Lactation Snack Station Biscuits

by Carrie Saum

Shortcake

When I pumped exclusively for eternity 21 months, I felt hungry pretty much all the time.  Rarely would a two hour window window pass without food needing to make it’s way into my mouth.   I often forgot to grab a snack before I sat down to pump because pumping and babies/toddlers just don’t mix.  Add the lactation fog that overtakes the mommy brain, and you have a recipe for a one hangry lactating lady.

I tried to get in the routine of filling my water and grabbing a snack. But I was forgetful and typically remembered exactly 30 seconds after hooking myself up to a pump for the next lifetime 20 minutes.  After only 8 months, I realized I could do something about this particular problem.  All I had to do was think ahead for a few days at a time and put some snacks at my pump spot and in my pump bag.

But that also meant I had to actually prepare a snack.  Because as much as I love trailmix and coffee, I needed a little more sustenance.  And to be honest, I needed something to look forward to because pumping exclusively is EFFING HARD.  That’s another post, though.

I tried a few different options to get a decent ratio of carbs:protein.  I also needed every single milk booster I could get because my body wanted to quit making milk right around month eight, but my son’s unique health required me to keep going.

I started tinkering with foods that would fit the bill, and could also be stored at my Lactation Station. (Yep, I named the place where I stored my extra water, snacks, nipple cream, coconut oil, homeopathic stress relief remedy, and positive thoughts.) The snack also had to be allergen-friendly because TED was my constant companion for over a year.  It wasn’t ideal. It was pretty awful actually.  But it helped my baby begin his long healing process to severe food allergies, and I discovered I’m gluten-intolerant in the process. (Damnit.)

One of my favorite foods to munch while pumping were these tasty biscuits.  One was totally satisfying and helped me lose the pumping hanger I fell prey to all too often. They were easy to transport, share, and eat on the go.  Plus, they tasted phenomenal with some strawberries and whipped cream.  I’M JUST SAYING.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 eggs*
  • 3/4 cup butter, cold and cubed, or melted coconut or avocado oil
  • 1 scant cup tapioca or cassava flour (wheat flour can be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey, or other sweetener
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (omit if using egg replacer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

*If you want to make this egg-free, go for it!  This can also boost your milk supply. To replace two eggs, I used 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, 3 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Directions:

  1. Combine the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter to the flour mixture and cut into flour until the butter is in tiny pieces. Or go easy on yourself and whisk in oil.
  3. In a small bowl, combine eggs (or egg replacement), vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and honey.  Whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until barely combined.
  5. Spoon mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and smush with your hand, or bake in lined muffin tins.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and dust with a *tiny* bit of raw cane sugar. (optional)
  8. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before eating, and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

ShortcakeBiscuits

Pile with strawberries and whipped topping of your choice for an extra special treat.  Dip them in chocolate or your hopes and dreams.  Or you can just eat them and keep the lactation hangries at bay. Your choice.  Either way, you lactating mamas are my heroes.  Keep on pumping!

Happy Milk Making,
Carrie

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

_________________________

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

_________________________

CarrieHeadshot

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

by Carrie Saum

Sexy Oatmeal

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

_______________________

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

by Jennie Bernstein

Breastfeeding humor

 

 

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TLB Comics- Six Reasons Moms Continue Breastfeeding For Themselves

by Jennie Bernstein and Jessica Martin-Weber

Breastfeeding toddlers for mom's benefit reality check

 

It probably seems obvious to anyone that has breastfed a toddler that doing so is clearly all about the mom’s desires.* What a mom gets out of breastfeeding her toddler is nothing more than a relaxing, pleasurable experience that makes her feel just like she did when she was breastfeeding her child as a newborn. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same. Breastfeeding beyond 6 weeks/6 months/12 months/18 months/6 years really is all about keeping their “baby” truly an actual baby.*

Still, some people just don’t understand. This list of 5 reasons moms continue to breastfeed their babies after the arbitrary acceptable cut-off date enforced by random strangers or other individuals such as family members and friends who aren’t actually whipping their boob out for their 3 year old “infant” to suckle may shed some clarity on the matter.

  1. To hold on to those baby months years. By continuing to breastfeed, her child won’t grow up and will stay an infant forever. This one is obvious. She just loves changing diapers, waking multiple times a night, and screams for communication that she is using her magic milk coming from her magic boobs to keep her child an infant. It’s just so fulfilling. After all, with no baby to baby, what would she do anyway?
  2. She is preparing to enter American Gladiator. Or Wipe Out. Breastfeeding her toddler/preschooler is the perfect training. With all this preparation, there is no doubt she’ll be winning that cash prize.
  3. She’s lazy. Can’t be bothered to teach that kid to eat real food or clean up after the inevitable mess it will make eating real food. So naturally she’d rather wrestle an octopus with her boob. Oh, and the octopus still wants food to throw.
  4. Lack of discipline. Too much of a softy to tell her kid no, she pulls out her boob for the little tyrant any time it is demanded. There’s probably nothing she says no to, like candy, knives, or running in the street…
  5. Looking for attention. Because everyone knows how fun it is to have everyone you know commenting on how they think you suck at parenting and finding just one more way for others to disagree with your parenting choices is just the most. fun. ever!
  6. Her pleasure. That’s right, this is really what it’s all about- her own personal pleasure. Round house kicks to the head, nipple twists during gymnurstics, niplash, you name it, they’re all for her pleasure. She’s just using her child for her own selfish desires and satisfaction which is why she agrees to breastfeed a truck from time to time and has perfected controlling her reactions to getting a finger jabbed into her eye.

 

_________________

What would you add to your list as to reasons why moms may continue to breastfeed their toddler or preschooler?

_________________

*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.
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5 Breastfeeding Changes That Happen After Baby’s 1st Birthday

by Jessica Martin-Weber and artist Jennie Bernstein

breastfeeding a 1 year old

 

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

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

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

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

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

*This piece uses sarcasm and satire in an attempt to make a humorous point. It is possible it fails entirely and the reader may assume the author is serious. This note is to clarify that the author is, in fact, seriously not serious and just a bit of a smart a**.
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When your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Today my 4 year old Smunchie who hasn’t breastfed in quite some time, asked for bobbies.  She hadn’t been feeling well all day and though it had been a while since she had breastfed, it was obvious that she found even the idea comforting.  Her eyes wide and a seriousness about her, she implored for some mama milk.  I offered to try to express some into a cup for her and the tiny bit of hope in her face dropped as she said ok but she really wanted to try to get the milk herself.  Without missing a beat, her two year old little sister rushed over, hands out, and screamed “my bobbies!”

Yes, my children were fighting over my boobs.

I gently reminded 2 year old Sugarbaby that they were my bobbies but that I share them and decided to invite both girls to cuddle up to nurse.

IMG_8849

I expect this post will make some people uncomfortable but we need to talk about it anyway.

Sometimes, older, weaned children will ask to breastfeed.  Whether it be a new baby added to the family or just what seems a random interest, it’s not unusual for a child to see breastfeeding and want to give it a try.  They may be quite insistent or perhaps shy and act embarrassed.  It may come when you’re sitting there feeding their younger sibling or when they get a moment alone with you.  There is a possibility that they are more than a little curious and will want to re-establish a breastfeeding relationship.

Before you freak out (probably too late), keep in mind that children don’t have a developed sense of sexuality or even what makes something sexual.  Unless the child is more like a teenager, the interest in breastfeeding has more to do with curiosity than sexual confusion.  Even though adults in much of westernized society place a heavy emphasis on the sexual function of the female breasts over the nutritional and nurturing functions, children just don’t see it that way so you can take a deep breath and know that there is nothing wrong with your child, they’re just a normal child with normal curiosity.  Breasts are another body part made intriguing by the fact that children have yet to develop breasts themselves and if a child encounters breastfeeding and had it explained to them without shame, they are going to understand breasts as a food source rather than identifying breasts for sexual pleasure.  Please note: gender identity, the differences between the sexes, perceived gender roles, attachment, emotional bonds, body autonomy, and understanding appropriate touching is developing from infancy.

And no, feeding children well past infancy into early childhood is not messing them up.  You don’t have to worry about psychological damage from breastfeeding past one or two years old.  That myth has totally been debunked both through scientific research and anecdotally by many older children and adults that remember breastfeeding at such an age.  Read one such account from an outspoken 12 year old who breastfed until she was 4.

If their sexual awareness has yet to develop, they don’t yet buy into society’s emphasis on female breasts primarily as sex objects, and it’s not messing kids up to breastfeed well beyond the 1st year of life, how should we respond?

With patience.  With love.  With acceptance.  With gentleness.  Without shame.  Without fear.  Without judgment.

As is often the case, the manner with which we respond to our children is more important than what we actually do.  If your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed, saying yes or no is less important than how you say it.  Before you respond, ask yourself what your reaction could be communicating to your child.  Is it loving?  Does it communicate acceptance? Or is it expressing shock and disgust?  Could they confuse your response as a rejection of them?  That they did something wrong?  That breastfeeding is shameful?

What should you do if your older, weaned child asks to breastfeed?  I have no idea.  Whatever is right for you.  I would just encourage you not to rush your decision, take a moment and reflect on why or why not you may be comfortable with that.  With older children, a conversation is usually possible and a reasonable place to start.  Involving them in a conversation as part of your decision making could be a bonding experience for you both.

Your decision is completely up to you and your personal boundaries.  If you’re not comfortable letting your older, weaned child breastfeed then don’t.  If you think you may be ok with it, then let them.  Your boundaries and modeling bodily autonomy is important too and an older child is capable of understanding such boundaries.  If you decide you’re comfortable with it and even want to encourage them to relearn how to properly latch (yes, that is an option) and that works for both of you, that can be significant journey as well.  Whatever you decide, just do so gently and you’ll both be fine.

My two eldest children never expressed an interest in breastfeeding once they weaned, not even when siblings were born.  Curiosity and copying with their own babies (dolls), absolutely, but they were never interested in trying to breastfeed for themselves.  Since then though I’ve had each of my 4 younger ones ask to try.  It weirded me out at first and I refused but that particular child began to ask repeatedly every time I sat to feed her younger sister and eventually I decided I didn’t actually have a good reason not to.  Having such a large child at my breast (she was 4) seemed strange to me but it only took one try and then a polite thank you with a hug to make me realize that was about my issues and what I considered normal than it was about somehow being wrong.  She did enjoy having my milk in a cup for months afterward though and that was something that meant a lot to her.  The most common reaction my children have is to have no idea what to do at the breast, attempt a couple of sucks, giggle, pull away, and inform me they aren’t babies any more and “bobbies are for babies.”  Sometimes they do get milk and don’t like the taste.  Even if they are interested in trying again, once their curiosity was satisfied they were happy to move on and leave breastfeeding to babies.

But that’s not what has happened with my current 4 year old.  She returns every so often to the breast, has even figured out that if she can get her little sister to start on one breast and then switch after let down, it’s easier for her and she’ll get more milk.  It doesn’t happen often, increasingly less and less, but she does still ask from time to time.  This time, after latching and not getting any milk, she decided she was good with just a cuddle.

“I like your milk, mommy, but I like your cuddles best.”

For us, it was worth letting her try.

breastfeeding the weaned child

 

___________________________

What do you think you would do if your previously weaned child asked to breastfeed again?

___________________________

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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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Breastfeeding, sexism, and public opinion polls

Oh look, another poll from a media outlet for their audience to weigh in about women breastfeeding in public or past a certain age!  Isn’t this fun?  Scary boobs, scary breastmilk, scary baby, vote now!  Breastfeeding, sexism and breastfeeding, is that even an issue?  Does everybody really get to weigh in on a woman feeding her baby?  Is it helping anyone?  Or is it just a form of sexist entertainment?

Taking a deeper look at how these types of polls are hurting mothers and why I’m over these polls and won’t be sharing them anymore:

What do you think, are polls like these helping or hurting?  Should we be voting on how women feed their children or do we have better things to do?

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Six myths about breastfeeding toddlers and preschoolers

Breastfeeding beyond the first year has been something of a hot topic over on The Leaky Boob page this week.  It started when I shared this image from Health Canada.

Healthy Canada extending breastfeeding image, breastfeeding is not just for newborns

The conversation quickly went from “YAY!” and “awww!” to “gross,” and “that’s sexual abuse of a child.”  You can check it out yourself here but it may not be too good for your blood pressure and that’s with having deleted the worst of the comments.  The next day I shared another related post presenting the perspective of a rather well-balanced 12 year old that remembers weaning at 4 years old.  That thread on Facebook got pretty ugly too.

As I read through the comments I was a bit puzzled as to what the outcry was about.  Putting the pieces together I began to see that it came down to what is really just some misunderstandings.  Myths about breastfeeding beyond the first year and the women that are willing to do so fueled these passionate (AKA really, really angry) responses to these posts.  Then the mothers that are fine breastfeeding beyond the first year were hurt, feeling judged based on myths that they did not find to be true of themselves.  Some got defensive.  And then more misunderstandings happened.  It was a vicious cycle.

To help clear up the misunderstanding, let’s take a look at some of the (surprisingly) common myths held about natural duration breastfeeding.

Myth #1: Moms that breastfeed beyond the first year and definitely into the 3rd year or beyond are trying to keep their children as babies and can’t let go and let them grow up.  If you don’t stop when they are young, they’ll never stop.

I’ve never met a parent that didn’t experience their child growing up and leaving various stages as bittersweet.  We go into parenting knowing that’s the deal, and let’s be honest here, we’re all looking forward to being done with diapers when the time comes even though we’ll be sad when they don’t quite fit to cuddle on our laps any more.  The moms I’ve talked to and from my personal experience, breastfeeding beyond 12 months isn’t about holding on to our child’s infancy, but there is a lot about embracing where they are in the moment.  If they still want to breastfeed, fine, no arbitrary date on a calendar they can’t read dictates their needs or our response.  As of yet there is no record of an adult needing their mother with them because they never weaned, really don’t think we need to worry about that.

Besides, breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler really is nothing like breastfeeding an infant.  Gymnurstics, squirmy excitement, multitasking, etc., one can’t be breastfeeding a toddler and think “aw, it’s just like cuddling them that first day!”  Even when they are falling asleep at the breast and miraculously still (and mom likely is falling asleep finally too) there’s nothing to confuse between those newborn tiny baby days where they fit into the crook of your arm at 7 pounds and the big ol’ toddler days with 30 pounds of limbs covering your lap.  I am never more aware of just how fast my daughter is growing up than in those moments and breastfeeding isn’t helping me hold on, it’s helping her hold on as she gradually transitions from baby to toddler to preschooler to school aged child.

Myth #2: Breastfeeding beyond the first year is for the mom’s benefit, not for the child.

This could only be said by someone that hasn’t breastfed beyond the first 12 months.  I can’t quite grasp this, I can’t get my child to give me a kiss, put on her shoes, or eat her food if she doesn’t want to, how in the world am I going to force her to breastfeed?  And why would I?  I mean, seriously, there are teeth in that mouth, for me to be willing to allow that mouth on my breast there has to be some very rearust established and I’m not going to risk getting bit just “for my benefit.”  And breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler isn’t all rainbow farting unicorns either, it can be very challenging and while I’m no martyr I’m also honest and realistic enough to admit that not only are there some special sweet moments breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months but there are also some crazy hard moments that I can’t stand.  Breastfeeding beyond the first 12 months isn’t for the mom’s benefit, it is for the mom and child’s benefit together.

Myth #3: Natural duration breastfeeding means a child won’t learn how to eat solids or use a cup.  Breastfeeding should stop when the child gets teeth.

Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  Where did that idea come from?  Seriously, I can’t even begin to understand how someone made that rather large leap.  Some babies are born with teeth, some cut them as early as a 2-4 months.  Having teeth does not negate the nutritional and developmental requirements a child has.  Not all babies warm up to solids right away but generally toddlers grasp the concept of eating solids and drinking from a cup quite well.  One word for you: cheerios.  All my girls that breastfed beyond the first year were well into solids and drinking out of a cup by the time their first birthday rolled around.  Cake smashing was an event they enjoyed.  Avocado was a favorite first food as well as banana, sweet potatoes, and chicken, and more, all by the first year.  I have had my toddler finish at the breast and immediately sign “eat” or “drink.”  She’s not confused, she just wants to have her boob, her cup, her cake, and to eat it too.

So let me set the record straight: breastfeeding for long beyond the first 12 months will not inhibit a child’s developmental ability to eat and drink other foods.

Myth #4: Mothers that breastfeed beyond a year are trying to force all other mothers to breastfeed beyond a year even if other mothers are uncomfortable doing so.  Also, they judge any mother that doesn’t breastfeed beyond a year.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got my hands full trying to get my own kids to do things, I have absolutely no desire to try and get anyone else to do anything else.  Sharing information and promoting conversation is great, I’m all for it, but I don’t have the energy to force anyone to do anything.  Breastfeed, don’t breastfeed.  You don’t need my approval and I’m not looking to give it.  You can breastfeed for 3 minutes, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years, I will support you.  You may not breastfeed at all and whatever your reason, I can still support you as a person and fellow mother.  My choices are not a reaction nor a judgment on yours.  The information I share is not intended to guilt or to shame, simply share.  Conversation is great but if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, there are lots of other people that do.

So now that we got that cleared up, let’s be friends.  You take care of your kids, I’ll take care of mine.  If we can learn from each other and encourage each other along the way, that would be awesome.  If not… I bet there’s a place where you can find that and it will work for you and some place else for me.

Myth #5: Breasts are for sex so breastfeeding past 12 months is sexual abuse.  Breasts are genitals and having a child suck on them is pedophilia.

Just… no.  This myth is one giant ball of NO.  Stop and think about it for just a minute.  There is nothing, I repeat NOTHING that would constitute as sexual abuse at 18 months that was acceptable to do to a child at 6 weeks.  People, please.  No.  Breastfeeding doesn’t suddenly turn into a sex act simply because of a birthday (or two or three).  Breasts have a powerful sexual attraction to them, biologically men are drawn to find female breasts attractive in looking for a mate.  Which makes sense because if they mate, well, breasts will be needed to feed the end result of that mating.  Babies need boobies.  Men are attracted to a mate that can feed babies.  It’s all kind of linked.  That doesn’t mean a child suckling at the breast is performing some kind of sexual act.  GIANT BALL OF NO.  Children are not sexually mature and hopefully a 3 year old hasn’t been exposed to the lies from society telling them that a woman’s body is first and foremost for the pleasure of others and selling things and all they know is that their mother is safe and warm and her milk is for them.  Children do not understand the concept of sex, that would be projecting adult ideas onto them.  In other words: if you see breastfeeding as a sexual act you have your own issues to deal with and you should leave the child out of it.

Myth #6: Breastfeeding after 12 months will cause a child mental health issues.

Thankfully, while there is a rise in mental health issues amongst today’s teens, breastfeeding does not appear to be related.  At. All.  Is “extended breastfeeding messing up our kids?”  The answer is a resounding no.

I’m willing to bet that if these naysayers against natural duration breastfeeding actually met most mothers who practiced natural duration breastfeeding out with her child, unless her child was actually breastfeeding when the encountered them, they would think she was a normal, healthy mother lovingly caring for her children.

And they would be right.

Because she is a normal, healthy mother lovingly caring for her children.

Maybe breastfeeding beyond a year isn’t for you, maybe you’re uncomfortable seeing it.  Maybe it’s no big deal to you and you have enjoyed that connection with your own child.  Let’s let the myths go, they cloud the issue and distract from open dialogue, breaking down what could otherwise be a supportive, encouraging exchange of ideas in conversation.

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What other myths have you heard related to breastfeeding past the first 12 months?  What has been your experience breastfeeding beyond a year?

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Is breastfeeding past infancy messing up kids?

“I don’t really remember breastfeeding exactly but I remember weaning.”  The bubbly, outgoing 12 year old friend of my own bubbly, outgoing 12 year old daughter, reminded me of a friendly, excited butterfly, flitting about from topic to topic as she danced around our living room while chatting.  Not exactly sure how we got to breastfeeding but it didn’t phase her in the slightest talking about it.

None of my own children remember breastfeeding.  They know they did breastfeed and they’ve seen photographic evidence of this fact but they don’t have any recollection of it.  I asked our friend how old she was when she weaned.

“Four I think, maybe a little older.  My sister was 5 though, she was lucky.”  She began to dance on to another topic.  I brought her back to breastfeeding and asked her what she did remember about breastfeeding and weaning, wanting to know more about her views not only as a 12 year old but the daughter of two physicians.

“I was sad to wean, so sad.  We had a party and I remember it was fun but I liked nursing better than the weaning party.”  Pursed lips and raised eyebrows punctuated this statement.

“Why were you sad about weaning?” I was curious about how she perceived breastfeeding as a 4 year old and how that translated now that she was 12.  Her reaction was priceless: she looked at me like I was stupid and scoffed at me.

“I couldn’t have nurnies any more, of course I was sad.  Nurnies were the best thing ever and now I had to give them up.  I was little, I didn’t like that.  I loved nurnies, of course I was sad to give them up.”

She paused to execute a pirouette.  I took the opportunity to ask what she liked about “nurnies.”

“Well, I don’t know, they were soft and warm.  It just felt good and I think I liked the milk, it was sweet.  But I don’t remember breastfeeding, just how I felt.  Nurnies felt good.  Nurnies felt safe.  Nurnies just felt right.  I don’t really know but I know that I liked nurnies a lot.  And you know what?  I think breastfeeding is more than just good for little kids, it helps them grow up too.  They don’t have to stop when they’re babies, little kids need time to grow up, like…”  She was searching for something as she tried to explain what she meant.

“Like a transition?” I offered.

“Yeah, a transition.  But a slow one over a long time.  It’s not like birds where the mom just kicks them out of the nest.  Having nurnies helps transition, it’s just so nice and I don’t see why it would need to be hurried up, it was good getting to breastfeed for a long time.  I’d have gone longer but I think my mom was ready to be done plus there was my little sister.  She was lucky, she got to go until she was five.”

“You were lucky too, not many children in the USA get what you got.  Even my own children were all weaned by the time they were 3 so far” I tell her.

Her eyes widened: “Really?  Wow, I thought they all breastfed a lot longer.  They act like they did.”

My turn to be surprised.

She explained: “I don’t know, breastfeed kids seem to eat really well, they are what I call high palette kids with more developed tastes I think.  And they are usually so nice and interesting.”

I think of my kids and most of them do seem to have very mature taste but I point out that could just be exposure.  Still, she’s pretty on target here, there is some science that would appear to back her observation.  Unfortunately that science hasn’t always been the case in our house.  I mention that there are many nice people that were formula fed too.  She agreed.

“Are you ever embarrassed that you breastfed so long?  As you’ve gotten older and have seen more of how society acts about breasts, has it ever made you uncomfortable about how long you breastfed?”

Again I receive another looked like I’m a complete idiot.

“What?  Why?  No, that’s just dumb.  I know, I see it in the mall and online, people love boobs being all sexy but come on, we all know what they are really for even if they are being pushed up and air brushed.  Those sexy ladies with their boobs all hanging out, who cares, babies probably see them and get hungry.  They see a sexy model with her boobs out and I bet they are all ‘nurnie, I want nurnie!”

The room erupts with laughter.  I bow out of the conversation, my own 12 year old had been giving me the “stop talking to my friend” look for a little bit and it was time for me to give them their space again.  They go on to joke, strutting like awkward fashion models with their chests thrust out as they make severe faces and I’m reminded of Zoolander.  Fits of giggles as they talk in baby voices about wanting nurnies from imaginary breasts in an imaginary mall or magazine.  Then the butterfly girls flit on to another flower of a topic, deciding they need to take over the kitchen and bake something.

Toddlers are expert multitaskers at the breast.

Toddlers are expert multitaskers at the breast.

A year ago a very good friend of mine shared how she had taken her 4 kids to take a meal to another friend that had a new baby.  Her 13 year old son with her, she wondered if he felt awkward when the new mother began breastfeeding but was proud of him for acting like it was no big deal.  When she asked him about it later he shrugged in a typical 13 year old boy way and said no.  He remembers breastfeeding, he told her, it’s not a big deal.  Like our 12 year old friend, this 13 year old boy understands that feeding babies is what breasts are for.

Yet whenever breastfeeding beyond 12 months comes up in the news or in social media, people express an overwhelming concern for the mental development of these children.  It’s damaging, many commenters claim, that poor child is going to be so confused.  Once they have teeth you must stop!  Once they can talk and ask for it you have to cut them off!  Once they can eat solids, give that child a cup!  Mothers that breastfeed too long are sick, selfish, gross, perverted, and unable to let their child grow up these people usually assert.  Because they aren’t used to seeing what is actually biologically and anthropologically normal duration breastfeeding, they categorize this different choice they don’t understand as being wrong and rationalize that if it’s “wrong” it’s going to mess up the child.

In 2010 a study was released discussing the long term mental health benefits of breastfed children.  That’s right, the long term mental health benefits from extended breastfeeding.  Not mental health disadvantages, not long term sexual issues from extended breastfeeding, not long term dysfunctions from extended breastfeeding, long term mental health benefits of extended breastfeeding.  Which sure sounds like extended breastfeeding is good for the child’s mental health, not damaging.

It’s true that in society today we are conditioned to expect to see breasts in a beer commercial, on display in the windows of the mall, even bouncing around fast food chain ads before we expect to see them feeding an infant, let alone a toddler or preschooler.  Breasts have been hypersexualized to such an extent that many can’t imagine them any other way.  So I can see why people would be concerned.  But children are different, they don’t have the capacity to even understand sex and so wouldn’t think that breastfeeding was anything more than food and comfort.  Adults that say that breastfeeding is sexual are simply revealing their own hang ups and projecting on the child.  And maybe it shouldn’t be the biologically normal thing that needs to change, maybe we should focus on changing culture and take a stand against the objectification and over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female breasts so we can feed our children without fear of it being confused with pedophilia.  What would happen if we left women alone and let them make their own choices by weighing the information?  Stop telling women that the value of their bodies lies in what it can sell, stop telling women what they must or must not do with their bodies, stop telling women that they don’t have say in how they use their bodies.  If a woman wants to breastfeed until her child is 4 years old it is nobody’s business but that of the mother and that child and the evidence is in that there is no reason to believe it will cause mental health issues.

Today breastfeeding into early childhood may not be for everyone, there may be a lot of legitimate reasons not to for any given mother.  But there being a long term risks to their mental health to breastfeed into early childhood isn’t one of them.  My 12 year old was weaned from the breast earlier than any of my children.  When she was 4.5 months I gave up on my breastfeeding goals due to her severe reflux (which didn’t get better with formula, it got much, much worse) and agonizing breast pain that no doctor could identify and the only solution I was given was to wean.  After two trips to the ER because of the pain, I relented and switched her to formula.  Something that grieved me very much at the time.  Watching her hang out with her friend I acknowledged that you couldn’t tell which one was breastfed until she was 4 years and which one was breastfed until she was 4 months.  Both are happy, energetic, smart, well adjusted girls and both have loving, committed parents and neither demonstrate any mental health issues.  So my own personal experience and the research would lead me to believe that no, breastfeeding past infancy isn’t messing up our kids and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s because all that love, all that connection can’t be a bad thing and I’m glad my daughter has a friend so secure and so confident that understands the natural biological function of breasts as feeding tools for babies that they can laugh together at the messages the world sends them about the female form.  If we want to look for what’s messing up kids and their view of sex and women, let’s start somewhere else.

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What about you?  Did you breastfeed long enough to remember?  Or your children?  What are your thoughts on breastfeeding beyond a year?

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Not sure about breastfeeding beyond a certain point?  That’s ok, it may not be for you.  Some women feel comfortable doing so and before you criticize them be informed as to why that might be.  These links may be helpful:

 Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding systematic reviews and meta-analyses

 

Breast milk feeding and cognitive ability at 7-8 years

 

Breastfeeding past infancy fact sheet

 

Breastfeeding beyond infancy in developed countries

 

Continuing breastfeeding beyond the first year

 

The breastfeeding toddler explains

 

I’m not going to try to convince you to breastfeed your toddler

 

Toddler breastfeeding, frustration, and what keeps me going

 

Embracing Beyond

 

Unsupportive support: breastfeeding toddlers and introducing solids

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