Of The Overwhelming, Bad Days, and Normal Feelings

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Parenting can be really hard. Even when you love it and feel this is what you are meant to do it can be really hard. Every parent has times when they are overwhelmed and question whether or not they made a mistake in becoming a parent. These feelings crop up in certain circumstances or in the midst of a difficult day. That’s totally normal and usually it passes pretty quickly, is lifted in talking with an understanding friend, or things come into perspective when you get some time alone.

But there are feelings that go beyond this. If you’re experiencing more than occasionally feeling overwhelmed, it isn’t your fault and you’re not a bad parent for feeling how you do, but you may need help. While it is common for most parents to experience moments of questioning and doubt along their parenting journey, a persistent and reoccurring presence of these feelings may be more normal for a postpartum mood disorder.

postpartum depression illness

If you find that you identify more with the normal of a postpartum mood disorder, you’re not alone even if nobody knows you’re struggling this way. Many parents have been there before, you are not alone and you’re not some kind of broken freak. It is possible that you have a medical condition that needs treatment. In reaching out and sharing the experience we can better recognize the normal symptoms of postpartum mood disorders leading to better care for ourselves and our families. We need to understand the normal feelings and thoughts for a postpartum mood disorder.

    • If you have the recurring feeling that your child would be better off without you, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you are feeling that you don’t want to be a parent and that feeling lasts for more than just a moment, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you are having feelings of wanting to hurt or abandon your child, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If fear dominates your thoughts and actions, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you have anxiety that won’t let you sleep or makes you not to want to leave the house, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you have fantasies of hurting yourself or disappearing from the world, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you regularly feel rage toward yourself, your partner, or your child(ren), this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you feel that you don’t deserve to live, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you can’t get out of bed every day or you hide away from everyone, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If sadness and despair color most of your experiences and interactions, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.

 

postpartum depression postpartum anxiety

These feelings are not just what every mom feels on their bad days, these are all signs that something more serious is going on and you need help. These are normal feelings when you have a postpartum mood disorder. Every parent has hard days and every parent has moments when they feel they need a break, but the feelings listed above are more normal of a postpartum mood disorder including postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. If you have a postpartum mood disorder, you are not alone, others can relate.

Depression and anxiety are real illnesses but because they don’t present with an apparent physical ailment, often they are ruled as just a bad day or a lack of strength or character. This is a lie.

If you recognize yourself in any of these signs, please know that you are not alone but these aren’t the feelings everyone should expect in parenting, these are the feelings that are common with depression and anxiety or a postpartum mood disorder. That doesn’t mean you are broken but it may mean you are unwell. Everyone deserves health as much as possible and that includes mental health. If you had strep throat you would get care and treatment. So it is with mental health. It isn’t a weakness to get help when you are sick, it makes us healthier and stronger for living life with those we love.

Please, let someone know how you are feeling and reach out for help. These crisis lines are available to any parent in crisis:

USA: 1-800-422-4453

Canada: 1-888-603-9100

UK: 08457 90 90 90

And if you know of someone struggling with any of this, reach out to them, here are some tips as to how. Sometimes we need someone willing to help us walk through the process of getting help. To support us and believe in us and to refrain from judging us. You could make the difference in someone’s life by simply caring.

You matter, you are enough. We care about you.

 ____________________

Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Why I’ll Stick To Saying “Fed IS Best”

By Jessica Martin-Weber

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“You may have heard the phrase ‘fed is best’ and while it may be true, feeding your child is best, it is scientifically proven that breast is better. This is not a shaming statement, it is factual.”

I came across an image boldly making this statement recently and I’ve seen others like it and in the infant feeding support group I run on Facebook I was accused of not really supporting breastfeeding because we don’t permit formula bashing or shaming and discourage the use of the phrase “breast is best” (a marketing tool developed by formula manufacturers, no less).  

Reading that phrase above it strikes me that it sounds a lot like when kids are trying to one-up each other with “well, blank is better!”

But children are cute and a little silly and often don’t grasp the concept of “context.”

“Fed is best” is a big thing here in this space. TLB is a community that holds to this view in how we support (did you know breastfeeding is not our first passion? Read here to see what is.). “Fed is best” isn’t a perfect phrase but then there is no such thing as a perfect phrase. Words are limited, expressions are clumsy, one-liners are inept. But as far as words and phrases go, this one leaves room… for the personal story. The narrative, the humanity, the journey.

And oh how those narratives, that humanity, those journeys, matter.

Science is only one piece of this particular pie. Or rather, the science that looks at the composition of breastmilk is only one piece of this particular pie. But there are other sciences that factor in as well. Sciences that aren’t proven by looking through a microscope. These are the sciences where the evidence is gathered by listening, caring, and respecting the stories of the ones living them.

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The science that gives evidence that for one particular mother- who could be any one of us- breastfeeding is a trigger for her sexual assault trauma and having a person, even one tiny being she loves so deeply, have the right to “demand” her body sets anxiety burning inside. Every time she must feed her baby. This science proves that for this mother and her baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that for a couple that could not biologically reproduce on their own, loving a child with abandon still requires that they have access to safe and suitable nutrition for their baby. This science proves that for these parents and their baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that infants removed for their own safety from the arms of their parents and placed into the arms of others, willing to love forever yet holding them temporarily hoping for reunification of this child’s family – this family dynamic and this baby still require access to safe and suitable nutrition for their baby. This science proves that for these parents and their baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that sometimes, for any number of reasons, there is pain and before it can be resolved there is less milk and stress and fear and even less milk and concern and doubt about milk from another. This family and this baby still require access to safe and suitable nutrition for their baby. This science proves that for these parents and their baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that the mother with a floundering endocrine system is unable to physically produce the milk her infant needs and requires reliable access to a safe and suitable nutrition option for their baby. This science proves that for this mother and their baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that the mother whose breasts never quite developed fully (and who knows exactly why), does not have enough glandular tissue to actually manufacture breastmilk, and needs reliable access to safe and suitable nutrition option for feeding her baby. This science proves that for this mother and their baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that the mother with a physical condition that requires a medication contraindicated with breastfeeding must choose between her health and her child’s access to breastmilk. This mother and her baby require reliable access to a safe and suitable nutrition option for feeding their baby. This sciences proves that for this mother and her baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that the mother who had no choice but to return to work a mere 5 days after the birth of her baby, was intimidated into not fighting for her right to adequate pumping breaks, found she didn’t respond well to the pump, but her baby was hungry and while she tried to find donor milk that was another full time job she didn’t have time to manage, and still she required reliable access to safe and suitable nutrition option for feeding her baby. This science proves that for this mother and her baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

The science that gives evidence that the mother who once was a very young woman with a back that ached daily, and shoulders that bore gouge marks from her bra, and her breasts the unwanted hot caresses of men she knew and didn’t know, and so she chose in those days when she couldn’t imagine all that motherhood would entail to have her breasts cut into to make them less… less noticeable, less painful, less identifying. What she didn’t know or couldn’t imagine is they would also be less able to feed her Someday-Baby in her arms today and she too is in need of reliable access to safe and suitable nutrition option for feeding her baby. This science proves that for this mother and their baby, maybe formula is better. Maybe it is best.

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This could go on and on, the stories of real people are endless. The sciences of the heart and the mind, of society and work, of privilege and trauma have volumes upon volumes. Psychology, and social sciences – these are sciences too. And sometimes those sciences, under the individual microscope of the ones living life, show us that science isn’t all there is. Science observes and studies but it raises more questions than it answers. And it respects the chaos even as it notes patterns. We learn from science but not so science can rule us. Which is why we can look through a microscope and be in awe of the living organism that is breastmilk, and still, with all the sciences together, understand that breast may not always be best or better. With science, but even more with caring, we can see how fed is best. After all, the first rule of lactation support is “Feed the baby.”

When we say it isn’t shaming, is it because it isn’t shaming to us and we can’t, for a moment, apply some empathy and see how the intent may not be to shame but the experience from a different journey than ours could experience it as shame? When our language is woefully deficient, can we not adjust our words to hold space for the unique lens of others’ personal stories? Or is being right most important of all? Is having one particular science the only facts that matter? Is the only understanding we’re capable of the understanding that aligns with our experience and our personal passions?

Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is a huge priority here at The Leaky Boob. We believe that better support, access to care, and changing societal attitudes around breastfeeding is crucial for public health and truly supporting families. There is no doubt that the evidence of breastmilk as the biological norm for human infants is solid. But there is so much more than science involved in our real lives and so there needs to be more than science involved in our support. The stories, the living, breathing stories of the people living in them is what determines best outside of the laboratory, in real life. In spite of the inadequacy of our language to express these ideas and reality in full, we stumble along looking for language that leaves room for what can never be fully articulated in our stories: the heart.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Avoid Getting Punched in the Boob This Holiday Season

This email is generously sponsored by our friends at

 

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Hey moms, you need to take care of YOU!

Would a giveaway help?

I know, I know, you hear it all the time but you just can’t because laundry, work, laundry, demanding kids, laundry, dishes, parties, every. thing. else, mostly no time. 

Besides, moms are tough. Very tough. They do hard things every day, even just to get their babies. Moms push beings out their vagina or have their abdomen cut open, or stretch their emotions through adoption, allow their entire body chemistry to change, sacrificing sleep, hot meals, hot showers, and even have some of their brain invaded for their children. 

Moms are tough.

When it comes to breastfeeding, many moms tough it out through all kinds of challenges. Some may have an easy go of it but a rather significant mother of moms face challenges along the way. There are a few words that even the toughest of these women shudder at the thought of. Words such as:

They’re all hard and we could each probably add our own words but those 4 are universally understood. Bad news for breastfeeding moms. 

But did you know that your chance of developing the last one, mastitis, goes up during the holidays? According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine a predisposing risk factor is “Maternal Stress and Fatigue.”

To continue reading about mastitis with some tips to take care of you, VISIT HERE.

Peace,

Jessica Martin-Weber
Founder, TheLeakyBoob.com

View More: http://yourstreetphotography.pass.us/martinwebberfamily1

 

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What I Want My Daughters To Know About Motherhood- Feeding Babies

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Recently I was reflecting on why I started Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference and I thought back on my different feeding journeys with my daughters, looking back and wishing there were things I knew when I first started out that I know now. I considered writing a post to my young self but then I realized that the ones I really want to know now what I wish I knew then about infant feeding are my daughters. Before they embark on their own motherhood journey, before they begin feeding their own babies (yes, I’m assuming that out of 6 girls at least one of them will have children and I will get to be a grandparent), there are so many things I want them to know, I could write a book and not just on infant feeding. Respecting that their journey will be their own, not some version or extension of mine, what I want to share isn’t a how to nor is it a manual, it is more just… my heart. Why am I starting an infant feeding conference? My daughters are why.

View More: http://yourstreetphotography.pass.us/martinwebberfamily2

Dear Daughter,

From time to time I reflect on the days when you were new to the world, newer than you are now, which is still pretty new. Those days when you were tiny and fit snuggled on my chest with your arms and legs tucked under you, my hand supporting your little bum. I think about the smell of your head, the feel of your skin, the depth of your eyes. I smile as I remember arguing with your father and sometimes others that it wasn’t gas, you were actually really smiling in your sleep. Like precious family heirlooms, from time to time I reverently unpack the memories of your daddy gently swinging you on his arm during fussy periods of the day, how one of your big sisters would interact with you, the way you calmed when I held you, the seriousness with which you would watch light dancing on the wall, and other fragments of the time when you were the smallest big thing in my world.

Some of those cherished mental keepsakes have little barbs on them. They sting when I unpack them, no matter how careful I am. How you were taken away from me just after I had the first chance to hold you because I was hemorrhaging, the time I screwed up and dropped you due to careless use of an infant carrier (Oh sweetie, I tried to call Child Protective Services on myself), hours and hours of screaming that nothing would soothe and the obvious pain you were in (heads up, colic is hell), the stint in the hospital with RSV, and so many more. I could keep these painful memories locked up and forgotten but I don’t, though I don’t linger over them too long, they are an important part of the story we share.

A good number of those treasured memories so carefully packed in my mind are around feeding you. You, as babies do, ate often. Satiated is but a temporary state of being and babies stay there only for brief moment of visitation. Some of these memory gems are truly sublime, shining moments that reflect the light of my love, your beauty, and our connection in sparkling bursts of color from ever angel and with every turn. Some of them are more like clunky chunks of rough rock, the weight and texture of which can make me raw. There is beauty there, beauty only appreciated when the whole topography is viewed. I cherish them all.

My baby feeding story journey isn’t isolated to just feeding you. All 6 of my children have impacted me and feeding each of them has had a hand in shaping me as a mother and directly impacting how I parented. And so, there are a few things I really want you to know about feeding babies. This won’t give you everything you need to know but these, my strong, intelligent, and courageous daughter, are the things what I want you to know from my heart about feeding babies and I hope sharing this now feeds you in a new way.

Feeding is important. Very important. Feeding our babies is the most basic, most essential, most immediate, and most elemental aspect of parenting. It can be said, without fail, that not feeding your baby is parenting failure. Neglect. Abuse. This may seem obvious and it is, but it is also important in ways you wouldn’t first see.  In my experience, how our children come to us is a journey that shapes us much like rushing water can shape rock. Babies aren’t the only ones birthed, mothers are birthed through the arrival of their children into their lives. Likewise, how we feed our babies can lay a foundation for how we parent. Feeding can shore up our confidence as parents and it can tear it down.

But not that important. For as deeply as it can impact us, you’ll feed your babies so many times each day that it can become mundane. That’s ok. You don’t have to experience each moment feeding your baby as a super special time of bonding. That would be like expecting every meal with your significant other to be a candlelight dinner that you poured yourself into preparing and spent looking deeply into each other’s eyes. In the end, as long as the feeding happens, the important part is done. And because it has to be done so frequently, letting go of expectations as to how it happens can be freeing to enjoy each experience as much as possible without the stress.

You matter too. Before baby comes, everyone is all about the mother-to-be. After baby comes, everyone is all about the baby and the mom is little more than the easel holding up the masterpiece. With that comes all the opinions on how to care for, and certainly how to feed, the masterpiece. But you matter too. According to many, you’ll be doing it wrong. Even those who support the method you are using will find ways to tell you are doing it wrong. Everything is subject to such “support” when it comes to feeding your baby. Bottle feeding? You’re holding that bottle wrong, using the wrong bottle, giving a bottle at all… all wrong. Breastfeeding? You’re using the wrong position, the wrong pillows, the wrong place, the wrong timing, doing it at all… all wrong. Pumping? You’re using the wrong pump, the wrong setting, the wrong method, doing it at all… all wrong. With everyone focused on the adorable masterpiece, they will want to “help” you care for it “right.” In the process, some will forget about caring for you. Mothering may change how you see your body and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love may be the most wonderful to your child. Mothering will change your heart and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love about yourself may be the most wonderful to your child. Take care of you, your children will need you to, they need and love you. It may feel selfish but taking care of you is important in taking care of your baby. You matter. Find those that can genuinely support you and your goals in caring for your baby. Those who believe you matter too.

The system is broken. It is improving and I hope by the time you are embarking on this journey, the system will be in a much better place. Right now though, it’s broken. From uninformed health care providers to uninformed store managers, from predatory marketing to pushy breastfeeding supporters, from poor insurance coverage to poor maternity leave, from ignorant judgmental strangers on the internet to ignorant judgmental friends in person, the system of infant feeding support in our society is failing moms. It is imbedded in our culture and it is hurting people. That can change but only by addressing the system rather than individual parents. They, you, just need someone willing to support them as a person, not a conquest. There is a lot of hurt, anger, guilt, shame, fear, arrogance, and hope surrounding this and you will hear it but it isn’t really about you.

Science is cool. There’s a lot of it and you’ll want to take the time to be familiar with it before you head into feeding your babies. Not everyone agrees on the science, it’s worth hearing the various view points. Being informed and personally conscientious can help you tap into your own powerful confidence. Decide what makes sense to you, what works for you according to the information, resources, and support available to you within your personal context and individual circumstances.

But feeding babies isn’t science, it’s a relationship. At some point, all the information in the world, all the evidence, all the support, all the goals aren’t important any more. Because it is a relationship. You and your baby. You are the one who knows what that relationship needs, you are the expert, you are the one most qualified. Even when you feel like you aren’t. You taught me that what a baby really needs is a fully invested parent who lovingly cares for them. Listen to yourself and your baby and don’t let anyone else define your relationship, feeding or otherwise.

There is more, so much more about feeding I want to tell you but for now I’ll stop here. Except for this:

I believe in you. I support you. Whatever you need, I am here for you and plan to be there for you. Unless you ask me not to. But most of all, I love you. You’ve got this.

Love,

Mom

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What would you say to your children about infant feeding? How will you tell them the story of feeding them? What do you want them to know?

Milk BLO event graphic

I started Milk with MommyCon founder, Xza Higgins, with the goal to bring together health care providers, parenting advocates, infant feeding influencers, and parents for workshops, seminars, and connecting centered around conversation supporting feeding our babies.

Founded on the belief that infant feeding support makes a difference and can directly influence confidence levels in parents, MiLK focuses on information sharing and mindful support that builds parents up without tearing down, respecting the unique journey of each of us. MiLK aims to actively educate and support infant feeding by connecting health care providers and the families they care for discussing breastfeeding, formula feeding, breastmilk pumping, at the breast supplementing, bottle feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding… FEEDING. This is not, to be clear, a breastfeeding conference. It is an infant feeding conference with a goal of bringing together health care providers and parents where we can learn from each other.

Most importantly, I hope we learn how to really listen and what support can really looks like.

I hope you can me join me in Los Angeles, California, July 31st and August 1st. The speakers and panelists are all people I greatly respect, people that inspire me not only in my infant feeding journeys but in supporting others in their journeys as well. Offering 9.25 CERPs (IBCLC) and 11.1 Contact Hours (BRN), MiLK is for the lay parent and the health care professional.

I would love to see you there.

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We have a MiLK giveaway!
3 prizes:

Grand prize: 2 tickets for one winner with the VIP option and a set of general admission to the local breastfeeding support group of their choice, 1 Arm’s Reach Mini-CoSleeper in Santa Fe, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump, 1 Eat@Moms shirt, 1 box Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea, 1 Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter, 1 pair Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes.
Prize pack 1: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 manual pump, 1 Ameda nursing tank, 1 Eat@moms shirt.

Prize pack 2: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai ring sling, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Eat@Moms shirt.

milkgrandprizegiveaway

Open to USA residents only.

Please use the widget below to enter.

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#MyStoryMatters

“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”

The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.

Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.

And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.

Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.

All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.

Enough.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your highs, your lows.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The moments of pride, the moments of shame.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your hurt and your joy.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

And #YourStoryMatters.

#MyStoryMatters too.

Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?

Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?

Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?

Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.

But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.

#IAmEnough

 

TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.

And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.

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Why You Shouldn’t Pull That April Fool’s Pregnancy Announcement Prank

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Infertility

Don’t ever believe a pregnancy announcement made on April 1st.

I grew up in a home that enjoyed practical jokes. A good prank was appreciated with gusto in my childhood home; run the hot water in the kitchen while someone was taking a shower so they’d get a blast of cold water, cover a door knob in Vaseline, fill someone’s hand with shaving cream while they were sleeping then tickle their nose and watch them slap their face with the shaving cream, create trick food such as mashed potato ice-cream, or cover the toilet in plastic wrap under the seat; it was the stuff family bonding is made of. It taught me a lot and I’ve learned to laugh at myself easily… along with everyone else. To this day I have a deep appreciation for practical jokes and an enduring sense of humor.

Then I fell in love with and married someone who has a great sense of humor but doesn’t have the same appreciation for practical jokes as I do. He was a bit more sensitive in his jokes, aware not only of his own feelings but the feelings of others. Pranks I played were sometimes met with laughter but just as often were met with frustration that I would want to laugh at his or others’ expense. The ones that hurt him the most, even if I didn’t pull them on him but someone else, were those that were an oversight of someone’s personal struggles. Just plain insensitive. Because causing others pain is not funny. It was eye opening and I slowly realized that humor was great but humor without sensitivity can be very damaging and hurtful.

Social media introduced a whole new way to prank people and April Fool’s quickly became the perfect platform for pulling ALL. THE. JOKES. None became more popular (and overdone) than the fake pregnancy announcement. And why not? It’s easy, it has an easy shock value, and for many it gets a lot of laughs after putting people on for a bit.

But really, there is a big reason why not. Because it causes others pain.

Only those that have struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss may really understand this but it is enough for me that there are those that have indeed been caused pain by this attempt at humor. I have no doubt that those pulling the prank aren’t intending to hurt anyone, they are just having fun. The reactions from their friends and loved ones gives them a laugh and they are able to move on. What they may not see, however, are those friends and loved ones who don’t comment, don’t “like,” don’t laugh. Those friends and loved ones for whom a pregnancy announcement is no joke. Not because they don’t have a sense of humor but because there is a deep ache within them to have a real, not a joke positive pregnancy test of their own. It’s not funny, it’s painful. It isn’t necessary to understand or relate to that pain, it’s just human decency and kindness not to cause them more pain once you’re aware of it.

Please, before you pull that overdone April Fool’s prank announcing a fake pregnancy consider that for those struggling with infertility, a pregnancy announcement is no joke. Humor is great but not when it causes others pain.

____________________

What other April Fool’s pranks ideas do you have that are sensitive and fun?

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The Romanticized Myth of What Constitutes Successful Breastfeeding- An Apology

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Dear Leakies,

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

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

To hell with the WHO Code

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

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

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

Shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To hell with the WHO Code

Look at that big sister love and pride!

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

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

To hell with the WHO Code

And so is this:

to hell with the WHO Code

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

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

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

to hell with the WHO code

Do you see that eye contact? *melt*

She was mostly formula fed.

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

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

I support people before I support a feeding method.

to hell with the WHO Code

Sugarbaby’s big sisters loved to give her a bottle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to hell with the WHO code

Babies feeding babies here. So much big sister love!

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

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

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

WHO Code

E bottle feeding A copy IG bottle feeding comments redacted

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

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

I have let go of my shame and my fear.

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

I am sorry. Please forgive me.

With all my love, sincerely,

~Jessica

bottle feeding and breastfeeding The Leaky Boob Sugarbaby

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

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Mom Power

this post made possible in part by the generous support of Fairhaven Health.


Mom Power Confidence meme

I am a strong mom.

I am a powerful mom.

I help support moms.  Strong moms.  Which is a bit redundant.  Because moms are strong.

I help support powerful moms.

Also redundant.  All moms are powerful.

And we don’t need a company to tell us so.

Nor do we need others to tell us so.

But it can help to hear it from others, it can be encouraging and it can even reveal the inner power we already have but maybe lacked the confidence to recognize and engage.  It doesn’t give us power though because we already have it, just like we’re already strong.  We’re moms

We have Mom Power.

 

The power to hope.

The power to dream.

The power to speak up for the oppressed.

The power to love with nothing in return.

The power to face fear and continue on.

The power to know when to use our strength.

The power to know when to use our gentleness.

The power to see beyond themselves.

The power to cry.

The power to celebrate.

The power to be fun.

The power to deserve trust.

 

I know this power well but I haven’t always been aware of it in myself.  Insecurities and certain messages had me doubting my own power, denying it, and hiding it.  Sometimes that insecurity led to me judging and belittling others.  Shame.  Such an ugly thing, shame.  It’s a perverted power, one that controls instead of frees.  Because of my own shame I have had times of allowing my filters interpret information as attacking.  With shame, I’ve put down others if I felt they didn’t try hard enough at something I thought was important.  *cough* breastfeeding *cough*  But real Mom Power doesn’t need gimmicks like shame or pretend mommy wars to own it’s strength.  Real Mom Power doesn’t resort to unsupportive support.  It has nothing to sell.  Mom Power can see through ‘all that and get straight to the heart of things.  I see it every single day in the community of The Leaky Boob Facebook page and twitter.

 

The power to let go of shame.

The power to forgive.

The power to listen.

The power to be understanding.

The power to learn from mistakes.

The power to care for others.

The power to share experiences.

The power to offer support.

The power to disagree with respect.

The power to stand for our convictions.

The power to resist fighting when it won’t help gain ground.

The power to make peace.

The power to own our feelings.

The power to see through marketing.

 

Perhaps the most important parenting tool we can have is confidence.  Confidence isn’t arrogantly proceeding as though one is always right.  Confidence is believing in yourself and your ability to handle what comes your way.  Insecurity can lead to rejecting learning opportunities, fear can diminish our willingness to grow, but confidence inspires constant adjusting according to new concepts and ideas.  With confidence it is easier to acknowledge mistakes, reduce stress, and not internalize information and the choices of others that we may disagree with.  A confident parent isn’t perfect and doesn’t have it all figured out but they are well equipped to do so.

 

The power to learn.

The power to grow.

The power to adjust.

The power to have compassion.

The power to teach compassion

The power to be humble

The power to make difficult decisions.

The power to evaluate our circumstances.

The power to analyze information.

The power to take responsibility.

 

Most of us don’t need to be “empowered” we just need to not be afraid of the power we already have.  As my friend Amber McCann, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) from the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburg put it “Power is being able, in whatever moment you are facing, to do whatever it is you’d like to do. That you feel as though you can jump over the obstacles. It is also in recognizing what the right choice is for you even when one of those barriers is in your way.”

And according to my 12 year old Storyteller: “When I think of Mom Power I think of a phoenix, pretty and strong and enduring.  Moms don’t give up.  That’s Mom Power.”

Moms, I believe in you, I hope you can believe in yourself and in each other.  Whatever your journey and wherever you are, whatever circumstances you’ve had to navigate, you are strong and have Mom Power.  Mom Power is an indisputable force if we can have the confidence to tap into it.  It’s not a product, it’s not a company, not an organization, not a campaign, not a marketing strategy… it’s moms.  A dear, dear friend of mine, Kathy, a local IBCLC and labor and delivery RN, once told me that the reason she’s involved in birth and breastfeeding is because that’s where the foundation of confident parenting is laid.  She wants to be on the front end of making the world a better place.  Which is what I’m all about.  If I want to change the world and make it a better place then start with helping make better people.  And there is nothing, no product, no organization, no campaign, no marketing strategy that can do that like pure, good ol’ Mom Power.

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Dear Nurse Julie- a letter to my labor and delivery nurse

Dear Nurse Julie,

You were in my life for about two and a half days 13 years ago, I’d never met you before nor have I seen you since.  It may have been brief but you made a huge difference in my life and I owe you a deep debt of gratitude.

I had prepared so much for the birth, read everything I could get my hands on including an OB text book, took a childbirth education class, and practiced Bradley method relaxation for weeks at home with The Piano Man.  We knew what we wanted for our birth and after a complicated pregnancy, we were prepared to fight for it.  When I went into labor at 41 weeks and 4 days we were ready.  The Piano Man was an amazing advocate for me, actively intercepting anyone that entered the room and questioning every procedure (no enema!) while helping me relax and focus on the work of birthing our daughter.  Together, he and I made a great labor and birthing team.  I’m pleased to say that 5 babies later and one on the way, we still do.

Our bags were packed, there was film in the camera (remember that?  Cameras that used film?), we were so ready to have a baby.  Except for one thing: we had done nothing to prepare for breastfeeding.  The thought hadn’t even occurred to us.  We knew that was how we were going to feed out baby once we had her in our arms but we read nothing, took no classes, and never even thought to see if there was anything we needed to know before breastfeeding.  Both of our mothers had breastfed, we knew a few friends that had so really, how hard could it be?

All our nurses were nice enough and the birth was mostly amazing with some traumatic experiences.  Earth Baby was born at 6.39am and we met you shortly after with the shift change.  Instantly I felt connected to you, your smile, your warmth, and your genuine congratulations on our baby as if you hadn’t seen hundreds of births and newborns every week.  After I was all stitched up, hydrated, and my blood loss dealt with you asked me an incredibly important question: “are you ready to breastfeed your baby?”

Nobody had mentioned it.  I knew it was in my chart because something I had read about birth plans suggested to ask for it to be put in my chart.  Still, you were the first to say anything about it.  Having just lost a lot of blood with a partially retained placenta and manual D&C, I was feeling weak and more tired than I had ever felt in my life.  Holding my baby, let alone breastfeeding her, completely wore me out.  Like a dear in headlights I told you yes, but only because I remembered that it was the plan.  Your response: “good, because she’s hungry and I think she’s ready to eat well for you” jarred me out of feeling my exhaustion and into the reality that my baby needed me to meet her needs.  I really was ready to feed my baby.

I don’t remember how long you stayed in my room but somehow, you made me feel like I was the only mom that needed your attention.  Perched on the side of my bed, you helped me get into a position I found comfortable, plumped plenty of pillows to support Earth Baby and I, encouraged me to drop the shoulder of the hospital gown, and talked me through latching Earth Baby for the first time.  Your encouragement for how well we were doing, what a healthy strong latch Earth Baby had, and suggestions for positions made me feel like not only could I breastfeed my baby, I already was and doing great!  You answered every one of my questions, no matter how basic or obvious the answer may have been, as though it was a pleasure to answer my important concerns with patience and care.  Even when Earth Baby was latched and I was comfortable, you stayed and chatted, telling me about your 2 boys, that you had breastfed your second one but not the first, and telling me about how you were drawn to OB nursing and how you loved helping moms.

It showed.

Once I was moved to the postpartum wing, you continued to visit me.  You’re ongoing support regarding everything I was experiencing from peeing for the first time after giving birth to changing my baby’s diaper to breastfeeding helped grow my confidence that I could, in fact, take this baby home and not kill either of us.  When I told you my nipples were hurting you showed me how to position my baby’s chin lower on my breast so she took a big mouthful of nipple.  When I was still drained from the birth, you explained different positions and helped me practice using them.  Constantly considerate, you never touched me without asking and receiving my permission first and even then you rarely handled my breast choosing instead to carefully and patiently explain how I could do it myself.  I can’t even begin to tell you how far that went in helping me not be afraid or feel strange about my own body.  From the bottom of my heart I thank you for that gift, it has remained with me to today, growing stronger over the years.

When the grumpy nurse, who’s name I can’t recall because for the last 13 years I’ve referred to her as “grumpy nurse,” told me I was starving my baby because my breasts were empty and not meeting my baby’s needs, I cried.  A lot.  Earth Baby had lost over a pound in just a matter of 2 days and the grumpy nursery nurse that made me cry told me I’d never be sent home with my baby if I didn’t agree to give her formula.  Oh the things I know now!  All those fluids we had in labor… but back then I had now idea.  I caved.  Still weak from the blood loss, recovering from a 4th degree tear, and afraid my baby was hurting I agreed to a bottle of formula.  My heart ached, I never meant to starve my baby and my fears were confirmed, I was already failing as a mother.  She whisked my baby away, a satisfied smile on her face as she told me I was making a good choice for the good of my baby, and ran off with my daughter to feed her the bottle of formula.  I sobbed.  You came in shortly after and was surprised Earth Baby wasn’t with me.  When I told you why I saw the storm clouds gather in your normally incredibly friendly eyes and you told me you’d be back.  What I didn’t know is that you must have marched out to that nurses station, called our pediatrician, asked him about the situation, advocated for our breastfeeding relationship, asked him to call the nursery, and headed down there to get my baby back for me.  When you walked in about 15 minutes later with grumpy nursery nurse and my daughter, I had already spoken with our pediatrician who called me to assure me our baby was going to be fine breastfeeding and at this point did not need any formula.  He told me that he had spoken with you and trusted you that Earth Baby and I were doing great breastfeeding, that my milk was coming in, and that I was already a pro.  I cried again.  Someone believed in me.

Somewhere I still have the picture of you and I and Earth Baby just before we were discharged.  My face is red from crying having just gotten Earth Baby back.  You had told me that we were going to be fine, that I was a natural, that Earth Baby was lucky to have me as her mom, and that you enjoyed working with me.  That’s what you told me.  Some many had dismissed me as a young mom and at 20 I was, but you stuck with me respectfully teaching me as though my age was of no consequence.  What you taught me without directly saying so was that I could feed my baby, my body was amazing, I didn’t need to be afraid of my breasts, and I could advocate for myself and my baby.  My husband believed in me but I knew he was just as clueless as I was.  But you?  You were not only an experienced mother, you were a nurse that saw mother after mother with new babies and you believed in me.  If you said I could do it, I probably really could.

Today, 13 years later, I owe a lot to you.  For starters, my breastfeeding relationship with Earth Baby which lasted a year and then extending on to 4 (now almost 5!) babies.  Thanks to you, today I now help support other mothers with their birthing and breastfeeding journeys.  Thank you for supporting me even when I wasn’t sure how to support myself.  Thank you for giving me the courage to be the kind of mother I naturally was but was insecure about stepping into.  Thank you for being kind and encouraging when I was most vulnerable.  Thank you for making a difference in my life and the lives of my children.  You have touched more than you know.  I want to be like you and just love helping moms.

I hope it shows.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jessica Martin-Weber

The Leaky Boob

 

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Evenflo: Attaching shame to breastfeeding should NEVER be funny.

by Star Rodriguez

My former in-laws are fantastic people.  They are absolutely lovely, and I still maintain a positive relationship with them, despite being divorced from their son.

They were also very uncertain about breastfeeding.

My ex mother in law was a teen mother in the seventies, when there was little breastfeeding support and absolutely no support for teen mothers.  My ex father in law and his family are incredibly conservative folk with standards of modesty that are as high as they go in most of the United States.  My former sister in law nursed her first for a brief time and then stopped, choosing to not attempt with the second.  So when I had my first, there was no precedent for exclusively breastfeeding.

During the entire time I nursed my daughter, male members of the family left the room rather than be near an exposed boob.  In certain areas, I was asked to cover up (politely, I will add.)  My mother in law lamented once or twice that she never got to feed the baby.

Still, I stuck to my guns, nursing my baby on demand, anywhere that we were.  If we were at someone’s home and they wanted me to cover up, I respected their wishes, despite disagreeing that it was necessary.  My husband became a staunch supporter of breastfeeding, and if someone said something that he thought hinted at criticism, he would start recounting benefits of breastfeeding and risks of formula feeding.  When we did have some nursing issues, and I had to work to overcome them, my in-laws had become so used to breastfeeding that they were staunch supporters in my struggle to make it all work out.   For you to know what a 180 that was, you should know that when I told my mother in law in the beginning that I was nursing – and on demand – she asked me how she would possibly be able to have my daughter stay overnight with her.  This was at a few days old, and, yes, she absolutely meant In the not too distant future.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I heard about this Evenflo ad that everyone was up in arms about.  Let me first say that Evenflo has the distinct displeasure of being the worst reviewed pump company with my clients.  They constantly report things like breaking pumps, bad customer service, pain, and an inability to get milk out.  These can all significantly affect a breastfeeding relationship.  In one case, a mother using an Evenflo pump had some pretty awful nipple damage from a malfunctioning pump.  Despite the fact that their pumps were terrible, I would recommend other, decent Evenflo products like I was their marketing division, since they were one of the few WHO Code compliant companies.  (What’s the WHO code?  Here’s the official document of the World Health Organization’s Code of ethics for marketing breastmilk substitutes, another explaining it in more detail (last 2 pages are summary) and the wikipedia article on the code.)

Evenflo has since decided to abandon the WHO Code in favor of more marketing, and one of the results is this advertisement that mocks breastfeeding in public, depicting uncomfortable and pushy in-laws who claim that breastfeeding means no one else can feed and thus bond with the baby, and includes an awkward scene after the mom pumps (We wanted to be able to share the video with you but after a strong backlash it appears to have been pulled but not after millions had already viewed it.)

There are so many terrible things about this ad.  The bullying, stereotypical in-laws.  The dad who won’t speak up.  The implication that breast size is tied to milk making capacity (it isn’t.)  How long the mother in law implies that breastfeeding takes.  The idea that bonding can only come from feeding. The horrified face of the father in law after drinking the breastmilk-laced coffee.  Listen, I like low-brow humor, and even I was disgusted by this.  In fact, when I showed my husband it (who does not take violations of the Code or breastfeeding stuff as seriously as I do) he said, “Really?  Is that a joke?  They’re trying to sell pumps with that?  But it makes breastfeeding and breastmilk look terrible and disgusting!”

I work with women every day.  Women who want to breastfeed, but…  They can’t trust that their baby is getting enough.  They can’t get over societal-induced fears of public breastfeeding.  They can’t believe that their bodies can produce something that is superior to science.  And so when I watch things like this, I cringe.  You see, I was that girl.  And I had an in-law experience that could have turned bad.  We conquered it with positivity, but if I had not had a good support group and encouragement, that might not have been the case.  And so this ad disgusts me and fills me full of rage.  Who are you, Evenflo, to tell a mom to hide in the bedroom and pump instead of standing up for herself?  Who are you to undermine someone’s confidence and call it fun and games?

There is one silver lining to this terrible ad, though.  In my time on Evenflo Baby’s Twitter and Facebook and in comments on articles about this, I have seen both breast and formula feeding women standing up and calling this ad horrible.  That warms my heart.  Moms have it hard, no matter how they are feeding their baby.  Seeing the Mommy Wars put aside to focus on something that does a disservice to women as a whole is pretty awesome.

Evenflo has issued a half-apology PR statement on their Facebook and Twitter that reads, “We hear you. We appreciate how passionate you are. We are equally passionate and fully support all moms and the personal choices they make everyday.”  The video remained up until this morning.  But while this particular video is currently unavailable, the rest in the “savvy parents” series are similarly demeaning and damaging.  You can view those here.  In fact, check out their webisode of how to survive 3am feedings.  It’s served up with an (un)healthy side of parental stupidity, sexism (towards men- too stupid to deal with bottles), and really, really bad breastfeeding practices (giving even a bottle of expressed breastmilk at night could lesson a mom’s night milk making, crucial to supply!) not to mention what mother wouldn’t be in tears over all the spilled expressed breast milk!

Please join me and the countless others in letting Evenflo know that this isn’t ok.  Companies do listen to feedback, especially negative feedback.  Their Facebook and Twitter are both open for commenting, and I urge you to do so.  Let’s let Evenflo know that savvy parenting looks much different than they think.

 

Editors note:

I shared this on Facebook and I’ll share it here.  The problem I have with this video is that it perpetuates this idea that breastfeeding is weird, gross, awkward and prevents others bonding with the baby.  All myths and all ones willingly encouraged by a society that undervalues breastfeeding and dismisses the women that breastfeed. 

The commercial is obviously campy, it’s over the top, overacted, and ridiculous. Obviously intended to be funny.  However, even with recognizing those aspects it plants the idea that a mom should just run off to a room to pump to spare anyone the discomfort of seeing her breastfeed and give into the demands of someone that feels it is their right to feed her baby as well.  If a woman wants to pump and let others feed her baby a bottle of her milk, fine, her choice. If she feels forced to pump by harassing individuals it’s another matter entirely. This commercial, in all it’s camped up attempts at humor, gives onlookers “permission” to say to a breastfeeding mom “why can’t you just go pump so someone else can feed the baby” or “you should bring a bottle of pumped milk so you don’t have to breastfeed in public.”  Or worse like “you can’t do that here.”

Anything communicating that breastfeeding is wrong, gross, or something a woman should feel awkward and ashamed about just isn’t funny. Just like I will never find racist or sexist humor funny, I will never find humor that attempts to shame breastfeeding moms funny.  Period. ~Jessica

 

 Star is a breastfeeding peer counselor for a WIC in the Midwest.  She sat the IBCLC  exam for the first time this summer, and is anxiously awaiting the end of October.   She also sits on the breastfeeding task force in her town, is helping her  community’s Early Head Start redefine their breastfeeding support, and is the  driving force behind a local breastfeeding campaign.  In the remainder of her free  time, she chases around her nursling and preschooler.
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