*My Body* On Demand

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Content Note

This piece focuses on sexual assault and includes discussion and detailed description of birth including birth trauma, anxiety, and mention of sexual assault.

The sweet smell of a new baby was more intoxicating than I had imagined. My heart swelled every time I held her, I thought I had known love, this was even more. Joy, relief, peace, total contentment.

It had been a difficult pregnancy and an even more difficult birth. So often, most of the time, I felt completely out of control as though I had no say over my body or what happened to me. Spending hours and hours reading text books, reading personal accounts, absorbing all the literature I could on pregnancy and birth, I had taken advantage of every resources I could to be prepared. Long ago I had found that learning as much as I could about an experience I was facing helped me feel less out of control and more calm. It helped me to think rationally, ask informed questions, and make decisions that didn’t seem desperate. So I managed better than I expected with the sense of lack of control and autonomy. Reading and listening to the stories of others that had traversed the path of parenthood through pregnancy and birth before me, I understood that modesty might fly out the window, that decisions may need to be made quickly, that plans may need to be altered for life saving measures.

As a sexual assault survivor who was still processing and recovering, I saw a therapist regularly, journaled, and read materials on sexual assault survivors giving birth. It was important to me that my birth partner- my husband and my birth team be aware that I was a survivor and that consent was particularly important to me for any touching. We were all prepared.

But in the end it wasn’t the pregnancy and birth that brought anxiety flooding back for me as I became a mother for the first time. It wasn’t the incessant vomiting, multiple hospitalizations for hydration, the numerous failed IV placement attempts, the premature rupture of membranes at 32 weeks and the rushed amniocentesis without anything to numb the insertion of the largest needle ever to enter my body, the diagnosis of asymmetrical IUGR, the weeks of steroids, or the diagnosis of pre-e that made me feel that I had no say over what happened to my body. Even when we had to fight in the hospital for certain accommodations to help me relax in labor I didn’t feel out of control. And when an episiotomy was performed without my consent I was angry but at the time accepted it was necessary (it wasn’t but I made peace with it). Not even when my doctor shoved her arm up inside me to her elbow to manually scrape out my uterus and perform an extraction of my partially retained placenta when I was hemorrhaging, not even then did I feel that my autonomy was threatened.

It wasn’t until a few days later, at home, as my milk flooded my breasts making them hot and swollen and my baby suddenly was desperately and constantly in demand of my breasts that I experienced my first panic attack.

Feed on demand.

sexual assault survivor breastfeeding

I wanted to run away. I wanted to say no. I felt trapped and stuck and completely at the mercy of another human being.

Every time she rooted or fussed, her little mouth searching, I felt it wash over me.

Feed on demand.

Those 3 words were the sentence that thrust me back to when someone else had the control, the say, and all the power over my body. Their hands, their mouth, their fingers, their body probing mine and demanding what they wanted from me. I had no say, I was overpowered. And later, in another context, there was a charade of my own power but if I truly loved them, truly trusted them, I would give my body over to their demands, because that was what love did, even if it hurt. Love meant obligation.

Feed on demand.

But this was my baby. The greatest love I had ever known. And this wasn’t sexual, this was nurturing and caring, this was mothering.

What was wrong with me? Why did I feel like this?

Feed on demand.

This other person outside of myself had all the say over my body. She had the right to demand my body and I had to give it to her or I was failing in loving her fully and in giving her what she deserved. Her right to my milk was so much more important than my right to my body, what kind of mother would I be to deny her demands?

Feed on demand.

I loved her. I was obligated to her. I would do anything for her.

So I would expose my breast to her demanding mouth. I would draw her close through her demanding cries. I would try to control my reaction as her suck demanded my milk. I offered myself to her demands because she mattered more than me.

Feed on demand.

Utilizing breathing exercises I had practiced for labor and staring up at the ceiling as I ran through songs in my head trying to distract myself from the anxiety that clawed at my throat as she suckled at my breast. I got through weeks and weeks of feeds. Months. I was loving her, I told myself. Love required sacrifice, motherhood is full of sacrifices. I would meet her demands for my body because I loved her.

Feed on demand.

Mommy and Arden bfing hand kiss

Eventually it got easier for me. I didn’t stay stuck there and I even found feeding my baby to be a healing experience. As she grew our relationship developed and I could look into her eyes as I fed her, her contented sighs and complete trust helping my anxiety to subside. I’m sure oxytocin helped too. But personally, it was having the option to always say no by instead offering a bottle of breastmilk that helped me find the autonomy I had in saying yes too. It took time but slowly I was able to reframe what was happening.

I wasn’t losing control of my body to a demanding, controlling, abusive person in an imbalanced relationship that was causing me pain. No, my baby was dependent on me and powerless herself as an infant. I was choosing to respond to her and care for her needs.

I no longer saw it as feeding on demand but rather responsive feeding. Responding to her cues and cries for me, the safest person she knew. She was safe for me too.

Love is responsive.

Responsive feeding. Feeding with love.


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

What is it to nourish ourselves- Let Love Flo? And 2 giveaways and a discount code


Dear Leakies,

Around TLB we talk a lot about the oxygen mask principle, that you can’t help others if you haven’t taken care of yourself because you’re no good to anybody passed out.

But that’s often easier said than done. Our society has such high esteem for the boot strap mentality that self-care is interpreted as weakness when it is anything but.

Leakies, we need to be nourished though. Can we Let Love Flo for ourselves? Many of us are quite literally nourishing our children with our own bodies and coming from a place of being empty mentally, emotionally, and physically isn’t healthy for anyone, including our children.

So what can we do?

*This is an excerpt from our TLB email, to continue reading, click here.

Jessica Martin-Weber
Founder, TheLeakyBoob.com


Parenting Broken and Finding Joy


Dear Leakies,

Where are the perfect parents? I mean, where on earth are all those perfect parents?

Because they’re not here.

And I can tell you for certain, they’re not there either.

We’re not perfect parents. How could we be? We’re a mess. And those who say they aren’t either haven’t had kids yet, or haven’t had their second kid yet and still think they somehow mined pure parenting gold from the rich mines of their intellect and wisdom. I know because I was one of them. Turns out it was fool’s gold. I mean no disrespect for you first-timers. If it’s really easy for you, please enjoy it. But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that your experience should be everyone’s experience. Because it can’t be. And it won’t be for you if you decide to give your baby a sibling.

*This is an excerpt from our TLB email, to continue reading, click here.

Jeremy Martin-Weber
Writer, BeyondMoi.com



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.


  • 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


  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.

MiLK Conference Call for Speakers

breastfeeding and formula feeding conference

Call for speakers

MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference,



Calling for submissions from clinicians, scholars, students, artists, mothers, fathers, researchers, and others familiar with infant feeding from clinical and social perspectives. Submissions of a wide variety are welcome, including research presentations, theoretical papers, academic papers, creative submissions including personal essays, social commentary, literature, and performance art.

We are looking for presentations on topics related to infant feeding and maternal health including but not limited to: continuity of care and infant nutrition, the diagnoses and care of physiological barriers to breastfeeding, sociological barriers involved in infant feeding, anthropological perspectives of infant nutrition, analysis of marketing in the maternal baby industry, conscientious marketing, exploration of infant feeding and child nutrition controversies, policies in the workplace for family support and breastfeeding, politics of infant feeding and policy making, postpartum depression and mental health research related to infant feeding, infant feeding practices in subsequent children, sociological family support and infant and child nutrition, infant feeding education, infant nutrition in public health, feeding multiples, managing maternal health issues through breastfeeding, nonviolent communication strategies for supporting infant feeding, developing infant feeding support products, immediate postpartum infant feeding support, the impact of birth interventions on maternal breastfeeding goals, maternal and pediatric allergies and infant nutrition, premature infants and nutrition, feminism and infant feeding, natural duration breastfeeding, weaning, infant nutrition and sleep, partner support and education, breastfeeding after breast reduction, socioeconomic and racial disparities in infant feeding support, breastmilk pumping, inducing lactation and relactation, the role of infant nutrition in relation to dental care, and the future of infant nutrition support.

Submissions accepted through February 28, 1015 and close March 1, 2015.

Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference, is a MommyCon conference envisioned by The Leaky Boob with the support of Ergobaby. Designed to bridge professional conferences for clinicians, health care providers, academics, and researchers, with consumer conferences for parents, Milk aims to educate, inspire, and support parents in feeding their children, as well as the people that support them including nutrition, lactation, maternal, and pediatric health care providers.

To submit to speak at Milk 2015, please use this form.

I’ll never have children: A survivor of sexual abuse- thoughts on becoming a mother

Continuing the series for Sexual Assault Awareness Month today with another guest post, this time from blogger Mummy In Provence.  A multi-cultural story of journey from abuse, disbelief, rejection and fear to healing, self-advocacy, change and empowerment.

I still remember the day that I realised that what was happening every summer was wrong, very wrong. I was 10 years old and we were making recycled paper at school. Some kid was talking about something their teenage brother was doing with his girlfriend. I felt sick. I’d already done that.  I’d been made to do “that” since I was 7. Except I wasn’t playing doctors and nurses. What I was being made to do was something that was reserved for consenting adults. The keyword being consenting. Yes, I was sexually abused from the age of 7 by my uncle – there I said it. I don’t think that, even in therapy, I’ve ever actually written it. So there it is. Before I tell my story I will tell you that I refuse to be a victim. Yes, it happened. Over and over. I was betrayed by the ones I loved and confided it. I was branded a liar. I was told it was ok because he was only 7 years my senior. It was not. This abuse does not, and will not, define me. Not then, not now, not ever.

Confiding and receiving rejection

The worst part of the abuse came when I confided in my father as I didn’t know how to tell my mother as it was her half brother who was the abuser, I was 14. My mother told me I was lying, my father assumed my mother was dealing with it. I was thrown in to deep dark places. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t affect my relationship with them, it does. I was forced into situations where he was given the opportunity to abuse me again and again, one day when I was 16 I fought back. All hell broke loose. I was in Egypt and in the Arab world the man is king, women and girls were never regarded in the same way. I was told I was crazy and to apologise. Just having to see him every day for that 3 week holiday was pure torture, the way he’d look at me, try to touch me and his lewd suggestions. It was awful but no one was there for me. In the Arab world things like abuse are not spoken about. I carried on feeling like it was my fault, no one led me to believe otherwise. I was so wrong. No one ever deserves to have their innocence taken away.

On having children and forgiveness

The whole situation was so warped that I vowed never to have children. I didn’t want to bring them into this horrible world, this awful extended family. I was so terrified that the same thing could happen to one of my children and it sickened me.
The last time I saw my abuser was in my own home when I was 26. I’d been tricked by my own mother, the woman who was meant to protect me, who allowed him to come to stay for 2 weeks.  I promised myself then that this would be the last time I ever saw him and it was something that I would never forgive my mother for.

3 years later I was married and expecting my first baby. I was in a foreign country and apart from my husband I had no one else around. I was terrified, but reassured that my abuser would never know of my baby. I realised I had come a long way. From being adamant that I would remain childless I found myself in a loving and respectful relationship with a man I adored

On becoming a mother

11 months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is truly my proudest achievement. I’d be lying if a part of me feels guilty bringing her into this world where monsters live but that is no way to look at the world. Sometimes, when I am feeding her, and she looks at me with her big brown eyes filled with absolute trust, I cry. I cry because I am so scared she may have the same experiences I had but I know I would give my life to protect her from it.  I do feel that I am overprotective, I guess that is natural. Part of me wonders if I plan to breastfeed past 12 months because I want to ensure she is with me as much as possible. I don’t leave her with anyone I don’t know. I am lucky I can stay at home with her. How I wish I could put her in a bubble and keep her safe forever. But I can’t. As a survivor of sexual abuse, letting her grow up will be the hardest part.

From my experience being abused does not, and should not define you. You are not to blame. The guilt survivors are riddled with is worse than the abuse itself. I found the rejection from those I trusted, in time, became worse than the abuse itself. I had a choice to let my experience haunt me, but I haven’t, I have managed, over many years found ways to turn it around and find strength. I refuse to be a victim. Surviving abuse should not prevent you from loving, caring and protecting the next generation.

MummyinProvence, is a first time mummy to BabyinProvence (BiP) who lives in the South of France but she’s not French. She doesn’t really know where she is from! She’s half English and half Egyptian, born in Dubai and has lived all over the world. She’s an expat at heart, a recovering Marketing Manager from a multi-national in Dubai and a serial entrepreneur currently running furnished apartments in the South of France. Her blog www.mummyinprovence.com is a place where she shares her thoughts on breastfeeding and parenting in France where most of her ideals are unsupported.

Sexual Assault and Breastfeeding: The Unbreakable Bond- A Survivor Shares

As something I can do for Sexual Assault Awareness Month I’m helping Sexual Assault Survivors share their voice.  In telling their stories they are helping others that have been abused know they are not alone and those that have not been sexually abused come to grips with the reality of abuse.  In breaking the silence and removing the cloak of shame we can make a difference.  This guest post by Saila has some details related to sexual abuse and potential triggers related to sexual abuse and substance abuse.  This is a powerful story and I’m honored to share it with you.  A story of the journey from victim to survivor to empowered and making a difference.

I have been trying to write my submission for sexual assault awareness month for the last few days but have found that the veil of shame is sometimes too heavy to lift in order to start typing my experiences. But the thought that my experiences could inspire someone else compels me towards sharing this piece of myself.

I was molested as a young child by close family members. I started smoking weed at the age of 12 in an attempt to self medicate. At 12, I was raped by a 19 year old boy who I was buying weed from. I became completely detached from my body and did not feel I had any control over what happened to me. My childhood was completely over. Throughout my teens I dated much older people and was an easy target for abusive types to take advantage of. One abuser exposed me to heavier drugs and I became addicted to cocaine. I was able to completely hide not only the childhood abuse and rape, but also the drug use and self medicating from my parents. I eventually got myself into counseling, finished school and enlisted in the army. I am in a healthy relationship with my partner who I am completely in love with and feel like most of the issues from the past trauma are processed, though I do still suffer from some symptoms of PTSD including nightmares and flashbacks.

I tried unsuccessfully for 6 years before I became pregnant with my now 14 month old daughter. When I finally did become pregnant I was convinced the whole pregnancy that at any moment I would miscarry or something would go terribly wrong because my body just didn’t like co-operating with me. I felt like it had been betraying me my whole entire life. When I went into labour I was insistent on wearing a bra during delivery until the last possible moment as I was so ashamed of my body I didn’t want my breasts exposed unless absolutely necessary. When my daughter was born she spent 7 days in the NICU and as a result our nursing relationship was severely damaged. I had to use nipple shields in order for her to drink from me; basically the shields fooled the baby into believing she was drinking from a bottle as she would not latch to my nipples. I felt devastated to have a barrier between me and my precious infant.

I didn’t want to leave my house or go anywhere because I didn’t want anyone to even partially see my breast while I nursed her. I often felt myself tensing up and getting anxiety during nursing sessions if I felt any type of uterine contractions. My irrational brain would tell me that if I found breastfeeding in anyway a pleasurable experience that I was sick and twisted and abusing my daughter. These feelings hit their climax a couple of weeks into nursing when I was able to remove the nipple shields and the breast soreness subsided. I was miserable, short tempered and hated nursing. I felt like a horrible mother for not wanting to nurse my daughter.

I was able to connect with some great online resources and literally spent hours and hours reading other moms experiences with breastfeeding and eventually I began to feel empowered. As I began to see my daughter grow bigger and stronger I was so proud that my breasts had the power to nourish her. Each time she would get hurt and nurse for comfort I would feel so proud that my breasts have the power to stop her tears. Within a few months I was able to proudly nurse her where ever we went I felt no shame surrounding my body. I felt like my body was in harmony and working exactly the way it was supposed to for the first time in my life. My breasts are the key to this unbreakable bond I share with my daughter that no doubt will last a life time. I love being able to offer her a breast when she is thirsty, hungry, scared, tired or cranky and she can a take refuge and feel safe and protected with me. I never felt safe, so it means so much to me that I am able to give that to my child.

I mentioned that I became addicted to drugs at the hands of abusers. Unfortunately I will always consider myself an addict, even though I have been in recovery for a number of years now. Even still, I don’t think the cravings will ever completely stop. There is so much pain from the past, and it’s just habit now to want to numb out when things get difficult. But when the cravings do come, it’s so easy to quiet them because I know that I am nursing and would never do anything to harm my daughter. I plan on nursing for at least another year so I’m happy to know that I have such a powerful reason to not even allow myself to entertain the thought. I know that I will never use drugs again, but knowing that I am nursing my beautiful child just gives me one more reason.

Sexual Assault Awareness and Breastfeeding Advocacy

Every year I approach April with mixed feelings.  It’s my birth month, I celebrate “me” every April 8th.  That has it’s own mixture of feelings though I long ago decided I was ok with growing older.  I think I still am.  Maybe.

But it’s also tax month.  Again, mixed feelings.  Taxes are good, an important part of our society and I’ve benefitted from taxes.  I also kind of hate it, handing over money just isn’t easy.  Still, I support taxes.  *cough cough*

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month too.  The mixed feelings I have on this are all on the dark side of my soul.  An awareness that touches me personally in very deep ways.  An awareness I can never let go of and yet I would love to let it go even for just a day, let alone a month.  I am a sexual assault survivor.  So are 2 of my daughters.  So are at least 3 other female members of my extended family.  Three that I know of.  Likely more.

Last year I wrote about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, challenging all of us to remove the cloak of shame.  This year I’m considering what I want to write in keeping with the theme set forth by the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Campaign “It’s time… to get involved.”  I also want to talk about sexual assault in relation to breastfeeding and the impact it has on breastfeeding relationships.  If the statistics are true (and they are likely low) then sexual assault has touched a large number of breastfeeding mothers or would-be-breastfeeding mothers.  A woman’s experience with sexual abuse may directly impact a woman’s willingness to even consider breastfeeding her baby.  The potential issues sexual abuse creates should not be outside our consideration when discussing breastfeeding and how to support breastfeeding women.  In fact, not talking about sexual abuse in terms of what women have experienced and how it has affected all aspects of their mothering including breastfeeding does women a great disservice in their journey of healing and mothering.

Let’s find our voices, share our stories, and build up families to overcome the challenges that sexual abuse puts in their path.  My experience with sexual abuse caused me great anxiety with breastfeeding.  Not just because I struggled to understand how my breasts could be sexual and yet my baby required them regularly and often to survive but also because I felt like I had no control over my body and that it (my body) belonged to someone else.  Someone else I know felt like breastfeeding helped her heal from her traumatic experience with sexual abuse and was empowered through breastfeeding her babies.  Sharing our stories not only gives us a voice but helps others find theirs as well.  More importantly they offer hope and the opportunity for education.  And education is the only road to prevention.

Are you a sexual abuse survivor?  Would you be willing to share your story?  Whether you’d like to post anonymously or publish your name and link to your own blog I welcome your submissions. Please email me your submissions at theleakyboob @ theleakyboob.com with the subject “Breastfeeding and abuse.”  It’s time… to talk about our experiences and involve our network.

Broken for You

For our WBW blog carnival on “Perspectives: Breastfeeding From Every Angle” we are pleased to host guest posts from various contributors. Today we are honored to share from Karen., Christian mother to two beautiful girls.

My hate affair with my body began when I was around 11. I went to bed one night and woke up a C cup. I was not the only one who noticed; boys and men everywhere took notice and somehow seemed to think that because they now stood out so far they were in community space and ripe for the picking. The couple of times it happened with a stranger were disconcerting and maddening, but it didn’t invoke the same fear as when someone you loved and trusted did it. I would soon give up my love of swimming because of a family member who always felt it was somehow “funny” to pull down the front of my swimming suit – in front of everyone. And my best friend in high school doesn’t know that our friendship ended because her father developed a creepy hug technique that always included approaching from behind so that his hands always managed to land on my breasts. Boys always assumed that big=easy. There were many times when a first date would pull up to some location and let me know what it was for. I learned to go on group dates and make sure I had a way out.

I spent my junior and high school years developing many anorexic rituals in the hope that losing extreme weight would make them smaller. Ironically, it just made them stand out more. It didn’t help when I was diagnosed with Scoliosis and the amazing therapeutic back brace worked like an old fashioned corset. While other girls looked at my cinched in waist with envy, I threw up in the bathroom because my anxiety about my body was ratcheting up to record highs.
Somehow as an adult many of these things worked themselves out. I married an awesome man who understood that I felt my body was my enemy and we just dealt with things as they came up. And come up they did: no one was more surprised then me when driving home from Christmas dinner one day “Oh crap, I’m pregnant.” The conversation began quite simply as I looked at my husband and said that dinner tasted weird. He felt it was yet another awesome and tasty one. And then the lightbulb went on, I was pregnant.

Pregnancy would turn out to be another instance in which my body had betrayed: I developed a condition which I now know to be Hyperemesis Gravidarum. So while other women went about their days registering at Target and picking colors and themes, I tried to stay out of the hospital and maybe managed to go to work a couple of days a week. I had plenty of time to lay in bed and contemplate the many ways in which my body was a complete and utter failure. And every time I went to the ob they would ask, “Are you going to breastfeed?”

I *wanted* to breastfeed. Intellectually I understood that it was best for my baby, and I certainly wanted that. But the idea of letting yet another human being, even one I loved so wholeheartedly, once again use my breasts for their personal gratification – even if I did so willingly – was laden with deep, emotional complications. My biggest fear is that I could not get past my own body issues and that they would seep into this precious bonding time and complicate it. Would I resent my baby? Would it cause me more fear and anxiety?

On the day my baby was born 2 things happened: 1) I was able to eat for the first time in 9 months. Suddenly and amazingly my body felt okay again. And 2) I realized that I was not personally in a healthy enough place to try breastfeeding my newborn baby. In the end, for me, it was the best decision I could make for my daughter. I understand the nutritional aspect of it, but I also understood that if I tried to do it – there would be emotional complications much to great for us to carry into the future. I did not want my relationship with my body and the scars of my abuse to affect us, to affect her.

Oddly enough 2 pregnancies and 1 child later – I had worked hard and healed emotionally enough that I would in fact attempt to breastfeed my child. And still, thanks in large part to Hyperemesis Gravidarum (months of dehydration left me unable to produce milk) and my breasts themselves (the rude lactation consultant assured me after violating me once again by opening my robe without asking that my nipples – their flatness – was an issue), my body failed me once again. After a few weeks of nursing and pumping non-stop, we switched to formula and supplemented with breastmilk bought from a milk bank. I was grateful to have that option available to me.

My prayer is that my daughters will be at peace with their bodies and will be able to breastfeed their children, should they choose to do so. But I know that no matter what they choose to do, I will love and support them in that because our bodies are not always our friends – and sometimes you can be broken in more than one way. I don’t want them to bring brokenness into their relationships with their children, just as I did not want to bring it into mine.

My breastfeeding journey, part 1

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Editor’s Note 05.17.16
This baby is now 17 years old, in her last year as a child. It’s hard to believe and yet totally wonderful at the same time. She has grown to become a dancer with the kindest heart you’ll ever meet. Even with our rocky breastfeeding relationship, she has flourished and become an extraordinary young woman who speaks on sexual assault, body positivity, and more recently, depression. Read more about what she’s doing here (http://tinyurl.com/zt2m8tn).

My first breastfeeding journey…

Earth Baby.

I was breastfed and knew that my mom really enjoyed breastfeeding us and she talked about it a little bit, encouraging me to breastfeed my children. A friend of mine had her daughter just 4 months before I had Earth Baby and she BFed so I was able to see someone doing it though she always covered and I didn’t get to see the mechanics of it. I was given a book during my pregnancy by the family I had nannied for called “How To Raise A Healthy Child In spite of Your Doctor” by Dr. Mendalsson which really talked about the importance of breastfeeding and someone gave me “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” which I intensely disliked at the time. I knew I would breastfeed and I figured I would love it, everyone I talked to made it sound so amazing and so easy.

We had a little bit of a rough start thanks to a traumatic 3rd stage of labor and a partially retained placenta and then a scary nursery nurse that told me I was starving my baby and they HAD to give her formula. Thankfully, that one ounce didn’t do anything to sabotage our BFing relationship. I had some nipple discomfort about a week into breastfeeding but Earth Baby had a great latch and was an amazing eater. Nothing phased her. I could breastfeed any time, anywhere always covered in public though unless around other women in my own house, in fact, NIP was easier than being on my own. I liked the distraction.

Breastfeeding was pretty easy. But I didn’t love it. I was surprised to discover that I hated it. No really, I HATED IT. I would try to make myself love it, I’d stroke her cheek, gaze into her eyes, sing her songs and… be so glad when she was finally off my b@@b. It was uncomfortable, I felt trapped and I freaked out that maybe I had a baby before I was ready. Which sucked because, well, now that she was here, what could I do? I couldn’t send her back. There was no return policy and I couldn’t give her away. .

Sometimes putting her to the breast would cause me anxiety and I would have to concentrate on breathing just to get through a session. I was painfully aware of my breasts, they were so much bigger than I was used to and being 100 pounds with D+ cups made me feel conspicuous and not in a good way. Issues that I thought I had laid to rest regarding my body, sexual abuse and belonging to someone suddenly reared their heads and even though I had a baby that slept through the night from 2 weeks on, I couldn’t sleep. For months and months I would have panic attacks, I felt like my breasts were suffocating me and, in an odd new way, defining me. I couldn’t have sex, I couldn’t be physically intimate with my husband because I was touched out and drained from pushing myself to be intimate by giving of myself to another so much. The weight that her entire sustenance came from me would be overwhelming and I would finger the can of formula in the cabinet wistfully. I never did give her formula.

When she was 6 weeks old our pediatrician encouraged me to pump and let The Piano Man give her a bottle so Earth Baby would be comfortable taking a bottle in case something should happen to me. Funny, I didn’t think then how morbid that sounds but rather jumped at the chance to have a break. We set up a routine that included me going into the bedroom and pumping while The Piano Man gave her a bottle of my milk from the day before. I would read a book, browse though a magazine, stare out the window, anything really, I was just glad for a few minutes to myself not breastfeeding even if it was hooked up to a machine. Were it not for those times I’m not sure I would have made it as long as I did BFing her.

It took weeks and weeks for me to admit I didn’t like breastfeeding. I whispered it to my mom on the phone, long after she’d gone home after staying with us and the new baby. She couldn’t believe it, was surprised but very supportive. I could tell she was sad, felt sorry for me that I didn’t love it like she did and that she felt like I was missing out on something amazing. It helped to know that she wanted me to have that as a mother and that my own mom was praying for me. She never suggested that I would quit just apologized that I didn’t like it and encouraged me that maybe it would grow on me. It didn’t. It just grew less agonizing.

I felt so guilty that I didn’t love it. That I’d rather change a diaper than to nurse my baby. I didn’t feel bonded to my baby through nursing, in fact, I felt like nursing made it harder to bond. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe I was just too young. Maybe I just had a whole lot of issues to deal with. Whatever it was, nursing was not the Utopian experience I had dreamed it would be but I didn’t have a good reason for the struggle. It was all in my head and I knew it but that didn’t make it any easier.

Adding to my struggle was the rape of someone close to me shortly after Earth Baby was born. I felt helpless, grieving for this person, thrown even deeper into my own past and fearful for my daughter even as I wrestled with feeding her from my breast. Now I wonder if sometimes those intense feelings were magnified because my love for her consumed me in a painful way when I was breastfeeding and I was just too confused to recognize it.

When Earth Baby was 4 months we tried to introduce solids. Bad idea. She hated it and suddenly nursed more. We put her on a schedule. In my attempt to feel like I wasn’t lost in my baby and my body still belonged to me, I felt like I had to do something. If she cried before it was time for her to eat, we gave her a pacifier and comforted her. We never just let her cry, I would nurse her if she couldn’t be comforted. But we also watched the clock and fed her even if she was asleep and had to be awakened to fit the schedule. Somehow I thought this helped, that it gave me back control over my body. It never occurred to me that instead of meeting my baby’s needs or dealing with my issues I was now enslaved not to my baby but had enslaved myself and my baby to the clock. I thought I was in control, I didn’t realize I was being controlled.

At our doctor’s advice, we didn’t try solids again until she was 6 months and she did better that time, not great but better and it got more fun every day. It was also around that time that I started to realize that I could nurse and not have to fight anxiety and though I didn’t love it I also didn’t hate it. Nursing was ok. I also began to see that I was ok. I was more than the sum of my parts.

I had planned to nurse to 12 months. Seeing as I couldn’t really read breastfeeding literature without crying, feeling guilty, hating myself and going into depression to analyze why I didn’t love BFing and bonding with my baby that way, I had stopped trying to read breastfeeding materials. So I was uneducated and unprepared when challenges arose. We made it through most challenges pretty well until 10 months. Earth Baby had started biting me while nursing. I had been told to bop her on the cheek when she bit me. This was hard for me to do but I did it a few times, very lightly. She still bit so I increased the strength of my flick on her cheek. She would pull off and look confused, sometimes cry. I hated doing this, it felt so wrong but I didn’t know what to do to make her stop. Finally, one day she bit me very hard and I yelped ouch very loudly and flicked her on the cheek. A big frown and tears streaming down her cheeks she refused the breast when I offered it to her again. In fact, she never did nurse again. It took me a long time to realize that I had traumatized her which led to a nursing strike. I was told she weaned herself.

I became engorged and developed mastitis. A little goal oriented, I pumped, decreasing gradually until she was completely off breastmilk at a year. I actually threw out the frozen breastmilk I had the day after her birthday because I thought she no longer needed it. I still can’t believe I did that.

I regret a lot about my nursing relationship with Earth Baby. I tried to educate myself but struggled so much emotionally that it was just the medical and science side of things that kept me going. Earth Baby showed me a lot of grace, even as a baby. She loved and bonded with me even though I struggled with physical affection at the time and she was and still is very healthy. The truth is, though I do have regrets in Earth Baby’s and my breastfeeding story, I’m also really proud. It isn’t what I want, it wasn’t even what I wanted then but it is still good and she taught me so, so much and shaped me as a mother and a woman, setting me down a truly healing path. Though I couldn’t say this at the time, now, 11 years later, I am so glad I breastfed my first daughter and I’d do it again (better) in a heartbeat.