What you need to know about breastfeeding and postpartum contractions

by Jessica Martin-Weber


This post made possible by Naturepedic Organic Mattresses for the whole family
Use the code “TLB15” for 15% off your cart at naturepedic.com.

Lactation can save your life, help heal your body, and be good for your uterus.

This is all true.

We talk a lot about how great breastfeeding can be for baby, but did you know it can be great for your uterus too? What your uterus wishes you knew about lactation:

It can save your life.

Potentially in more ways than one. But what really makes your uterus happy is that putting your brand new baby to suckle at your breast stimulates the release of oxytocin in your brain which helps your uterus to clamp down. These postpartum contractions are often called afterbirth pains. That initial latch of your wee babe strengthens the natural contractions and if you haven’t already, helps you expel the placenta and make sure you don’t bleed to death. It can help prevent a postpartum hemorrhage. But don’t worry if your baby doesn’t want to feed right after birth (give them a break, it was an eventful occasion, being born), this continues to work for as long as it takes for your uterus to reduce to it’s normal non-gestating size.

The uterus returning to it’s not-currently-gestating size gives room to the organs that have been squished, making it easier to breathe, eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. It also means less pressure on the pelvic floor organs and tissue. This is an important stage of early healing. Often afterbirth contractions are more intense and painful with subsequent babies but it still does the job. Hate it all you want but it is way better than hemorrhaging and it’s the body’s perfect way to make sure you’re safe and around for a long time.

Every time you put your brand new baby to your breast, even if it doesn’t last long, and you endure a wave of contractions you may curse, swear, stomp your foot, breathe through clenched teeth hissing at your partner that next time they’re having the baby but those painful afterbirth contractions that your nursing babe brings on are important as they cut off the supply of blood to where the placenta had been allowing for healing and recovery to take place. Some don’t experience these contractions as much more than some mild cramping, others find them worse than labor itself. There’s a wide range of experiences, don’t be alarmed if you find that your own varies from that of others. 

Along with signaling to the uterus it’s time to shrink back down, breastfeeding can help you rest. For many that have just had a baby, life just doesn’t let them have the time they need to really heal and that open wound in their uterus doesn’t get the rest it needs which can lead to mom becoming anemic, fatigued, sore, and taking longer to heal. While there’s always a lot to do, breastfeeding can help busy moms take a load off in those early weeks with a hungry baby forcing them to sit and be still long enough to work on a good latch and fill up that little tummy. Taking time to have skin to skin fosters the breastfeeding relationship and can reduce their healing time, leading to sustainable recovery. And because it can help reduce postpartum bleeding and menstrual bleeding both in volume and length of time, some will experience a natural rise in iron levels which will be a real energy boost.


Fertility can be delayed with lactation. With my last baby, my 8th full term pregnancy, I got a break from my period until 21 months postpartum. Including pregnancy, that was more than 30 months off and no ovulation. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t miss it one single bit. This isn’t a guarantee but the majority of people experience a delay in the return of their fertility after giving birth if they exclusively breastfeed/chestfeed (meaning no supplementation). When baby is fed only with nursing, the body suppresses fertility to focus on continuing to grow this little person. This would mean no period sometimes until full weaning happens though any time solid foods, supplementation, or artificial nipples are introduced it’s possible their cycle will return. Sometimes that can be thrown off, usually if artificial nipples are used (yeah, even with bottles of their own pumped milk) but sometimes even if there is only ever exclusively nursing the cycle may return early in the postpartum period. But for those that experience suppressed fertility due to breastfeeding, it can be a nice break from their regular menstrual cycle. Because there are no guarantees though, unless you are hoping to get pregnant again shortly after having your baby, some kind of birth control measures would be wise.

Lactation can help with endometriosis and may help reduce cancer risks. Because it is common for the menstrual cycle to be delayed by lactation, those that have endometriosis may experience a stabilization of the progression of their condition which may lead to some relief. This won’t necessarily cure the condition but some do find it is no longer an issue. Causation or correlation, studies show that women that breastfeed have lower incidence of developing uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer. 

Nursing is no magic bullet that will save you, you may lactate and still get cancer, you may nurse and still experience a retained placenta or postpartum hemorrhage, you may bodyfeed and struggle with endometriosis or have your fertility return right away. But hey, a chance that you could get a break and make your uterus happy? If you can, it could be a chance worth taking.


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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 wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

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.

Heart to Heart Breast Care Bamboobies Giveaway

Breasts are amazing. They can feed babies, they can tell a woman where she is in her fertility cycle, breasts can adjust the milk they make according to the specific needs of the baby (or babies) they are feeding. Breasts can comfort, have fun, and look stunning. Breasts can also get sick and even become deadly. Breast cancer impacts about 1 in 8 women. Taking care of our health and of our breasts is one of the ways we can do our part to be present with our children for as long as possible.

Which is why we have teamed up with Bamboobies to remind moms that even while they are breastfeeding, it is important to be educated and to take action steps in breast cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. You can read the sponsored article here. While we can’t come feel your boobs for you (do it!), we can at least send some of the soft care options Bamboobies has for moms. You matter moms, we love you, take care of your boobs!


Bamboobies is giving away an assortment of their comfy products to one lucky Leakie.
Total prize value: $105



Bamboobies Organic Nipple Balm, a gift set of 4 pair of Bamboobies nursing pads in a cute washing bag, and a pair of Boob-ease Therapy Pillows. A $72 value.


Bamboobies Chic Nursing Shawl – Flower Accent. A $33 value


Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered.  The giveaway is open from October 9, 2014 through October 16, 2014.  A big thanks to Bamboobies for their ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to visit their Facebook page or follow them on twitter and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is restricted to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Heart to Heart Breast Talk

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Kerry Gilmartin

This post was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Bamboobies.

As breastfeeding supporters when it comes to talking about breast cancer it is easy for us to get caught up in talking about how breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. It’s true that statistically speaking breastfeeding can lower your chance of breast cancer, but it isn’t a be all- end all type of prevention, just one piece. The reality is that breastfeeding your baby (or babies) doesn’t mean you get to dismiss the possibility of breast cancer forever, there is still a risk. The good news is that breastfeeding along with other measures can help reduce your risk and education and support can better support those that do develop breast cancer.

Related post: Reduced Risk Doesn’t Mean No Risk

My paternal grandmother is a survivor of breast cancer. A kind, giving woman with a gentle soul, early detection and aggressive treatment meant she lost her breasts but kept her life. I’m so grateful for the treatments available to fight this threatening disease, without them I wouldn’t have known my grandmother. I will never forget when I was young and she showed me her double mastectomy scars and told me her story. The impact of her experience taught me a lot but it was her gentle warning to take care of myself and to regularly check my own breasts that has continued to ring in my ears. Like my grandmother, I want to be here for my children for a long time still, I’m not about to bank on one risk reducing factor. Instead, I want to be informed and do everything I can to protect my health.

So, aside from breastfeeding, what else can you do to lower your risk of breast cancer? And how can you raise your chances of surviving should you develop breast cancer? We’ve pulled together some simple, accessible tips to get you started. Awareness alone won’t change anything, education and action steps are required to make a difference.

 breastfeeding reduces but doesn't eliminate breast cancer risk

Keep A BreastBamboobies donates a portion of all online sales to the Keep A Breast Foundation to support their efforts in promoting awareness, self-checking and prevention of breast cancer.


Know the facts

Breast cancer is an extremely prevalent disease and it is crucial to know the facts, learn about prevention, and perform monthly exams.

  • Besides skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among American women. It accounts for nearly 1 in 3 cases of cancers.
  • Today, about 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths among American women.
  • The chance that a breast cancer patient will be alive five years after diagnosis is lower in women under 40. Statistics indicate that tumors diagnosed in younger women may be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment, making early detection key.

Aging, genetics, race, breast tissue, and menstrual periods are all factors that cannot be changed, however, leading a healthy lifestyle, avoiding common toxins that are linked to cancer, and making smart diet choices are all ways in which you can decrease your risk for breast cancer.

Being aware of what you put in as well as on your body are preventative tactics that you are in control of. Knowledge is key, read the labels of the products you buy and when possible avoid products containing, PARABENS, PHTHALATES, 1,4-DIOXANE, NITROSAMINES, HEAVY METALS. Also, make conscious decisions about cleaning supplies you use in your home. Avoid bleach and stick to these alternatives lemon, baking soda and vinegar when cleaning. Lastly, avoid plastic whenever possible as it can slowly leak chemicals into whatever it touches i.e plastic food storage containers, and plastic water bottles.

In young people, obesity and toxicity are the most prevalent reasons for excess estrogen making it crucial to maintain a healthy body weight. Make healthy choices when choosing the food you put into your body and learn about the fruits and vegetables that are part of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists. Avoiding pesticides and choosing certified organic produce, when possible, will reduce the likelihood that you will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and hormones.

Getting Started

Early detection is KEY making it extremely important to perform monthly exams, know your body and your breast. Becoming familiar with your breast will help you determine what is “normal” for your body. You can check yourself in 5 easy steps, beginning with a visual exam. When performing your exam, ask yourself these questions …

  • Do my breasts look the same?
  • Are my nipples the same shape?
  • Are there any indentions, bruises or bulges?
  • Is there any discharge coming from my nipples? Are the veins more noticeable on one breast than the other?

It is necessary to note that if you notice any changes you should visit your doctor right away.

*Keep in mind that lactating breasts are usually more dense and prone to lumps from milk than an empty breast. Breast self-exams are still beneficial, try to do them when your breasts are empty.

Check Yourself AppFor more information on how to perform your exam visit Keep a Breast Foundation and download the check yourself app or print out the check yourself card.

5 easy steps

Visit the Keep a Breast Foundation online store  https://shop.keep-a-breast.org/




The Milky Way- Every Mother Has a Story

I am happy to share this guest post from Chantal Monal, RN MA IBCLC.  Chantal partnered with friend Jennifer Davidson, RN BSN IBCLC to produce a film about breastfeeding, society, and the incredible power of breastmilk.  The Milky Way film reveals the real power vested in women’s bodies and how that affects their babies – even the tiniest of preemies.  Chantal shares how breastmilk and babies at the breast make a difference for preemies in Berlin.  The film is in the final stages of production and the film making team needs more funds to finish their post production work.  You can be a part of their project and supporting others in reaching their breastfeeding goals by helping to normalize breastfeeding through participating in the kickstarter campaign to finish the film.  It ends at midnight on July 10, 2013, so only two days to help them reach their goal.  Your pledge will make a difference.

milky way collage

The nursing mother is truly a phenomenon. Not only does her body produce milk for her baby that is specifically designed for her baby(ies), the milk is alive with immune qualities, stem cells, growth factors, and much more, but her body provides habitat for her very immature and needy baby. Placing a baby on its mama’s chest immediately after birth triggers primitive neonatal reflexes that express the breastfeeding program that is vested in the baby.  Lying skin-to-skin activates a feeding sequence that results in a baby finding and often self-latching to its mother’s nipple.

At its mother’s breast, a baby is at home. This is where all things begin. Our babies learn to socialize, their brains develop, their little bodies learn to regulate temperature, breathing, and heart rate, and their physiology stabilizes. All this happens on the chest.

Babies who are kept in a mother-environment, with baby-wearing and co-sleeping, learn to synchronize their breathing and heartbeat with their mothers’.  All babies fall out of synchronicity periodically, but babies who are nursing and in close proximity to their mothers, develop the ability to re-synchronize, which is a protective factor against SIDS. These babies become very competent and self-reliant. They know where their food comes from and can navigate in the dark to their food source. How many of us have awakened to a latched-on baby?  That is a baby who feels secure and in control of his environment.

This stabilization and development is illustrated beautifully with premature babies. The Milky Way team traveled to Berlin to film this phenomenon in action with preemies in a very special NICU. We had the opportunity to film the power of Kangaroo Mother Care, which is care at the mother’s breast. Instead of a room full of incubators, where mothers have to sit in a chair and visit their baby, this hospital provides a room for each family to stay with their baby for its entire stay.

Each room has a bed big enough for mom and dad, a warmer and incubator, and some comfy chairs. There is a large common room provided as well, where parents can gather with their families and have a meal, or just visit.

The mothers keep their fragile babies on their chest for about 19 hours a day. They are taught to hand express colostrum, which they give through a feeding tube until their baby can latch and suck. Babies are at the breast frequently, nuzzling and licking until they naturally begin to suckle. In this setting, the authority is with the mother and father, the medical and nursing staff are there to “stand behind” the parents and to assist them as they are the primary care-givers of their own baby. This kind of care results in 3 pound babies being discharged home, fully breastfeeding, with confident parents.

MOM PREEMIE the Milky Way Film

The Milky Way is a film to empower mothers. The Milky Way reveals the extraordinary power vested in women’s bodies and how that affects their babies – even the tiniest of preemies. Nursing is so much more than food. The profound capacity inherent in a woman’s body has been ignored, overlooked and dismissed for far too long.  It is time that we collectively see nursing as the profound act that it is and place value on the product, the process, and recognize the mother as a powerful phenomenon.


 Here at The Leaky Boob we know that every mother has a story and believe that sharing those stories provides mom-to-mom support in the wide variety of breastfeeding journeys women experience today.

We want to hear your story.  Share in the comments your breastfeeding story.

Did hearing the stories of others encourage and inspire you?

Did sharing your own story help someone else?

Has breastfeeding helped you to develop confidence and see how your body is a powerful phenomenon?



How breastfeeding “greenified” my family

The Leaky Boob is joining Wean Green and several others in a birthday party Earth Day scavenger hunt.  Search our site for the next clue and follow it for the chance to win some great prizes from companies that prioritize not only healthy choices for families but for our planet as well.  Have fun and good luck!



My mom tells how discovering she was pregnant with her first, my older brother, changed how she took care of herself and the earth.  Immediately, she stopped smoking and refused to let anyone smoke around her.  Addicted to Pepsi, she stopped buying it all together.  She became aware of the amount of waste from buying prepared foods and started cooking from scratch.  When my brother was born she breastfed exclusively and encouraged by the local La Leche League chapter she joined, she explored other healthy choices not only for her baby but for her entire family.  My brother’s intolerance to dairy and soy led to her completely revamping how they ate.  By the time I came along 3 years later, my mother was well on her way to being a “health nut” and growing in her care for the earth through gardening and making increasingly sustainable choices.  In many ways it wasn’t about becoming more healthy, it was about returning to a healthy normal.  From breastfeeding to not smoking to making her own food, my mom was getting back to her biological roots and cleaner air.

Like my mom, parenting has changed my views about health, food, and being aware of how we are treating the earth.  There is plenty of room for our family to grow in these areas, progressively making choices as we learn more.  Always inspired by our children.  A significant portion of what we have learned and chosen to do has come directly from information we’ve received related to pregnancy and breastfeeding.  And we’ve grown from there.  Eventually moving from feeding our babies commercial “baby food” and allowing them to feed themselves, we have found more ways that are healthier choices for our family and more gentle on the earth.  Our hope is to give our children the chance to return to a more normal healthy way of life but also with a planet that has been given that same opportunity.

Building on my mom’s lessons and change, my family is growing and changing, inspired in many ways by breastfeeding and a commitment to give our children not the “best” but the healthy normal we all deserve to have.

green breastfeeding


5 ways breastmilk is greenest choice in infant nutrition:

  • Manufacturing requires minimal resources- feed mom.
  • The containers are reusable and biodegradable.
  • If able to feed “straight from the tap there is no plastic or glass necessary.
  • Pumping and bottlefeeding moms still use less plastic than formula storage containers, meaning less waste.
  • Reduced gasoline usage related to manufacturing, shipping, and shopping.

Because sometimes we need a little support in our breastfeeding journey, here are some companies that can help moms “greenify” breastfeeding even more: Motherlove Herbal Company (nipple salve, More Milk supplement), Hygeia (breastpumps, breastmilk storage bags), Bamboobies (breastpads, nipple ointment, therapy pads, nursing bras), PumpEase (Organic hands-free pumping support bra), Little Spruce (organic breastfeeding wear),


5 ways to “greenify” your life and nutrition beyond the breast:

  • Try baby-led solids, skip buying manufactured baby food and let your baby feed themselves the same food you eat.
  • Replace plastic storage options (i.e. ziplock baggies) with products like Wean Green glass and reusable snack bags.
  • When introducing a cup, select products like Lifefactory’s sippy bottleKid Basix Safe Sippy, or a small open glass or enamel cup.
  • Listen and encourage your child to listen to their bodies, not force eating everything put before them, we tend to eat less that way.
  • Explore what you can make yourself, using less prepared foods, pick a few options to try and ask if you need each to be individually wrapped or not.


Plus one:

Did you know you can be “green” with waste?  Yep!  What you do with the other end of food is important not only for taking care of the planet but there are many reasons to consider the health concerns.  For some that may mean buying unbleached disposable diapers, for others going into cloth diapers, and still others may use elimination communication.  Check out Lovely Pocket DiapersKanga Care, Thirsties, Itty Bitty, and Kelly’s Closet for cloth diapers and information.  We’ve also found great products for taking care of baby bottoms such as diaper salves and baby wash from companies that want to help families care for the health of their babies and the planet such as Earth Mama Angel Baby.

Just like breastfeeding, making green choices doesn’t have to be all or nothing and it’s likely a journey.  One step at a time, spurred on by something or someone important.  Like our children.


How has pregnancy and breastfeeding influenced you in making healthier or more sustainable choices for your family?

In what ways would you like to improve in how “green” your family lives?


Apple Park Clue

Healthy-Feeding and Older Children, Knowing When to Draw the Line

It’s time to cut her off.

Sure she’s still young and growing and absolutely adorable but we have to end it.  As it is we’ve gone way past socially accepted norms.  I’ve avoided doing it in public for a while now, just couldn’t handle the strange looks we’d receive and people were getting increasingly rude with their comments.  And now that she’s 8 I can’t pretend any longer that she really needs it anyway, it’s just for comfort now and like my mom said, I can’t let her go on thinking she can just take advantage of me, use me like that forever.  I can’t even imagine what my mom would say if I told her what happened last night…

Brace yourself… Lolie actually asked for it. (I’m totally blushing here, don’t judge me!)  She knew what she wanted and she asked for it.  That would really freak some people out!  You know how many times I’ve heard “they are really too old when they can ASK for it!  That’s just so disgusting!”

We were preparing for her birthday, asking her what meals she wanted and she said… (my stomach’s in knots just thinking this!) taco salad!  Homemade taco salad for lunch.  And a veggie and fruit tray.  Spinach and mushroom crepes for dinner.  Homemade cake.  I tried to dissuade her, offered Papa John’s Pizza, Taco Bell anything, McDonald’s, Chili’s, and more but she refused!  All she wants for her birthday is healthy, homemade growing food.  Carrots!

I can hear it now: “she asked for spinach and mushrooms for her birthday dinner?!  Oh. My. Gosh.  Someone get this kid a Happy Meal with extra large fries and supersized Coke STAT!”

I’m pretty sure healthy-feeding her for this long has ruined her.  She’s probably developmentally behind her peers, physically malnourished, emotionally stunted and over-attached to me now.  What was I thinking?  I guess I wasn’t really, it just sort of happened.  The recommendation was to healthy-feed until 6 years old, school age but it just felt so right, so natural that I continued.  I mean, if it was so good for her brain development, bone growth and all that then why would it suddenly stop?  We have our own term for it: growing food.  We were both happy, it worked for us and she seemed to be thriving and even though she was past the minimum age recommended to healthy food-feed, she still seemed so young to me.  So I let it keep going.

But now she’s gone and asked for it?!  That’s clearly not normal, maybe even perverted.  What 7, almost 8 year old child actually turns down pizza in favor of a salad?  Rejects a Happy Meal and prefers spinach and mushroom crepes?  Turns up her nose at a brilliantly colored store bought ice cream cake and specifically requests a homemade cake from scratch?  Or begs for homemade whole wheat bread and doesn’t even know what Wonder Bread is?

I’ve ruined my Lolie!

There comes a point when you just have to stop healthy-feeding a child.  If it’s come from the ground or is fresh, made from scratch and void of branded packaging it can’t be good for the child to continue past 6, certainly not past 8.  Going to 10 would be positively revolting, people everywhere would lose their Taco Bell taco meat product tacos at the thought.  If you don’t stop it how will the child eat in the future?  How do you know EXACTLY what they are eating without a package label?  How will they learn how to feed themselves?  How will they recognize the brands of sustenance?

My friends will be freaked out that she asked for it, that she doesn’t even want junk food.  Some of them had a hard enough time that I even did this at all (after all, they only ate prepackaged and fast foods and they are fine) but this will really be too much.  Once they can open the refrigerator and get their own carrot you’ve got to stop it, right?  I mean, what in the world would happen if kids everywhere thought eating carrots and food that came out of the ground and not out of a box or package was NORMAL?!  Our very economy would be in danger!  It’s not like we don’t have access to other foods, it’s not like we’re uncivilized, right?  It would damage their perspective of the human body and food.  Years and years of therapy would be required for all these confused kids that would think it’s actually good to eat this way.  No, for her mental health and our socio-economic standing I just can’t allow this to continue!  I wonder if our friends will even let their kids play with her any more.  If word of this gets out it could ruin her socially.  It probably will destroy her chances of getting the lead in the spring play… she’ll get kicked out of the ballet studio… summer camps will reject her… no hope of getting a date for prom… Harvard will totally laugh at her… she’ll never find a job… she’ll be living at home eating like this and completely dependent on me forever!

It’s her birthday and I have to cut her off, she’s simply too old.  It will break her heart and I know she won’t understand but how can I let her continue?  I’m so sad just thinking of it but we have to be done, that’s just all there is to it.  Today was the last time, no more.


I will tell her tonight as she nurses to sleep.  At least she will still have that, so glad there’s no taboo surrounding breastfeeding.  How sad would that be?


From the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months and support for breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mutually desired by mother and child.”

It is my hope that mothers continue breastfeeding as long as it is right for them and their child.  The decision to stop should be an informed one, using research and individual considerations of physical and emotional health to determine the best choice for each mother and her nursling.  Whether that is 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years.  Pressure to stop at some arbitrary date and claims that breastmilk has no nutritional value after a certain age are uninformed and potentially damaging. Instead of telling women what they need to do we need to support them in making informed decisions.  You can find more information on the value of breastfeeding beyond the first year at Kellymom.com.  I believe every woman should have support without pressure or condemnation no matter how long she breastfeeds.

By the way, I’m thrilled my daughter requests homemade food full of veggies and whole grain goodness for her birthday and I won’t be cutting her off from that nutrition for any reason.  Not even if it isn’t normal for a child her age to turn down fast-food style pizza and other nutritionally similar options in favor of whole foods.  Also, in the interest of honest representation, she hasn’t breastfed in quite some time.

The Gentle Advocate- A Story

The following was sent to me by Lily Alayne Owen and I thought it appropriate to share here.  I love this story of gentle education and compassionate advocacy.  A beautiful example of how compassion and care kept someone from crossing the line into bullying.

A Happy Story about Breastfeeding Awareness:

Over Christmas break while visiting with my new husband’s family, I found out the happy news that my brand new sister in law was expecting.  I wasn’t sure how any of these relatives felt about breastfeeding and as a long-term nurser with both of my kids, I was curious.  I did hear my other new sister in law make a comment about how nice her boobs would look when she was nursing and decided to ask.  She said she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and that she hadn’t nursed her older child, now 7.  She expressed concerns that it would be weird and that she didn’t know if she was disciplined enough to go through with it.  I just listened, told her how great it feels to experience breastfeeding with your dear little baby and that it is actually way more convenient than fussing with bottles (at least it was for me).  She was interested in the health benefits which I shared, including the long term benefits to her.  We had a very amiable conversation about the whole thing which I was grateful for, having botched similar interactions plenty of times in the past.  I have been known to get wrapped up in my own passion over certain subjects (which is neither helpful, nor productive, mind you).  I really feel that detaching from the outcome and really caring about her feelings, including her feelings about me, allowed me to be a better advocate for the breastfeeding relationship.  After our visit, I decided to send her a book (Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding) as a surprise.  She emailed me a few days later wondering if I meant to send her something?  There was a box at her house from amazon- should she open it?

A few days later I received one of the best emails of my life.  Its message was short, but brought me to public tears:

“Just wanted to let you know I’ve started reading the book you got me and its absolutely fascinating! Its changed my mind already and I’m not even half way through. I will definitely give Bf a try now! Thank you :)”

How Breastfeeding Saved My Life

I’m excited to bring you another guest post, submitted by Star a WIC breastfeeding peer supporter and gentle breastfeeding advocate.  Star shares her story of the unexpected impact breastfeeding had on her own health and indeed her life.  I am honored to be bringing you this guest post and appreciate Star sharing her story.
I’ve addressed before how I’m sort of the reluctant lactivist who originally thought she wouldn’t breastfeed.  I talked a lot about how and why I changed my mind, and the struggles I faced to nurse my first.
But there was one crazily unexpected benefit that I didn’t discuss.
Rewind a few years to when I was 25, and pregnant with my first daughter.  I had a very high risk pregnancy.  Part of this was because I was classified morbidly obese.
If you just met me today, you probably wouldn’t think such a thing.  In fact, at 6 months postpartum with baby 2, and still carrying around an extra 10-15 pounds, I’m still within a very healthy weight range for my body frame/height.  In fact, people have been known to call me slim. 
But this was me then:
I was, at the end of my pregnancy with baby #1, slightly over 300 pounds.  Granted, I’m tallish for a woman – but not tallish enough that that much extra weight was even close to ok.  I’m also asthmatic, severely – so carrying that weight was a huge burden on my health in many ways.  I didn’t worry about it until I got pregnant.  And then one day, while looking at my chart, I saw the words “morbidly obese” notated there.
Those are NOT fun words to see on a chart describing yourself.  Like, at all.  Especially when you think of yourself as more like “attractively plump” or “large, but well-proportioned.”  But those two words are pretty effective at drying up denial quickly.
So I had my daughter – by c-section – something that I’ve always wondered if my weight had an impact on.  And then I thought about how I didn’t want to be the fat mom who couldn’t run around with her kids, or was the butt of their friend’s jokes, or anything like that.  And I certainly didn’t want to die young – which was a very real possibility with some family history and my obesity.  But I had literally no clue how to change things.  And I was having those aforementioned issues with breastfeeding and my daughter, which, quite frankly, made life too stressful to even attempt a lifestyle change.  So I put it off.
Then something pretty awesome started to happen.
Little by little, my jeans were looser.  My face was thinner.  I could button jeans that I’d only dreamed of buttoning in the past. 
“Well,” I thought, “I probably just lost a little more after the pregnancy.  No big deal.  It won’t continue.”
But it did.  And I bought new clothes and weaned off one of my asthma meds.  And I hadn’t done anything differently. 
It was 60 pounds later when I stopped just losing weight by existing.  Let me repeat that – SIXTY pounds.  Sixty.  Six Oh.
At a routine checkup, my doctor said, “So, what are you doing differently?”
“Nothing,” I told her.  “I think I have a tapeworm or something.  Can you check for tapeworms?”
She laughed at me and flipped through my chart.  “You’re breastfeeding?”
“Yeah.  Is that ok?  Because, seriously, I’m not completely joking about the tapeworm thing.  Can tapeworms go through breastmilk?”
She shook her head at me.  “Your weight loss is likely caused by breastfeeding.  I highly doubt that you have a tapeworm or anything else wrong with you.  I can run a blood count if you’re really concerned that you have something wrong with you, but I see this a lot with breastfeeding women.  The weight just kind of melts off.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make changes to become healthier overall.  But this is a good start.”
I took that to heart.  And, yes, I did eventually have to work out and eat better foods and all that jazz to get to a good place, weight wise.  But breastfeeding kick started it.  And that kick start gave me the confidence to continue it.
Star after breastfeeding her first baby
I’m sure some of you will scoff at the notion that breastfeeding saved my life.  However, I don’t think any doctor would argue that being morbidly obese sets you up for a whole slew of life-threatening ailments.  And when you add in all the *other* health benefits of breastfeeding too, well, it no longer seems like a stretch. Not to mention the 60 pounds it helped me to lose, it’s really probably not that far off from the truth.  Breastfeeding saved my life.
The author today, healthier, happier and breastfeeding her second baby.
A Note from Jessica

I love Star’s story, it is beautiful, inspiring and full of hope and I am so honored to share it here.  Breastfeeding educators have long shared how breastfeeding can help a woman lose weight and recently the New York WIC caused a stir with their breastfeeding campaign that focused on weight loss as one benefit of breastfeeding.  This isn’t a reason to breastfeed in and of itself but it is a potential positive benefit from breastfeeding and a dang good one at that.  At the same time it is important to note that not every woman will lose weight while breastfeeding and some, like myself, may even hold on to some extra padding until they wean.  Even if that is the case, breastfeeding still has so many other wonderful effects on mom and baby that it is worth continuing.  Be encouraged that either way you breastfeeding is wonderful for both you and your nursling!  To your health!