Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black & White

It’s Not Black or White

As I talk to many people about breastfeeding, the one thing I always end up saying is, “Breastfeeding is not black and white.” It might seem like is should be. Do this…and this is what will happen. Or my sister did this – so that’s what will work for me too. Is there anything about it that is black and white? Well – I usually explain it this way… there are certain basic concepts that usually do not change. For example, the hormones that are involved in breastfeeding, the concept of supply and demand, etc. But, there is so much that is variable. And this is so frustrating for many new parents. Still, I have always held – that this is another part of the parenting journey. Every pregnancy, child, and breastfeeding experience is different.

The amazing thing about breastfeeding is, by design, it can vary. Do you think that if every mom produced the exact same amount of breast milk, that it would make it “easier?” Well – maybe easier to be able to say – you should be producing “X amount” at every feeding. But what if your baby is older, or more petite, or has a faster metabolism? Or what if your baby is sick, and has a decreased appetite? Or if you have more than one infant, twins for example? It wouldn’t work too well. Breastfeeding, by design, is baby driven… what the baby needs – is what is produced! So then, why does it seem that so many mothers complain of supply issues? Well, again – not a black and white answer. It depends. On the baby, the mother, the situation, the way the baby nurses, how often, how consistent, and it goes on and on.

Our mammalian bodies are quite wonderful – the way we adapt to many situations. If our baby is born prematurely, our baby will “supercharge” our milk – to try to meet the extra needs of our struggling baby. If we have more than one baby, our bodies will adapt to make enough milk for each baby. When our baby goes through a growth spurt and experiences the need for more calories and more or varied nutrients, our body can respond accordingly. The key is – breastfeeding is driven by the baby. Not what we think our baby should do, or what we want to train our baby to do. The baby has to be able to drive the supply. And as our baby changes, and his or her needs change; the manner in which they breastfeed will probably change too. And this is not only OK; but necessary.

So – with so many variables, and so many possibilities…how does a new parent know if the baby is breastfeeding well? There are a few things that can help. First, educate yourself. Learn as much as you can before your baby is born. Take a class, read a book(s), attend a breastfeeding support group. Second, make sure you get help early on. Have a nurse help, or request a lactation consultant. Third, know where to turn for help, if you need it. And remember these things:

1. Breastfeeding is what is your body and your baby are designed for.

2. Breastfeeding should not hurt.

3. You make what you remove. (basic supply & demand)

4. Your baby- after the first week, should be gaining weight, having plenty of wet & dirty diapers, and look generally healthy.

5. You should enjoy your breastfeeding experience.

6. Breastfeeding takes some practice to become easy.

7. Breastfeeding has been effective for centuries – otherwise the human race would have been eliminated a long time ago.

8. And finally, there is help available – if you want it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I realize that I am truly blessed. I have a lot I could complain about. (And sometimes do.)

I have a wonderful husband who loves me for me. He believes in marriage and the hard work it takes. He isn't afraid to question things, and will even admit (at times) when he is wrong. He knows the thing that is most important to me is feeling safe in his arms.

I have two beautiful daughters. They help me to experience pure joy on a regular basis. They have taught me the amazing gift of unconditional love. They make me want to be a better mom and role model for them. And they have the most amazing sound - of sisters laughing uncontrollably!

I have parents that have shaped the person I am and strive to be. They are amazing people, of which I can only hope to attain to be. I have learned so much about strength, character, godliness, responsibility, love, faith, trust, and most of all - the importance of family.

I have a brother who inspires me and I think could lift the world off my shoulders if I ever needed him to. And he has an amazing wife, whose strength and courage is unbelievable. The zest for life in their family brings a smile to my face every time. And they have 2 daughters who are becoming amazing people, that I am proud to call my nieces.

I have a home, that has kept me warm and safe for 25 years. We have neighbors that care.

I have friends that would do anything for me or my family. I have friends far in distance, but close at heart, who always have a listening ear - no matter how long it has been.

I have a job that I care about and feel like I make a difference.

I have a Heavenly Father, who loves me no matter what. He allows me to feel a range of emotions and experience many things. He provides what I need, and helps me to remember how blessed I am. He has given me so many things and allows me to make choices and learn from them. There has been a time in my life that I questioned how he could allow me to experience such pain, but I now understand that as a parent - it really did cause more pain for him to see me go through those things. And yet he was with me every step of the way - despite me trying to turn away from him.

This life on earth is hard. It is amazing. It is wonderful. How blessed we are to be able to experience it. And know that the life after is eternal - when we trust in our Father.

"Discreet ?"

Who defines “discreet?”
In the world of breastfeeding, special attention has been given to the idea of “discreet” nursing. Marketing giants have picked this as an area to mass market the “newest, latest, trendiest idea” to help mothers achieve this goal.
First – lets look at the definition of the word – discreet.
Miriam-webster defines discreet – as being unobtrusive, unnoticable.
So let’s think about this, breastfeeding being unobtrusive – NOT in your face; or unnoticable – Not drawing unusual attention. I suppose those are not unreasonable requests. But I don’t think that is where the problem lies. It is not with the word “discreet.”

OK… now – let’s look at our society in general.
Breasts are EVERYWHERE!!! Magazine ads; television, movies, manequins in the mall. Have you seen the window displays at Victoria’s Secret? I feel the need to cover my six year old’s eyes!
And how about today’s fashion? Low cut tops & dresses; workout clothes are now a pair of “hot pants” and a ‘sports’ bra??? And should we even approach the subject of bathing suits?
My point is this… our society does not have a problem with breasts. They have a problem with breasts being used for the purpose in which they were created. (Remember…we are mammals…we feed our young from our mammaries.)
But why??? Why is it such a big deal to see a mother feeding her child the way God or Nature (depending on your beliefs) intended? Is it because the breast is no longer functional? It is only a symbol of sexuallity? Who decided that? (The sex who doesn’t feed from their mammaries?) The other sex, to which I belong, provide the first 9 months of nourishment internally – while dealing with nausea, vomiting, backaches, heartburn, labor and birth. You tell me who gets to decide what the function of our mammaries are for!
So if we are focusing on the function of mammaries – it is pretty obvious if you’ve ever been around a pregnant woman. Those mammaries begin to grow during pregnancy. In preparation for their functional value after birth. (And yes, they continue to expand in girth and volume after birth.) So this is their function… to produce the hydration and nutrition required to feed our young. (Nothing sexual about that!)
So what is the problem?
At some point, we discovered that an alternative might exist. Is this alternative superior? No. Not by a long shot. Even the producers of the alternative admit it is not by any means superior, they don’t even claim it to be equal.
But the alternative exists. Now what? Why would one choose to use a suboptimal alternative? Perhaps it is cheaper…nope. The original is free! Perhaps it has fringe benefits…maybe. Depends on your point of view. Perhaps it is just a matter of choice. I think this is it for most. Now – is it possible the original function can be flawed? Of course, there is always the exception to the rule. For which – we are lucky an alternative exists. Otherwise – the survival of the fittest would include the functional ability of the mother’s mammaries.
So if the alternative – is mainly attractive because it is a ‘choice.’ And that makes it acceptable societally… Shouldn’t the original option (nature’s intention) be at least equally acceptable – if not slightly expected?
Back to the idea of “discreet” nursing…
My point is this… if what you are doing is the proposed function of feeding your young, why should one feel they need to not acknowledge that is exactly what they are doing?
Ok – so you really think that covering your baby w/ a blanket, or a trendy “large bib” or even a large sombrero on the baby’s head – is really being unobtrusive or unnoticable? You really think that it is drawing LESS attention to how you are feeding your baby?
I think it is more like the blinking neon sign you see in a bar window – instead of flashing “Budweiser” it is flaching
Let’s try a different approach.
You are going to lunch… you have two choices for lunch –
a healthy salad full of greens, veggies, and healthy protein of grilled chicken – OR- a deep fried plate of greasy potatoes, and a slab of ground beef smothered in high fat cheese, bacon, and other condiments.
You realize that other people around you may be watching. Do you make a choice based on their potential opinion? Do you make a choice – but then hide behind a menu or under a blanket, so they can’t see? Or heaven forbid, take your food into a bathroom stall?
No, probably not.
And this is for YOU. Not your child. We do all kinds of things for our children, make all kinds of sacrifices for their benefit. Despite ourselves.
I still don’t get it.
What makes us feel that we need to cover up one of the most beautiful things on earth? Women, mothers, sisters, husbands, fathers, brothers – embrace the beauty of a mother and her child. If you see a woman feeding her child with the mammaries she was given – simply say “Good for you.”
I guarantee she will know what you mean, and appreciate it!
And keep the blankets, bibs and sombreros to shield the sun from their delicate eyes.

Breastfeeding: A gift of love - for mom and baby!

Recently, as I prepare for the birth of my third child, I have been thinking about this thing I do as my career and as my own life. I have always been a strong advocate for breastfeeding, not only as a right of every child - but also as something women should be empowered to do.

We often hear about the physical benefits for baby and mom, but how often do we really talk about the gift that we give ourselves by breastfeeding? Recently I was talking to a colleague, she was talking about how much she loves breastfeeding her daughter. Her initial goal was short term, and since has become much longer because of the bond it has created for her and her daughter. We talked about how difficult it is to convey the absolute "wonderfulness" of nursing - to those who have never done it. It is a feeling impossible to understand unless you have experienced it yourself. I understand that it may not be the perfect choice for every woman. But I do believe that every child has the right to be offered this gift.

For whatever reason, our society has chosen to look at the "choice to breastfeed" as being something that a woman should not be made to feel guilty about. However - if everyone realized the gift that it truly would be something that we would all try to attain.

The bond that is formed between a mother and child by breastfeeding - is not replicable by any other means. Does this mean that you can not bond with a child if you do not breastfeed. No! Don't be ridiculous! But it is not the same. I wish I could give every mother the opportunity to feel it before they decided how they were planning on feeding their child. I don't believe any woman could feel that love and connection - and not desire more of it.

For now - I will continue to support other women in their pursuit of their breastfeeding goals. Educate women and families about how breastfeeding can impact their lives and the lives of their children. And bathe in the rich rewards of breastfeeding my own children.