This summer as you get outside to explore, keeping your baby close and on you can be a big help with feeding your baby. With so many different types of carriers available, there’s almost certainly an option that will work for you. Between the different brands of carriers (and some brands having more than one style, such as Tula), online support and information (such as this online chat with Paxbaby and The Leaky Boob) and retailers (where you can find many different brands in one place!), babywearing libraries, babywearing educators, and ways to purchase used; more and more families have access to figuring out what babywearing can be for them.
And that’s good news. The skin to skin contact of babywearing sends signals to your body that helps you produce milk even as you’re busy keeping up with older kids and vacation plans. There are so many benefits of babywearing, even including neurological and physical development, see more on that here. Even better, for moms feeding directly at the breast, learning how to breastfeed in a carrier can be a total game changer, making it possible to feed on the go. We think this is so important, we have a whole workshop at the Milk Conference to teach moms and support providers more about breastfeeding in the carrier. While not everybody will be comfortable breastfeeding in the carrier, having the option to do so can help remove just one more breastfeeding obstacle. Carry all the babies, feed all the babies! (On your front, just to be clear, unless you have a sense of humor and flexible breasts like this.)
Even if breastfeeding in the carrier isn’t for you or if you’re not breastfeeding directly at the breast, babywearing can be a fun and special way to care for your little one… and your toddler! (I share all about why you might want to wear your toddler and preschooler here.) Babywearing is an excellent way for non-breastfeeding partner parents to connect as well, (older siblings too, see this article for more on sibling-wearing) fostering connections and closeness in shared experience and constant snuggles. For tips on what to consider in looking for a carrier that works for you and/or your partner, check out this link to get you started.
The conversation and education about babywearing has increased, and with good reason. There are a lot of benefits of babywearing but it is important it’s done safely. This is why we are talking about it, anyone could make a mistake (including this celebrity) and babywearing safety is important. Together we can support each other in caring for our little ones.
Want to read more? Check out the rest of our latest news on breastfeeding, partner and babywearing resources, and EXCLUSIVE giveaways in our latest newsletter
RIGHT HERE !!
Trigger Warning This post talks about loss.
We all have a story to tell and each of our stories can be the change this world needs.
My story is long. It is full of life’s threads that have made me who I am today.
One day, one of those threads came undone.
It put my family on a path that would forever change our course.
We were expecting our fourth child and second daughter, her nursery was not yet planned and her shower was a few weeks away. After all, she was the last one we had planned on having and I was not quite as particular about things anymore. At the time I was a full time nurse, we had just moved from Florida to Georgia and I had worked in Pediatrics at the hospital for 10 years, and did other jobs in nursing for 6 more years. So I was a confident pregnant momma not expecting anything to happen to this precious baby we were so thankful for.
It was Christmas time and I was 28 weeks along. Customarily we would never travel over Christmas because we liked the kids to wake up in their home on Christmas morning, but this year we decided to go back to Florida to see the family. Early morning Christmas Eve, sitting in my parent’s bathroom my cramps began. Then the pressure and bleeding started. I had never experienced any difficulties in past pregnancies, and because I was a nurse, I knew too much already. I was in labor.
I cried for God to stop it, I cried out for my husband who was still sleeping, and we were heading to the hospital while the house was quiet and still.
The particular thing about nurses is that you cannot tell us anything we don’t
already think we know. You also can’t argue with us. It’s a curse. (Much like a baby-wearing cloth diapering momma!) When the emergency room doctor told me I was not in labor, he quickly regretted it and sent us up to labor and delivery. Mommas know their bodies.
The ultrasound machine told us everything we needed to know. Molly’s tiny heart had stopped in transit to the unit. My world started to crash in at that very instant. I did a mental checklist over and over, but the results were the same. I could not think of how or why this would happen, I did everything “right”!
We delivered our beautiful little blonde headed baby girl about thirty minutes later and we held her and kissed her and told her to tell Jesus we said hello, and we held her some more. We knew she was serving our mighty God. Her life humbled me. Life’s fragility. Its beauty. Its cruelty. It’s really humbling.
Months later, I was researching stillbirths and I repeatedly came across studies done in other countries about harmful chemicals and how they permeate through our skin and they are found in breast milk and our blood. How these harmful chemicals can cause changes in DNA and can alter our hormones, which regulate every process in the human body and are especially imperative to the development of a fetus. I read how some harmful chemicals are changing the health of sperm, reproductive organs and how others are carcinogenic. I dug deeper, researching studies and reports. Calling experts in the field that would talk to me to help me understand this research I discovered.
I learned that in the United States there are 80,000 chemicals approved for use in our products but they only tested 200 of those chemicals for human safety. Those tests were done on men, not women or children. Then I found a cord blood study done by a physician on his own granddaughter’s umbilical cord blood, her daddy was also a physician. This study concluded that there were many hazardous chemicals in cord blood and it was one of hundreds of studies that proved this. Our babies are losing a battle they don’t have the choice to fight.
That was it for me. I knew I needed to let everyone who would listen know that they had to start taking charge of their own bodies and know what was going not only in them, but on them as well. After all, we all know our skin is the largest organ, but many people do not realize that if the skin’s pH is altered, the harmful chemicals will go through that skin-blood barrier. Harmful household chemicals and pesticides are found in breast milk, our urine, and blood.
I got a huge black trash bag out of the garage and began throwing away everything under our kitchen sink, our laundry room cabinet, and our bathroom cabinets that was not “natural.” I began researching the products I had left, and most of them followed the conventional items into the trash. The word “natural” is so misused in today’s marketing. We did slowly add items back into the home, using resources like EWG.org and other fantastic websites and research that help decipher all of this crazy information. It was so overwhelming, baby steps with this stuff was really the way to go. I made several of my own products in the beginning of my quest until I could find a safe alternative to the store bought items.
Conventional laundry detergent was the one product I could never feel fully comfortable with. I read studies about how polluting they are to our waterways and fish, and how certain chemicals in detergents are found in breast milk and blood. The ingredients mostly came from China where the ingredient integrity can be questionable and mostly synthetic ingredients are used…even when there is a safer raw option- because they are cheap. In America, where Procter and Gamble spends multi-millions in marketing and brainwashing people into thinking we need lots of foaming and bubbles and we have to have scent for our items to be clean, it’s no wonder we have limited options on the shelf that are safe.
I decided we had to do something. I knew too much to sit at the wayside, and all the research came at a great price. Molly’s Suds was born. It is a tribute to her and to all that her death allowed my eyes to be opened to. It is a promise of strict ingredient integrity and safer chemicals that truly clean.
We began formulation in 2008 and had a shelf ready product in 2010. We sold our products in farmer’s markets, co-ops, mom groups and other smaller markets at first. I taught classes on ingredient integrity,what chemicals to avoid and why and basically spoke to anyone who would listen. It was awesome. Most people eat organic, but don’t give a second thought to what they clean their home in or wash their clothes with. It opened people’s eyes to become wise and to do their own research. That is still the goal today. Teaching our customers, moms, retailers, local groups, and even our friends and family about ingredients, about harmful chemicals, what is safe and what is not, and how they can find the research. I don’t judge people for what they use, I think we all are just doing what we feel is best for our families and ourselves. But empowering them with the knowledge and then letting them do what they want with it is half the battle!
We continue to grow here at Molly’s Suds in St. Petersburg, FL. We love what we do, encouraging a workplace where our employees can feel like they are making a difference. Our children also know the hard work that goes into running a company and help out on their days off school. We are both humbled and excited about Molly’s Suds, the adventure we have been on, and how God has allowed good to come out of our tragedy.
Monica Leonard, founder of Molly’s Suds, is an inspiring, mission-driven woman with a huge heart, passionate about continuously educating herself and consumers about the harmful chemical dangers we come across in our daily lives, and how to steer clear of them as much as possible. Mother of four, and originally a pediatric nurse, Monica’s experiences, faith and compassion drove her to develop a line of truly safe household products. Molly’s Suds is a way for her stillborn daughter, Molly, to live on, teaching and motivating others to be wise and do their research before simply accepting and trusting major conventional brands on the shelves. Monica’s ongoing goal is to continuously and responsibly grow Molly’s Suds, cultivate eco-responsibility throughout all practices, and continue educating as many consumers as possible along the way.
by Cindy MacDougall
My youngest child, four-year-old Eddie, likes my breasts. He likes to hug them, and he will sneak a hand down my shirt occasionally. The family joke is that E. is a boob man.
Eddie loved to breastfeed, and continued to do so until his fourth birthday. When we finally weaned, it was a long and gentle process, which I wrote about in my parenting column here.
After weaning, Eddie still showed a need to touch the “babas” that far outweighed my patience for being touched. I had given him four solid years of nursing, and had been breastfeeding for a total of about nine and a half years over four kids. I was more than ready to have my body to myself.
What I hadn’t counted on was that Eddie and my breasts seemed to have a relationship entirely independent form me – at least in his mind.
“The babas are nice and soft,” he explained once. “I love them. I want to hug them, please.”
“But I don’t want you to touch me right now, Eddie,” I said.
“Oh, I’m not going to touch you, Mama,” he reassured me. “Just the babas.”
Another time, I explained to him that he was a big boy who had been weaned, and that meant no more touching my babas. He erupted in floods of tears.
“But mama, I gave up drinking the babas like a big boy,” he sobbed (taking the opportunity to lay his head on my chest.) “I didn’t know I had to give up touching them. I have to touch them, Mama, sometimes.”
We know from childhood development experts that children need touch in order to properly grow physically, mentally and emotionally. I touch and hug my kids often, as does their dad.
But I had never thought about my children’s needs to touch me back, and especially about a former nursling’s need to occasionally reconnect with the breast as they continue to grow away from being a member of a breastfeeding dyad.
I know Eddie is not alone in this need, as my other children liked to touch my breasts after weaning (though not nearly as much) and I had watched friends go through this same struggle. But I didn’t know how common this need is amongst children, so I did a bit of Googling to find out.
The La Leche League International message board has several long threads of posts about toddler and pre-schoolers touching breasts after weaning. One mother there described her child as “boob-obsessed,” and others described patting, rubbing, pinching and touching. Some kids were sneaky about it; others outright asked; some needed to touch the breasts to fall asleep.
Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder of the parenting web site Aha! Parenting, wrote about weaned children touching the breast in her “Ask the Doctor” feature.
“It is very common for toddlers to need to touch their mother’s breasts for comfort or to fall asleep for as much as a year after weaning,” she wrote to a concerned mother. “Your breasts symbolize comfort and safety and love to her…. So if she is clingy, just give her lots of extra reassurance and realize that this is the final stage of weaning.”
It’s good to know Eddie is normal, if enthusiastic, in his need to have some cuddle time with his, ahem, my, “babas.” And the closer we move to his fifth birthday, the less often he seems to need to touch them.
If you’re dealing with a similar situation, there’s no need to change or challenge the habit if you’re both happy and comfortable.
However, if it’s driving you bananas, think of this as an excellent opportunity to teach your child about body autonomy. Your breasts are yours, after all, and it’s important to teach kids that each of us own our own bodies, and no one can touch us, or them, without consent (barring medical necessity, safety, etc.) That gives permission to set the same limits with their own bodies, to be able to say “no” to unwanted touch.
With Eddie, I made rules: no touching the “babas” unless he asked, only at home, and only a hug or cuddle. He seems to be approaching the end of this “final stage of weaning” and hasn’t asked in a while.
Despite what our society tells us, touching each other, with permission, is generally healthy. For small children, the breasts are about love and nutrition, not sexuality. If we are comfortable with that and allow them healthy touch, it teaches them good things about the body and physical forms of affection.
Cindy MacDougall is a writer, a mother of four children, a public relations professional, and a former parenting columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. She covered health issues for CBC North Radio One for seven years, and is a recipient of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada’s 2004 Journalism Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Reporting for her radio series “Into the Mouths of Babes: Breastfeeding in the Northwest Territories.”
by Elizabeth Grattan
I found the Leaky Boob after a long while of going it alone in my nursing journey. I lurked silently for months. I watched women come for support. I listened and I learned. And I am so thankful and grateful for the resource. We are three plus years and going strong, my lad and I. And so, in the spirit of forward support, the following is my contribution to celebrate five wonderful years of encouragement for women and men. Thank you Jessica and your admins and the entire family of TLB. All those in this community who make the difference. — Elizabeth
So many questions. So many answers. Information at our fingertips as we crowd source for support and scour the internet to validate our choices. And still, with all the resources in the world, so much still unknown.
Until we figure out we’re answering the wrong questions. We’re framing our dialogues wrong. We’re talking, but we’re not really saying anything. We’re hearing, but we aren’t really listening. We’re trying to reach, without teaching the things that equip and empower women.
So stop for minute. And consider a better lesson….
The reproductive right that belongs to women. The informed choice she can make when taught all the information. The answer to every single question:
Teach children about anatomy. Equip and educate on reproductive choice early and often. Teach the history of breastfeeding. That autonomy always mattered. That milk is custom to species. That women weaned. That nursing a child is part of the reproductive journey.
Teach what alternatives were used besides the mother’s breast to nourish the offspring. Animals, meat stocks, slaves — hundreds of options that tested our humanity along the way. Teach the history. The good, the bad, the ugly. Teach the injustice. Teach the risk they carried. Teach that babies died early. That infant mortality was horrifying. That we used and exploited women’s bodies.
Teach that we wanted to breastfeed. That we wanted to wean. That we wanted to dry up our milk completely. That we were once unknowingly stripped of a choice. That a pill and a shot were just par for the course. That women and children were at risk. That our options were hit or miss.
Teach the advancements in our journey. How far we have come. How we’re still not done. How amazing that is. That women and children live. But that for some, those same horrors still exist. Teach that we are still working on it.
Teach the socio-economics. Teach the privilege. Teach the realities and the limits on women. Teach the strides we’re making. Teach the change in legislation. Teach that we can and have and will succeed in decisions.
Teach that nursing is a learning process. That seeing breastfeeding matters. That we need observation and exposure. Teach that qualifications have no place. That normalizing keeps women and children from hiding under cover in shame.
Teach about the imperfection in reproduction. So no one is taken aback because a myth told them it was for everyone. Teach how to handle the griefs and losses for women who had their reproductive choices stripped from them.
Teach how to dry the milk. Teach how to wean. Teach how to latch a baby. Teach the laws on breastfeeding. Teach people everything.
And don’t assume a woman will decide to nurse and don’t assume she won’t. Ask her. Trust her answer. Trust her answer might change. And empower her along the way.
So if she says: “I do not want to use my reproductive system this way,” you say: “Okay, here is information on all your options. From drying your milk to stopping engorgement to offering your child their developmental requirement. Here is what’s safe. Here is what isn’t.”
So if she says: “I want to use my reproductive system this way,” you say: “Okay, here is information on all you’re offering. From latching your child to expressing your milk to never forgetting to be kind to yourself. Here is what’s safe. Here is what isn’t.”
But don’t battle about if a reproductive process has benefits. Don’t project your personal preference. Don’t ignore the anecdotes. Don’t ignore the evidence. Don’t tell. Listen. And ask the only relevant question:
“What do you want to do? Because it’s your body, it’s your call. And I want you to know I’m here to help you. Through it all.”
How would you answer the above question? How have you asked it in support of other women? How are you giving support forward?
Elizabeth Grattan is a broadcast talent and writer who has covered current events, human interest and social justice for over twenty-five years. Her loves are the strong, gentle arms of her best friend, reasonably priced blended reds and obviously her dream come true little man. Find & friend Elizabeth on FB or follow along on Twitter.
By Carrie Saum Dickson
This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 1 and part 2 of their story as well.
Shortly after birth, my sweet little boy, Echo, had a stroke. We struggled to breastfeed and I ended up exclusively pumping for him. But that was hardly the extend of his feeding difficulties. You see, my son can’t eat. For a while there he couldn’t eat anything, now he has a few safe foods. But he still really can’t eat. He’s 16 months old.
My son’s name is Echo and he has FPIES.
What is FPIES? According to The FPIES Foundation:
Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) is a type of food allergy affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Classic symptoms of FPIES include profound vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. These symptoms can lead to severe lethargy, change in body temperature and blood pressure. Unlike typical food allergies, symptoms may not be immediate and do not show up on standard allergy tests. Furthermore, the negative allergy evaluation may delay the diagnosis and take the focus off the causative food. Nonetheless, FPIES can present with severe symptoms following ingestion of a food trigger.
I will tell you this: I’m a fierce mama bear. I will not let my son be defined by a stroke or FPIES or anything else over which he has no control. He is a strong, charismatic, people-loving, joyful being. He walks confidently into a room full of strangers, waving and smiling as though the world has been expecting him all along, and is ready to receive him. He is so much more than a diagnosis or cluster of symptoms. Echo is pure light. We do our best to make the world safe for him. Sometimes we fail. With every trip we’ve taken and guest we’ve hosted, Echo has experienced acute reactions each time despite our vigilance. But we walk a very fine line between taking calculated chances and raising Echo in a bubble.
This. This new normal. Echo, at 16 months old, has two handfuls of safe foods and resists eating, all while laughing and giving kisses and shaking his head “no”. Me? I’ve made peace with the pump. Peace with my life in this moment, with the ever-changing new normal. My son has one constant and safe food source that he never turns down (mommy’s milk!), and it brings me great peace of mind. We’ve learned to keep participating in life, even when my mom innocently asks if there’s a mute button for the pump motor, or when Echo enthusiastically licks the trash can and we know we will be up all night. I’ve learned I can do anything for ONE MORE DAY, which in this case adds up to almost 500 days. Especially if it’s for my son. I’m grateful and proud that my body still impossibly provides most of what Echo needs. The dark clouds of survival lift and retreat when I remember this: I am lucky to be his.
Here are three things I want you to know from my experience:
- FPIES scary and effing HARD. Have you ever tried to keep a toddler from eating food? It’s impossible. And sad. And no matter how careful we are, Echo often manages to find something and then we hold our breath until we know he’s okay. Leaving the house is stressful, play dates are almost impossible, and no space (except ours) is safe for him. Leaving him with a sitter is always a test of faith and competence. Finances are continuously tight. As it turns out, shipping donor milk, taking the max dose of Domperidone, (which insurance does not cover), and keeping up with medical bills all require quite a bit of cash. Also, it really takes a toll on a marriage, even a solid, seasoned one. Many families don’t make it through these rigorous trials with chronically ill children intact, even with proper support. Try not to judge us when we all seem a little fragile.
- FPIES is exhausting. When Echo experiences a reaction, he is in continuous pain, nobody sleeps for two days, and we have to take extra care with him. It requires total gut rest and a diet of only precious breast milk for days. I hate that he suffers so much, and it takes us all about a week to fully recover. We get little sleep and even less respite. We are hyper-vigilant everywhere we go because food is, well…everywhere. So, if you see Lance or me getting hyped-up when Echo gets food on his finger or there are crumbs on the floor or freak out when you pull out the goldfish crackers, please don’t think we’re crazy. And please don’t take offense when we start cleaning up after your kid or respectfully wiping their hands and faces before they play with Echo.
- FPIES is a real thing, and it’s rare. I’m part of online support groups where moms have been diagnosed with Munchausen Syndrome when they take their very sick children into the ER after an especially bad reaction, and some parents have had their children taken away because the doctors don’t even know what FPIES is or believe the parents when they explain it. (The parents eventually get their kids back when the doctors and social workers see that the reactions happen no matter whose care the child is under.) Although I refuse to dwell in fear of this happening, it is still something that happens. And the only way it stops happening is if you guys know about FPIES.
For more information about FPIES, visit these websites:
The FPIES Foundation
From the American Journal of Pediatrics: The Mother of All Food Allergies
By Carrie Saum Dickson
This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 1 and part 3 of their story as well.
We began introducing solids when Echo turned six months old. My career focuses on healing the body and restoring vitality through nutrition, and I was excited to begin this work with my son. I was ready to share the burden of feeding my baby with the rest of the food-eating world, namely organic fruits, veggies and properly-raised protein.
I was already planning a pump burial ceremony the day after Echo’s first birthday. My enlightened, supermom-self felt extreme gratitude to be able to exclusively give Echo breast milk for six months, and I could find the grace to pump six more. I know it is a precious gift so many moms are unable to give their babies and I felt genuinely humbled. But with my supply waning and the freezer stash quickly diminishing, I was ready to have help feeding my son. I was also ready for some sort of life again, a life that did not revolve around pumping and keeping up my supply. Plus, my nipples were starting to look kind of horrific, my areolas worn paper-thin in spite of my best efforts to keep them in good shape. My favorite mantra of “I can do this for ONE MORE DAY” felt as thin as my areolas. I was officially over it.
Echo’s first solid food was avocado and he LOVED it. He got it all over his face and hands and in his hair. Then we tried pastured egg yolk with grated grass-fed liver. I’ve never seen such a look of joy on his face. My baby was a total foodie at heart, just like his mommy. He wasn’t a huge fan of winter squash, but that was okay. He liked everything else we gave him.
We traveled to Texas for Christmas and Echo threw up a couple of times. It happened a little while after eating, which was weird, but we chalked it up to travel and maybe a stomach bug.
We came home, gave Echo avocado again, he threw up exactly two hours after eating it. Then he continued vomiting uncontrollably for the next 90 minutes and even threw up bile. We communicated with his doctor intermittently over the next 12 hours, assuming he was allergic to avocado. Echo bounced back in 48 hours, and a few days later we gave him his favorite, egg yolk. Exactly two hours after ingesting the egg yolk, the vomiting began again and this time it was much more severe. Echo became extremely lethargic. We communicated with his doctor continuously throughout the night. I gave him sips of watered-down breast milk and Lance and I took turns soothing and cuddling him.
We saw Echo’s doctor the next day and she brought up Food Protein Intolerance-Entercolits Syndrome, or FPIES for short. She tested Echo’s stool for blood, and it returned positive. We researched FPIES and his symptoms fit exactly, but nobody wanted to jump to a diagnosis. A few days later, Lance gave Echo a carrot to teethe on and precisely two hours after introducing the carrot, Echo threw up. That confirmed it. Our son was allergic to food. I wept unabashedly in front of his doctor on the day we received the FPIES diagnosis. Staring down the tunnel, that watery light of hope ending my relationship with the pump, began to flicker and fade as I realized there was no real end to pumping in sight. Not only that, but my baby was very sick and I could do very little to change that for him. I felt completely undone and powerless. The impossibility of pumping for the next 2.5 years loomed big and the dark clouds of survival rolled back to cover me once more. I would not break up with my pump any time soon. But more than that, my baby was sick. The kind of sick you can’t fix, or treat, or hope away.
We chose to stop all food trials, (with the exception of coconut oil, which has no protein in it), until Echo turned one. Resting his gut seemed like a wise move, and gave Lance and I time to come to terms with our amazing miracle boy who needs meticulous care and consideration. It also gave us time to come up with a strategy for feeding him, and space to deal with the long-term ramifications of FPIES. With each new food introduction, the rules for trialing it are stringent: one food at a time for 18 days in a row, followed by a three day break and reintroduction on the 21st day. No grains, no soy, no cow’s milk, no corn derivatives and no processed or combined foods. All of this in hopes of healing and reducing the strain on Echo’s gut. Eating out, eating in, traveling, playdates, childcare, the zoo, splash pads, children’s museums, playgrounds…they are all latent with food. Our home is safe from Echo’s trigger foods, but the rest of the world is not. Echo even reacts to grass and leaves that he sneaks in his mouth while we are outside playing, which turned us both into helicopter parents. Lance and I both mourned the loss of freedom we all would experience, but mostly the loss of freedom and exploration for Echo.
At eight months, my supply tapered way down, and no amount of herbs, tea, extra pumping sessions or positive thoughts brought it back. Under the supervision of my doctor, I tried Domperidone as a last resort. It worked for the most part, however, I still needed to supplement with donor milk. This was another hurdle. Echo mildly reacts to specific foods in my milk and I wanted to find a donor who would be willing to follow the same specific diet I do to give my son the best chance at healing his gut. One of my oldest friends, Allison, stepped forward and offered to be a consistent, diet-compliant donor and ship the milk overnight from Texas to Oregon every month.
Allison wasn’t the only person to step forward and help us. My three closest friends have also provided safe milk for Echo’s supplementation. With their help, Echo has remained in the 70th percentile for weight. Our vibrant, close-knit community have all helped us stay afloat. They’ve prayed, rallied, provided meals for Lance and I, given us date nights, an understanding and compassionate place to vent, and most importantly, a safe haven for our son. Company picnics and nanny-shares and beach weekends with our friends are possible because our remarkable little tribe cares enough to share the burden of Echo’s well-being.
By Carrie Saum Dickson
This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 2 and part 3 of their story as well.
It’s 8:30 on a Wednesday night. My husband, Lance, is in our son Echo’s room, feeding him his bottle and reading a bedtime story. Bedtime is later than usual tonight. After working a full day building my practice as an Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor, taking Echo to an early evening doctor’s appointment and cooking dinner for the three of us, time slipped away from me. Echo ate his dinner late, too. We are all tired and cranky from a day that held too much activity and not enough down time.
I’m washing baby bottles in the kitchen when I hear Lance frantically yell through the monitor, “Carrie! Carrie! It’s happening again!”. I slip the bottle I’m washing back into the soapy water and hurry to Echo’s room. Echo, Lance, and everything within a three-foot radius is covered in vomit. I grab a towel for Lance, take our crying one-year old son, and try not to cry, too.
I draw a bath while Lance peels off his vomit-soaked clothes and climbs in the tub. I undress Echo and give him to Lance and go clean up Echo’s bedroom. I strip the double bed, break out the sanitizer and get down on my hands and knees to make sure I don’t miss anything. I study the vomit: color, consistency, quantity, and make notes to share with Echo’s doctor. The details are important.
I go back to the bathroom to get my sweet, smiley and spent little boy, put him in fresh pajamas while Lance showers. We start the bedtime routine all over again. We play peek-a-boo and pretend to eat his toes and we all feel a little better after laughing. I go back to the kitchen, finish washing Echo’s bottles, and sit down on the couch with my trusty pump as Lance kisses me goodnight and heads to bed himself. It’s 10:15. Exhausted, discouraged and hurting, I massage my right breast, which seems to constantly be clogged these days, and allow myself a good ugly cry. I leave the fresh-pumped milk out on the counter so I don’t have to waste precious minutes heating up a bottle in a couple of hours when I’m sure Echo will wake.
It’s 11:00 before I climb into bed, my right breast still hard and hurting with unexpressed milk. I know my sweet little Echo will wake up several times tonight, either from pain or hunger, and I’ll sing to him and soothe him the best I can in those long nighttime hours.
Echo has eaten green beans 10 days in a row now without any reaction, and we began to hope that maybe this would be a Pass. That his diet would expand to something other than breast milk, coconut oil and spinach. This latest vomit episode signals the end of the green bean trial and one more food to add to the Fail column, of which there are many. And more than that, it means we have to start over from scratch with a new food, and all of the trepidation and hope that comes with it. I fall fitfully asleep worried about my baby, my boobs, and this betrayal of my son’s body called FPIES: The Mother of All Food Allergies.
Echo’s relationship with food has been fraught with difficulty from Day Two. When he was 36 hours old, he stopped breathing while nursing and continued to stop breathing every 10 minutes for the next 16 hours. In the hospital, he received his nutrition through an IV for almost three days. We didn’t know it at the time, but Echo was experiencing non-breathing seizures due to a stroke he suffered sometime shortly after birth. None of the doctors could tell us what caused it, and they chalked it up to happenstance.
My relationship with feeding my son has also been fraught with difficulty. Resuscitating him when he turned blue at my breast brought on PTSD and panic attacks for months. Over a year later, I still feel a faint, tiny, cold fist of fear in my chest when I remember it.
My first experience with a breast pump was sitting next to Echo’s bed in the Pediatric ER while a team of medical personnel worked furiously to keep him from crashing every 10 minutes while my eyes continuously leaked tears of terror and exhaustion. I pumped every 3 hours around the clock, even when I could not hold him for two days as my milk (miraculously) came in. I continued to pump, proud of my body for rallying to feed my baby, in spite of the circumstances and in spite of my fear. My body could do this one thing for my newborn son, and it did it well through bone-crushing exhaustion and fear.
Around four months old, Echo began making great strides in his stroke recovery. The muscle weakness on the left side of his body that affected his latch retreated. We weaned him off one of his anti-seizure meds. He woke up to the world around him, alert and happy and contagious with laughter. He also rejected the breast entirely. We had worked up to three nursing sessions a day and I was sad and frustrated when he wanted nothing to do with it. He looked terrified and scared every time I put him to breast. I told him aloud “we can do the hard things together, baby”, the phrase which I used to affirm us from pregnancy on, and resolved silently to myself as I hooked up my pump, “I can do this for ONE MORE DAY”. Grace always showed up to help me through those difficult early days of weaning and extra pumping.
I wondered if Echo remembered his first seizure and in my gut, I knew forcing the breast was re-traumatizing him. So, we stopped nursing. Many of the dark clouds our little family had been surviving under, lifted. We enjoyed lots of cuddles and closeness with bottle-feeding and we allowed this breast feeding-free world to be our new normal. I developed an even closer relationship with my pump. It went with me everywhere, even places my baby couldn’t. I tried hard not to resent the extra dishes, the double duty of pumping and bottle-feeding, my miniscule supply of free time, and the total loss of freedom to just take my baby and have a day away from home without first planning how much milk to bring and where I could pump in privacy.
by Carmen Castillo-Barrett
I am an immigrant Dominican mother, with African American roots on my father’s side. My husband is of Caribbean decent. We got pregnant with our daughter in 2006. The almost 42-week pregnancy allowed my husband and I time to explore and talk to each other about parenting. We decided we were going to do things differently than how the rest of our family did them simply because it’s what works for our family. We expected to be met with lots of questions and lack of understanding as to why we were doing things differently, but I was certainly not prepared for the ongoing negativity that was associated with our decision for me to breastfeed. I am not the only one who shares this experience. Below are just some of the reactions I got and reasons why Black Breastfeeding Week is important.
1- “You’re going to kill your baby”
At four weeks postpartum, my mother-in-law began to express concern over the fact that all my newborn had to eat was breast milk. I’d done enough research while pregnant to know that breast milk is all an infant needs, but the research never heeded any warning about being confronted with the accusation that I was going to kill my baby by exclusively breastfeeding. My mother-in-law’s concern was real to her because she didn’t know any better. She called relentlessly, offering bad advice that wasn’t solicited, all while expressing concern that there was no way my daughter has getting the nourishment she needed. This was the most significant obstacle I’ve faced as a nursing mother and it ultimately undermined my confidence and affected my decision to discontinue nursing my daughter.
2- “You’re still breastfeeding?!?”
This question started popping up around the time both kids turned 6 weeks old. Both sides of our family saw no need to continue nursing past six weeks of age and thought that the natural progression of things was to introduce formula. My mother had no experience nursing a baby past trying it out for a couple of weeks with me, so her contribution to my growth as a breastfeeding mother was to state that the baby was now “old enough for formula” and I was now “finally free” to stop breastfeeding. There was no real reason why everyone thought I should wean, it was simply a matter of never having seen a non-white mother nursing past the immediate infancy phase.
3- “What? You can’t afford formula?”
When my daughter was two months old, we went out to lunch with my husband’s cousin and his wife, whom had two children of their own. While at the restaurant, my daughter needed to eat, so I discreetly breastfed her at the table. No one at the table batted an eye, but just as I was feeling confident that my nursing in public wasn’t a big deal, I was met with the question of “Why are you still breastfeeding? You guys can’t afford formula?”. I was so mad! Worse still is that when I called my mom about it, she felt the comment was perfectly justified and offered to send me money for formula. Somehow, my breastfeeding was seen as a reflection of our economic status rather than a conscious decision on how to feed our baby.
4- “You’re just trying to be white.”
A common way to dismiss a non-white mother’s parenting choices is to wave them off as her “trying to be white”. This comment is applied to much more than breastfeeding. If you are a non-white mom who co-sleeps, uses cloth diapers, has a home birth, employs a doula, teaches your baby to sign, or does anything outside of the “normal” things a non-white mom is “supposed” to do, then your parenting choices aren’t seen as something that simply works for your family, but a desire to leave behind your true roots to pursue one’s desire to emulate a white mother. This label is applied to non-white women of all shades as a means to shame, ignore, undermine, second guess, disrespect, and pigeonhole our choices to parent as best as we can.
5- “Your baby has teeth, that means it’s time to wean.”
By the time my daughter got her first tooth at 9 months, I was no longer nursing. My son, on the other hand, started getting teeth really early at barely four months old. I made the unfortunate mistake of posting a picture of him grinning with his new itty bitty baby teeth on Facebook. The immediate and overwhelming response from both sides of the family (and some friends) was that it was time to wean because “obviously” his incoming teeth meant it was time for “real food”. Up to this day I’m still unsure what “real food” I was supposed to feed a baby that young.
6- “You’re going to turn him gay.”
While it’s a scandalous thing to say to anyone, this last comment is particularly held as true among Caribbean families. Due to bigotry embraced by both older and younger generations and stubborn cultural superstitions, many Caribbean families believe that one can be “turned” gay and that nursing one’s son past a certain acceptable age will contribute to their sexual orientation. The lack of support and obstacles I faced when nursing my daughter were nothing compared to the outright hatred that the possibility of me nursing my son into a batty boy brought out in members of our family. This is why, after 7 months of exclusively nursing my son, I started pretending that I had weaned him. Only my husband and close friends knew that I was still breastfeeding.
Imagine if your entire breastfeeding experience was framed by the comments I listed above. How successful do you think you could be? This is why Black Breastfeeding Week is so important.
Carmen Castillo-Barrett is a wife and mom who resides in Brooklyn, NY. She is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Kiddie Science.
This guest post shares a look from the perspective of a mother with a 5 year old son with neurological disorders. Jeanie decided to share her story after seeing a thread on The Leaky Boob Facebook page asking about breastfeeding issues as potential early signs of neurological issues in an infant. Whether you recognize yourself and/or your child, a friend, or family member in Jeanie’s story, we hope you will share it to encourage others.
My name is Jeanie and I am the author/page admin for a blog and Facebook page called Reinventing Mommy, which is all about raising my 5 year old son with Autism and multiple neurological disorders. I want to share my story in hopes that others will learn that feeding difficulties can be an early red flag for developmental concerns…
My son Jack was born on March 23, 2009 after 28 hours of labor which resulted in an emergency c-section. I had preeclampsia during the last 4 weeks of my pregnancy, so Jack was born at exactly 37 weeks. Due to the nature of my delivery, I wasn’t given the opportunity to nurse my son in the recovery room. No one even suggested it. I didn’t know it was even an option.
The first time I nursed Jack was in our postpartum room. One of the floor nurses tried to assist me in latching the baby on and – for all I knew – it was going great. The nurse mentioned that she would be sending lactation in to see me ASAP the following day (it was nearing 11:00 PM); her reasoning was that babies born prior to 38 weeks got an automatic referral to lactation. She suggested that I send the baby to the nursery that night so I could recover a bit further, and that the baby would be brought to me to nurse. I agreed.
The next day a lactation consultant came in. I was planning to show her just how great I was doing nursing my baby – clearly I didn’t need her at all! – but instead I was told that not only was my son not latching on at all, he wasn’t sucking properly. This began a journey of using a nipple shield, suck training, and an every 3 hour schedule of nursing Jack for 15 minutes per side then feeding him a supplemental bottle then pumping for 15 minutes. All this while recovering from major abdominal surgery. Every day I was hospitalized, lactation consultants were in and out trying to assist me.
When I was discharged, lactation continued with phone consults. Jack’s pediatrician was of little help. No one ever said that Jack wasn’t eating normally. I just thought that this was what everyone went through. I was constantly assured that all babies can breastfeed and that I just needed to work harder. The pressure on me was enormous. I felt like a failure.
Then came the day that Jack refused to take to the breast at all. He simply would not open his mouth for the nipple shield at all. My milk was drying up from the lack of stimulation and Jack wasn’t gaining weight, so we finally gave up and moved to a bottle and formula.
The problem was that Jack’s feeding issues didn’t resolve with the bottle. Now that he was actually taking in liquid, he began to vomit his entire meal about 5-6 times a day. When I mentioned how much he would “spit up”, I was told that the amount really was probably no more than a couple of tablespoons. What no one truly understood was that he could fill a bowl when he spit up. No one listened when I voiced my concerns that Jack’s eating behaviors didn’t seem typical. Again, I felt like a failure as a mother, because I couldn’t do something as simple as feed my own child.
At the age of 24 months, Jack was only able to eat purées. He couldn’t self-feed. He was nonverbal. He couldn’t climb stairs or jump. The only sounds he produced where grunts. He spent his days pacing the room and flapping his hands. He was diagnosed with Autism and – finally – someone was willing to listen to our feeding concerns.
Jack’s developmental pediatrician and his therapy team listened to us, and we got names for what we were seeing – Oral Phase Dysphagia, which is a neurologically-based lack of coordination of the chewing and swallowing mechanisms, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Jack literally didn’t have the muscle tone in his facial muscles to chew foods, he couldn’t manipulate foods in his mouth, he couldn’t coordinate his chewing with his swallowing, but this was all assuming that we could get the food in his mouth in the first place because he was so defensive. In many ways, it was vindication in that I was not a failure as a mother, but my heart sank at knowing that my little boy had such a long road ahead of him.
Fast forward to now…I just gave birth to my second son 8 weeks ago. My one fear – even more than him having Autism as well – was that he would have similar feeding problems as his brother. That has not happened. My new baby Andrew nurses like a champ.
As for my sweet Jack, he works harder than any person I’ve ever known. He is an inspiration to me each day. He now speaks, though he still has a significant speech delay. He can eat foods that are either very crisp, like crackers, or bready foods. He eats about 6 foods consistently and several others intermittently. He will continue to require feeding therapy for years, but he is making slow yet steady progress.
If there is one thing I could pass on to others about feeding concerns, it would be this – go with your gut and trust your instincts. If you feel like you child is truly struggling with feeding, don’t let doctors or anyone deter you from looking into it further. Contact Early Intervention services in your county for an evaluation, or get your child evaluated by a feeding therapist. With therapy, many children with feeding issues can expand their food repertoires, learn to enjoy eating, and become more proficient eaters.
Editor’s note: Does your child have a sensory processing or neurological challenges? Do you feel that has that impacted your feeding experiences? Sometimes breastfeeding problems aren’t breastfeeding problems but actually indicators of something else. I’ve heard from several moms of the last 4 years that have tried everything in addressing their breastfeeding struggles only to discover years later that there was (seemingly unrelated) neurological issues. From somewhere on the autism spectrum to high sensitivity, they have wondered if there is a connection. Maybe baby refuses to latch or latches all the time and overwhelms mom with constant breastfeeding. While it may be something else entirely, some moms do see there is a connection later on when their child is older.
I would love to hear from you if this has been a part of your journey, please comment below, share your thoughts, and if you’d like your story to be included on the website, please email [email protected] Thank you all so much!
This guest post comes from Austin inviting us all to take a look at how we can go deeper to help bring systemic change when it comes to breastfeeding in public harassment. Beyond social media campaigns, nurse-ins, and expressing outrage through traditional media, we can each utilize our individual influence in powerful yet simple ways resulting in collective improvements that impact the whole community. Without a multifaceted approach of intentional influence, our efforts to normalize breastfeeding face not only our own fatigue, but over-saturation of the accessible avenues. We risk burning out before reaching our goals. This isn’t about using a cover or not, the issue isn’t modesty or moms being prepared, the issue here is basic human rights and there are most definitely politics involved. ~Jessica Martin-Weber
by Krisdee Donmoyer
As a breastfeeding advocate active in social media, I am hyper-aware of how frequently nursing in public incidents occur. Some are big news – Target, a Georgia church, Hollister, Las Vegas – but there are many more that aren’t picked up by major news outlets. Recently, a Keep Austin Nursing in Public follower posted to my Facebook page about an incident that occurred in my own city at, of all places, a Victoria’s Secret store in which a mother, Ashley Clawson, was denied use of an unneeded fitting room to breastfeed by an employee who told her to take her baby to an alley where “no one usually goes.”
I reached out to Ashley to offer support and resources, and advised an initial approach of diplomacy and education. Social media moves faster than bureaucracy, though, and after being told it would be days before she’d hear back from Victoria’s Secret corporate, Ashley agreed to a news interview. A reporter’s call got a faster reaction from the company than Ashley’s did. In their response to the reporter they said all the right things: they apologized, they have a policy welcoming breastfeeding mothers, and they’re ensuring all employees are aware of it.
So – awesome! They did what we want, right? I mean, I’m pretty sure what all moms want in this situation is that it doesn’t happen to other moms. So, boom! We’re done, right?
Well, not exactly. Ashley won’t be the last mother to face discrimination for breastfeeding in a place of public accommodation. This is a systemic issue that impacts breastfeeding rates. It needs a systemic solution. In Texas where Ashley and I live, there is a law that asserts our right to breastfeed in any public place in which we are authorized to be, but the law does not specifically prevent others from interfering with that right. So, we are not protected. What the Victoria’s Secret employee did was wrong. She violated a civil right and endangered a nursing relationship. But she did not break the law, because the law does not say she can’t violate our right.
This is true in more states than not. We tried to improve our NIP law in Texas in the last regular legislative session. We got a bill pretty far, but we didn’t get it all the way. Work has already begun to support the bill when it is filed again in 2015. It will educate businesses that the law exists, prohibit anyone from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, and give her recourse if her right is violated.
Whether you live in Texas or another state, you can contact your legislators and tell them what happened here. Look up your state’s nursing in public law. If there is no enforcement provision, tell them why it matters to you that they support one. Tell them that you want to be able to go buy groceries and feed your baby if (s)he is hungry while you’re out, without being harassed?
If our lawmakers hear from enough of us they will realize that their constituents expect them to be a force in creating community support for breastfeeding. And that’s what it takes: their own constituents – the people who will or will not vote for them when they run again – that’s who makes all the difference.
You can make a difference.
Those online comments we write will only be read for a few more hours. A nurse-in, while sometimes empowering, is over in a matter of minutes (and leaves a negative impression with some).
Look up your state law and your legislators. Write an email, or call – or better yet, go visit their office.
Make your voice heard in a way that can make a lasting change.
Krisdee Donmoyer is a feminist stay-at-home mom of three sons and an outspoken breastfeeding advocate. She’s the outreach coordinator for Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, and the recent recipient of the 2013 Breastfeeding Hero Award from HMHB, due to her work lobbying for mother- and baby-friendly breastfeeding policies in two central Texas school districts and in the Texas Legislature. You can read more about her work on her blog, Keep Austin Nursing in Public, and like her on Facebook, where she spends more time than cats spend sleeping.