Tattoo risk while breastfeeding

We’re giving away some tattoo aftercare balm and a tattoo.  Seriously.  Keep reading.  But if you want to skip to the giveaway part, the short version is that if you’re using a safe, reputable shop, there is almost no risk to getting a tattoo while breastfeeding.  Which is good news if you’re breastfeeding and want to get a tattoo.  Woohoo!

open line work tree and bird arm tattoo

 

From time to time we’re asked on The Leaky Boob Facebook page about the safety of getting tattoos while breastfeeding.  While there isn’t a lot of information out there regarding studies done specifically on getting tattoos while breastfeeding, most health care professionals agree that as long as you are using a reputable shop that follows all the guidelines required for safe-handling and hygiene, there is no real risk to the breastfeeding relationship for the mother to get a tattoo.

Please note: don’t tattoo babies or small children, that would just be mean.

Just a few weeks ago, following Camp MommyCon near Denver, Colorado, I had a what has been a long planned appointment for my very first tattoo.  And yes, I’m still breastfeeding 2 year old Sugarbaby.  This appointment with Colin Kolker at Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. was in the works for a long time, generously gifted to help me realize a healing dream I’ve had for over 2 years to reclaim a spot on my arm scarred along my motherhood journey.  Colin helped me express my healing, inner strength, and the beauty that I have found along the way with a symbolic and meaningful tattoo that represented all of that to me.  You can read about the story and meaning behind my tattoo here.

 

open line work delicate tree and birds tattoo

Before I even made the appointment, I answered all the questions I could on breastfeeding and getting a tattoo.  Personally I decided that the risk, while minimal, was enough for me to want to wait at least until Sugarbaby was over 12 months old simply because should something happen she would no longer be dependent on just breastmilk.  Even though I was confident nothing would happen.  Finances and opportunity pushed it back another year.  At that point I felt I was well informed on any potential risk and what I could do to all but eliminate even that.  Confident that it was safe, the only nervousness I had going into my appointment that evening was that it would hurt.

It did hurt.  I had tattoolas to help me though.  Because support makes all the difference, don’t you know.  Also, people, stop comparing tattoos to giving birth.  It’s totally different and just because I can handle pain when necessary (and I can’t actually stop it anyway) in order to push out a baby does not mean I’m not a wuss about other pain.  To be clear, I’m a total wimp.  Tattoos hurt.  About like you think it would hurt to be repeatedly stabbed and scratched with a needle.  Because that’s exactly what’s happening.  But the pain was totally worth it and in some spots it even felt good, kind of like a tens unit.  Other spots felt like torture.  Still, not like giving birth, the sensation is much less than that of giving birth.

mom tattoo Chroma Tattoo

Shout out to the MommyCon Tattoolas Laney, Xza, and Alyssa!

Here’s what I considered in making my decision to get a tattoo as a breastfeeding mother:

  1. Ink molecules are too large to get into the blood stream and milk.  Sugarbaby wouldn’t have ink flavored milk but I did love that Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. used nontoxic vegan ink they were happy to show me and explain.  This also meant I was less likely to have an allergic reaction to the ink as an immune response and made me feel more comfortable with my decision.
  2. The shop I chose meets all safety standards, sterilizing the equipment and practicing good hygiene.  Breastfeeding or not, seriously, this is a minimum.  Avoid infection by going to a clean, licensed, reputable shop.  They should have an autoclave, single-use inks, gloves, and needles.  Look them up on review sites and check with the local department of health to see if they comply with health code standards.
  3. My health was in my hands, if I followed the protocol for aftercare I would further reduce any risk of infection or possible harm to me and Sugarbaby.  I followed Colin’s directions exactly and not only did I not have any issues, using the Motherlove Tatto Care, I healed surprisingly fast and with almost no flaking or peeling.
  4. Tattoos have been a part of various cultures for a very long time and is legally supported.  Some tattoo artists may refuse to give a breastfeeding mother a tattoo but no major recognized medical body (such as the AAP or WHO) have issued warnings against the practice.  I felt history and science indicated that it was a safe choice for me.  The considerations put forth in this article were helpful.
  5. I don’t tend to have allergies so I wasn’t personally worried that I was likely to have an allergic reaction to the ink.

delicate tree and birds tattoo and breastfeeding

Tattoos aren’t for everyone and some who may want a tattoo may still feel more comfortable waiting until their nursling has weaned.  For me going through with my ink dream is something I’m incredibly glad I did knowing the risk was almost nothing.

I promised a giveaway.

nontoxic tattoo aftercare

And now… you can get a tattoo and take care of it too!  Motherlove Herbal Company is giving away their Tattoo Care to 3 lucky Leakies.  I used Motherlove Tattoo Care from the very beginning as part of my aftercare regimen.  Colin had instructed me to keep the area moist, not letting it dry out by rubbing in Motherlove Tattoo Care several times a day.  It worked like a charm.  Motherlove Tattoo Care is made with certified organic ingredients, handcrafted in Colorado using the same tried and true organic ingredients that have been trusted in other Motherlove products for over 20 years. This thoughtful formulation of herbs provides optimal moisturizing and healing properties, yet retains a consistency that is comfortable to apply. Unlike petroleum based products, Motherlove Tattoo Care allows the skin to breathe, promotes quicker healing, and allows ink to fully penetrate the skin.

Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. Giveaway

Tattoo in progress selfie!

 

We’re also giving away a 2 hour session with Colin Kolker at Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. in Parker, Colorado (outside Denver).  One lucky Leaky will win a  2-hour custom tattoo session at Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. in Parker, Colorado with artist Colin Kolker. Value: $300 but no cash value. Gift Certificate will be mailed to winner or can be picked up at the shop.  Some restrictions apply.  If the piece is more detailed/larger, the winner will be responsible to pay any remaining difference. If the tattoo takes less than 2 hours, the remaining balance cannot be rolled over into a second tattoo/session- good for one session only. Colin is booked pretty solid but has a few availabilities in Sept/Oct and on so there could be a wait time for an appointment.  Must be 18+ and the winner is responsible for their own transportation to and from the Parker, Colorado shop location.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Leaving the parenting island and asking for help

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Parenting Island and asking for help

Parenting Island AKA Poop Rock.

 

I was struck by the beauty of that island looking rock from afar on the shore in San Francisco.  Then my friend told me it was so pretty because it was covered in bird poop.  Poop Rock.  Reminded me a lot of parenting, pretty from afar but sometimes lonely and covered in poop when you get up close.

Don’t lecture me, I know parenting is wonderful, I love it but that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes really hard and stinky like a rock covered in poop.

Last week, my good friend Cindy was battling pneumonia.  It was horrible and scary.  Her husband is in the military and away at the moment so she and her 4 children are on their own as she struggles to get well.  I couldn’t get to her, we’re over 8 hours from each other in different countries, but I wish I could.  Every time I saw her share something of her struggle I was moved, inspired, and ready to jump in the van (that broke down 4 days after I wrote this).  Through Facebook, I feel like I get to keep up with my friend and in some small way offer support.  I wish I could do more.  Yet even so sick and all the way in Canada, my friend reminded me of something incredibly important: we all need help from time to time.

Asking for help is one of the hardest needs to voice sometimes.  Or all the time.  People judge and are judged for even needing help and we all feel it.  There is such shame attached to needing help or even encouragement.  We’re all supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and in made for TV moments, triumph over whatever challenges we face.  Alone.  Without resources.  Without bragging. Without getting anything we don’t deserve because by our own blood, sweat, and tears we paid for it or worked for it or fought for it all on our own.  We talk about the strength of the human spirit and applaud those that figure out how to go it without help.  And anyone that is worn out, broken down, or overwhelmed must be less of a person.  Even in a safe place, like The Leaky Boob Facebook, mothers (and sometimes dads too) may take the bold step to admit they are struggling but do so with trepidation, beating themselves up for being a “horrible parent, feeling like a failure” before someone else does, all because they find parenting hard sometimes.

This cultural attitude of glorifying individualism and self-sufficiency is hard enough when children aren’t involved, but when we become parents it’s not just us any more.  Our pride can get in the way of seeking out desperately needed help.  Pregnancy and childbirth set the precedent in parenting without help and while I love doulas and highly recommend having doula support for birthing women (I have for mine), traditionally the role wasn’t a paid position but one filled by a family member, friend, or a member of the community.  There seems to be a growing sense of shame in needing help from someone who isn’t designated as a paid professional.  We see it in infant nutrition all the time, mothers struggling but too embarrassed to admit breastfeeding isn’t working as well as it “naturally” should as she struggles with pain and a frustrated baby or families not knowing where to turn when they need an alternative.  In fact, the number one reason mother’s don’t reach their personal breastfeeding goals is lack of support.  Support = help.  But it certainly isn’t isolated to the area of infant nutrition, pregnancy, and child birth.  Parenting dilemmas such as health care, child care, discipline, education, financial stress, housing, safety, you name it, are often hindered by our own pride in asking for help.  As though needing a helping hand occasionally, let alone for a long season, is an indication of inadequacies or failure.  Afraid it reflects badly on us and our abilities, many parents forgo voicing their need for support and actual help because we know people will say things like “you shouldn’t have had children if you couldn’t handle it” (what are parents supposed to do, put the kids back from where they got them?), we suffer quietly and so do our children.  Sometimes it’s major roadblocks that threaten the health and safety of the family, particularly the children, others deplete personal internal resources and reinforce feelings of failing over every day aspects of parenting that may wear us down.  Either way, while learning to deal with hardships and having the experience of overcoming them on our own once in a while can be empowering, is this isolation really what we want to be the norm?

But the truth is we all benefit when we help each other, yes, even when we admit we need help and ask for it.  Not only individually are we strengthened, our communities are too.  It can be risky though, by admitting our struggles, we’re opening ourselves up for criticizing judgment or worse, being ignored and that is more than hard, it’s down right terrifyingly heart breaking.  Most parents would do anything including swallowing their pride to care for their children, there’s not a job we wouldn’t work or begging we are above when it comes to the safety and provision of our children.  That fear though, the fear of judgment or of not mattering enough for someone to even notice, can be paralyzing and parents may, unintentionally, cause suffering for their children simply because the cultural attitudes about asking for help have effectively silenced them for issuing the call when most needed.  Yet almost no parent would say their child deserved less.

Asking for help is something I continue to grow in along with knowing how to offer help, carefully avoiding judgment.  Including learning how to have grace without judgment for myself.  The journey hasn’t been easy and I’m still learning.  How does one master admitting you can’t do something on your own?  That you don’t have it all together and need others?  I’m not sure yet but I know it has gotten easier for me simply by looking at my children, I never want them to be afraid to ask for my help when they encounter difficulties.  They have not only been my inspiration in seeking out help when I need it, but sometimes my teachers.  They have shown me the joy that comes from helping and being helped, the agony that comes from pride getting in the way.  From communicating my need for help during difficult pregnancies to admitting I don’t know how to handle certain parenting situations, to finding a mentor in understanding child development when my children were driving me crazy to even asking for financial support because we lack the funds required to help our daughter reacher her dreams, though Jeremy and I work hard for our family, admitting we can’t always do it on our own and that we’re not an island but in fact need the village, our children are the ones that have benefited the most from us humbling ourselves to say three little words: “help me please.”  Accepting our limitations is the first step in being able to strengthen each other.  I firmly believe that in strengthening, supporting, and yes helping, parents makes for a healthier community that is stronger, more creative, and more skilled.  What a gift we can give our children.

My friend Cindy, has posted on Facebook a few pleas for help with her children so she can rest.  Yes, she could keep trying to go it on her own, likely prolonging her illness and a lower level of care for her children while she tries to recover.  There are risks to her not recovering, potentially problematic for those around her.  Worse, she could end up in the hospital and her children in the custody of someone else for an indeterminate amount of time.  It is to her health benefit, the benefit of the health care system, the benefit of her children, and the benefit of her friends for her to ask for help.  Her recovery will be aided and the community circles around her will be stronger as a result.  Relationships are being fortified as her friends respond to her pleas and offer their support not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.  I am so incredibly proud of her asking for help.  Knowing her personally I know that she is a capable, strong, and hard working woman, talented as a journalist and an attentive and loving mother.  This moment of needing help (and the next one that comes her way) are not a reflection of her capabilities, simply a moment where her humanity is evident.  And she has already paid it forward and will do so again.  Because she gets that we need each other.  We all do.

 

Share

Will you allow me a proud mama moment?

This post was originally published in 2013, updated for 2014 by Jessica Martin-Weber

Sometimes it seems like these days of breastfeeding, diaper changes, and needy babies are going to last forever.  We fear losing ourselves in the blur of caring for our children.  Counting diapers, checking ounces, charting milestones… every day becomes so full it doesn’t seem like this time will ever really end. I always hate it when “they” say to hold on to this time, it goes so fast and the next thing you know you’ll be sad how fast they grew up.  It never really helps me, just makes me question if I’m ungrateful and selfish to not savor the poop filled, constantly breastfeeding stage when I’m tired and worn out.  And I have had moments where I’ve been convinced that my child would be the first child to actually still be breastfeeding when they go to college. But you know what?  “They” are right.  I have 6 children, 6 beautiful girls ages 2 years to 15 years old.  I blinked, you know, blinked and I have a 15 year old.  I could swear she was just a baby.  And no, she’s not still breastfeeding.

Help Ophélia Martin-Weber go to summer dance intensives

“They” are totally right. It goes so fast.  Faster than saying can even convey.  And it is so bittersweet.  One day you feel stuck in a whirlwind of diapers and boobs and the next you’re helping them plan leaving for the summer.  Or forever. Over 15 years ago I was made a mother when The Piano Man and I had our eldest.  Some days I look at her and remember the breastfeeding challenges I encountered with her and smile to think how far we’ve come and how distant that time feels.  Yet how very close still.  She helped mold and shape me to not only be the mother she needed but also to help form me to be the mother her little sisters would need and even set me on the path that led to starting The Leaky Boob.  I have shared the breastfeeding journey she and I experienced together, why I breastfeed for her even today, shared some of her sexual abuse survivor story, and she’s even written for The Leaky Boob herself sharing her views on breastfeeding just before she turned 12.  I am one proud mama. We named her Ophélia Chantelle, which means little helper, little song but I call her Earth Baby here to give her a little bit of distance between her real life and what I share online.  She’s not completely anonymous.  With her permission I’ve shared her face, her name, and parts of her story.  She follows The Leaky B@@b and Beyond Moi and has seen conversations I’ve had and from time to time she will help make a post using my phone and taking dictation while I’m driving.  Thanks to her questions and sharing her thoughts, I’ve been inspired for articles, status updates, and tweets.  Her critical thinking has pushed me to reconsider my views on some topics and to open myself up to considering other perspectives.  Her giving, kind, and generous heart moves her to care deeply about others and inspires me to do the same.  I am one proud mama. Giving and full of love, she is a model big sister, making room in her life to play with her 5 little sisters in ways that are meaningful for them from building forts to playing peek-a-boo to going on walks to games of Battleship and climbing trees.  Creativity exudes from her, she knits, bakes, draws, writes, and above all, dances.  Her heart is big and she cares deeply not only for her family but friends and even strangers.  Sharing meals with homeless members of our community, volunteering to help others with babysitting, donating her funds when she can, volunteering for local and international efforts, and even making the choice to prioritize fair-trade chocolate so the treats she enjoys don’t oppress another child.  I am one proud mama. She loves learning and is willing to take risks to pursue what she loves.  An introvert, she is growing every day in understanding herself more and putting herself out there.  Nothing brings that quite together like dance does and in just 3 years we’ve watched as she went from the girl turning 11 and begging for ballet lessons more than anything, even saying to us “I don’t care if I ever get an iPod, a cell phone, or a car, I just want to dance!” to today blooming into a young ballerina with opportunities to pursue her dreams.  Bloodied feet and being behind most dancers her age have never deterred her, just spurred her to work harder until she caught up.  This past January she pushed herself to a new level and attended auditions for summer ballet intensives with hundreds of other students, most of whom have been dancing at least twice if not three times as long as she has.  It was scary but she did it.  I am one proud mama. It was worth it too.  She got into most of the programs for which she auditioned.  Consulting with her instructors and with The Piano Man and I, she narrowed down her choices to 2 programs.  Before she was even sure of where she wanted to go she began baking, running an ongoing bake sale to raise the funds that would be required to attend these training programs.  In a few weeks she raised enough to cover the registration to the two programs she selected.  I am one proud mama. So it is from that place that I share her efforts and invite you to hear from her as she works to reach her goal.  Putting it all out there, she’s raising the funds to get to these summer ballet intensives to train further.  Employing the help of her sisters and her father and me, she created a video and fundraising campaign to try and get the rest of the funds before the deadline.  We had hoped for scholarships but that didn’t happen this time around and the costs involved simply are not in our budget, all the scrimping and saving couldn’t make it so.  The sisters worked together to plan, film, and edit the video sharing Ophelia’s love for dance and her willingness to work hard for her dreams.  I am one proud mama. It’s not easy for her to ask for funds to reach these dreams, doing so is just one more indicator of how motivated she is to take risks and work hard towards her goals, goals that include helping others and using her talents to be a voice for the voiceless.  A tenacity that will serve her well through out her life, I believe.  Check out her fundraising campaign, it’s worth watching the video even if you’re not able to donate.  I’m sharing this and I hope you watch it then share it too because I’m one proud mama.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j9wzWcV_gSs

Last year’s video, it’s amazing to see how much one year changes things even at this age! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycG-NW1UGno

From a needy little baby to an increasingly independent young woman, I am one proud mama.  Thanks for letting me have a proud mama moment! See her fundraiser here, every contribution, big or small, helps:

Share

The Leaky Boob Launches Product Review Program

by Jessica Martin-Weber

One of the best parts of The Leaky Boob community is the diversity of experiences.  No two stories or perspectives are exactly alike.  From breastfeeding to returning to work to our birth stories and introducing solids, our journeys are varied and complex.  When it comes to talking about products, this is even more apparent.  One person’s trash is another’s treasure.  What my family couldn’t live without, yours may find completely worthless.  It’s not unusual for me to be asked for my opinion or if I have written a review about a specific product.  The truth is I don’t really like writing reviews.  Some are a lot of fun and some, well, aren’t.  If I actually get the chance to write though, I don’t usually want to write about a product, it’s just not a creative or inspiring outlet for me.  Yet within our community be it here, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we often discuss topics that extend way beyond breastfeeding including various products and I discovered I am often giving casual, on the spot reviews anyway.  That doesn’t bother me, it’s just a conversation, but it hit me that even though I don’t care to write reviews, people are looking for them and because they already trust TLB as part of their community, it makes sense for them to seek that resource here.

Plus, there are so many great products out there from companies that truly support and value families.  Wanting to connect the parents looking and the companies with the product through honest, unbiased perspectives, we began discussing what it could look like.  With that, The Leaky Boob Review Program was born.  Believing that for a review to be unbiased, the reviewer needed to not fear that they would receive backlash from the company if they were critical.  Talking with Jeremy and then Amy West, we determined that we wanted to pay our reviewers independently so not only would they receive the product, they would be compensated for taking the time to evaluate and write a thorough review of the product, free of any pressure to make the company happy.  Continuing the approach to reviews already established on TLB, reviewers would go over the good, the bad, and the ugly of each product, to be as objective and trustworthy as possible.  Our reviewers were hand-selected by Jeremy and me and represent some of the diversity we see within The Leaky Boob community, communicate clearly in written word, and are able to give objective feedback on their experience with a product.  Being parents first, all of our reviewers are able to evaluate a product as any other parent would, not based on insider knowledge of the baby industry (both a handicap and an advantage) and would use it as any parent new to a product would.  Each new review launched in our review program is covered by at least 2 of the writers to provide 2 perspectives right off the bat and we encourage anyone to ask questions in the comments section of each review and anyone with experience with that particular product to comment on the review sharing their own personal experience review as well.  Together we will grow a resource of trusted, diverse reviews reflecting a wide variety of opinions and experiences.  Our review writers include a mom of 2 (preschooler and infant at the time of this writing), a husband and wife with 4 children (ages 6, 4, 2, and infant), a new first time mom of an infant, and occasionally parents of 6 and creators of The Leaky Boob, Jeremy or me.  Check out their bios here and get to know them through their reviews.

We’re going to continue our primary focus on supporting families in feeding their children, specifically when it comes to breastfeeding and breastmilk.  This new development won’t be taking anything away from our core purpose, merely adding to it.  In true TLB style, it’s more than just us, this new extension of our community will greatly depend on the input and connections shared in your own personal stories and support.

Help us make this a useful resource for you and others.  What products would you like to see reviewed?  How would you like our reviews to be different from others you have seen?  Please tell us what is important to you in a review.

I’m excited to see TLB grow in this way.  We’ve already been doing it, we’re just making it TLB official.

~Jessica

Share

Why take and share breastfeeding photos?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
why women share breastfeeding photos

Photo credit: Cleo Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Share

Breastfeeding, sexism, and public opinion polls

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

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

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

Share

9 Reasons you may be uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Photo from Instagram user Jeniholland.

Photo from Instagram user Jeniholland.

We’re well into the 21st century yet breastfeeding appears to still make many people uncomfortable.  I keep hoping those individuals that get upset about the biologically normal way to feed a baby are really a rarity but, unfortunately, it still seems to be a hot button issue.  Regardless of how a woman is most comfortable feeding her baby, be it uncovered at the breast, covered at the breast, a bottle of expressed breastmilk, or a bottle of formula, plenty of people are uncomfortable witnessing a woman feeding her child and any form of breastfeeding seems to especially elicit vocal expressions of discomfort from others.  I identified 9 reasons people may be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding be it on social media or in person settings and tried to offer some solutions in overcoming what is essentially a discomfort about babies being fed.  And that brings us to our first point:

  1. Agism.  Breasts aren’t the issue for you, nope.  You just don’t think babies and small children have the right to eat in public.  Or you think that every. single. time they do eat the experience should be charged with connection and intimacy between that child and their care-giver, staring deeply into each others’ eyes approximately 8-24 times a day and not witnessed by anyone else.  Those babies, they need to keep that stuff happening in private!  And yes, a baby or the needs of a small child should actually come second to your own personal comfort about what you witness.  Older people, that’s a totally different story, they can eat when they need to eat and for the most part, where they need to eat and how they need to eat it without harassment, expectation of high level bonding, or a blanket.  On the go, sitting at a table in public, while reading a book or talking with friends, it’s fine for those over the age of 2 to eat in public and even for them to post pictures of their meals on social media.  But those babies better at least keep it under wraps!  Spending some time watching just exactly how adults eat or watching this video could be key in getting you over your prejudices.  No?  You don’t discriminate against babies eating in public?  Ok, have you considered that you could have…
  2. Boob-phobia.  It’s a real thing, check it out.  Perhaps you’re uncomfortable by the sight of breastfeeding because you have Mastrophobia, a phobia of breasts (or cousins gynophobia, a fear of female parts, or papillaphobia, a fear of nipples) and seeing breastfeeding makes you want to run away.  Which maybe that’s what you should do, complete with screaming and waving your arms hysterically.  Or do what I do when watching a scary movie, hide behind a pillow only risking a peek here and there.  Actually though, if you do really have boob-phobia, you should seek professional help.  If that’s not it though, maybe it’s…
  3. Brainwashing.  Which is totally understandable and you can’t help the cultural conditioning that has brainwashed you into thinking breasts are truly only for sexual pleasure.  You’re a victim of marketing and fear.  Boobs aren’t for babies, boobs are for men/selling cars/selling beer/selling clothes/selling sex/selling music/selling movies/selling… selling, or at least that’s what the prevailing messages in much of society seems to be selling.  If this is an issue, walking around with a blanket over your head to cut out these messages could be the solution.  But maybe you are completely immune to marketing and the societal messages thrown at us from every which way, in which case it could be…
  4. Judgment.  You believe, and the reasons why are unimportant (certainly not fear or brainwashing), that breasts that aren’t properly shielded and covered belong to an immoral, immodest individual of low character.  Women that don’t keep those things contained and pull them out and stick them in the mouth of their hungry child must not have a shred of decency and you judge them for that.  Even if they define modesty or decency differently than you do.  Such as “it would be indecent of me not to feed my child when they are hungry…”  Heading to the bathroom to have your dinner may be exactly what you need to get you over this unfortunate character flaw.  Not a judgmental person?  Don’t care what other people do?  Then maybe you’re uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding because…
  5. Insecurity.  It could be anything.  Insecurity about your own breasts (male or female), insecurity about your friend/father/husband/brother/son seeing someone’s breasts (which of course means you make sure they avoid all malls, sports shows, magazines, and movies), insecurity in seeing someone breastfeed their child when you didn’t/don’t breastfeed yours, insecurity that breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is some kind of mark of “good parenting”, insecurity that others may be uncomfortable with someone else breastfeeding and you feel the need to make sure everyone (but the breastfeeding pair) is comfortable, or maybe just insecurity that humans are all mammals.  Whatever it is, and it could be anything, you personally battle insecurity and rather than face it in yourself you project your issues on to others.  Sitting next to a breastfeeding mother while she feeds her child and having a conversation with her may do the trick.  Not insecure?  If you’re confident enough to not be threatened by a woman feeding her child, could it be…
  6. Confusion.  You get grossed out by the sight of breastfeeding because of two words: body fluids.  It freaks you out that body fluids are free-flowing from a woman right into her baby!  Who needs to see that, right?  It doesn’t matter that it’s only natural because, hello, pooping, peeing, and sex are natural too and you don’t want to see any of THAT in public either, right?  It’s certainly only a matter of time before they’re bottling those body fluids up and feeding them to children too, I’m sure.  Fake urine will be flooding the shelves in no time, specially formulated to be just like the real thing.  Aside from the obvious fact that you really can’t see it happening during the act of breastfeeding, basic biology helps clear this up a bit: breastmilk = nutrition, urine/feces = waste, genital secretions = not food.  Some time studying basic nutrition and biology and understanding the basic differences should fix that right up.  Get the difference and not confused?  Moving on then, maybe it’s…
  7. Misogyny.  This goes along with the brainwashing point but it’s a little deeper.  If you’re uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding because of misogyny, you actually hate women and consider them less than men.  As such, their bodies are purely for men and a woman that would dare exercise her autonomy in using her body as she should choose, well she’s just asking for it, isn’t she?  A breastfeeding woman is just rubbing it in your face, isn’t she?  How dare she act as though she independently has worth and power over her own body.  Besides, seeing breasts in use in such an a-sexual way is a bit unsettling.  You haven’t sanctioned this and it’s uncomfortable to think that you have something in common with human babies. The way through this could be quite painful: start listening to women and catch a production of the Vagina Monologues.  But you’re not a misogynist?  Totally down with women as equals?  Great!  So what about…
  8. Denial.  There are people that spend time researching the emotion of disgust and have a disgust scale.  What is it, why do we experience it, etc.  Some triggers of disgust are understandable, like food contamination disgust.  We don’t want to get sick.  Obviously.  So why are you disgusted by breastfeeding, AKA, feeding babies?  It’s possible, these researchers theorize, that you just don’t like to be reminded of your animality.  Humanity is good in your mind but anything that connects you to the animal side of humans grosses you out.  That humans are mammals (creatures with mammary glands that use their mammaries to feed their young) is a fact you would rather forget.  Watch some Discovery channel, you’ll have to eventually confront that breastfeeding our young isn’t the only animal-like behavior we homo sapiens have.  Not that?  Then…
  9. Unfamiliarity.  When we’re not used to seeing something it can be startling when we come across it.  This isn’t your fault, you’re just not familiar with this as normal and actually expect the alternative to the biological norm instead.  You just haven’t seen breastfeeding enough to be totally down with it.  The fix to this one is pretty easy, see more breastfeeding.  You’ll get over your discomfort the more you see it and soon it will become just as normal as it actually is.  Don’t worry, more and more women are doing their part in feeding their babies in public, with and without covers, and you’ll get more comfortable with it the more you see them out and about or posting their photos on social media so hang in there, there’s hope for you yet!

 

________________________

 What would you add to our list?  Why do you think people may have issues with witnessing breastfeeding or encountering breastfeeding images?  If you’re uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding, why do you think that is?   Did you used to be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding but are ok with it now?

________________________

Share

I don’t know how to tell you about Hyperemesis Gravidarum

by Jessica Martin-WeberHG awareness 2014

Today is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day and I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to tell you why this matters to me or what HG is like.  Though I’m used to being able to express myself fairly well in written word, for some reason I just can’t find the words.  The truth is, I just don’t know how.  There’s too much and it is still so hard to talk about.

I don’t know how to explain the way HG robs everything wonderful, everything beautiful from pregnancy.

I don’t know how to tell you that though I wanted every one of my babies, I never wanted to be pregnant.

There are no words to describe the guilt I felt and grief I sometimes still have over hating pregnancy.

I don’t know if I can even begin to explain how much I wanted to “just eat” but every time I ate my insides would turn inside out and punish me for hours until there wasn’t even bile left.

Or the courage it takes to admit I wanted to end my pregnancies or my life.

And I don’t know how to tell you that sometimes it was hard to hear about or see happily, glowing pregnant women.

Because I know, I KNOW that even with that I am one of the lucky ones.  I got to have my babies.

I don’t know how to tell you that being told I was lucky I got to be skinny while pregnant or how good I looked made me crumble that people couldn’t see how I was dying, physically and emotionally, on the inside.

I don’t know where to start on the toll HG takes on my family, my husband and my children have suffered under this burned more than I can say.

I don’t know how to explain what it’s like to vomit so much you can’t breathe.

I don’t know how to share with you how the force of vomiting and dry heaving out of control leaves you spent and dizzy and gasping for air.

I don’t know what words to use to paint the picture of never ending nausea and vomiting.

I don’t know the way to make you understand why I stopped counting how many vomiting sessions I had in a day once I reached 24 even if it was only noon.

And I really don’t know how to spell out what that looks like every day all day for 40 weeks.

Because I know, I do KNOW that it could have been so much worse.  I got to have my babies.

I don’t know if it will make sense that I couldn’t eat anything, no matter how hard I tried, not even crackers or ginger or anything else.

I don’t think you’ll want to hear how much I wanted to take said crackers, ginger, or anything else and shove them where the sun don’t shine to the next person attempting to be helpful that suggested I “just” try that.

I don’t know if I can handle sharing how my nurses would try to find a viable vein in my dehydrated body and still fail after a dozen attempts.

I don’t know how to tell you that nobody doubted me having absolutely no control over the HG as much as I did.

I don’t know if I can make it clear how much I felt like a failure every day, every time I vomited, every time I heaved.

I don’t know if blame even touches the contempt I felt for myself when my babies weren’t growing well.

Words fail me when I try to explain the confusion, depression, and physical bleakness that comes with dehydration.  I was almost always dehydrated.

And I don’t know when I’ll stop crying when I confess that I was always afraid of how this was hurting my growing baby.

Because I know, I KNOW so well that in the end it was all ok.  I get to hold my babies.

I don’t know if I can deal with your questions as to why I would continue having babies if my pregnancies were so terrible.

I don’t know why you would want to hear about how I got down to 83 pounds at 5 months pregnant, my skin yellow, my organs failing, and how as much as I wanted to just eat, I couldn’t.

I don’t know if I can keep it together to recount the things people, health care providers, said to me as I fought to get well.

I don’t know what stories to tell, like how my toddlers would pretend to throw up, that I christened every place I visited in my town, or how I would do my job in between vomiting- if I could not pass out long enough.

I don’t know if it will make any sense that I have a love/hate relationship with my PICC scar, a bittersweet reminder of what it took to survive growing my babies.

I don’t know how to describe the taste of bile and then blood on my tongue for weeks at a time.

The gratitude I feel for those that believed me, fought for me, and took risks for me defies adequate expression, I know they save me.

Because I know, trust me, oh how I KNOW that this agony ended well.  I get to hold my babies.

I don’t know the vocabulary required to detail what the caustic stomach juices did to my throat and my teeth and my spirit.

I don’t know how to tell you the fear I still hold that being on the maximum dose of Zofran and the drug cocktail that was poured directly into my veins harmed my babies.

I don’t know if I can voice the even greater fear that organ failure and ketosis was harming them more than the drugs ever could.

I don’t know how to narrate the experience of trying to decide if I should save the life of the mother of my existing children or hope to live through my body shutting down to try to keep growing their little sister.

Or the anxiety I have that my daughters will face the same fate when they begin to have children of their own.

Because I know, please know that I KNOW how blessed I am to even have my children.

But I know this, more people need to be aware of HG, to help with research, and to help support those families impacted by HG.  I know this.   To learn more about HG please go to helpher.org.

 

Share

Sitting in the dirt- the simplicity of (breastfeeding) support

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

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

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

“Love?” I asked him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share

The all budget parents gift guide

by Jessica Martin-Weber
this post made possible by the generous support of Beco Baby Carriers

black and white gift

Not sure what to get the smart, hard working, dedicated parent friend, family member or partner in your life but you want to give them something?  Do they mean a lot to you and you want to express that through a gift but haven’t found just the right thing?  After all, they already have “everything” in their children, what could add to that?  I asked the Leakies over on The Leaky Boob Facebook page what they would want to receive to take the guess work out of how to find that perfect gift for any parent with young children.  Their responses were fantastic and creative, here I broke them down into three main categories to fit different budgets and time.

Free

Just costs a little time (and maybe some common supplies you’d already have on hand).

In today’s hectic pace of life, time sometimes seem more valuable than money even more than the saying “time is money.”  Nothing communicates care, love, support, and value like investing time in someone.  Most of the gifts in this category were ones that obviously held a lot of value to those moms with infants young children posting.

Sleep.  This was the most mentioned suggestion.  Parents, particularly parents with young children want sleep.  Partners, this could be an easy one to give, depending on your schedule.  You each could give each other the gift of sleeping in once a week on a set day.  It can work out to be a great benefit to all of you, special time with the kids for the partner getting up and catching up on sleep for the partner sleeping in.  Naps and early bed times can be helpful too and don’t have to come from the partner.  A friend takes the kids to the park, a relative comes over in the middle of the day, or a trusted neighbor bakes cookies with the kids for an hour.  A little bit of extra rest can go a long way.

House cleaning.  So many moms posted they’d love someone to come help with some house cleaning.  A load of dishes, run the vacuum, sweep, dust, even fold some laundry.  Not every woman is going to want someone to come clean their house so be sure you check with them or know them well enough before gifting this.  Pull out all the stops and send the whole family packing for a day out while you attack their house, they’d get special family time and come home to a tidy place.  And partners, unless it is clear between the two of you that cleaning is her job or you have designated household chores, you gifting cleaning is like saying “here honey, my gift to you is to help with the responsibility of caring for our family.  I wouldn’t give her that unless you’re ready for your next gift to be “I gave birth to our children.”

Playmate for kids.  Could be you or someone you know.  Some older kids can do the trick too, my 10 year old can be incredibly interactive with younger kids, she gets so into playing with them in a way that makes me question my attention span and wonder “how can she keep going like that?”  This could be free or very inexpensive, a neighbor child or older child of a friend would be happy to play for a couple of hours in exchange for a few dollars or trip to get ice cream.  Having that arranged for them could make that mom or dad’s day and give them the chance to read a book, clean without “helpers”, or maybe even shower.

Shower or bath.  The key to this being a real gift for the parent of young children is one word: “uninterrupted.”  Entertain the kids and protect that bathroom door and the parent gifted “one uninterrupted shower” will feel like they won the lottery.  Ramp it up with a prepared bubble bath with candles, snacks, a book, warm towel and robe, and a glass of wine or a cup of tea and you’ll make their year.  Gift this as a regular thing once a week or so packaged in a simple basket of homemade sugar scrub, a special candle, and bubble bath and watch as they become a more relaxed, centered version of themselves again.  And cleaner too.

Massage.  Not everyone is a professional masseuse but a little bit of an internet search can give you some techniques for a truly relaxing massage.  Shoulders, feet, head, back, or whole body, a massage that’s expectation free *cough* not expected to lead to sex *cough* not only feels good but communicates wanting to be close just because.  Ever held an average diaper bag, unfolded a stroller, or moved a car seat?  Moms and probably dads too end up with a lot of muscular tension from the small people they love so much needing to be held, picked up, played with, and the giant juggling act that comes with caring for a family.

Childcare.  Be it one time or reoccurring, if you are a trusted friend or family member and know that you deserve being such, your gift of babysitting so the parents could go out or stay in would probably mean more than words could express.  Date night, girls night out, time to grocery shop alone, or pedicures, it’s a gift of time and very possibly sanity.  But this isn’t just a gift for the parents, it’s a gift for the family.  Parents that have time to care for themselves and their partner if they have one tend to be able to find the energy to be the kind of parents they want to be.  When parents are stressed and don’t get down time it can be challenging for the entire family.  Plus, those children get the gift of another trusted adult relationship in their lives, an invaluable contribution to the people they are becoming.  If this gift is politely turned down, please don’t take it as a rejection, it may just be they aren’t ready to leave their child or feel their child isn’t ready to leave them and it’s likely not about you anyway.

Elving.  This goes with another one of the gifts suggest above.  When you spend time with the kids so the parents can have some time, take the opportunity to help guide some creative expression for your little charges if they are old enough.  A hand print picture or other kid craft or art will have a lot of meaning when someone else helped them do it and it will genuinely be a surprise.

Clean out the car.  As parents we worry about things like projectiles in the car but it can be difficult to keep on top of cleaning our vehicles out.  Maybe it’s just a vacuum or maybe it’s going to take a trash bag, cleaning out the space where many moms and dads spend a good chunk of their time can mean more peaceful drives.

Help.  In parenting fantasy land, relaxing may only come at the end of the day when everyone is in bed.  Reality though often keeps this fantasy just out of reach with dinner clean up, dishes, preparing for the next day, house cleaning, and maybe that elusive shower if they’re lucky.  By the time they do get to sit down for a moment… they fall asleep in some awkward position.  Having help for even 30 minutes in the time between dinner and bed time could mean the difference between the parents getting an hour to sit and focus on something that nourishes them.

Notice.  This one is simple and not really something you can package specifically until you know exactly what it is.  Pay attention.  What does this parent regularly end up dealing with that could be frustrating?  For many moms with young children and particularly a breastfeeding child it’s things like not having the chance to eat a hot meal because they end up getting up and down a lot through the meal to meet everyone else’s needs or, because breastfeeding babies have radar for “mom is getting to eat!” and have to breastfeed.  Getting to eat a hot meal and sit through it could be just what she would enjoy.  But whatever it is that the parent you want to get something special for would really appreciate, you’ll have to pay attention.  My husband made me feel really special when he saw how frustrated I was with how my closet and dresser were (not) organized because I hadn’t found the time and one day while I was out grocery shopping he got the kids involved in tackling organizing my clothes.  It may not be exactly how I would have done it myself but it is much better than it was and I really appreciated it.  It also meant that all my “pretty” undergarments were easily accessible.  ;)

Understanding.  It is easy to feel like we’re not doing good enough for our families, friends, society, and ourselves.  One Leaky shared that she would love to not feel rushed, punished, guilted, or resented for doing something for herself.  Whether that is coming from her partner, other family, friends, her children or even herself, having someone understand and care could be the difference between her constantly feeling depleted and having confidence and energy.  A little bit of understanding, compassion, and support can go a long way and the pay offs are significant even if they take a while to be evident.

You.  We didn’t do it often but my friend Monette once suggested that I come over to her house or she to mine after the kids were in bed.  We loved it.  It meant she showed up at my house at 8.30 with a bottle of wine and a bar of fine chocolate to share.  She would leave by 9.45 but that hour and 15 minutes was cherished time.  Find ways, get creative, and don’t be afraid to make suggestions for simple and short ways to connect.

Coupon Book.  This one is particularly good for partners to give but good friends, siblings, parents, and even kids would be appropriate givers of such a gift.  Fill it with all the good stuff listed above, cheap and easy, just takes some effort.  You could include some more simple coupons such as “good for 10 back scratches” or “make the bed.”

Many of these would work well from one mom-friend to another.  With my kids, bringing another child or set of children into our home often ends up keeping my own kids entertained and while it can be some extra work too, it’s nice for my kids to be busy with someone else.  I often find I end up with the gift of going pee all by myself because the kids are too busy with their playmates to accompany me.

Homemade and inexpensive

Unless you make it expensive

Printed snapshots and family photos.  Not necessarily professional quality as that can become quite costly, but if they have an Instagram account or share photos on Facebook, surprising them with a curated selection of their family photos would be quite meaningful.  If you have the time, organizing them into a photo book or scrapbook is very special.

Homemade freezer meals or a meal delivered hot.  Some communities are great about this after a baby is just born or illness has hit a family but imagine getting a meal just in the middle of regular life?  Or having someone make several for the freezer, even better if they just get thrown into a crockpot for cooking all day.  A relaxed dinner party to share the meal together is also a way to gift not only a meal but the gift of your time together.  That’s not a gift of just food, it’s a gift of time!

Food in a jar.  With everything premeasured, a mason jar with all the dry ingredients and the recipe is a delicious gift of one worry-free meal.

Just about anything handmade.  Parents understand how time becomes a hot commodity when you have kids.  Knowing you took the time to make them something is touching.  Useful items such as slippers, hot pad holders, dish towels, bath salts, etc., become not only treasured handmade items but every day reminders of how you thought of them.

Give a gift that will make them do the happy dance

Give a gift that will make them do the happy dance

Get your shopping on

Online, in a boutique, the grocery store, or the mall, it will cost as much as you’re willing to spend.

A bathrobe. This is especially nice if you’re going to help him/her make sure they has time for a shower or bubble bath from time to time.  A Leaky shared:

“As corny as this is going to sound, my husband let me open one of my presents last night and it was a soft fluffy bathrobe. It’s probably the best present I’ve ever gotten and I almost cried thinking that he paid attention more to unspoken wishes than things that are said.”

An experience.  This may require childcare but the gift of an experience outside of their normal routine can be refreshing, energizing, and provide perspective.  Be it something extravagant or something simple, an experience is a wonderful gift.  A friend once gave me the gift of going zip lining with her and that 45 minutes flying through the trees that day was cleansing and revitalizing to my weary spirit at that point.  I will treasure the memories and time together and now I can’t wait to regift that experience to her.  For some, getting a pedicure or some spa treatment could be all the experience they desire, but anything from a gift card to go shopping alone for a couple hours or a night out bowling or tickets to MommyCon, to a groupon for paddle boarding or zip lining or tickets to a show, to a luxurious weekend getaway, an experience is never forgotten.

Jewelry.  I used to hate the idea of getting jewelry as a gift but then my husband surprised me with a pearl necklace I would have never selected but I ended up loving.  One of my favorite things about that necklace is I would never have had the courage to pick that out for myself but I love it, even more so because he got it for me.  Now receiving jewelry from him and even others has broadened my appreciation for styles I previously would have dismissed as not suiting me.  I love that these pieces always make me think of the giver.

Comfortable footwear.  Slippers, socks, even a comfortable pair of shoes (could be partnered with a shared experience of shopping to get the right size) are great for parents.  We’re on our feet a lot and having footwear that makes that a little more comfortable is a great thing.

The arts.  Be it to hang on the wall, play on the stereo, watch on the TV, read, or attend, the arts speak in ways we can’t manage on our own.  When my husband had the print of my favorite painting framed that had been stuck in a tube for years waiting for the right frame, I actually cried.  It meant so much to me.  A collection of beautifully bound poems by one of our most loved poets whom we had often read together when we were dating was equally moving, then there was the time he was thrilled I took him to the symphony when they were performing the piano concerto that made his heart flip, both of us have found ourselves inspired when given a beautiful journal, and more recently tickets to a musical I’ve been dying to see made me do a little dance in excitement.

Activity and engagement.  Encourage physical fitness with a gift that will get them moving.  When you’re a parent of small children it’s easy to forget to get moving more than trying to keep up with our kiddos.  But since modeling is the best way to teach our children, being intentional about being active is worth the effort for the health of the whole family.  A bike, a yard game to play as a family, or accessories that compliment whatever activity they are already enjoying communicates support in the endeavor of family health.  One Christmas we were given a bike trailer that hitched to one of our bikes for the little ones and suddenly we were more than happy to ride more including trips to the grocery store.  Our overall health benefitted.

Something practical.  For the kitchen, the house, the car, the yard, technology, or just for them, a gift that they can use that simplifies every day life is often greatly appreciated.  Pay attention though, be sure it’s something they need or want and you’ll make their day.

A couple of quick “don’ts”

Hint.  Gifts that are meant to be a hint are more hurtful than meaningful.  That fancy new vacuum cleaner you think they could use because it looks like their vacuum cleaner must be broken or that high dollar blender you were eyeing so maybe they would be inspired to cook more or, heaven forbid, that gym membership you think they could/should really use when they have never expressed an interest in joining a gym could come across as critical.  Not only may they not be appreciative, they may be hurt even though that’s not what you intended.  A carefully planned conversation could help you suss out how such a gift would be received, if you’re not sure, maybe pass and if you realize you are considering a gift as a way to drop a hint maybe one of the best gifts you could give is to drop such passive aggressive strategies and work on making your relationship authentic and healthier.

When in doubt, don’t.  One of the most mentioned dreaded gifts from the Leakies were clothes that weren’t useful, weren’t their style, or the absolutely worst, don’t fit.  Unless you have overwhelming confidence that you know their size and style, gifting just about anyone clothing is like navigating a minefield.  Proceed with caution and a gift receipt.

Have strings attached.  Ever.  To anyone, parent or not.  Reminding people of the gift you gave them as though they owe you or need to continually wallow in appreciation just kills relationships.  Give, no strings attached.  It’s ok to remind them if they seem to have forgotten you gave them the gift of babysitting or your time otherwise though, they may have either forgotten or felt like it was too much to bring it up themselves.  Just no strings.

Take it personally.  If your gift isn’t a huge hit, don’t take it personally.  Maybe their tastes changed, maybe they are insecure, maybe they are just really tired, who knows.  But don’t assume it’s about you.  And if you never see them use it, just let it go.  Gift giving can feel really great but ultimately once we give the gift we have to let it go.

 

What would you like to receive?  What’s your favorite gift to give to a parent?  

Happy giving!

Share