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Unsupportive Support- out in public

Dear family and friends of a breastfeeding mother, strangers that support breastfeeding too, I have more to share with you about ways you are possibly being unintentionally unsupportive in your efforts to help.  What you may not realize is that offering unsupportive support is quite damaging and though I understand that you probably really are just trying to help it’s worth understanding how these efforts can actually cause more harm than good.  This series of posts on unsupportive support  is intended to help you be a better support person and strengthen your relationship with the mother you’re close to.

 

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 4.

Unsupportive support is…

Saying “You’re going to do THAT here?  Wouldn’t you like some place more private?”

She’s probably too nice to point this out but I’ll go ahead: when people say this and other similar comments what it really communicates is that you think she’s doing something that is shameful and should be hidden or secret.  It says more about what the speaker thinks of breasts, women, and the act of breastfeeding.  What you’re telling her by saying that is that you are uncomfortable with breastfeeding.  Which means you’re uncomfortable with her.  Which is your problem, not hers.  If she’s already started to breastfeed or is getting set up to do so then clearly she’s comfortable doing “THAT” there.  Offering her some place private if she seems anxious or looks uncomfortable could be helpful but it’s probably best to just wait for her to ask because chances are strong that she’d seek it out on her own if that were the case.  It’s not helping to offer another room for her to go to and be ostracized from everyone else and it’s just plain old disgusting to suggest the bathroom as an alternative.  Do you know what people do in there?  Moms can start breastfeeding in bathrooms when restaurants can meet health code and serve diners in the bathrooms.  Unless you’re going to be the first to sign up to eat your dinner in the bathroom, don’t suggest it as a dinning place of choice for an infant.  Since in the majority of the world her right to breastfeed wherever she is happens to be is legally protected what does it matter where she’s going to feed her baby?  The needs and comfort of her baby are her first priority, the comfort of everyone else that has their own issues with how they view breastfeeding and the female body, not so much.  Those individuals just have to deal.  And grow up.  And get over their selfish little selves that put their issues before a small child’s need to eat.  In fact, the more women breastfeed as though it’s a normal part of life and parenting (because, you know, it IS a normal part of life and parenting), the more comfortable society will become and the more women will breastfeed.  She’s actually doing the world a favor by breastfeeding wherever she is.  To really support her look up the laws about breastfeeding in public in your/her area and be informed.  It may take some practice but you’ll get more comfortable with it too.  Just practice whispering to yourself “I’m the one with the problem, not her.”  And start carrying “Thank you for breastfeeding in public” cards with you to hand out when you do see a woman breastfeeding in public (you’ll be shocked at how rare a sight that actually is) as penance.

Encouraging her to “plan ahead and just pump” to take a bottle or suggesting formula when going out so she doesn’t have to breastfeed in public.

Saying this just makes you look really uneducated about breastfeeding.  And maybe you are but it’s also very rude.  Don’t say it.  It’s not always that simple plus, why should she?  Because you are uncomfortable with her breastfeeding in public?  Because others are uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public?  Is there something wrong with breastfeeding in public?  Is there something wrong with feeding a baby in public?  Is there something wrong with taking a baby in public?  No, there’s not anything wrong with any of those things and the law agrees with me.  Not all breasts respond well to breast pumps and it’s far more complicated to “just pump” and take a bottle of breast milk than for her to lift her top and feed her baby perfectly mixed, perfectly heated, perfectly ready breast milk from the tap.  If she wants to pump and take a bottle, I’m sure she is capable of deciding that for herself.  By suggesting it without her seeking your advice you are undermining her feeding choices and suggesting she does yet more work in caring for her baby.  Best not to say anything at all unless you are asked.  Even then you should start with “aren’t you legally allowed to feed your baby anywhere you have the right to be?”

Along with the previous two acts, freaking out “oh my gosh!  You need a blanket, here, let me help shield you from view while you cover up so nobody can see!”

It’s not always that dramatic.  Sometimes it’s much more subtle like “You can breastfeed in public, I just want you to be covered.”  Which really isn’t subtle at all.  Perhaps most discouraging is when this comes from her partner.  I can’t tell you the number of times women have expressed to me how hurt they are when their partner tells them this and how unsupported they feel.  When it comes from someone else, a mom, a friend, a sister, etc., the message that comes with it is “I’m embarrassed, what if someone sees?  I don’t like you doing this because breasts are for sex and people might get the wrong idea.”  It wraps up the idea that women are responsible for when men think sexual thoughts about them, that the idea of a baby on a breast is possibly giving the mom sexual pleasure and should be “private,” and that there is something “gross” about breastfeeding and throws a blanket on all of it.  Mostly though it communicates that the individual is ashamed of the mother breastfeeding.  This attitude clearly puts what others might think before supporting the mother in breastfeeding.  Coming from a partner it’s even more loaded, beyond what is already present.  Jealousy and protective ownership are heavily implied.  A conversation where both parties express their feelings and thoughts is warranted with both actively listening to the other and an agreement coming from that discussion.  If a couple can agree on a way that makes them both comfortable with a mother breastfeeding in public after listening to each other, great.  What’s not called for is the partner laying down some kind of law or giving her permission to breastfeed in public but with stipulations.  If my husband tried to give me permission as to what I could do with my body I can assure you it would not go over well.  It’s something a couple can come to together but it’s her body and her mothering the partner is trying to control with reactions like this.  A woman’s breasts belong to her, she shares them with whom she likes.  If she is more comfortable covered, fine, her choice, but insisting she hide is full of misplaced responsibility and concern that only adds stress.  And making it an issue of modesty, a subjective social construct at best, is even more controlling by trying to add shame.  I could point out that when she’s feeding a baby her bare breast is actually covered by the baby’s head, at least more than many bathing suits and tops.  But that’s not actually the point.  She is not responsible for what others think and the truth is nobody can control what people think anyway.  No matter how covered and “protected” one may be, the individuals that would use others with their mind will do so regardless.  Instead of being concerned about what they are thinking, ask yourself  “am I more concerned about what she needs or the issues of others?”  Support her, worry about her comfort, and let others deal with their own issue without saddling her with the responsibility of taking care of them too.

 

If a woman wants to cover or go somewhere private to breastfeed, she can probably figure out how to do so, right?’

If she starts breastfeeding where she is, why assume that she needs a cover or to be encouraged to go some place private (like a bathroom? Yuck.) to breastfeed?  I don’t see that as support, I see it as projecting one’s own discomfort as a way of offering support.  Sure, they may think they are helping but it’s not really helpful.  A better way would be to simply ask “can I get you anything?” and if she wants a blanket or a private room she can ask for one.  But maybe that’s just me.

To really support her, have her back.  Even if it makes you a little uncomfortable because you’re just not used to seeing breastfeeding as a normal part of life.  If you can let go of the internal dialogue in your own head that buys into the objectification of women as sex objects you’ll be able to see her breastfeeding in public for exactly what it is: a woman feeding her child.  It may take you time to get comfortable with it, that’s ok, bucking years of societal program is hard work.  Just remember that she’s bucking it too and together you’ll bond over the experience if you let yourselves.  Take a deep breath and decide that the adorable small person that is nourished and comforted by her breast has no clue why anyone would think there was anything wrong with them having their supper in public.

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How are you most comfortable breastfeeding in public?  

Does it bother you to get negative reactions to you feeding your child?

What would you say to those that would give a mom a hard time about breastfeeding in public?

Breastfeeding Support- When will we walk the talk?

All of us need support.  Even if we think we don’t, even if the attitudes and opinions of others aren’t something we feel impact us, the truth is whatever it is we set out to do we are more likely to succeed when we have support.  Research shows that the number one reason that women that set out to breastfeed but end up giving up is because of lack of support, articles exploring the impact the lack of social support (or social toxins to breastfeeding) has on breastfeeding have called for change, and the US Surgeon General has issued a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding addressing head on the institutional and social barriers to breastfeeding.  Overall, support is crucial to breastfeeding outcomes on both an interpersonal level and societal level.

The problem isn’t isolated to lack of support from family and friends, though at the individual level it certainly starts in the mom’s immediate circle.  From there it spreads to the local community around the mom, the health care community, and then society in general.  It goes from the outside in as well.

  • Every time a radio show personality rants about how gross it is to see a woman breastfeeding in public, or news reporters seem awkward talking about breast milk and milk banks, or feminist speakers forcefully imply that the “benefits” of breastfeeding are made up to trap women in their homes; it chips away at the support for breastfeeding within society.
  • With every joke laden with sexual innuendoes about breastfeeding, or negative reactions from television and movie characters to the idea of breastfeeding, or sexually charged awkward scenes centered around a breastfeeding pair in an attempt at comedy; entertainment places precedence on a woman’s sex appeal and mocks the breastfeeding mother.
  • Whenever a female politician sneers at the recommendations to support breastfeeding for health reasons, or a male politician openly questions the validity of requiring companies to provide space for moms to pump, or airport security detains a woman as though she’s a criminal because she’s trying to take her frozen breast milk home to her baby; the message is sent loud and clear that woman, children and breastfeeding are not as important as corporate profits and a false sense of security in travel but are considered a business and security hazard.
  • As a woman is shunned from yet another restaurant for feeding her child as biology intended, or a local women’s only gym tries to shame a woman for feeding her child, and school boards declare that mother’s can’t breastfeed in their school lobbies; breastfeeding as part of the fabric of the community and normal part of caring for one’s child is dismissed in favor of other feeding methods.
  • When a pediatrician continues to use growth charts designed for formula fed babies and scares moms into using formula because her baby doesn’t follow the chart, or a labor and delivery nurse tells a mom she doesn’t have any milk on day one and to give her baby formula until her mike comes in, or a famous obstetrician is disgusted on television with the idea of breastfeeding an older baby; breastfeeding is sabotaged by the very group that should most understand the importance of feeding human babies in the biologically normal way.
  • Any time someone in a breastfeeding support group talks down to a mother that supplemented, or an online community gangs up on someone asking for information on weaning, or quotes communicating the superiority of all mothers that breastfeed spread like wildfire across social media; a wedge is driven between those that should be offering support and the many, many women that need it but feel belittled.
  • When friends suggest “why don’t you just give her a bottle so you can have a life,” or a woman’s own mother is embarrassed by her daughter breastfeeding in public, or in-laws suggest formula so they can babysit, or an aunt insists that she never breastfed her babies and they turned out “fine,” or a mother is called “selfish” by a relative for breastfeeding so others can’t give the baby a bottle; the very people that should most have a breastfeeding mom’s back instead stab her in it with their perhaps well intentioned but clearly uneducated comments.

Given that society claims to know that breastfeeding is good for babies and their mothers yet continually sabotages breastfeeding mothers by being openly unsupportive, I can’t help but wonder if it’s just that we actually don’t care what’s best for mothers and babies but rather value profits, the sexual objectification of women, individual comfort based on the belief that breasts are only for sex, and holding onto old beliefs that have been proven to not be true.  As a whole, the actions of society do not match our words: we do not, in fact, believe that breastfeeding is good for babies and their mothers.  We do not, in fact, value the breastfeeding mother.  We do not, in fact support breastfeeding.  Even though we know support is needed.

I do think it’s improving in some ways.  Laws in the USA have passed that hopefully do improve the working mother’s pumping conditions and breast pumps are now tax deductible.  It’s sad that those had to be fought for and met any resistance at all but at least they went through and they are a start.  While the entertainment industry still mocks breastfeeding mothers as a standard comedic element, more and more celebrities are being not only vocal in support of breastfeeding but also openly breastfeeding.  Nurse-ins showing how many are supportive of breastfeeding when a business harasses or kicks a breastfeeding woman off their premises get news coverage and online buzz.  It’s not a lot but it’s something that looks a bit like progress.  A little bit of needed support.

But we have a long, long, long way to go.  I have hope, I have to, that some day our society’s actions will support our society’s words.  That breastfeeding will no longer require advocacy beyond normal education because breastfeeding will be accepted without controversy as normal.  That we will act like we believe the science that breastfeeding is good for babies and their mothers and that we will value the breastfeeding mother.

This Moment- Steps

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


This Moment- Face Painting, Big Sister, Little Sister

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


Welcome New Sponsors!

I’m happy to announce new sponsors for The Leaky Boob.  Companies that show their support for breastfeeding moms and the people that support breastfeeding by participating as sponsors on the website.  Check them out and be sure to let them know TLB sent you.  Be sure to visit their blogs as well for thoughts on breastfeeding and parenting through their blogs, I love their wisdom and honesty.  Thanks for the support!

Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods

A family owned, family focused company, Dandelion offers a sophisticated look while reflecting a back-to-basics, eco-conscious style.

Bamboobies

Super soft and absorbent breastfeeding pads and a stylish and flexible poncho style breastfeeding cover are the practical yet luxurious products this company is known for.  There’s a code just for Leakies too!

A Mother’s Boutique

Maternity, nursing wear and accessories at all prices.  Check out the code just for Leakies on her button down on the right.

Mama Pear Designs

Looking for a way to say something without having to open your mouth?  Lactivist inspired wearable for mom and baby!

This Moment- January, the month of cuddles

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


An Expert Opinion- Bamboobies Review

It had been a busy day, I was helping out at a church with their worship running around tweaking sound settings for the band, making suggestions on the song arrangements and coaching the vocalists and all with an 11 month old riding happily on my back in our trusty Beco.  I sat to nurse her when she decided she was hungry then slung her around to my back again where she dozed.  Following the activity we had lunch together, visiting with the church for another 2 hours.  Holding Smunchie and entrenched in a deep conversation I felt something wet on my arm and whipped it away thinking she drooled on me.  I felt it again and looked at her but noticed she was dry.  Looked at my arm and saw white-ish drips splattered on my arm.  Confused for a moment that Smunchie must have spit-up it finally dawned on me to look at my shirt.  Sure enough, right over my left breast was a large wet circle and I could see another drip forming.

I’m not The Leaky Boob for nothing.

Deep theological discussion with the church leaders I just worked with and a 3 inch wet spot centered on my breast as warm white drips splashed on my arm, nothing awkward about that, is there?  Mentally cursing that I had forgotten breast pads I messed with my scarf a bit to position it stratigically over the oh-so-obvious soaked and growing circle and told myself nobody noticed.  Too bad I wore a skinny scarf.

No joke, the very next day the package from Bamboobies arrived containing breast pads for me to review.

I love bamboo velour, that stuff is like crack for a texture person like me.  The first time I got a bamboo velour cloth diaper I rubbed my face on it.  Yes I knew it was a diaper but oh. my. gawd. I was totally jealous of my babies butt getting to be wrapped in this fabric from heaven.  People, if you haven’t felt it go get yourself some!  I bet you’d rub your cheek on a diaper too.

I was asked to review Bamboobies pads both the regular and overnights, the love for bambo velour is just a bonus I threw in.  I have used the breast pads for a little over a month and have washed them repeatedly.  As much as I love bamboo velour I know that it can get a little crunchy over time and with certain washing rituals.  I wanted to see how the Bamboobies held up.  These aren’t my first bamboo nursing pads, I have a few pair from a WAHM on Hyena Cart.

I was most excited about the regular pads as I already have some really thick bamboo pads.  Not only are the Bamboobies ridiculously soft, the regular ones are also ridiculously trim.  I tried them with all my different bras and even with my super thin bra there were no awkward lines showing through my shirt.  To be sure I tried a variety of shirts and even with my vintage tiny tees looked smooth.  Like, kind of sexy smooth.  Added bonus, they don’t bunch up oddly when you pull the top of your bra down to nurse and they are easy to reposition as a result.  With these pads it doesn’t look like I’m fondling myself under my shirt trying to get everything back in place.  Very nice.

Trim is all well and good but the real point is how absorbent they are.  To give you an idea the day I leaked at the church I was wearing a padded bra, a tank top and a light weight knit sweater.  I soaked through.  This isn’t unusual for me (again, not The Leaky Boob for nothing) and I wore that same outfit plus Bamboobies out to the opera without Smunchie for 5 hours, let down at least twice that I noticed and no leaks.  No lines, no leaks.  No lines, no leaks and bamboo that feels like a cloud wrapped in silk in my bra. Nice.  This was really good because as awkward as it was to me chatting theology with a pastor as my boob leaked a bullseye through my top right over my left boob I’m pretty sure hanging with opera snobs while dripping would be even more awkward.  Awkwardness avoided.  I heart Bamboobies.

The overnights were lovely as well though a bit overkill for where I am in my leakage and lacking the cool heart shaped design (did I just say that?).  A year ago I probably would have used the overnights all day, I leak so much in the early days.  Still, I tried it and I realized that I’ve just gotten used to waking up wet, stuffing the overnights in my nursing tank let me stay warm and dry.  I shall stop being lazy with the breast pad stuffing and enjoy dry sheets again.

Now, the shape of the pads isn’t my favorite, I’m not a hearts kind of girl really.  I’ll be honest, I made fun of them when I first opened them.  Like really, really made fun of them.  Had everyone in the house laughing.  I made lots of terrible puns like “I *heart* Bamboobies!” and “Boobies are close to my heart.”  I was a smart-ass.  Then I tried them, joking at least nobody would see I had stuffed hearts in my bra.  And you know what?  I freakin’ LIKE the heart shape.  It turns out the heart shape is more than cutesy girlishness.  There’s a brilliant design reason behind the Valentine hearkening shape allowing for better shaping and fit, giving the wearer options as to which way to wear it and preventing the “I’ve-got-a-circle-of-fabric-stuffed-in-my-bra” look.  I might be more of a heart kind of girl that I thought.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly because I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

What I liked

The fabric is my favorite fabric in the world so it’s not a surprise that I love that.  Puppy ears aren’t as soft as these things and they don’t have the annoying fuzz angora or cashmere has meaning your boobies will love these.  The perfect way to pamper yourself and be practical.  Smooth and trim, the fit is the best I’ve ever had in breast pads and I have tried a lot of breast pads.  Backed with a soft waterproof fabric, Bamboobies aren’t only soft and trim, they’re up for the task of absorbing leaking milk and keeping it contained.

What I didn’t like

The heart shape really wasn’t my thing but then I saw how it helped with the fit and I was in love.  The pads did get a bit crunchy after lots of washes and they get crusty from dried milk too but that never happened while they were against my skin so no worries.  To deal with the crunchyness I washed them with a squirt of Dawn dish soap and used a touch of 7th Generation’s fabric softener and they were super soft again without a hint of crunch.

Overall:

I’m still not a heart person, I’m not kidding.  I don’t own anything heart shaped and you won’t find hearts on any of my clothes or underwear.  But these pads are staying.  They stayed soft even if they lost some of their original silkyness, the fit is like they were custom made for me and trim yet absorbent qualities of these pads make them the best I’ve ever used.  I’ve come a long way from the Gerber disposable pads I used 12 years ago (that cost a fortune and led to my first case of thrush) or the fabric pads from who-knows-where (that I leaked through every single time) and the Bamboobies made me feel pampered.  Additionally there are a lot of other aspects of Bamboobies I can get behind; sustainable, organic (as organic as Bamboob velour can be- there’s controversy over this) and fair trade.  Yep, I <3 Bamboobies.

This Moment- Earth Baby Gets Her First Pair of Pointe Shoes

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see. 

KIDS EAT FREE!- Wild Mother Arts

The Leaky B@@b sponsor Wild Mother Arts have a beautiful giveaway for us this week.  Something special that not only moms but their little ones will enjoy as well, Jacquelyn has created something a unique piece to be cherished.

Goodnight Moon Nursing & Storytelling Necklace

“Goodnight room, goodnight moon…”

This is a very special nursing necklace, made from a 30mm (just over an inch) Millefiori glassworked donut in a calming midnight blue, with a sky full of stars and a little yellow moon. It’s perfect for early evenings and can also be used as a storytelling necklace for mama to wear as a signal to your child that it’s time to settle down, to listen to stories before bed, or for afternoon quiet times. It makes a wonderful addition to your nightly bedtime routine for older children, too.

It’s adjustable in length, has strong woven cotton cord and is dressed up with a lead-free Tierracast pewter bead. The necklace comes in a heavy cotton gift bag stamped with the International Breastfeeding symbol and a little card telling you about the necklace.

  •  To be entered simple comment on this post and include your email address. Not required but would be lovely to see, share your favorite book to read with your little ones before bed time.

  • For a second entry into this give-away go to the Wild Mother Arts etsy shop and find your favorite product in her store, come back here and let us know what your favorite item in her shop is.

  • You qualify for a third entry when you check out the Wild Mother Arts Facebook page and like her so you can hear about sales and new products easily by following her store.

  • For one more additional entry, share this give away on a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter (and be sure to tag Wild Mother Arts as in your post or tweet- she’s @birthgoddess on twitter)  or a parenting board (Not TLB forums) and let us know how you shared it in another comment.

That’s it!  This giveaway is Runs from Tuesday, November 23th through Friday, November 26st.

For those that just can’t wait or are eying one of the other marvelous products on the Wild Mother Arts site, Jacquelyn has given us an awesome and generous coupon code for 10% off just for Leakies good through November 30th: LEAKYBOOB2010.  Happy shopping!

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This Give-Away Is Now Closed!
Thanks to Wild Mother Arts and everyone that entered.
The winner is Rachael! Wild Mother Arts will need your shipping address, I will email you.
Congrats and enjoy!
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