Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Breastfeeding After One

When I was a first time Mom I distinctly remember going to a La Leche League meeting solely so I could ask them about my son, Mason's eating habits. He was just over one and was eating little to no solids. It didn't seem like he was trying to wean and was absolutely obsessed with Mama's Milk.

They explained to me that it was completely normal which I had no idea because it seemed like with all the information I was getting that he should be eating mainly solids and weaning.

But the truth is that just because your baby hits one doesn't mean that some magic switch goes off and your baby will stop nursing and start eating a ton of food and wean.

And that's completely okay!

My son primarily nursed for the first 18 months of his life. We offered him food but he was just way more interested in mama's milk and he thrived. The more I learned and connected with other breastfeeding moms the more I realized that it was okay and normal!

In fact in many parts of the world it would be ABNORMAL if Mason had suddenly weaned himself at a year.

Figure 1. A comparison of age at weaning in the United States and in 64 traditional societies. Reproduced from Stuart-Macadam & Dettwyler (1995).
In traditional societies around the world the average age of weaning is around 3 years old.

Nursing after a year can be a completely different journey than the first year. At times it may seem like they're weaning but they're most likely not. It's just different breastfeeding a child over the age of one. They're more active than ever before. They're soaking so much in. It may seem like they don't have time to nurse but that will change, it will come and go in stages until one day you've nursed you're little one for the last time and you may not have even realized it was the last time. 

I don't remember the last time that I nursed Mason when he was a little over 2 years old. We had some special circumstances going on and I was overwhelmed by other things going on in my life and that is something I regret, something I wish I could change.

I wish I had a snapshot of that moment, the last time he nursed so that I could save it forever.

Sometimes while you're nursing it can seem like it's never going to end that you'll be nursing your child until he goes off to college but that's not the case. It will end but you don't have to rush it, not if you don't want to and certainly not because our society makes us feel like "it's time".

It's time when you say it's time.

Image Map

Monday, March 17, 2014

You Can Drink That?!

March is the month of one of the "booziest" holidays of the year, St. Patrick's Day.  It also ushers in spring and summer, which are great months for sitting on the porch and having a glass of wine with a neighbor or your significant other.

But you're a breastfeeding mom so the only thing green you'll be drinking is your kid's Kool-Aid and you'll have to get your grapes from grape juice, and not the fun kind, right?!

Or, even worse, you'll have to hook yourself up to that torture contraption known as a breast pump and at the end of your 15 minutes of pumping dump all that liquid gold down the drain.


Now, we're not advocating on behalf of the alcohol companies and we're not saying you should go out and get extremely intoxicated and then go home and nurse your baby.  What we are saying, is that you don't have to give up that glass of wine and you can certainly enjoy a green beer without concern.  We are also saying that you absolutely do NOT need to dump your pumped breastmilk after a drink, or even two.

The rule of thumb is that if you are sober enough to drive a car, you are sober enough to feed a baby and the amount of alcohol in breastmilk peaks at 1/2 hour after drinking.  According to kellymom.com, less than 2% of the alcohol a mother consumes actually gets into her blood stream and milk supply. Alcohol leaves the milk as it leaves the blood - so when your blood alcohol levels are back down, so is the level of alcohol in your milk.

And who doesn't love the Jack Newman Facebook post that has gone all sorts of viral that talks about a study a mother did in a toxicology laboratory regarding alcohol levels in breastmilk.  You can find the whole post here, but the end conclusion is that percentage of alcohol she found in breast milk after consuming one mixed drink OR half a beer and two 6oz glasses of wine is so negligible that it is unlikely to have any adverse affects on a baby.

Now, you should keep in mind the age of the child when making the decision to drink or not.  An older infant or a toddler will be able to process any alcohol that does enter their system via breast milk much easier and faster than a baby that is only a few weeks old.  

Also, please remember that while the amount alcohol that may pass to your child is small and will most likely not hurt them, it could effect your judgement and ability to properly care for your baby.  Keep in mind that if you are co-sleeping and breastfeeding it is advised that you not drink before putting a child in bed with you.  And while I've never experienced this, I can't imagine a hangover and a baby go very well together!

So today I raise a glass to you, fellow breastfeeders. Now go and enjoy that green beer guilt free!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dear Amanda

Photograph provided by SarahCole Photography

As we approach our one year anniversary (eh hum, Harper's birthday) of our breastfeeding journey together I can't help but reflect. Lately, I'm thinking more and more about what I would tell my pregnant self about breastfeeding. So here it is, a letter to my pregnant self from my almost one year postpartum self.

Dear Amanda,

I'd like to tell you that this is going to be easy. And I'd like to tell you that it'll always be just like the images you see of new mother's nuzzling their newborns. I'd also like to tell you won't be tired. The truth is, though, that it [breastfeeding and new motherhood] is hard. You won't always feel the warm fuzzies at the thought of nursing your sweet girl. And you most definitely will be tired.

There will be times that you will feel like you can't move forward, as if you're suspended in time. The pain from mastitis, plugged ducts, cracked nipples, nipple blebs, and engorgement will seriously push you to your limit. Your tears will sometimes stream down your cheeks, to your breasts, and down onto your little nurslings face.

There will be days that you just want your boobs to be just your boobs. You will search to find a nursing bra that fits you like your old standby VS one, and you'll be disappointed when it simply doesn't. You will find yourself defending your choices and answering questions you shouldn't have to.

You'll out-grow the nursing cover and breastfeed in places you never imagined. People will probably stare and maybe even give you dirty looks.

I know, you're probably thinking that this doesn't sound real awesome right now. The thing is, I know you and you're a realist. So I started with the tough stuff.

Harper at 11 months old

Remember when I said you won't always feel the warm fuzzies when breastfeeding your little lady? You won't, but a very large portion of the time you will. The reason you see those soft images of new mothers is because you will have moments of being completely consumed by the love and joy that fills you while nourishing your baby girl. And yes, there will be days that you feel like you haven't slept in a week, but then it happens. That time comes when your little one has a full belly and just sighs the softest, sweetest little sigh. Just those few seconds in that moment will get you thru hours, maybe even days.

The pain. Oh, the pain. You've never been great at dealing with pain. You are, however a fighter. You can and will get thru this. Laugh at yourself and celebrate each and every triumph. Once you've surpassed the pain and the back-to-back night wakings, you'll want to shout from the rooftops that you've made it. You'll want to scream that you are victorious! That is ok to feel.

Don't worry about the bra. You'll have the rest of your life to wear a "sexy" bra, but you'll only have a couple of short years to wear the one that carries your fondest memories. And they WILL end up being some of your fondest memories. Sometimes you'll glance at that bra slung over your desk chair and remember that time you both giggled from her latest gymnurstic move. Or you'll be about to throw it in the wash and have a quick recollection of her grinning up at you while having a snack.

Harper at 11 months, having a snack!

Now for the questions about your choices… Breathe. The questions will not get easier to answer, BUT you will learn to answer them with grace. Just remember to breathe first, talk second.

You will become comfortable in your own NIP skin. Be happy that you can breastfeed anywhere and not have to wait for milk to be warmed.

Finally, once you've mastered the tough stuff and settled into your own nursing rhythm she will be about to turn one. She will be signing for "nummers" (aka milk) and astounding you with her intelligence.
Before you know it you'll be wondering if this is when she starts to wean and your heart will ache for those early days. You've done well. Be proud and savior every moment.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Breastfeeding and Jury Duty

a few months old

Literally the day I came home from the hospital with my daughter I had a summons in the mail for jury duty.  Insert freak out.  I immediately called and got it delayed as long as I could because I knew I wasn't ready to leave my days old baby.

Fast forward a year and it was my time to serve.  I was pretty nervous about being able to pump- would they tell me tough luck, would they make me pump in the bathroom, would I be allowed breaks at all?
a year later

Some states will allow you to get out of jury duty if you are a breastfeeding mother (check out if your state is one of them here).  New York is not one of those states, so I showed up at the courthouse with my pump in hand, ready to serve my civic duty.

After waiting in line, going through a metal detector and watching a video my name was called to be a potential juror.  I was escorted to the building next door where a judge informed us that we were being interviewed for a 3 month long trial.  THREE MONTHS??  My heart started pounding.  Technically there was nothing preventing me from serving, and I raised my right hand and promised I would be honest during the selection process.

I was brought back into the judge's chambers where about ten different lawyers surrounded me.  The judge said he'd heard every excuse in the book at this point (he'd already met with over 200 jurors) and wanted to know what mine was.  I told him I had none and I was fit to serve.  I just asked that I could have two breaks a day to pump.

He told me that wouldn't be an issue at all, by law I was allowed to pump.  And get this- he even told me by law I was allowed to bring my daughter and breastfeed her in the court room.  How cool is that??

It turns out I wasn't chosen for that case for other reasons, and was sent back across the street to sit in the jury waiting room again.  By this point it was time for my first pump of the day, so I went to the front of the room and asked where I could pump.  I was taken into an office where they let me pump, no issues at all.

Lunch time came, I went outside and got some food and fresh air and resumed my waiting in the juror's area.  I pumped again in the afternoon with no issues.

Honestly, the only bad part was I had forgotten an ice pack and didn't want to dump that precious milk.  So I got creative and bought sodas throughout the day from the vending machine and stuck it in the cooler bag with my milk.  Did an impressive job of keeping my milk chilled!
back home after jury duty with a milk drunk baby

Overall it was easy peasy, and I had worked myself up to think I'd have all kinds of issues.  I actually quite enjoyed my time sitting in the juror's waiting lounge.  I had no one at work expecting me to get back to their emails and I didn't have a little one pulling at my computer plug or trying to snatch my phone.  I feel good that I performed my civic duty even though I wasn't chosen for a case.

See ya next time, jury duty!

Milestones and The Top Five

A few weeks ago, we hit the goal we had been working toward for the last year. That's right, we made it! One year. Slow weight gain. Working twelve hour shifts. We made it. No formula, just mama's lovely, albeit skim, milk. I posted previously about my son starting to wean and that has progressed a bit but there are still days that he wants to nurse all day long and I'm totally fine with that. I told my husband today that I thought he would nurse til he turns two, to which he replied, "Are you surprised?". This leads me to my favorite top-five ever. The answers to the question I have been getting since we reached that year mark:

How did you do it?

5. Find a breast-friendly pediatrician

     While this is not number one on my list, I cannot stress how important this is. I've probably mentioned
     a handful of times now how big of a role our pediatrician played in our breastfeeding success. Find a
     pediatrician that you trust. Find a pediatrician who has positive feedback from breastfeeding mothers
     in your area. There are pediatricians in my are who are wonderful and sweet, maybe have shorter wait
     times in the office, but who would have encouraged supplementing in a heartbeat with my son. We
     went for my son's one year check up last week and the pediatrician laughed at the growth chart. Literally
     LOL'd. Maybe it's because it resembles a stock graph or something totally unrelated to infant growth or
     maybe because he was right. Remember I mentioned that our pediatrician, while my son was hovering in
    the second percentile for months, told me not to sweat it and around 6 months he would shoot up? He
    did. He jumped from the 2nd to the 23rd then at a year, he jumped to the 64th percentile for weight. We
    never supplemented with formula and we started solids slowly at 6 months, per the recommendation of the
    AAP. I trusted him and he trusted my body and my choice to EBF. He was a great fit for our family. At
    the end of our appointment, he asked if C was still a breast guy and I said yes. He said that was great and
    that we were in no hurry to wean. Swoon.

4. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

     No one expects you to know all of the answers. I tell first time moms in the hospital all the time: You
     have never done this before and neither has your baby. It is a learning process for both of you and every
     time you sit down to feed, you will both learn something about feeding and each other.

     There is no shame in asking questions. Reach out. Reach out to moms who have done this before you.
     Reach out to moms who will keep it real with you. Positive feedback is great, but if you are doing
     something that will be detrimental to your nursing relationship, it helps to have someone you can count
     on to help bring you back to center. One day, it will be your favor to return and you'll be grateful that
     you asked questions so that you can pass on the wealth of knowledge you have acquired.

     Asking your gal pals is a great idea but these gems will become your best friends:

     Kelly Mom also has a Facebook page and there are many other social media pages that serve as great
     and informal resources on lactation. Please remember that advice given by friends, bloggers, etc. is 
     wonderful and generally accurate, but it does not replace that of an IBCLC, MD or other professionals
     trained in lactation. 

3. Stand your ground

     You know your baby and your body best. If you aren't comfortable giving your baby a pacifier, don't
     If you aren't comfortable leaving your baby with grandma to take a bottle so you can get some sleep,
     don't. Are you keeping track of wets, dirties and temperament and know that your baby is getting
     enough despite what feels like the rest of the world telling you otherwise? Tell them to shut it! Are
     there times you are going to want more sleep and that bottle will sound tempting? Absolutely. Just
     remember that you made this choice and you are the only one who can decide to go the other route.

2. Trust your body.

     Yes, there are women who, for various physiologic reasons, are unable to produce breast milk. The
     odds that you are one of them? Slim. Women tend to start doubting themselves when babies don't
     latch right away, aren't sleeping through the night when other babies of the same age are or may not
     have regular dirty diapers....or a plethora of other reasons. Remember: You were made for this! 
     Women are designed to lactate for our young. Am I saying there won't be stumbling blocks or that
     this beautiful and natural thing will come as easy as your natural labor - oh, wait...just keeping you on
     your toes! There will be times you will doubt your ability to produce wonder food for your baby and
     you will question the strength of your body and mind - nurse on. You've got this!        

1. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your choice to exclusively breast feed.

    I tell moms in the hospital all the time: You will get a ton of feedback and advice about breastfeeding -           mostly from women who have never breastfed. There are so many support resources available:

    Adventures in Breastfeeding (ofcourse!)
...as well as local hospital and community
based support groups.

     Becoming socially accountable for reaching breastfeeding goals goes far. I refer to it as positive peer
     pressure. Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving medically indicated formula, but there is something
     about knowing how your friends will react if you were to bring a bottle of ready-to-feed to a play date
     that keeps a breastfeeding mom motivated to trudge forward, even in the hardest growth spurts or
     sleepless nights.

I am so thankful to have come this far in our nursing journey and cherish each session now. The hardest thing is knowing that any day now I could nurse my sweet boy for the last time but the best thing is knowing how far we have come. When you doubt yourself, remember that you can do this. 

Til next time, mamas...

Keep calm and nurse on.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Awesome Breastfeeding Posters

One of the consequences of becoming a "Lactivist" is that I now occasionally have to face accusations of promoting propaganda. It's one of the primary critiques that is most frequently leveled at the breastfeeding community: we like to make breastfeeding seem like it's all sunshine and daises, that it's easy and that the alternative (formula) is inferior.

Well.... yeah. I mean, we obviously chose to breastfeed because there was a compelling case for it, and we like to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. In fact, organizations and governments have been promoting breastfeeding to the masses for centuries, producing imagery to inform and inspire (and offend, sometimes). Here are a few of my favorite breastfeeding posters:

WPA Federal Arts Project Poster, 1938 - You may have seen this one floating around the internet for a while. I love it for how direct the message is, and how the art is so clearly grounded in the time period. I can't help but wonder to what "trouble" the text refers (there were just SO many troubles to choose from in 1938), but the almost wartime-phrasing is somewhat surprising in such a tender context. I would love to see an updated version of this poster for today.

Vintage breastfeeding poster located at the WWII / National Uprising Museum in Slovakia - I chose this one because it's contemporary with and thematically similar to the American version above. Unfortunately, I can't read the language and I've been unable to find a translation online, but the imagery is fascinating: firstly, there's the overt religious tones, with Mary and the infant Christ up in the corner, the heavenly rays and the cross opposite. There is a clear suggestion here that nursing the baby is a spiritual duty, but it looks like it may also be a civic one.... see the map behind the figures? And whereas the previous example cuts off the figure so that you can't see much of the nursing infant, this one shows both the baby and much of the bare breast, and even the hold the mother is using to assist his latch. This was clearly a poster for an audience who did NOT find breastfeeding scandalous.

New York City Department of Health Poster, 2012 - This poster is one in a series from the Latch On NYC campaign, which placed them in subways and hospitals, to inform mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding. The text reads "Breast Milk is best for your baby." You can see English versions here, but I selected the Spanish one to make the point that this campaign targeted everyone, not just the affluent white women who continue to disproportionately represent the breastfeeding community. While the images themselves drew fire for being too condescending and heavy-handed, the real controversy was over the accompanying initiative to discourage hospitals from handing out free formula. Read more here.

Unknown Breastfeeding Ad - I cannot find any information about this ad, which popped up on an Australian homebirth site. I have only one thing to say about it, anyway: BALLSY.

Or boobsy?

I have to be honest: if I were the art director on this campaign, I would never have chosen that image. Still, it's an attention-grabber, which I guess is a plus?

World Breastfeeding Week Poster, 2002 - This is my favorite breastfeeding image of all time and forever, because COME ON, FOLKS: IT'S FREAKIN' XENA! The incomparable Lucy Lawless, or Xena/Cylon #3/Lucretia breastfeeding a baby and looking smoking hot while doing it. What's not to love? And the tagline is sheer brilliance, as well.

To see MANY more posters, check out this incredible gallery over at Paa.la's blog.

And for more breastfeeding in art, both modern and historical, check out my first post on Adventures in Breastfeeding. And let me know what artsy topic you would like me to cover next!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Size of Your Baby's Stomach

This is one of my favorite images out there. It's so helpful to know the size of your newborn's stomach! Especially when you're just starting out!

Here's a hint...it's teeny!

Image Map

Monday, March 3, 2014

Traveling with a Breastfeeding Baby

Since L has been born he's been on an airplane twice (12 weeks and 1 year) and taken two 5-6 hour road trips (5 months and 10 months).  It's my personal opinion that traveling with a breastfeeding baby is easier than bringing formula with you, but then again, everything about formula seems inconvenient to me so I might not be the best judge!

I will say that breastfeeding a 12 week old when traveling by plane and then breastfeeding a one year old are very different experiences!  And traveling by car certainly has different challenges as well! As we are approaching summer, and therefore the time of family vacations, I wanted to share some tips to make travel, by any means of transportation, a little easier.

1. If you're flying and have a layover, check out the airports website to see if they have a nursing mothers room - the bigger airports (where you're most likely to layover) tend to have facilities for nursing mothers.

2.  If you're a little shy about nursing in public, try and book a window seat.  You're more hidden and will, hopefully, be more comfortable.

3.  Remember you can bring breast milk through airport security and there is no limit to how much you can bring.  You'll most likely have to have additional screening, like checking your hands for explosive residue, but they will let you carry on as much as you have.  Just let them know you have it when you get in line.

4. Since new babies eat a lot, if you're traveling by car in the early days try and plan your stops around your baby's feeding schedule.  No one wants to stop at 12 for the adults to have lunch only to have to make another stop an hour later for the baby to eat.

5. Try and drive around nap time.  Get in a good feeding and then start your trip.

6. When your baby is older, if you get slightly off of their feeding schedule it's not the end of the world.  Your little one will let you know if you need to pull over RIGHT NOW for a feeding.

7.  Pumping in the car is awesome!  They make car adapters for most pumps so you won't go through a ton of batteries.  It's the ultimate multi-taskig!

8. Babywearing can make travel, by plane, car or train, so much easier.  Practice nursing in your wrap, sling, or SSC a few times before your trip and you'll be able to nurse your LO while going from gate to gate or when you stop for a much needed leg stretch.
This was L after we landed in Florida for our recent Disney World trip.

Have you traveled with a nursing baby?  If so, what advice would you give someone doing it for the first time?


The one whom I loved before I knew.
The one I wept over
Worried over
Prayed over.
The one I delighted in.
The more I grew the more excited I became
As I whispered to you in my belly.

Waves of pain,
Stubborn brain cells willing fearful muscles to relax
And nervous lungs to breathe.
"Oh my goodness" and then...
Miniature wrinkles and brand new fingers
And those eyes: pools of blue
I stared into
As you lifted your little head with great effort to meet my gaze.
That cord wasn't the only thing tying us together.

And me.
A dynamic duo since before day one.
Splish splash,
Mommy's here,
Don't you cry.
And in the midst of this entropic commotion of
Tears and laughter and seven million pictures
You nestle against my breast
And tuck your smooth, sweet smelling hand underneath my collarbone.
Your cherub cheeks grow still as the sucking slows
And your eyelashes quiver like a butterfly's wing.
My heart wants to whisper a prayer of gratitude,
But the heavy warmth of you in my arms
And the smell of milk on your chin
Make finding words impossible.