Search Results for: "world breastfeeding week"

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week!

August 2015 043It is World Breastfeeding Week and we’ve been busy supporting celebratory events around the country. We donated nursing mama sculptures to the World Breastfeeding Week picnic in Springfield, MO and to two LLL Leader workshops, one in NY and one in Tennessee. Today, we donated a birth sculpture and 4o goodie packets to the upcoming Women in the Wild photo shoot in Kansas City and we also mailed a spiral mama sculpture and 20 goodie packets to a Live, Love, Latch event in Portland, TN.

August 2015 068Is there a Live, Love, Latch event near you? Check it out here: Events – Live, Love, Latch!

On August 22, we’ll be giving away some goodies at MamaFest in Rolla, which is also registered as a Live, Love, Latch event.

What is MamaFest?

 It’s a celebration! A celebration of women, of community organizations that serve women, of women-owned/women-oriented businesses. We want you to come visit the vendors, have some refreshments, visit with your friends on the couch, and take home awareness of what your community has to offer YOU.

(Men and children are welcome to attend!)

via MamaFest 2015.

I’m particularly excited about the Women in the Wild event. This article about the effort really brings home why it matters:

…The women behind this photo would like to shift the paradigm, to change the narrative of shame that is inflicted upon mothers. They would like to celebrate the bodies of mothers, with all of their glorious imperfections, because they are strong, and beautiful. Mother of one, Jacklyn Kosakowski, shared: ”When the opportunity came up to take this photo, I honestly wasn’t doing it for others. I did it for myself. My changing body during pregnancy was difficult for me, and especially afterwards was hard. I’m at a good place with myself and I have just recently began to appreciate my stretch marks and mommy belly. This body carried and nourished my baby for nine months and pushed for four hours just to meet her, so I should be proud of this body. To just be out in the open, half naked, with other beautiful mothers was such an amazing feeling. There was no judgement, we all looked beautiful.”

via The Shame Game » Erin White Photography.

You can also visit Erin White Photography on Facebook for more information and beautiful, inspiring photos.

The theme of the 2015 World Breastfeeding Week is: “Let’s Make it Work” and it focuses on mothers combining breastfeeding and employment.

The WBW 2015 theme on working women and breastfeeding revisits the 1993 WBW campaign on the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative. Much has been achieved in 22 years of global action supporting women in combining breastfeeding and work, particularly the adoption of the revised ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection with much stronger maternity entitlements, and more country actions on improving national laws and practices. At the workplace level, we have also seen more actions taken to set up breastfeeding or mother-friendly workplaces including awards for breastfeeding-friendly employers, as well as greater mass awareness on working women’s rights to breastfeed.

via World Breastfeeding Week 2015.

WHO_BreastfeedingWeek2015_EN4Images for the 2015 theme of “Let’s Make it Work” are available here: WHO | World Breastfeeding Week.

Why does the support of employers matter to breastfeeding women? It matters immensely. Women and their babies don’t exist in isolation, they are nestled within larger systems that can either help make or break the breastfeeding relationship:

“Governments and commercial companies will ‘invest’ billions in expensive new technology: roads, bridges, airports, dams or power generation plants, ‘for the good of society’. They may even ‘invest’ in schools and hospitals, but the crucial primary investment in the emotional, physical and mental health of all humans, which breastfeeding and mothering provide, is invisible.”

—Gabrielle Palmer (The Politics of Breastfeeding, p. 333)

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue: Collage Project | Talk Birth.

Seriously. This is why World Breastfeeding Week matters. It isn’t just about breastfeeding memes and platitudes, it is about systemic change in the US and around the world.

I was interested by this story about an Argentinian politician and her baby breastfeeding at work:

…We’re having a moment here when it comes to the cultural conversation surround public breastfeeding. When we talk about women balancing work and childcare, part of what we’re talking about is women living in a world that makes it difficult to care for their children while simultaneously managing the rest of their lives. It’s not that it’s physically impossible to care for a baby while going about one’s day, it’s that we live in a world in which women are shamed for things like breastfeeding in public.

via Why it’s important that this Argentinian politician was breastfeeding her baby on the job – Page 2 of 2.

August 2015 060…We are mammals because as a species we nurse our young. This is a fundamental tie between the women of our time and place and the women of all other times and places as well as between the female members of every mammal species that have ever lived. It is our root tie to the planet, to the cycles of life, and to mammal life on earth. It is precisely this connection to the physical, the earthy, the material, the mundane, the body, that breastfeeding challenges men, feminists, and society.

Breastfeeding is a feminist issue and a fundamental women’s issue. And, it is an issue deeply embedded in a sociocultural context. Attitudes towards breastfeeding are intimately entwined with attitudes toward women, women’s bodies, and who has “ownership” of them. Patriarchy chafes at a woman having the audacity to feed her child with her own body, under her own authority, and without the need for any other. Feminism sometimes chafes at the “control” over the woman’s body exerted by the breastfeeding infant…

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth.

Past World Breastfeeding Week posts:

 Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of WBW and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Wednesday Tidbits: World Breastfeeding Week!

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Today is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week and I fully intended to create a link-full Tuesday Tidbits post about this yesterday. However, I was busy helping actual breastfeeding mothers at my monthly LLL meeting and then came home and worked on my handout and project preparations for our second annual MamaFest event this Saturday. I then had a faculty meeting while Mark took Lann to tae kwon do and went grocery shopping with the other kids and by the time I had a few minutes to spare again, it was 11:00 at night and I figured I might as well forgo Tuesday Tidbitting and just watch Teen Wolf instead! 😉 For MamaFest, I’ve been getting together handouts, a trivia game, and pins for prizes for my La Leche League booth, birth art supplies and display items and birth education handouts for the Rolla Birth Network/Talk Birth/birth art booth, and miscarriage/stillbirth handouts for the Rainbow Group loss support table. I’ve toyed with various projects for my birth art booth and finally came up with something that feels perfect—birth or motherhood affirmation/blessing cards!

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I got better at them the more I made. This one has a pocket with other little affirmation cards in it. I also started to experiment with painting on little glass “stones” to go in the pocket too. I need glass paint markers really though and I quickly ordered some, but they won’t make it in time for MamaFest.

For ideas for affirmations for them, I’m bringing along several books, including:

25 Ways to Joy & Inner Peace for Mothers

25 Ways to Awaken Your Birth Power

World Breastfeeding Week often seems like an occasion during which the media perceives non-breastfeeding mothers as being “discriminated” against somehow, and some women seem to take the occasion personally—like its very existence is a personal criticism. This article about the “I Support You” initiative is good in theory, but I sense in it the suggestion that WBW is specifically trying to make non-breastfeeding mothers “feel bad” and I did not appreciate the loads and loads of comments on the article that reference “La Leche Nazis”—particularly because said “Nazis” apparently visit mothers in the hospital to critique their mothering and I seriously doubt that any of the experiences shared in the comments were actually with LLL Leaders (who I have never been known to go to a hospital room uninvited and try to make mothers breastfeed. That isn’t part of our job at all. The commenters were probably dealing with whichever nurse is assigned to lactation, trained or otherwise).

I plan for my message to say: “To all those mothers who’ve learned the difference between the mother you think you will be and the one you actually are — I Support You.”

via I Support You: The Conversation We Should Be Having About Breastfeeding And Formula.

A related article that also has some great insights and thoughtful content (but for which, again, I feel breastfeeding advocacy is misconstrued):

Three billion things can go wrong when you breastfeed. But even with a bad latch, tongue tie, thrush, a clogged duct, and a crazy oversupply, I still think that nursing this little boy is the most amazing magic that I’ve ever felt in my life. I am the only thing that is keeping my child alive right now. You’re damn right that’s a superpower. When my breasts are engorged and I’m in pain, or when I swoop in to a room and soothe my screaming baby with my body, I want to shout it from the rafters, just like all of you did. This time, my breasts make milk. That is my superpower. And yet I have seen that breastfeeding moms get tested too: the nasty stares, the mean comments, the endless questioning that makes you doubt yourself: “Are you sure he’s getting enough? He’d sleep longer if he took a bottle. He’ll never be independent if he’s attached to you all the time.” The Mommy Wars have fueled the embers of fear and failure on both ends of the feeding spectrum. The simple act of feeding your child now comes with having to defend your choices.

via Milk Drunk | Kim Simon.

The underlying message of these articles, however, as well as that of World Breastfeeding Week itself, is really about the value of community support for mothers. The whole “village” and “tribe” concept. When I hear mothers describing attempts to breastfeed, I hear mothers with broken hearts as well as many stories involving broken circles of support:

I am a systems thinker and always hold in mind that breastfeeding, like all aspects of women’s lives, occurs in a context, a context that involves a variety of “circles of support” or lack thereof. Women don’t “fail” at breastfeeding because of personal flaws, society fails breastfeeding women and their babies every day through things like minimal maternity leave, no pumping rooms in workplaces, formula advertising and “gifts” in hospitals, formula company sponsorship of research and materials for doctors, the sexualization of breasts and objectification of women’s bodies, and so on and so forth. According to Milk, Money, and Madness (1995), “…infant formula sales comprise up to 50% of the total profits of Abbott Labs, an enormous pharmaceutical concern.” (p. 164) And the US government is the largest buyer of formula, paying for approximately 50% of all formula sold in the nation…

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth.

Giving Birth with Confidence also wrote about the role of the breastfeeding village:

You’ve probably heard “it takes a village” when it comes to parenting and raising children. And it’s true — surrounding yourself with supportive family, friends, and professional and online resources goes a long way in making your parenting experience a better one. But what about a “village” for breastfeeding? Breastfeeding can be (and often is) a wonderful experience. It also can be trying, challenging, and hard work. Creating access to a network of people and resources who support breastfeeding will help you in times of need, provide a sounding board for your thoughts, and celebrate with your triumphs.

via World Breastfeeding Week: Creating Your Village — Giving Birth with Confidence.

And, so did Brain, Child magazine:

For breastfeeding advocates, then, your best shot at influencing other mothers to breastfeed is when you’re nursing yourself—and talking it up to your pals, especially if you’re central in your network, which gives you what social scientists call high “transitivity.” And, it stands to reason, that even if you’re not a breastfeeding advocate—even if you don’t even know what colostrum is—you can still be affected by the changing norms. Once your friends breastfeed in front of you, chances are excellent that witnessing a two-year-old lift up her mother’s shirt to nurse at a park just isn’t worthy of a second thought, much less a flinch. Like in the obesity study where friends of friends were shown to convey habits, you’ve become “tolerant.”

via The Village | Brain, Child Magazine.

Reading these articles made me think of the classic article by Teresa Pitman, originally in Mothering magazine (I think). I think this article is responsible for the introduction of the word “tribe” into the natural mothering lexicon as it is currently used (but, maybe it was The Continuum Concept, which is what Pitman references in her article. I know for me, it was Pitman’s article that first introduced me to the notion of a “tribe” and the fact that I needed one!). I was excited to hear her speak on the subject in person at the La Leche League International conference in Chicago in 2007.

I realized that we had formed our own, very small tribe. Spending our days together satisfied our need for adult companionship without separation from our babies, and working together made all the chores — even cleaning disgusting stuff out of the bottom of the fridge — more fun.

Eventually our husbands both found work in other communities, and our daily time together came to an end. But I had seen how important this kind of relationship is for me, and I deliberately tried to recreate it with other friends.

Not long after Vicki and her family moved, I was at a church picnic when I saw Lorna for the first time. She and her family had just arrived in our community. Something about the way she held her baby was familiar to me, and I went up and introduced myself.

She, too, was looking for a tribe, as she had recently moved away from her family. Soon my new friend Lorna and I got together every Thursday to bake bread (and sometimes other foods) for our families for the week. She had a bigger house and roomier kitchen, so we generally went there. We split the cost of the ingredients, and as our children played together (by then, I had three children and Lorna had six), we kneaded and shaped the dough. While the bread was rising, we talked and tended to other tasks. I often brought a basket of things that needed mending, so we could work together while we were waiting.

We were there when she miscarried her seventh baby, and she tended to my older children while I was giving birth to my fourth. I still think of Thursday as baking day, even though Lorna now lives hundreds of miles away.

My children are almost grown, but I still work with parents. The theme of loneliness is as strong and prevalent as it was when I sat crying on my bed with my new baby, wondering how I’d cope with no one to talk to. Certainly the desire to overcome isolation is one of the reasons why women return to work; it’s a need easily understood by those of us who opt to stay home with our children.

We truly are social animals; we need to be with other people to feel good, whole, and happy. It’s worth the effort to create tribes, however small and imperfect they may be.

via Finding Your Tribe – by Teresa Pitman.

I was also reminded of my own past thoughts about surviving postpartum:

“In western society, the baby gets attention while the mother is given lectures. Pregnancy is considered an illness; once the ‘illness’ is over, interest in her wanes. Mothers in ‘civilized’ countries often have no or very little help with a new baby. Women tend to be home alone to fend for themselves and the children. They are typically isolated socially & expected to complete their usual chores…while being the sole person to care for the infant…” –Milk, Money, & Madness

via Postpartum Survival Tips | Talk Birth.

And, I thought about the role that a tribe—or lack of one—plays in “lactation failure,” that may be falsely attributed to biology OR to evil “La Leche Nazis” assaulting unsuspecting women in hospital rooms with steaming piles of dogma doo.

I’ve remained firmly convinced for, like, ever, that it is culture that fails mothers and babies and not women’s bodies that fail. And, I truly wonder if it is ever possible (except for in cases of insufficient glandular tissue, metabolic disorders, breast surgery/removal, and clear physical malformations) to really tease apart whether a mother is actually experiencing lactation failure or sociocultural failure. I remain fairly convinced that in many cases it is impossible to know—but, that a mother (or physician) may certainly experience it as “lactation failure” and thus add that data point to the 1%. I have long maintained that a lot of people forget that breastfeeding occurs in a context and that context doesn’t necessarily support breastfeeding. However, I do also know from years of experience that motherbaby physiology can lead to problems too and we often overlook that in assertions about breastfeeding.

via Preventing Culturally Induced Lactation Failure | Talk Birth.

The idea of the “I Support You” campaign, with its “unbiased” subtext, also caused me to take another look at some past thoughts about “bias” and breastfeeding:

While I very much appreciate this observation and reminder, we also absolutely need to remember that biased means to exhibit “unfair prejudice”–it simply IS NOT “biased” to support breastfeeding as the biological norm and most appropriate food for babies. I was very concerned to read the comments on the post from other educators talking about their own “biases” toward physiologic birth or breastfeeding and how carefully they guard against exhibiting any such bias in their classes. Hold on! Remember that the burden of proof rests on those who promote an intervention—birth educators and breastfeeding educators should not be in a position of having to “prove” or “justify” the biological norm of unmedicated births or breastfed babies. I hate to see birth instructors being cautioned to avoid being “biased” in teaching about breastfeeding or birth, because in avoiding the appearance of bias they’d be lying to mothers. You can’t “balance” two things that are NOT equal and it is irresponsible to try out of a misplaced intention not to appeared biased. So, while I appreciate some of this educator’s points, I do think she’s off the mark in her fear/guilt and her acceptance of the word “bias.” The very fact that making a statement that someone has a bias toward breastfeeding can be accepted as a reasonable critique is indicative of how very deeply the problem goes and how systemic of an issue it is. If I say that drinking plenty of water is a good idea and is healthier for your body than drinking other liquids, no one ever accuses me of having a “bias towards water.” Breastfeeding should be no different. But, as we all know, breastfeeding occurs in a social, cultural, political, and economic context, one that all too often does not value, support, or understand the process…

via A Bias Toward Breastfeeding? | Talk Birth.

And, along these same lines, I saw a great quote from one of my midwife Facebook friends:

“Being an advocate for breastfeeding as the biological norm, healthiest and safest mode of feeding for most mothers and children is just that. It is meant to inform, enthuse, support, save lives, normalize the act. It is not meant as a slight or condemnation of non-breastfeeding mothers. Individually women breastfeed or not for a whole host of reasons. That is reality. That fact is respected and in no way is judgmental. Acknowledging the individual diversity does not change what breastfeeding is and why we need to continue to advocate for it around the world.” Desirre Andrews, CPM, RM

Exactly!

Speaking of my smart Facebook friends, I enjoyed reading a personal post from an IBCLC friend about why she didn’t celebrate WBW this month:

I think I’ve closed the “breastfeeding mother” chapter of my life, content instead to serve other breastfeeding mothers the best I know how. This is a big shift for me, since I’ve never approached breastfeeding support other than from the perspective of a mother who is also “walking the walk.” Am I “over” breastfeeding? The truth is, today, I’m ambivalent about it. My celebration of World Breastfeeding Week will always be welcome—I will never not be a supporter or an advocate, but a decade is a long time to do something, to do anything. A decade is a long time to be a breastfeeding mother; to not be one anymore, without ceremony or the closure that a more formal ending might offer, leaves me a bit unsettled.

via Why I didn’t celebrate World Breastfeeding Week this year | normal, like breathing.

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This small but mighty little girl still really, really, really likes to “nonny.”

Reading this made me reflect on my own breastfeeding journey and the toddler point at which I am with my own (likely) final nursling. I’ve wondered a lot if and when this chapter of my life will close in terms of working with other breastfeeding mothers. It is still very much my current reality, so it is hard to assess. What I do know is that when I go to LLL conferences and I see women who have been Leaders for 30 years, I think…that is my future. And, I leave with the distinct impression that I’m a lifer. However, a couple of years ago I might have said the same about birth work and now when I see pictures from my pregnancies, read some of my own writing, or look at some of the childbirth education supplies I’ve amassed over the years it all feels very far away now.

But, returning to the idea of support and tribes and breastfeeding women and I Support You to mothers of all kinds in their mothering journeys (which I DO absolutely believe in!), I also thought again of this:

This month as I sat in the circle at our mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group meeting, I looked around at all the beautiful mothers in that room. I reflected on each of their journeys and how much each one has been through in her life, to come to this time and this place, and tears filled my eyes. They are all so amazing. And, my simple, fervent prayer for them in that moment was that they could know that. Know that on a deep, incontrovertible level. I tried to tell them then, in that moment. How much they mean to me, how incredible they are, how I see them. How I hope they will celebrate their own capacities and marvel at their own skills. How I see their countless, beautiful, unrecognized, invisible motherful actions. How when I see them struggling in the door with toddlers and diaper bags and organic produce that they’re sharing with each other, I see heroines. They may look and feel “mundane” from the outside, but from where I’m sitting, they shine with a power and potency that takes my breath away. Moderating toddler disputes over swordplay, wiping noses, changing diapers, soothing tears, murmuring words, moving baby from breast to shoulder to floor and back to breast without even seeming consciously aware of how gorgeously they are both parenting and personing in that very moment, speaking their truths, offering what they have to give, reaching out to one another, and nursing, nursing, nursing. Giving their bodies over to their babies again and again in a tender, invisible majesty. In this room is a symphony of sustenance. An embodied maternal dance of being.

via International Women’s Day: Prayer for Mothers | Talk Birth.

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Stopped for some sandy nonnies.

Last year’s World Breastfeeding Week Post Round Up | Talk Birth.

World Breastfeeding Week Post Round Up

I ended up writing a lot of breastfeeding posts during WBW this year and decided to gather them all together in one post, plus extras, so that no one manages to miss out!

Other favorite posts about breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice: Reflections on the intimate, spiritual connection and meditative quality of being a breastfeeding mother as well as thoughts about parenting as a (rigorous) spiritual practice of its own.
  • Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue: Why does breastfeeding threaten both feminists and the patriarchy? Why is breastfeeding a core women’s issue? And, why aren’t we more concerned about systemic barriers?
  • The Birth-Breastfeeding Continuum: From a biological perspective birth and breastfeeding are not discreet events, but are inextricably linked. Healthy breastfeeding begins with healthy birth!
  • Ode to my nursling: What it is like to nurse my baby.
  • Nursing Johnny Depp: My “classic” essay on what it is like to nurse things other than my baby…
  • Listening Well Enough: What I learned from a dream about listening to breastfeeding mothers.
  • Listening to my baby…even when we disagreed! Personal story about how I learned to listen to my baby about what he needed with regard to breastfeeding even when I didn’t like what he was telling me.
  • Inseparable: Personal thoughts about being “in dependence” with our babies.

Other great resources:

Infographic for parents (and heck, providers too!) about the first few days of breastfeeding–newborn stomach sizes, number of diapers, etc.

Ban the Bags toolkit: Great rebuttals to common arguments about the assumed neutrality of distributing formula marketing materials via medical care settings/providers as well as evidence about the link between “free” formula distribution and reduced rates of successful breastfeeding.

Resources from the Breastfeeding Taskforce of Greater Los Angeles including:

Also, you can check Baby Friendly USA to see if your birthing facility is Baby Friendly.

CIMS sent out some good WBW information about how Birth Practices Affect Breastfeeding:

CIMS is proud that the WHO/UNICEF included recommendations in the Ten Steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative in the WHO/UNICEF’s Infant and young child feeding: A tool for assessing national practices, policies and programmes (2003).

The WHO and UNICEF recommend that to maximize the establishment of successful breastfeeding women in labor, regardless of birth setting, should have access to the following practices recommended in the MFCI:

  • Care that is sensitive and responsive to the specific beliefs, values, and customs of the mother’s culture, ethnicity and religion;
  • Birth companions of her choice who provide emotional and physical support throughout labor and delivery;
  • The freedom to walk, move about, and assume the positions of her choice during labor;
  • Care by staff trained in non-drug methods of pain relief and who do not promote the use of analgesic or anesthetic drugs unless required by a medical condition;
  • Care that minimizes routine practices and procedures that are not supported by scientific evidence including withholding nourishment, early rupture of  membranes, use of IVs,  routine electronic fetal monitoring, episiotomy and instrumental delivery;
  • Care that minimizes invasive procedures such as unnecessary acceleration or induction of labor and medically unnecessary cesarean sections.

And, so did Lamaze:

Valuable resources and information for expecting parents, like Lamaze’s Push for Your Baby, are aimed at giving expecting parents the tools to push for the best care practices for moms and babies, including those that support breastfeeding education and awareness.

Lamaze calls out the following top five breastfeeding barriers within the first 24 hours of birth to help expecting moms prepare for the best breastfeeding experience:

  1. Unnecessary birth interventions
  2. Separating mom and baby
  3. Use of pacifiers or other artificial nipples before breastfeeding is well established
  4. Supplementing breastmilk with formula
  5. Lack of postpartum breastfeeding support

Note: on August 15, Lamaze is hosting a free webinar called Moms, Babies, Milk and the Law: Legal and Ethical Issues When Teaching Breastfeeding

And, some other interesting posts not by me:

World Breastfeeding Week Sucks According to this Lactation Consultant

While I don’t really care for the title because I think it may cause people to not even read the article, I really appreciated this IBCLC’s thoughts about the correlation between the occurrence of WBW each year and the strategic release “breaking” news about some kind of breastfeeding related controversy. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but this does in fact happen every. single. year. During World Breastfeeding Week, something comes out that causes doubt about breastfeeding or breastfeeding advocates. Maybe it is about vitamin D and how “deficient” breastmilk is, or maybe it is a trumped up “mommy wars” tale or hyperbolic call to action about not letting those mean “breastfeeding Nazis” try to tell us how to raise our babies, or, like this year, a bizarre spin on the idea that formula should not be readily distributed in large “gift packs” via our medical care system, but should instead be reserved for cases in which it is actually needed (see above mentioned notion of those mythical, control-freak breastfeeding Nazis who are out to get us all). Anyway, the LC points out this:

I really hate World Breastfeeding Week because much of the media takes it as an opportunity to attack those who wish to support mothers who breastfeed rather than celebrate their efforts to improve infant feeding. Every year I hope I will not have to read more faux feminist manifestos that denigrate the value of women who enjoy their care-giving roles. I hope I won’t have to read more junk science fishing expeditions by journalists who deliberately exclude the wide body of solid research that does show that what infants are fed does matter. This year sets a new low with the addition of outrageously false claims that New York’s City’s Mayor has imposed a ban on formula that is going to deprive mothers of their rights. –Susan Burger

And, speaking of the bizarre spin of this year’s anti-WBW backlash conspiracy, Moxie wrote a great post exploring this issue: The illusion of choice, the free market, and your boobs

If you truly care about a woman’s right to choose what’s best for her and her baby, you will take the financial pressure out of the equation, and eliminate any actions that impede free choice. Putting formula samples right next to the baby’s head impedes free choice. Having to ask for formula (just like you have to ask for tylenol, or an extra chucks pad, or another container of orange juice) doesn’t impede free choice. It doesn’t change anything for women who cannot breastfeed–they can still get those formula samples easily by asking. It doesn’t change anything for women who don’t want to breastfeed–they can still get those formula samples easily by asking. It could change everything for women who want to breasfeed but don’t have correct information or are experiencing problems they can overcome if they’re given help, because they will be given EQUAL ACCESS to information that can help them breastfeed and formula samples. They ask for help or they ask for formula. Equal access. No privilege for formula.

I don’t want the decisions I make about how to parent my children made by the highest bidder. Especially since the highest bidder doesn’t care about me and only wants my money. (Let’s not forget that those formula samples are worth about $1.50. A woman who chooses to feed formula based on those samples has just been signed on to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on formula once she leaves the hospital. She is never informed of that. Is THAT free choice?)

I don’t care how you feed your baby. But I want you to make a decision about it with all the information, all the support, and all the help you can get. Free choice. I do not want your choices narrowed by the huge financial incentives formula manufacturers pour into hospitals. [emphasis mine]

And, as I’ve already referenced in some of the posts linked to above, Dr. Newman has a helpful article about How to Know a Health Professional is not Supportive of Breastfeeding that directly connects to the issue of formula distribution by medical care professionals. One way to know right away is if the provider distributes material provided by a formula company—even if that material is labeled “breastfeeding information.”

World Breastfeeding Week T-Shirts

We have a number of t-shirts left from our World Breastfeeding Week event in Rolla on August 9. The shirts are a light sage green with dark brown printing. The printing says Breastfeeding: Baby Friendly, Mother Friendly, Earth Friendly. The back of the shirt has the logos of our three generous t-shirt sponsors: Town & Country Bank, Il Bacio Day Spa, and St. James Veterinary Clinic. The shirts are $10 each with a range in sizes of small all the way to 2XL. If you would like to buy one, please email me. ($3 shipping if you live outside of the area.) 

Tuesday Tidbits: How to Make Life Easier as a New Parent

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In all my years as a birthworker, I still find that one of the most overlooked topics in childbirth preparation is adequate preparation for postpartum—those early weeks, or months, with a new baby. In my personal life, I experienced a difficult postpartum adjustment with my first baby, an easier one with my second baby, and two delightful, nurturing babymoons with my last two babies. Years after training as a postpartum doula, good postpartum care remains one of my passions, so I really enjoyed this post from a mother of five. Her feelings of rushing to get back to “normal” feel very familiar even though almost twelve years have passed since my first, tender, postpartum adjustment:

“I remember coming home from going out for the afternoon with Hero at 7 days postpartum. After we got back to our tiny apartment I came down with a fever. I was probably wearing the cutest non-comfortable outfit I could squeeze into. I probably didn’t think that 7 days after giving birth required anything of me other than “getting back to normal.” Life went on, and I urged it faster. In fact, that’s the way I parented, too. Smile, laugh, roll over, sit, crawl, walk, run, milestone, milestone, grow, grow, grow…

When I think back on my postpartum times (for the most part) I remember being exhausted, being emotional, being upset at Kirby for not doing enough, feeling fragile, feeling sad, and feeling weak. And then I got pregnant with Peter… And by the time I had him, I had interacted with enough wise mothers who had screwed up enough to know better and they told me what to do and I listened. After five babies I could finally say I did it right. I’m not saying you have to do it like me. Maybe you’ve already got your postpartum flow down and you need no such advice. In that case, a w e s o m e…”

Now I realize that some moms can just go, and they are happier that way! I get that. But it took me too long to realize that that’s not me. And I don’t want you to spend too much time thinking that should be you if it isn’t. Don’t spend four days, don’t spend four weeks, and certainly don’t spend 4 entire babies feeling like a shell of a person trying to figure it out…

The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

Unlike my early memories of my first son’s life, rather than looking back with sense of regret and fatigue, I look back on the weeks postpartum with Tanner (fourth and final full-term baby) with a tinge of wistfulness for the sweet, delicate, care-full time we spent together, nestled in bed in milky, marveling wonder. The author of the post above describes it as a “little sacred space,” and that is exactly how I feel. It also needs to be fiercely protected.

I look at that one week postpartum as a little sacred space that I will never get back. It’s a space where, for the most part, it’s just that brand new baby and me. And I’m selfish about it. And not sorry. Life will keep plummeting forward rapidly and I won’t ever stop it. But I can have a week with a floppy new baby on my chest in my bed and I’ll take it. And I’ll protect it.

AND IF THAT DOESNT TUG AT YOU MOTHERLY HEARTSTRINGS KNOW THIS… (super practical advice I got from my midwife with Peter)

When you have a baby you are recovering from an injury that is deeply internal. Your blood needs to stay concentrated there to bring essential nutrients to heal your organs and make you strong again. When you get up and walk around, your blood abandons your core and flows into your extremities, which can massively prolong your recovery. Stay rested and keep yourself down as much as you can. Just think of your organs! They need you!

via The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

It isn’t just the weeks following a new baby’s birth that matter, the first hour matters too and can set the tone for the rest of the postpartum journey:

…The way your baby is cared for and nurtured immediately after birth significantly impacts their transition from the womb to life outside.

In a culture that commonly separates mothers and babies for routine procedures such as cleaning, weighing and measuring, most babies are missing that critical time of being skin to skin with their mothers, which has short and long term consequences for all.

As these procedures are not necessary to maintain or enhance the wellbeing of either mother or baby, there is no reason why they cannot be delayed beyond the first critical hour.

via 7 Huge Benefits of An Undisturbed First Hour After Birth | BellyBelly.

Why doesn’t this uninterrupted hour and subsequent caring postpartum support happen for all new families? One reason is related to the “treatment intensity” of the US birth culture:

The questions you post in your article are good ones: Are midwives safer than doctors? How can homes be safer than hospitals and what implications does this study have for the US?

It’s a super knotty issue and it shouldn’t be about the superiority of midwives over doctors or homes over hospitals. The debate we should be having is over “treatment intensity” in childbirth and when enough is enough. The concern is that patients can be harmed by doing too much and by doing too little–in the US I worry that we cause avoidable harm by always erring on the side of too much.

via An Unexpected Opinion on Home Birth | Every Mother Counts.

Another is related to routine hospital practices that are not evidence based:

1. Start with giving the birthing woman antibiotics in high doses so that the baby develops candida (thrush) and colic. Then mix in a lot of stitches, either to repair the perineum or the lower belly/uterus.

2. Separate the mother and newborn. Make the mother walk a long distance (with her stitched body) to be able to see/feed her newborn…

via 6 Point Recipe for Making New Parenthood as Difficult as Possible | Wise Woman Way of Birth | by Gloria Lemay.

On a related note, we find that breastfeeding gets off to a better start when birth is undisturbed. We also find that decisions about breastfeeding may be made months before the baby is actually born:

…Recently, a nurse contacted me asking for ideas for teaching an early pregnancy breastfeeding class. I think this is a great idea, since mothers’ decisions about breastfeeding are often made before the baby is conceived and if not then, during the first trimester.

via Breastfeeding Class Resources | Talk Birth.

11800191_1651989138346635_1607714063463262593_nIt isn’t just postpartum during which we need these reminders about the “cycle of care.” The cycle of care of young children can be largely invisible, both to those around us and to ourselves. I’ve taken some time this week to appreciate my investment in my baby and cut myself a little slack on the other things I always want to “get done.” Brain-building is important work too!

Speaking of said baby, who has been taking his first steps this week at nine months old, I was amused this week to come across one of my older posts on family size decisions, in which I decreed my doneness with my childbearing years. Instead of embarrassing, I find the post oddly affirming or reinforcing that at some level I really did know that we weren’t quite “done,” there was still space in our family (and our hearts!) and there really was one more baby “out there” for us.

We decided we’d make the final, ultimate decision after she turned two, because too much longer after that point would make more of an age gap than we’d want. I posted on Facebook asking how do people know they’re “done.” I had an expectation of having some kind of blinding epiphany and a deep knowing that our family is complete, as I’ve had so many other people describe: “I just knew, our family was complete.” I didn’t have that knowing though—I vacillated day to day. What if I never know for sure, I fretted. Perhaps this sense of wistfulness and possibility with continue forever—maybe it is simply normal. One more. No, finished. But…ONE more?! And, I have a space in my heart that knows with great confidence that four (living) children would be the ultimate maximum for us. I definitely do not want more than four…so, does that mean there still is one more “out there” for us?

via Driveway Revelations (on Family Size) | Talk Birth.

However, I also find it to be true that four is most definitely the ultimate maximum. We laughed earlier this week remembering that a couple of weeks after Tanner was born I kept saying that I thought maybe we’d picked the wrong name for him. Mark asked me what I thought it should be and I said I kept thinking that maybe it should have been “Max.” While we joked at the time that this was because he is Maximus Babius, I only now caught on to the unintended double joke that he has definitely pushed our family size to our “max”!

Other tidbits:

I got this book about midwives in Mexico to review and have been zooming through it. It is SO good!

We’ve been working on new sculptures!

11850648_10207522285005258_4065455347313524959_o

(read more: Sneak Peek: Pregnant Mama – Brigid’s Grove)

We’ve added some new Moon Wisdom/First Moon bundles to our shop:

11825154_1650996815112534_7593072070926503121_nAnd, our new blessing cards came in. We were printing these on regular printer paper and are excited to have nice, professional cards instead!

11800234_1650792701799612_305310151573875723_nWe also still have five spaces left in the Red Tent Initiation program beginning at the end of the month:

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Tuesday Tidbits: Does Breastfeeding Really Matter?

August 2015 060Does breastfeeding really matter? Or, is it just one possible way to feed a baby?

Breastfeeding matters. It matters for women, babies, families, workplaces, society, and the whole world.

But, is breastfeeding hard?

It is true that in the early weeks many women experience difficulties with breastfeeding. Coupled with the lack of support many women also experience from partners, in-laws, extended family members, and employers, they may stop breastfeeding long before they originally hoped and planned. Is that breastfeeding’s fault though? Is it inherently difficult? No, but it turns out that our prevalent images of breastfeeding may contribute to difficulties with latch and milk flow. Laid-back breastfeeding (nursing the baby draped across your body tummy to tummy rather than sitting upright with the baby in the crook of your arm) may be the answer to many early breastfeeding challenges:

In the commonly used cradle, cross-cradle, and football/rugby holds, mothers and babies must fight the effects of gravity to get babies to breast level and keep their fronts touching. If gaps form between them (which can happen easily with gravity pulling baby’s body down and away), this disorients baby, which can lead to latching struggles. The pull of gravity makes it impossible for a newborn to use his inborn responses to get to his food source and feed. For baby, it is like trying to climb Mount Everest. Instead of mothers and babies working together as breastfeeding partners, mothers must do all of the work. Instead of being able to relax while baby helps, most mothers sit hunched over, tense, and struggling.To complicate things further, in these positions, gravity can transform the same inborn feeding responses that should be helping babies into barriers to breastfeeding. Head bobbing becomes head butting. Arm and leg movements meant to move babies to the breast become pushing and kicking. Mothers struggling to manage their babies’ arms and legs in these upright breastfeeding holds have often told me: “I don’t think I have enough hands to breastfeed.”

How Natural Breastfeeding Can Help

In Natural Breastfeeding positions, baby rests tummy down on mother’s body, ensuring the full frontal contact that activates his GPS. Baby’s weight pushes the pressure buttons on his front, which improves his coordination for easier feeding. Natural Breastfeeding makes it possible for babies to be the active breastfeeding partners that nature intended. But it’s not just good for babies. Mothers can relax completely and rest while baby feeds, often with both hands free. And gravity helps baby take the breast deeply, so there’s no need to micromanage baby’s latch.

via Many Moms May Have Been Taught to Breastfeed Incorrectly: Surprising New Research – Mothering.

I learned about laid-back breastfeeding before my third child was born. It made a huge difference in her ability to latch well and nurse comfortably (I then didn’t discover she had an upper lip tie until she had dental work at two!) It also made a dramatic difference for my last baby, who was my easiest, most comfortable, almost-painless-from-the-start, early breastfeeding experience (they all got easy with time and I nursed each for three years, but the early weeks were more challenging with the first three compared to the last!)

August 2015 034
Isn’t modern formula close to breastmilk though?

No! Breastmilk is a living substance, customized to your specific baby. It is amazing how many unique things breastmilk can do!

Vitamins and minerals that we all know are present only represent a very small proportion of what’s in our milk. There is a huge range of other components. Components, for instance, that dispose of harmful bacteria in different ways. By absorbing them, engulfing them, destroying them, lining the gut and preventing them from entering our baby’s blood stream, preventing them from using our baby’s iron stores to grow (pathogens need iron to thrive), etc…

And these are targeted responses to specific pathogens, because our baby’s saliva goes into our blood stream and informs us of anything harmful they have been exposed to in the last few hours. Our body immediately produces the exact antibodies for that specific infection, and feeds it back to our babies via our milk within the hour.

via The composition of Human milk | Breastfeeding Thoughts.

Notice I do not say that breastmilk is “perfect.” What it is, is normal. It is the species-specific, biological appropriate food for human babies.

I’ve heard that our bodies make different kinds of milk and you have to be careful to separate the foremilk from the hindmilk though? Doesn’t that mean I’ll need to pump to make sure my baby is getting enough of the cream?

If you have pumped and put your milk in the fridge, you have noticed the same phenomenon. As the milk cools, the fattier, more opaque milk rises to the top and the bottom portion of the milk appears thinner, more translucent. Perhaps you would call this milk more “watery.” But, it isn’t watery. It doesn’t lack nutrients. It is just lower in fat.

Breastfeeding moms read a lot about foremilk and hind milk and for lack of a better term, obsess about it. I talk about this with moms way more than I care to. Why?

Because, in my opinion, this is a completely nonsensical and irrelevant topic 99% of the time.

We don’t know the fat concentration of your milk when the baby first starts nursing, nor do we know the rate at which the milk gets fattier.

via Balanced Breastfeeding – “The Good Milk” Foremilk/Hindmilk.

What about postpartum depression? One of my friends said that her doctor told her to wean because of depression.

While this is a common recommendation, it is not evidence-based. In fact, breastfeeding helps protect mothers’ August 2015 001 mental health by mediating the effects of stress:

Research over the past decade has shown that breastfeeding and depression intersect in some interesting and surprising ways. All of this work has shown something that makes sense. Breastfeeding does not deplete mothers, nor does it cause depression.

Breastfeeding problems certainly can do both of these things—all the more reason why women need good support and accurate information. But it does not make sense for something so critical to the survival of our species to be harmful for mothers. And it is not.

Breastfeeding and stress

One of the initial areas of research was in examining the role of breastfeeding in turning off the stress response. Of particular importance was breastfeeding’s role in lessening mothers’ levels of inflammation (which is part of the stress response). The molecules that cause inflammation can lead to depression. When inflammation levels are high, people are more likely to get depressed. When inflammation levels are lower, the risk of depression goes down. The great thing is that breastfeeding is specifically anti-inflammatory. This is one way that breastfeeding protects women’s health throughout their lives. It lowers their risk of depression. It also lowers their risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes…

via Mothers’ Mental Health and Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding Today.

Side note: why is depression such a risk for mothers anyway?

…When you consider the isolation, lack of support, history of abuse or other trauma, and, particularly in the U.S., the need for mothers to return to work almost immediately following the birth, the increase in depression rates is hardly surprising…

via Mothers’ Mental Health and Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding Today.

What about the sleepless nights everyone talks about? I want my partner to be able to feed the baby at night so I can get more sleep.

Similar to mental health, research has actually found that nursing mothers get more sleep, not less.

And, on a related note, many people share the misconception that it is normal and desirable for a breastfed baby to “grow out” of needing to nurse during the night. This actually depends on multiple factors, primarily the storage capacity of a mother’s breast:

In other words, if you are a mother with an average or small breast storage capacity [which is unrelated to breast size], night feedings may need to continue for many months in order for your milk production to stay stable and for your baby to thrive. Also, because your baby has access to less milk at each feeding, night feedings may be crucial for him to get enough milk overall. Again, what’s important is not how much milk a baby receives at each individual feeding, but how much milk he consumes in a 24-hour day. If a mother with a small storage capacity uses sleep training strategies to force her baby to go for longer stretches between feedings, this may slow her milk production and compromise her baby’s weight gain.

via Do Older Babies Need Night Feedings? — Nancy Mohrbacher.

Am I creating a bad habit by allowing baby to breastfeed to sleep? April 2015 090

Your child’s desire to nurse to sleep is very normal and not a bad habit you’ve fostered. Don’t be afraid to nurse your baby to sleep or fear that you are perpetuating a bad habit. Baby often will seek the breast when sleepy or over-stimulated because it’s a comforting and familiar place to him. To associate the breast with wanting to relax enough to go to sleep makes perfect sense. As adults, we also do things to relax ourselves so we can go to sleep: we read, watch TV, get something warm to drink or a snack, deep breathe, get all snug under the covers, etc. Breastfeeding does the same thing for your baby.

via KellyMom.com : Breastfeeding to Sleep and Other Comfort Nursing.

You may find that nighttime nursing is surprisingly peaceful and undisturbed. I remember finding my first baby often puzzling during the day, but at night, it felt like we were in perfect harmony…

…So we feast together in the darkness.
Till we are both full-filled.
Me. You.
You. Me.
Youme.

via A Poem for World Breastfeeding Week 2015 #WBW – The Story Witch.

Breastfeeding matters. It is woven through our lives and through the interlocking systems of society. It has important impacts on physical, mental, and emotional health for both you and your baby. In fact, breastfeeding is a type of “shero’s journey,” one that impacts a mother and her child through the rest of their lives:

Breastfeeding is the day in and day fabric of connection. It is a huge physical and emotional investment, the continued devotion of one’s body to one’s baby. Breastfeeding support may not as exciting or thrilling as birthwork for me, but it is so very REAL and so very needed, and part of the nitty-gritty reality of individual mother’s complicated lives as they find their feet on the motherhood road. It really matters.

In what ways has breastfeeding been a hero’s journey for you?

via Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey? | Talk Birth.

Breastfeeding Blessing Pocket Altar (mini birth altar, medicine bundle, doula, midwife, mother blessing, lactation, nursing)Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Tuesday Tidbits: National Breastfeeding Month

10556374_10152170229481290_105195906968994596_n(1)I was feeling kind of bad during the first week of August about having not gotten around to making any World Breastfeeding Week posts this year (I was still coming down from Mamafest on August 2nd, plus in “second stage” on birthing a really huge project, to be revealed soon!). Anyway, Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine took care of it for me with the image above! The referenced article is on the Pathways site here: Breastfeeding As an Ecofeminist Issue | The Outer Womb and on my own site is here: Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth. I noticed it was shared 3,552 times on Facebook, which seems “viral” in terms of breastfeeding memes! (I confess I wish it would have directed back to my own site or page with that number of shares though!) And, no, I didn’t read the comments on it except for a handful, because I am not really interested in any criticism right now. BUT, the one critical comment I did see was about “society” having nothing to do with it is up to women to take care of themselves/assert their “natural rights” which “no one can take away from them,”  and so I have to repeat: breastfeeding is a sociopolitical and sociocultural issue. It does not occur in a vacuum and in the privacy of our own homes, it is intimately and inextricably linked to the health of society as a whole and inevitably impacted by the circles of support, broken or healthy, that surround each and every breastfeeding dyad. Breastfeeding is a systemic issue. Women, families, babies, men, children…we are all embedded in an expanding network of social, political, and cultural systems every, single, day. It is inescapable, for better or for worse.

As a related image of the embedded, interdependent nature of reality, including breastfeeding, I really appreciated the graphic in this post by Science and Sensibility.

wbw2014-goals-1024x1024Breastfeeding is a women’s health issue, a reproductive rights issue, and promotes gender equality and empowers women! It both systemic and personal. Neither context can be ignored.

I was very pleased to get an email from Routledge publishing at the beginning of August promoting World Breastfeeding Week and offering a compilation of related free resources through the end of the month. Routledge is a textbook publishing company and I use some of their textbooks in my Human Services classes: World Breastfeeding Week – Routledge.

In addition to breastfeeding-specific textbooks, they also are offering free online access to related interesting textbooks like The Politics of Maternity and Social History of Maternity and Childbirth. This tells me they recognize the birth-breastfeeding continuum!

Live Love Latch logoSince our Mamafest event was coordinated by two LLL Leaders and our other local Leader helped with it as well, it made since to me to register it as an official Live, Love, Latch event. Live, Love, Latch is an initiative launched by La Leche League USA this year in honor of National Breastfeeding Month in August. The point of these events is celebration of breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.

The purpose of the celebration is, of course, to celebrate breastfeeding, but also to highlight support. All in attendance will be counted as participants, with the goal being to break the previous year’s record for breastfeeding supporters attending. Leaders have autonomy to decide on the details of each celebration.

This celebration theme provides an opportunity to educate family, friends, healthcare providers and other community members about how breastfeeding can be supported, and also emphasizes the value of the support network behind every nursing dyad.

via About – Live, Love, Latch!

I will write more about Mamafest in another post this week (I hope!), but if you’re curious, the photo album is available on the Rolla Birth Network Facebook page. We had 84 people sign in on our Live, Love, Latch sign-in form and about 100-120 people in attendance overall. It was really a successful, fun, exciting event.

After sharing these other images and thoughts, I couldn’t resist making another image of my own:

meme1And, we set up a new coupon code at Brigid’s Grove in honor of National Breastfeeding Month! Use WBW10OFF for a 10% discount on any item through the end of the month. 🙂

The WHO Code: Why Should We Care?

“Knowledge serves no purpose if it is not spread around. As the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, an entrenched ignorance is kept in place through a culture created and maintained by commercial interests.” – Gabrielle Palmer, The Politics of Breastfeeding

The international WHO Code of marketing breastmilk substitutes reached its 33rd anniversary this week. This means that for 33 years the United States has failed to live up to international standards AND for 33 years infant formula corporations have successfully ignored the WHO Code. In addition, they have convinced over half of U.S. hospitals to serve as marketing shills for their products—distributing their marketing materials—-samples, coupons, booklets, and other ads-—in health care settings in a manner that is well-established to undermine women’s breastfeeding success and to have a negative impact on infant health. Quite simply, getting breastfeeding “advice” from a formula company in a form of a cute little booklet with a happy baby on the front is like getting nutrition “advice” from McDonald’s. It is not neutral or benign and it does not have the interests of mom and baby at heart, it is a skillful marketing tactic, nothing else. I have long repeated the Ban the Bags catchphrase: Doctors’ offices and hospitals should market health and nothing else. To be clear, I would consider all medication-sponsored posters, etc. to fall in same category, not just formula. Refusing to honor the WHO Code isn’t actually illegal, however. The US voted against the proposal in the first place—on the original signing of the Code there were 118 votes for the Code, one against (the United States!), and 3 abstentions. Eventually more than 160 countries participated in the WHO Code. When the United States did accept it, they adopted it as guidelines to distribute to large manufacturers. Providers should follow it, but they can actually can do what they want. UNICEF has a state of the code chart that breaks down which country does what with the Code. US is under the no action category along with a small handful of other countries that includes Somalia and Kazakhstan.

This issue is a systemic problem and it goes WAY beyond just the individual mom and her baby!  Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is actually a political and public health issue in the US, not simply a “personal choice.” Personal choice is the language American people and formula manufacturers love to use and it is a very, very successful manner of appealing the individualist nature of our culture, but in this case it is actually code for, “let huge multibillion dollar corporations exploit women at will and our health care providers will even help them do it!

While the WHO code has no legal teeth in the US (it IS law in some other countries, but it was written in terms that allow national governments to make their own decisions about how/if to enforce or participate in it). It is still VERY important for health care providers and US distributors and marketers to be aware that their actions are out of sync with international guidelines and that they are in violation of international standards.

…breastfeeding, like all aspects of women’s lives, occurs in a context, a context that involves a variety of “circles of support” or lack thereof. Women don’t “fail” at breastfeeding because of personal flaws, society fails breastfeeding women and their babies every day through things like minimal maternity leave, no pumping rooms in workplaces, formula advertising and “gifts” in hospitals, formula company sponsorship of research and materials for doctors, the sexualization of breasts and objectification of women’s bodies, and so on and so forth. According to Milk, Money, and Madness (1995), “…infant formula sales comprise up to 50% of the total profits of Abbott Labs, an enormous pharmaceutical concern.” (p. 164) And the US government is the largest buyer of formula, paying for approximately 50% of all formula sold in the nation…

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth.

These past posts take a look at the systemic context surrounding breastfeeding women and how it impacts their “personal choices.” January 2014 041

Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue

Preventing Culturally Induced Lactation Failure

A Bias Toward Breastfeeding?

Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding Research

Wednesday Tidbits: World Breastfeeding Week!

Controversies in Breastfeeding

The Impact of Birth on Breastfeeding

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding and Ecofeminism

“Women united in close circles can awaken the wisdom in each other’s hearts.” ~The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers (via The Girl God)

I agreed to serve as a faculty mentor for a Breastfeeding and Ecofeminism independent study class that started yesterday. Since my husband and I also recently finished our Breastfeeding Mama in pewter, I felt inspired to create this little message…

b3wkwFor the class, my student is reading three books and working on several projects (one of which will be a series of blog posts, so watch for those!). We chose these books:

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business by Gabrielle Palmer

Milk, Money, and Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding by Naomi Baumslag M.D. and Dia Michels

Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism by Irene Diamond

This is going to be so much fun! How lucky I am to get to do stuff like this! This is the course description we worked on together:

This course explores the cultural, social, and political environment surrounding breastfeeding in the United States through the lens of eco-feminism. We will examine global cultural attitudes compared to the United States, scientific research of the benefits of breast milk, marketing and advertising of artificial milk, and the sociocultural context surrounding infant feeding as a public health issue. This course emphasizes critical and varied perspectives on breast and bottle feeding; as well as the ways in which gender, race, and socioeconomic class affect women’s choices in breastfeeding. The birth-breastfeeding continuum will also be explored. We will study the aspects of ecology, spirituality, and feminism as well as many other perspectives supporting this holistic human experience for the well-being of the planet.

I wrote up some nifty course objectives as well:

  1. Contextualize breastfeeding as a public health issue both within the sociocultural environment in the United States and cross-culturally.
  2. Describe why breastfeeding is an ecofeminist issue—make connections between human treatment of the “world body” and the female body.
  3. Articulate the systemic and structural context in which breastfeeding takes place in the US. (Describe the political and economic influences on infant feeding in the US and frame the issue within a broad cultural context extending beyond the concept of personal choice.)
  4. Address the charge of “essentialism” with regard to breastfeeding in the context of feminist theory.

The student found me because of my past article on this subject…

Breastfeeding is a feminist issue and a fundamental women’s issue. And, it is an issue deeply embedded in a sociocultural context. Attitudes towards breastfeeding are intimately entwined with attitudes toward women, women’s bodies, and who has “ownership” of them. Patriarchy chafes at a woman having the audacity to feed her child with her own body, under her own authority, and without the need for any other. Feminism sometimes chafes at the “control” over the woman’s body exerted by the breastfeeding infant.

Part of the root core of patriarchy is a rejection of the female and of women’s bodies as abnormal OR as enticing or sinful or messy, hormonal, complicated, confusing…. Authentic feminism need not be about denying biological differences between women and men, but instead about defining both as profoundly worthy and capable and of never denying an opportunity to anyone for a sex-based reason. Feminism can be about creating a culture that values what is female as well as what is male, not a culture that tries to erase or hide “messy” evidence of femaleness.

However, precisely because of the patriarchal association of the female with the earthy and the physical, feminists have perhaps wanted to distance themselves from breastfeeding. This intensely embodied biologically mandated physical experience so clearly represents a fundamental difference between men and women that it appears to bolster biological reductionism. Yet in so doing feminism then colludes with patriarchy and itself becomes a tool of the patriarchy in the repression and silencing of women and their leaky ever-changing, endlessly cycling bodies: these bodies that change blood into food and bleed without dying and provide safe passage for new souls upon the earth. Sometimes the issue of a woman’s right not to breastfeed is framed as a feminist “choice.” This is a myth, made in the context of a society that places little value on women, children, and caregiving. It is society that needs to change. Not women and not babies.

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth.

Last week I read a relevant article from Amy Glenn…

For the first time in human history, the female breast is nearly completely separated from its primary mammalian function. Rather than supporting the healthy development of our limbic lives, breasts are pornographically used to market a multitude of products. Why is the breast’s primary lactating function deemed strangely controversial today?

Despite the efforts of breastfeeding advocates, consider that mainstream news publications and talk shows feature mothers who nurse toddlers as cultural oddities…Our own society’s rupture from the wisdom of ancient ways is the true cultural oddity.

I applaud the efforts of public health advocates seeking to reconnect to the ancient wisdom of our female ancestors. Friends and family need to draw a fierce circle of protection and non-interference around the nursing mother-child dyad…

If it were up to breastfeeding advocates, federal legislation mandating paid maternity leave would exist everywhere. For nothing pressures a new mother to give up nursing more than struggling to meet the financial needs of her family. While teaching in Colombia, my employer was obligated legally to give me three months of paid maternity leave. Yet, if I had been working in the US at the time, it would have been up to my employer to determine the status of my maternity leave. The US stands alone as the only developed country without legally mandated paid maternity leave. This directly connects to our woeful breastfeeding rates…

Glenn read Palmer’s Politics book and it changed her perspectives on the systemic influences surrounding breastfeeding women:

In particular, Palmer’s connections between poverty and breastfeeding moved me. Over the last century, the purposefully deceptive marketing ploys of infant-formula makers have left tragedy in their destructive wake. For example, when promoting artificial milk in the developing world, companies dressed their representatives as medical professionals who claimed that their products were better than breast milk. Poverty stricken and largely uneducated mothers were persuaded to spend a large percentage of their household’s monthly income on the artificial milk powder that was considered best. To prolong its use, they often diluted the powder further reducing any nutritional value. In addition, these mothers lived in areas with poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. Palmer describes how hundreds of thousands of babies died. At times, I had to put the book down as angry tears washed through me.

Choosing to move beyond the painful disconnections of our culture, I do my best to support the breastfeeding mothers I meet. Our world must move beyond separating baby from mother, self from breath, and bodies from hearts.

via In praise of breast milk.

I also read with interest an interview between Jeanette McCulloch of BirthSwell and Paige Hall Smith, a speaker at the 2013 Breastfeeding and Feminism conference, which makes some additional points about the relationship between income and breastfeeding rates:

PHS: The connection between women’s status and breastfeeding leads to a number of interesting ideas. We know from other research that both education and income are positively associated with breastfeeding outcomes. More research on why this is the case would be useful, particularly given that higher income is also associated with women’s employment. We also learn in this study that in those states where women have greater control of reproductive choices, and those where they are more likely to vote, also have higher breastfeeding rates. Since none of these are indicators that are directly implicated in breastfeeding success, we have to conclude that something interesting is going on in the climate of these states that makes a difference for women.

It makes sense that women who have higher status have more ability to manage their own time and resources (such as adjusting break times at work, taking additional maternity leave, determining the flow and location of their work) which may lead to higher breastfeeding rates. They may also have more authority at home and at work, which translates into greater ability to actualize their own decisions. Breastfeeding, like the ability to control one’s fertility, can be seen as a form of reproductive autonomy.

The relationship between women’s status and breastfeeding remained even when we controlled for available state-level breastfeeding support, such as access to IBCLCs, peer support like La Leche League, and baby friendly hospitals. One possible interpretation for this is that the breastfeeding support measures we have in place are ones that provide more assistance to higher status women than they do to lower status women. We need to think critically how our measures are affecting different populations. In general we found that clinical indicators of breastfeeding support had more impact on breastfeeding than did policy measures. This could have been because currently there insufficient “trickle down” from policy to women’s lives.

via Does Breastfeeding Hold Women Back? | Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference

On a related-to-breastfeeding note, but moving off the topic of breastfeeding and ecofeminism, Mark and I also have a brand new nursing mama pendant that will be unveiled at the launch of our new collaborative business on February 1st! We’ll have a series of product giveaways, a free digital kit, and a new discount coupon as well. I’m so excited!

Other related posts:

The ‘Of Course’ Response

World Breastfeeding Week post roundup

Taking it to the Body

 

MamaFest!

Last summer, my Rolla Birth Network friends and I conceived of a local event to be held celebrating mothers. We made a couple of August 2013 020decisions in planning our event that were really smart: we decided to focus on celebration rather than education (or even activism), we decided not to involve any money (either for the attendees or the hosts [aside from tabling materials/supplies]), and…this is key…we also decided to only do that which was within our own personal resources to provide. It worked! We pulled off a lovely MamaFest event at Tara Day Spa in Rolla. It was well-attended and fun and involved very little expense for anyone. It was work, of course, but it was within our resources/capacities. Community organizations were welcome to have a table at the event for free with the only stipulations being no formula/bottle materials (this event is co-sponsored by La Leche League of Rolla in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week) and that they had to provide something to do at their table. Our vision was that this event would not involve simply walking around picking up flyers and leaving, but instead would provide an opportunity to hang out with friends, see cool things, learn some stuff, and make some projects. I had a birth art booth that was a delight for me to offer to the women.

This year in August, we hosted our second annual MamaFest event, again with a similar vision. Our resources/time were a little slimmer August 2013 017this year due to peoples’ schedules (particularly my own, leaving my co-founder shouldering most of the organizing effort), new babies, etc. We had fewer exhibits and fewer attendees and slipped more into the boothy-vibe that we hoped to avoid, and learned some things to try next year. I still consider the event a success, especially considering the fairly minimal womanpower with which we had to work. It was an especially good outreach opportunity for LLL and I said at the end that even if I hadn’t been involved at all with the planning of it, I would definitely have considered it a worthwhile event to continue attending with my LLL booth. I was super excited about my simple, but pretty (and free!) offering for the birth art booth this year: mother affirmation/blessing cards. Unfortunately, very few people took me up on my offer and I was a little sad about that, but my LLL booth with its breastfeeding trivia game and got breastmilk ™ pins was pretty popular. We have lots of ideas for next year and the possibility of experimenting with new directions, such as doing away with the booths altogether and having more retreat-like experience stations (i.e. yoga). What we know we want to keep is our commitment to celebrating women and their capacities, because they’re just super awesome and worth celebrating!

Here are some pictures of my booth and some projects from the event:

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Birth art booth!

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Loved this thumbprint necklace project offered at the booth of a local doula/photographer. Alaina appropriated it immediately because, “me like hearts!”

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Babyloss memorial charms offered by the Rainbow Group (local pregnancy/infant loss support)

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Emergency back up project that I scrambled for when I realized people weren’t making my cards–affirmation “stones” (glass pebbles written or drawn on with glass paint markers).

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At least my own loyal family members showed up and made my project! (mom, sister, and visiting cousin)

What I learned from this event again this year was that you do not have to live in a city to be able to offer something like this in your community, all you need is a small handful of women who care and who can use their skills and resources to make it happen! 🙂