Saturday, July 31, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week- Perspectives: Breastfeeding from Every Angle

So it turns out, World Breastfeeding Week is a family affair in our house. It's kind of funny, really, we go from a vague "oh, it's world breastfeeding week" last year to "let's host a blog carnival and all get involved" this year. Strange and fun. The Piano Man is working on the new website trying to learn code, design and all sorts of new things on the techie side of things. I'm reading and reviewing submissions for the "Perspectives: Breastfeeding from Every Angle" blog carnival and squeezing in time to write my own as well as content for the website, Earth Baby is at the archaic PC writing a guest post for TLB carnival, The Storyteller has ducked behind the piano creating her first every comic strip just for World Breastfeeding Week, Lolie is filling pages and pages with her colorful perspective on breastfeeding, Squiggle Bug settled in for an early bed time and Smunchie has had her b@@bie snacks a couple of times over. I looked up from NAKing (nursing at the keyboard-ing) to see my family all engrossed in preparations for World Breastfeeding Week, filled with an unexpected contentment that they all so willingly embrace the mission of The Leaky B@@b.

And it gave me a great idea. A great, wonderful, delightful idea.

The Leaky B@@b blog carnival is "Perspectives: Breastfeeding from Every Angle" and I'm delighted to say that we have some fascinating perspectives to share with you this week. Everything from personal stories to professional education, historical attitudes and feminist opinions, the delightfully easy experience to the challenging heartbreak of disappointment. And then some. I'm breathless with excitement about the treasures in store this next week which will go very well with my current sleepless state.

To add to all that though is my great, wonderful, delightful, best-ever World Breastfeeding Week idea.

I asked Earth Baby, The Storyteller and Lolie if they'd like to contribute anything for World Breastfeeding Week. They surprised me by enthusiastically diving in to their various projects. Lolie asked me for some ideas and guidance in creating pages of rainbow drenched depections of breastfeeding. After giving her a few pointers and creating one of my own I sat back as she filled page after page. I had to cut her off to send her to bed but I love the radiant images she made.

Inspired by Lolie, we are adding at the last minute a new component to our celebrations of World Breastfeeding Week:

Perspectives: Breastfeeding through Children's Eyes Art Project.

Anything pretty much goes. With as little guidance as possible, invite your child to create something about breastfeeding, take a picture or scan the original and send it to us at We will feature each and every single submission we receive as part of our celebration for WBW. Experiment with different mediums, paint, crayons, pencils, clay, playdough, sticks, bee's wax, you name it. Please let it be your child's work, if you'd like to send something of your own creation in, I welcome that too but not for the Children's Art Project. When sending in a submission for the Perspectives: Breastfeeding through Children's Eyes Art Project, please include the child's first name (last is not required), age and the medium as well as a title if there is one. Any and all submissions may be used on The Leaky B@@b blog and website at any time, all rights released.

I can't wait to see the creations we get. After all, of all the perspectives out there we breastfeed for our children, it is their perspective that may just be the most important.

ETA: Paper Mama is going to partner with us to pick one selection from the submissions to create note cards with a set going to the creator of the original artwork. Further sets will be available for purchase to benefit Best For Babes!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week Blog Carnival SUBMISSIONS NEEDED!

World Breastfeeding Week is August 1st through the 7th. The Leaky B@@b is excited to host our first blog carnival and will launch our very own website! There will be give-aways, guest writers, links to other blog participating and maybe a few more great things up our sleeves. Will you participate? Know someone that should? The theme is "Perspectives: Breastfeeding from every Angle."

I'm looking for Everything from the medical/health perspective to historical perspectives, a man's perspective and a child's perspective. Breastfeeding in different cultures, breastfeeding from a new mom, breastfeeding from a mom knowing this is her last child to breastfeed, breastfeeding from a grandma, the extended breastfeeder, the pumping breastfeeder, the professional breastfeeding support (LC's, etc.), from different faiths, from the abuse survivor, from a formula feeder, etc. Personal stories, researched information, or essay style, pretty much anything would be appropriate. It can be blog carnival style (link to a blog) or guest post style (posted on TLB blog). Anything is great. I would prefer a new piece to an old one but if you think you have something that would be perfect then please go ahead and submit an older piece. Anyone interested should e-mail We would like to have all the submissions by the 30th.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My response to all the stupid comments I've never received

I have been very fortunate and have heard almost no stupid comments regarding breastfeeding directed at me. Either that or I'm oblivious - which is possible; sometimes hearing what you want to hear keeps the world a much nicer place. I always have the in-my-head response and then the real response where I censor myself. I guess that means I talk to myself. That's a good thing though; I wouldn't have any friends if I didn't. This is the only dumb exchange I really have had:

"You can't drink alcohol if you breastfeed." and "How do you have a life if you breastfeed?"
The snarky in my head response: "I'm not an IV and I like my life, thanks."

What I'd probably really say:"That's not true, you can drink in moderation when you are breastfeeding, like you should already only do when you have kids anyway. I already knew having a life would be redefined by having kids but I make it work. You can always make it work." *Confident smile*

That's it and it's really not that bad. But I know stupid comments about breastfeeding abound so today I asked all the "leakies" on our Facebook page to share some of the dumb things they've heard about breastfeeding. Suddenly, I wished I could have those idiotic statements directed at me just so I could reply. Below, my pretend response in all its snarky glory to all the dumb things people haven't said to me about breastfeeding. Thanks to my Facebook friends for the inspiration!

"Breastfeeding your baby is great but it should be done in private. It makes people uncomfortable, so could you do it in the bathroom?"
Snarky in my head response: "Stupidity spewing from your mouth like an overflowing toilet makes me uncomfortable, so could you do it in the bathroom?" *Sweet smile*

What I'd probably really say: "Oh, I'm sorry but I can't expose my baby to the disgusting germs of a bathroom while she eats. Do you know what people DO in the bathroom? Yikes, that's gross. By the way, did you know that the law here protects my baby's right to eat the normal way wherever my baby and I are permitted to be and it isn't considered indecent exposure to breastfeed? Yeah, so I'm not moving." *Sweet smile*

"You're going to kill your unborn baby nursing during pregnancy."
Snarky in my head response: "Where did you get your training in breastfeeding education again? You might want to ask for a refund because you totally got ripped off. I've heard people say that about sex too. Crazy, right?"

What I'd probably really say: "Awww, thanks for your concern." *Look touched, look touched... don't hit them*

"You have to drink milk to make milk."
Snarky in my head response: "Wow, that line is still going around? Don't you kind of wonder how cows do it then?"

What I'd probably really say: "Actually, that's a myth but thanks anyway." *Smile*

"After 6 months your milk spoils."
Snarky in my head response: "Is THAT why they take dairy cows out and shoot them when their calves are 6 months old?"

What I'd probably really say: "Interesting. That's not what The World Health Organization or The American Academy of Pediatrics say. I'll have to look into that, thanks." *Insert fake cheesy smile here*

"After 6 months/1 year/2 years your breastmilk is nothing more than water."
Snarky in my head response: "Do you think that's true for cows too? Boy, have we all been fooled by those dairy farmers and scientists! I'd love to see the research information you have on that. I've only read studies with dramatically different results but you should hurry and tell the World Health Organization, The American Academy of Pediatrics and millions of moms around the world that they've got it all wrong!"

What I'd probably really say: "Oh, that's not what I've heard, do you have some information on that I could read?" *With a smile, as always.*

"If you breastfeed her too long you'll turn her gay."
Snarky in my head response: "Wow. I don't even know what to say to this. I really don't. How STUPID do you have to be to even think this?"

What I'd probably really say: *Pause, long pause* "I'm really not sure how to respond to this on so many levels." *Thinly veiled disgust*

"If your newborn baby nurses too much it's a sign of breastfeeding syndrome."
Snarky in my head response: "Say what?"

What I'd probably really say:"Say what?! Uh... I've never heard of that before but I do know that newborn babies nurse often because their stomach is the size of a walnut." *Very, very confused look on my face.*

"Nursing a bigger baby must be hard work, why don't you give them a bottle to make it easier on yourself?"
Snarky in my head response: "Hard work is coming up with a response to that logic, breastfeeding is a lot easier than that."

What I'd probably really say:"Funny, but I breastfeed because I'm too lazy to make a bottle and wash it!" *too loud forced fake laugh here.*

"Breastfeeding is overrated."
Snarky in my head response: "Ooooh! I wonder who's profiting from me breastfeeding? Oh... wait... The formula companies sure do wish everyone believed that! Hey... do you work for Nestlé?"

What I'd probably really say: "Huh, that seems strange considering it's only natural to breastfeed. Who is overrating do you think?" *Lean in with feigned interest*

"Isn't that baby taking a bottle yet?"
Snarky in my head response: "Haven't you learned any manners yet? And why are you asking this exactly?"

What I'd probably really say: "Nope! Isn't that awesome?" *Proud mama smile*

"But my son won't be able to bond with his baby if you breastfeed!"
Snarky in my head response: "Oh, don't worry. I've promised he can change every diaper!"

What I'd probably really say: "Oh, don't worry. I've promised he can change every diaper!" *Vomit-worthy sugary smile*

Really, my MIL is great and a big supporter of breastfeeding so I'm not real sure but I really do think I'd say that just because I wouldn't be able to censor myself in time.

"I'm all for breastfeeding, but I wish you'd give your 3 month old a bottle of breast milk so we could babysit while you two go out."
Snarky in my head response: "What, so I could pump on my date with hubby? I don't think so!"

What I'd probably really say: "Oh, you're so sweet but we're ok for now. Would hate to screw up my supply and all that. You can watch the other kids though and we'll take her with us, thanks!" *Big hug*

"Breastmilk makes babies too fat."
Snarky in my head response: "I think you've gotten breastmilk confused with McDonalds."

What I'd probably really say: "Actually, did you know that breastfeeding greatly reduces a child's chance of obesity later in life? Everything they get from their mother's milk is the exact, perfect, customized concoction for what they personally need at that time, no such thing as getting too fat on it. Isn't that cool?!" *With a little too excited tone and slightly crazy look in my eyes*

"Breastmilk makes babies starve."
Snarky in my head response: "Makes you wonder how the human race survived, doesn't it?"

What I'd probably really say: "Baby is looking good to me but I'll be sure to keep an eye out for starvation." *Avoiding eye contact so I don't stick my tongue out at them*

"Breastfeeding is incest."
Snarky in my head response: "Would you say that to Jesus? I mean, really? Or how about Ghandi? Because they were breastfed. Obviously you've never breastfed because only an ignorant person would say something like that."

What I'd probably really say: "I don't want to be mean but since you already have been... are you just saying that so you feel better about not breastfeeding or for objectifying women and only seeing them for your personal sexual pleasure? Because breastfeeding isn't illegal and is recognized as the normal, best way to feed a baby but what you just said is sexual harassment." *I wouldn't say it but I'd be thinking it: FU*

I might say it.

Breastfeeding an older baby/child is just spoiling them."
The snarky in my head response: "Yep, it sure is. That's why she's so sweet, confident, and full of love; because I'm spoiling her. Listening to you talk has totally spoiled my manners though: shut-up."

What I'd probably really say: "At least it's not candy and won't hurt them, haha!" *Silly, knowing smile*

"Your partner won't find you attractive any more if you breastfeed."
The snarky in my head response: "When did you get into my partner's head to know what they think about this? And if it is true, then my partner is an a-hole and not the person I thought they were and we have way bigger problems. He should have thought about that before getting me pregnant."

What I'd probably really say: "Really? Hmmmm, I'll have to ask him about that."

And an extra for if they said that to me now: "Yeah, that's why we have 5 kids and I've breastfed them all. Obviously he thinks I'm repulsive and never touches me, I just get pregnant when I wash our clothes together." *Rolling eyes*

"Are you STILL doing that?"
The snarky in my head response: "No, it's just a figment of your imagination. Ooooh look, flying monkeys!"

What I'd probably really say: "Looks like it!" *Laugh- idiot*

"Breastfeeding is dangerous because you can't tell if they are getting enough."
The snarky in my head response: "For some people, thinking is dangerous and opening their mouths even more so. You never know what will happen when stupid things come flying out."

What I'd probably really say: "You think so? I guess the real miracle is all those babies that survived on their mother's milk before there were bottles, huh? It can be tricky to tell but babies eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. You know what's really funny, there are actually people that think breastfed babies get too fat! I know, right!" *Real laughter at my own cleverness*

"It's unnatural to breastfeed a baby past 6 months."
The snarky in my head response: "Crap, somebody should have told my kids that!"

What I'd probably really say: "Is it? I wonder why that is?" *With wide-eyed innocence*

"Don't give your baby formula if you want to keep breastfeeding because the baby won't like your breastmilk any more."
The snarky in my head response: "Dude, have you tasted formula? Or even just smelled it? Not going to be a problem."

What I'd probably really say: "Thankfully I don't have to worry about that." *Polite. Just... polite*

"I don't breastfeed. I like to spend time with my other children and do not want them to feel left out."
The snarky in my head response: "So what other things will you not do for your new baby so you don't take time away from your other kids? Change diapers? Make a bottle?"

What I'd probably really say: "What a wonderful commitment you have to your children! I find breastfeeding to be a huge time saver personally. I just figure it out. Every new baby changes the family dynamic and it's important for us to let it happen. We all grow together caring for the new little one in our unique ways. Plus, my big girls love seeing me nurse their new sister and hearing the stories of when I breastfed them. It really has brought us closer together." *Genuine*

"If you don't want your b@@bs to hurt you should stop breastfeeding."
The snarky in my head response: "If I don't want my head to hurt I should stop being around you."

What I'd probably really say: "That's possible. But I've got a great LC working with me and we'll get things worked out. Thanks!" *Confident don't-mess-with-me smile*

"Breastfeeding just isn't worth the headache."
The snarky in my head response: "You know what's not worth the headache..."

What I'd probably really say: "It is to me. Formula feeding and bottles are an even bigger headache since I can't keep up with the dishes as it is." *With head nod.*

"Ewwww, that's gross!"
The snarky in my head response: "Poop is gross. Used condoms at the park are gross. McDonald's is gross. People saying stupid things is gross."

What I'd probably really say: "Seriously? Wow, you're rude AND uneducated. I can think of a lot of things that are gross and breastfeeding isn't one of them." *Pissed off attitude.*

""I would NEVER breastfeed, I don't wanna be close to my kid like that, plus my husband has to do SOMETHING!"
The snarky in my head response: "I wish I could be a fly on the wall when your kid is bigger and asks you one day if they were breastfed. How do you nicely say 'I didn't want to be that close to you' to your own kid?"

What I'd probably really say: "My husband does tons and I breastfeed. Actually, after the first few weeks, I have it easy compared to him" *Avoiding eye contact until the very end with a little smile.*

"You can't BF in the heat cause your milk will come out hot."
The snarky in my head response: "OMG, I never thought of that! Do you think I can make my milk boil inside me?"

What I'd probably really say: "Pretty sure it would come out around 98.6 degrees no matter the outside temp." *Stifling a laugh and probably not very well.*

"Babies don't like the taste of breastmilk."
The snarky in my head response: "Poor things, having to suffer like that. LOL!"

What I'd probably really say: "Have you ever tasted breastmilk? I have, and it's super sweet. My babies sure seem to like it." *Confused expression, very confused*

"Why don't you just give her a bottle?"
The snarky in my head response: "No. Why don't you just mind your own business."

What I'd probably really say: "Why go to all that trouble when I have everything ready right here?" *Raised eyebrows*

"If he's eating all the time it's because you're starving him and you don't make enough milk."
The snarky in my head response: "OR it's because he's hungry and is establishing a good supply of my milk since that is how this whole system works in the first place."

What I'd probably really say: "It's a supply-and-demand system and he totally gets that. He's not starving." *Do not make eye contact to avoid shooting them a birdie*

"You shouldn't breastfeed in front of children."
The snarky in my head response: "Blindfold the babies, blindfold the babies! They might see b@@bs are for breastfeeding and totally ruin their idea of women as sex objects!"

What I'd probably really say: "I don't understand, why would it be bad for them to see a baby breastfeed?" *Disbelief.*

"If you don't make him stop he never will" and "If you breastfeed past a year they won't know how to eat real food."
The snarky in my head response: "OMG, THAT'S why my brother wanted my mom to go with him to college!"

What I'd probably really say: "I really don't think that's going to be a problem" *I would laugh, I wouldn't be able to help myself*

"If you breastfeed you can't eat bananas/cabbage/broccoli/chocolate/caffeine/soda/beans/spicy food/cucumbers/tomatoes and who knows was else."
The snarky in my head response: "Great! I can eat french fries all day!"

What I'd probably really say: "Depends on the baby. Some babies can handle anything their mothers eat. Most babies in cultures that eat spicy foods and such do just fine. A few will have an adjustment period and it usually isn't a long time or that complicated." *Smile- I'm educating them, I'm educating them, I'm educating them...*

"Once they have teeth you have to wean, it will hurt too much to nurse."
The snarky in my head response: "This is such a load of shit and I'm tired of hearing it. Honestly, it's not that big of a deal people!"

What I'd probably really say: "Sometimes they may bite but I've taught my other kids not to so I think I'll be ok." *Smile and nod, just smile and nod.*

"Breastmilk is inferior to formula because formula has vitamins in it."
The snarky in my head response: "Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. That's even what the formula companies say right on their labels as required because 'closer to breastmilk' totally means that."

What I'd probably really say: *Laugh* "Oh, you weren't joking? Because I thought you were joking. Oh, well, let's see, how do I explain this... breastmilk is what formula want to be. The vitamins and stuff added to formula is just an attempt to get closer to breastmilk. Sorry I laughed, it just..." *laughing again*

And if any of those things came from a doctor or a nurse I'd say:
"Interesting." *Pause* "You're not my doctor any more. You're fired. Please stay away from me. Given your ignorance, I'm afraid you'd hurt me or my child and I'd hate to have to sue you." *Looking them straight in the eyes and deadly serious*

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guilt: the great conversation killer.

"Women should not feel guilty if they are unable to nurse their baby, but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference." ~ Elizabeth Gene

This quote was bouncing around FaceBook on a few pages I "like" last week and I've been thinking about it ever since. I recognize that this quote is taken out of context which causes it to be understood differently than originally intended. However, this is exactly how it was presented and commented on though FaceBook often with great passion. It was discussed on The Leaky B@@b forums as well and I am building on some of what I said there, here. Because I couldn't quiet my thoughts on the matter I decided to explore it freely.

"Women should not feel guilty if the are unable to nurse their baby..."
Here, here! Absolutely, totally agree with this. It happens, sometimes things don't work right or there are special circumstances or situations make it beyond difficult and a mother can't breastfeed. Nobody should feel guilty for something they couldn't control. But sometimes they do. Why is that? Because they think nobody will believe them? Because they are so grieved themselves that things didn't work out? I would hope that it isn't because other moms cast guilt on them and that along their parenting journey they find away to let it go. I want to wrap my arms around all the women in the world that wanted to breastfeed but could not and tell them that they are amazing women, loving and caring for their children with all their heart, mind, soul and body. Just like women that are able to breastfeed.

"... but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference."
Hmmm, well, here I have a problem. First of all, they should feel guilty? Guilt is supposed to be something only we bring on ourselves so why would anyone say someone should feel guilty? When we feel guilt it is because we know we did something wrong, something dishonest. For someone to suggest that we should feel guilt is to be shamed. Shame is an ugly monster, it causes people to hide, to conceal their hurt and to guard and protect it so they don't hurt more. It does not bring openness. It certainly doesn't encourage them to "be intellectually honest enough to know the difference." I want women to own it when they are unwilling to nurse and if at all possible to explore why that is but I don't wish guilt on them. Honesty with themselves, sure, that would be great but not for me, for themselves! If they can be honest, rather than defensive with themselves then maybe they could even talk about it. Guilt and it's evil twin Shame are great conversation killers, particularly when delivered by their twisted Uncle Judgment step-child of Pride.

Guilt to change a culture?
I want to change attitudes about breastfeeding, breasts, women and infant/toddler nutrition, these are subjects I am passionate about. BUT, and this is a big huge but, I think that intending to create guilt in people does not bring about change. Guilt is a poor motivator and does not encourage dialogue. There is so much too that can not be seen or understood as to why people make the choices they do. If we are spending our energy trying to incite guilt in them instead of supporting all mothers, we are not going to create an atmosphere that encourages actual change but rather breads resentment and bitterness. Telling a woman she should feel guilty for not breastfeeding by choice is dismissing her personal struggles, invalidating her emotions and intelligence. Yes, we have to make sacrifices for our children but if a sacrifice is made that causes a woman to struggle with resentment and bitterness then surely sacrifice that comes out of obligation, fear of judgment and guilt is not really sacrifice at all but a form of martyrdom and can do more harm than good. Nobody wants a mother to kill herself, emotionally or physically, that would be worse for the baby than 2 years of formula any day. Nor should these women give up having children because they have struggles. I have a problem with saying a woman who isn't ready to give up her personal struggles and inhibitions and willingly breastfeed shouldn't be having children. All of us have issues that make us less than perfect parents but in the end what a child needs is love, parents that are present in the child's life, and their physical and emotional needs met. If a woman can do that then she should not be excluded from having children even if she chooses not to breastfeed. Society (and formula companies) as a whole should bear the burden of guilt. In the end though, guilt will change nothing, education will.

Going deeper than guilt.
This quote has one thing I really love about it, that women that tried to breastfeed but honestly couldn't shouldn't feel guilty. That part I stand by wholeheartedly. It's the flip side that I have a problem with, that women that didn't even try to breastfeed should feel guilty. I honestly feel sorry for the women that don't breastfeed because they are afraid of their breasts sagging, because they will feel less sexy or because it is gross or any other reason based on low self-esteem, sexually related concerns, past relationships or abuse, or fear of what others will think. I wish I could figure out how to tell them that their worth, their value is not in their sex appeal, not in their body meeting some standard but rather in who they are. Questions run through my head as to the heart of their reasons to be unwilling. What kind of wound are they trying to band-aid with the belief that their bodies are so valuable only if they are a certain way? What deep hurt prevents them from being able to give further of their bodies to nourish their child? What suffering have they encountered that creates fear and disgust towards the amazing miracle that is their own body's capabilities? What lies have they believed about themselves and the world that causes them to silence the voice inside their head and leads them to reject what comes naturally to them as mothers? How alone do they feel that embarking into the territory of parenting is something they can face but the landscape of breastfeeding is too much? How overwhelmed are they already feeling to give themselves permission to avoid confronting any or all of these issues and then some in favor of something they know is at the very lest, second best for the child they so love?

And what can I do to help encourage and support them, educating from a place of non-judgment?

I love how Sarah, one of the posters on the forum put it (actually, everybody brought thoughtful and challenging responses that I appreciated): I have never understood the whole "well, the ones who *couldn't* nurse shouldn't feel guilty, but those who *wouldn't* nurse should!" argument. With very few exceptions, moms try to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. I will never judge another mother's efforts as "not enough" when it comes to infant feeding decisions, because, to me, it is both unfair and impossible to know what is "enough" for every individual or family.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ticia's Story

I am happy to share a guest post by our friend Ticia and her breastfeeding experience. Ticia's story involves overcoming her own physical struggles with health, some common breastfeeding struggles and the obstacles, some well meaning, that others threw before her. It a beautifully bittersweet continuation of her story, Ticia shares how she has changed and been shaped as a mother threw breastfeeding and the differences in herself between her 2 breastfeeding experiences. I am so glad Ticia is sharing her story with us. I hope you enjoy and are as inspired as I am by her story. Ticia blogs over at Confessional Corner.

When I was just one week shy of turning 20 my Now Husband and I found out that we were expecting. Funny thing is I was already 8 weeks along ( yes, I said 8. Due to past medical history and my body just being weird; lol, I didn't realize I was pregnant until I was practically through most of the first trimester). Soon after learning that we were pregnant the morning sickness crept in, however; due to my body being weird it wasn't regular old morning sickness I got Hyperemesis Gravardium. Yay, right?! Now that I think back I am quiet shocked I was able to work and go to school full time through my second trimester. Even though that was the trimester where everything made me sick and I lost roughly 20 lbs. Fast forward, the day I had my son I weighed a whole whopping 13 lbs more than I did the day I realized I was pregnant. Not Cool......

I always knew that I would Breast Feed, it was never even a second thought for myself. So the day that my son was born was one hectic day, to say the least. After the L&D and everybody had stopped by, I realized I was stuck in a hospital, by myself with my newborn son. He was a good feeder however, every time I would go and lay him in those horrendous 'cribs' he would wake up screaming. I remember feeling really alone, stressed and tired. The hospital had a walkie-talkie like set up between my room/bed (which I shared with 2 other women and newborns), and a few hours into the night when ds was having a hard to falling asleep I recall the walkie-talkie going off with a nurse asking if everything was alright. My first thought was "uh....? i guess?..." I didn't pay any mind to her, a few minutes later it went off again and a nurse came into the room to check on my ds and me. This nurse said something to me that really made me gung ho on breast feeding and being a mother. She asked if I would like them to take ds to the nursery for the night and give him a bottle of formula? I stood there shocked. I didn't know what to say at first. Once the shock wore off I just looked her in the eye and said " are you going to come home with us when we're discharged and take him away when I'm tired or he wont settle down?....And No, he will not be getting formula!" Needless to say she left in a hurry with a bit of an attitude. At that moment I realized that even health care professionals were oblivious to what my ds or I needed. We stayed in the hospital for another 3 days because of my health, not his.

The first month was like zombie mode for my husband and I, but that's to be expected for any parents of a new born. He was a champ at nursing, actually both of our children were/are. Things started to go down hill for us when he was about 8 weeks old. That's when he started teething, YES; TEETHING!! No matter what I did he would bite randomly throughout feedings. Some feeding were without incident and then others felt as if he just wanted to bite my nipple off. It was....what's the word here?...Oh, it hurt like a B****!!! Being a new mother I had no idea what to do about it, but I still continued to nurse. I went back to school for 20 hours a week within a week of him starting to teeth, I would swell up like a water balloon while at school and long to be back home because the engorgement was more painful that I had initially imagined. I tried my hardest to pump, but to no avail I could only ever get anything out when I was psychotically engorged, and that was after being away from him for 6 hrs. I felt weird because i couldn't give my ds EBM while I was in school, he wouldn't drink formula, so we started him on super watery baby cereal and 1st foods. It kept him hydrated and full throughout the time i was gone but all he wanted to do, for at least 30 minutes, was nurse when I got home. All of that, people not supporting me fully, and the random biting sessions throughout the day had me pretty burnt out.

We weaned at 6 1/2 months. It was heart breaking, but I didn't know what else to do. The LC at the local WIC at the time wasn't really much help, nor was his doctor. To top it off all of my family members were making comments like "It's okay, he's gotten your milk for 6 months..." or " It doesn't matter, I didn't breast feed mine at all..." I didn't think much about it at the time, part of me knew I should have stuck it out longer, but part of me just wanted a break. When I got pregnant with dd I thought back about my first breast feeding relationship with ds, and how I gave up on him so much earlier than I had originally planned. So I made a pact with myself, that I would nurse dd as long as both of us felt content. She is now 18 months, and a smart; energetic teeny lil' thing (18 lbs) that doesn't really show signs of stopping. We have had a few hang ups on nursing with her, mainly due to my health and needing surgery here and there since her birth, but she always picks right back up where she left off and we are quite content. Nursing has really helped mold me as a mother, sure there are times when I wanted to stop; but I always pushed forward and persevered. I feel badly that I didn't do that with ds, but I am glad I'm doing what I feel and know is right with dd. Life is full of learning experiences, and I feel that everybody needs to follow what THEY feel is right. This was certainly it for me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My breastfeeding journey, part 1

I'm going to go one at a time.

Earth Baby.

I was breastfed and knew that my mom really enjoyed breastfeeding us and she talked about it a little bit, encouraging me to breastfeed my children. A friend of mine had her daughter just 4 months before I had Earth Baby and she BFed so I was able to see someone doing it though she always covered and I didn't get to see the mechanics of it. I was given a book during my pregnancy by the family I had nannied for called "How To Raise A Healthy Child In spite of Your Doctor" by Dr. Mendalsson which really talked about the importance of breastfeeding and someone gave me "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" which I intensely disliked at the time. I knew I would breastfeed and I figured I would love it, everyone I talked to made it sound so amazing and so easy.

We had a little bit of a rough start thanks to a traumatic 3rd stage of labor and a partially retained placenta and then a scary nursery nurse that told me I was starving my baby and they HAD to give her formula. Thankfully, that one ounce didn't do anything to sabotage our BFing relationship. I had some nipple discomfort about a week into breastfeeding but Earth Baby had a great latch and was an amazing eater. Nothing phased her. I could breastfeed any time, anywhere always covered in public though unless around other women in my own house, in fact, NIP was easier than being on my own. I liked the distraction. Breastfeeding was pretty easy. But I didn't love it. I was surprised to discover that I hated it. No really, I HATED IT. I would try to make myself love it, I'd stroke her cheek, gaze into her eyes, sing her songs and... be so glad when she was finally off my b@@b. It was uncomfortable, I felt trapped and I freaked out that maybe I had a baby before I was ready. Which sucked because, well, now that she was here, what could I do? I couldn't send her back. There was no return policy and I couldn't give her away. Sometimes putting her to the breast would cause me anxiety and I would have to concentrate on breathing just to get through a session. I was painfully aware of my breasts, they were so much bigger than I was used to and being 100 pounds with D+ cups made me feel conspicuous and not in a good way. Issues that I thought I had laid to rest regarding my body, sexual abuse and belonging to someone suddenly reared their heads and even though I had a baby that slept through the night from 2 weeks on, I couldn't sleep. For months and months I would have panic attacks, I felt like my breasts were suffocating me and, in an odd new way, defining me. I couldn't have sex, I couldn't be physically intimate with my husband because I was touched out and drained from pushing myself to be intimate by giving of myself to another so much. The weight that her entire sustenance came from me would be overwhelming and I would finger the can of formula in the cabinet wistfully. I never did give her formula.

When she was 6 weeks old our pediatrician encouraged me to pump and let The Piano Man give her a bottle so Earth Baby would be comfortable taking a bottle in case something should happen to me. Funny, I didn't think then how morbid that sounds but rather jumped at the chance to have a break. We set up a routine that included me going into the bedroom and pumping while The Piano Man gave her a bottle of my milk from the day before. I would read a book, browse though a magazine, stare out the window, anything really, I was just glad for a few minutes to myself not breastfeeding even if it was hooked up to a machine. Were it not for those times I'm not sure I would have made it as long as I did BFing her.

It took weeks and weeks for me to admit I didn't like breastfeeding. I whispered it to my mom on the phone, long after she'd gone home after staying with us and the new baby. She couldn't believe it, was surprised but very supportive. I could tell she was sad, felt sorry for me that I didn't love it like she did and that she felt like I was missing out on something amazing. It helped to know that she wanted me to have that as a mother and that my own mom was praying for me. She never suggested that I would quit just apologized that I didn't like it and encouraged me that maybe it would grow on me. It didn't. It just grew less agonizing. I felt so guilty that I didn't love it. That I'd rather change a diaper than to nurse my baby. I didn't feel bonded to my baby through nursing, in fact, I felt like nursing made it harder to bond. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe I was just too young. Maybe I just had a whole lot of issues to deal with. Whatever it was, nursing was not the Utopian experience I had dreamed it would be but I didn't have a good reason for the struggle. It was all in my head and I knew it but that didn't make it any easier. Adding to my struggle was the rape of someone close to me shortly after Earth Baby was born. I felt helpless, grieving for this person, thrown even deeper into my own past and fearful for my daughter even as I wrestled with feeding her from my breast. Now I wonder if sometimes those intense feelings were magnified because my love for her consumed me in a painful way when I was breastfeeding and I was just too confused to recognize it.

When Earth Baby was 4 months we tried to introduce solids. Bad idea. She hated it and suddenly nursed more. We put her on a schedule. In my attempt to feel like I wasn't lost in my baby and my body still belonged to me, I felt like I had to do something. If she cried before it was time for her to eat, we gave her a pacifier and comforted her. We never just let her cry, I would nurse her if she couldn't be comforted. But we also watched the clock and fed her even if she was asleep and had to be awakened to fit the schedule. Somehow I thought this helped, that it gave me back control over my body. It never occurred to me that instead of meeting my baby's needs or dealing with my issues I was now enslaved not to my baby but had enslaved myself and my baby to the clock. I thought I was in control, I didn't realize I was being controlled. At our doctor's advice, we didn't try solids again until she was 6 months and she did better that time, not great but better and it got more fun every day. It was also around that time that I started to realize that I could nurse and not have to fight anxiety and though I didn't love it I also didn't hate it. Nursing was ok. I also began to see that I was ok. I was more than the sum of my parts.

I had planned to nurse to 12 months. Seeing as I couldn't really read breastfeeding literature without crying, feeling guilty, hating myself and going into depression to analyze why I didn't love BFing and bonding with my baby that way, I had stopped trying to read breastfeeding materials. So I was uneducated and unprepared when challenges arose. We made it through most challenges pretty well until 10 months. Earth Baby had started biting me while nursing. I had been told to bop her on the cheek when she bit me. This was hard for me to do but I did it a few times, very lightly. She still bit so I increased the strength of my flick on her cheek. She would pull off and look confused, sometimes cry. I hated doing this, it felt so wrong but I didn't know what to do to make her stop. Finally, one day she bit me very hard and I yelped ouch very loudly and flicked her on the cheek. A big frown and tears streaming down her cheeks she refused the breast when I offered it to her again. In fact, she never did nurse again. It took me a long time to realize that I had traumatized her which led to a nursing strike. I was told she weaned herself. I became engorged and developed mastitis. A little goal oriented, I pumped, decreasing gradually until she was completely off breastmilk at a year. I actually threw out the frozen breastmilk I had the day after her birthday because I thought she no longer needed it. I still can't believe I did that.

I regret a lot about my nursing relationship with Earth Baby. I tried to educate myself but struggled so much emotionally that it was just the medical and science side of things that kept me going. Earth Baby showed me a lot of grace, even as a baby. She loved and bonded with me even though I struggled with physical affection at the time and she was and still is very healthy. The truth is, though I do have regrets in Earth Baby's and my breastfeeding story, I'm also really proud. It isn't what I want, it wasn't even what I wanted then but it is still good and she taught me so, so much and shaped me as a mother and a woman, setting me down a truly healing path. Though I couldn't say this at the time, now, 11 years later, I am so glad I breastfed my first daughter and I'd do it again (better) in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two weeks in with #5

This is an old post from January 2010 from my other blog. It seemed fitting to share it here. It's funny, I wrote this before I started The Leaky B@@b and used the phrase "leaky boobs."

Ok, so I'm nursing a new baby again which is... hard. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of nursing, it is good for mom and baby but I'm not going to sugar coat things and tell you how easy it is at first, not even for a 5th time mom. Smunchie is cute, adorable and absolutely precious and as true as these things are every two hours or so I have to grab a glass of water, pull out my leaky boobs, practice breathing techniques I don't even use for pushing in labor, and willingly let my baby suck on my sore nipples. Her perfectly sweet mouth is transformed into a device of torture, a pit of barbed wire churning around my tatas. Experts will tell you that it shouldn't hurt, that if there is pain it is because of a poor latch and can be corrected with proper positioning and getting the baby to get on the breast correctly; I've told women this as well. For the most part, I think that is true but there are times when mom and baby just can't get it worked out for a few weeks and for them it just isn't all rainbows and butterflies. This is me and Smunchie, the combination of my rather large nipples and her tiny mouth plus this thing she has against putting her tongue forward have all combined to make this a difficult and painful two weeks of nursing so far.

But we'll get there. I had one other baby that gave me cracked and bleeding nipples and eventually we made it through and nursing became a bonding experience for us, special and easy so I have confidence that Smunchie and I can make it there too. When we do I'll be nursing her anywhere she needs to eat (for the torture sessions I prefer to remain at home at the moment) and doing so unapologetically. Even in church. Since I believe that God made me to nurse my baby I'm not about to leave and go nurse somewhere else when we're there to worship. Boobies nursing babies aren't a shock to God and if they are to the people around me, well, they are free to turn their attention back to God and leave me and my baby alone. Most of the time I won't be covering up and if I choose to do so it will be very special circumstances. I don't cover up for my dad, don't cover at church, don't cover around our friends... in fact, I can't think of such a special circumstance, interesting. I've heard all the arguments in favor of covering up but seeing as I believe breasts are for nursing babies and anything else is just a bonus I don't see me changing. Any man that is turned on (or grossed out) by a baby being fed has issues, that's all I'm saying. And any woman... well... yeah.

And because I have a baby crying, a 6 year old needing some direction, a 2 year old needing a diaper change, an 8 year old "doing homework" that needs supervision, an 11 year old freaking out about a Greek test tomorrow, dinner that needs to be warmed up (thank goodness it is cooked thanks to wonderful friends!), a house in dire need of cleaning, laundry that needs to be folded and put away, dishes that need to be done, and a new lace pattern to try on that sweater, etc. I'm going to go now and just say: read this. She's obviously not as tired as I am and said it all so much better.
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