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Breastfeeding and Support: The Snowball Effect

by Nancy Massotto, Ph.D. 

photo credit: flickr user redjar

 

When I had my first child, I was determined to breastfeed for at least six months.  Even with that modest goal in mind, I had friends and family members question my decision, ask why we weren’t using formula, and nag us about when we would start solids and stop nursing.  Along the way, breastfeeding led to co-sleeping, babywearing, and a whole host of “alternative” choices on my parenting journey.  In a blink, my son was 3 and we were still nursing.  And the questions were coming with even more intensity.

As our parenting journey evolved so, too, did our commitment to more holistic choices.  I now refer to it as a sort of “snowball” effect.  Breastfeeding brought an even deeper awareness and concern about what I was putting in my body, for health and nutritional reasons, but also as we discovered that our child had a number of food allergies.  The more I investigated, the more concerned I became about what toxins our food might contain and how genetic modification or artificial ingredients would impact our health.  That awareness quickly spread to the presence of toxins in our home – in personal care products, toys, and cleaning products.  And the snowball grew.

The bigger the snowball, the larger the pressure seemed to grow from those who didn’t agree with my now “crunchy” parenting style.  I became the wacky extremist and felt more and more alienated.  If it were not for the amazing support I found with other women, my journey would have been very different.  I could not imagine nursing a three year old when my son was first born, but seeing other moms nursing toddlers, having the voices of encouragement and support, and knowing that I was not alone made all the difference.  Surrounding myself with a community of moms was essential not only for my journey, but for my sanity.  My fellow mamas could laugh with me at the critics, brainstorm on ways to stick to my principles, and sympathize with the struggles – even when they did not agree with my choices.  That empathy, that understanding was empowering.  Being connected opened up a space to embrace my instincts and to build the parenting relationship that I wanted.  And it brought me to a place of tolerance and understanding for others’ choices, even when I did not agree with them.

Another child later and my snowball is now a mountain of holistic choices.  From homebirth and breastfeeding to sustainable and simple living, my lifestyle and my parenting continue to evolve.  My community of moms continues to inspire me to follow my own path and laughs with me at the many critics who find fault with my choices.  I have found my personal comfort zone because of that support and know that my tribe has many different members, but a common purpose and shared support.

What parenting doors has breastfeeding opened for you?  Has it forged a new journey?  And how do you deal with the naysayers?

 

 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.

Your chance to attend the Natural Living Conference for FREE!

Calling Activist Mamas!

Holistic Moms Network has generously agreed to give a free ticket to their upcoming Natural Living Conference (October 1st in Irvine, CA) to a Leakie. Leave a comment below telling us how you advocate for breastfeeding and why going to the conference would help you. Holistic Moms and I will pick a winner using a random number generator on September 15th.  You have until midnight on the 14th to enter the drawing.

If you don’t already know about the conference, check out the speaker roster here. Robyn O’Brien, the author of The Unhealthy Truth and advocate for healthier food from the top down, and Mayim Bialik, actress, author and holistic mom are the keynote speakers. Other speakers include Dr. Lauren Feder, Trudy Scott, Jennifer Taggart and Jennifer Waldburger. There are also lots of holistic companies exhibiting and networking around every corner. The gift bags always are spectacular at these conferences, I’m looking forward to checking out what’s in them this year (it’s my first year to attend, but I’ve heard stories).

 

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.