Breastfeeding-Friendly Roundup: Recent Highlights and Opportunities for Action

What’s the latest in breastfeeding news these days? Here are a few highlights, which offer opportunities to help create a more breastfeeding-friendly world:

* Best for Babes launched a national hotline for breastfeeding mamas who experience nursing in public harassment. Program this number into your phone now so you have it available should you or someone you know or meet need it: 1-855-NIP-FREE. You can also support the initiative by making a donation. As a thank you for a $3 donation you will receive 10 Thank You for Breastfeeding in Public cards which include the hotline number.

Read the back story to the “Nursing In Public” Harassment Hotline. And find a summary of the first month of calls here. The latter link also mentions something I’m fortunate to personally be involved in supporting – a Best for Babes’ initiative to assist harassed breastfeeding mamas to persuade offending corporations and organizations to institute policy changes and employee training initiatives that support breastfeeding customers and clients.

* The Healthy Baby Bag is a breastfeeding support bag that has been distributed to more than 600 birthing facilities in all 50 states. The antidote to free bags of formula that have been the staple handout at hospitals across this country for way too long, the Healthy Baby Bag is an initiative of Cottonwood Kids, which produces custom breastfeeding-friendly products to help birthing centers meet the needs of new families. Check it out at: www.cottonwood-kids.com

And suggest birthing facilities for them to next approach about their breastfeeding support program at: https://www.facebook.com/cottonwoodkids

* The needs-to-improve-most award goes to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which serves as the Americas’ regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the health agency of the Organization of American States. PAHO recently accepted $150,000 from Nestle, which is known for violating the WHO Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes, among other private sector giants which pose numerous potential conflicts of interest. Read Annie at PhD in Parenting‘s great summary of the battle playing out and sign a petition to urge PAHO to return the Nestle funds.

Please share anything else newsworthy!

Breastfeeding: Perfect Storm Preparation for Hurricane Sandy

When a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy hits, millions along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States scurry to stockpile food and emergency supplies for a potential hunker down of days if not weeks. What do parents of babies under a year do? They throw packages of diapers into their shopping carts, piled high with canned foods and batteries. Even cloth diapering families know that no power means no (easy) clean dipes.

But what about baby food — specifically drinkable food? Only 16.3% of 6-month-old babies in the U.S. are exclusively breastfed (according to the 2012 Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Breastfeeding Report Card). That means the large majority of families haul cans of formula from the store shelves to their homes, hoping that what they’ve amassed will be enough to ride out the storm and its aftermath.

Enter the case for supporting mothers to breastfeed as long and as exclusively as possible. Sure, some mamas are dedicated breastfeeders based on a desire to provide the most natural and beneficial food possible for their babies. Most of these parents also embrace all the side benefits of bonding and such. Others are won over by the cost-saving features, with breastfeeding estimated to save in the range of $1,200 to $2,500 over the first year of a baby’s life. But even in times of recession, it’s still the minority of American mothers who are breastfeeding their 12-month-old babies at all – a mere 25.5% as cited in the 2012 CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card.

If you are or anyone you know is still not convinced of the benefits of breastfeeding, consider this: Hurricane Sandy, due to make landfall later today, is predicted to affect 50-60 million people. That includes some 500,000-750,000 babies less than 12 months old.

A storm that packs this punch has the hidden benefit of teaching us many life lessons. Among these is the value of breastfeeding – highlighted so strongly during an emergency situation like this, when the well-being of so many babies may be at stake.

What better than warm breastmilk straight from the source to nourish a baby, especially in the midst of a power-outage? Of course, this isn’t possible for all women, but it is for most. So, if you are on the fence about whether to breastfeed your baby or for how long, consider the incredible peace of mind that it can give you in emergency situations like Hurricane Sandy. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it best: “Breastfeeding is disaster preparedness.” And if you are already a breastfeeding mother, sit back and enjoy nursing your babe as you ride out the storm, either on the East Coast or virtually from your corner of the world. And remember to relax, as stress can mess with the milk letdown.

“Breastfeeding is disaster preparedness.” – AAP

For anyone storing breastmilk, here is some great advice to help in times like these.

Best wishes to all those in the path of Sandy, regardless of your breastfeeding situation or whether or not your babies are past the breastfeeding years! What lessons are you learning from this storm?

“Phenomenal” Breastfeeding-Friendly Move by Kaiser

This last year the American media has had a heyday with breastfeeding stories. Stories have featured women who have been asked to stop breastfeeding their babies in public and subsequent nurse-ins, debated controversial images of breastfeeding, fanned the flames of ignorance about state laws that support breastfeeding in public, and much more.

You might not know it, but there also has been progress this year in terms of creating a more breastfeeding-friendly world. In fact, a recent piece of news is so impressive, it’s been lauded by Dr. Richard Schanler, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ breastfeeding section, as “phenomenal” and “astronomical.”

I was thrilled to receive the below message in my email inbox recently, from MomsRising.org, which celebrates Kaiser Permanente for taking a much-needed leadership step forward: Continue reading

Magical Memories of Breastfeeding

Every mother who has ever breastfed her baby has a few memories that really stand out from the ocean of her nursing experience. Hopefully for you those moments were truly breastfeeding-friendly. As you may know, I was motivated to start this site as a resource for others who might have had an UNfriendly breastfeeding experience, as I did, and ultimately as an aid in creating a more breastfeeding-friendly world. I’m happy to share that while that experience was a formative one for me as a breastfeeding advocate, it is the opposite of the beautiful memory that I will share here. For me, a middle of the night nursing session just this past weekend snuck up and surprised me as what I’m betting will go down as one of my favorite breastfeeding memories of all time.

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Breastfeeding on Capitol Hill at the Great Nurse-In

Why take breastfeeding – a vital, intimate exchange between a mother and baby – to the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building? Over 600 mothers and their babies, as well as hundreds more partners, children, and other supporters, gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, August 4, 2012, for just such a cause. The first-ever Great Nurse-In was a peaceful celebration of breastfeeding, designed by local mother Rachel Papantonakis to raise awareness of the need for pro-breastfeeding legislation to support mothers and babies.

A show of hands at the event demonstrated how many women experience mistreatment for breastfeeding in public. It’s way too common, and can easily happen to a discreet breastfeeder. I might not have believed it, until it happened to me. As I explained to the crowd during open-mic time, in my early years of mothering I viewed breastfeeding as a loving exchange between mother and child that should simply take place wherever the hungry baby needed to eat. Being a relatively shy and modest person who also did not want to feel trapped inside my home, I nursed baby discreetly wherever we needed. A total of three uneventful years of nursing in public unfolded and then I experienced breastfeeding harassment at a Pottery Barn store while nursing my second child – just a wee 7-week-old baby. That rude experience taught me that even when we breastfeeding mamas quietly go about our business of caring for our babes, others might try to stand in our way.

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Virginia: Behind the Times

When prompted by the Breastfeeding Blog Hop’s theme for this week to write about the laws that protect me as a breastfeeding mother, I suddenly feel vulnerable and defenseless. You see, the manager who asked that I stop breastfeeding in the Pottery Barn store in my home state of Virginia was actually within the law. In terms of where a mother is protected by Virginia law to breastfeed, there is only one very limited category of places: on property owned, leased, or managed by the state. How many Virginia moms do you think want to or even plan their outings with a breastfeeding pit-stop at a state building or park, just to feel covered by the law? Continue reading

My Bittersweet World Breastfeeding Week 2012

It’s so exciting to feel the incredible sisterhood of breastfeeding supporters celebrating our natural means of caring for our little ones during World Breastfeeding Week. Had I never experienced breastfeeding mistreatment firsthand, I would probably not be as tickled by all the hoopla of breastfeeding advocacy that makes early August so fun. If I had the time, I could have spent long hours the last two days immersed in the sea of pro-breastfeeding messages, youtube videos, blog posts, GE’s Olympics commercial, and more floating around the Internet.

So, when asked how I was celebrating World Breastfeeding Week (by the Breastfeeding Blog Hop), I convinced baby we should pause the 10th replay of this sweet video long enough to compose a couple thoughts:

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Permission to Eat Please

This week’s Breastfeeding Blog Hop question is “Should you (or would you) ask permission to nurse in public?”

If you’ve read about my experience nursing my newborn at a Pottery Barn store, you know that I didn’t ask permission from the store manager before quieting my fussy baby by discreetly meeting his needs. Minutes later, the manager proceeded to ask me to nurse in their bathroom because there were “children in the store.” Yes, including my very hungry baby who I was quietly nursing until she interrupted us.

It never made sense to me to request permission to nurse in public and I never have. That is not to say I haven’t chosen private or semi-private places over public at various points in my breastfeeding years. I have, but usually to better meet the needs of my baby. For example, if baby was in an easily-distracted stage, I generally chose the calmest setting in which to nurse him.

Discussions about nursing in public tend to focus on the breastfeeding mother. Naturally so, since she is the one making the decision whether or not to breastfeed her baby in a setting where others might be. But what about the perspective of the baby? After all, the reason a woman breastfeeds her baby is because the baby needs to eat to thrive. So, I’m turning this question baby-ward and reframing it as:

“Should you (or would you) ask permission to eat in public, little one?”

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The Power of Breastfeeding Role Models

Nine years ago today, I met my firstborn babe and breastfed for the first time in my life. After the wild ride of a three-day labor fraught with unplanned interventions, it felt surprisingly natural. Or at least once the team of nurses got my babe latched on, broke huddle, and gave us some space.

There I was, the girl who had slouched for years because she was shy about her chest, suddenly skin-to-skin with her newborn, and witnessing what breasts are all about. But how did I get there?

What or who planted the breastfeeding idea in my mind? Was it an article or book touting the benefits of breastfeeding? A favorite celebrity who breastfed her baby? The influence of my midwives? A breastfeeding-friendly workplace? No. It was mainly a handful of mothers I know – close family and friends – who made it a no-brainer for me.

I am so grateful for the women in my life who modeled breastfeeding and encouraged me, directly or indirectly, to plunge into the wonderful world of breastfeeding! Plus, their influence did not just make me think breastfeeding would be worth a try for a few days or weeks. These women breastfed their babies for at least nine months and some for years, demonstrating a longer-term commitment (and ability) to breastfeed. Thank you to:

  • My mom for breastfeeding my siblings and me. I love this picture of you breastfeeding my younger brother and am sure that, because of such moments, my three-year-old mind and heart were imprinted with the awareness of how natural breastfeeding is.  (And thanks for sharing with me how much your breastfeeding friend influenced you to overcome the breastfeeding-unfriendly attitude in your family.)

My mother breastfeeding my younger brother.

Breastfeeding Bliss: A Photo Celebration

This week Breastfeeding Blog Hoppers are discussing how they are doing in terms of their breastfeeding goals. This post is part of the weekly Breastfeeding Blog Hop, hosted by The Slacker Mom, and co-hosted by The Gnome’s Mom and Happiness Redefined. Please visit The Slacker Mom to see the linky list and read everyone’s entries, as WordPress.com can’t show it here.

I am blessed with a dreamy breastfeeding situation right now. I’m at the point where we’re on cruise control. Baby is nearly two years old and nurses a few times a day and generally not at night. Breastfeeding bliss!

This is my third and, as far as I know, final baby, so I am enjoying my reality, finding meditative moments in our quiet nursing sessions, aware that the breastfeeding chapter of my life is nearing its end. So my personal breastfeeding goal is to continue meeting my baby’s nursing needs and enjoy every moment left! Here are some of my favorite pictures of my babies breastfeeding that capture some of our breastfeeding bliss over the years.

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