Birth of a ​Breastfeeding Advocate

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. This week’s topic is “What Breastfeeding Advocacy Means to Us.” Please visit The Slacker Mom to see the linky list and read everyone’s entries, as WordPress.com can’t show it here.

This week’s topic is dear to my heart. I was lucky to find help and recover from a rocky start to breastfeeding (see this post) and graduate from sweating-like-crazy nervousness while nursing in public to blissful comfort and ease. Then, I had an experience that shook my breastfeeding world and launched me into breastfeeding advocacy. This is my story. (The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from the About page at Breastfeeding Friendly.)

On a cold March evening, I paused to nurse my hungry baby while shopping at a Pottery Barn store. The store manager approached and asked me to stop breastfeeding my seven-week-old baby. I was shocked and deeply disturbed that such ignorance could interrupt a baby’s basic human need being met. Such mistreatment could even upset a woman to the point that she limits or stops breastfeeding her baby altogether, increasing health risks to her and her baby.

I channeled my frustration into action and the results were deeply gratifying. The president of Pottery Barn’s parent company, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., called me to apologize.  She addressed the problem with the manager in question, sent phone messages immediately to all their stores to inform them of this injustice, followed up with conference calls to further educate their store managers, and added breastfeeding-friendly wording to their training materials and operations manuals.

Moreover, I was left with the realization that change is readily within everyone’s grasp. Each of us can do our part to create a more breastfeeding-friendly world. While it takes some effort to compose a letter to inform a company of mistreatment, if every woman who had a negative experience nursing in public were to do so, I’m convinced that would help speed us down the path toward that future that I cherish – where no mother is asked to stop breastfeeding her baby in public, where nursing returns to being the norm, and new mothers don’t hesitate to meet their child’s need wherever and whenever that need arises.

I knew I had to share my story with other women as part of my contribution to creating a more breastfeeding-friendly world. I was thrilled when my story was published in the July/August 2008 issue of Mothering. Online comments from readers rated my essay “Birth of a Lactivist” as the issue’s top story. The emails that followed were exceedingly appreciative and supportive. They also called for more. I received requests for the letter I sent to Pottery Barn. Rather than respond to one woman at a time, I decided to take the plunge and start a blog to share useful resources with a wider audience.

Fast forward to today, I have found that my path as a “lactivist” was short-lived. In a good way. As much as I would have loved to, I was not in a position to sustain “especially active, vigorous” advocacy. My top priorities include being a present, sane mother. As a mother of a newborn, the only especially active and vigorous person in my home was my preschooler.

I have long regarded breastfeeding advocacy as anything that promotes a more breastfeeding-friendly world. In that way, my unplanned lactivism matured into breastfeeding advocacy. As I read my fellow blog-hopper’s posts on this topic tonight, I reflected on the definition of an advocate, and the public action that it implies. I guess the revival of Breastfeeding Friendly, is a baby step back into breastfeeding advocacy for me personally. A friend recently discovered the blog and shared that reading my story helped give her more confidence to breastfeed in public. I realized that my experience can still raise awareness and help other breastfeeding mothers.

That’s been my story, and I still stand by my definition of breastfeeding advocacy: Every action in support of breastfeeding counts. Every smile, every encouraging word, every kind thought. And there are amazing opportunities for all of us to offer our voice to the official world of breastfeeding advocacy, each taking but a minute of time:

  • This week the U.S. House of Representatives is evaluating a budget that eliminates  the Women Infant and Children (WIC) breastfeeding peer counselor program — a program proven to double breastfeeding rates among its clients. Visit MomsRising.org or Change.org and send a letter to your Representative now, urging them to protect funding for this important program. (To read up on this issue, read some great posts at theLeakyBoob.com.)
  • Check out so many other great opportunities, including the Public Citizen campaign to end aggressive formula marketing in hospitals and a movement to protest Facebook’s continuing harassment of breastfeeding mothers, summarized by Best for Babes. Each petition takes only a minute of your time and can make a difference! (Fellow blog-hopper Marah at Happiness Redefined shared more about the Public Citizen campaign in her post for this hop.)

Do you have an inspiring story or useful resource you’d like to share to help create a more breastfeeding-friendly world?

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One thought on “Birth of a ​Breastfeeding Advocate

  1. Pingback: The Great Nurse-In: An Inside View | Best for Babes

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