Breastfeeding? Check. Now What?

by Nancy Massotto, Ph.D

Parenthood is often the threshold we cross that brings us into a greater awareness of healthy and sustainability. As an expectant or new mom, we start to investigate the benefits and risks of all of our parenting decisions and consider how our choices impact our children and the future. When you’re new to breastfeeding, your focus is on the mechanics of milk production and latch. You have questions about how to solve problems like thrush or what pump to buy. Once you have settled into a pattern, we tend to settle into a routine. But then what? How do you continue to advocate for breastfeeding after your children are weaned?

When you bring home a newborn it seems like you’ll never have a child in junior high, but that day comes sooner than you realize, and slowly, over the years, our focus as moms changes from diapers and starting solid foods and breastfeeding to PTA meetings and whether our kids really need a cell phone. But, to really change how our babies are fed, we can’t leave the important issues, like breastfeeding, behind.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do more than just say we’re advocates and actually be activists lately. Not everyone is willing or able to march in Washington, DC but the simple actions that we take are, indeed, activist and contribute to change – or not. Apathy and a lack of participation is one of our culture’s greatest dangers. At HMN, we fight hard against both of these challenges.

For example, our Holistic Moms Conference had to change locations due to a labor dispute that was affecting low-wage working moms, and the struggle to promote the new location, explain why it’s so important to meet face-to-face with other moms and answer questions has been taking up all my time.

Supporting our event is critical for the future of our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and yet getting people committed to making change is an uphill battle. Many people are too busy to stand up and make a difference, even in something small like supporting a cause or event. It made me realize that it’s easy to lose sight of what activism really is, and how important it is to keep breastfeeding, holistic living, and other important issues front and center with our kids.

Whether you have a nursling or a grandchild, we all need to “do” something to promote breastfeeding as the normal way to feed human babies and not just claim to be breastfeeding supporters. How do you do that? For many of us, we support nursing moms when we run into one at the mall or when a friend gets pregnant and we have the opportunity to offer support and encourage her. But, we don’t feed that passion for breastfeeding on an every day basis.

I’ve spent years researching and promoting real-life interaction and community-building for mothers. Numerous studies show that online communities are fantastic but they are not the same as looking someone in the eye and feeling their empathy when you are having a rough day. We all need to feel accepted, empowered and loved in a way that only a face-to-face encounter can provide.

The bottom line is that we need mom-to-mom interactions and community in our real life. That’s why I founded Holistic Moms Network. Whether you’re a holistic mom or a mainstream mom or a mom who wants to hang with other moms who are young, enjoy opera music, or are otherwise unique, the important thing is that you need to do it. You need to feed yourself, your passions, and the motherhood movement by being a participant, not by being a bystander or sidelines cheerleader.

Sure, for many of us it sounds like another thing to put on the calendar or another thing to take time away from family or sleep. But, connecting with others revitalizes you, makes you feel better about yourself as a woman and a mom, and gives resources you didn’t have before.

In the case of La Leche League or Holistic Moms or another natural parenting group, you also show your kids that you are passionate about breastfeeding, that you help other moms breastfeed long after you stop breastfeeding your own children, and that you care deeply about how babies are fed and raised. You empower your daughters to find a tribe when they are new mothers and not give up on their goals. You show your sons how to support their breastfeeding partners and they grow up knowing it’s important. And, along the way, you form deep friendships that can grow with you as your children grow.

Of course, I’m partial to our upcoming Natural Living Conference and believe it is an amazing way to show support, fill your cup, and feel connected. It is a fabulous opportunity to meet eco-celebrities and companies that you may talk to on Twitter but never get to interact with in person. Imagine how life changing it can be to spend a whole day surrounded by people who understand your passions and support your views? It doesn’t matter how green/holistic you are – HMN is about the journey to more natural lifestyle, the challenges we each face, and supporting one another along the way. The whole point of our organization is not to judge other parents but to empower all of us as a community to research and make educated choices. Being a participant is a gift to you, to others, and to the entire community.

Show your children that you care enough about something to show up, to be there, and to be open to learning, growing, and connecting!

For a chance to go to the Natural Living Conference for free, check out this giveaway.

 Holistic Parenting Expert and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network,  Dr. Nancy Massotto, Ph.D is a dedicated advocate for holistic medicine and green  living. She is the mother of two boys, both born at home. Before embarking on her  journey into motherhood, Dr. Massotto earned her Ph.D. in political science from  the University of Maryland, specializing in gender studies, women’s issues, and  international affairs. She also holds Master’s degrees from George Washington  University, Elliot School of International Affairs, and the University of Maryland.  Dr. Massotto has lectured at several universities on gender studies, international relations, and women’s issues, including at American University and George Washington University. She conducted research on women’s issues while working for non-profit research institutes and organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, including the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI), authoring and co-authoring publications during her tenure.
Motherhood renewed her interest in community building and strengthened her commitment to natural living, from which the Holistic Moms Network was born.

A Journey Through Breastfeeding and Visitation

This post is one I am most proud of and I didn’t even write it.  A guest post from a dedicated Leaky, I am honored to share the story of Charity and her nursling Keegan and his relationship with his dad.  Desiring to protect and preserve the breastfeeding relationship she worked so hard to establish with her son, single mom Charity explains how they navigated the murky waters of parental visitation with his father.  Demonstrating how important community is as not only support but in challenging us and providing resources, Charity details her journey from resentment and anger towards her son’s father to flexibility and sacrifice to be sure her son receives what is best and normal.  Knowing that The Leaky Boob community was a part of her story encouraging her along the way brings me great joy.  I’m so grateful Charity was willing to share her story with us, it is my hope that as she found support and encouragement from so many through The Leaky Boob, her words will now be passed on to support and encourage others as well.

I remember the strange guy walking up to me with paper’s in his hand. I had known in the back of mind this day was coming.  I had hoped and prayed it wouldn’t.  I even had my self almost convinced it wouldn’t, but here it was.  He asked for me by last name, but it was my married name, I told him no it wasn’t me.  Almost as if it would stop this moment.  Like it wasn’t happening.  Then he asked with my maiden name.  “Yup that’s me”, “you have officially been served.”  And he got in his car and drove off.  I didn’t even have to open the manila envelope I held in my hand, my world was crumbling around me and I couldn’t move.  I sat down on the ground right there, and cried.  I have two older children by a different Father so this should be easy. I have been through it before.  What made this so different, some may ask.  This baby had been raised differently than the other two.  This was my Attachment baby.

I started to go back to the very 1st moment, sitting right there on the ground.  It all started with an email.  And then a drive to meet him.  He was cute, really cute.  We were both nervous but really liked each other.  So I stayed the night.  And then the next day he said he loved me and I believed him.  He moved in not to long after.  We looked at houses to move into and talked about getting married.  We also talked about having a baby.  I wrapped the pregnancy test in a little box with a bow and he came home from base and opened it.  He wasn’t as happy as I had pictured he would be.  But I pretended he was.  Well that didn’t last long and he was gone.  I got the it’s not my baby.  He saw me once or twice while I was pregnant and then he was born.  I called him and told him and he said he might try and make it up.  So I sent to two text messages with pictures of the baby and he came up.  He teared up a little or maybe that’s my brain playing tricks on me.  He looked just like his daddy.  He told me he would come back and see him before we went home.  The baby ended up in NICU the next morning and he never showed back up.  So I brought my little man home and decided I would forget about the daddy.  I could do this on my own.  I had done it before.

I breastfed exclusively, wore him in a sling, co-slept, and didn’t let anyone watch my precious little man.  I had lost a baby 6 months before getting pregnant with him and so I wasn’t going to share him with anyone!  But I started to wonder once in awhile if his daddy ever thought about him and when he was 3months old I called him up.  He met me at a restaurant held him for a few moments and told me if I wanted to move out of state he wouldn’t stop me.  His words “I have screwed up your life enough, I won’t screw it up anymore”, hit me hard.  What screwed up my life?  You gave me the most amazing child ever.  And that was that.  He walked away.  That is until Child Support got started.  I got the it’s not my child a lot.  When Keegan was finally 6 months old we had DNA testing done to prove to him he was his.  He was.  I still wasn’t worrying about visitation.  He would pop in when he felt like it and I let him.  I figured as long as we weren’t fighting everything would be ok.  But then it happened.  We fought.  And then we didn’t talk at all, for months, no word.  Next I am sitting on the ground crying.  I called my mom and my dad, and a couple of friends.  I was grasping any emotion I could.  Anyone to tell me what I wanted to hear.  I wanted to hear this wasn’t happening.  I wanted to hear he couldn’t do this.  That wasn’t happening.  Why wasn’t that happening.  And then I started thinking, what about our breastfeeding relationship.  What about our co-sleeping relationship.  I have never left him with a sitter for more than an hour or two. He dosen’t even know this man.  I don’t want him to know this man.

One of the first things I did was email the creator of The Leaky B@@B.  One of my favorite Facebook pages.  I thought my fellow Leakies could help out.  I wanted to know how to stop it.  I wanted to know how I could get it so he didn’t get to see him.  I didn’t want to have to hand over my baby.  I still didn’t want to share.  I wasn’t ready to share. I also started on a frenzy calling attorney’s that dealt with attachment parenting cases, especially breastfeeding cases.  To my surprise there wasn’t one.  I don’t live in a huge town but it isn’t small ether, and I couldn’t find one damn attorney that would back me up the way I wanted them too.  So I found the one attorney that calmed me every time I talked to him.  Yup I said HIM.  His wife was a fellow breastfeeding, co sleeping, baby wearing, cloth diapering mama. He had this way about him that was so soothing.  And then Jessica posted my question anonymously on The Leaky B@@B Facebook wall.  It was bitter-sweet when I started reading the comments.  I didn’t hear most of what I wanted to hear.  I still didn’t want to share.  But I did get some AMAZING links.  And advice.  I also spent the next couple days staring at this amazing little boy I had kept to myself.  I only wanted to do what was I felt was best for him.  I wanted to shield him from the big ugly mean world.  And this big mean daddy that had hurt his mommy.  He was an asshole in my book.  A looser.  I had Keegan’s best interest in my mind.  Or so I thought at the time.

I had a Focus on Children class I had to attend through the court system in a couple days, and my 1st thought was the paper says NO KIDS!  Well that doesn’t apply to me, I am Exclusively Breastfeeding. I never leave my baby with anyone.  How am I supposed to go to this 3hr class and leave him.  So I did what any irrational person would do. I called the court house, and argued with the lady in charge of the class.  Of course I got the, honey the rules are the same for everyone, NO KIDS.  She did let me know it was my choice to show up to the class and if I chose not to I would be the one with the contempt of court charge.

So I got my sitter and, pissed off at the world especially the asshole making me leave my son to go to this stupid class, I headed out to the Focus on Children Class.  When I walked into the court room I thought “what a joke.”  This is such BS I have to be here.  The 1st speaker got up and started talking.  I of course was too pissed off to listen, until they brought in the family court judge.  Our judge.  He went on to explain that it was in our children’s best interest to settle out of court.  What?  What was this guy thinking.  I didn’t want to settle I wanted to fight, I was looking for a fight.  He poked the momma bear and this momma bear was mad.  He started to tell us why, sharing the effect an ugly court battle had on the children involved.  I have never cried so hard in front of people.  I was not going to let my little man go through this.  And then he said it loud and clear.  It was almost like the walls shook, “If the case ends up in court NEITHER parent gets what they want. We make sure of that.”  The best interest of the child is now in the hands of a stranger.  A STRANGER.  Is that what I had thought Keegan’s best interest was, a stranger’s choice?  This stranger didn’t carry him all day in the sling.  This stranger did feed him at his breast till he feel asleep.  This stranger didn’t wakeup 12 times a night making sure he was still breathing.  He didn’t know what was best for him.  I did.  I was his mommy.  I was the protester.  We watched a video that featured children in it talking about schedules and visitation and some were crying.  Heart broken their parents were fighting every time they got picked up and dropped off.  They asked why couldn’t they just get along for that moment.  I remember the most amazing thing I heard in that class: “Kids know a rock when they’ve got one.”  He explained it as there is almost always one parent that is the Splitting parent.  The parent that calls the other one names, wants to know what is going on at the other’s house, and having the child be a message carrier.  When your child grows up they will turn to the rock when in crisis and in need.  They will know that rock is always gonna be there for him/her.  I had decided at that moment that I wanted to be that Rock.  I didn’t want to be the splitter.  I wanted to be the bigger person.  I  wanted my son to be happy.  I didn’t want to have to hand over a screaming child.  I learned that almost any parenting schedule will work for children whose parents are cooperating.  That’s when I decided that’s what I wanted for my son.

That night  I went home and nursed my little man to sleep and the next day I went to see my attorney. He wanted me to write down three things. One was the visitation I wanted to give my son’s father.  Two the most visitation I would give him, and three the least amount of visitation I would give him.  Well I had a hard time doing that.  I still didn’t want to share, but I had some paperwork for my attorney.  I had printed off a couple articles that had been suggested to me through my question on The Leaky B@@B.  One was from  La Leche League International about the breastfeeding relationship and visitation.  AMAZING article.  I loved it.  A must read for anyone facing visitation with their breastfeeding child.  One huge thing I took from it was they are only little for so long.  Five years go by so quickly.  Why is the other parent insistent on every other weekend?  Is it because that is the norm?  Well In my case it wasn’t going to be.  Remember, I wanted the best for Keegan, not just what I wanted or what his father wanted.  I just had to convince his dad to feel the same way I did.  Ha!  You mean the guy I hadn’t talked to in months?  The guy that broke my heart?  The guy that took me to court instead of coming and talking to me!!  Yeah that guy. That same article talks about the kind of parenting style the mother has done with the child under visitation plans.  Read it, and then reread it again.  Make sure you memorize it.  And then just when you think you have it down.  READ it again.  Because it’s just at that moment when you find something else you were missing.  So I highlighted all the points in this article I felt pertained to my situation and gave it to my attorney.  Then he brought up the question I had been waiting to hear.  I knew it was coming.  You know he is a year old now and the courts aren’t huge believers in extended breastfeeding, so when do you plan on quitting so we have a time line we can work with.  Well I don’t plan on quitting.  I am in this for the long haul.  I am going to let him self wean.  And I brought a letter for that too, a Letter for Court Cases in support of extended breastfeeding by Katherine A Dettwyler, Ph.D.

I left the office that day feeling pretty good.   Keegan had to have surgery and per the court papers I had to let his dad know of the surgery and when it was and where it was.  Now did I want him to go, HELL NO.  I wanted to be the bigger person.  I really did.  But that didn’t mean I wanted to face him.  That didn’t mean I didn’t want to rip his eyes out.  I hated him.  He was taking me to court!  For my son.  My son.  I tried to send the email 5 times and all 5 times I hit cancel.  But I didn’t want to screw up the case so on the 6th time I hit send.  I got an answer very quick.  Thank you I’ll be there.  NOT the words I wanted to read.  So the night before the surgery I of course didn’t’ sleep at all.  It wasn’t because I was scared of the surgery.  Nope that didn’t scare me at all. This would be the second time we went through this.  I was scared because I had to face him.  I won’t lie, I prayed all night he wouldn’t show up.  I thought in the back of my mind how bad it would for him if we had to go to court.  I wished his car would break down on the way.  We got there, no dad.  They called us back, no dad.  Ten minutes to surgery and I heard the nurse say I think they are right here.  I swear I almost puked on myself when I saw him walk into that room.  And when I was asked who he was I squeakily answered this is bio-dad.  Not that he had another dad.  But I sure as hell wasn’t gonna give him the credit.  They took my little man back and this time I didn’t cry.  I was too pissed off that he was there.  So we were sitting in the waiting room and I tried to not say anything at first but I couldn’t my stupid mind had played tricks on me, I didn’t hate this asshole that had broke my heart, I still loved him.  So after surgery we were headed out to the car and I said “If you would like to come and see him you can.”  He said “I would like to sit down with you and talk about the visitation if we can.  We don’t have to go to mediation, if we figure it out together.”   I said we will see.

We sent a couple emails back and forth about not going to mediation.  He couldn’t afford the 120.00 hr. and I only could because I didn’t’ have to pay for it.  So I talked to my attorney and he said do it.  It will let us know what he wants.  So I wrote up what I wanted and printed off the same paper work I gave the attorney, highlighting everything he needed to read.  Grabbing the book Focus on Children, it was time for me to convince him everything I felt.  I showed up to the library and we sat down.  I had asked him to write down what he wanted and asked him for it and he said he didn’t have to write it down he wanted every other weekend.  Yeah, NOT!  No way I am thinking to myself.  One thing I learned from the Focus on Children Class was that in the state of Idaho, in most cases no judge will just hand a child over that does not know the other parent.  So I handed him my paper.  And it read as follows:

One hour a day for two weeks you must come to my house to see Keegan.  This is the fastest way to get a child to know someone.  This is on the child’s territory so the child feels safer.

At first he said no and then my tongue moved faster then it ever had. I was quoting the pages I had highlighted. I really didn’t even know I had them memorized.  And he got it.  He understood that Keegan would only be little for a short time.  That soon he wouldn’t be breastfeeding and needing mommy all day.  He understood that he needed short frequent visits. He understood that with breastfeeding until Keegan he self-weaned and the attachment parenting I was doing was what was best for Keegan.

After 2 weeks: for 6 months you get Keegan-Tues and Thurs from 5-7pm.  I will drop Keegan off at your house.

I chose this time because my older daughter has gymnastics and I would love to be able to watch her once in awhile.  That is also one of Keegan’s most well behaved times of the day. Also, I had learned that if you drop the child off then it is less traumatic normally because the child doesn’t have to stop what they is doing to leave.  That is when most parents have problems.  A child normally doesn’t ever want to stop what they is doing.

Every Sat. from 10-2, time to increase at 6 month intervals (10-4, 10-6).

I know this seems like a lot to some and not much to others.  The whole point of a phased in visitation schedule is so the child gets use to going with the other parent.  The other point of so many days was young children don’t have the longterm memories us adults do.  After 3 or 4 days a very young child won’t remember as well.  Then every six months the sat. hours went up.  10-4, then 10-6.  They stayed at 10-6 till he SLEF WEANS.  That was written in cap’s through out  the parenting plan.  His dad didn’t want every sat. as he has drill weekends and needed at least one weekend to himself.  So in the end we ended up with Tues and Thurs and every other Sat.

All it took was one email sent out and we were in agreement.  It started with one person being the bigger person.  One person saying “I’m sacred to death to talk to this person, but I have to think about the child involved not my feelings.”  It took the other person following the lead and saying yeah it is about the child.  You can’t use the excuse well I don’t know his number or how to get a hold of him.  If you got served your attorney can get his number, email address.  If you can’t put your feelings aside for the sake and well being of your child then you can’t say you want whats best for your child.  A child knowing and interacting with both of their parents is one of the best things for them.  I say lets grow-up, lets take back our parental rights and leave the courts out of making the life changing decisions for our children.  Put your excuses away!!!  So Keegan went to his dads house for a couple Tuesday’s, and Thursday’s and he just cried and screamed when I dropped him off so his father and I decided for the time being he would come to my house to see Keegan.  I can say that sitting in the same room with Keegan’s father kills me every time as I still love him, but we have a happy, healthy 18 month old son and his happiness is what matters to us.  We will make the sacrifices necessary to do what is best for him.

Passionate Advocacy or Cyber Bullying?

I’ve wondered this before.  Where is the line between being a passionate advocate and being a cyber bully?  Is there ever a point a point when even sticking up for the little guy in advocacy crosses over to being the playground bully? I’ve wondered this about interactions I see online.  I’ve wondered it for my online friends.  I’ve wondered it for myself.  Several times after seeing an exchange or ongoing situation with advocates that makes me cringe I would considered writing something on compassionate advocacy then Dionna did just that over on Code Name Mama and I thought *phew* I’m off the hook.

Recently though I’ve felt the need to add my voice to those advocating for compassionate advocacy.  After a particularly disappointing situation on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page I shared some of my thoughts on this issue in brief on the Facebook page and longer on the forum.  I’m expanding on some of what I wrote on the forum here.

Whether we’re talking breastfeeding, birth, circumcision, homeschooling/public schooling, gentle parenting, babies/children and sleep, sustainable living, organic/non-organic, vaxing/non-vaxing, or any other topic we care enough about to attempt to educate others on, how we share our message matters.  In fact, I believe how we share our message can be the difference between it being heard and considered, possibly leading to change or it being dismissed and embittering, leading people to dig their heels in to defend their position.  Open or closed.

The Leaky Boob is intended to be a safe place, supporting breastfeeding mothers and the people that support them.  People, particularly moms, come to TLB to find help and support in a safe and authentic community.  I don’t ever want that to be compromised by agendas being pushed and sides being taken. Stimulating conversation is fine and encouraged. Personal views are fine too. We don’t have to agree on everything, in fact, we won’t ever agree on everything.  In order to be an authentic community we have to be able to voice when we disagree and share our concern about something we see.  But we also have to know when our language is not communicating effectively, when the issue is one that can’t be heard any more through the hurt and when our passion for our cause has superseded our compassion for people. Grace, just a little bit of grace all the way around would worked wonders in sharing our passion.

As much as possible I try to empower my children to make good choices.  Attempts to control their behavior usually backfire and leave us all frustrated.  If I resort to words that tear them down or belittle them they begin to resent and fear me, focusing only on how mean I am.  In that frame of mind they are unable to learn anything.  Speaking down to them, talking as though they are incapable of understanding puts distance between us and leads them to be annoyed and why wouldn’t it?  People speaking down to me annoys me too.  And shame?  Or expressions of self-righteous anger?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the path to having my kids hate me forever.  Validating and sharing my own personal feelings and what or how I’ve learned something, on the other hand, opens up conversation.  Sometimes I get impatient and want to tell them what they should do and how right I am but then they don’t own the choice, all they own is their resentment for me dismissing them and their ability to make positive choices in their lives.  When I take the risk to empower them to take responsibility amazing things happen: they come and ask my opinion, they independently consider or research their options, they think critically through the choices before them, they choose with confidence (and usually wisely) and they accept responsibility for their decision regardless of the outcome.  It’s not to say that it’s perfect and that sometimes I don’t want to just yell at them to do it my way, it’s just that if I can not do that the outcome usually surprises me.

I am a Christian and I grew up in a very fundamentalist Christian home.  I know a thing or two about how the ways we try to spread our message can damage our message and discredit the messenger.  Studying Christian history I know this well and I am pained by what some have done in the name of Christ.  So much so that sometimes I avoid associating myself with them in anyway I can because I don’t want anyone to think I’m like that.  Since I can’t do that and accomplish anything positive by doing so, I instead try to validate those that have been hurt by Christians, acknowledging the damage done and striving to be different but true to what I believe.  In some of the bitter exchanges I’ve seen over hot button topics I find myself wondering if we’re seeing the modern version of crusades.  Violence in the form of words and condescending attitudes, cutting down people that don’t believe what they believe.  It starts looking more like an attempt to control than a mission to educate with a purpose to empower.

I don’t have to convince anyone of anything to still make a difference. I just have to keep doing and living what I believe is right.

It is important to me that The Leaky B@@b Facebook page and The Leaky Boob Forums be something more than a platform for those that love to hear themselves spout off and instead strive for community that encourages people to grow through gentle education. A place where patience is exercised and compassion applied.  We have to remember People over principle, compassion over being right, grace over righteous indignation. It seems so obvious to me that emotionally loaded terms should be avoided when you’re trying to actually inform, educate, and effect change. Lasting change comes with respect, compassion, grace, gentleness. Bitterness, resentment and hard hearts come from shaming, violence and belittling.  If you wouldn’t talk to your child that way why would you talk to anyone else that way? Modeling is the most effective form of parenting, I was saddened to see that behind a screen so many people modeled behavior I’m certain they wouldn’t want their children to emulate when interacting with their siblings.

We should speak up about what we’re passionate about or when we see something we feel is wrong.  I don’t want anyone to think I want conversation stifled or that I want to censor people that say things that may be hard to hear because that’s not true. What I do want though is for our messages, particularly the ones that are the most likely to be a flash point, to be couched in a constructive way that encourages dialogue. We are smart people, I’m fairly certain we know that when we use terms like poison, abuse, mutilation, lazy, uneducated, followers, ignorant, stupid, mutilate, chop it off, lame, pathetic, cruel, irresponsible, idiot, etc. we are using inflammatory language. People don’t even hear what we’re trying to say, the information is completely missed and the educational opportunity is lost all because of our word choice. Condescending questions intended to provoke (i.e. “Why would you ever…”) tear down people before they’ve even had the chance to consider your point.  Even if those words or others fit your feelings on any particular subject you don’t actually have to use them in order to have effective dialogue on the matter. I swear, you don’t.  For those of you passionate advocates out there that already understand this, thank you and I know that is actually the majority, we just aren’t the most obvious.

Sometimes there are situations where strong language and a level of force is effective or required.  Perhaps reflecting my approach to parenting though, I think those times are rare and best when exercised cautiously and in a limited fashion.  Even better when it is by someone in real life, in a face to face exchange after care and attention is given to being sure everyone understands the whole picture and only after more gentle measures have been attempted.  It is likely to be even better received by a person that is perceived as an authority on the subject or is in a relationship of respect with the individual.  Forceful language and soap box stomping are far less than effective when respect and personal relationship are neglected.

Sometimes even the most gentle attempts at education and sharing views on a hot button topic become volatile when someone takes these words as personal as condemnation.  I think this usually happens when someone has already felt attacked once (or twice or ten times) before and has started to discriminate against anyone with a different view.  Learning how to hear an opinion expressed without applying it to oneself as a personal attack will go a long way in diffusing potentially hurtful conversations not only online but in our face to face relationships as well.  A good friend of mine helped me learn this lesson years ago and it’s been an important part of my relationships since.  Now when someone says “I think it’s stupid when women post photos of breastfeeding on Facebook, like, do they want people staring at their tits?” I can ignore the part that seems to imply that he’s saying I’m stupid and instead address the real issue he’s bringing up.

It is nice to have friends that see eye-to-eye on everything with you. Or at least I would guess it is. I have yet to actually have friends like that. In my experience there have always been some things I’ve not agreed on with my friends. Yet we can still be friends. Even if we’re passionate about those issues. I need friendship more than I need to be right and more than I need to save someone from being wrong.  And I’ve found that being open both to listen and to share has been the single most effective way to productive conversation.

It’s easy to find people that want to rant and rave about how right their views are. It’s hard to find the rare place where love, support, and openness are practiced; where even if we think someone is wrong we can let them be as wrong as they think we are; where genuine care and patient compassion educate gently; all working together to building supportive, empowering community.  I want The Leaky Boob to be that rare place.