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?

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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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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.

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A Breastfeeding-Friendly Approach to Pediatric Care Raises Breastfeeding Rates

Rates of breastfeeding are deeply affected by the support a breastfeeding mother receives – starting with her husband or other adults closely involved in the baby’s care. A key part of a woman’s breastfeeding village is her baby’s pediatric office. In the United States, new parents typically visit pediatric offices five times for well-child visits in the baby’s first six months, compared to one or two postpartum checkups with the woman’s prenatal care-giver.

So how important is the role of the pediatric office in encouraging breastfeeding of its patients? According to a study conducted by a doctoral student at the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing, very important. Sharon Corriveau applied a clinical protocol developed by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine to a pediatric office. The office trained staff to support breastfeeding, hired a board-certified lactation nurse, eliminated  formula promotions, encouraged mothers to breastfeed, and improved insurance coverage of breastfeeding-related services for their patients.

The findings were impressive. Continue reading

Dieting in a Breastfeeding-Friendly World

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 “Dieting while Breastfeeding” Please visit The Slacker Mom to see the linky list and read everyone’s entries, as WordPress.com can’t show it here.

One aspect of a Breastfeeding-Friendly World, as I imagine, is that it is a place where every nursing mother feels happy eating a healthy, balanced diet, free of societal pressure to “regain her figure” in record time. It is a world in which we trust a woman’s body to transform in amazing ways into pregnancy and then beyond into breastfeeding, giving it time and space to make incredible changes naturally. It is a world that supports mothers to care for their little ones and themselves without worrying unnecessarily about their own body image.

However, in the United States, we live in the polar opposite world. We live in a world selling fantasies about the human body, at great cost to our physical and mental health. The media and the American public is obsessed with celebrities who lose their baby weight and slip into bikinis in record time, filling new mother’s heads with the idea that getting their pre-pregnancy body back is of the utmost importance, which pushes some to diet dangerously and even put their ability to breastfeed at risk. This culture’s warped, over-sexualized view of a woman’s body idealizes her pre-pregnancy state. It even demonizes a woman who uses her breasts for nature’s primary purpose: to feed her baby.

If you read my last Blog Hop post, you know that I was told on the fourth day of my first son’s life that he was failing to thrive because he wouldn’t latch on to breastfeed. One lactation consultant later, I was committed to doing whatever it took to feed my baby and help him thrive. My luxuriant nursling left me with hours upon hours of time with my feet up to read. I read breastfeeding books. Continue reading

Learning to Let Go (and the Benefit of a Good Let Down)

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 “How Often Do You Nurse?” Please visit The Slacker Mom to see the linky list and read everyone’s entries, as WordPress.com can’t show it here.

How often do you nurse sounds like a simple question. For me, I learned the hard way how important it is to respond to baby’s needs. If you simply want the frequency, skip to the bottom. If you want to go along for a ride with me down memory lane, welcome:

The day after my first baby was born, I was high on life, jazzed from birthing him and meeting the new love of my life. The effects of the crazy-long (68 hour), super-exhausting labor had not fully kicked in, and the flood of post-partum mothering hormones were working wonders on me. To top it off, I was a natural at breastfeeding. Or so I thought.

Little one was actually not so little. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 12 ounces. Being such a big guy meant he was really hungry and wanted to nurse a lot. But I was clueless about the specifics of breastfeeding and did my best to stave off the formula-pushing nurses in the postpartum unit, who were decades behind the angels in labor and delivery. So I simply nursed baby every couple of hours for 20 minutes on each side, as instructed. After all, I had spent the first thirty years of my life as a good Type-A personality and thrived off doing things by the book.

But baby wanted more than that. Much more. My sore nipples didn’t think he could want to nurse that much. So his daddy patiently wore a path in the hospital room floor. Continue reading

What’s the big deal?

Welcome, Breastfeeding Blog Hop readers! Here is my contribution to this week’s hop, hosted by the Slacker Mom (see links to everyone’s submissions at the bottom of hers), The Gnome’s Mom, and Happiness Redefined. The topic this week is a free-for-all.

After a four-year hiatus from my 1-day foray into blogging, I am coming out of early retirement to share this breaking news:

My 1-year-old just doesn’t get what the big deal is! Why are people (the tall sort – you know, over 36 inches or so) all in a tizzy about breastfeeding in public or in uniform or on a magazine cover or whatever?

Baby-boo, as he’s sometimes known around here, climbed into my lap this morning. His eyes curiously roved the laptop in front of me. His finger pointed at the child nursing from Jamie Lynne Grumet’s breast on the cover of Time, and he exclaimed, “Baby!” A big smile spread across his face.

“Baby! Baby!”

He was delighted to recognize one of his own.

I was amazed. I clarified, “Is that a baby or a big boy?” I figured he’s fascinated with his two big brothers – ages 5 and 8 – and everything that goes with their territory, from Legos to doing “stand-up” pee-pee. He ought to recognize a big boy. Continue reading

Breastfeeding in Public – Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

No doubt you’ve noticed recent images of women breastfeeding on the newsstands or on your computer. Time magazine’s May 12, 2012, cover of a woman breastfeeding her preschooler and the more recent pictures of two women in military uniforms breastfeeding their babies have triggered a loud discussion.

Whatever your stance on breastfeeding, child-led weaning, breastfeeding in uniform/on the job, breastfeeding as depicted by the media and ad campaigns, etc., there is one thing no one can argue: we’re seeing mothers breastfeeding their young and we’re discussing it. Heck, we’re even seeing a mother breastfeeding twins! Breastfeeding is on the public map and that is a very good thing. The more opportunities we have to discuss nature’s design for human survival and how to facilitate that, the better off we’ll be as a species.

Here are a few of my favorites items on the recent news flurry over breastfeeding: Continue reading