right? Wrong. Recommendations had changed, even laws had been updated, and some of the products I had for my first I learned had been recalled! Not to mention the things it turns out I never knew and did “wrong” with my first. Then she was born and was such a completely different little person she hated the carrier that my first had loved, our breastfeeding journey was filled with challenges and I needed a better pump, her sleep needs completely upended what we thought we did and had us scrambling for a different solution beyond “more coffee.”

With the third I wondered what could be next and the only thing I was really confident about was that I only kind of knew what I was doing and that everything could be drastically different territory.  I needed a different way of figuring out my options depending on what was thrown my way.

Now, mom to 6 kids, I’ve learned that there are few silver bullet products out there (almost none) and lots of different favorites, nor is there one specific method that will make everything just so for parents. Every child, every parent, every situation is different. Sometimes we can’t get or do the “best” because the “best” changes depending on circumstances. The three most valuable acquisitions I’ve made for my parenting are information, community, and confidence. The last two of which can be very challenging to come by as a new parent.

For years I was uncomfortable with the idea of mom-targeted events. The idea of hanging out with a bunch of moms talking about pregnancy, birth, and parenting, just sounded kind of terrifying. I wasn’t sure how much there could possibly be to say on those matters and it sounded potentially very emotional, competitive, and expensive. But I was wrong. Though I shied away from such events for a long time, eventually I realized I needed to connect with other parents on the parenting journey and hear from those not only more experienced but also more informed as well as those just figuring things out along the way. Information within the context of community was so much easier to absorb, I discovered. Even better when that community was fun and a mix of people with different backgrounds, areas of interests, and access to various professional experts from health care to product functionality.

Which is why now I love events targeted at helping build community amongst parents with information sharing, education, and connecting with brands that prioritize education for parents to be confident in their decision making. As I’ve experienced and learned more of such events, I get excited when I see more and more parents having access to these opportunities. The online support community is incredible and needed but I can’t deny that there is something about being able to touch each other, get hands on help, hear the voices of those on a similar journey, and look into the eyes of someone that understands. Being in a room buzzing with people excited to grow for their children is a bit intoxicating, awakening the power we all already hold within ourselves as the right parents for our children.

Not all events are created equal and not all events are the right fit for every parent but venturing out into the unknown for a real live connection is worth the risk that it won’t be what you’re really looking for as part of your journey.  Even if you’re not sure, taking time to explore your options and figure out how to get to them can be energizing, the actual experience even revitalizing.

I talk often about different events happening in the States because that’s where I am but today I’m excited to share with you an event taking place in Toronto, Canada in just a week, September 27th and 28th.  The Baby Show, Toronto, brings together the parenting community, speakers and workshop teachers, and brands with products and services that support families focusing on the prenatal and baby and toddler stages of parenting.  We tried to work it out for me to be there this time but it’s just not able to happen so I’ve teamed up with The Baby Show to send SIX pairs of Toronto Leakies (value of $30 each prize) to the show to go and give me the scoop. I want to hear all about this event so grab your partner or a friend and head over there and let me know what you think. The Baby Show features workshops and seminars covering a range of topics from sleep, infant massage, prenatal yoga, starting solids, birth and beyond, breastfeeding, mommy baby dance workout, first aid basics for parents, and more as well as entertainment, contests, giveaways, and shopping.

For those that don’t win, there’s a discount code for Leakies as well for $3 off online tickets using the code: LB14

To be entered, use the widget below and for once, this giveaway is open to Canadian Leakies only! Please note that all winners will be responsible for their own transportation and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 24, 2014. Good luck!

The Baby Show Toronto, Canada

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Share

Breastfeeding and Ballet, making it work- Sarah Ricard Orza and the Pacific Northwest Ballet

Sarah Orza breastfeeding mother ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza performing Giselle with the Pacific Northwest Ballet  ©Lindsay Thomas

The first time I saw soloist Sarah Orza dance was as she performed the role of the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Washington. She was sublime and the 4 preteen/teen girls I was sitting with gasped and whispered about her extension, her feet, her artistry, and her hands. Their excitement was palpable (sorry anyone sitting near us that may have been disturbed by the energy coming from our row) but mine was more subdued. While I admired her skill and artistry and marveled at her technique and her performance was stunning, I was intrigued by her for other reasons.

Like how does she not leak all over those gorgeous costumes?

By act 2 her boobs must be so engorged.

She can dance on her toes, extend a leg past her head balanced on a piece of paper mache, leap effortless over people’s heads, AND make milk for her 10 month old?

Yes, yes she can. Perhaps even more amazing (can it get more amazing?) was the reality that she could do much of that not only because of her biology, talent, skill, and hard work, but because she is in a supportive environment.

The ballet world is known for rigorous schedules, demanding physical requirements, competitive peers, limited opportunities, body type expectations, controlling dietary habits, short careers, and breath-taking performances of athletic artistry. Nobody has ever thought of the ballet profession as being family friendly. Yet at a time when major corporations are struggling with implementing federal regulations supportive of mothers pumping their breastmilk in the work place, an organization in the nonprofit ballet profession is figuring out how to make it work. In an extremely competitive field where motherhood used to be seen as career ending situation, more and more women are finding they can start a family and continue on their professional track.

Sarah Orza Breastfeeding ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza and William Lin-Yee ©Lindsay Thomas Pacific Northwest Ballet.

At just 4 years of age, little Sarah was enrolled in her first ballet class. She enjoyed it and was encouraged for her natural aptitude. Around 12 and 13 years of age, with the encouragement of her instructors, Sarah experienced a resurgence of interest. Her devotion and hard work paid off with the opportunity for even more devotion and hard work when she was accepted and attended the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York. At just 18 she received an apprenticeship at the New York City Ballet where she danced her way up the ranks for 7 years. Then, in an unusual move that would foreshadow what was to come in her career, Sarah stepped away from dance to listen to her heart. Burned out and unsure of what she wanted to do next, she worked in jewelry design for a year. In ballet, a year is an eternity, leaving the studio for a year often means you don’t go back.

But not for Sarah, engaged to a principal dancer, she wasn’t far from the dance world and in 2008 moved from New York to Seattle for her future husband’s career. The stage began calling and Sarah asked for an audition at PNB as well, in just 3 weeks of getting back into the studio, she had her audition and subsequently, a job offer.

From 2008-2012, Sarah and husband Seth, a principal dancer with PNB, enjoyed marriage and dance together. Then in 2012 they went into parenthood with careful planning. Looking at the season schedule, they tried to time the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery just right and lucky for them, their plan worked. Sarah’s last performance with PNB before she gave birth was in the Nutcracker near the end of her first trimester. At that point, also enrolled in college classes, Sarah worked in the marketing and communications department of the company as an intern until the home birth of her daughter Lola on May 15th, 2013.

Sarah took 8 weeks to just recover and babymoon. She didn’t even think about returning to physical activity in that time, just respected her body’s need for rest and both her’s and Lola’s need for bonding. When I asked her about that time and how she approached that time and the time after she said “My body created this life, I didn’t really lose the weight at first, I wanted to hold onto it. It was important to enjoy this window of time and my body had already done so much for me as an amazing vessel, I wanted to be gentle with it. I was never going to feel the same again, I couldn’t go back to what my body was before having Lola and maybe that’s ok.”

Certainly her body was changed forever and her desire to breastfeed was one very obvious change for her body. Breastfed herself until she was 3 years old, a year before starting her what would be training for her professional career, Sarah was confident that she would breastfeed her own children. Seth was on board and willing to do what he could to support her in reaching her goals and Sarah prepared for returning from maternity leave by communicating with Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, that she would be breastfeeding and it was a priority. While the administrative side of PNB had provisions for breastfeeding mothers in the office, there hadn’t been many ballerinas that required accommodations for pumping. Still, willing to learn and having had some experience with a few ballerinas before, Mr. Boal and the company were ready and willing to support Sarah.

Sarah Orza Breastfeeding ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza with husband Seth Orza and daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

When she returned to the company in the fall of 2013 arrangements had been made and flexibility was required of everyone. The community of the company was supportive and not only did Sarah get back in shape, the 2013-2014 season found her cast as a soloist in some impressive and demanding roles including the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and one of the most demanding roles in classical ballet, Giselle in spite of hiccups along the way. Early on, as she was working on toning and becoming familiar with this new version of her body, Sarah often found herself in a nearby closet during class time pumping her milk and missing out on the grande allegro portion of the class. This impacted her jumps resulting in this strength of hers a temporary weakness. Sometimes the cast would have to wait for her for rehearsals but they would take advantage of the opportunity to work pieces without her. During performances she would pump in the dressing room as needed and the other ballerinas got used to seeing Sarah hooked up to the pump expressing her milk. “I had two full time jobs plus being a mother, pumping and dance, I worked at both of them full time.” With videos and a piece of Lola’s clothing she tucked into her dance bag, Sarah found that she responded well to the pump even with all the demands she put on her body as an athletic artist.

But between the support of her husband Seth, her mother staying with Lola close enough to the theater and studio for Sarah to run home during the day to breastfeed some of the feeds, Peter, and the rest of the PNB family, she was able to make it work, not only being able to exclusively breastfeed (with her pumping when she was away from Lola) but pumping enough to donate. It wasn’t long before Sarah’s jumps were soaring again too.

Sarah made it clear that she knew going into this that she was willing to sacrifice to make it work, her breastfeeding goals were so important to her that she would skip going back to work if necessary. With a mixture of pride and gratitude Sarah explained it didn’t come to that because of the support of Seth as a very hands on dad, support from her mother, her boss Peter as the artistic director of the company, and her coworkers understanding that her lactating didn’t impair her dancing. What kept her going she said: “I’ve kept my eye on the prize, Lola, her health and safety all along.”

Sarah Ricard Orza with daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Sarah Ricard Orza with daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

And it’s Lola that inspires her in continuing to take leaps in her dance. Sarah isn’t done with ballet, at 33 years old she has quite a few good years still ahead of her and she’s working hard pursuing her career goals along with her family goals. “It’s not worth leaving Lola if I don’t push myself. I’m going to keep reaching, I love ballet and I love my daughter, I have to commit myself fully to both to make it worth the sacrifices required. Both Seth and I do.”

Sarah has been a leader within the company regarding maternity policy and breastfeeding. This year three other ballerinas were expecting little ones and there were open conversations about breastfeeding in the studio and dressing rooms. PNB was ready and prepared to have appropriate accommodations in place for these dancers should they need space to pump for their babies as well.

Lola and Sarah are still breastfeeding, Sarah plans to let Lola wean when she’s ready. This next season Sarah isn’t planning on pumping backstage as Lola has taken to solids just fine and is well over a year. But that breastfeeding bond is still special for them right now.

When I got to go back with my eldest to Seattle to see Sarah dance as Giselle this past spring, I was moved to tears by her performance. The grace, strength, and dedication as she played the role of a young maiden driven insane by love lost and then sacrificed herself as one of the mysterious willis dancing all night to keep the man she loved alive, I forgot during the performance that she is also the mother of a sweet little girl. Her dedication and passion for her craft made it so all I saw was the heartbroken Giselle on stage. When I got to hug Sarah following the performance, all I saw was the sweet dedicated mother with a passion for her daughter.

Sarah will be onstage again this year at Pacific Northwest Ballet and I’m certain I’ll be making the drive from Portland to Seattle to be mesmerized by her performance again. To get tickets to a performance, visit pnb.org. You can also find Sarah pictured on PNBs Facebook and Instagram as well as on her own Instagram.

 

Sarah Orza breastfeeding ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza with daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

 

________________________

How has your place of employment supported you in your breastfeeding journey? How did your coworkers respond? What do you think would help more women reach their breastfeeding goals while maintaining a presence in the work place?

________________________

Share

When your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Today my 4 year old Smunchie who hasn’t breastfed in quite some time, asked for bobbies.  She hadn’t been feeling well all day and though it had been a while since she had breastfed, it was obvious that she found even the idea comforting.  Her eyes wide and a seriousness about her, she implored for some mama milk.  I offered to try to express some into a cup for her and the tiny bit of hope in her face dropped as she said ok but she really wanted to try to get the milk herself.  Without missing a beat, her two year old little sister rushed over, hands out, and screamed “my bobbies!”

Yes, my children were fighting over my boobs.

I gently reminded 2 year old Sugarbaby that they were my bobbies but that I share them and decided to invite both girls to cuddle up to nurse.

IMG_8849

I expect this post will make some people uncomfortable but we need to talk about it anyway.

Sometimes, older, weaned children will ask to breastfeed.  Whether it be a new baby added to the family or just what seems a random interest, it’s not unusual for a child to see breastfeeding and want to give it a try.  They may be quite insistent or perhaps shy and act embarrassed.  It may come when you’re sitting there feeding their younger sibling or when they get a moment alone with you.  There is a possibility that they are more than a little curious and will want to re-establish a breastfeeding relationship.

Before you freak out (probably too late), keep in mind that children don’t have a developed sense of sexuality or even what makes something sexual.  Unless the child is more like a teenager, the interest in breastfeeding has more to do with curiosity than sexual confusion.  Even though adults in much of westernized society place a heavy emphasis on the sexual function of the female breasts over the nutritional and nurturing functions, children just don’t see it that way so you can take a deep breath and know that there is nothing wrong with your child, they’re just a normal child with normal curiosity.  Breasts are another body part made intriguing by the fact that children have yet to develop breasts themselves and if a child encounters breastfeeding and had it explained to them without shame, they are going to understand breasts as a food source rather than identifying breasts for sexual pleasure.  Please note: gender identity, the differences between the sexes, perceived gender roles, attachment, emotional bonds, body autonomy, and understanding appropriate touching is developing from infancy.

And no, feeding children well past infancy into early childhood is not messing them up.  You don’t have to worry about psychological damage from breastfeeding past one or two years old.  That myth has totally been debunked both through scientific research and anecdotally by many older children and adults that remember breastfeeding at such an age.  Read one such account from an outspoken 12 year old who breastfed until she was 4.

If their sexual awareness has yet to develop, they don’t yet buy into society’s emphasis on female breasts primarily as sex objects, and it’s not messing kids up to breastfeed well beyond the 1st year of life, how should we respond?

With patience.  With love.  With acceptance.  With gentleness.  Without shame.  Without fear.  Without judgment.

As is often the case, the manner with which we respond to our children is more important than what we actually do.  If your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed, saying yes or no is less important than how you say it.  Before you respond, ask yourself what your reaction could be communicating to your child.  Is it loving?  Does it communicate acceptance? Or is it expressing shock and disgust?  Could they confuse your response as a rejection of them?  That they did something wrong?  That breastfeeding is shameful?

What should you do if your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed?  I have no idea.  Whatever is right for you.  I would just encourage you not to rush your decision, take a moment and reflect on why or why not you may be comfortable with that.  With older children, a conversation is usually possible and a reasonable place to start.  Involving them in a conversation as part of your decision making could be a bonding experience for you both.

Your decision is completely up to you and your personal boundaries.  If you’re not comfortable letting your older, weaned child breastfeed then don’t.  If you think you may be ok with it, then let them.  Your boundaries and modeling bodily autonomy is important too and an older child is capable of understanding such boundaries.  If you decide you’re comfortable with it and even want to encourage them to relearn how to properly latch (yes, that is an option) and that works for both of you, that can be significant journey as well.  Whatever you decide, just do so gently and you’ll both be fine.

My two eldest children never expressed an interest in breastfeeding once they weaned, not even when siblings were born.  Curiosity and copying with their own babies (dolls), absolutely, but they were never interested in trying to breastfeed for themselves.  Since then though I’ve had each of my 4 younger ones ask to try.  It weirded me out at first and I refused but that particular child began to ask repeatedly every time I sat to feed her younger sister and eventually I decided I didn’t actually have a good reason not to.  Having such a large child at my breast (she was 4) seemed strange to me but it only took one try and then a polite thank you with a hug to make me realize that was about my issues and what I considered normal than it was about somehow being wrong.  She did enjoy having my milk in a cup for months afterward though and that was something that meant a lot to her.  The most common reaction my children have is to have no idea what to do at the breast, attempt a couple of sucks, giggle, pull away, and inform me they aren’t babies any more and “bobbies are for babies.”  Sometimes they do get milk and don’t like the taste.  Even if they are interested in trying again, once their curiosity was satisfied they were happy to move on and leave breastfeeding to babies.

But that’s not what has happened with my current 4 year old.  She returns every so often to the breast, has even figured out that if she can get her little sister to start on one breast and then switch after let down, it’s easier for her and she’ll get more milk.  It doesn’t happen often, increasingly less and less, but she does still ask from time to time.  This time, after latching and not getting any milk, she decided she was good with just a cuddle.

“I like your milk, mommy, but I like your cuddles best.”

For us, it was worth letting her try.

breastfeeding the weaned child

 

___________________________

What do you think you would do if your previously weaned child asked to breastfeed again?

___________________________

Share

Why I breastfed my 2 year old on a crowded public transit train

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This isn’t a statement, it’s not even as significant as a photo op. It’s just a moment. An average, regular, normal moment for my daughter and me. In 2 years of breastfeeding, she and I have had thousands like it. Taking public transportation on our way for a day downtown with the family, she got tired, wanted a cuddle, and a little mama milk. And I snapped a few breastfeeding selfies because this regular, normal moment is important to me and a big part of my life. A life I share with my online community and when something is important pretending it doesn’t exist and never happens is lonely.

20140807-155902-57542977.jpg

Would you, could you, on a train?

At first I distracted her and put her off. I didn’t want to breastfeed my 2 year old in public and face possible harassment for doing so. Though I know the law protects me, I also know many people are uncomfortable with breastfeeding babies in public let alone toddlers. I didn’t want to be the source of the discomfort of others or worse, possible conflict. At 2 she’s old enough to wait and can have other food and drink for snack.

But I had just returned that morning from a three day trip and my littlest missed her mama. Being close, having mama milk, was all a part of our reconnecting. Could I really place the possible discomfort of others above the need my little girl had for comfort and closeness? Yes, we could have comfort, connectedness, and closeness in other ways but breastfeeding was still her favorite, should my 2 year old forgo what she enjoyed the most because some strangers may not understand what a woman’s breasts are really for?

I decided no, I would not do that to her and my daughter would come first. And I breastfed her. On a packed train headed downtown on a Sunday afternoon. There was no agenda, no ulterior motive. In that normal moment with my daughter, though I had a pinch of anxiety that someone may take issue with me feeding and comforting my daughter at my breast, my focus was on her, not normalizing breastfeeding. Because that’s not why I breastfeed.

It isn’t normal to see breastfeeding still in most western societies. Though breastfeeding is elevated and preached, it’s hardly visible enough to be considered normal. We’ve allowed ourselves to accept a definition of the female breasts limited to just the sexual nature the mature mammary glands can have. With that we’ve lost sight of the biological and anthropological norm. Something I write and speak about often. Working to change such perceptions is part of why I do The Leaky Boob at all.

But still, that’s not why I breastfed my daughter that day. Or any day. I fed her because she needed it. Because I’m her mommy and feeding and comforting our children is just what moms do.

And that’s just… Normal.

Share

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.

 

Share