TLB Comic: Am I Wearing Pants? #TLBmoves

by Jennie Bernstein

Babywearing activity

 

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TLB Comic: Babies Don’t Judge

by Jennie Bernstein

 

breastfeeding bottle feeding cloth diapering

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The Real Problem With Breastfeeding is How We Are Talking About Breastfeeding.

By Kimberly Seals Allers

Spoiler Alert: We are Losing the Story War

The Story War Changing the Narrative and Winning the Story War on Breastfeeding

Lately, when my Google alerts on “Breastfeeding” appears in my Inbox, I literally hold my breath as I click to open the email and glance at its contents. If it’s not another mother being kicked out of a public place where she was breastfeeding, there are mothers staging nurse-ins in protests, or twitter wars in response to mistreatment of a nursing mother—words like “banned” “fight back” “lashes out”, “demand” “forced to apologize” are everywhere in the breastfeeding media narrative. Increasingly the language of breastfeeding is the language of battle. Sides are taken. Fights ensue. Women resort to resistance protest measures on social media and in real life. And so it has me thinking, whether the real problem of our continued embarrassingly low-for-a-world-leader breastfeeding rates is not about breastfeeding at all. After all no one can deny its immunological benefits and unparalleled preventative health properties. But perhaps, the problem of lackluster duration rates is directly related to how we are talking about breastfeeding. There is no question that we are in a story war when it comes infant feeding norms, but the language of the war we are in is all about fighting.

In this environment, everyone loses.

Perhaps in our zealousness to “defend” breastfeeding we are actually turning people away, creating more divisions and essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. After all, who wants to take up an activity that requires battle techniques or civil rights era tactics? Or may cause you to be kicked out of a public place and in the middle of a media maelstrom? And so I’m forced to ask, whether the language of breastfeeding which includes scientific terms like “evidence-based” and overly simplistic slogans like “breast is best” combined with a protest background is actually inflicting more harm than good. Is this how we win? And by win, I mean, increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates and thereby improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies.

In the breastfeeding world we often see the “enemy” as the deep-pocketed infant formula marketers who peddle misinformation and insidious ideas masquerading as mother empowerment. With such a formidable competitor we see no way to battle such a behemoth and actually be victorious, and our frustration with their deceptive tactics often leads to anger. And rightly so. And while this may be a valid human response, it may not be the best tactical response. The biblical story of David and Goliath comes to mind. David did not attempt to battle Goliath on his strengths, but he exploited his weakness and his arrogance.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu says “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Truth is, we can win the breastfeeding story war without engaging in the language of battle. We have a more powerful tool at our disposal and historically it has won wars time after time. I know you’re asking yourself right now, well, what is it? That brings me to my excitement over the July 13th debut of my dynamic, new live stream presentation, Be The Shift: Changing the Narrative & Winning the Story War in Breastfeeding and my not-to-be-missed keynote at the upcoming MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference in Los Angeles on July 31 & August 1. In both presentations, I will be drawing on my decades of experience as a media professional, expert story teller and communications strategist and applying that knowledge to one of the greatest public health issues of our time—breastfeeding. For months, I’ve been intrigued by this topic and I have been studying the art of war, the phenomenon of story wars and combining it with what I know as a media professional and a big ideas person with a passion for breastfeeding. One thing is clear, today’s story wars are not the story wars of yore because frankly our oral tradition has changed—today it is more digitally powered. And that can’t be ignored. But winning the war means the strategy needs to work on the policy, professional and people level—I’ll detail how.

On July 13th, I’ll be streaming live from the uber chic Neuehouse NYC and it is going to be an eye-opening game changer for anyone who cares about infant health. I can’t wait to share these new learnings with you. You can get more information and register here. And then on July 31 and August 1st, I’ll bring the essence of that presentation to the west coast, along with exclusive worksheets and interactive exercises to the MILK conference. I hope to see you there where we can work IRL and one-on-one in shifting your personal or organizational story to improve our breastfeeding outcomes.

Aristotle said “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” By shifting our language and understanding the elements of a winning story narrative we can organize and maintain the kind of peace that improves maternal and infant health outcomes for generations.

Now, there’s a battle, I’m willing to get behind. Please join me.

In motherhood,

Kimberly Seals Allers

Changing the narrative and winning the story war on breastfeeding

__________________________

 

KSA Hi resKimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, author and a nationally recognized media commentator, consultant and advocate for breastfeeding and infant health. A former writer at FORTUNE and senior editor at Essence magazine, Kimberly is widely considered a leading voice in the counterculture movement in infant feeding. Last year, her online commentaries on the social, structural and racial complexities of maternal and child health issues received over 2 million page views. Kimberly’s fifth book, a groundbreaking analysis of the social, political and economic influences on the American breastfeeding landscape will be published by St. Martin’s Press next year.
 As a consultant, Kimberly has led innovative community-based projects in the southeast and Philadelphia that explore the impact of “first food deserts”—communities that severely lack or have inaccessible resources to support mothers who choose to breastfeed—and examining how to transform these areas into more breastfeeding supportive environments. Kimberly is currently the project director of the First Food Friendly Community Initiative (3FCI), an innovative pilot project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, designed to understand the impact of “place” as a social determinant of breastfeeding success and to create multi-pronged community support for breastfeeding. Her advocacy work has also centered on connecting breast milk as the most healthful first food to the broader “good food” movement and rethinking childhood nutrition and preventative health as beginning at birth.   
In addition, Kimberly specializes in issues related to African American motherhood and breastfeeding and is the former editorial director of The Black Maternal Health Project of Women’s eNews. In 2011, Kimberly was named an IATP Food and Community Fellow, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and works to increase awareness of the first food—breast milk, in vulnerable communities. She currently leads nationwide workshops for health care professionals on cultural competency and breastfeeding and is a prominent speaker on community-based strategies to reduce the racial disparities in breastfeeding and infant mortality rates. 
 Kimberly has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Anderson Cooper, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Fox News and featured in various international and national media outlets, including The Guardian (U.K.), U.S. News & World Report, Essence, Black Enterprise, Pregnancy and in various online media properties.
Kimberly is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A divorced mother of two, she lives in Queens, New York, with her children and two turtles. Follow her on Twitter @iamKSealsAllers
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7 Risks To Feeding Your Child- You’re Screwed No Matter What

by Jessica Martin-Weber

 

risks to feeding children

You have a kid?  Congrats!  What should you feed them?  Trying to decide?  Weighing all your options and carefully assessing the risks?  Great!  You should do that.  Also, you’re screwed no matter what you do.  In 15 years of parenting 6 kids, having both breastfed and formula fed, and gone through phases in nutrition standards (yeah, there was a period with lots of Hamburger Helper and soda pop at each dinner and then a period of only organic, homemade, but most of the time somewhere in the middle), I have found that the “right” way was not only subjective but also highly circumstantial.

That there are some actual risks associated with formula feeding and breastfeeding is undeniable, if heavily debated.  Risks such as possible lowered natural immunity and increased chance of ear infections with formula feeding or risks of mastitis and dietary sensitivities with breastfeeding.  Nothing in life comes without risks.  Yep, you’re facing being screwed or screwing up your kids no matter what you do!  As parents all we can do is try our best to mitigate the risks our children face without putting them in a bubble.  There’s risk to that too, what with BPA concerns, the possible damper on social skills development, and the need for oxygenMay as well let them live in the big bad scary world.  Carefully weighing all the possible options, doing personal research, and making the best informed decisions we can according to our personal circumstances and resources means we have to learn to live with some risks.  Regardless of how you feed your child, there are risks you face no matter how carefully you studied, planned, and executed your decision.  Be it breastmilk straight from the tap, pumped breastmilk, donor milk, or formula and then eventually, before you know it, store bought baby food (organic or not), homemade baby food (organic or not), or baby-led solids, followed by McDonald’s Happy Meals, Whole Foods shopping carts, homemade, or homegrown; there are a few unavoidable risks to feeding your child.

  1. There will likely be times you question yourself.  Is this really necessary?  Am I doing it right?  Am I doing it wrong?  Am I stressing out about nothing?  Have I ruined my child for life?  Has my child ruined me for life?  The answer to all these and more is: probably.
  2. There is little doubt that new information will come out that you have, in fact, made the wrong choice.  Those organic apples weren’t actually organic, breastmilk can have toxins in it (have you had yours tested?!), formula used an unnecessary ingredient now deemed dangerous and cancer causing, the baby food company didn’t list all the ingredients they actually used, artificial colors not only suck the actually cause two horns and a tail to grow on some kids… whatever it is, there will be something that’s bad about the choice you made.
  3. Your child will grow to like junk food.  Like moths to the flame, little kids love toxic laden junk food, the more carcinogens the better.  Try as you might, they will discover the joys of foods you’d rather they not consume thanks to a grandparent, a little friend, a mother more lazy and uninformed than you (admit it, you have been judging her and she knew it), or more likely, daddy. And they will, at some point in time, eat something disgusting off the ground or the floor of your minivan.  They will also pick their nose and eat it.  They will lick something that will make you gag.  No matter what you do to cultivate their palate to make discriminating food choices, they will be drawn to the junk and you will wonder if it ever even mattered.
  4. The growth chart will scare you.  Too big, too little, too average, whatever it is, you’ll probably have at least one appointment with your child’s doctor that will make you concerned about your child’s growth pattern.  Because if there’s anything that can be truly charted, it’s that kids are predictably unpredictable.
  5. Statistics aren’t guarantees.  All the scary stuff that isn’t supposed to happen/is supposed to happen based on how you’re feeding your child doesn’t come true.  The proverbial “they” said if you feed your child “this” way they won’t get sick, or that’s what you understood anyway, and yet you’re wiping green snot off your child’s face every day for months.  And someone is bound to point this out to you, trumpeting how their kid is never sick.  Immune systems can be such ignorant traitors clueless on the what all those studies say.
  6. You will be judged.  Pull out a breast or bottle to feed your baby and watch the judgment fly.  Too long, too brief, too-not-what-they-did.  Bad mom, exhibitionist, endangering your child, endangering other people’s children (their poor eyes may see the choice you’ve made and confuse them!), pouring toxins into your child, doing that in public, you name it, judgment will come from all directions no matter what you do.
  7. You can make yourself crazy.  Trying to do it perfectly right could be exactly what drives you over the edge of sanity.  A very real risk.

And if you think it’s bad when they’re infants, just wait until your child is begging for cheetos and refusing the organic avocado and kale chips at playdates.  No matter how you feed your children as infants, they will someday inevitably grow into toddlers eating their own boogers (and sometimes those of others), tasting dirt on the playground, sucking a sucker they found on the floor of the public bathroom, and licking the railing at a public park.  The good news is, most of the time they really are going to be just fine even though.

Breast or bottle debate humor

Which is why it’s a good thing we don’t feed our children for others.  Good luck!  Whatever you do, there are risks.  This is just one aspect of parenting, have confidence, there are even bigger risk you face in this journey.  Go on, feed your kids, take a deep breath, and take the risks as they come.  You’ve got this.

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Breastfeeding and thinking of others

By Jessica Martin-Weber

human decency and breastfeeding

I try to avoid reading comments on just about any articles that have to do with infant nutrition, particularly on breastfeeding in public, except on those sites where I’ve come to trust the atmosphere is conducive to healthy dialogue and engaging conversation. Sometimes I can’t help it though and I get momentarily sucked into the train wreck of society’s most opinionated who found a platform to spew vitriol laced with unverified “facts” and self appointed expertise. I’ve read enough of these comments over the years that I have come to expect a certain set of responses, each presented as though it is the first time anyone has ever thought of it. From the comparisons of breastfeeding to human waste or sex to implying the mother must be an exhibitionist or even pedophile, the “enlightened” arguments, most often lay blame on the breastfeeding woman as to how her feeding her baby is damaging society.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Hundreds of thousands feel empowered by the anonymity of the internet to say that women feeding their babies the biologically normal way are damaging society. And of course, because moms can’t win, still other mothers are blamed for damaging society for not feeding their child the biologically normal way and using bottles and/or formula.

Something is wrong with society? Blame the mothers! It simply must be because of the female portion of the parenting population!

I can think of a lot of practices that are damaging society but for the life of me I can’t see how a woman feeding her child could even be fathomed as one, let alone worth commenting on anywhere at all.

One of my cynical favorites are the comments that talk about human decency and pride. How could a woman be so selfish? Some people are uncomfortable with witnessing breastfeeding, why in the world should they have to suffer so badly when a woman uses her breast in their presence to feed her child? What about human decency? Does she have no pride and self respect? It’s not that hard to show a little courtesy to others and cover yourself while you do that. Can’t she think of others and stop being SO SELFISH and just be DISCREET? What is wrong with these women that think it’s just fine to FEED their babies right there where everyone can see it? For goodness sake, WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?

All over a woman feeding her child.

I wish I was joking. I’m not. In fact, I avoid reading these comments usually because it makes me want to say bad words. All the bad words.

Then there’s the fact that I don’t only come across this in comment sections of online news or blogs, nope, people say it to my face.

You’re worried about human decency and damaging society? What about the children going to bed hungry every night in your community? The lack of health care for many in the world today? What about the dangerous, polluted water millions of people drink daily and the children who get sick from it? How about the corporations ruining the environment often in already compromised areas and successfully lobbying so they aren’t held accountable? And the million other human rights violations destroying lives, destroying children?

Not a baby being safely fed. That is not an issue of lack of human decency. Making it one and overlooking real concerns is. News flash: a mother’s first responsibility is to think of her children, that is her thinking of others. And because thinking of her children involves thinking of the good of society and making well informed decisions in her care of her children, feeding her children and meeting their needs is part of caring for society as well. Thinking of what others in society may think of how she is feeding her child? Yeah, that doesn’t really help anyone and if you think so, your privilege has blinded you. Should she choose to cover or not, how she feeds her child is her decision and whatever makes her and her child comfortable. Not anyone else. Think of others? Ok. When I’m breastfeeding I’m thinking of my child, it’s not about anyone else. Doing it in public doesn’t make it anyone else’s business either.

I have to believe that in a generation people will be shocked that this was an issue, embarrassed that it was. Like other topics that have made society uncomfortable at times, a woman feeding her baby in public will some day no longer be a topic of scrutiny, debate, or attack. I hope. Just like civil rights issues, formerly taboo health issues, and environmental concerns that used to be dismissed, eventually infant nutrition will no longer be confused with real issues of human decency. Except for where infants and their families don’t have access to nutrition. Want to get up in arms about something? Find something worthy.

There is one point these commenters sometimes make that I do agree with, what has happened to human decency? Only I wonder if we ever had it and have instead confused human decency with privilege. Because too often we turn blind eyes to the real battles moms face and focus on demeaning and petty “mommy wars.”

Let’s fight the real battles and let’s not worry about being discreet about it. Let’s really think of others.

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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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No Right Way- Sonnets of the tired mom

by the admins of The Leaky [email protected]@b.  There are 7 of us admins here and none of us have made the exact same decisions in all aspects of our parenting and that is okay. Each parent is going to make decisions with the knowledge that they has at the time that works best for their family.  This sonnet is dedicated to those who have judged, from all of us who have felt judged.
This post made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Boba, makers of the Boba baby carrier.

judging moms

How could you judge me?  Let me count the ways.

You could judge me to the playground, the grocery store and dance studio too

You could judge me for not being as put together as you

For how I feed my children: organic or not, frozen, fresh or fried

Homemade or store-bought, you can judge how I tried

How my breasts do or don’t leak, weaning, and where my child sleeps

How I catch their poop and if my child ever weeps

The birthing room, soccer field, and selected books

For screen time you can give me funny looks

Judge me for the guilt I feel and that which I don’t

Lay it on because my heart won’t give up hope

For the times I lost my cool

And the way my child drools

Don’t forget to judge for school

I doubt you can judge me more harsh than I

Go ahead, let your criticisms fly

How I long to be parent enough

Not alone and no need to bluff

Hitting walls and ceilings and poop to fans

Getting in and missing out on all the right brands

The car seat, yoga pants, if my child wants to hold my hand

All I forgot; registration, shoes, toilet paper, and hairnets

Being late and probably too much internets

The number of kids, the mess that is my house

You can judge the spit up smeared on my blouse

From your glass house the ways to judge are many

It will not change my loving any

Working out, working at all

Or staying home, you can clap when I fall

If judging me helps you feel strong

Feel free to do it all day long.

Your words and thoughts will not damage my will

Flawed though I am, my children know I love them still.

Growing always, I will be

Along this path of parenting.

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