My Journey As A First Time Mom; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Kelly Warner

guest post, leaky to leaky

Meet Samuel. This is my rainbow baby, who we welcomed with joy in January, 2014. After struggling with infertility for 5 years, my doctor in Houston told me it was unlikely that we would ever conceive. When we moved to St. Louis we started seeing a fertility specialist, who discovered a few factors that were either keeping us from getting pregnant or not allowing us to sustain pregnancy (an underactive thyroid, being a carrier for MTHFR and either not absorbing folic acid well or clotting after conceiving, and low progesterone). Once we addressed those issues we got pregnant right away, which was so encouraging after having our arms ache to hold a child for years. Unfortunately, we miscarried at 9 weeks and would later miscarry a second time at 6 weeks.   We were in a very dark place but continued to trust God with our fertility. A few months after our second miscarriage we found out we were pregnant again. 40 weeks later, after a snowstorm and before another one shut down the city for a week, our sweet Samuel Bennett was born!

I was so focused on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and having a natural birth that, admittedly, I didn’t educate myself on breastfeeding. Our Bradley Method instructor encouraged me to attend LLL meetings while pregnant to meet other like-minded moms, but I didn’t make it a priority to go. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for a minimum of 12 months and had hoped that I would be able to make it for 2 years, but I figured I would have the baby first and then it would just naturally come to me. You know, because so far my story has been so natural and easy that it makes sense that I would just figure it out.

We had a beautiful natural birth and our nurses were great about immediately putting Samuel on my breast and delaying all newborn procedures until we had time to bond. He didn’t latch right away but found comfort sleeping on my chest. (In his defense, he did have a pretty long and intense birth that included 4 hours of pushing, his cord wrapped around his neck twice, and the threat of a C-section before I pushed so hard I broke my tailbone and his head came out before the doctor was even suited up to catch him). I kept trying to get him to latch and had just about every lactation consultant and nurse helping too. We were adamant about not using bottles, sugar water, or formula, so when he started showing signs of dehydration, we all panicked. The LC informed me that the combination of my flat nipples and large breasts were making it difficult for Samuel to latch and she recommended we use a breast shield. I was a nervous first time mom, who just wanted her baby to eat, so I took her at her word and began using the shield. I have since come to learn that there are absolutely medical situations that warrant the use of a shield . . . but mine was not one of them. Samuel began “latching” and getting colostrum, but it was so frustrating, painful, and messy for me. Worried that I would give up with breastfeeding, the LC convinced me to rent a breast pump to take home, pump my colostrum, and feed with bottles until my milk came in. Although she unnecessarily encouraged me to use a shield, I have to give her credit for pushing breastfeeding. She showed me how to use the pump and was shocked when I pumped 2 ounces of colostrum in a few minutes. At the time I was super confused why she was all giddy (and felt the need to show my liquid gold to everyone working in the maternity ward) but have come to learn that colostrum is not typically measured in ounces. That gave me hope that I was going to be able to feed my baby – it was just a matter of figuring out how.

My milk came in a few days after we got home from the hospital and my already large breasts became so engorged I didn’t know what to do with them! Seriously, they practically had their own zip code (38-K)! I had a serious oversupply problem and a fast letdown that Samuel did not find nearly as amusing as my husband and I. He’d pull off the breast and get super-soaked in the face or just grimace as a stream of milk shot halfway across the room. I guess when you’re an exhausted new mom you find the humor in anything, because everything else is just so, so hard!

We continued to use the nipple shield but struggled. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit. Thankfully, my husband knew, deep down, I didn’t really want to quit and I just needed to be encouraged to continue. He was up at every diaper change and night feeding with me, sitting at my feet, praying for me. I remember one time in particular: It was 2am and I was exhausted from nursing Samuel around the clock during a growth spurt. My husband and I got up to feed him and I burst into tears when Samuel latched and I felt the “60-second sizzle.” I said I didn’t want to mess with the shield anymore and that I just wanted to feed my baby. He comforted me in that moment and said he had read that night feeding was a good time to try to wean off the shield. So, figuring it couldn’t get any worse, we took off the shield, and together, we re-latched Samuel. I’m talking, all 4 of our hands were trying to hamburger my nipple so Samuel could latch! There were more tears (by me) and more words of encouragement (from the hubs), and finally Samuel latched! This was such a small thing but felt like such a big breastfeeding victory!

I continued to pump out a few ounces before EVERY feeding to soften my breast tissue so he could latch better. It was really annoying to be tethered to my pump and time-consuming to have to constantly be cleaning out pump parts (and during the winter, which made my hands crack and bleed), but it was worth it to be off the shield and begin having a successful nursing relationship with my son. Plus, it allowed me to build up a good stash of breast milk that I donated to my friend to give to her adopted newborn.

By the time Samuel was 6 months old my supply had finally regulated. It was so freeing to be able to feed on demand and not have to pump first. Samuel was healthy and happy and in the 50th percentile for his weight, and an added bonus was that he was a really good sleeper! Shortly after he turned 7 months old, however, he started waking up multiple times at night to nurse. We brushed it off and assumed he was just teething or going through a growth spurt, but it continued for weeks. I called my pediatrician and asked her why she thought his sleeping pattern changed suddenly. We ruled out ear infections, viruses, the Bubonic Plague, and continued to be dumbfounded . . . until my ped asked if it was possible that I was pregnant. I probably offended her for laughing so loud on the phone, but, come on! Me? Pregnant? I mean, sure, it was a possibility I could be pregnant, but I was exclusively breastfeeding, had not introduced solids, and remember how it took the stars aligning for me to have a healthy pregnancy with Samuel? I hung up the phone, dug out an expired pregnancy test from the Dollar Store, and took the test . . . and then proceeded to take another 3 before I believed my eyes! I told my husband and he didn’t believe me, so he went to the pharmacy and bought the most expensive digital pregnancy test . . . which told us the same thing the 4 tests prior did, only in words instead of hieroglyphics. I. Was. Pregnant!

guest post, leaky to leaky, pregnant photo

Once the initial shock settled we were thrilled for our news, but clearly my milk supply had already begun to decrease. Ahhhh the irony! My ped suggested starting a supply-boosting supplement that was safe while pregnant, but cautioned that it was likely we would need to supplement with donor milk or formula. Having just donated all of my pumped milk to my friend for her adopted baby, we were forced to supplement with formula. We chose the only organic formula that we can buy locally and hoped that it would be palatable. Only, Samuel wouldn’t take it. Clueless about what to do, I emailed Jessica from The Leaky Boob for advice and was so humbled that she took the time to answer me. She encouraged me to get a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to keep stimulating my breasts to produce milk while getting Samuel the supplementation he needed. He had lost so much weight he dropped to the 5th percentile, so we were ready to try just about anything. All I can say is using an SNS is like trying to juggle flaming arrows while blindfolded! I feel it apropos to high five any mom that has successfully nursed with an SNS. First off, that thing is impossible to set up alone (thankfully my husband is really supportive of me breastfeeding). Secondly, the tape that is supposed to keep the tube in place is worthless! Thirdly, my son was so offended that I was trying to sneak that tiny plastic tube in with his latch. Needless to say, we gave up.

After giving up on the SNS we tried to introduce a bottle. By this time Samuel was close to 9 months and had only had a bottle when I pumped my colostrum the first few days of his life. If he was offended about the SNS tube, he was not having the bottle either. We must’ve bought one of every brand of bottle on the market only to find out he would rather starve. We tried syringes, medicine droppers, spoon-feeding, sippy cups, open cups and this kid was not impressed. The only thing that he took a liking to was a straw – and not a sippy cup with a straw because that’s far too juvenile for a 9 month old – a straw that you, a grown adult, would get at a restaurant. He’d sip on the formula throughout the day but never really had a “feeding” like he would with breastmilk. We sneaked it in smoothies, made popsicles, and just about anything to get that kid to drink milk.

Keep in mind I’m still pregnant through this . . . I’m tired, hormonal, my nipples are sore, and I’m nauseous! I lost 10 pounds from throwing up and not being able to eat food while pregnant and still nursing Samuel. Those days were ROUGH! I kept telling myself that, “This, too, shall pass.”

We found our rhythm and made the most of our cuddles and nursing sessions until Samuel started throwing fits when I offered him the breast at nap-time or bed when he was 13 months. After a few days of us both crying at every feeding, I assumed he was no longer interested in nursing and wanting to wean. I stopped offering it and we just, kinda moved on. Looking back, I honestly believe he was having a nursing strike from being frustrated from having to work so hard to get any breastmilk.

In May we welcomed our daughter, Felicity Claire, into the world. Once his sister was born he started showing interest in nursing but it was as if he had forgotten how it all worked. He constantly talked about my “ba-ba’s” and wanted to touch them for his sister’s first month of life. 4 months later, he asks for milk at bedtime and smells and touches my breasts asking for more. It breaks my heart that I likely cut our nursing relationship short, but I am glad we were able to overcome so much and still make it 13 months.

guest post, leaky to leaky

So far, Felicity nurses like a champ and I feel so much better prepared this time around. While I wouldn’t wish my struggles with breastfeeding on anyone, I am glad I had to persevere through them. Not only did it show me how much support I have, but it highlighted how important a good support system is for breastfeeding. I hope that other moms find support to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and that my story encourages them in their journey.

____________________

guest post, leaky to leakyKelly is a mother of two from St. Louis, Missouri, who lived a good chunk of her adult life in Houston, Texas.  She and her hunk of a husband struggled with infertility for 5 years and had multiple miscarriages before having their first child in 2014.  Prior to starting a family, she taught 7th grade life science at a college preparatory charter school for low-income, minority students in Houston.  When she’s not nursing her 5 month old or telling her 21 month old to stop throwing balls at his sissy’s head, Kelly enjoys hanging out with her husband, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and writing music.  Despite many struggles with breastfeeding, Kelly nursed her son for 13 months; 6 of those while pregnant with her daughter.  In addition to being passionate about breastfeeding, Kelly loves baby wearing, cloth diapering, staying up to date on car seat safety, and having grandiose dreams of being a midwife someday. In the meantime she’ll stick to chasing her sports-nut toddler around the neighborhood and hoping that she remembers to put her boob away before answering the front door.  

 

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Six Meaningful Ways to Honor Motherhood and Our Children

by Jessica Martin-Weber
this post is made possible by the generous support of Baby Bee Hummingbirds.

@jixxs92 heart hands feet

Parenting is at once a lot of overwhelming work and a precious beautiful joy. The saying, “the years are short, but the days are long”, while cliché, is so true. Each day can be long and quite frankly, full of actual poop. They aren’t always fun. And though they drag, they go by quickly. Amidst the poop, sleep deprivation, stress, and whining, there are cuddles, giggles, dance parties, and heart melting smiles. It’s the best, with moments that can be the worst. Worth every second of the poopy stuff. Though it’s impossible to enjoy every moment of our parenting journeys, there are so many special moments to cherish. I propose that we make memories, commemorate them, celebrate the stages, and create a narrative that keeps it all alive in our hearts. Inspired by the many ideas shared on this post, here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate our mothering journey and the stages of our children. There’s much to honor in our journeys, pregnancy, birth, feeding, play, sleep, and milestones or just the whole journey itself. What you focus on depends on what is the most important and moving for you, there’s no right or wrong way.

Journal
Whether you start it when you find out you’re pregnant or sometime after your baby has made their entrance, a journal to share with them later can be an inexpensive and meaningful way to honor not only their journey through childhood, but your journey as their parent. It doesn’t have to be filled with long profound thoughtful entries, brief, honest looks at that moment can hold a lot of meaning. If a journal is overwhelming, a baby’s first year calendar may feel a little more manageable while still helping you record those special moments. Some days are red letter days, some are green, some are purple, and some are black. Whatever color you use, using a calendar for a baby’s first year or two can be a precious way to look back at all their firsts and big moments in their start to life.

Photographs/video

You may start with documenting your bump growth or it may not occur to you until you see their adorable little face, but pictures are an easy way to celebrate the big moments and the most mundane. In this digital age we can snap as many photos as we like, it’s no big deal to scrap 30 shots if they don’t turn out and that could easily be what it takes to have that one perfect capture that immortalizes the look on your 18 months old face when daddy walks through the door each day. Same with video, smart phones make it easy to forever grab the moment when they first take tentative steps feeling grass under their bare feet and trashing the times when they refuse to put their feet down at all unless of course, that moment is a laugh worth holding on to as well. Saving these files digitally and converting a few into photo books or sharing with friends and family on social media lets you look through them over and over. While it can be fun to create clever staged photos, some of those more candid ones may very well end up being your favorites. Just make sure you don’t end up never being in the photos with them, you’re worth remembering in your different stages too so don’t be too much of a momarazzi and practice the art of a good #selfie and handing the camera off.

Repurpose

That sweet dress can be handed down to future children, future grandchildren, or passed along to friends and with all the clothes a baby will go through, you can’t keep them all. But a few can be repurposed, specially your favorites. A quilt made out of the softest pajamas, several pieces deconstructed into a whole new outfit, a scrap of that little onesie they came home in added to a shadow box, that cute t-shirt from your sister becomes play clothes for a favorite plush animal, or even just displaying that frilly dress as part of a room’s decor. If you’re not personally ready to cut up your baby’s clothing to create something new, there are many incredibly talented work at home moms that take custom orders that can create something special for you.

Mini time capsule

Take the hospital wrist band, a piece of the hospital cap, a snip of the swaddle blanket, the first pair of socks, or any other small memento and put it in a clear class ornament available at craft stores. Write baby’s name and the date for a mini time capsule ornament for a holiday decoration. Or gather similar items and display in a shadow box. An actual time capsule, hidden in the ground or even just under your bed or in the attic, can be added to annually, the contents reviewed together with your child on their birthday.

The talented Katie M. Bergen has a stunning collection of art that honors parenting and families.

The talented Katie M. Berggren has a stunning collection of art that honors parenting and families.

TLB admin, Star, has this tattoo to honor both her daughters and her mothering journey.

TLB admin, Star, has this tattoo to honor both her daughters and her mothering journey.

Art

If you’re artistic, creating your own piece of art that captures the essence of your parenting journey or your child’s spirt can be especially meaningful. It can be a continual work in progress, adding to it over time or it may be a complete work. If storytelling is your talent, a self published story book can capture your own unique narrative. If you’re not comfortable creating your own art, purchased art can be just as meaningful and some artists are happy to create commissioned pieces inspired by your family, you can find some on Etsy, and here are three of my favorites: Katie M. BerggrenKate Hansen, and Claudia Tremblay. Taking commissioned work even further, some may want to honor their parenting journey with ink on their own body. Whether they be symbolic or representative, tattoos can fit both your personality and your journey. I wrote about the meaning of my tattoo here.

Jewelry

A special piece of jewelry, intended specifically to celebrate parenting and/or your child, be it personalized or more general, is such a meaningful expression. Again, you can have one custom made and it can honor your parenting or child(ren) in a more general way (such as birthstone charms) or some specific aspect such as breastfeeding. A breastmilk pendent, created with your own milk, a curl bead the incorporates a lock of your child’s hair, or some other specific area of focus are all possible and unique you can find some at Baby Bee Hummingbirds. A designated necklace, bracelet, or ring, something you wear every day or just for special occasions makes for special conversations in the future. My children love when I wear my mothering necklace, it means a lot to them that being their mother is so beautiful and important to me that I have a special piece of jewelry just about that.

 

 

What would you add to our list of ways to celebrate and honor our children and our own parenting journey?

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Why take and share breastfeeding photos?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
why women share breastfeeding photos

Photo credit: Cleo Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Why I am not passionate about breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber
TLB creed

“How did you become so passionate about breastfeeding?”

This question comes up often.  For a while I would hem and haw an answer, stringing together some words that were an attempt at sounding intelligent and reasonable as to why I would have created and continue to run The Leaky Boob.  Awkward and fumbling, I hoped it covered the truth.

I’m not passionate about breastfeeding.

My second daughter received formula starting at 4.5 months and by 5 months was completely formula fed.  The reasons are hardly the point of me sharing this fact.  It was, we believed, the right thing for our family at the time and, like these things are want to be, complicated.

I never felt guilty about it, never even thought about feeling guilty about it.  It just was.  I’d like to say she was perfectly healthy and no issues what so ever but that wasn’t our experience.  Between reflux that took months to resolve, constipation issues that took just as long and several expensive experiments, and then RSV, pneumonia, strep throat, multiple ear infections, and more than I care to recount, her first year was more difficult than I had ever anticipated.  Formula didn’t make it better, much it was exasperated by formula.  Still, through all that, guilt about stopping breastfeeding never occurred to me.  Nor did anger, bitterness, or even hurt.  I was sad, disappointed that it didn’t work for us but that didn’t last long and there wasn’t really anything I could do about it.  Fighting like hell to be able to breastfeed had taken a toll and I was confident that giving it up was actually better for my daughter and I by that point.

I was right.

Later, when I shared my story with someone they comforted me, telling me dealing with that guilt must have been hard.  Strange, I thought, why would I feel guilty?  In that moment and many moments later as I reflected on the guilt I didn’t have, my confidence in my parenting and decision making began to erode a bit.  Already struggling with postpartum depression, this little chink in the foundation of my parenting led to me believing that I was not fit to be a mother.  It wasn’t this person’s fault but I entered a place of shadows and shame, afraid that I couldn’t trust myself to make decisions for my children.

Time, therapy, medication, and some really good friends supporting me by encouraging me to see that I was not, in fact, a horrible mother, helped me turn things around.  Through that though, I began to understand something far more important than breastmilk or formula: confidence isn’t being right, confidence is more than believing in yourself to do the right thing, confidence is having peace with who you are even when you make mistakes.  With my confidence growing again, I moved forward with my husband, embracing that doing the right thing for our family wouldn’t always be an issue of black and white, A and B, or left and right, but rather a sensitivity for all parties involved doing the best we could with whatever circumstances we would face with whatever resources, information, and understanding we had available at the time.

My next baby was breastfed, up until 18 months we had an easy, simple breastfeeding relationship that working full time and caring for 2 other children only complimented, never hindered.  Weaning with her came unexpectedly when the single most difficult and devastating parenting experience we have encountered to date hit us: the sexual abuse of our two eldest by a very dear friend.

It was tempting to unravel in that time and in many ways I did.  But our daughters needed me.  Faking it often, I attempted confidence even as I asked how could I let this happen, how could I not see the signs, how could I… have failed so badly?

More time, therapy, and really incredible friends supporting us, we got through the investigation, trial, and agonizing fragmentation of our family.  Each step was in uncharted and sometimes lonely waters with swells of failure sweeping over me.  There was grief, pain, hurt, bitterness, doubt, and anger, so much anger.  My confidence wavered and so did my husband’s.  We considered a cabin in Montana and cutting off the outside world.

Our daughters didn’t need Montana though, they didn’t need to go off the grid and be isolated.  What our daughters needed most was someone, something to be a safe landing place for them.  That was us.  There was never a moment that I was sure we were doing everything right as we walked the path in search of justice and healing and there were plenty of people telling us how we should be doing it or how we were doing it wrong.  In the midst of the pain, grief, and anger, the truth we had learned before became an anchor along with our faith and love: confidence is having peace with who you are even when you make mistakes.  Our daughters needed us to have confidence to help them land softly.  There was space for us to be honest about our insecurities and fear but the greatest gift we could give our children along with our love was to have peace in our ability to love them well even through this.

Today, 9 years later, I know my husband and I are not perfect parents, we’ve made choices that we would change if we were to have the chance to make them again.  Maybe I would fight harder to be able to breastfeed my second baby longer.  Maybe I would have feed us all with better food.  Maybe I would have done things differently in our relationship with our daughters’ attacker.  Maybe I would handle the abuse another way.  Maybe.  I don’t really know.  But I do know that having peace in who we are, holding on to peace even as it shreds in my hands pounded by guilt, bitterness, and anger, helped our daughters find peace in who they are.  Together, we found healing.

Any more when I am asked why I’m so passionate about breastfeeding I tell the asker the truth: it’s not breastfeeding I’m passionate about.  I support moms in breastfeeding because of the gift of confidence breastfeeding can be.  Maybe it won’t be for everyone but for many it is, it was for me and so this is one way I can offer support.  The science and relationship bonding are compelling on their own but they aren’t why I talk about breastfeeding so much.  By not apologizing for our bodies, not suppressing our bodies, and having peace in who we are and how we are can help mothers find the confidence they are going to need for the really tough parts of parenting.  Feeding their children, be it breastmilk or formula, is one of the very first steps all parents must take, undermining their confidence there is insidious and damaging.  People that are confident are more free to love, learn, and live with joy.  Babies with confident parents have a place to land softly no matter what life throws at them.  I’m not passionate about breastfeeding, I never have been.  People are my passion.  People start out as babies.  Babies are cared for by parents.  Parents are people.

This may not make me popular in some circles, I don’t mind.  But I believe that having a hurt, angry, bitter mother struggling with their own confidence and ability to parent is far, far worse than feeding a baby formula could ever be.  I think breastmilk is great but I think caring for people is even greater.  The benefits of confident parenting far outweigh the risks.

I would never tell a woman, or anyone, what to do with their body nor what to do with their child.  Respecting their ability and responsibility in making the right decision for themselves and their family based on the circumstances they face with the information and resources available to them at that time means I don’t know what they should do.  All I can do is offer support, information, and encourage them to embrace their confidence and move forward with peace.

This is why at The Leaky Boob we believe:

Feed the baby, care for the mother, support the family.

But if you need some help or support to feed your baby how you want: we are here.

If you need help with how to correctly mix and prepare a formula bottle: we are here.

If you need help with breastfeeding: we are here.

If you need help going back to work and continuing to breastfeed: we are here.

If you need help weaning (at any age): we are here.

If you need help starting solids: we are here.

If you just want to talk: we are here.

 

Walk in confidence, live with peace, land softly.

 

Community.  Support.  TLB.

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It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

by Kari Swanson

full term breastfeeding

My daughter was placed on my chest immediately after my obstetrician finished stitching up my c-section incision. She latched onto my breast and started breastfeeding right there in the operating room. Last month we celebrated her third birthday. She knows that babies have mama milk. She also knows that big girls have mama milk until they are ready to stop having mama milk. I expect that sometime between now and the time she is around 5 years old she will gradually wean.

Some might consider the fact that my daughter is 3 and still receiving breastmilk to be extreme, but anthropological evidence indicates that this is biologically normal for a young hominid primate. That being said, it is probably no surprise that I consider myself to be a lactivist. I believe that human breastmilk is the biologically normal food source for human infants and I volunteer as an admin on The Leaky [email protected]@b in order to support other breastfeeding mothers and to help normalize breastfeeding in a culture that has largely lost sight of the real reason women have breasts.

What may come as a surprise to some is that my daughter and my son before her received formula in addition to breastmilk. Why? Because I work full time outside of my home and I am among the unlucky few who truly do not respond well to breast pumps. For whatever reason my body just does not give up the gold for a machine despite my supply being more than adequate. After a time, despite numerous tips and tricks, pumping whenever and wherever I could, I ceased to be able to pump enough milk to entirely meet my babies’ nutritional needs while they were separated from me while I worked.

With my daughter I was fortunate to be able to spend 3 months home with her after she was born, and to spend 3 months thereafter working half time. I pumped at home before returning to work and I pumped before work, during work, after work, and on non-workdays once I returned to work. I had a small stash of milk in the deep freezer when I returned to work, but it was quickly depleted. When I first returned to work and pumped I easily had enough milk by the end of the day to send to the daycare without dipping into my frozen milk stash.

I determined how much milk my daughter needed in her daycare bottles using an iPhone app called “Breast Milk Calculator.” The app uses the baby’s weight, age and number of feedings in the previous 24 hours to suggest how much milk he or she needs per feeding. Using the app I determined exactly how many ounces she needed per bottle. The number of feedings was based on the number of hours she was away from me and how frequently she would normally nurse.

But, just as it had when my son was a baby, my pumping output dwindled over time. Eventually I was pumping less than an ounce per side per pumping session. I used up my entire frozen milk stash. Despite my best efforts at around 6 months I was no longer able to pump enough to send only breastmilk in my daughter’s daycare bottles. So, I sent as much breastmilk as I could and to make sure she had sufficient nutrition I sent formula too.

When my daughter was a newborn she, like her brother, needed supplementation. They both had jaundice and they both lost more than the usual amount of weight after birth. Although her condition was better than her brother’s had been (he was a very sleepy 37 weeker with more severe jaundice), my daughter was also a slow gainer. So, the IBCLC we saw recommended supplementation while I built up my own supply. When my son was a newborn he received formula supplementation, but my daughter received donor breastmilk, or as we referred to it “Auntie milk”—because our milk donor was my sister who was still breastfeeding her toddler son at the time my daughter was born.

By the time my daughter was in daycare full time and my pumping supply could not keep up with my daughter’s demands my sister’s son had weaned. I considered donor breastmilk, but decided against it. My strong, healthy baby did fine on formula, and I felt that the relatively limited supply of donor milk in my area should be available to babies for whom formula was not an option, babies whose mothers could not breastfeed them at all or whose health really warranted the exclusive use of donor milk. So, we chose formula instead.

I already knew exactly what formula I would choose for my daughter if I reached this point, because I had read quite a bit of research about formula before I had my son. I looked up numerous scholarly research articles and reviews of the literature about formula on PubMed. At that point I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I had been given the somewhat unhelpful advice that my desire to breastfeed and to go back to work full time were “setting [myself] up for failure”. So, in case that was true I did all of that research about formula and based my decision on what I had read. (Bear in mind that my son was born in 2004 and donor milk was not as prevalent, except from milk banks by prescription and at a rather high price.) Despite many assertions otherwise, infant formula is an acceptable, nutritionally adequate alternative to breastmilk and is a much better choice than the milk of any other mammal or milk made from plants.

Eventually both of my babies received only formula in their daycare bottles. Both times the amount I was able to pump became miniscule compared to the amount they needed and the stress and frustration of pumping so little became too much for me, so I stopped. They both did fine on the formula they received part of the time, so I felt comfortable giving them as much as they needed while they were separated from me. My daughter had breastmilk exclusively, either at the breast or in bottles, for more than 6 months. They were around the same age when they started receiving formula alone in their daycare bottles: 7-8 months. Despite this both of my babies continued to breastfeed whenever they were with me. They never experienced nipple confusion, expressed a preference for the bottle, or had nursing strikes. They both stopped receiving formula when they no longer needed bottles at daycare.

So, yes I am a lactivist. I believe breastmilk is the biologically normal food for human infants. But, breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

 

You can read more from Kari over on her site and enjoy her thoughtful, thorough writing and beautiful photography.

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Did you respond well to breast pumps?  Have you had to supplement?  If so, what did you use?  Were you able to supplement and still reach your breastfeeding goals?

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12 Weaning Ceremonies


Breastfeeding can be such a sacred time in our lives. While we cherish the breastfeeding journey, it is rare in our culture to commemorate the end of breastfeeding with little more than a note in the baby book. If breastfeeding was important to you, consider celebrating your experiences and remembering this special transition with a weaning ceremony.

Your weaning ceremony can serve multiple purposes. If you choose to involve your child, it can be an event to mark the end of nursing – something that mother and child gently discuss and plan in anticipation of weaning. For mothers and their partners, a weaning ceremony is a way to honor the transition from breastfeeding to nursing beyond the breast, and all of the emotions that accompany that change.

Some children may not benefit from a definite, marked end to the nursing relationship. If a slow, natural end to breastfeeding is more comfortable for your child, you can still hold a quiet ceremony by yourself, with your spouse, or with other mothers who can understand and support you through this transition. Don’t be afraid to mourn the end of breastfeeding – it is a normal and healthy response to this change. But after you’ve given yourself time to mourn, consciously meditate on the joys of mothering a child who has weaned. A weaning ceremony can help you mindfully navigate this change.

Below are 12 weaning ceremony ideas that you can adapt to meet your own needs and those of your nursling. If you have other ceremony ideas, please share them in the comments so I can add them to the list.

    1. Write your nursling a letter. Include anything you’d like to share about your nursing relationship, what this change means to you, your hopes and dreams for them, etc. I found two examples of weaning letters: one at Mothering.com, the other from a Jewish mother at ritualwell.
    2. Anoint yourself with herbs for weaning. Herbs can help with physical discomfort and emotional healing. Kellymom lists several herbs to help decrease milk supply, including sage and peppermint. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a No More Milk tea that includes some of these herbs. And because you will experience a drop in prolactin levels during weaning, it may also help to prepare yourself with herbal remedies for depression.(1) Herbs to help alleviate depression that are safe to use while breastfeeding include St. Johnís wort, Evening primrose oil, Motherwort, and Blessed thistle.(2)
    3. Write your breastfeeding story. Start with those milky newborn memories – the pursed lips nursing even after they’ve unlatched, sleepy rooting at all hours of the day and night, the newness of life and the awe of continuing to grow your baby with your own body. Continue on through infancy – those milky smiles, dive bombing for your breast, the day your little one first starts babbling or signing in a recognizable way for milk. Write about the joys of breastfeeding past infancy – nursing gymnastics, manners, nursing away every hurt, the special words and phrases you and your nursling share.(3) Share the highs and lows of your nursing experience and the emotions you’ve gone through along the way. Here are two stories to get you started: one at Kellymom, another at La Leche League International.
    4. Throw a weaning party. For little ones who need a celebration to mark the occasion of weaning, consider having an intimate party – just you and your nursling and partner. Make special foods, bake a cake, whatever makes it special for your family. Here is an example of a weaning party.
    5. Write a book. Create a personal book for your child about their breastfeeding journey, their babyhood, and their transition into a “big kid.”
    6. Hold a special ceremony for your nursling.Sometimes breastfeeding pairs need to wean when neither mama nor child is ready. In these situations, a special ceremony may help mark the day of weaning, helping the child clearly see the end of nursing while beginning the grieving process for both in a bittersweet way.Jessica of The Leaky [email protected]@b was pregnant, gaining very little weight, and felt pressured by her care providers to wean. To help give closure to her 21 month old nursling, Jessica, her husband, and the big sisters all wrote a special note for the nursling. After eating a special meal together, the family gathered around a candle. Jessica invited her nursling to climb into her lap for one last nursing session. As her nursling snuggled in, the family read their letters to the child. They also gave her several sweet gifts. When she was finished nursing, she blew out the candle.

      While your weaning ceremony will be memorable and sweet, be prepared for nurslings to continue to ask to nurse. They simply do not understand what it means to wean forever, and you will very likely have to soothe many tears in the weeks to come (as Jessica did).

    7. Give yourself (and/or your child) a gift. Find something special that represents this transition. I highly recommend Hollyday Designs breastmilk jewelry – it is beautiful.
    8. Create a breastfeeding scrapbook. Gather pictures and/or video of you and your little one snuggling and nursing and compile them into a keepsake scrapbook (a virtual one or one that you can hold).
    9. Go on a date. Take your nursling somewhere special. Make it an event that represents how “grown up” they are.
    10. Tell your child their nursing story. Regardless of whether you write it down, tell your little one about your nursing journey as you’ve lived it. Telling them this story over the years will help normalize breastfeeding for them, and it will help you both retain sweet memories from their nursing years.
    11. Choose a special time to be together. If you or your little one are missing a regular nursing time, find something special you can do together every day at that time instead. Think about snuggling, reading, yoga, meditation, art, or some other activity you will both enjoy. For as long as you need to throughout and after the weaning process, take a few moments at the beginning of your special time to check in with yourself and truly be present with your child.
    12. Design your own ritual.Several cultures and religions have weaning ceremonies. Research them and design a ceremony that will be meaningful to your family. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Did you do something to mark the end of your breastfeeding relationship? Please share in the comments.

Footnotes:
(1) From Kellymom: “Prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience adverse effects.”
(2) Safe herb list found here. It also says that St. Johnís wort should not be taken in conjunction with any other depression medication.
(3) And if you’d like to share your nursing past infancy story, consider submitting it to my series. See my Contributor Guidelines page for more details.

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Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of two amazing kids, Kieran and Ailia. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with little ones. Dionna is also cofounder of Natural Parents Network and NursingFreedom.org, and author of For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom.
Connect with Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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Advocating for mothers and children around the world

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Typically I talk about boobs, breastfeeding, babies, birth, children, parenting, and other related topics here.  This post is going to be about more of the same, it just won’t look like it.  To be really up front and fair: I have an agenda with this post.

In my comfortable first world lower middle class status I have to admit that I have experienced very little true oppression.  I’ve had rough times and I’ve struggled but I don’t have a complete grasp on true suffering.  That’s not to say I haven’t suffered, because I have, and as a mother I’ve experience great heart ache, specifically when 2 of my daughters were sexually assaulted by a close friend.  So I know pain, grief, suffering, but I am really only familiar with it in the context of the first world setting where I live.

Still, when going through difficult and dark times, the care of others, even people I didn’t know, made a difference.  It is because of that support that I choose now to find ways to support others in difficult and dark times, even if they are half way around the world.

In the years that I’ve been active on the internet I have seen people create community, developing global communities where people find friendship, support, information, and the gift of knowing they are not alone.  Babies whose mothers have died have received milk from other mothers.  Families grieving the loss of a child have had funeral expenses covered.  Friends that have never met face to face have journeyed to be with someone during a bitter relationship breakup.  Auctions held to help families that have lost a parenting partner and cover medical expenses.  When my own family went 2 weeks without power following hurricane Ike, my online relationships virtually supported me with tangible gifts of care.  The global community found online extends support where, for some, there would be none.

I am confident that if my brother took my daughter from me and used her for his financial gain there would be national and international attention and online outpourings of support.  I guarantee you, if my child was taken from me by a relative or friend and forced to work harvesting cocoa pods using a machete and having no access to schooling, there would be an organized effort not only locally but internationally by my online friends.

If that community was aware that their favorite chocolate brands used cocoa they were aware could have been harvested by my child there would be letters of outrage, Facebook posts and tweets of fury, and massive calls for boycotts.  Moving beyond promises, without proof of accountability to be sure their supply chain did not contain cocoa beans my child was forced to harvest, these companies would feel heat not only from the media but directly from their consumers to proactively fix the problem.

If it was my child I would not be able to stomach even the thought of eating chocolate that may be a product of their suffering.

If it was your child, I doubt you could either.

If it was our children we would want the world to take note, to stand with us, to fight for our children.

If these things happened we would not be able to stand it.

These things do happen.  For us to have cheap chocolate, this woman’s son was taken from her.

child slavery cocoa, human trafficking, mother human trafficking

And it happens for coffee, sugar, vanilla, cotton, and so much more.  I’m struggling because even the very computer I’m using to write this is suspected of being made under unfair labor practices.  Many products that are staples in the comfortable lives of people through out most of the world have passed through the hands of a working child in dangerous conditions, interfering with their education, and too often through slavery.

One child would be bad enough for public outrage.  An estimated 284,000?*  Are there even words?

About 10 years ago my husband and I became aware of the issue of human trafficking.  We learned, to our shock, that many products we used daily were grown, harvested, and manufactured in dangerous settings by people treated poorly and compensated inadequately.  Worse, some were in a form of slavery.  Still worse, some of those were children.  Children working as slaves without access to education and in dangerous environments were part of the manufacturing line creating products I thought I couldn’t live without.  How we had been ignorant of this harsh reality was a combination of never asking and nobody ever talking about it.

This knowledge would eventually change our lives, how we spend our money, and even how we celebrate holidays or interact with others.  Because we were talking about people being abused, not simply a different standard of living, but the oppression of others.

An oppression that we benefitted from.

Once aware, turning a blind eye was not an option.

At the time of this writing, I serve as the director of a global initiative that brings artists together to speak up for the oppressed.  I see over and over again the ongoing suffering of families ripped apart by the greed of others.  The issue is complex, far more than I am prepared to go into here, but as a family, our personal choice is to not be a part of the chain that enslaves children.  We started by doing just one thing, all of us can start with just one thing.

Please understand, I know that in some cultures, in some settings, child labor is a necessary part of the family’s survival.  What I’m talking about here is child slavery and child labor that violates the standards of the International Labor Organization, child labor that is truly dangerous, forced, and interferes with access to education.  The worst types of child labor.  I’m not talking about a child working on their family’s farm when they get home from school.  No, this is kidnapping, forced labor, restricted or no access to health care, no education, physical and psychological oppression, and controlled movement.

For us, we do with less so that what we enjoy or take for granted won’t cost a child so very much.  We choose to spend our resources on products that at least make traceable, documented, and third party audited steps to not use child labor at any point along the way.  It costs us more.  A cost we would rather absorb than to place on a small child that should be safe with their mother, able to play, and attending school.

It has taken time for us to make this shift and there has been an adjustment period.  Financially we can only afford so much so we started with the big ones: coffee and chocolate.  Shopping at thrift stores for our clothing and other textiles, we feel at least we aren’t buying brand new and can support local charities to some extent with our purchases.

We’ve accepted that less is ok.  In our land of entitled overabundance, we don’t need as much as we think we do.

Could avoiding chocolate produced with unfair labor practices and enslaved children actually create more problems?  Should we wait until there is a viable solution in place?  I don’t think so.

Without pressure that impacts their bottom line, there would be no reason for chocolate manufacturers to create change.  Some of these companies have claimed they are taking steps to ensure their products do not involve the worst forms of child labor but refuse to comply to 3rd party audits and employ diversion techniques such as charitable giving in other areas or launch a fair trade line.  But real progress in their supply chain is not evident.

Chocolate that contains the sweat, lashings, and crushed spirit of a child slave simply does not taste as good.  So we choose to buy fair trade.  Fair trade isn’t without it’s issues and controversy and there is valid conversation about direct trade, and other verification options.  Within an imperfect system we are trying to make the most responsible choice we can buy purchasing chocolate and coffee items that we can verify their labor practices or display one of these symbols:

Within the breastfeeding education and support community there is a strong push back against Nestle and other formula making companies that disregard the Code of Ethics for marketing artificial breastmilk as set out by the World Health Organization.  There has been outrage from many regarding the underhanded marketing of formula in communities where extreme poverty, contaminated water sources, and lack of information highways result in vulnerable infants suffering without breastmilk, sometimes even leading to death.  It is a despicable business practice.

So is abusing humans, enslaving people, endangering children, and prohibiting children from receiving an education.

There are many causes in this life, issues of injustice and importance and none of us can pick up all of them as advocates.  We don’t have to advocate for every cause though, sometimes it is enough to explore how we can respond on a personal level, changing ourselves.

I told you at the beginning of this that I had an agenda with this post and I was serious.  My goal in writing this is to challenge you, to make you uncomfortable, and to take the platform that I have here to raise my voice to speak up for the oppressed.  My agenda was for you to hear it.  What you do with it, how you respond, and if it makes any kind of impact on your choices is completely up to you but I will be able to enjoy my chocolate and coffee just a little bit more knowing I have tried.  Not for you, not for me, not even for my children.

I have tried for another mother’s child.

Will you?

*International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast

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I appreciate Kristen Howerton over at Rage Against the Minivan for writing about this issue, sharing more information and links, challenging readers to be aware.  The resources available are growing, I encourage you to explore this issue for yourself, watch videos, read reports, and connect with organizations aiming for fair trade practices.

 

 

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Up close and personal: Leakies Q & A on TLB, personal, and “other”

This is the last of what could have been called “more than you ever really wanted to know about me.”  I responded to your questions about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding here and family, children, and work here.  In this post I answer some of your questions about The Leaky Boob, more personal questions, and the proverbial “other.”

Photography by Kelli Elizabeth Photography in Houston, TX

TLB, personal, and “Other”

Q: How do you eliminate negativity in your life?

When I figure that out I’ll let you know. 😉

Ok, that was a major copout answer.  I don’t eliminate it.  I’m an artist by nature, it’s a huge part of who I am and how I see the world.  I am prone to times of depression, part of the ebb and flow of life and a crucial part of the creative process.  For a long time I denied and suppressed that part of me but after one particularly difficult time with postpartum depression I’ve learned to embrace it.  By accepting negativity, including my own, for what it is when it arises I’m more equipped to leave it and not let it effect me.  Too much.  I have found that acknowledging it has made me see that there isn’t as much as I once thought.  Additionally I have learned to recognize it, identify the source, call it what it is, and if need be put boundaries in place.

Q: What inspired you to begin TLB?

You can read about that here.

Q: Tell us more about your faith – where do you go to church and can you tell us anything about your plans for Paris?

I am a protestant Christian with a huge passion for social justice and mercy ministry.  We attend a local Vineyard church and consider ourselves Christ-followers, not affiliated with a denomination.  Our plans for Paris have been delayed a few months due to the pregnancy (we’re already supposed to be there) but we are in non-profit arts, family, and social justice work.  Tentatively the plan is for us to be in Paris come late this summer.

Q:  What particular challenges did you face as a busy mom and writer? And what tips/tricks/advice helped you overcome those challenges?

Sleep.  Sleep is always my biggest challenge.  I’m a night owl but several of my kids are early risers.  When I’m not pregnant I overcome that with coffee.  When I’m pregnant, I fall asleep on the couch.  Often.  😉

What works for me is to be honest with myself and with The Piano Man about what I need and I expect the same from him.  I grew up seeing us kids as the center of my mom’s world and while that was really nice, it also made me feel responsible in the long run for her having a center of her world.  By the time I was a preteen I desperately wanted her to do something, ANYTHING, that was for herself and pursuing her own interests.  As a young adult I vowed not to have kids because I watched my mom flounder.  Not to mention the shock when the rest of the world wouldn’t let me be the center of their attention until I proved I deserved it.  There was quite the adjustment for me there.  So I’ve always made it a priority to have my kids see me into other activities that don’t involve them and I encourage them to pursue interests that don’t involve me all the while coming back to our center in our home.  It’s like a base, not a focal point, and where I’m grounded.  It’s where we regroup and energize, not what defines us.

Meal plans, not every day but for several of our busiest days a week help but still afford us the flexibility we enjoy in our cooking.  Enlisting the kids to help with housework and accepting that it may not always be done to my standards teaches them responsibility and life skills and helping around the house.  We require a quiet time for all of us to get some space from each other and actively work on our own projects be it writing, knitting, coloring, napping, etc.  Insisting that the girls play outside and me joining them there on a blanket with my work to keep an eye on them as they have free play.   They are regularly actively engaged in healthy play and having a rough schedule or rhythm that doesn’t control our lives but does provide a framework to stretch our canvas in order to live it really helps.  But most importantly, lightening up.  Relaxing.  Deciding what’s really important and learning to accept a certain amount of chaos.

Typical day?  Different every time!  But I promise we do eat, sleep, play, work, and love like crazy.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing you have experienced as a mother?

I’m really not sure I could narrow it down to one thing but I can say that seeing my daughters grow in independence, confidence, and with character I’m pleased to see developing, I feel the most encouraged in my parenting.  But there’s also just those moments of little arms flung around my neck, squeezing tight that feel incredibly rewarding, even more so because that’s not at all how they are thinking of it, they’re just expressing their genuine feelings.

Q: What’s your go-to-dinner? How do you take your coffee?

Go-to dinner: beans and rice with a salad.

Coffee: when I’m not pregnant I either like it with cream and sugar or a strong espresso, black.  Always fair trade.

Q: Do you have siblings? What is your relationship with your parents? Where did you grow up? How do you balance your work and your family? How are you so freaking awesome?!

I do have siblings, an older brother and a younger sister.  That’s right, I’m the middle child.  Bum-bum-BUUUUUUUM!  I live too far from my family and don’t do as good of a job as I’d like keeping in touch and staying connected.  My relationship with my parents is constantly changing.  It’s a good reminder that we’re all still growing.  There is a lot of love and though we don’t always see eye-to-eye, there is a lot of effort put into understanding and accepting our differences.  I grew up in Florida (Yankee South), born and reared there.  As to how I balance work and family, it’s a constant adjusting.  Just when I think I have it all worked out, something shifts and we have to reevaluate and re-tweak.  The key for us is to be flexible and maintain communication so we can adjust where and when necessary.  As for the awesome thing, my family could fill you in that I’m not so awesome.  😉

Q: Besides the amazing benefits of bfing for mom and baby, what compelled you to be such a huge advocate for bfing? Was there one specific person/event that made you realize this to be a passion of yours? What are some other things that define you as a person beside family and lactivism?

Believe it or not, it wasn’t about breastfeeding to me really when I started it.  It was about women, children, and families.  It still is.  Breastfeeding is just a piece of it, a piece I can talk about and facilitate a community where others can engage in a safe dialogue about breastfeeding… and more.  As for what are other things that define me, you can find more of those in some of the other answers to the questions here.  I’m passionate about so much!

Q: How did you got into knitting!!

Bed rest with #2!  Took me like 7 years to knit one scarf.  Then Earth Baby started knitting in school and I helped her with a project and realized I loved it and it just took off.

Q: What are you other passions besides all things breastfeeding, mothering, and blogging….?

The arts in general.  I’m very involved in the arts, went to school for music performance and also have a love for visual arts, theater, and the written word.  Helping people connect with the arts, use the arts, express themselves through the arts is a passion of mine.  Building up and encouraging artists is another.  Challenging artists to use their voice to help tell the stories of others, particularly the oppressed, is a big part of my life.  

Social justice, specifically related to human trafficking is my heart of hearts though.  It’s what fires me up like no other and is what breaks my heart over and over again.  

I’m also passionate about birth, building up women and girls, and sexual abuse issues.

On the lighter side, I love to read, knit, dance, ride bikes, sew, paint, and more.

Q: What inspired you to become such a passionate breastfeeding advocate? What were your thoughts and opinions on breastfeeding before you had children? And while i have your attention thank you for what you started. I would not be sitting here nursing my lo if i hadn’t joined your page shortly before becoming pregnant 🙂

Congrats on your breastfeeding!  So grateful TLB could be a part of that journey with you.

I figured I’d always breastfeed.  I remember being weirded out by a friend’s mom breastfeeding when I was a teen but when I voiced that thought to my mom I promptly got put in my place about how breastfeeding is normal and I better never forget it as I was breastfed until I was 2.5.  Though uncomfortable a bit with the idea when my turn came, I did feel it was the normal way to feed a baby so I got over it.

Q: When was the last time you peed in private in your own home? Cause, idk about you but I usually have a parade follow me into the bathroom followed by a play-by-play commentary…lol

Recently, actually.  They entertain each other so well lately that going with mommy to the potty the 25 times a day she goes has gotten boring.  The real challenge for me is to not have to yell something while I’m on the toilet: “wait, what are we climbing?  I don’t think so, don’t climb the doll stroller to get on top of the shelves!  I can get the toy, just let me finish peeing!”

Q: Are you Canadian?

Nope, never even been there.  I do plan to rectify that some day.  As my friend Cindy would say, I only wish I was that cool!

Q: Are you able to keep up with everything else, like cleaning, paying bills, friends, etc.? Or are you like me with a dirty house, stacks of paperwork, and little time for friends?

Like you!  I make time for friends though, it’s crucial to my personal health.

Q: Are you making money doing this, I noticed you advertise. Which is fine, just wondering! And if you become rich from this, can you promise not to change? : )

I do get money from the sponsors but not anything I’m going to be getting rich with any time soon!  But I won’t change, the DNA of TLB is pretty set, I like what it is and want to keep it going.  I have a pretty big vision for TLB, one step at a time but at the heart, it’s going to stay what it is.

Q: I don’t have a question, but many of the above questions have been running through my mind since reading your posts! I’m excited to hear your answers. There’s much to admire about you … especially that you’re raising such an obviously loving family but are also able to keep your art alive. I guess I do have a question: how do you find the time for your art pieces?

It’s slowed down some during the pregnancy though I picked up my brushes the other day to work on a family piece I’ve been conceptualizing.  I find time by letting other things go.  Involving my children helps too, they love to get set up with paints, brushes, paper or canvas, etc.  They do their work while I do mine.  It’s more clean up later but clean up I enjoy because the time spent creating together feeds my soul.

Q: I know you were a coffee drinker while bf are you while pregnant?

More like a coffee puker while pregnant.  😉

Q: You inspire many women, what inspires you?

All of the Leakies!  And my children.  And beautiful art.  And seeing things that I feel need to change.

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Breastfeeding? Check. Now What?

by Nancy Massotto, Ph.D

Parenthood is often the threshold we cross that brings us into a greater awareness of healthy and sustainability. As an expectant or new mom, we start to investigate the benefits and risks of all of our parenting decisions and consider how our choices impact our children and the future. When you’re new to breastfeeding, your focus is on the mechanics of milk production and latch. You have questions about how to solve problems like thrush or what pump to buy. Once you have settled into a pattern, we tend to settle into a routine. But then what? How do you continue to advocate for breastfeeding after your children are weaned?

When you bring home a newborn it seems like you’ll never have a child in junior high, but that day comes sooner than you realize, and slowly, over the years, our focus as moms changes from diapers and starting solid foods and breastfeeding to PTA meetings and whether our kids really need a cell phone. But, to really change how our babies are fed, we can’t leave the important issues, like breastfeeding, behind.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do more than just say we’re advocates and actually be activists lately. Not everyone is willing or able to march in Washington, DC but the simple actions that we take are, indeed, activist and contribute to change – or not. Apathy and a lack of participation is one of our culture’s greatest dangers. At HMN, we fight hard against both of these challenges.

For example, our Holistic Moms Conference had to change locations due to a labor dispute that was affecting low-wage working moms, and the struggle to promote the new location, explain why it’s so important to meet face-to-face with other moms and answer questions has been taking up all my time.

Supporting our event is critical for the future of our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and yet getting people committed to making change is an uphill battle. Many people are too busy to stand up and make a difference, even in something small like supporting a cause or event. It made me realize that it’s easy to lose sight of what activism really is, and how important it is to keep breastfeeding, holistic living, and other important issues front and center with our kids.

Whether you have a nursling or a grandchild, we all need to “do” something to promote breastfeeding as the normal way to feed human babies and not just claim to be breastfeeding supporters. How do you do that? For many of us, we support nursing moms when we run into one at the mall or when a friend gets pregnant and we have the opportunity to offer support and encourage her. But, we don’t feed that passion for breastfeeding on an every day basis.

I’ve spent years researching and promoting real-life interaction and community-building for mothers. Numerous studies show that online communities are fantastic but they are not the same as looking someone in the eye and feeling their empathy when you are having a rough day. We all need to feel accepted, empowered and loved in a way that only a face-to-face encounter can provide.

The bottom line is that we need mom-to-mom interactions and community in our real life. That’s why I founded Holistic Moms Network. Whether you’re a holistic mom or a mainstream mom or a mom who wants to hang with other moms who are young, enjoy opera music, or are otherwise unique, the important thing is that you need to do it. You need to feed yourself, your passions, and the motherhood movement by being a participant, not by being a bystander or sidelines cheerleader.

Sure, for many of us it sounds like another thing to put on the calendar or another thing to take time away from family or sleep. But, connecting with others revitalizes you, makes you feel better about yourself as a woman and a mom, and gives resources you didn’t have before.

In the case of La Leche League or Holistic Moms or another natural parenting group, you also show your kids that you are passionate about breastfeeding, that you help other moms breastfeed long after you stop breastfeeding your own children, and that you care deeply about how babies are fed and raised. You empower your daughters to find a tribe when they are new mothers and not give up on their goals. You show your sons how to support their breastfeeding partners and they grow up knowing it’s important. And, along the way, you form deep friendships that can grow with you as your children grow.

Of course, I’m partial to our upcoming Natural Living Conference and believe it is an amazing way to show support, fill your cup, and feel connected. It is a fabulous opportunity to meet eco-celebrities and companies that you may talk to on Twitter but never get to interact with in person. Imagine how life changing it can be to spend a whole day surrounded by people who understand your passions and support your views? It doesn’t matter how green/holistic you are – HMN is about the journey to more natural lifestyle, the challenges we each face, and supporting one another along the way. The whole point of our organization is not to judge other parents but to empower all of us as a community to research and make educated choices. Being a participant is a gift to you, to others, and to the entire community.

Show your children that you care enough about something to show up, to be there, and to be open to learning, growing, and connecting!

For a chance to go to the Natural Living Conference for free, check out this giveaway.

 Holistic Parenting Expert and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network,  Dr. Nancy Massotto, Ph.D is a dedicated advocate for holistic medicine and green  living. She is the mother of two boys, both born at home. Before embarking on her  journey into motherhood, Dr. Massotto earned her Ph.D. in political science from  the University of Maryland, specializing in gender studies, women’s issues, and  international affairs. She also holds Master’s degrees from George Washington  University, Elliot School of International Affairs, and the University of Maryland.  Dr. Massotto has lectured at several universities on gender studies, international relations, and women’s issues, including at American University and George Washington University. She conducted research on women’s issues while working for non-profit research institutes and organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, including the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI), authoring and co-authoring publications during her tenure.
Motherhood renewed her interest in community building and strengthened her commitment to natural living, from which the Holistic Moms Network was born.
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