12 Weaning Ceremonies


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babymooning- 12 signs you are the mother of a breastfeeding newborn

I’m babymooning.  Sugarbaby and I are doing very well, now 12 days postpartum.  I’ve been trying very hard to take it easy and respect this postpartum time for myself and it has been paying off.  Over the last almost 2 weeks I’ve been simply enjoying my baby, my family, and resting.  Cherishing this newborn time that goes too fast has been my priority.
I wanted to share some observations I’ve made during my babymoon, maybe you can relate and I’m sure you can add some of your own.
You know you’re the mom of a breastfeeding newborn when…
  1. You finally get to take a shower and within 10 minute of getting out you already have leaked milk all over your clean shirt.
  2. As much as you like the longer, thicker hair you grew during pregnancy, hacking it off with a dull pair of scissors is starting to sound like a good plan between the frequency of showers you get, the death-like grip of a tiny handful of hair your baby is capable of, cleaning spit up out of it several times a day, and the nagging fear of a hair tourniquet.
  3. You wonder why you didn’t invest in more yoga pants and are certain you will never wear blue jeans again.
  4. Your favorite food is: “anything someone else made.”
  5. Any time someone hugs you any way but with a side hug you wince.
  6. The old adage “never wake a sleeping baby” doesn’t apply when your boobs are rock hard boulders crushing your chest.  Yes, you will wake your baby for some relief.
  7. You wish you had jedi powers for every time you forget to grab a drink of water before you sit down to breastfeed… again.
  8. “Sleep when baby sleeps” seems like a good plan but you wonder when you’d get to pee or brush your teeth or eat.  Then you realize that sleep trumps everything else and decide you’ll pee, brush your teeth, and eat while holding your baby.
  9. Something seems really funny and you laugh hysterically only to forget what was so funny 5 minutes later.
  10. Shirts are “clean” unless the smell is too bad or there is obvious spit-up or poop on them, dried milk leaks don’t count as “dirty.”
  11. The stash of reusable breastpads that seemed so impressive before giving birth is used up in one day after your milk comes in.
  12. You’d rather sniff your baby’s head snuggled on your chest than even your favorite flower any day.

The Leakies on The Leaky Boob Facebook page had plenty more here and I hope you’ll add your own in the comments below.  Now back to my baby head sniffing!

 

A Translation Guide for Navigating the Terrain Between Breastfeeders and Formula-Feeders

Talking about breastmilk or formula can be difficult to navigate with a loose, slippery, and uneven terrain.  One second you think you have sure-footing and the next you’re on your butt.

I’m not going to deny that hurtful phrases come from breastfeeding supporters, occasionally in the form of personal attacks, and if you’ve personally experienced that, I’m truly sorry.  Please know that most of us just want to get information out there, encourage others and want to see babies fed.  Including me.

More often I see what are truly meant as innocuous statements of information and education that are simply misunderstood.  All of us experience life through a variety of personal filters and we often have sensitive areas that automatically put us on our guard and we may take things as a personal attack when that’s hardly the intent.  When it comes to feeding babies all those devoted moms doing their best have some serious passion.

An article is released sharing the findings of a new study that revealing some new findings about breastmilk or there may be some issues with formula and hundreds of comments pour in with things like “formula is the same thing, really and all the breastfed kids I know are sick all the time but my formula fed kids have genius IQs and are never sick” or “you know, not everyone can breastfeed so I guess I’m a bad mom because my breasts just didn’t work.”  To add fuel to the fire there are the comments that say things like “See, this is why I’m so glad I gave my babies the best and breastfed.”  And really, what does saying something like that do for anyone?  Heaven forbid it be an article on a formula recall and the “so glad I breastfeed, breastmilk is never recalled” comments start flooding Facebook newsfeeds and loading the comments section on blogs and articles.  Nothing like rubbing someone’s face in their scary circumstances and flaunting “sucks to be you!”  If we’re not careful we cross the line from passionate advocacy into plain ol’ bullying.

Then there’s the mom celebrating her success in breastfeeding, sharing “So excited we’ve made it to 6 months without even one drop of formula!  GO BOOBIE MILK!  WOOT!”  In that moment that mom is inviting everyone to a party at her house because she’s truly excited about her accomplishment.  But just as sure as she’s about to pop the cork on that sparkling grape juice to pour a round for everyone someone says something like “I don’t know why everyone has to be so down on formula, it makes moms that use it feel bad.”

They probably don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer and they don’t intend to dismiss the celebration of that mom (or maybe they do, I can’t really say) but stirring in their internal narrative of parenting confidence are insecurities on this issue, perhaps closer to the surface than they realized.  Instead of being able to celebrate with that mom, they are having to deal with their own less than happy feelings and defend, at least to themselves, their reality.

Thankfully, most of the time people can just say some encouraging and supportive words.  Once in a while, far more often than I’d like, the communication deteriorates.  Quickly.  As though we’re trying to have an important conversation but lack the skills.  Like we’re speaking different languages.

Maybe we need an interpreter?  What follows is my light-hearted attempt at some translations to help us navigate these slippery slopes.

 

It’s not a put down on formula feeding mothers when breastfeeding advocates say:

 

“Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby.”

What we don’t mean:  “Formula feeding moms are less of a mother and less than normal.”  We know that’s not true.  We also know that breastfeeding isn’t (yet) accepted as normal in society.  We certainly don’t mean that it is always easy or even possible for every mom.  Or that formula feeding moms don’t deserve to be treated as normal, loving, caring mothers because we know they are normal, loving, caring mothers.  Nope, none of those things are what we mean.

What we do mean:  Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed a baby.  A mother’s body is programmed to breastfeed and a newborn baby is programmed TO breastfeed.  Meaning that, barring any physical difficulties, babies are born ready to breastfeed; the delivery of the placenta signals the mother’s breasts to produce milk to feed, the mother’s body biologically responds to birth by producing milk, and human milk is (usually) the perfectly formulated food biologically for a human baby.

 

“I’m proud to breastfeed.”

We don’t mean:  “I’m better than a formula feeding mom.”  Just like being proud to be a mother isn’t a put down to those aren’t mothers, so being proud of breastfeeding isn’t a put down to those that don’t breastfeed.

We do mean:  Breastfeeding is important to us and sometimes it’s hard and comes with recognized challenges.  We’re celebrating our accomplishment of something we value as important for ourselves.  We’re also recognizing that there is a lot in our society that sabotages moms that want to breastfeed and combating that can be challenging.

 

“I love the bond I have with my baby with breastfeeding.”

We don’t mean:  “Moms that don’t breastfeed aren’t as connected to their babies.”  Feeding a baby is a deep connection no matter how it’s done and is just one way parents bond with their babies.  Most of us know moms that formula-fed and are incredibly bonded to their children and don’t doubt for a second that formula-feeding moms deeply love their children.

We do mean:  This is something we consider special and helps us feel connected to our child.  That, to us, breastfeeding has a deep feeling of interconnection that goes beyond something we can explain but we try even thought words fail us.  Feeding our babies with our milk and at our breasts is one way we feel deeply bonded to our babies.

 

“I’m so glad I’ve never had to give my baby formula” or “I’m so glad she’s not had 1 drop of formula.”

We don’t mean:  “Formula feeding moms are lazy or giving their babies poison.”  Nope, it’s not a commentary on what someone else does.  We’re not saying that somehow formula feeding moms should be ashamed of giving their babies formula or that never giving a baby formula is some dividing line between the good moms and the bad moms.

We do mean:  Like being proud of breastfeeding, not giving their baby formula just feels like a personal accomplishment.  It is in no way a reflection of our opinion of anyone else’s choice or situation, merely an acknowledgment of a personal goal.

 

“Breastfeeding is beautiful!”

We don’t mean:  “It’s perfectly beautiful all the time.”  Finding something beautiful doesn’t mean it’s easy or right for everyone and it doesn’t even mean we always enjoy the experience.

We do mean:  Not only do we NOT find it gross, we also think it is special, something wonderful, and to be celebrated.  It is more than nutrition to us and is a beautiful experience we treasure even though it has plenty of challenges along the way.  We also know that not everyone agrees with us, that’s part of why we say it though so we can hope to change negative cultural attitudes toward breastfeeding.

 

“Breast is best!”

We don’t mean:  “The moms that breastfeed are the best moms and the moms that don’t are just ok or bad.”  That’s not it at all.  In fact, this slogan came first from formula companies when they were forced to acknowledge that breastmilk was a superior product to formula.  They had to acknowledge that but had to find a way that could make formula sound normal and breastfeeding to sound like it was a parenting “extra,” an optional choice.

We do mean:  Breast milk is the best food choice available for a baby and young child.  Personally, I don’t care for this statement myself (you can find more on that here) but I know when people say it they aren’t intending anything other than their enthusiasm for breastfeeding and stating a simple fact: breast milk is good for babies.  It’s not a put down towards anyone.

 

“I feel sorry for babies that aren’t breastfed.”

We don’t mean:  “Those kids are just so screwed.”  This comment makes me uncomfortable, I don’t like it.  But I understand where it’s coming from and why it’s said.  Those of us that breastfeed see the joy and delight our own children have in the experience, how they love breastfeeding.  We are completely convinced it is special for both them and ourselves in a purely innocent, sweet way.  While it can be very close to a put down, I don’t believe it usually is intended as such and we don’t actually full on pity children that didn’t get to breastfeed but rather mourn the loss of an experience we consider special.

We do mean:  This is an awkward but genuine expression of sadness for those missing out on something we feel is so special.  Should it be said?  I don’t think so.  But if it is I hope formula-feeding moms can understand it is most likely only because the speaker/writer truly believes every child should get to have the marvelous experience her own enjoyed so much.

 

“There need to be strict regulations regarding the manufacturing and marketing of formula.”

We don’t mean:  “Formula-feeding parents are gullible and fall for the marketing of poisonous formula.”  Voicing the view point that there need to be standards in how formula is marketed and that there should be strict regulations for formula as a product isn’t a reflection on the parents at all.  It may reflect a cynical distrust that formula manufactures have anything other than a bottom line on their mind (Unsupportive Support- For a Profit).  Ultimately though, those of us that believe that the manufacturing and marketing of artificial breastmilk substitutes in infant and toddler nutrition believe so for the good of the children’ receiving the product.

We do mean:  Even if our children don’t receive formula, the children that do are worth higher standards of excellence.  We demand transparency and better regulations for artificial breastmilk substitutes manufacturing for the babies that need it. Formula is necessary, the health of many children depend on it being manufactured with integrity.

 

Before you find yourself careening down a conversation on your butt, try to remember that most people aren’t trying to start something and those that are probably aren’t worth your time.  As a breastfeeding mother, I promise, I’m not trying to push formula feeding parents down.  We’re all just carefully trying to pick our way over the rocks, slippery spots, and potential jabs to enjoy the view life has to offer and with a little bit of sensitivity and understanding going both ways, we can all offer a hand to each other in spite of our differences.

Nipple confusion, bottles, and alternative feeding options

On January 17, 2012 in the United States, Medela, best known for their pumps, launched their latest “feeding innovation”, the Calma.  The Calma is a bottle that seeks to eliminate nipple confusion and flow preference by making a bottle fed baby work for its milk, similar to how your little one must compress and suck at your breast to get milk out.  According to Medela, this “supports an easy transition from the breast to the teat and back.”

As a registered International board certified lactation consultant, I am very skeptical of these claims.

I have often heard that nipple confusion is a myth, foisted on mothers to keep them stuck to their brand new babies, to keep them from leaving the house, to subjugate us all.  This is simply not true.  Nipple confusion happens.  I have seen numerous cases of it in my practice.  Babies become nipple confused for three reasons – flow preference, difference in movements, and difference in feel.  Medela has the right idea on part of the equation.  Babies that are given a lot of bottles in the early period can decide that it’s not that fun to work a breast when this plastic thingy is way easier.  Most bottles, even the slowest flowing, flow faster than milk from a breast.  However, your baby also moves their mouth differently to get the milk from a bottle than from a breast.  The jaw and tongue movements are not even close to the same, and trying to transfer the movements from one to another can frustrate and upset your baby.  After all, if your baby is new, this whole eating thing is new, too.  Why complicate it?  There’s a bonus too: a baby nursing at the breast will develop their mouth in a way that will help with prettier smiles and better speech, too!

The third part of the equation is the different feel.  If you are giving your baby a softer breast and a harder silicone, they may very well like the way that a bottle feels more – especially since that silicone is, again, delivering milk faster and the mouth movements are different.   Medela hasn’t really done anything to cure that.  I’ve seen and felt the Calma, and, I assure you, it will not be mistaken for breast tissue anytime soon.

The easiest way to prevent nipple confusion is by waiting to introduce a bottle until four to six weeks (three to four at the earliest) and to simply offer the breast more than the bottle.  Some families have other situations, though, that don’t make the whole four to six week thing possible.  So what is a modern mom to do?  For many of us, it is not feasible to never give milk from anywhere but the breast.  We have work, and school, and other children, and obligations, and, man, sometimes Mommy just needs a day (or an hour or two) off.   But babies still have to eat during that time!  And what if your baby has issues with latching at the breast, or you are inducing a supply, or you need to do some supplementing?

Luckily, being a modern mom means that we have some awesome options available to us.  There is spoon feeding, where you can hand express colostrum or milk directly into a spoon and give it to your baby.  This works best in the beginning, when your baby isn’t taking in much milk yet – it would be a fairly long process for a family feeding an older infant.  To spoon feed, you simply use a clean spoon, hold the baby in an upright position (like sitting) and put the spoon at the lower lip, giving small amounts and letting the baby go at their own pace.  A spoonful can be considered a full feeding if you are dealing with a newborn.

Cup feeding is another option.  Cups are widely available, cheap, and easy to use.  Your infant won’t take the cup from your hands and drink like a big kid, of course, but will instead lap at the milk kind of like a baby animal might.  There are special cups sold for cup feeding, but it might be easier and cheaper to just use a shot glass.  With cup feeding, like spoon feeding, you’ll hold the baby supported and upright.  You’ll put the cup to the lips and tilt slightly so that the baby can easily lap at the milk (not so it’s pouring into his or her mouth.)  Allow the baby to eat at his or her own pace.  It may take a while, but that is ok!  Babies shouldn’t be gulping down their feeds – when they do, they often overeat, which can hurt their tummies and set a bad precedence of wanting more than they need.

You can also use what’s called a supplemental nursing system, or SNS.  SNSs are generally a bottle type thing hooked to a long tube.  You put the milk in the bottle part, and then you can do one of two things with the tube.  First, you can use it on the breast, either by sticking it in a nipple shield (which you should only use if followed by a lactation consultant for sizing and to negate any potential complications that might arise) or by taping the end near the nipple so that the baby gets an extra boost of liquid while nursing.  This can be really helpful if you’re relactating or increasing a milk supply, if your baby needs to be supplemented but is nursing well, or if you have a preemie or baby with suck issues that maybe doesn’t milk the breast as effectively as they should be.  You can also use a SNS to finger feed your baby.  With that, you attach the tube to your finger, and the baby sucks the finger to get the milk.  A lactation consultant can even help you use this method to train or retrain your baby to suck properly.  SNS systems can be hard to clean, so please carefully read the instructions and check with a health care provider for any extra precautions you should take if you have a preemie or immune compromised baby.

If you have an older baby (4 months or so) that’s just now getting around to taking milk in another way, you can try forgoing bottles altogether and working on cup training or using sippy cups.  Sometimes the difference is interesting enough for an older baby who has rejected bottles.  As with any of the other methods, the goal is to allow your baby to learn and go at their own pace.  Be prepared for this to be a messier endeavor with an older baby who is starting to show some independence.  You will probably have to help them to hold and tilt the cup – they may not be content with the idea of you holding it all yourself, and you may have some spills in the process.

But what if none of these methods work for you?  Maybe your care provider is balking, or you are annoyed and uncomfortable with one or all of the methods, and you really, really just want to use a bottle.  In that case, instead of purchasing the reportedly $15 a piece Calma, I would try Fleur at Nurtured Child’s method of baby-led bottlefeeding.  In fact, any time you are bottlefeeding, you should use this method.  It is the ideal way to feed a baby from a bottle and encourage any care-takers that will be feeding your baby with a bottle to utilize this method as well.  In choosing a bottle, there is no really good evidence that I have seen showing that a certain bottle or nipple is better than another for breastfeeding.  There are a lot of nipples that are supposed to be similar to your breast in look and feel, but in my time in the bottle aisle, I never saw any that made me go, “That looks EXACTLY like my boob.  That one, right there, with the wide base and medium sized nipple!!”  My kids never really liked the wide bottomed nipples, although they are often touted as being awesome for breastfeeding babies.  When it all boils down to it, most of that is hype.  When selecting a bottle, select the one you think might work that is in your budget.

If you are giving milk due to a breastfeeding problem, be sure to discuss methods and supplements with a medical professional with good lactation training.  Ask a lot of questions.  If supplements are ordered, get a LOT of information on them.  Why do you need to supplement?  How long does your medical professional want you to supplement?  How much should you supplement?  How often should you supplement?  Can you use your own expressed breast milk?  What is the plan of action for weaning from supplementing?  If your baby isn’t nursing well at the breast, you will likely need to do some pumping along with the supplementing to keep your supply healthy while you work through the problem.  Find out how often you need to pump and how you should store your breastmilk – especially if your baby is hospitalized and you are transporting it.

There are other feeding options for more serious problems, such as cleft lip/palate as well. That type of situation needs to be followed very closely by a lactation professional and physician to ensure that the baby’s unique situation is being addressed.

If you are going to be separated from your baby for another reason – work, school, or just going out – remember to think of your magic number.  This is the number of times your baby breastfeeds in a normal day (and, yes, that can vary.  Just take an average.)  You want to be sure that you are replicating that amount of times by a combination of pumping and nursing.  This will help to keep your milk supply plentiful.

In the end, there is no product on the market that can magically be just like your breast and provide your baby the exact same experience.  Luckily, there are many options for your baby and your family that will help you to achieve your breastfeeding goals.

 

 
 Star Rodriguiz, IBCLC, is a breastfeeding peer counselor for a WIC in the Midwest and has just started her private practice as an IBCLC (her Facebook page is here, go “like” for great support).  She also sits on the  breastfeeding task force in her town, is helping her  community’s Early Head Start redefine  their breastfeeding support, and is the  driving force behind a local breastfeeding campaign.  In  the remainder of her free  time, she chases around her nursling and preschooler.

Unsupportive Support- is your milk good enough?

Continuing the series on unsupportive support come two more gems.  Hit the quality.  Please, if you have the opportunity to come into contact with a breastfeeding women and you can’t say anything supportive… maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all?

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 2.

Unsupportive support is…

Informing her that her baby must not be getting enough and that’s why her baby wants to eat all the time, saying she can/can’t eat/drink certain foods while breastfeeding, telling her breast milk turns to water after 6 months, that she needs to start them on solids, Sating her baby is too skinny/too fat and needs her diet needs to change, or pretty much anything else that puts down breast milk.

I’ll keep this one short: have you studied human lactation?  Are you well read in the latest scientific research and health care recommendations on infant nutrition?  Have you done anything more than read a couple news articles or listen to a radio personality/TV celebrity talk about breastfeeding?  Unless you can produce researched (as in legit, peer reviewed, scientific research) information backing these claims, don’t ever say anything questioning the quality of her milk or the validity of her feeding choices.  Ever. Are you even qualified to say this stuff?  Go do some research before you spout off ignorance and recite this until it sticks: “I must trust this mom to do what she feels is best and support her along the way.”

Telling a new mom “Isn’t formula just as good as breast milk?  My children were all formula fed and they turned out fine!”

While she’s probably quite happy for you that your children did fine on formula, that’s not the choice she has made for her child.  Her choosing something different isn’t a criticism of your choice, not even a little bit.  You may choose to wear pink yet she never would and that’s no reflection on you, just a difference in what each of you feel is right for yourselves.  She’s taken a lot of time in making her decision just as I’m sure you did in making yours.  You may not realize it, but in questioning her decision like this you are insulting her ability to make the right choices for her family.  And it is her family, her choice to make.  You already got to make your choices for your family or will some day.  If this thought runs through your head the most supportive act you can do is to button it and don’t dare bring it up to her or her partner.  Not even once.  If you’ve already done this, go out of your way to apologize and intentionally let her know you support her breastfeeding.  Put this on the inside of your front door to help you remember this: “I will support her even if she makes different choices than me.”

 

Pulling the quality card is exceptionally manipulative, most moms really want to give their child(ren) the best they can.  Taking a swipe at her for what she’s feeding her child and planting seeds of doubt that maybe, for some reason, her milk is inadequate isn’t supportive.  It becomes very difficult not to take it personally and she doesn’t need the worry you planted.  Breast milk quality is rarely an issue, in fact, breast milk is perfectly engineered to meet her growing child’s needs with a custom blend.  The quality couldn’t be better!  On the rare occasion that there could be an issue an expert on human lactation is better equipped to address it than the people that should be encouraging her in her parenting goals.  Your lack of understanding of normal human lactation and the normal needs of a breastfed child should not be what you draw from to show concern or support.  (A great place to start educating yourself is this post on normal behavior of the breastfed newborn.)

 

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Did some of your support people question if your milk could be any good?

How do you respond when people say unsupportive comments trying to tell you your milk isn’t any good or that formula is just good if not better? 

Wrap Your Leaky Boobs in a Cloud- Bamboobies Giveaway

As part of our LIVE Facebook chat this week with TLB sponsor Bamboobies, Kerry Gilmartin has generously offered 3 prizes just for The Leaky Boob readers.  I love Bamboobies, of all the breast pads I’ve used, these are my favorites.  You can read my, uh… “experienced” review of them here.

The three prizes are a $16.99 discount code to the 3 winners good for a 2-pair package of either our regular ultra-thin, milk-proof bamboobies or our ultra-thick ultra-soft overnight bamboobies.

All you have to do to be entered is to comment on this post and if you feel like it, share a breastfeeding challenge you got through and how.  For a second entry, go like Bamboobies on Facebook, let them know TLB sent you and come back and leave a second comment letting me know you did so.  If you already like Bamboobies on Facebook, share them with your friends and leave a second comment letting me know.

That’s it!  Two easy ways to be entered.  This giveaway is open just for the next 24 hours as part of today’s chat.  The giveaway is open to international entries.

As always, Kerry has also generously offered an ordering code for Leakies as part of Bamboobies regular support of TLB.  Use TLB20 for 20% off at www.buybamboobies.com.  This code is always available for Leakies, use it this week and thank her for the informative and helpful chat!

The Semantics of the Sisterhood: How We Can Promote Breastfeeding Honestly and Positively

Today I’m pleased to bring my readers a lovely guest post by Lara, CLEC and the woman behind TLB Sponsor Mama Pear Designs.  Let’s consider how we talk about breastfeeding!

When you are pregnant, you must give birth to the baby, there’s no alternative.  And while there are various birth options available to women the end result is the same – you will give birth to a baby.  Until relatively recently, and in many parts of the world still today, the same was/is true for breastfeeding.  There was no alternative to breast milk to nourish and sustain a baby.  Either you or another lactating woman, had to put your baby to breast for its survival.  Today however, we know that breastfeeding is not a given, and as such we need to offer more support to pregnant women because they can choose not to do it.  Perhaps they make the choice not to, simply because they do not have enough information to make an informed one.  I am in no way saying mothers who choose to use artificial baby milk are in the wrong, I support their choice to do so.  I do not think that anyone should be forced to breastfeed, the choice is a personal one that must fit every mother and her new family; sometimes that means choosing artificial baby milk, and no mother should have to justify her choice to anyone. However, I do believe that prenatal breastfeeding education is lacking in many ways, and as such many mothers who might breastfeed miss out an on the opportunity because they are not given the information.  In addition, postnatal breastfeeding support can be hard to come by for some, and the combination of the two can be detrimental to women who have the very best intentions.  The reality is once you choose not to breastfeed it is a decision that is difficult to reverse.  For these reasons we need to offer support to women in need, so they do not get caught in a situation they did not anticipate.

So who am I talking about, who is “we”? Well everyone, really: all healthcare professionals, employers, friends, and family.  Specifically though I want to address the sisterhood aspect of the support scenario.  And by sisterhood, I mean the mother-to-mother support, such as the friend who hosts your baby shower and brings you dinner while you are “babymooning” after your baby’s birth, or whom you call when your baby has its first cold, first giggle, or rolls over for the first time.

What we say to each other and how we say it can be very powerful, both in a negative and positive way.  I want to raise awareness and create consciousness about these conversations involving breastfeeding.  I truly believe it is time to re-examine the language we use when we talk about the breastfeeding experience to women who have never done it, who are considering it, or who are in the throes of it.  If you have professional lactation training, you are sensitive to this.  You never phrase anything so that the mom feels like she has done something wrong, and you try to get a sense of her confidence so that you have the correct approach for her individual situation.  But the rest of us, well we could use a little guidance.  I have been a breastfeeding mother for four years, and recently became a Lactation Educator, so now I am able to participate in both sides of the conversation.

The first thing I would like is for people to stop telling breastfeeding moms is that it is hard.  Does the word “hard” word motivate you? Probably not, and especially not if you are worried about how the baby will be born, when will it be born, will your pre-pregnancy body come back, what is sex like after the baby, will your swollen ankles ever go away, etc.  Pregnancy is hard, and you do not want to hear that once the baby comes, more “hard” is waiting for you around the corner.  (A TLB post asking if Breastfeeding is hard “Breastfeeding Hard?” and another listing 25 things women commonly face that are harder than breastfeeding.) I think we can be honest, but careful with our words.  Breastfeeding can come with challenges and many questions, but there are ways to overcome those challenges and professionals and friends alike, can help new moms find the answers.  A conversation with a pregnant friend really should not sound like this:

Me: So, you are going to breastfeed, right?

Friend: Well, I think so, but I am not sure.

Me: Well it is hard, I had cracked and bleeding nipples, thrush, I leaked milk for months, but it was worth it.

Friend: Ummm…okay. (exit pregnant woman, running for the hills)

First of all, even though I have the best of intentions, I made the assumption that she was going to breastfeed and asked in a tone that made it seem like she was wrong if she chose not to do so.  I do not believe she is wrong for choosing not to breastfeed, should that be the case.  Remember, she is entitled to make her own decision on how to feed her baby, I really just want her choice to be a well-informed one.  So while I was trying to be honest, and I did tell her it was worth all of the early obstacles, I just scared her nipples of her poor swollen boobs, because she stopped listening at  “bleeding nipples”.  After that she heard nothing else. Guaranteed.

So maybe here’s a better way to approach the conversation:

Me: I just wanted to let you know that if you decide to breastfeed, I am always available to help you in any way, I’ll be glad to help you answer questions or help you find some reliable resources.

Friend: Oh thanks, I am not sure yet, I have heard that is it really hard, so I will probably try it, but we’ll see.

Me: You know just like learning anything with a new baby, it can have some challenges, but most women find that with the right support they are able to overcome the obstacles breastfeeding poses for them.

I did not use the word “hard,” but I did not make breastfeeding seem like it was going to be as natural as some assume it to be.   I also offered to support her, and hopefully she now knows that she can ask me when the time comes should she have any questions.

Using language that makes breastfeeding seem unfavorable, words like hard, hurts, and painful, really does not do a great deal to sell the idea to women who may be on the fence regarding breastfeeding.   I talk to women all the time who say, “Well I hear it’s hard, but I am going to do it anyway.”  What a wonderful attitude, she is committed from the get-go.  The problem is that if she thinks it is going to be hard, it will be.  If you have read anything I’ve written before then you know that my sister was my biggest supporter as I began to breastfeed my oldest son, and I was smart in that I really only turned to her for advice.  One reason was that I was the first among my friends to have a baby, but the main reason was that she was successful in breastfeeding my nieces, and she never told me horror stories, she just offered positive support.  And you know what? I never had any major problems.  A couple of times I had plugged ducts, but nothing too serious that could not be solved by a twenty four hour nurse-a–thon.  I had an overactive Milk Ejection Reflex, but eventually my babies grew and were able to keep up with mama’s fast flow! Essentially, I just tuned out the naysayers and focused on my cheerleaders: my sister, my husband, and my growing baby boys.

One of the other things with which we need to learn to be okay, is approaching the topic of breastfeeding in the first place.  Pregnant women are often subject to invasive questions, and even unwanted belly groping, we are all aware of this phenomenon.  It is commonplace to ask, “Do you know what you are having? (A human is always a great answer), or “What are you naming your baby?” (I always responded with “Chuck Norris”).  I said before that my only hope is for women to make well-informed decisions about choosing to breastfeed.  It is possible to offer your help, your sisterhood guidance, in a way that does not put the mother-to-be in an uncomfortable position.  I approach pregnant women, perfect strangers, all the time and discuss breastfeeding.  As a Lactation Educator, I cannot help myself – I am like a moth drawn to a flame.  However, I am very careful about the language I use.  I never ask their plans for feeding, I just offer my support and information.  I usually say, “If you are considering breastfeeding, I would love to have you in my class.  Here’s my information (on a business card), please contact me if you have any questions about my class or breastfeeding, either now or after the baby arrives, as I love to help moms and have a great list of resources to share.”  Done.  If she has chosen not to breastfeed then she can say, “Thank you” and throw my card away, or if she has (and I am glad to say most moms say they are going to try) then she has met one person who has offered to help her.

And last but not least, let us stop asking moms with older babies if they are still breastfeeding.   Even if we mean no harm, improper emphasis on the word “still” can make a mom feel like she is doing something wrong, when in reality if she and her baby/toddler/preschooler are still nursing happily, then they are doing everything right.  We are all aware that there are many people in society who are okay with a woman breastfeeding a newborn, or a baby who is four or five months old.  But with the eruption of teeth, moms start hearing suggestions that maybe it is time to wean, and certainly if a baby or toddler can ask for the breast the time has come to wean, right?  Wrong.  Is your breastfeeding relationship anyone’s business? Why does it matter if a mother is breastfeeding her 12 month old, or her 22 month old, or her 32 month old?  Quite simply, it does not.  It has no bearing on anyone whatsoever.  The problem is most people, including “first-generation” breastfeeding moms do not realize that it is normal to breastfeed children, not just babies.   When most people use the words “still” and “breastfeeding” together, it is merely so they can then comment how it is time to wean, that the relationship has run its course.  (Except me of course, if I ever meet you and ask you this, and you say yes, no matter how old your child is, I will congratulate you!)  So while I support talking openly about breastfeeding, I think the details of your relationship should remain as private as you like.  Should someone ask you a question that you do not want to answer because you anticipate that you may receive unsolicited advice about weaning on someone else’s timetable, then I suggest you reply with this question: “Why do you ask?” It will usually put people in their places without them even realizing it.

So are you in? Can we start rethinking and rewording how we offer our support to our breastfeeding mama friends, our “sisters”, in need of a little advice? I hope we can let go of the negative words that are a turn-off and instead be honest in a positive way, while showing our friends where to turn for help, either in their local communities or online.

Breastfeeding, My Daughters, and Body Image

I breastfeed for my daughters. At first glance, this would seem obvious: I have all girls. We all breastfeed or formula feed our children for them, it is what you do as a parent; feed your child.  And this is of course true for me as well.  After all, breastfeeding is the biological normal way to feed a human baby and thankfully my body can do it just fine.  But over time a new aspect of breastfeeding has emerged for me.  I don’t breastfeed only to feed and bond with my daughters any more.  In this age where an impossible ideal is held up as desirable for the female form, when airbrushing celebrity figures to make them “perfect” is the accepted norm, when a woman’s worth is presented as being entirely wrapped up in her sex appeal, when women’s (and men’s) bodies are used to sell things, when objectifying a human being for their body is lucrative, one of the reasons I openly breastfeed my babies is so my daughters can see something different. Initially this benefit of breastfeeding wasn’t on my radar. I was focused, like most new moms, on doing what was best for my baby and “breast is best.” (My views on that saying and it’s impact on breastfeeding have changed after all these years.) Attractive qualities of breastfeeding such as statistically higher IQ levels in breastfed babies, lower risk of obesity in adulthood, super-power like immune system boosting, and faster/better recovery time after birth all sounded good to me and I was drawn in by these dreamy sounding sale pitches that no other product could truly replicate.  I felt my daughters deserved the best and I would do everything in my power to give them the very best I could.  Though not impressed with myself for breastfeeding my daughters, I was pleased, even if I didn’t really think about it too much with my first three girls.  It was just simply something you do as a mother: push baby out, expel placenta, breasts get the signal to produce milk, put baby to breast, and the rest, as they say, is history. It changed though.  While I knew the wonders of breastfeeding I began to see myself and the world a little differently as I watched my girls grow.  Earlier than I ever imagined possible it seemed little girls were encouraged to flaunt their sexuality with clothing options that seemed better suited for “girls” about 4 times their age and no, I’m not joking.  Advertising, toys and cartoon characters jumped out at me suddenly as more messages to little girls (and boys) as to what a woman was supposed to look like and what her purpose was.  Suddenly even my favorite Disney princess from my own childhood concerned me as I considered the sexual overtones of her character and clothing.  I wanted something different for my daughters and I found myself becoming increasingly concerned with the messages my young girls were hearing regarding their bodies and what they should look like.  The messages they were hearing of their purpose and function. Of their worth and value. When Squiggle Bug was born nearly 5 years after Lolie, my 3rd, my girls were fascinated with my changing body during the pregnancy.  They loved the midwife visits and The Piano Man and I considered having them present for the birth.  To prepare them for that we started watching birth videos with them.  Long an open family about bodies, the differences between boys and girls and openly educating about sex, we encouraged them to ask questions.  Watching them watch a baby being born in these videos was beautiful, they were in awe of the whole process and I was reminded of the wonder of birth.  Seeing them take in breastfeeding and learn how it works, I marveled in a way I never had before over the incredible design.  Then a conversation with The Storyteller caused me to marvel in my own body when she said “You can do that?  You did that for us?  That’s amazing!  Mommy, your body is awesome!” I had never, ever in my entire life seen my body as awesome. I have not been good friends with my body.  Unfortunately, much like other women, I have struggled with body image.  In my head I can acknowledge beauty that wouldn’t be considered magazine worthy and I love and applaud representations that fly in the face of western societies expectations of what is desirable.  Yet for myself I hold a different standard.  Growing up I saw beauty defining images that depicted something pinched, poked, pushed, and painted.  And I liked it, wanted to look like that.  Complicating it further was my family’s very conservative faith views of modesty and during the very formative years of puberty I was bombarded with messages that if I dressed a certain way I would be responsible for making men and boys lust… or worse.  As I got older I heard people imply that if a woman was raped to look at how she was dressed, she was probably “asking” for it.  I always felt that any unwanted attention on my body was my own fault.  I wasn’t even sure if my body was something I really had any say over.  The struggle the conflicting messages I received contributed to me being insecure and I was afraid of my own body.  Should I hide it?  Should I flaunt it?  Would it cause my guy friends to stumble?  Or would it make me popular and admired?  Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.  Either way my body wasn’t good enough, beautiful enough, sexy enough, big enough, small enough, soft enough, hard enough, safe enough, innocent enough, protected enough, modest enough, pure enough, it would never be enough.  My body failed everything, every standard set.  And I didn’t know how but I felt it was all my own fault. These feelings impacted my relationships including my relationship with my husband and my children.  I struggled with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding in part due to these feelings.  Breastfeeding Earth Baby, my first, was no walk in the park for me emotionally. With time though I started to feel like maybe it wasn’t my body that failed, maybe it was society that had failed me though I wasn’t sure how.  Childbearing and breastfeeding did give me some respect for my body while at the same time confusing me further as to how motherhood could be so beautiful but drive being beautiful even further out of my reach.  Pushing back wasn’t easy and to this day I still struggle with internal voices telling me I’m still not enough.  With my daughters though the failure was glaring.  How I was failed was muddied by my own destructive behaviors but how my daughters were failed was unfolding before my eyes.  Surrounded by images, stories and marketing aimed to sell them something my daughters were drawn to artificial depictions of beauty just as I was.  I knew this wasn’t what I wanted for them.  We could have fun with dress up, make up and doing the pretty thing for ourselves but I didn’t want them to become consumed with aspiring to some artificial standard they could spend all the money in the world to reach and still fall short.  Early on we started rejecting toys and entertainment options that glorified a version of the female form that nobody really has any hope of reaching and choose selectively options that featured more realistic or simple characters.  We chose to be a Barbie-free home, the Disney princesses were regulated to a minor role, Saturday morning cartoons are a rarity and I stopped reading fashion magazines.  Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the girls were intrigued by this image of false female perfection. So we talked.  A lot and often.  Sometimes serious, sometimes casual, always open.  In the course of dialoguing with them I began to realize something: if I wanted this for them I had to want it for me. Getting rid of the fashion magazines was one of the best things I ever did for both my daughters and myself.  Learning to love and accept my body on an ongoing basis, embracing the struggle of my conflicting feelings is part of empowering them.  Letting them see me use my body for feeding their little sister and my choice to do so without shame and without covering in public, to embrace my body as it functioned naturally instead of imposing an unnatural standard of beauty or being controlled by fear helped them to accept their bodies now and as they grow and change in the future.  It also helped me.  Their questions, fascination and awe at the amazing things my body could do humbled me to tears.  They appreciated something I had never had the courage to truly see.  Today my older three daughters think breastfeeding is great and will easily say as much without blushing or giggling, just honest enthusiasm for something so magically normal.  My daughters are clearly comfortable around breasts and breastfeeding, which is good since, you know, they’ll probably have both some day.  I want them to appreciate and value their body both then and now. It is my honest hope that my older girls will remember me breastfeeding and these memories will be a part of empowering them to accept their bodies, to be fascinated and enjoy the power of their bodies and to embrace a much fuller and honest definition of beauty and their growing sexuality.  For my younger girls I hope that we continue to have friends that breastfeed their babies so my daughters will see and ask questions like their big sisters did, developing the same awe and confidence in the female body, including their own.  From this place they stand a greater chance of a healthy body image, generating confidence and self respect.  I’m still working on this for myself and I won’t stop because I’m not only doing it for me, I’m doing it for my daughters.  For me I am learning that my body, indeed my whole self is more complex than advertisers and parts of society would have me believe.  And I’m claiming it back.  For me.  For my daughters.  For women everywhere. As Earth Baby grows into her body as a young woman we have more and more frequent conversations about breasts and I love seeing her views develop.  Many times our conversations happen while I’m breastfeeding Smunchie and as she expresses her thoughts and concerns, voicing her questions that are both practical and philosophical, I marvel at the beauty of this moment.  Normal.  Healthy.  Beautiful.  I am breastfeeding for my daughters. (Photograph by Jack Potts, Bohemian Photography)

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 :)”

Really, Disgusting? I mean REALLY?

Warning: This is the most disgusting post I’ve ever written. I would not be able to read it while pregnant. If you have a weak stomach, proceed with caution.

Sometimes I hear words like “disgusting,” “gross,” “yucky,” “icky,” “repulsive,” “turn-off,” “sickening,” “offensive,” “disturbing,” and more when NIP (Nursing In Public) is discussed. Or I should say ranted about since it is rarely a discussion but more like a verbal battle of contention particularly in the comments found on online news reports and blogs and in such internet venues as Facebook and forums.

I’m a mother of 5 children. I’ve traveled, attend births, been in the hospital, taken mission trips, worked with the homeless, watched TV and movies including the discovery channel, and more. Trust me, I KNOW disgusting. So please, allow me to clarify what is truly “disgusting.”

There are grades, levels, if you will, of disgusting, not all things gross are created equal. The mere thought of some icky scenarios are enough to turn your stomach and others just make you grimace when you actually see or experience them. All of us have an internal gross-factor monitor, it alerts us when to look the other way, plug our nose, shout out a warning or triggers our stomach to empty it’s contents. Some of these are universally understood, some are more personal and developed by our cultural experiences. A few don’t even make sense but most do, as a form of self-preservation to avoid things that could make us sick. When I hear or read someone say that seeing someone breastfeeding is disgusting I want to throw out some really gross ideas and see what they say. Really, Disgusting? I mean REALLY? Gross? Really? Seriously? Oh come on! I can show you disgusting.

Here is my list, it would be longer but I started feeling a little nauseated:

Hmmmm, that’s icky, if I think about it too much I could be sick.
Disgusting Level 1

  • Letting your kid spit out the food they’ve already chewed but don’t like into your bare hand.
  • Cleaning up your own child’s poop.
  • Public bathrooms.
  • Porn site e-mails.
  • Derogatory terms for female genitalia.
  • Questionable mud puddles.
  • Wiping buggers off your child’s face or suctioning them out of their nose.
  • Shoveling manure.
  • Hearing people talk about pus.
  • Hearing your parents talk about their sex life.

Like ewwww! So gross, I think I’m going to be sick.
Disgusting Level 2

  • Cleaning up someone else’s poop from the floor or toilet or whatever.
  • Nose picking.
  • Yack floating in the pool you’re swimming in.
  • Seeing someone urinate.
  • Finding maggots… anywhere.
  • Puss filled wounds.
  • Ticks- as in the blood sucking insect kind.
  • Seeing someone sneeze into their hands and then touch the spoon in the buffet line.
  • Filthy public bathrooms.
  • The idea of eating fried worms.
  • Finding the shredded remains of the used tampon your dog ate AFTER she gave you hello licks.
  • Stepping on a roach or any other bug so the guts squirt out.
  • Hearing your parents HAVING sex.

Totally, universally disgusting, I am going to be sick.
Disgusting Level 3

  • Roach in your food.
  • Touching someone else’s buggers.
  • Finding a random used condom at the park.
  • Taking a swig of milk only to find it is curdled.
  • Being thrown-up on even by your own child.
  • Having to dispose of a dead, maggotty animal found in your yard, worse if in your house.
  • Draining a pus-filled wound.
  • Raw chicken.
  • The drinking water sources in some parts of the world.
  • Discovering wormy dog/cat poop after you stepped in it.
  • Red tide- people living in coastal areas know what I’m talking about here.
  • WALKING IN ON YOUR PARENTS HAVING SEX.

Those situations are gross. Some of them are a reflection of my own personal “ick” factor and I recognize my issues with them. As always, I have a choice when faced with them: push through, look away, get over it or remove myself. As such I let The Piano Man handle any raw poultry while I hide in the bedroom. This is left over from issues in pregnancy and him dealing with the raw meat makes all the difference in the world in my being able to eat later. Once in a while our stomach turning reactions signal that something is wrong or just “off” with us. In fact, it has been nausea to food, to the normal sights and smells that are a part of life that have signaled to me that I am pregnant every single time.

Often on the internet battlefields of blogs and articles, phrases about breastfeeding being the natural and normal way to feed a human baby are met with debate swordplay that urinating/defecating and sex are natural too but nobody wants to see them done in public. In sometimes clumsy, sometimes skilled thrusts of the written word, opponents spare about what is best, disgusting, natural, intimate, and above all, whose rights come first. I have to admit, I don’t always get it. Am I missing something? The act of releasing waste from the body and the experience of sexual pleasure seem to be an obvious far cry from a mother feeding, comforting and nourishing her child. To compare these is an elementary exercise in “one of these things is not like the others.” Human waste elimination carries the risk of bacteria and disease being spread, unlike breastfeeding, there isn’t a sealed suction receptacle to contain any possible threat. Not only is public sex acts prohibited by law but again, the risk of the spread of disease and of harming the psychological development of children by exposing them to the mature nature of indecent exposure before they are mentally capable of understanding and degrading all of society would be of primary concern regarding sex in public. Furthermore, public urination, defecation and sex are illegal. Breastfeeding in public is legal in the United States, in fact, breastfeeding in public is protected in most of the United States making it impossible to charge a woman with indecent exposure and for good reason, it is recognized as the normal, healthy way to feed a human baby. As far as whose rights get to come first, I would hate to see what has become of our society when we’re putting the personal tastes of adults in society over the needs of a dependent infant or child. The only disgusting possibility I see would be for a woman to not feed her hungry child when she has the means to do so, that she uses her breast according to the design of her body is no less disgusting than anyone else using their mouth to eat.

Like my red-flag of nausea before I even suspect I am pregnant, perhaps our disgust with breastfeeding in public reveals less about breastfeeding and more about some deeper issues we have has a society. Issues with the objectification of women, issues with a one-dimensional view of breasts, issues with body image and self-esteem, issues with confusing inappropriate public behavior and appropriate public behavior, issues with double of speak of what is “best” yet wanting that very thing to be hidden, issues with the complex nature of women as both sexual beings and nurturing mothers. If the sight of breastfeeding makes you feel sick even though you know it is the normal, healthy or even the “best” way to feed a human baby then it sounds like you need to get yourself checked out because that just doesn’t sound right, something must be “off” with you or maybe, just maybe, our society in general.

Because this is not disgusting.