Infant and Child Feeding Advocacy- Why I Continue

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Recently in a Facebook group for people of faith who are interested in egalitarian theology, I ran across a thread that surprised me. Not because there was debate, debate is common in that group and usually inspires quality conversations promoting reflection. No, what was surprising about this to me was that in a group that at least believes in the equality of the sexes and the cultural conditioning of controlling women, breastfeeding in public and how exposed a woman’s chest should be while feeding her baby was somehow debated with the same old arguments I’ve heard against breastfeeding in public and how women should be covered when feeding their babies in other settings.

It had never occurred to me that this would be an issue in that setting.

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I’ve moved beyond the debates, the arguments are tired as far as I’m concerned. Five and a half years into running The Leaky Boob I’ve heard all the arguments and not just online. People will say they never experience any negativity except online, as though it must not exist because they haven’t encountered it personally. But I have, I’ve heard all the arguments in person, to my face. Every day I hear from women who’ve been criticized and shamed by a family member, lost friends for breastfeeding in front of their husband, and been isolated for feeding in public. I actually had a business owner of a brand that makes nursing covers tell me, to my face, that he feels breastfeeding covers are important for society and women that breastfeed in public without a cover, whipping their breast out in front of others to feed their baby (his words, not mine) are just “selfish bitches, no offense.”

Yes, he said that even as I stood there with a name tag that read “The Leaky Boob.” And yes, offense taken. I walked out and will never work with his company.

I don’t engage in the infant/toddler feeding debates often but I do continue showing up for them. Not because I enjoy it, believe me I don’t. I hate it and I feel burned out. But I will be the voice for those reading or overhearing saying what needs to be said. For that mom reading or listening and heartbroken to hear the harsh words someone she loved said to her echoed in the words of a stranger, shaming her further. It is assumed I must not understand the reasons why this is an issue but the fact is, I do understand them. I get it. I’ve processed them. At one point in time I may have agreed and argued that position myself.

It’s just that they are wrong. Be the arguments and shaming debates about breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public, bottle feeding, pumping, formula feeding, donor breastmilk, or even introducing solids, often the arguments are short-sighted, limited, and full of vitriol. The arguments are full of fallacies and more often than not are missing the real point.

Babies are being fed.

When it comes to feeding support and advocacy (and really, anything else), you don’t get to control women. Not even if you’re another woman.

But why do I keep fighting this fight?

Because I believe that every parent should be able to parent with confidence, free of harassment and shaming from others. Because parenting is hard enough. And because women get enough shit about their bodies as it is.

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Why be a parenting and feeding advocate? The biggest reason I continue fighting this fight is because I have daughters and I want better for them.

Every day I facilitate online support for thousands and thousands of women who are breastfeeding, planning to breastfeed, or have finished breastfeeding. I travel and speak all around the country on breastfeeding and parenting and sit with women as they share, in tears, the agony they have felt in being rejected by people who have told them that they “don’t want to see that.” Every single day I hear from women who find themselves struggling with confidence in feeding their babies, something that may shake them to their core because, after all, feeding your child is one of the most basic aspects of parenting.

For a parent, struggling with feeding their baby can easily lead to self-doubt in their parenting capabilities at all.

Often, it does.

These parents, for obvious reasons, mostly female, regularly express anxiety about feeding in public. That they may attract unwanted negative attention, fear someone being upset at them for what they may be exposing or even for the act of breastfeeding itself, dread that they may be asked to cover up or leave- maybe a waiter, a relative, a pastor, another woman at church, a mall security guard, an angry bus passenger, etc.- humiliating her and anyone she is with. In the quest to feed their children the best way, as society loves to claim but fails to back up with genuine support offering instead isolating platitudes that it is best but must be “discreet” or “with tact”.

Worse, so often these mothers, in a very vulnerable place as they embark on a new life stage with a new tiny human, hear they are somehow not only responsible for feeding their child the “best way” but also to be respectful of anyone else around them, to be sure grown men aren’t caused to stumble in her attempts to care for her child and that grown women aren’t threatened by her body.

And then the baby needs all her attention and lots of room to latch properly and not cause excruciating pain and damage to her nipple, or they overheat under a cover, or their personality causes them to experience anxiety under the cover, and it is impossible to manage without “wiping” it out and “flashing” the whole world.

All she wants to do is feed her baby.

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Instead of being able to focus just on that she knows that some are demanding that she focus on their comfort about what they see of her body as well. As if the worst thing wouldn’t be a baby going hungry but that they may see the skin of her breasts, her stretch marks, the fact that a child is attached to her nipple.

Eventually they either think they can’t do it or they aren’t cut out for it or that they should just never leave the house. A few get angry that this is how our society treats them and their fellow mothers. And they muscle through and turn off a part of themselves that had hoped their would have at least been solidarity from other women. They have had enough and decide to keep feeding their child as if they were doing nothing wrong- because they are doing nothing wrong- and eventually they start to believe it. So to show other women who may be struggling too, they keep going. They know they are being judged but if it helps ONE other mother to not feel isolated, judged, and fighting off shame, it is worth it. And it is the hope that it will help lead to a gradual shift in our society,  and someday every new mom will feel confident in their parenting, their bodies, their personhood and it will no longer be considered brave to feed your baby however you feed your baby.

Because we must believe that some day our bodies won’t be scandalous and feeding our children won’t be shameful and discussed with outrage.

Until that day, this is an issue I will help wrestle with. Because I know what it like to support mom after mom who feels like maybe she’s not good enough to be a mother because she couldn’t handle the stress of feeding her baby the best way while making sure nobody ever knew that it was happening. I know what it is like to hold them as they weep over the shame they have felt when someone said to them to be more discreet as if feeding their baby was something shameful and their bodies something dirty.

For those women and the ones to come, I will continue on.

_______________________

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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Sexy Oatmeal

by Carrie Saum

Sexy Oatmeal

 

When I was exclusively pumping, I lost interest in oatmeal around month four. Completely. It went the way of my sex drive. Gone. Poof. The end. Oats and penises were unwelcome guests in my body, and it took a while to come back around to both.

As it turns out, I just needed to spice things up a little. Well, okay. That’s not entirely true. I needed to spice things up more than a little. I needed a major boost to my palate, my milk supply and my sex drive.

After doing some research, I discovered a small amount of maca root might boost my sex drive, as well as my milk supply. After having a chat with my doctor and midwife about the possible side effects of maca in breast milk, I felt safe trying it in very small quantities.

I bought some organic maca powder from my favorite local health food store and tasted it. It was pretty gross. I tried mixing it in my coffee. That was worse. I added a half teaspoon to my oatmeal. It wasn’t bad. In fact, I couldn’t taste it.

I choked down quarter of a bowl of oatmeal with the maca. I was still weary of eating oats, so I needed to reinvent them. But what can you do to oats? I mean, at the end of the day, oats are oats, right?

I pumped an hour later and got two ounces more than I typically did at that time of day.

That night, my husband and I were watching TV after putting our son to bed. I had the sudden urge to jump his bones. And I did.

Obviously, the next morning I was determined to make my oatmeal taste decadently delicious. Because it was doing good things for my baby, my body, and my marriage, I needed to make it do good things for my palate. I played with some spice combinations, continuing to add (barely more than a pinch of) maca to my breakfast bowl, and tried dousing it with Indian spices, fresh fruit and nuts. I wanted my oatmeal to taste the way I felt: warm, complex, and sexy.

I know. HOW CAN OATMEAL BE SEXY? But I wanted to dress it up in its most alluring dress with a bra straps slipping, biting it’s lip with smoldering eyes. Ancient maca root and lots of spices do just that. My post-partum body NEEDED me to do that.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups liquid (milk, water, or combination of both)
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed or flax meal (they’re the same)
  • 2 tsp raw honey or maple syrup
  • ½ tsp maca powder
  • ½ tsp of the following spices:
    • ground coriander
    • ground cardamom
    • ground cinnamon
    • ground tumeric
    • ground ginger (or sub minced candied ginger if you want a little kick and sugar is not a problem for you)
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine liquid, salt, oil and spices and bring to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. (If you are using milk, you will need to stir constantly.)
  2. Add oats, vanilla and flax meal, and stir well.
  3. Cook over medium low heat for 20 minutes, stirring often, until thick and creamy, or it reaches your desired consistency. Add maca powder in at the end and mix well.
  4. Top with sliced almonds or pecans, sliced bananas, and a little raw honey or brown sugar.

Disclaimer One: Too much maca might make you a little testier than usual. It can ramp everything up, including your emotions. It stokes the fires. ALL THE FIRES. So, use restraint when adding it to your oats.

Disclaimer Two: Maca has been used for centuries to naturally support hormone balance, and but you might want to run it by your doctor to be on the safe side. If I took too much, it revved my son up for a few hours. If you or your trained medical professional person feel uncomfortable with the maca, you can omit it. It will still work great with the flax and oats.

Disclaimer Three: Be sure to stock up on condoms or your favorite birth control. Or don’t and make another baby. Either way, this could possibly boost your libido, so be prepared.

Disclaimer Four: Sex after baby can be tricky (some tips from HIM on better sex after baby here, some tips from HER on better sex after baby here.). While a little maca helped my struggling libido, it doesn’t work for everybody. Because everybody’s body is different. So, go easy on yourself, and know there is support for you wherever you’re at.

_______________________

If you love this smoothie recipe, you might like this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Granola or these Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake on Our Stable Table.

_______________________

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

_______________________

IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge.
Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and author. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son and writes atOurStableTable.com.
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Green Goddess Lactation Smoothie

 

 

by Carrie Saum

GreenGoddessSmoothie

After all of the shakes, parfaits, cookies, cakes, and bowls of oats, you might be ready for some green.  As it turns out, this is just the thing.

For weeks, I started my day out with this tasty green smoothie.  As a working mom who also pumped exclusively, I found it difficult to make good choices for breakfast.  The convenience foods were much easier and took less effort, and on mornings when I was struggling to stay awake, (much less gather all my pump gear and my baby and my baby’s gear and leave the house before 8:00 AM), I found that too many extra steps made me crazy.

In an effort to fuel my brain, my body, and my baby, I decided to make a slight shift.  I still grabbed my convenience foods for nursing snacks, (because, holy moly, making milk makes you HANGRY!), but I started my day with this instead.

The reason why I call this smoothie the Green Goddess? Well, I felt like a goddess when I drank it.  I noticed that I moved more easily through my work day, my brain seemed to fire faster, and my milk more plentiful.  It provided a necessary punch of energy, essential vitamins, healthy fats, and amino acids.  Plus, I felt really good knowing that my baby was getting all of those fantastic nutrients, too.

This takes FIVE MINUTES to prepare and you have great morning fuel.

  • 1 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, tightly packed (or a pretty healthy handful if you aren’t into measuring…like me.)
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 green apple, seeded and cored, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fresh basil leaves (optional, but great for milk and taste)
  • 1 tsp (heaping) flax meal (optional, but great for milk)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup water

Directions: Combine everything in blender or magic bullet and blend until smooth. Chill in freezer for 20 minutes or drink immediately.

Let’s keep ourselves fueled, mamas.  Feeding babies and taking care of ourselves is hard work.

Channelling The Inner Goddess,

Carrie

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.
__________________________________________________________________________

If you love this smoothie recipe, you might like this recipe for Paleo Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies or these Grain-Free Crepes Florentine over on Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge.
Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management.In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and author. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.

 

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TLB Comic- Feeding Flexibility

by Jennie Bernstein

Breastfeeding humor

 

 

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Epic MiLK! The Leaky Times Newsletter Vol.8

by Kileah McIlvain

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Dear Leakies,

This may come as a shock, but I’m not passionate about breastfeeding.

Which is why I hope you all can join me at Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference on August 1st in Los Angelas, CA. This conference is all about bringing together everyone involved in infant feeding conversations to learn how to listen, share information, and offer true support. Support that isn’t possible when we’re judging and shaming individuals.

Nearly every day we hear from moms they concern about how they are feeding their baby. Guilt weaves through their words. With heartbreak they share their story, aching at what they perceive to be failure and hoping we can offer some magic fix. We tell them all the same thing.

Feed the baby. That’s the first rule of infant feeding care, FEED THE BABY. Because no matter what methodology, the baby must be fed. Not feeding the baby IS failure.

If there were a first rule of infant feeding support, it should be “DON’T BE A JERK.” Followed closely by “SUPPORT THE PERSON OVER THE METHODOLOGY.” Being a jerk and supporting a methodology over people IS failure.

Feeding the baby isn’t failure.

Sometimes, the people that should be the most supportive, end up offering unsupportive support.

READ MORE HERE!

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TLB Comic- Necklines

TLB Comic breastfeeding shirt and stretched out neckline

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Carrot Fennel (Lactation) Slaw – Feed Your Whole Family

by Carrie Saum

What do you do when you have multiple food needs in your family?

For example: Dad wants protein.  Kids want carbs. Mom could use some milk boosting foods. And EVERYONE needs veggies. You can’t spend a fortune or the energy accommodating everyone all the time, right?  Because you are a mom and you have to feed yourself and your family and maybe the neighborhood, too.

We joined a co-op a few years ago to purchase high-quality animal protein that was raised properly, humanely, and that was affordable.  That might not be possible for you, and that’s okay.  But it felt very important to us and we made the switch, even though it meant eating slightly less meat.

As a new mom, I fell in love with my crockpot.  I love the idea of putting a few ingredients into a pot, walking away for the day, and then eating a fantastic home cooked meal that night.  It seemed to meet all of the criteria for feeding my family: inexpensive, tasty, satisfying, balanced, and full of nutrition.

My favorite crockpot recipe by far is this Pulled Pork.  It’s incredibly versatile and easy to serve, reheat, remake, and freeze.  I make this fennel slaw recipe for the family and use it in pulled pork tacos.  The sweetness of the slaw pairs perfectly with the saltiness of the pork. It has a fighting chance of pleasing the whole family, and boosting your milk production, too!

pulled pork

Ingredients:

  • 2 bulbs of fennel, thinly sliced (I recommend using a mandolin.)
  • 2-3 carrots, shaved (I use a veggie peeler.)
  • Cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • Sea Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine fennel, carrots and as much cilantro as you’d like in a bowl.  I like LOTS of cilantro.
  2. Add vinegar, honey, S&P and mix thoroughly.
  3. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving to set.

My favorite preparation is this on top of pulled pork tacos with a little goat cheese a an ice cold limeade  to wash it down with.

Enjoy your summer, enjoy your family!
Carrie

If you like this recipe, check out this recipe for brussel sprouts or Charlie Brown Bars over on Our Stable Table.

__________________________

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

___________________________

IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge.
Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and author. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son and writes atOurStableTable.com.

 

 

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5 Breastfeeding Changes That Happen After Baby’s 1st Birthday

by Jessica Martin-Weber and artist Jennie Bernstein

breastfeeding a 1 year old

 

There is something about that 1st birthday, everything just seems to change. In an instant, instead of seeing diapers stretching endlessly before you, you’re thinking cap and gown and you begin to fret about that college application. Kids really do grow up fast, how you’ve been idle for the last 12 months  when it comes to planning little Johnny’s future, you’ll never know. What were you thinking? The kids is going to bust out in Pomp and Circumstance any second now!*

Everthing changes from that point on, and, as at least half the internet and maybe most of your friends will tell you, that includes breastfeeding. If you haven’t heard already, if you’re still breastfeeding your child at 1 year and 1 day, you better start preparing for how to wean your teenager and cross your fingers that you’ll be able to find a nursing dress for graduation and an open spot in the college dorms for both of you. Now, since there are all kinds of recommendations to continue breastfeeding after the first birthday and since 1st birthdays have a way of sneaking up on parents, more and more moms find themselves following, often unintentionally, in the age old tradition of breastfeeding their kiddo through college.

At 1 year and a day, everything about your kid changes, everything about breastfeeding changes. Everything. You’re practically breastfeeding an adult. Here’s what you need to know about the changes to your breastfeeding kiddo past their first year if you don’t wean your child off the boob by 1 year and 1 day.

  1. The number. The go from 11 months to 12 months. That’s huge. That number increase in the one’s position means you can officially start counting their age in years rather than months because everyone knows a 12 month old 1 year old is the same developmentally as a 22 month 1 year old. They’re also so much closer to filing their own taxes.
  2. They’ve had cake. Their palate has totally changed. In our family we take the recommendations for only whole, unprocessed foods for our baby’s first foods and no refined sugar (or honey) for the first year. From day 1- 11 months and 30 days, we vigilantly keep refined sugar out of our baby’s diet. Naturally, we celebrate those health efforts with a cake entirely of their own and cheer when they smash it, diving in head first to instantly become addicted to the very thing we’ve avoided the 12 months prior.
  3. They can ask for it. The day before? Not so much. You always had to wildly guess when your baby wanted to breastfeed, randomly whipping your boob out for them if you thought maybe it was time because up until their 1st birthday they had no way of letting you know they wanted to nurse. But at 1 year and 1 day, they may just start asking for it.
  4. They are bigger. Boom, over night, transition from baby to toddler, even if they aren’t actually toddling, is complete. They may not walk yet and they only have about 3 words, but it’s clear they are big kids now. Now you’re not breastfeeding a baby, you’ve got a full-fledged almost toddler, AKA teenager, on your hands.
  5. They love it. With how grown up they practically are you’d think they’d be over breastfeeding. Instead it tends to become an obsession. It is as if they realize that you’re also getting old and they want to hold on to you forever and keep you from growing away from them. They’re trying to keep you their mommy forever. And you thought the newborn nursing around the clock stage was over.

Brace yourself, breastfeeding a 1 year and 1 day old child is completely different from breastfeeding an 11 month and 30 day old baby. If you find you need help weaning before graduation, we have some suggestions here.

*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.
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Touching After Weaning

by Cindy MacDougall
Cindy and Eddie

The author and her son.

 

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.

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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.”
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How to Wean Your Teenager

by Jessica Martin-Weber with Ophélia and Lavinia Martin-Weber

How to wean a teenager

It is a well known fact that if you don’t make sure you get a baby off the boob by the end of their first year or definitely by the time they are two, they will never, ever stop breastfeeding and you’ll have to go to college with them. This is a fact known by every Tom, Dick, and Harry, Cindy, Karen, and Amanda. If you’re not aware of this, don’t worry, any conversation about breastfeeding beyond infancy in person, on an online article, blog posts, and of course, social media, will eventually become about this very fact. It is an inescapable truth: if you breastfeed past infancy your child will never wean and you will find yourself breastfeeding a teenager or young adult some day. Once they can ask for it you have to cut them off or they will never stop. Clearly breastfeeding is more addictive than chocolate, alcohol, crack, speed, shopping, and independence.

Because everyone knows that 3 and 13 are pretty much the same thing, you just stick a one in front of that 3. Teens are, according to most people, really just toddlers in bigger bodies, with raging hormones, pimples, and a slightly larger vocabulary. The temper tantrums are pretty much the same. Childhood goes so fast, don’t blink because you’ll miss it if you do and the next thing you know your 6’ 1” teenage boy will be folding himself onto your lap and tugging at your shirt saying “nene please mama.” Fact.

*Disclaimer: I have teenagers, they were breastfed as babies and toddlers but they never breastfed beyond early childhood so I can’t say I have any experience with this fact myself, nor have I ever encountered a breastfeeding teenager and unless my friends are lying, neither have they. But thousands of people say it is true. I know, I read it online.

But let’s say you’ve done it, ignored all the warnings and breastfed your child after their 1st birthday and then even after their 2nd and 3rd and 4th birthdays, now what? If you haven’t already, you’re headed straight to meeting them at lunch in high school so they can have mama milk. And if you have more than one child, you really are in big trouble. Juggling all those schedules to get your kids their babas is going to get really challenging.

It’s true, I guess, you’re just going to HAVE to cut them off at some point unless you really are ok following them to college and then some day on their honeymoon. There could be bonding moments in the future as you breastfeed your grown son while his wife breastfeeds their son. If that just won’t work for you though, how are you ever going to get that teenager to stop breastfeeding? When is it really time to wean and how do you do it?

I turned to my resident experts on teens: Earth Baby, 16, and Storyteller, 13. They were a bit shocked when I initially brought it up to them:

Me: “How should a mom wean their teenager from breastfeeding?”

EB: “Wait, WHAT?”

Storyteller: “That’s a thing? I don’t think that’s a thing.”

Me: “It’s totes a thing, I read it online.”

*At this point I got “the look” from Storyteller.

Storyteller: “You should never say ‘totes again’ and now I know that’s not a thing.”

EB: “Wait, WHAT? Are you really asking what I think you are asking?”

Me: “What’s wrong with me saying ‘totes’? And yes, I’m really asking.”

EB: “I don’t think any of my friends have conversations like this with their moms…”

Storyteller: “OMG, I know mine don’t. They also don’t breastfeed. Or say ‘totes.’ People saying teenagers breastfeed are severely lacking in intelligence. You can’t say ‘totes’ because you’re too old.”

EB: “Our family is weird, isn’t it?”

Me: “They either don’t breastfeed because their mom weaned them when they were young enough or they do breastfeed in secret. Some of them have to because I read it on the internet. Why am I too old to say ‘totes’?”

Storyteller: “You do know you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, right? It’s just dumb to think that kids that don’t stop breastfeeding when they are little will end up wanting to breastfeed as teenagers. Saying ‘totes’ is dumb too. What is wrong with people?”

Me: “I write on the internet, of course you can believe everything you read on the internet!

Earth Baby: “This is ridiculous.”

Earth Baby and Storyteller how to wean teenagers

Storyteller (left) and Earth Baby (right).

It took a while to get them to just go with me on this but that was an excellent example of just how hard it could be to wean a teenager. They’re stubborn creatures and smart too, they can argue until you’re blue in the face and they’ll still continue. Weaning a breastfed teenager could be intensely difficult! I can see why there are so many warnings to wean while they are still young.

Besides, can you imagine breastfeeding through the dreaded wisdom teeth stage?

After bribing them, they came up with some ideas. I shot down a few, such as the suggestion that you just tell them no, that it’s all done. Oh puh-lease, teenagers and “no” go about as well together as oil and water. I’m not so great at taking a direct “no” either so I know it’s best to save them for the big things such as “no, you absolutely can not surf on the hood of a truck going down the highway.” They agreed that “no” wouldn’t work given our family’s own personal experience with how well “no” is an effective strategy for a teenager. #itsnoteffectiveatall

Here are the ones we all thought might be most effective though, all approved by the teenagers in my house:

Gentle conversation. According to my 13 year old, teenagers are reasonable.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Moving on.

Bribe them with cake. That’s right, offer cake and tell them if they give up “bobbies” they can have cake. Also acceptable would be cake pops, frappuccinos, mini doughnuts, and iTunes gift cards.

Wean to drive. They can’t drive or get a drivers license until they give up the mama milks for good. No exceptions. It would be so important for mom to hold strong when the whining starts after they’ve started driving and start whining about how badly they need their nene.

Entertainment options. If you’re trying to wean a younger teen or maybe a tween, you could try saying no PG 13 movies because those movies are for big kids and big kids don’t get to breastfeed any more. This will work because all their friends will be talking about the next Pitch Perfect movie and they’ll totally be left out which would even be worse than weaning.

Smart phone. Like breastfeeding, all the teens are smartphoning these days. It’s simple though, mom will have to get another job to afford the bill so she can’t breastfeed any more. If they want a smartphone to fit in with their friends, they’ll be more than willing for mom to hang up her nursing bras and go to work.

Dating. Explain that any possible dates will be a little horrified if they found out they were still breastfeeding. It could really hurt their chances of finding a date… ever. But since embarrassment is worse than death for teens, simply posting a breastfeeding selfie and tagging them on social media would possibly do it. Also, would take care of the whole talking to you thing.

Prom. There’s just no way you could find an on trend yet age appropriate prom dress that has easy boob access. Show them what you’d have to wear to prom so they had mama milks when they needed it. They’ll never want to breastfeed again.

Charge. Teenagers are the largest demographic with a disposable income. Use it to your advantage, my 13yo thought that $1/1 minute sounded about fair if a teen wanted to continue breastfeeding. That would encourage them to wean real quick: buy a new outfit or get some “bob bob” and the decision would be pretty simple.

Just say no. My teenagers maintain that saying “my body, my choice” would be a firm boundary no teenager would cross. Specially if you’re already teaching them to respect themselves and others.

So, tell us, what are your tips for weaning teenagers?

 

*Please note: this is intended to be humorous with a bit of satire.
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