We Came, We Latched, We Conquered

It was looking a bit gloomy for the St. Louis gathering for The Big Latch On last Saturday morning. We woke up to thunder, lightning, and buckets of rain. Were it not for the recent unrelenting, blistering triple-digit heat wave, I would have been outright grumpy for the inclement weather.  I had so been looking forward to this public celebration of breastfeeding! As I checked the Facebook feeds for both the La Leche League of Greater St. Louis and The Big Latch On-St. Louis, participants were slowly bowing out with regret. We happen to live just a handful of blocks from the park where the event was being held, so we were thankfully able to wait the weather out and still arrive for our NIP-fest on time.

The rain had relievedly slowed to a soft drizzle. While we waited for our 10:30am latch-on time, my toddler decided to capitalize on some serious puddle-splashing opportunities.

Like many of you, this wasn’t the first time, nor will it likely be the last time, I’ve nursed my spectacularly sodden child. Around 10:20am, I headed over to our designated latch-on rendezvous point in the park, soggy toddler in tow.  We chatted with friends, waited for the clock to strike 10:30am, and then…

We joined the rest of the world in celebrating babies and boobies! (And raised our hands to signal that we were latched on and could be counted.)

In spite of the damp and dreary weather, 25 St. Louis-area little ones came out to be counted amongst the 8,862 other nursing tykes across 23 countries in 626 different locations to honor of World Breastfeeding Week, to raise awareness of breastfeeding and promote its positive presence in public places, and to advocate for access to adequate breastfeeding support services. It was an impressive Big Latch On indeed, and it was not a bad way to pass a drizzly Saturday morning, y’all–muddy toddler and all.

Over the last week we’ve been working on night-weaning in our house (forthcoming post on that), and though it’s been going well, it has also churned up some serious sentiment for me. I can’t even begin to write about what breastfeeding means to me, about how it restored a sense of empowerment about my body; about how much I relish those upward gazes from my son; about how the weight of his body in my arms has changed so much from then to now; about how much I treasure the cheeky upturn of his mouth when he smiles as he nurses; about this new respect for and relationship with my breasts as a nursing adult woman.

Our breastfeeding relationship is far from over, but it is changing. From 10:30am-10:31am on Saturday morning, during our internationally shared moment of nursing, I meditated on my boundless gratitude for being a mother; for the ability to nourish my son both nutritionally and emotionally through the act of nursing; and for the women in my life who supported me and inspired me during our breastfeeding journey. We may not have broken the world record on Saturday, but my breastfeeding relationship with my son has far surpassed my every expectation in innumerable, heart-stoking ways.

Did you attend a Big Latch On gathering? How did it go? What are/were your breastfeeding goals? Did you break your own personal world record?

Rhianna’s 19 month old son is known to give her a spontaneous fist bump when he nurses. Nothing in her mind quite says “Breastfeeding kicks ass!” like the nursing toddler fist bump.

Lactivism

Embrace Mammal-hood!

I am preparing to return to work tomorrow after 12 glorious weeks bunkered down with my family and sweet baby boy. My husband (my rock) and I have run down the check list and I have diligently been building a supply of frozen breast milk in my freezer so that he will receive only the best in my absence. Lucky for me I have a super supportive family and employer that allows me time to pump and feed my baby while at work. My husband brings him at lunchtime for a visit and snack (it is my favorite part of the day)! For the two days that I am at work I will continue to pump every 3-4 hours and know that my children are in good hands with their daddy.

This is me nursing my middle son at work. He is about 2.5 years in this picture and yes- dressed up as a dinosaur.

Throughout my pregnancy and over the last twelve weeks, I have received a ridiculous amount of marketing from formula companies. Samples, coupons, emails with “suggestions” on how to get more sleep, wean so that I can return to work, and let my husband “share” the joys of feeding. When I receive these items in the mail, I always write return to sender, sometimes if I have had a good night of sleep I send a letter back first, asking to be removed from the list, and secondly scolding the manufacturers for sabotaging  my breastfeeding experience with their propaganda. Just this week as we broach World Breastfeeding Week the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement urging Pediatricians to refrain from passing out samples of formula in their offices.

Read it here:  http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/files/pdf/DivestingfromFormulaMarketinginPediatricCare.pdf

Photo Credit:
Heather Cushman-Dowdee

Everyone knows the innumerable benefits to breastfeeding. What fails to be conveyed is that giving formula comes with risks. Of course, every family has a right to choose how a baby is fed but the truth does not need censorship. In most of the world a choice between breast and bottle is a matter of life and death. The mothers who choose to breastfeed should not be inundated with materials, and samples that wreak havoc on their efforts. We know that mothers who receive samples of formula are more likely to give them. Formula companies are no longer just marketing their product to formula feeding mothers, they now frequently pass out “breastfeeding support bags,” in doctor offices and sadly at many hospitals.

My sweet, exclusively breast-fed 10 week old. Certainly not under-nourished, certainly not needing supplement!

In no way are these formula manufacturers supporting breastfeeding they are making women feel in adequate.  The number one reason cited by breastfeeding mothers for weaning is lack of milk or perceived lack of milk. What I hope this post does is to tell all women that you absolutely have what it takes! Don’t let these companies play mind games with you, and remember this: Your body created and sustained life for 9 months and is able to sustain it for at least another 6 months purely with the milk your body makes. Thereafter breast milk continues to nourish and provide antibodies for your baby and protect you from a multitude of illness and cancers. Millions of women have sustained the life on many children with their milk alone. The fact is that lactation and breast milk are undervalued in our society there is no product out there that comes close to what breast milk is despite the claims. It is indeed a wonder food and drug that prevents and treats illness and is essentially free and never recalled. I urge you to fight back when you receive these products in the mail. Contact your local representatives, ask your pediatricians’ to follow the AAP’s policy and discontinue free samples at their office. These samples are not free and come at a high cost! How will you participate in World Breastfeeding Week check out http://www.biglatchon.org/ for events in your area.

Molly is a full-time mama to 3 and part-time nurse and lactation consultant.  She has breast-fed in many places including under water-falls, tops of mountains, in the ocean and of course snuggled up in bed!

Time to Get Your “Big Latch On” On!

World Breastfeeding Week is almost here!  August 1 – 7, 2012 marks twenty years since the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action introduced this week-long call to global advocacy for breastfeeding education and support. There are abundant global, regional, and local events planned to honor and promote this world health initiative, but there is one local community level event I am particularly stoked about: The Big Latch On.

Breastfeeding mamas from over 11 different countries and 218 locations are gathering together on either August 3 or 4 (depending on your location) this summer to rock some serious NIP (nursing in public) and hopefully break a world record for most women breastfeeding simultaneously while we’re at it.  I enthusiastically signed up for the St. Louis The Big Latch On event, which is actually being held in my ‘hood this year.

The Big Latch On describes its aims this way*:

  • Support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide ongoing breastfeeding support and promotion.
  • Raise awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available in communities.
  • Help communities positively support breastfeeding in public places.
  • Make breastfeeding a normal part of the day-to-day life at a local community level.
  • Increase support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and the breastfeeding knowledge that is embedded in their communities.
  • Communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services.

I mean, who can’t get behind that? You can find your local event location here. Don’t see an event listed in your area? You can host one! The Other Baby Book’s own resident breastfeeding badass, erm, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Molly deGroh, is hosting one in her area. Pretty nifty, right?

I would love to know how many of friends of TOBB are planning to attend their own local latch-fest.  Molly and I both plan to take pictures and share our experiences here on the blog, and we’d love it if you’d join us! We’d love to hear about your experiences and even share some of your pictures in the blog space, if you’re open to that. We’ll send out a call for your stories and pictures on Facebook after the event!

Will you be there? Ever attended The Big Latch On in the past? Tell us about it!

Follow The Big Latch On on Facebook here. Follow World Breastfeeding Week on Facebook here.

*Information copied directly from The Big Latch On website.

Breastfeeding totally handed Rhianna her ass that first month, but she and her 18mo son are still nursing strong. She thanks the stars for the breastfeeding badasses, erm, lactation consultants, who gave her the strength and hope to keep latchin’ on.

Nursing + 1

*Photo Credit Baby Blues

Nursing and the Older Sibling(s)

When I had my daughter nine years ago (gasp, where did that time go?), I took each nursing session as my opportunity to sit down (usually with a snack or cup of tea), relax, and sometimes drift off to sleep with her. Mostly it was a time to catalog into my memory the sweet milky grin and the so-soft perfect toes and velvety skin.

Fast forward four years. Avery was a bustling 4-year-old and she and my new sweet baby boy Oliver were both vying for my attention. Another four years, and it’s Oliver now who is 4, and my newest baby, Montgomery, is hungry. What is a mama to do? Without sacrificing the special nursing relationship, how does a mama give time to her older children?

I looked to my mother. We were poor, so my mom got creative and became the master of making up free games to keep everyone entertained and happy while she nursed and took a moment for herself. Here are some fun ideas that I learned from the master and a few that I made up on my own….happy nursing!

Breastfeeding on the Bus:  Set your toddler up with a piggy bank on the kitchen table deposit some coins in (obviously being careful if your toddler might eat the bus fare). Then give him an unbreakable plate or really anything circular (this serves as the steering wheel) and settle down in the backseat with your baby. My little guy is happy driving us all around town, and especially likes it when I tell him to hurry or turn on his wipers because it is raining. A great imagination game!

Flashlight I Spy:  If your little one likes to sit right next to you, this is a great game to play. Have them cuddle up close or even rest their head on your lap. Play “I Spy” as usual, but give them a flashlight to shine when they see the item. Only let them play with the flashlight during this special game, and it will be a fun toy to see each time the baby nurses.

Oliver and the handy dandy flashlight- me with a somewhat glossed over look. Perhaps he spied my eyeballs too many times 🙂

Stage Play:  If your child likes to be the star of the show and is battling for your time with the new baby, lay down a bath towel or blanket and tell your child this is the stage. You can give them a ticket to come to their show and let them take it away a time to dance, perform, play “Simon Says,” etc.

There is always snuggle room, or reading a book, and yes, sometimes a cartoon for your older child when you nurse, but try some of these fun games and please share your ideas, too!

Toddler Nursing, Through Sickness and Health

Enjoying some time together at the park

Have you ever nursed a toddler? If you haven’t, just ask someone to poke your eyes, stick their fingers in your mouth, and repeatedly pinch you as their “soothing mechanism.” The only thing soothing about nursing a toddler is that when the wind is blowing just right and all the moons align, I can sometimes catch up on a half episode of “Property Virgins” on HGTV. Sometimes it still surprises me that we’re going strong with nursing at 15 months, an age when most little ones have ventured into cow’s milkland, never to return again. Alas, my little one is hooked on the boobjuice.

When my daughter was 7 months old, I experienced a nasty breast yeast infection (in medical terms, candida). Painful, raw skin was my burden and every nursing session was equal parts patience and mild torture. My husband said I should stop nursing. My mom, a lactation consultant, even gave me “permission” to supplement. I dreaded nursing, but hated the idea of giving up more. All I can say is that I pray my daughter doesn’t inherit too much of my stubborn streak.

After a couple of months (and a bout of mild eczema, thank you very much), it magically went away. OK, well it went away after I tried every natural and not-so-natural method under the sun. Let’s just say, if you experience thrush, let me know because I’ve got the lowdown. I sampled every method out there: elimination diets, coconut oil, grapefruit seed extract, antibiotics, garlic, APNO (all-purpose nipple ointment), prayer, etc. God help me if I ever get it again!

So we stuck with it, my little nipple biter and I. And it hasn’t been all “suffering.” Nursing a little one is a pretty sweet gig, and might I say a very useful tool when sickness invades your home as I found out all too recently. You see, my little peanut caught strep and a bacterial infection, one after another, and was sick for nearly two weeks. She was miserable, feverish, and crying for nearly that entire time. And there was one thing that was her nearly constant comfort. No, it wasn’t fruit popsicles (which did help, by the way) but nursing.

Good old mom and her battle wounded “nanees” (her word, not mine) saved the day. The combination of comfort, nutrition, and hydration helped heal my little girl (OK, along with some antibiotics). For a brief period, I felt like I was nursing an infant again with our round the clock sessions. I’ll admit, I felt slightly frustrated with the (nearly) nonstop nursing she needed over the past few weeks. But I am so grateful I didn’t give up on nursing months ago and could be there for her in such an intimate and loving way.

My little girl and I have come a long way in our nursing relationship, and I’m not sure when the ending point is. But really, does it matter? Every day with her gives me incentive to continue for now, pinching, giggles, and all.

 

 

Kate keeps a secret stash of APNO in her bathroom drawer “just in case” and will, without a doubt, attempt to nurse any future nipple pinchers that may or may not be in her future. When her little one isn’t nursing, they enjoy reading books together, making farm animal noises, and playing with the dogs.

3 Money-Saving Tools for New Parents

Growing numbers of new parents gaining access to tools that have been used across time to save money and raise thriving babies. Check out the baby registries  of these mavericks (if you can find them, because they recognize that few items marketed as “baby essentials” are necessary or even useful), and you won’t find the funtime froggy bathtub, a baby swing, and most notably a crib. Usually, that is. It’s important to recognize that every family is different and while sweeping generalities can be used to give you a sense of their typical lifestyle choices, every family makes its own decisions independently, based on its own needs and preferences.

Anyone who’s purchased baby food, including infant formula, baby cereals and purees, not to mention all those fun teething biscuits and snacks with cartoons on the boxes, will tell you—they cost a pretty penny. But they’ve been around so long—and, more importantly, marketed so successfully—you’d never know they weren’t necessary to feed your children.

If foods like baby formula are such staples, then why aren’t babies born with a bottle and can of formula? Because they are born with something even easier to access, healthier, and cheaper. We humans are called mammals because our bodies are genetically equipped to feed our babies with human milk, and we begin making milk in preparation for the baby’s birth. It’s true, not all women make enough milk for their babies. I know—I  was one of the few who didn’t, at first. But it’s far less true than we’re led to think. More than 90% of women have enough milk, or can make enough milk to feed their babies. It’s just that new moms don’t get all the support we need to do it, in the form of skilled professionals like Lactation Consultants—or better yet, a wise community of elders—who can help us through the early days and the inevitable bumps in the road.

While we’re on the topic of baby food, I’m excited to share a revelation that changed my life, and kept our bank account healthy. Babies don’t actually need baby food! Really. I know what you’re thinking—here’s one of those blender ladies who is going to tell me to puree my own baby food. Actually, no. It’s much easier than that. Our babies—beginning around age 6 months and older—can eat the vast majority of foods that we eat. Things like whole fruit, cooked veggies and whole grains such as rice, quinoa, beans and even meat.

Not only can babies eat our food, they can also feed themselves. This is where the real fun comes in. Maybe you’ve seen a parent feeding their baby, or maybe you’ve been that parent airplaning mashed bananas into his mouth. You know that it takes both of your hands and your complete attention. You’re spooning the mush out of the jar, aiming it into the baby’s mouth, possibly making sound effects while encouraging him to eat it, then cleaning up when he’s done. Picture this instead. Cook dinner as you normally would, then put some food on his tray or plate. Let him practice picking it up, aiming it towards his mouth or just playing with it. Then clean up when he’s all done. What’s the difference between these two ways of feeding babies solid foods? In the second scenario, the parent can actually eat and enjoy the show! Chances are she has many comical pictures of her baby wearing his dinner, what with her hands free and clear. The long-term outcomes are even more impressive, though. Babies who are self-fed are less likely to overeat or be obese later in life. Not bad for budget-friendly dining.

Another top money saving baby-care secret is called Elimination Communication (EC), or infant pottying. Yes, really. Infants can be taken to the bathroom, and, in fact, they really want to be. No one wants to sit in their own filth, not even babies. Most parents who potty their infants notice that babies stop pooping in their diapers within a week or two. By tuning in to our babies’ cues, we’re able to better meet their needs. ECing parents also report less incidences of unexplained crying. You know those times when you fed, clothed, napped and changed your baby, and he still wouldn’t stop crying? Millions of parents chalk it up to a mystery of babyhood. But it just might be that your baby wants you to take off his diaper so that he won’t have to soil himself. It sounds crazy at first, I know. But pottying is fun for everyone – the baby who doesn’t have to poop in his diaper, and the parent who “catches” his eliminations and doesn’t have to change her baby’s diaper—not to mention pay for all those expensive Pampers!

We’ve all heard about life in the trenches – the first three months of a baby’s life when he’s crying all the time, waking up multiple times to feed and needing to be swaddled, rocked, pacified, sung to, driven in the car, or shushed to sleep. I’ve been there, and they were the longest and most miserable three weeks of my life. But thanks to conversations with parents in-the-know, I learned that I didn’t have to keep muscling through, all three of us miserable as my baby cried her way through the nights. I learned that I could bring her into bed with me – that bed-sharing wasn’t unsafe, as my post-partum hospital nurse had told me, as long as it was done safely. Safe co-sleeping is one of the best-kept secrets in Western society, even though it’s practiced across the rest of the world. The U.S. government in particular has done an impressive job publicizing the perils of bed-sharing, citing many tragic deaths from co-sleeping, without mentioning that they are actually 46 times less than crib deaths over the same time period.

What’s so great about co-sleeping? For nursing moms, sharing a sleep surface enables a baby to feed quickly and easily, without mom’s feet once touching the ground. (Babies who aren’t nursing are safest on a separate sleep surface, close to their parents.) For babies, who have spent 10 months in utero, co-sleeping allows them the nearness to their moms, making the world less scary and helping them relax and sleep! Also, while the baby’s lungs are developing, nearness to his mom helps him to regulate his breathing, resulting in fewer instances of apnea and SIDS.

As one who has tread both worlds with the same baby, I can tell you that the tools in our parenting toolkit have fattened our bank account, built a close intuitive relationship with our daughter and increased our sleep. Taken together or separately, the experience has been priceless.

Miriam is a fun-loving mama who literally can’t stop kissing Dalia, her delicious 2 year old.  She loves reading, yoga, crafting and helping others find their paths through life coaching. She is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year.

What about you? What are your top money-saving baby-care tools?

Smile, It’s Not As Overwhelming As It Sounds

Kristen and Will rocking Plymouth, MA, on her first Mother’s Day adventure.

How many moms-to-be are feeling just a little overwhelmed by all this breastfeeding talk? I’ll admit it, I’ve been there!

The good news is there’s a ton of support for you. Hooray!

The bad news is that EVERYONE has an opinion and the conversation can get pretty intense (Have you seen the talk about this week’s Time cover!?). Even as someone who tries to keep things light, I can get pretty worked up about it.

But, don’t worry, you’ll find your way! Just step back and find what makes you feel most comfortable. For me, I found comfort in the bright side of breastfeeding – the moments that make moms smile and the stories that make them laugh.

Five years down the road, I’m happy to say the smiles and laughs are what resonate most from my own experience. And so, as Mother’s Day and your D days approach, I hope some of these stories will bring you smiles and a little encouragement too.

Comfort Zone Strategy
Starting out, my little man and I preferred a private space to nurse. A cozy glider, a comfy nursing pillow, and life was good.

The outside world was calling though, and my dear friend’s baby shower was our first outing just mommy and son. Will enjoyed a long nap and I enjoyed good company. It was wonderful…until Boston traffic forced this modest mama to break out of her shell.

He was hungry and it was my job to feed him. But where was I going to go? What would I do if someone saw me? Nervously, I decided to find a shopping center and feed him in my car. Okay, but where? Look, there’s a Shaws. Oh God, what if someone walks past the car? Is that Whole Foods? Yes, Whole Foods! They understand!

I laugh now, but little strategies like this got me through plenty of nervous moments. That day, we settled into the back seat of my PT Cruiser and, despite all the overthinking, found that our comfort zone traveled.

Nickles
Our family tries not to sugarcoat things. During my second pregnancy, Will became fascinated with childbirth. We explained it to him, but when he started sharing every detail with friends, family and strangers, I started wondering if we should have told him about the stork instead.

When his little sister arrived, he found a new obsession – breast milk!
To friends and family, “Mommy feeds the baby with her breast milk!”

To anyone in ear shot of the dairy section:  “Mommy, we don’t buy Joy milk at the store, you give her your breast milk!”

I was glad he was excited, but his devilish tone and the twinkle in his eyes made me think twice before I shared too much again. And so, when he approached us with his shirt up and a big grin on his face, I just rolled with it.

Me: “What are you doing, Will?”
Will: “I’m going to feed the baby with my nickels!”
Me (holding back laughs): “Your what?”
Will: “My nickels!”

I couldn’t correct him. Not just because it would serve us well in public (and, oh lord, it did!), but because it’s still the funniest thing I’ve ever heard him say.

Subliminal Messaging?
The last Harry Potter book came out the summer after Will was born. By that time, quick nurses had turned into power sessions and I found myself getting lost in the book.

When my daughter was born, I had it down to a science. Baby and boob supported by one arm, book supported by the other. And, in place of wizards and owls, I chose cheesy vampire chick lit.  At least until she started biting.

Ouch! Really? Your brother never did this! Ouch! Sorry, Edward…I’m going back to Mr. Darcy.

The Call of the Nursing Mom
By the time Joy was a few weeks old, this once modest mommy was modest no longer. Not necessarily by my own choice, but because of my son’s social life.

Will wanted to play, especially with his hero – the boy who lives across the street. If I sat on our living room couch, I could watch them shoot hoops and nurse at the same time. Eventually, they’d get bored and ask to do something else. And no matter how many times I called out, “I’m nursing!” they would still come stomping in.

I’m not sure if I traumatized our poor neighbor or if his future wife will call me her hero, but one thing’s for sure…the second time around nothing is sacred.

Every Mother’s Day, Kristen asks her family to do something they’ve never done before, but have always wanted to do. Her first was spent at Plymouth Rock, which was as overrated as everyone says, but absolutely fantastic. She hopes you all take some time to laugh with your family this weekend and simply enjoy being a mom.