Sunday, April 19, 2009

leaning toward breastfeeding

A friend of mine is pregnant with her second baby. She did not nurse her first, due mostly to lack of knowledge. When I asked her, she actually had not even considered breastfeeding as an option.

I came across this lovely little article, What if I want to wean? by Diane Wiessinger, which I passed on to my friend in hopes that she will read it and give breastfeeding a shot this time around.

Breastfeeding your baby for even a day is the best baby gift you can give. Breastfeeding is almost always the best choice for your baby. If it doesn't seem like the best choice for you right now, these guidelines may help.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR JUST A FEW DAYS, he will have received your colostrum, or early milk. By providing antibodies and the food his brand-new body expects, nursing gives your baby his first - and easiest - "immunization"and helps get his digestive system going smoothly. Breastfeeding is how your baby expects to start, and helps your own body recover from the birth. Given how very much your baby stands to gain, and how little you stand to lose, it just makes good sense to breastfeed for at least a day or two, even if you plan to bottle-feed after that.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR FOUR TO SIX WEEKS, you will have eased him through the most critical part of his infancy. Newborns who are not breastfed are much more likely to get sick or be hospitalized, and have many more digestive problems than breastfed babies. After 4 to 6 weeks, you'll probably have worked through any early nursing concerns, too. Make a serious goal of nursing for a month, call La Leche League or a certified lactation consultant if you have any questions, and you'll be in a better position to decide whether continued breastfeeding is for you.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 3 OR 4 MONTHS, her digestive system will have matured a great deal, and she will be much better able to tolerate the foreign substances in commercial formulas. If there is a family history of allergies, though, you will greatly reduce her risk by waiting a few more months before adding anything at all to her diet of breastmilk. And giving nothing but your milk for the first four months gives strong protection against ear infections for a whole year.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 6 MONTHS without adding any other food or drink, she will be much less likely to suffer an allergic reaction to formula or other foods later on; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until about 6 months to offer solid foods. Nursing for at least 6 months helps ensure better health throughout your baby's first year of life, reduces your little one's risk of ear infections and childhood cancers, and reduces your own risk of breast cancer. And exclusive, frequent breastfeeding during the first 6 months, if your periods have not returned, provides 98% effective contraception.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 9 MONTHS, you will have seen him through the fastest and most important brain and body development of his life on the food that was designed for him - your milk. Nursing for at least this long will help ensure better performance all through his school years. Weaning may be fairly easy at this age... but then, so is nursing! If you want to avoid weaning this early, be sure you've been available to nurse for comfort as well as just for food.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR A YEAR, you can avoid the expense and bother of formula. Her one-year-old body can probably handle most of the table foods your family enjoys. Many of the health benefits this year of nursing has given your child will last her whole life. She will have a stronger immune system, for instance, and will be much less likely to need orthodontia or speech therapy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least a year, because it helps ensure normal nutrition and health for your baby.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 18 MONTHS, you will have continued to provide the nutrition, comfort, and illness protection your baby expects, at a time when illness is common in formula-fed babies. Your baby is probably well started on table foods, too. He has had time to form a solid bond with you - a healthy starting point for his growing independence. And he is old enough that you and he can work together on the weaning process, at a pace that he can handle. A former U.S. Surgeon General said, "it is the lucky baby... that nurses to age two."

IF YOUR CHILD WEANS WHEN SHE IS READY, you can feel confident that you have met your baby's physical and emotional needs in the most normal, healthy way. In cultures where there is no pressure to wean, children tend to nurse for at least two years. The World Health Organization and UNICEF strongly encourage breastfeeding through toddlerhood: "Breastmilk is an important source of energy and protein, and helps to protect against disease during the child's second year of life." Our biology seems geared to a weaning age of between 2 1/2 and 7 years, and it just makes sense to build our children's bones from the milk that was designed for them. Your milk provides antibodies and other protective substances for as long as you continue nursing, and families of nursing toddlers often find that their medical bills are lower than their neighbors' for years to come. Research indicates that the longer a child nurses, the higher his intelligence. Mothers who nurse long-term have a still lower risk of developing breast cancer. Children who were nursed long-term tend to be very secure, and are less likely to suck their thumbs or carry a blanket. Nursing can help ease both of you through the tears, tantrums, and tumbles that come with early childhood, and helps ensure that any illnesses are milder and easier to deal with. It's an all-purpose mothering tool you won't want to be without! Don't worry that your child will nurse forever. All children stop on their own, no matter what you do, and there are more nursing toddlers around than you might guess.

WHETHER YOU NURSE FOR A DAY OR FOR SEVERAL YEARS, the decision to nurse your child is one you need never regret. And whenever weaning takes place, remember that it is a big step for both of you. If you choose to wean before your child is ready, be sure to do it gradually, and with love.

©2000 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

thank you for nursing in public

I began breastfeeding in public shortly after Eva was born, and at the time, I had no idea how significant the act actually is.

When I’m out, I *rarely* see a mama nursing her baby. A while back, we went out for lunch at a local restaurant. I saw a new mama with a few week old baby, and she had Lanolin tucked into the bottle-net of her diaper bag. She did not nurse (and I watched like a hawk), and even though she did not, I was so excited to see another nursing mama—and I would have felt compelled to say something encouraging to her if she had nursed the little one in the restaurant.

When I was visiting family this past spring, a mama was there with her husband and their two kids (2 years and 4 months). The guest list included her husband, her parents, David, me, and all of our children (all of whom had been/are currently being nursed and are used to seeing a nursing baby). But when it was time for the baby to nurse, she left the room. Now, the first time she did this, we were eating dinner and I thought maybe she was hoping to find a more comfortable place to nurse. But, later that day, she left the room again--and this time, Esme and I were rocking quietly in a chair, nursing--and we were the only other ones in the room!

Her behavior made me feel awkward. I wanted to ask her why she kept leaving. There were comfortable places to sit, and the atmosphere was quiet, no matter where we were in the house. *I* sure as hell don’t mind if she nurses! I was nursing my own child throughout the day! And I do not leave to nurse—I nurse with whoever is in the room with us at the moment, wherever we are. It does not bother me, and I dedicate myself to making it normal for whoever is sitting around us. I talk about nursing. I answer questions. I make sure people know it’s normal, legal, and healthy.

Needless to say, I did not ask why she kept leaving, though I did tell her she could stay. Many times. I made that clear.

Another situation: David, Eva, Esme and I dropped in to visit someone at work one afternoon. She loves to see the girls when we stop by, so I walked back to her office so the girls could say hello, and Esme begins making it clear that she wants mama milk. I excused myself, and said, "Esme is ready to nurse. We will be around!"

But then, she said, in a rush, "Oh! Well, here, I am done in here, so you can use the office!"

I declined. She insisted. I relented, though I should not have. I did not want to go into the whole "Nursing-in-public-is-protected-by-law-in-the-state-of-Ohio-and-I-am-allowed-to-breastfeed-whenever-and-wherever-my-baby-needs-to" spiel when it seemed like, from her body language and tone of voice, that she was uncomfortable with the idea of me breastfeeding in the workplace.

[By the way, she recently had a baby boy, who, at five months, is still drinking only mamas milk.]

This situation is completely different from another experience I had at my work when we lived in Wisconsin. When I was on maternity leave, I stopped by to visit my colleagues and show off sweet, newborn Esme. When I went back to see my then manager in his office, we ended up having a good long talk, during part of which Esme nursed. He was at ease the whole time and completely supportive of my nursing in public. Perhaps I owe this to his dear wife, who is a La Lache League Leader and who nursed their two children for 2+ years each.

When we were in Disney World last summer, I saw two or three women nursing. The most significant was a mama who was nursing her three year old in line for and during The Enchanted Tiki Room show. A Spanish-speaking woman, she nursed over the top of her tank top in the front row (of a circular auditorium--I nursed about six seats down, made eye contact, and smiled. I do not speak Spanish, otherwise I would have commended her! An absolutely wonderful experience!

But there is another young mama I know who is uncomfortable nursing in front of others. I do not know her very well, but I want her to know that it is important to nurse in public. It is a simple act, yet at the same time, it is a momentous act.

How many times do you see a nursing mama when you are out? What do you do? Do you smile at her? Do you just go on with your business as if the act of breastfeeding is completely normal (because it is!)? Do you say encouraging words?

I never know quite what to do, though it is so seldom that I see a mama nursing in public that I always want to do something to acknowledge her act in a positive way (though I can always trust Eva to say something along the lines of, "Look, Mama! She nurses her baby, too!"). When someone says something positive to me, or just makes eye contact and smiles, it makes me feel good to know that someone appreciates the significance of breastfeeding in public—and the significance of breastfeeding in general!

I printed up some notes (the image at the top of this entry), little business cards, with a few words of thanks to hand out to the NIP mamas I see. I figure it is another important and essential step that I need to take to make a return to breastfeeding as the norm in our culture. I included the International Breastfeeding Symbol on the card, but since since I travel so much, I did not include any specific state legislation.

Here is a beautiful breastfeeding letter from Best of Craigslist. It brings tears to my eyes:

Date: 2006-11-21, 10:07PM PST

I happened to be on an Airplane
from Shrevesport two weeks ago. Those tend to be small and crowded.

I sat next to a young lady, perhaps 20 or so. She was carrying a small
child, who was quite unhappy with the pressure changes and all.

She got up several times to go to the bathroom, each time I had to rise to
let her out. I knew she was comforting the child, I even asked her if she
wished the aisle seat.

She blushed and said she preferred the inside seat. The flight got a little rough,
the seat belt light came on along with a warning from the Captain, and he
wasn’t kidding, it got very rough.

She looked quite miserable, the child was crying. The ears of the very young are quite sensitive, they have not learned to compensate so nursing is very beneficial at times like that.

When the flight began to calm I mentioned to her that it was all right to comfort her child at her seat, I did not mind.

She smiled and thanked me, I suppose the fact that I am obviously a bit grandfatherly relaxed her. So she did, I simply read my book. Several around noticed but none took offense.

One funny thing, the steward came by, a young man of perhaps 30 or so,
bringing soft drinks. This was after things had settled down a bit. She was
asleep, as was the child. It had a solid locklip on her breast, both were quite
content. He asked me if my daughter wanted anything, I got some Orange juice
for her and set it on her tray. She woke up soon after, drank it and thanked me.

I even got to hold the child for awhile, a wonderful feeling bringing back
some memories of my youth and my own children.

I confess to a small tear in my eyes at touching a hand nearly as small as
my index finger.

Perhaps my being much older makes a difference, but breastfeeding is a
wonderful thing to see. Even as a male, a tiny child pressing to my chest feels
just fine.

Look down on it all you wish, those who do are fools. Women should feed their children as nature intended, they will be stronger and healthier as a result. I see nothing wrong with it, if bashful or in a highly public place, a simple blanket will suffice. If not, that does not matter, it did not for the young lady sharing a long trip with me.

My wife nursed ours until they turned to solid foods, often in public. Not one time did anyone say anything.

It might be time for some to rub a bit of the blue off their noses, this is a
very silly thing to take any offense at. Courtesy would dictate that we simply
go on our way and let the young mothers be.

It is just nature at work.

The following is a NIP story I read on Mothering a while back. It is an uplifting story, and I saved it because I did not want it to be lost for eternity in the forum-abyss!

About a year ago i was out with a friend who was just getting used to NIP
with her 3 month old daughter. We were in a coffee shop (Tinderbox, GLasgow, UK if anyone is interested). I'd been NIP in there from when DD was 10 days old so it seemed a good place for her to take the plunge.

Anyway babe woke, mama got to nursing.

An old man, at the next table, immediately began to grumble and mutter.
Soon he was loud enough that we could hear the grumblings of "disGUSting" and
"public decency" and "should be ashamed". I just held my friend's eye contact
and gave her my "Your legal right!" look (legally protected in the UK to

A few moments of this passed and then a member of staff passed, clearing
tables. Old man pipes up "Aren't you going to do anything about her feeding THAT
in here!? It's disgusting! They should be thrown out!" My friend was getting
twitchy. I put a hand on her arm, and said "steady" under my breath.

The member of staff, a boy of about 18, looked at the old man, looked at us
and said "one moment sir" to the old guy. He vanished. A moment later he
returned with a paper cup and lid. He put the paper cup on the old guy's table,
picked his half-drunk coffee up, poured it into the cup, put the lid on and then
holding the cup out to the old guy said "You can't see them from outside, which
is where you're going now."

The old guy had a face like THUNDER but he left. We smiled sweetly and
BROADLY at him as he left.I could have KISSED that boy! They have a BF-friendly attitude in there but this is seriously fabulous!

Check out Nursing is Normal, a photographic display of mothers nursing in public places. The NIN Project was started by Kathy O'Brien (a doula and photographer in Fort Worth, Texas) with the intention of helping women to feel comfortable nursing in public.
Here is a Breastfeeding Report Card and other noteworthy breastfeeding information, mostly statistics, but the information about the survey is interesting, too.

Also, First Right is a site that protects breastfeeding and promotes it as the cultural and biological norm. On this site, breastfeeding discrimination can be reported, and action against discrimination is organized.

One more, an awesome site where you can buy the International Breastfeeding Symbol in a variety of formats--free shipping!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009


2 young girls 1 tired adult 2 days left to pick up my books from the library's hold shelf 1 (short) nap that day 45 minutes before the veggie bake is ready 1 determined visit to the library 5 times I said "Walking feet, inside voices!" 7 board books gleefully discovered & brought, one by one, by Esme 2 visits to the bathroom initiated by children 0 visits to the bathroom initiated by me 2 minutes between bathroom visits 1 colossal temper tantrum by Esme 2+ dollars paid in fines because I am not as observant of due dates as I used to be 1 greeting by Story Time woman, who I met when came with my 10 month old only child 1 forehead sweaty from exertion 3 times I wondered how Story Time woman's perception of me has changed in the past 7 years 8 books for girls 2 books for me 0 minutes left on oven timer when we arrived home