Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best of Blacktating 2011

Here are my favorite posts from this year, in no particular order. Looking forward to another year of exploring the issues surrounding breastfeeding with you.

New Breastfeeding Photos from the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Association: these stunning photos are in the public domain so YOU are free to use them too (just email me and I'm happy to send you the entire collection).

The Social Network: on how other parents influence our parenting and hov this impacts breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Superstars: a  fantastic short film on moms who've overcome serious challenges in order to breastfeed.

Michelle Obama and the "Choice" to Breastfeed: in which I argue that breastfeeding is not a choice.

CDC 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card: important, although the statistics are a constant source of frustration.

The Natural Trend: Is Breastfeeding Next?: on the influence of the natural hair movement on breastfeeding in the black community.

The Sweet Release: on my daughter's tongue tie and getting that sucker clipped!

Nursing in Public Bingo: because the ignorant comments never get old (or change for that matter).

Baby-Friendly Hospitals will Improve Black Breastfeeding Rateswhy implementing the ten steps is especially important for black omen and babies.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Breastfeeding in a Healthcare Setting

In the moments after my daughter was born, when I was blissed out on finally being able to hold my newborn skin-to-skin, my mother-in-law pointed out that she had "something" on her ear. Because Aminah was lying on my chest I couldn't see anything but my midwife looked over and said, "Oh yeah, she has a little skin tag on  her ear. Usually they say something on the ear can signify an issue with the kidneys because they develop at the same time in utero. It's probably nothing but your pediatrician may want to run some tests." Yeah, not exactly what you want to hear literally three minutes after giving birth. My midwife was right, though. At our first visit my pediatrician noticed the tag right away and wrote me a script for a renal ultrasound. She said she didn't think anything was wrong with her kidneys but she preferred to err on the side of caution.

Unfortunately the ultrasound showed there was slight hydronephrosis, or swelling in the kidney, on the right side. My pediatrician gave me a referral to see a pediatric nephrologist, a doctor who specializes in kidneys. He recommended repeating the test at the hospital he is affiliated with since it had been four weeks since the first ultrasound, so I made yet another appointment to take my baby to the hospital.

The tech who performed the ultrasound was AMAZING. The first thing she did when we got in the room was apologize for the wait because they try to expedite the pediatric patients. I asked her if I should strip Aminah down to her diaper, as I'd done at the first ultrasound at the other hospital and she said no. Aminah was sleeping peacefully and it was cold in there so I just removed her pants. The tech even used warm gel so as not to jar the baby. Even with being very gentle, Aminah did wake up because the tech had to press on her belly to take pictures of her bladder. Aminah started to fuss and the tech turned to me and said, "Go ahead and breastfeed her, it'll help keep her nice and calm during the exam."

RECORD SCRATCH. Now, I've been a mom for four years and have taken my kids to the doctor a million times for various procedures and never has a healthcare provider suggested I nurse to keep my baby calm during an exam or shot or anything. Sure, I nurse openly in my peditrician's waiting room or in the exam room while we talk, but during exams or procedures? Never. In fact, a nurse at my pediatrician's office yelled at me for breastfeeding Miles before his first vaccine because he would cry after the shot and then throw up, didn't I know that? So I'm embarrassed to say I've never done it, even when I've thought about it and wanted to.

I didn't just love that this woman encouraged me to nurse, but that she also didn't ask if I was breastfeeding, she just assumed that I was. As many black women will tell you, people typically assume we're not breastfeeding or don't want to breastfeed. So to be recognized as a breastfeeding mom was HUGE.

Afterwards the tech told me Aminah was a great patient because sometimes even at the breast some babies just hate the wand and are super fussy. I thanked her for being so great and made a mental note to write her supervisor and let her know how awesome she was.

The good news is Aminah is just fine and whatever was going on with her kidney resolved on its own. Her second ultrasound showed two perfect kidneys.

But I'm curious to hear from you......what have your experiences been breastfeeding your babies in a healthcare setting?

The culprit behind all this drama!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

My 5-week-old

Aminah is five weeks old today! According to BabyCenter......

Your baby's neck muscles are getting stronger, which allows her to hold her head up for short periods.

Yup, Aminah is taking after big brother Miles here and has been holding her head up since day one. My kids have tiny peanut heads which probably makes this easier for them. Still, she holds her head up like a champ and has super strong muscles (she has also been scooting since birth....put her down on the bed and she will scoot away!)

Smiling happens at about the same time in all cultures, so get ready for your baby to reward all your loving care with a beaming, toothless, just-for-you smile. This will probably make your heart melt, even if you've just had your worst night yet.

She is making us work hard for them, but yes, she smiles. The surefire way to get her to grin is to hold up a mirror to her face! #diva #wereintrouble

Your baby may start sleeping longer at night (maybe four to six hours) some time between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. Most sleep experts suggest putting your baby to bed while she's still awake, but drowsy. This will help her learn to fall asleep on her own.

Hahahahhaha! Hahahahahaha! A six hour stretch at night? Not on your life! Go to sleep on her own? Riiiiiiiight! This girl wants nothing but to be held by mommy. She wakes up at night if I even think about taking my boob out of her mouth. I don't foresee this changing any time soon.

Your baby is learning that she has hands and fingers and feet and toes. She's also starting to talk more. Not with words, of course, but by cooing — with increasing goos, gurgles, and grunts. This marks the beginning of her language development. 

 Aminah discovered her hands a few weeks ago and she will wave them around and stare at them for a few minutes every now and then. So far her feet don't interest her (although she does love to kick them while nursing). She is talking to us more now and especially loves when we sing to her. She also lets us know when she's not happy. This girl can SCREAM.

But who could resist this face?

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Children's Place Holiday Collection & Giveaway

It's no secret how much I love shopping at The Children's Place. They produce quality clothing for kids that is cute and stylish and, best of all, really lasts. I have been lucky enough to get invited to shop their new collections every season, and a few weeks ago I headed to one of their stores in Miami to check out the holiday duds.

Now, as you may recall, I went two weeks past my due date and in the final days before I went into labor, I spent a lot of time walking in the mall. I ducked into The Children's Place and fell in love with the little girl holiday party dresses. I wished I had a bigger girl to shop for because not only were the dresses beautiful but reasonably priced (they have been killing it with the sales lately!)

I finally got to take my time and look through all of the new fashions during their media shopping event. It was my first outing after Aminah was born and as I was only two weeks postpartum I had my husband tag along. It was definitely a bit tricky getting out of the house with such a tiny baby. We ended up having to stop twice during the long ride to Miami so I could nurse her and change her diaper. She fell asleep right as we arrived so I was able to concentrate on the shopping at hand!

I ended up picking out matching outfits for Miles and Aminah to wear to services at the holidays. Although I loved the "Fur, fun and fabulous" collection

and the florals

I decided to dress the kids in perfect plaids.


The entire holiday collection is so cute and fun, and filled with lots of sparkly shoes, leggings and headbands for the girls. The boys collection has classic pieces like blazers, vests, plaid shirts and striped sweaters. You can't go wrong at The Children's Place, whether you're shopping for your own kids or picking up gifts.

The Children's Place was nice enough to offer a $25 gift card to a Blacktating reader. Enter the giveaway below with Rafflecopter. If you're new to Rafflecopter, watch a video here on how to use it to enter giveaways.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Sweet Release

You may remember how worried I was about breastfeeding the second time around. We even dedicated a Carnival of Breastfeeding to the topic. I had so much trouble with Miles in the early weeks, from sore nipples and poor milk transfer to weight loss, but I attributed much of that to the fact that I had a hospital birth, he was routinely supplemented and probably had some nipple confusion. I figured a lot of the problems I faced with him could be avoided by having an out-of-hospital birth, but I also assumed that having "been there, done that" would make breastfeeding much simpler and easier the second time around.

So imagine how thrilled I was when breastfeeding seemed to be going swimmingly with Aminah. Although she was immediately put on my chest after birth, she didn't latch on for a good hour and a half. But once she did, she opened wide and was sucking strongly. She seemed to be thriving on my colostrum; babies are only expected to have one poopy and one wet diaper on the first day of life but Aminah had three! She continued to poop and pee well and nurse frequently and my milk came in on the second day (it took until day FIVE with Miles!). Once my milk came in, though, things got shaky. Aminah was having a hard time latching on to my rock hard boobs, she wasn't transferring enough milk and I could feel hard lumps forming in my breasts. My nipples were sore, her latch was extremely painful and she wasn't emptying my breasts. I could get her to open wide but she'd quickly slide back and be sucking only on  my nipple. She was no longer pooping and only having a few diapers with pee in them. I was dreading feedings and wondered if I could make it 6-9 more painful weeks, the way I had with Miles. So I did what I always tell everyone else to do when they email/tweet/facebook me with their breastfeeding problems; I called a lactation consultant.

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful local IBCLC who coached me through a couple of things online before she could come see me the next day. By the time I saw her on day 5, Aminah was down to 8 pounds from her robust birth weight of 8.15 and had the dreaded urine crystals in her diaper. My LC looked in her mouth and determined she was tongue tied. I was devastated. Although I know tongue ties are common, I have heard time and again from the LC community that pediatricians and other doctors don't take this concern seriously and are reluctant to clip.  I also clearly remembered a pediatrician doing rounds when my son was born telling me he had a tight frenulum, but when I mentioned it to my regular pediatrician he waved it off and said it was fine. When my LC looked in Miles' mouth that day, she said his tongue tie was so awful she didn't know how I ever managed to get the kid fed at all, let alone at the breast!

Thankfully I live in a place where I have a lot of options for getting the tongue tie released (you can find out who does them in your area here).  My LC gave me a list of names, including Dr. Denise Punger. I knew of Dr. Punger from her book Permission to Mother and her blog by the same name. She wasn't the closest doctor to me (in fact, she was the furthest away) but I knew that if there was a need for a clipping, that I wasn't going to have to argue with her or convince her why I needed to get this situation fixed. I knew Dr. Punger would "get it" because she is a mother of three breastfed children and an IBCLC herself. Also, she was incredible enough to fit us in the next day! So I packed up the whole family and we drove 90 minutes north to Ft. Pierce.

When we arrived at her office, I broke into a smile when the first thing I saw on the wall was this poster:

In the waiting room were two other moms who traveled almost as far as I had to get breastfeeding help from Dr. P. I wonder if they picked up a copy of her book while they were there?
I know what you are thinking, coolest doctor's office EVER, right? Oh it gets better. Here is the exam room.

I mean, honestly, how many doctors would have a photograph of their footling breech home birth blown up on the wall of an exam room for all of their patients to see? (click to enlarge)

After a short wait, I finally got to meet Dr. P (we've corresponded via email and I read her blog so I felt like I knew her) and she was just as I imagined she'd be. She looked at Aminah, confirmed the tongue tie and went to get her tools in order to release it. When she returned, the nurse placed Aminah on the exam table, swaddled her up tight and Dr. Punger touched her mouth.  I was too much of a wuss to look, but immediately Aminah started to cry and I whimpered. "She hasn't even done anything yet!" my husband told me.

After she clipped her frenulum, she handed her to me so I could nurse her. Her mouth looked like it was full of blood but I later found out it was only a few drops but that when it pools with the saliva, it looks like a lot. As soon as she latched on Aminah calmed down and seemed fine. Her latch was still quite painful, but Dr. Punger assured me it would get better quickly.

After we left I asked my husband what the procedure looked like and he could barely contain his incredulity. He said the doctor had just barely touched the membrane with a small, scissor-like tool and it had spread open. It took a fraction of a second. "We could have done that ourselves at home!" he said. (My hubby is known to be uh...frugal?)

By the time we got home that night, I could feel an improvement in Aminah's latch. By the next day, she had figured out how to use her new and improved tongue and was sticking it out constantly. She was nursing like a champ, removing lots of milk and pooping after every feeding. I'm happy to report that even with our less than stellar start she was back to birth weight by day 13.

If you think your baby might have a tongue tie, please see an IBCLC (check out the signs of tongue tie from Dr. Kotlow, scroll down to "Diagnostic criteria for neonatal tongue frenum revision"....I swear we had every sign!) If I could give advice to anyone facing the decision of whether or not to clip a tongue tie, I'd say get it clipped as soon as possible! It was really such a simple procedure and has completely changed our breastfeeding relationship. I know that some tongue ties are more complicated than ours was, but many dentists can now fix them with a laser and it doesn't require anesthesia and it's not major surgery.

Also, as an aside while I still have your attention. When you are having major issues in the early days of breastfeeding, you really can't go wrong by seeing an IBCLC. Yes it's expensive and you might not get reimbursed through your insurance but it's still worth it. If you are still pregnant, I highly suggest putting away a few dollars every week in a jar as a "just in case" fund. If you don't need to see an LC, you've got a couple hundred bucks to use any way you choose. If you do need one, it won't hurt as bad to hand over the money. And please beware of the advice you might get online from other moms. I can't tell you how many people on Twitter told me that it was JUST FINE that my baby wasn't pooping and peeing, no need to worry at all. When I said I had to supplement her with formula, people came out of the woodwork to tell me it wasn't necessary. Believe me, it sucked having to give her that stuff that is "similar to lactation", but she needed it. As a friend reminded me over the phone as I cried over it, Rule No. 1 is Feed The Baby. A couple of ounces of formula to get her over the hump until we figured out breastfeeding wasn't going to kill her and again, it was necessary. Your twitter followers, as well meaning as they may be, can't see in your baby's mouth and frankly, might not know what the hell they're talking about. Mother-to-mother support is vital and important, but please seek professional help when it's obvious things aren't going well.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

She's Here! Our Birth Story

The last few weeks of my pregnancy I was absolutely miserable. I was suffering from intense and debilitating pelvic pain, my iron level was extremely low and nothing I ate managed to raise it, and I was working and functioning on about two hours of sleep a night. Suffice to say I was looking forward to hitting 40 weeks and getting that baby OUT. But like my son, my daughter had other plans. As the days ticked by, not only was I frustrated that I wasn't going into labor, I was getting nervous because my licensed midwife was only allowed to legally care for me until 42 weeks. At that point she would be required by law to take me to the hospital for an induction. Since Miles was born at 42 weeks 3 days, I was scared. The whole point of using a midwife was to avoid the hospital and I really didn't want to end up there. So we did all of the usual things to get the baby out: walking, sex, evening primrose oil, homeopathic black and blue cohosh, acupuncture and some root tea prepared by my mother-in-law. At the end of the day I knew the baby was going to come when she was ready and none of this was making a damn bit of difference, but it did help to feel like I was being proactive and not leaving everything up to chance.

I went to my final midwife appointment at 41 weeks, 5 days for yet another non-stress test and biophysical profile. The baby looked great so we made plans for me to come in at 42 weeks for a day of torture....castor oil, herbs, membrane stripping and god only knows what else. During my first pregnancy we had gone into the hospital for the same tests on a Monday and made plans to be induced that Wednesday, but I went into labor that night. So we decided to try and recreate that Monday by going out for spicy Indian food, having sex and going for a long walk. It worked to get the first baby out and it worked for the second!

I was having Braxton Hicks all that evening but by about 10 pm they were accompanied by some cramps that felt like the real thing. I called my midwife at 11 and told her I thought this was it. She asked me to time three more contractions and call her back and let her know their duration and how far apart they were. When I called back and said they were coming every 3 minutes and lasting a minute she told me she was heading out the door and for me to get my butt in gear.

When we met up at midnight she checked me and I was 7 centimeters! I had been walking around 3 cm dilated for the previous two weeks but never thought I would be so close so quickly. The contractions were regular but not bad at all for a couple hours. I tweeted and checked Facebook and talked and laughed with the midwife, her assistant and my mom. At about 3:30 AM I decided to get in the tub because I was getting kind of bored and wanted a change of scenery. I soaked for about an hour before deciding to get out because I felt like the warm water was slowing everything down. The contractions were still so manageable and easy and I thought if I started pacing around the room and hallway maybe I could get everything to speed up a bit.

The walking definitely worked and the contractions started to get really intense and close together, about every minute and a half. After about an hour of hard contractions my midwife decided to check me again and to my shock, I was complete. I hadn't felt the urge to push and I didn't feel the baby drop and my water hadn't broken so I was surprised that it was time. Looking back I wonder how long I had been complete at that point because my body wasn't giving me any clues that I could pick up on that the baby was ready to be born.

We all moved to the bed and I waited for the first contraction to push. That first push was pretty tentative but broke my water. I could feel myself start to tense up a bit because I was afraid of A) pooping and B) tearing. Now, the first was just stupid. Midwives don't care if you poop, they expect you to poop and most women poop during labor. I honestly don't know why the thought of it bothered me so much and to this day I have no idea if I pooped or not and I don't want to know! I was petrified of tearing because of how bad I tore (and was cut) during my first labor and how awful the recovery from it was. But I could feel my midwife's hands in me the entire time helping to stretch my skin so after a few more nonsense pushes, I really got down to the business of getting the baby out.

I pushed so hard and it hurt like hell and I just remember screaming because I was shocked at the pain. During my first labor I felt nothing even though I hadn't had any pain meds. I just pushed for a few minutes and voila! Miles arrived. This time it felt like I couldn't quite get the baby out and wherever she was stuck was extremely painful. I pushed and screamed for about 15 minutes and out she popped! She gave one little cry and was immediately placed on my chest where she stayed for an hour. All told my labor was about 8 hours long. My baby made her debut at 41 weeks, 6 days.

After her newborn assessment, I found out why this labor hurt so much. My baby was born with a nuchal arm. She had her little left fist pressed up against the side of her face, and her elbow poking out to the side.

October 5, 2011
8 pounds, 15 ounces
20.5 inches long

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tamera Mowry Drinks Sister Tia's Breastmilk

Have you been watching the new reality show, Tia & Tamera, that follows twin sisters Tia and Tamera Mowry? In the series, Tia is expecting her first child, while Tamera is planning her wedding. Throughout the season we've seen Tia planning for the birth of her baby by interviewing a doula, considering a home birth and talking about breastfeeding. Unfortunately a breech baby necessitated a hospital birth and a C-section for Tia, which was documented in the series finale which aired recently. We get to see the birth of baby Cree, as well as their early days at home.

At one point, Tia, who is pumping for the baby, highly encourages her sister Tamera to taste her milk.

What do you think, would you taste your sister's milk? I don't have a sister and although I did taste my own milk, I am not sure I'd taste someone else's.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post: The Power of Breastfeeding

I'm pleased to present a guest post today by Rebecca Jackson-Artis, a mover and shaker in the breastfeeding world in Chicago. Rebecca inspires me with her passion and you will understand why after you read this post. *Trigger warning for talk of sexual molestation*

When Elita asked me to write a guest post about my personal breastfeeding story, I thought, “What should I write….hmmm… I KNOW!” Okay, it’s going to be kind of uncomfortable but in the end you will have more of a grasp of why I am so extraordinarily passionate about the empowerment of breastfeeding. *Inhale, exhale*

When I talk about exclusive breastfeeding I talk about the empowerment that automatically comes with it. Many people don’t really get why my words are so blunt and abrasive at times. Often their response is, “Okay, Rebecca, I get it. “ My friends joke with me. Many send me articles via e-mail. My mother and her friends even cut out articles and photocopy documents they come across on the subject of lactation. Their e-mails or cut-outs are introduced with, “Have you heard about this?” or “I thought you’d be interested in this.” I love it all even if I know about it already. It lets me know I am getting their attention and my voice is reflecting the empowerment I received from birthing Thrice and Jack naturally (both with midwives and one of them at home) and putting them to my breasts, nourishing them mind, body and soul. The word “breasts” is a very powerful word even for me to type. Breasts. The reason is (get ready for the uncomfortable part)…..I was molested.

Yes, I was molested. It took me many years to say that and a lot of forcing myself to accept repressed memories of the multiple times my female cousin raped my innocence. Wow, powerful description, true description. I was so fearful for years to talk about it thinking people would be disgusted with me, blame me and lash out at me for allowing the despicable acts I faced as a child from four to about ten years old. I don’t remember when was the definite time it stopped because I told myself it needed to be forgotten. My cousin became a highly sought after basketball player who eventually dropped out of college, used illegal drugs regularly, birthed a son and became a faint figure in our family, appearing at family events every five years or so. Ironically, she made me the godmother of her son who is amazing in every way and I applaud him for not succumbing to the abandonment by his mother with rebellion.

When my cousin would groom me for her personal suppression of pain and sexual domination over the creeps who her mother allowed to violate her natural childhood maturation, she would use words that made me feel uneasy about my body. Words that may be difficult for you to know were said to a five, six, seven-year-old girl whose mother wouldn’t allow her to even hear “y’all” too many times in an hour. She would do these acts at family gatherings while the adults trusted the children to play amongst themselves, safely. My older cousin would always end the dark room moment with a threat to not let anyone know and how they wouldn’t understand what went on in the dark room. I hated her. I hated the feelings I felt. I hated myself which included everything about being female.

My grandmother, mother and, to my former frustration, I have the large breasts gene that suddenly crept up on me at the age of 13. By this time, I hadn’t been molested for a few years, started having crushes on boys and worked really hard at proving I was a good kid. My father’s affection toward me lessened (he was rarely affectionate before I hit puberty so imagine what it was like while going through it and after…a hand shake was a Hallmark moment for us) and he repetitively listed at random moments why boys were evil, low-life beings who roamed the Earth. So, I hated my body, hated my female energy, I was so fearful of connecting with males and most important, I hated my breasts. It was no wonder I spiraled into a deep depression that lasted until I was in my twenties. I was in and out of therapists’ offices until I finally found one I felt comfortable with. It was a December day while home from college that I finally told him what I had learned so well to bury. “I was molested.” I waited until the very end of our session at the last appointment before heading back to college for Spring Semester. I was 20. I went back and had some more sessions with Dr. G but we never brought it up because I wouldn’t let him. In my early twenties I had a problem with sex. I associated it with chores. It was something you had to do when you are in a relationship even though you would rather go to work and surf the internet for that coupon code to the department store seasonal sale that coupled with your department store credit card’s 10% off discount would give you all the escape from reality you needed. Weirdly enough, I always had a date, a boyfriend or a guy to call me and put up with my extreme artistic, neurotic personality. After my father made his transition in 2003 and my live-in boyfriend died after a motorcycle accident in 2005, I met this amazing man who spoke to me in ways I had never been spoken to with words that fit into my life like missing puzzle pieces which guided me to creating a firm foundation and brought me out of serious clinical depression. I married Craston in 2006, got pregnant with our first son in 2007 and gave birth two weeks after my 30th birthday in January 2008.

Okay, I know what you thinking now, What does this have to do with breastfeeding? This is where I tie it all together. *cracking my knuckles*

While I was pregnant I firmly decided on two things, (1) I was going to have a complete non-intervention birth and (2) I was going to exclusively breastfeed. There was no negotiation in my mind, none! I meditated on it, got one of the best doulas in Chicago and had a very supportive husband who researched everything. I had a completely natural birth and I did it at a pretty progressive hospital with a great midwifery program. Now, it’s time for the breastfeeding. No problem. I took a class, have a holistic husband to support me, there’s a great doula at my side and OH NO! ONE THING I FORGOT! You need to expose your breasts when you breastfeed! OH MY WORDLY POSSESSIONS!!! It was like everything went into slow motion in that birthing room. The midwife signaled to the doula that everything was fine. The doula began speaking in the slow motion voice that makes even the most high-pitched mousey voices go baritone. “Noooowww, taaakkke offffff yoooour goooowwwwn.” I did. Surrounding the bed were my mother, the midwife, the nurse assistant, my husband and the doula. Well, send me to San Fernando Valley and yell action for God’s sake! Thrice then scooted, ever so gently, to my left breast with the doula’s help for his first latch. I was gearing up for that emotional molestation recall when *latch*: a flood of joy, amazement and spiritual awe poured over me. The room became much smaller and everyone in it disappeared. It was just my newborn son and me. I realized the negativity I had for so many years about my breasts was wasted negative energy that was easily turned into love. I realized my vagina was the path to the onset of life (creating and producing). I realized my body was not sexual at all but beautifully functional, created with balance. Most importantly, I realized I was everything I needed and more, completely and abundantly. The hate, fear, pain and anxiety came from something that had been passed on to me which was made up of lies and rage.

The first couple of weeks I was closely monitored due to my history of clinical depression. I had a slight case of baby blues which my husband reminded me of this past weekend while we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I completely forgot because even though I had a small case of the blues I gained so much power in the first month. I became a woman in every sense of the word. The culmination of giving birth and putting Thrice to my breast helped to complete a rite of passage. It was the beginning of me healing from years of violation, fear and anger. I began allowing myself to forgive my cousin. I saw her with a different perspective. I started to open up to my husband, family and friends about the molestation. I viewed it differently, almost thanking my cousin for helping me to see my strength by having the ability to get to the other side, still loving a man and allowing myself to be vulnerable to a partnership of unconditional spiritual love. I wrote a play talking about the story. I forgave myself.

This all hasn’t come without a cost. My mother, the following year, had a massive stroke which left her partially paralyzed. Our relationship has changed vastly and the molestation has been brought to the surface which she cannot deal with. I totally understand. She feels like she let something slip by her and she is upset with me for not telling her years ago. Many of my relatives are upset with me and tell me, “Just get over it, Rebecca, please. You’re holding on to something that won’t change.” Every time they tell me that I share my story again. I am slightly overprotective of my step-daughter and sons. I make sure at family events all doors are open and the kids are where we all can see each other at all times. Also, my youngest son is 18 months old (we are not having any more children) and I know I have about another year to nurse him which makes me wonder what level of empowerment that milestone will take me. Thinking about it makes me clutch my chest.

So, breastfeeding has opened a wonderful new chapter in my life which has made me face some elements of it that I had been avoiding intentionally. I learned to trust; trust my body, trust my babies. I had no clue what I was doing but innately I knew to just put them to the breast and nature would take its course. Breastfeeding has empowered me in ways that has taken me to levels of enlightenment and peace and healing and love. Breastfeeding has been a path to my Creator, my Source, God, The Universe. I see the world much clearer. I see people as part of the collective source energy. There is a strong connection between mind and body. Thoughts and words are powerful. I truly see every living being as One. I know it all sounds like a big cliché but it is so true for me. The subject of Oneness is not just talk anymore, it’s reality.

I may get upset with someone but I turn back to my Source energy and give thanks for that someone being in my life. I give thanks to my cousin. I slowly let the negative part of her go, no longer controlling my freedom. I send her joy, peace and love. You see, she’s a part of the collective Source which many of us call God.

Now, that’s the power of Breastfeeding!

Rebecca Jackson-Artis, CLS lives in Chicago with her very supportive husband, Craston and her two breastfed sons, Craston III and Jackson. She is a professional actress and writer who became a Certified Lactation Specialist in April 2009 when she realized the lack of resources and support mothers of color have regarding breastfeeding. She started an online community to support mothers of color called The Abiyamo Omo Society in 2008. In August 2010, she co-founded The Monolatry Group with Vanessa Stokes, a company that provides lactation resources and clinical assistance to municipalities, corporations and mothers of all racial and economic backgrounds.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Breastfeeding Is Normal, Any Time, Anywhere

I'm loving this new breastfeeding campaign, Breastfeeding Is Normal, Any Time, Anywhere. A group of moms in Florida got together with photographer Nicole Gillette to photograph nursing in public throughout the West Central area of the state (they will be launching a Kickstarter page soon to fund more shoots in other areas). The goal is to create a display to normalize nursing in public that will be exhibited at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa by the end of the year.

Of course I am a sucker (bad pun?) for pictures of breastfeeding, but I love these! Kudos to these moms for using a diverse group of women who were all shapes and sizes and colors feeding babies of all ages, in public, without covers. I can't wait to see more photos from this collection. And if you guys head to Ft. Lauderdale, call me!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breastmilk Stunts

Have you heard about the latest breastmilk stunt? No, it's not making breastmilk ice cream or cheese. Nor is it a man trying to induce lactation. This week we've got the husband of a mom who pumps a ton of milk trying to see how long he can survive on breastmilk alone.

Meet Curtis and Katie. Katie is a doula, childbirth educator and CLE. She is the mom of three preemies (the youngest is 9 months old) and has become a pumping powerhouse. Because of this, she has a ton of milk stored in her freezer but no one to give it to. According to their new blog, Katie seems to have a philosophical issue with both non-profit milk banks (HMBANA) as well as the for-profit Prolacta banks. She says she tried to informally share her milk but couldn't find a family to accept the milk (she has donated over 10,000 ounces to another mom in the past). So instead her husband Curtis is going to attempt to live on breastmilk alone.

Apparently Curtis has some "digestive issues" and has consumed her breastmilk before, but now he is going to see how long he can maintain his weight of 185 pounds on nothing but Katie's milk. They claim they are not doing this for attention, but that they mentioned the idea to a friend who encouraged them to blog about the experience.

I honestly don't know how I feel about this. I know this couple feels like they are not "wasting" the milk by consuming it themselves, but it sure feels that way to me. I can understand having an issue with a Prolacta milk bank cashing in on your milk while you get nothing but the satisfaction of helping a baby in return, but why not donate to a HMBANA milk bank?

And what about the stunt factor? Do you think this helps to normalize breastfeeding or bring awareness to the issues surrounding milk donation? Or are most people just thinking "gross" and rolling their eyes when they hear about grown folks consuming breastmilk? And really, do we need anyone to tell us that even an adult can survive on breastmilk alone, at least for a time? Last year, Esquire magazine posed the question, "If a human being could only eat one food for an entire month, what should it be?" to a group of nutritionists (including my friend's dad!) and the overwhelming response was "Breastmilk."

So what do you think? Just the latest stupid stunt surrounding breastmilk or a way to educate the public on just how amazing breastmilk really is?

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Post: Breastfeeding: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

I'm pleased to have dianthe hall guest post for me today on her breastfeeding experience. I discovered dianthe's blog in my Google Alerts when she wrote about nursing her toddler daughter, Sydney and I've been hooked ever since!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – My Breastfeeding Story

The Good

I always knew I would breastfeed my kids. My mom did it and I never questioned it because I thought that was just what you did. Plus it was free and I’m lazy. Kidding. Sort of. I had never considered formula feeding but having heard about the cost from friends, it was definitely a deterrent. I like to spend my extra cash on shoes! And the idea of making and warming bottles at 3am didn’t appeal to me either.

Though my original goal was to breastfeed for 6 months, I ended up breastfeeding my daughter for 3 years and 13 days. Currently, I’m breastfeeding my 19 month old son. For those of you doing the math, I’ve been breastfeeding nonstop for 3 ½ years including a year of tandem nursing. It was a great experience and I would definitely do it again, but it has been a lot of work … and I’m not finished yet! Like Sydney, Myles is all about the boob so I have no doubt that we’ll make it well past my goal of 2 years.

For the most part, my breastfeeding experience has been positive. From the moment my children were born, I’ve had nothing but support. I was blessed with a fantastic OB who supported my breastfeeding decisions (even nursing through my pregnancy) 110%. And while my friends and family may think I’m crazy, they’re still supportive! I was fortunate to find a local Mommy Message Board with a ton of nursing mamas who became my breastfeeding mentors. Even when things are going well and you don’t necessarily need advice, it never hurts to have someone to celebrate (or commiserate) those nursing milestones with.

The best breastfeeding advice I ever got was from my doula who taught me how to nurse side-lying. Sydney refused to sleep on her back so I slept with her on my chest for the first couple of weeks. Then she got her days and nights mixed up and I was literally BEGGING her to go to sleep. Once I learned to nurse her side-lying, we were a much happier family!

Another positive breastfeeding experience was nursing in public. When I was pregnant, my mom gave me a nursing cover. I will never forget how pissed Sydney was when I tried to practice feeding her with that dark cover over her head. Ever the diva, she was all about being the center of attention. Even if it was just the two of us sitting on the floor of her nursery. She wouldn’t even tolerate a light blanket. That’s when I knew I was either going to have to suck it up or prepare for a lifetime at home. Soon after, I figured out the whole “pull up-pull down” method and we were on our way. I was still nervous the first couple of times but when I realized that no one was paying attention to me, I began to relax. Since then, I’ve nursed just about everywhere – the middle of the mall, the library, even in a sling walking through Costco. No one has ever said a negative word to me though I have gotten many smiles!

And then there was that whole tandem nursing thing … Though Sydney nursed about 6 months longer than I would have liked (I was all about the “gentle weaning” method!), she was a lifesaver those first couple of months. Myles was a great eater but even he couldn’t keep up with my oversupply. Enter his big sister who was only too happy to pick up his slack! I was glad that she would be nursing through flu season and her scrawny behind even gained a couple of pounds! I also loved the bond that tandem nursing created for them. I was afraid she might be jealous having a new baby around, but despite a few incidents where she asked my husband to “hold Baby Myles”, she didn’t mind sharing at all! Looking back, I’d pay money to snuggle and nurse both my babies again. Those memories of Myles nursing while sitting in Sydney’s lap are priceless! Though I do recall it being a tad uncomfortable for me!!

The Bad

Now don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been roses. Those first couple of days were ROUGH! Both of my children breastfed almost immediately without any problems so I assumed it would be all good. Little did I know what would happen once we got home. The nurse at the hospital told me to breastfeed Sydney every 2 1/2 -3 hours. Which would have been fine except that my daughter needed to eat every hour to hour and a half. And in my post-partum haze, I recalled reading somewhere that I shouldn’t pump in the first few weeks, though I couldn’t remember why. The combination left me with boulder filled breasts, crying in the shower and hand expressing my precious liquid gold down the drain. And don’t get me started on my crying baby! Thankfully, my doula swooped in to save the day and talked to me about nursing on demand.

Many of my friends struggled with a low supply while I dealt with an oversupply. It sounds like a great problem to have until you realize that the reason your baby has green poopy diapers is because she’s filling up on foremilk and never getting to the fatty hindmilk. I could easily pump 12+ ounces in one sitting and over half of it would be foremilk. I leaked milk everywhere I went and couldn’t take off my bra without literally spraying milk everywhere. It took a good 6-9 months for my supply to level out.

And what about work? My daughter was 10 weeks old when I went back to work. At the time, I worked for a very small company in very close quarters. There was no extra space or empty offices and the only available place to pump would have been in my car (or the bathroom – no.) And because of my schedule and job duties, it would have been difficult to get away so I had to improvise. I pumped in the morning while I did my hair and makeup and then as soon as I got off work, I would race home to either feed Sydney or pump again. There were days where I would go as long as 8-10 hours without pumping and sometimes resorted to pumping in the car as I drove home.

The Ugly

For the most part, everyone has been supportive. I’ve had a few family members jokingly tell me it’s time to wean but they know me well enough not to push the issue. I’ll wean my kids when it’s time and not a minute before. And then there was that crazy phlebotomist …

I had to take Myles to the lab to have some blood drawn for some tests a couple of months ago. Of course as soon as they were done, Myles started screaming and I immediately tried to nurse him to calm him down. As I was trying to get him latched on, I heard the phlebotomist say, “Mommy, I’m too old for that." I was so caught off guard that I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. But then she said it again. And of course by the time it registered, she was gone. Normally I would have gone off on her but I was so shocked that I couldn’t even put a sentence together. Fortunately I pulled it together when I got home and immediately reported her. Not even an hour later I got a follow-up phone call from her supervisor letting me know that she was out of line, her behavior was unacceptable and that they had already taken care of the matter. Breastfeeding – 1, Ignorance – 0!!

Breastfeeding has been an awesome experience for me, although there have been a few rough spots. I think if I’d taken a breastfeeding class, it would have been a little easier. I knew nothing about feeding on demand or engorgement issues and a heads up would have been nice! If you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, I would absolutely recommend it. I think the key is to do what you can, don’t stress yourself out and ask for help if you need it. Even if you only breastfeed for a little while or part time, something is better than nothing. Everyone has different circumstances and comparing your situation to someone else’s is detrimental to all of us. You can only do what’s best for you and your baby! Just like being a mom, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard!

dianthe hall (with a lowercase d) is Wifey to Kelley and Mommy to Sydney Jane (3 ½) and Myles Emanuel (19 months).  In her professional life she plans weddings, blogs for a syndicated morning radio show and masquerades as a wanna-be-writer at  In her spare time (ha!) she wastes time on Facebook and Twitter, watches reality tv and eats a LOT of Blue Bell ice cream.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nursing in Public BINGO

Every day when I check my Google alerts, I find a story about a mom who has been harassed for nursing in public. Moms are being kicked off buses, asked to leave women's only gyms, Whole Foods, public pools and parks, all because they are simply trying to feed their babies. Rule No. 1 of checking out an article about breastfeeding online is "Never read the comments." But as I am a glutton for punishment, I typically do. So this BINGO card is made up of actual comments I've read over the last few days on various stories about breastfeeding in public.

(click to enlarge)

So did I miss anything? What other ridiculous comments have you heard about breastfeeding in public? Anything you'd add to my free space?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Relief Bottle

When my son was born, I was lucky that my husband was able to take a few weeks off to be with us. Because he is also a teacher, after his leave was up it was winter break, so he was home for an additional two weeks. In that time, my son and I were working out our breastfeeding difficulties and finally settling into some semblance of a routine. I was getting used to my new reality, which of course involved getting up several times a night to breastfeed. My son slept in his bassinet at first, so it was only a matter of reaching over and picking him up but he would scream bloody murder when I went to change his diaper and I'd have to nurse him back down to sleep again. Shortly after he made his way into our bed and at that point I barely had to do anything but unhook my bra. He seemed to seek out and find my nipple on his own and I eventually was able to sleep through most of his feedings.

But after the new year when my husband was back at work, I did start to feel resentful at times that as I sat up breastfeeding or carried the baby to his room for a diaper change, my husband was snoring away, totally oblivious. I just wanted a stretch of uninterrupted sleep and it seemed really unfair that I had to take 100% responsibility for all of the feedings. I had read about moms pumping a bottle so that their partners could share in the feeding duties and it seemed like a great idea. I had a pump, I'd just put a 4 oz bottle of breastmilk on ice in our bedroom and when the baby woke up, I'd happily hand him off to Daddy and roll over and go back to sleep for another three hours. Score!

Except....not so much. I had to practically kick my husband awake and I couldn't fall back to sleep so I was up for the entire feeding anyway. Then it took quite a bit of jiggling/walking to get Miles back to sleep after, and I was awake through all of that too. In the morning I was engorged. After a couple more nights of this, I had a plugged milk duct and I was through. The relief bottle was more of a hindrance than a help.

I'm always surprised when moms say this arrangement worked for them. Obviously if it works for you, then yay and keep at it. But this idea that pumping a bottle so dad can take over a nightfeed never seems to come with the caveat that it can lead to other problems. And the advice to pump a bottle so dad can share in the feedings never seems to come with any advice on how to do this while still managing your milk supply.

So what say you? Yay or nay on the relief bottle?
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Quote of the Day: Tia Mowry on breastfeeding

I shared this on my Facebook page, but I know not everyone checks in there and I thought it was worth a posting of its own.

Tia Mowry on breastfeeding new baby, Cree.

"I love it. It is the one time we can connect and just spend some quiet time together. I just fall more and more in love with him when I do so. Rubbing his hair and seeing him smile just melts my heart. He also seems most content when nursing. Maybe because he is so close to my heart."

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The Home Stretch

So we are now doing the final countdown to when our baby girl will arrive (Squee! Yay! Woot! etc). The time seems to have flown in some ways, although these last few weeks have been brutal. I've had a lot of difficulty sleeping and have felt so run down. I don't remember feeling this way at all while pregnant with Miles. It was pretty much smooth sailing except for super swollen feet for the last week weeks that puffed up so big I thought they were going to explode at times. This pregnancy has, in the grand scheme of things, been very easy too, with some notable differences. I was much more nauseous during the first trimester, but still never puked. I also just realized last night that I have a linea negra this time around, as well as some slight "pregnancy mask" darkening on my cheeks. It's amazing to me that it took me 36 weeks to notice, but when you have a job and another kid to worry about, it's funny how little time you have to pay attention to your pregnancy.

Anyway, I signed up for one of those weekly emails from BabyCenter and this week's assured me that since I've gotten the nursery ready and all of the clothes are washed and put away, I can just relax and wait for the baby to arrive. Errrmm, no. I haven't washed a damn thing and the nursery is a jumbled mess. My husband installed the fan and put together the crib and I have bought lots of cute stuff on Etsy to decorate it with, but everything is still in boxes. My diapers need to be pre-treated, we need curtains to cover the closet doors and some decorative pictures would be nice too.

With everything going on, I also forgot to really buy any clothes for the baby. Some generous friends gave me lots of their hand-me-downs which are in great condition and super cute, but I was feeling guilty that already this baby was getting the short end of the stick. Thankfully I was recently invited to do some shopping at The Children's Place to preview their Fall collection. I instinctively headed over to the boys' section before reminding myself that this trip was all about baby girl.

The amount of cute in the baby girl section was mind-blowing and I probably went a little bit nuts. Twee hot pink booties? Sure! Knit floral dress with MATCHING BLOOMERS? Yes, please!

I used to laugh inside when friends would show up to a playdate at the park and their daughters were wearing tutus with matching glittery ballerina slippers.....but then I totally picked up these:

I also completely fell in love with their fall Woodland Creatures collection. These pieces match the cute Happi Tree line I bought for the nursery. I guess this owl motif is very popular now!

I was also happy to see lots of purple in the line (it's my favorite color) so I also grabbed up this hoodie and some purple Tees with matching leggings.

I'm excited about the new stuff and can't wait to put it on the baby! Now, if you see me plastering a giant flower on my baby's hairless head, please tap me on the shoulder and suggest I seek help.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week 2011: What did you do?

This was quite the eventful World Breastfeeding Week! We got the CDC's 2011 breastfeeding report card, along with a scathing indictment of hospital practices that undermine breastfeeding in Vital Signs magazine. We learned that the Affordable Care Act would include coverage for IBCLCs and breast pump purchases. A study in Pediatrics confirmed what lactation consultants already knew: that clipping a tongue tie greatly improved both mothers' comfort while nursing and breastfeeding duration.

I was lucky enough to attend an event at a local hospital on Sunday that included speakers, giveaways, a fashion show and a yummy catered lunch. The invitees were mostly moms who had given birth at that hospital recently or were planning to give birth there soon. I got to meet some local IBCLCs and doulas and see lots and lots of adorable babies. I was pleased to see that nearly every mom there was wearing her baby (and not in no Baby Bjorn nonsense, I'm talking Mobys and Mayas and Ergos everywhere!) and I saw lots and lots of breastfeeding, some of it without a cover. Whoo hoo! (It's the small things that make a lactivist really happy, no?)

But I'd like to hear what you all did to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. Did you attend a Big Latch On event? Did your local breastfeeding coalition or La Leche League group put something together? Let me know how you marked this historic week in the comments.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CDC releases 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card

The CDC recently released its fifth annual Breastfeeding Report Card. Click over to see how well (or poorly) your state is doing in terms of breastfeeding initation rates, breastfeeding at 6 months and 12 months, and exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months and 6 months.

As always, I take some of these numbers with a grain of salt. Almost no one is using the term "exclusive breastfeeding" in the same way. Some moms will say they are "exclusive breastfeeding" their 9 month old, meaning he is not getting any formula, though he is getting solid food. Many moms don't count any supplementary bottles that were given to their babies either in the hospital or at home before breastfeeding was established. I think we also know that some women initiate breastfeeding in the hospital with little to no intention to continuing once they get home.

Not surprisingly, not much has changed with these numbers. The Southern states have the lowest rates across the board, with the Pacific Northwest and West coast having some of the best. Although there was an increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates at 3 and 6 months since the initial report card in 2007, we still have a long way to go.

The CDC acknowledges that child care providers play an important role in whether or not employed women are successful at continuing to breastfeed. While the Healthy People 2020 goals include increasing the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation programs, and the government requiring businesses to provide time and space for working moms to pump, I still don't see anyone fighting for paid parental leave, which would have a much bigger impact on breastfeeding rates, in my opinion. I'd also like to see more women allowed to bring their babies to work.

So how are things looking in your state? Are you noticing any improvement? Will this country ever get an A on this report card?

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