What is the law in your state?

The states in the US vary widely in the implementation of laws that protect a breastfeeding mother and baby...

Breastfeeding gift ideas for an expecting mom

A reader asks: I am attending a baby shower for a friend. I'd like to get her something that will help make her breastfeeding experience more comfortable. What should I buy?

The sole requirement for NIP

During my pregnancy with my youngest son, one of the parts of motherhood that I looked most forward to was nursing. ...

International and Religious views of NIP

Think nursing in public is only a concern in the United States? If so, is it our religious roots that has instilled our country's prudish (and misguided) desire for "discretion"?

Where are our breastfeeding role models?

I saw a woman breastfeeding her three month old son while walking around the busy farmer's market yesterday morning...

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Defense of Breastfeeding Dolls

2008-06-14 Abby 28Recently, I was halfway listening to a local morning news program when the newscaster began discussing a breastfeeding baby doll. The newscaster (a woman, by the way) was almost unable to make it through the story and repeatedly interjected comments along the lines of, “This is just too much!” I went online and did a search for the doll, which is called The BreastMilk Baby Doll

Apparently, the Atlanta affiliate was not the only one to pick up this story. Several news stations had run the same piece, and viewer comments on various stations’ websites were generally along the lines of these: “Why don't these pigs just make dolls who have sex for little girls and get it over with? This is really disgusting. How about a masturbating Bob doll for the boys? This is way beyond acceptable.” “Forget Ken And Barbie. Let’s all look forward to buying our children Bill and Monica dolls equipped with the latest accessories such as suction pumps, stain remover, and a realistic lie detector.”

Berjuan Toys, the doll’s maker, explains the need for a breastfeeding doll: “The Breast Milk Baby will revolutionize our nation’s attitudes to good infant health, while letting little girls share in the wonder and magic of motherhood. Shouldn’t they be ready for a healthy future?” If Berjuan has such good intentions, why were so many viewers and readers upset by this doll? There are a lot of things going on here.

First, as evidenced by the comments above, there is the same old, worn out thinking about breastfeeding as a sexual act. Believe it or not, the breasts were created to nourish babies and children. Shocking, I know. 

However, there’s something else going on in addition to the unwillingness to see breasts for more than chest decor. By continually sexualizing and attempting to shame breastfeeding, nursing will continue to be the nation’s second choice when it comes to nourishing our young. It’s a vicious cycle: breastfeeding is shamed, people forgo breastfeeding, thus it is further marginalized.

 Maybe The Breast Milk Baby is just what the lactavist ordered to begin taking steps towards normalizing and enculturating our youth towards breastfeeding. By providing girls with an alternative to baby dolls whose accessories include bottles, the choice to breastfeed when they become adults may become more normative.

At the end of the day, however, the parents who might buy this doll for their kids are probably already pro-breastfeeding. Someone who thinks that breastfeeding is the equivalent of fellatio in the Oval Office is probably not going to rush out and buy the doll. Until people stop seeing breasts as exclusively sexual, and, in turn, stop seeing the bottle as the go-to feeding device, The Breast Milk Baby is only going to fuel the fires of the close-minded who simply cannot or chose not understand what nursing is all about.

 Although I admit that I am not going to be shelling out $89 for the doll, I intend to do my part towards normalizing breastfeeding by nursing in public, engaging with the local breastfeeding community, and making sure my daughter (and anyone within earshot) knows that I am proud to nurse her and am pleased to make my mammaries more than decoration.

  What do you think about The Breast Milk Baby? How do you try to normalize breastfeeding?

 If you are interested in more efforts to normalize nursing, check out these resources:
 • Learn about your legal right to nurse in public . . . anytime, anywhere.
 • What’s Facebook got to do with it? The Facebook v. Breastfeeding controversy continues.
 • Check out the Indiscreet Breastfeeding Manifesto!
Photo Credit: Author
Mary Michael Pontzer writes at The Accidental Natural Mama. She lives in Georgia with her husband, fifteen month old daughter, four dogs, and a cat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where Are Our Breastfeeding Role Models?

I saw a woman breastfeeding her three month old son while walking around the busy farmer's market yesterday morning. No one told her to take it to her car. No one sent her to a restroom. No one gave her a disgusted look. There won't be an outraged newspaper article, followed by a nurse-in, followed by an embarrassed position statement from the farmer's market association. The simple, beautiful act of a woman feeding her son passed as it should: without fanfare, without event. I admit that I may not have even noticed her if her beautiful toddler hadn't approached my son in his stroller to engage him in a sweet baby exchange. She nursed her son while shopping for vegetables with the agility of a seasoned breastfeeding veteran.
It was just like it should be, and it was a beautiful thing. Sadly, the fact that I am compelled to blog about what should be a common occurrence means that it isn't so common.
Is it any wonder that so many women report having difficulty breastfeeding? Is it any wonder that the act of nourishing a child, something our bodies are so beautifully designed to do, is so hard for so many women? Should we be at all surprised that women, women who are good mothers, opt to forego breastfeeding entirely?
Where are our breastfeeding role models?
Do you know who the first woman was that I ever saw nursing? It was me. Before Jack was born, I had never even seen a woman breastfeed. I've certainly seen babies eat: I've seen moms walking around, well, everywhere, bottle in hand and babe in arms. But before Jack came into my life, the act of nursing was so shrouded in mystery that I had never even witnessed it before.
That's not right. But it is a direct consequence of our "cover it up" culture. How are we supposed to learn if we cannot observe? And how are we supposed to observe if women are being shunned into restrooms or exiling themselves to their homes during feedings?
I want to add my small but determined voice to the chorus of brave women calling for the normalization of breastfeeding, calling for a cultural revolution where the breast is first and foremost for breastfeeding.
I want my son's future wife, and his future daughters and their daughters, to never have a reason to think twice about what I saw at the farmer's market yesterday. I want that to be normal.
This post has been edited from the original version published at Monkey Butt Junction.
We are honored to host a guest post today from Jenn Collins. Jenn is a green mama and natural parent who blogs at Monkey Butt Junction. She has embraced attachment and natural parenting principles in an effort to follow her heart and achieve balance between the demands of a full time job and the call of motherhood.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Simple Stretches and Self-Massage Relieve Tension from Breastfeeding

New moms have it rough the first few months. As breastfeeding starts and new moms get comfortable with their role, they spend a lot of time looking down and holding the newborn in their arms. While that may be blissful at the moment, a few weeks of breastfeeding can cause stress and tension all through the neck and chest area. But there’s a simple way to relieve that tension.

As a massage therapist in Louisville and Nashville, I see these changes first hand, especially as a new mother starts to breastfeed. Nursing moms can carry a lot of tension in the arms, chest and the front and sides of the neck. This can result in headaches, achy and sore shoulders, tired arms and numbness/tingling in the arms and hands. Most of the time, some short stretches or self-massage tips can ease up that tension and give moms a little relief. Some of these stretches you can even do while you are nursing! I put together a short video of the stretches and self-massage tips so my new moms can watch and follow along.

My new mothers enjoyed the Self-Massage for Nursing Mamas and New Moms video, and I hope you’ll find it helpful, too!

If you find yourself with neck and shoulder pain – especially after breastfeeding or when you’ve been holding your infant for a while, try some of these stretches and self-massage tips to open up the chest and front of the neck. Look around the room a bit and stretch out the front and side of the neck while you are nursing. I know it’s hard, but try to keep from gazing down at your little one the entire time with your head tilted down or to one side – that puts the whole weight of the head in the hands of muscles designed to move the head, not support it.


Heather Wibbels, LMT, practices massages therapy in Louisville, KY at www.MassageByHeather.com. For eight years, she's worked extensively with clients suffering from chronic pain, stress and stress-related injuries and illnesses. A key part of her practice includes using her blog to give clients self-help tools like self-massage and stretches that can make a difference in their daily lives.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy: Radio Documentary

Dionna of Code Name: Mama nurses her 37 month old.
When my son was about two years old I started noticing that I was becoming a little self-conscious sometimes when nursing him in public. One night while visiting family in New York, we were having a late dinner at a restaurant and my son was sleepy and cranky. When he asked to breastfeed, I discreetly positioned him to nurse in an effort to soothe him. My grandfather was clearly surprised and asked, “How long is that going to go on?” I happily retorted, “At least 5 minutes”.

While that is the extent of “criticism” I received for nursing my son past infancy, I had heard many stories in the media and from friends about negative public nursing experiences, as well as critical comments that people had received for breastfeeding beyond 6-12 months.

I began to think a lot about the discrepancy between these stories and experiences, and the recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. I also thought a lot about how something that felt so natural and normal could take on emotional associations like shame, embarrassment, discomfort, or in some cases, even anger.

I decided to construct a radio documentary featuring the largely “unheard” voices of some of the many articulate, intelligent, informed, nurturing mothers who chose to breastfeed past infancy – in an effort to help foster a more informed cultural conversation about this issue.

“Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy” is an independently produced hour-long radio documentary. It features the voices of fourteen women who have breastfed their children between one and four years. Half of the women reside in the San Francisco Bay Area and half in New York City. Some of the major topics covered include: dealing with judgment and criticism, public nursing, benefits and challenges, changes in perception, weaning, nursing while working, and support. Also featured is commentary from Dr. Nigel Rollins, of the World Health Organization, Dr. Jay Gordon, a Fellow of the American Association of Pediatrics, and Dr. Katherine Dettwyler, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Delaware.

Extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding past one year) is arguably among the most heated and controversial child rearing choices, occupying an emotionally fraught landscape along with co-sleeping, sleep training and discipline. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months, and then for at least a year, or as long as is mutually desirable. The World Health Organization recommends that a mother breastfeed her child for at least two years. The recommendations are based on countless studies showing significant health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and children, as well as for mothers. However, science and societal views don’t always align.

Because of the potential for judgment about the basic merits of their parenting, many mothers keep quiet about the joys, frustrations, challenges, and struggles of nursing their kids past babyhood. This can lead to mothers feeling isolated and unsupported. It is this lack of support, in addition to the fear of public criticism that leads many mothers to wean before they and their children are ready.

The goal of this radio documentary is to stimulate dialogue about breastfeeding past one year in the United States. In addition, it aims to educate mothers, family members, and health care practitioners about the benefits and challenges of breastfeeding past infancy.

You can listen to a clip of Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy here, or listen to the show in its entirety and read more about it at Knitwise Media.

“Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy” was produced by Vanessa Lowe, whose background includes a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, as well as four years as host of a radio show on KWMR, a community radio station in Point Reyes Station, CA. She is a musician and songwriter, and has released four records, with a fifth due for release in 2011. Vanessa is the mother of a five-year-old son.

Kent Sparling, a Bay Area composer, sound designer and re-recording mixer associated with George Lucas' Skywalker Sound, completed the final editing and mixing of “Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy.”

Photo credit: Code Name: Mama