Friday, December 21, 2012

That'll be $120. Merry Christmas!

Remember last year when I told you we had a minor health scare with Aminah? It basically amounted to a visit to a pediatric nephrologist and two ultrasounds to make sure her kidneys were functioning properly. She was born with a small skin tag on her ear, and since ears and kidneys develop at the same time in utero, her pediatrician suggested we get her kidneys checked out just to make sure everything was working as it should be.

Our pediatrician referred us to a pediatric nephrologist who is one of the best in the business. We are lucky to live near an amazing pediatric hospital that is world renowned and this guy is not only the medical director of the pediatric nephrology program, he also teaches at a top tier university medical school.

Of course after the ultrasounds bills starting trickling in. We quickly met our deductible for the year, even though Aminah was born in October. I never did receive a bill from the nephrologist and at some point I forgot all about it. Until today when the statement showed up.

My portion of the bill for one office visit with this guy? $120. His original bill to my insurance for a new patient visit? $750.

Now, I know I am lucky to have decent insurance and the means to pay this bill. I am not in love with the timing (a full YEAR after the fact), especially because we just splurged on a trip to Disney for Miles' 5th birthday. But you know, I'll figure it out. It will get paid. At the end of the day it is a small price to pay for the reassurance that my baby is perfectly healthy. We are lucky that she didn't need follow-up care. And I know it.

I just still can't believe the healthcare system we have in this country and that we all put up with it. The day I took Aminah for this visit, the office was crawling with kids, from newborns like my daughter, to tweens. Some of them had obviously been coming there for a long time and knew the office staff well. That was so heartbreaking. What kind of bills do those parents get in the mail every month? Can they pay them? What other bills do they put to the side in order to pay the doctors who are keeping their kids alive?

I'm sure you all have your own health insurance woes and horror stories, which you can feel free to spill in the comments section. I hope that none of you are surprised with any huge healthcare bills any time soon. Happy holidays!

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Christmas Stock Up!

This post is sponsored by The Children's Place.

Every year before the holidays I head to The Children's Place to stock up. I get a cute Christmas outfit for the kids to wear to church and scoop up all of the discounted tees, pajamas and shorts that I can. This year TCP had the most gorgeous blues and teals and so I decided to get some matching outfits for the kids. For Miles, a blue V-neck sweater, a woven plaid long-sleeved shirt and a new pair of jeans. He got to pick one licensed Tee and chose Sonic.

For Aminah, I went with a cute tiered dress, leggings and some sparkly flats. The leggings were a steal and I stocked up here, getting different colors and styles.

I found this adorable faux fur shrug on deep discount for $3.99! There were only two left so I was thrilled to find it in her size.

I also loaded up on tunic dresses which were marked down to $7.99 each. These are perfect for daycare paired with ruched leggings. Thankfully it's not too cold here in the winter, but I did pick out fleece jackets for each kiddo, plus an adorable knit hat for the baby. $4.99 for this fantastic cat hat (and there are tons online! Get some now!)

If you still need to pick up some winter clothes, you can shop online and save an additional 30% with coupon code E4K3012 until December 24! Happy shopping!

Friday, December 14, 2012

What I'm Reading This Week

Here's some of the blog posts and news articles I've been reading and thinking about this week. Feel free to link me to anything you've loved as well!

Why do black moms die more often in childbirth? From Women's eNews:
(WOMENSENEWS)--It's been called a conundrum. A mystery. A disgrace. A national crisis. But when you ask why black women in the United States die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth at three to four times the rate of other ethnic/racial groups, the answer is usually the same: "We simply don't know."

How much milk should you expect to pump? From Nancy Morhbacher at Breastfeeding Reporter:
Do you ever second-guess your milk production after pumping? Do you compare it with the volume of milk your friend or neighbor pumps? Do you compare it with the milk you pumped for a previous baby? Before you start to worry, you first need to know how much pumped milk is average. Many mothers discover—to their surprise—that when they compare their own pumping experience with the norm, they’re doing just fine. Take a deep breath and read on.

36 Black-Owned Etsy Stores from Huffington Post:
OK so Black Friday is way past over, but you may still need to do some holiday shopping for your loved ones. Here's a great list of black-owned Etsy shops you can support. Most are women, many are moms. I love the cute stuff in IkdKids' shop, including a sling for your little girl to wear her dolls in. Lots more links in the comments, as well as on this post, 800+ Creative Black Women You Can Support.

Going for a Non-Stress Test/Biophysical Profile from Navelgazing Midwife:
This is a fantastic post on how to level the playing field if your pregnancy is going past dates or if there are any concerns about the baby and your OB or midwife requires you to get an NST and biophysical profile ultrasound. As Barbara states, "When going for an NST/BPP, a little preparation can help you make sure you are hydrated and the baby will be as active as possible before being hooked up to the monitors. This is not to fool the doctor, but to set yourself up for success. If, after following this regimen, the baby or amniotic fluid still shows there is something amiss, you will know you did your part to make sure both were as normal as possible. "

Rethinking Pelvic Typologies and the Human Birth Mechanism from Current Anthropology (2003):
A conversation popped up in my Twitter timeline on whether or not freebirthing (or unassisted childbirth or UC) was smart or asinine. I'll admit I am pretty much against UC, but I understand why some women do it. For many, there really is no "choice" involved. If you've had a C-section and live in a state that outlaws midwives from caring for you and prevents you from using a birth center, you are typically forced to have another C-section because the number of OBs who will consider VBAC is so low. From what I am hearing and reading this is changing slowly, but many mothers live in places where they have few options. I remembered that I had read an article that explained why humans need help during birth and why, unlike our mammalian cousins, we don't birth solo. Fascinating read if you've got the time and are interested (hat tip to Sol for finding the link!)

What have you been reading this week?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What happened to the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition Photos?

On an almost daily basis, I get an email from someone looking for photographs of black women breastfeeding for their flyer, promotional campaign or event. Before a few months ago, I had the perfect solution to their query at the tip of my fingertips. I simply shared with them the collection of photos created by the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition, titled The Naomi & Ruth Project. These were the photos created by the USBC/CDC grant for "The Landscape of Breastfeeding Support." I had access to over 200 photos via my Kodak Share gallery and sending them out to folks was as easy as sending an email.

Unfortunately Kodak closed its doors after being acquired by Shutterfly and there went that option. They gave me the opportunity to move my photos, but you had to move them over one at a time by downloading them into your new account. 200 photos? Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. I figured IBBC would come up with their own solution to this problem and I'd wait for them to do so, then update you all here.

Their solution is less than perfect, but since they easily have the best collection of photos of black women breastfeeding going, you'll have to make do. In order to access the photos, you'll need to visit the photographer's website here. Click on "clients" and then enter the password "ibbc" for access to the photos. You can then email the photographer, Anne Schollenberger, and she will send you a link to download the photos you want.

In addition, I had a conversation with the person who does social media for USBC on Twitter the other day. I was told that all of the photographs that were created by the grant are available to breastfeeding coalitions across the country. So if you are a member of a breastfeeding coaltion and want access to these photos, or any other photos created by the grant, you should try contacting USBC. I had hoped all of these photos would have been made available to the general public because many of us who support breastfeeding are not a part of our state's coalition. I'd say that a lot of us agitating online by blogging, tweeting, and  being active on facebook, are also a big part of promoting breastfeeding. Why can't we also have access to the photos too?

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Friday, October 5, 2012


Day One


And here's our birth story.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to School!

Here in Florida, we are in the middle of our third week back to school. I'd be lying if I said that we are fully back in the swing of things. Now that we have two kids to drop off, our mornings are more hectic and we collapse in an exhausted heap after putting the babies to bed and fixing everyone's lunch for the next day. I told my husband that I fully expect our lives to be a complete and total blur for the next few years until the kids can do more things for themselves and everyone is consistently sleeping in his or her own bed, and preferably all night. We've got a few years.

But of course I was excited for back to school time because it meant I got to shop for a new little girl's wardrobe for the first time ever! And even though Aminah is only in size 18 months, the options for girls are just so adorable I found myself pulling out my wallet so frequently this summer, that by the time August arrived she was really all set. So when The Children's Place invited me to their annual Back-to-School media shopping event, I decided to use my gift card to shop for Miles.

 I brought him along with me to the store because, all of a sudden he has OPINIONS about his clothing. Like, who knew that a 4-year-old boy could (and would) care so much? He enjoys putting his own outfits together lately. They  never match and make me look like a terrible mother, but he's so proud of himself that I just can't get mad. He has a definite aesthetic already that I think is heavily influenced by my husband's style. At the store he picked out several polos, mesh track pants, some wind pants and a cute pair of rock n' roll pajamas. We splurged on a Sonic shirt, too.

And of course I sneaked over to the girls' side and grabbed a few things for Aminah as well. I couldn't resist this swing dot top in purple, the ditsy chacha top, a tiered cream blouse and a few Hello Kitty graphic tees.

We may be bleary-eyed and exhausted on a daily, but we look damn good. That's all that matters, right?

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Essence Magazine: Where Nursing Is Normal

I don't have a subscription to Essence magazine, but when the August issue came out with the lovely Nia Long on the cover, my email box blew up from moms who were excited about the article.

If you didn't know, Long gave birth to a son, Kez Sunday Udoka, in November 2011. Shortly thereafter she sat down at a local LA eatery with writer dream hampton for the cover story. Within the first few paragraphs, hampton  writes,

The restaurant is down the hill from her home in the Hollywood Hills, and halfway through the meal she orders her dish again, this time for her 12-year-old son, Massai, who so enjoys his mom's quinoa leftovers that he's asked her to bring him his own plate. As she's placing his order, a tiny wet spot on her cotton tee begins to grow. She jumps up and says with a laugh, 'I'm leaking!' She grabs her huge designer bag in which a breastpump is buried and runs to the restroom to create a carryout for her other son, her newborn, Kez.
Nia discusses everything from her time in Hollywood, to her work with a home for homeless pregnant teens in Barbados to what it's like combining motherhood and being an actress. Towards the end of the piece, breastfeeding is mentioned again in a very matter-of-fact manner when Nia breastfeeds her baby on the couch during the interview.

Like my readers I was so thrilled to see that the breastfeeding and pumping wasn't mentioned because it was unusual, or the write found her strange for doing it in front of her. It didn't even warrant any comment, either positive or negative.  It was just mentioned as a normal part of the life of a new mom, who like most of us is working while raising and caring for her kids.

I had a couple of conversations about breastfeeding with dream on Twitter around the time that she would have been writing this article. Should I take this as a personal shout out?
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Friday, August 3, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Whenever, Wherever

Kudos to the state of Maine for creating a new kind of breastfeeding campaign. One of the things we always talk about in the lactation community is how breastfeeding needs to be supported, promoted and protected. We do a great job of promoting breastfeeding in our culture and are truly terrible at both supporting and protecting moms who breastfeed. The Whenever, Wherever campaign aims to help with the protection piece, by informing and encouraging local businesses on how to welcome nursing mothers.

Businesses who join the campaign become role models in the community. Becoming a member is as simple as displaying a decal in the window of your business that says "We welcome nursing moms, whenever wherever"; training employees that mothers are welcome to breastfeed and hanging an educational poster in a staff space like a break room; and welcoming nursing moms, and not tolerating any harassment of them while on the premises.

This reminds me of the awesome flyer that is prominently displayed in the Chicago Children's Museum, stating explicitly that nursing (and pumping!) moms are welcome and free to do what they need to do anywhere in the museum.

Look, this isn't rocket science. In December of 2009 I wrote a post where I laid out exactly how we could avoid women being harassed while nursing in public. It included the simple steps of a window cling, staff training and for places with the budget, a nursing room for moms who choose to use it.

I'm so thrilled to see that Maine is encouraging businesses to be proactive. How do we get this going in every state? Are any state breastfeeding coalitions working on anything similar?

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week 2012: CDC Breastfeeding Report Card

The 2012 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card is out! This year the CDC has some good news to report. Breastfeeding rates are up, with increases in the initiation rate and any breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months. The overall breastfeeding initiation rate in the US is 76.9%.

The Report Card also provides a snapshot of what breastfeeding is like in each state. Here in Florida the initiation rate is on par with the country as a whole, with 77% of women ever breastfeeding. I was surprised to see that 30% of women are still breastfeeding here at a year of age. I almost never see anyone ever breastfeeding in public (I can count on both hands how often I've seen it in about 5 years), but it's good to know things in this area are actually better than they seem.

Some other things from the report that I found interesting were that New Jersey had the highest rate of supplementation in the hospital, with 35% of breastfed babies receiving formula before day 2. I really assumed it would be one of the southern states that would win that dubious distinction, since our rates down here are so poor (Mississippi can still wave the "lowest initiation rate in the country" flag, with a paltry 47% of babies there ever getting any breastmilk). I was also shocked that Vermont had far and away more IBCLCs per live birth than any other state (seriously, they had nearly 14, while everyone else had about 3).

Overall I'm happy to see an increase in rates, even it's tiny (about 2%). I'm really looking forward to the updated Racial and Ethnic Differences in Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration information that comes out as a part of the National Immunization Survey. This should be available in January 2013 and will give us a better picture of what the breastfeeding landscape looks like for black women.

© Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition

Did you check out the Report Card? How are things in your neck of the woods?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It Was Fun While It Lasted

I got my period back this week (grumble, grumble, expletive). Aminah is 9 months old, so we had a good run. I was period-free for about 9 months with Miles as well. Combine my lack of pumping skills and dwindling supply with a baby who decides that, yes, sleeping through the night actually does sound like a good idea, and it was clear that my luck was going to run out shortly.

Like last time, my first postpartum period has been a horrible mess (add this to the "Things They Don't Tell You About Pregnancy" list). It's been super heavy, I'm crampy, miserable and since I haven't done this in so long, I feel like I am 12 again, forgetting to change my pad in time and suffering the consequences.

Except since I am 34 and a woman who has given birth twice, I don't do pads, except as back-up. Like most of you I used tampons throughout my pre-baby 20s, but they simply don't work anymore. They have a tendency now to um, migrate and they hurt. And just thinking about all of the chemicals in those things, that live inside your body for 5 days a month, was making me nuts (remember learning about Toxic Shock Syndrome in 5th grade health class? No bueno).

So about three years ago I made the switch to the Diva Cup, a silicone menstrual cup that you wash and reuse every month. The main reason I made the change is because I was having trouble with tampons and a friend suggested the Diva Cup to me as an alternative. I had already used those Instead cups for period sex (this is swiftly turning into a TMI post, isn't it?) so the concept wasn't completely foreign. And then one night I stumbled into a giveaway for the Diva Cup on Twitter and won. I've never looked back.

I really love my Diva. It's reusable, so it has pretty much eliminated the cost associated with having a period (I splurge on the Diva Wash, but meh, you don't have to. Any gentle soap works fine). It's safe, non-toxic and comfortable (it specifically comes in two sizes, for women who have and have not given birth). It has also mysteriously made my periods generally shorter and my cramps more manageable. I don't know how or why, but I'm not complaining. I don't imagine I'll ever go back to any other type of period protection.

I know you are wondering about the "ick" factor of the whole thing and for me, it's pretty much a non-issue. Periods in general are kinda icky and I don't think think they are any worse with a Diva. I don't have a problem inserting the cup into my vagina or sticking my fingers in there to pull it out. Your mileage may vary, but I still think the benefits of the cup outweigh any of these minor cons. You wash your hands well afterwards. Big whoop.

The one thing I will say is that there is no way in hell this thing provides a full 12 hours of protection as they claim on the website. Maybe on my third day I can get away with that, but on days 1 and 2 I am changing it every 3-4 hours, which means yes, I have to change it in a public bathroom at work. I use the handicapped stall with a sink inside it and it's not that much different from being at home.

If you are thinking about the Diva Cup or other menstrual cup, there are lots of reviews online to guide you. There are even a ton of YouTube videos with tips and tricks for inserting the Diva easily. There is a learning curve to it, but it's small. Even after not using it for a few years, insertion was a breeze.

So I just realized that because we are done having kids I'll never get an 18 month break from my period again. We shall continue to meet every 28 days for the next TWENTY YEARS or so. Sigh.

What about you? Have you switched to a menstrual cup or cloth pads? What's your favorite?

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend WTF?: On Jessica Simpson, Breastfeeding Duration & Weight los

According to a small blurb in this week's US Weekly magazine, Jessica Simpson is finding out that postpartum weight loss isn't quite as easy as she thought it would be. You've probably heard that Jessica signed a $4 million dollar contract with Weight Watchers to be one of their spokesmodels. But if you've seen the photos of Jessica being papped around town, she hasn't lost much of her pregnanc weight. According to the insider who talked to US, Jessica's first WW weigh-in revealed she'd gained 70 pounds. She is contractually obligated to shed at least 20-30 of those pounds by the end of August, exactly four months after giving birth. Buh bye, million dollar pay out.

There's a lot to dissect in this teeny tiny piece that never even made it to the rag's website. First, several blogs turned it into a "should you drink while breastfeeding?" story, because the source said Jess has given up her margaritas in order to facilitate this weight loss. To me, this is a non-issue. Yes, you can drink as a nursing mother. No, you shouldn't breastfeed while drunk because you know, you shouldn't be PARENTING while drunk. If you think you're too impaired to breastfeed, you should probably call a baby-sitter.

What irks me so much about this culture is the unrealistic standards that we hold new moms up to. I always remind moms that it took you a full 9 months to put this weight on, why should you feel you need to get rid of it all in 3? The things that a new mother should be focused on are bonding with her baby, breastfeeding, resting as much as possible and taking care of herself. That's your job as a new mother. Who in the hell advised Jessica that it was a good idea to agree to lose 30 pounds in 12 weeks? Where are her people? And yes, Weight Watchers is getting a giant side-eye from me for this, too.

I'm guessing Jessica bought into the lie that all she had to do was breastfeed and the weight would just FALL. OFF. Because this is the lie celebrities tell. They swear up and down that all they do is breastfeed and chase after their toddlers and poof! the weight just disappears. In a rare moment of truthiness, Jessica Alba tweeted that she had started back to a "light" exercise regimen of 45 minutes on the treadmill when her daughter was three weeks old. But most celebrities don't get caught exercising heavily so soon after giving birth, but they do it. And they go on seriously calorie restricted diets in order to lose the weight.

The truth is that the AHRQ study on breastfeeding showed that although breastfeeding may be associated with postpartum weight loss, it was "small, transient and depends on breastfeeding intensity and duration." In other words, don't beat yourself up if you are breastfeeding and aren't back to your pre-pregnancy size just yet.

In addition to the weight loss and alcohol stuff, US's source also throws in that "Jessica plans to breastfeed through July" (seriously, there was a lot of fucked up shit in this teeny tiny little blurb!) Now, again, every mom can decide how long she wants to breastfeed and three months is better than no months.....but what is really going on here? If this is about weight loss, that makes me so sad and angry. Jessica is under a tremendous amount of pressure, I know, but to quit breastfeeding in order to go on a diet is just ridiculous. Jessica Simpson has a bajillion dollars. Why she is not throwing up the deuce (and the middle finger) to Weight Watchers and chilling on the couch with her baby and her man is beyond me.

But let's dig a little deeper, too. Why is it that so many moms are setting such low breastfeeding goals for themselves? Beyonce breastfed 10 weeks; Hillary Duff said her initial goal was 4 months; and a recent study showed that most moms want to exclusively breastfeed for 3 months (and most fail to even do that). What is it about this 3 month range? Could it be that our paltry excuse for maternity leave in this country is setting up women to fail in more ways than one? Are moms deciding they will nurse for their entire guaranteed 12 weeks, but finding that they have to stop before then because they have to return to work earlier than planned? Do they decide they won't bother trying to combine work with breastfeeding and begin weaning while still on leave? Even celebrities, who have the money and power to take years off, are putting themselves on a self-imposed FMLA-esque maternity leave and abandoning breastfeeding. Tia Mowry recently revealed that she ended up only breastfeeding her son for 3 months because she was "working a lot, and working really long hours." She said she was sad at first but eventually came to terms with it, and was happy he got her milk for 3 months. I wonder if she still feels that way now that she's been fired from The Game?

Our approach to motherhood in this culture has got to change. Be a total martyr and never take any risks while pregnant or breastfeeding! No more drinks for you, you're a mother now! But why aren't you back in size 4 jeans, you had that baby like, weeks ago. You should get back to work so you can use that degree. You're going to breastfeed right? But not for too long, OK?

There is just so much that is screwed up about the way we treat moms, and it's all encapsulated right here, in two paragraphs in a gossip magazine. 

Here's the full story from the magazine:

The scale has spoken – and it doesn’t have any good news for Jessica Simpson. A source tells Hot Stuff that Jessica learned at her first Weight Watchers weigh-in – a few weeks after the May 1 birth of daughter Maxwell – she had gained 70 pounds. Luckily, Jessica has $4 million worth of motivation to shed them. Her contract requires a 20 to 30 pound loss by the end of August or no payday, says a source. But it won’t be easy.
“Jessica has always had issues with junk food,” says a Simpson pal. So Jessica has called in reinforcements: She enlisted her mom, Tina, and a few pals to do the program “to help keep herself in check,” says the insider. Simpson, who plans to breastfeed through July, also ditched her beloved high-calorie margaritas, adds the source. “She had a few drinks postpregnancy, but then stopped.” 

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nine Months!

Aminah is officially 9 months old today! She's been outside almost as long as she was in inside (what can I say, my babies like to cook for a full 42 weeks).

Aminah is 19 pounds of delicious. She started sitting up unsupported just before her 1/2 birthday and began crawling soon after. She is a funny little crawler, moving around with one leg up, but she's very quick. She has been reaching for food off of our plates since she was 3 months old and we finally started her having little bites at around 5 months. Now she eats anything and everything. Some of her favorites are lentils in tomato sauce, raspberries, scrambled egg yolks with cheese, spinach salad, miso soup, spaghetti, couscous, rice and beans, avocados and mangoes.

She is also sleeping through the night and sometimes we can even get her to spend a few hours in her crib. She is standing up, cruising and taking tentative steps. I think, like Miles, she'll be an early walker. She babbles a lot, but definitely seems to understand that I am mama, Daddy is dada and grandma (my mom) is baba.

She went on a serious nursing strike that lasted WEEKS but she seems to be regaining interest in nursing again, at least first thing in the morning and before naps and bedtime. I don't think this is a child who will be nursing, even part-time, well into toddlerhood, but we'll see. My son was always reaching into my blouse at this age and almost always had a hand on my breast, squeezing it if he needed comforting. Aminah really could not care less. I have to offer and remind her and even then she doesn't always take me up on it.

It's funny how different our nursing journey has been this time. I thought that getting Aminah's tongue tie clipped would mean that we would breastfeed easily for a few years, but it's been difficult anyway, just in different ways. This time I had tons of milk and a baby who settled into a textbook nursing routine and wasn't attached to my breast 24/7. But she's just not that interested in nursing anymore. My pumping output still sucks so I think, like Miles, she'll basically be getting formula during the day until she turns 1. But unlike Miles I don't think she'll run into my arms when I get home from work, snuggle with me on the couch and nurse happily.

So what's worse, the baby who won't let go or the baby who is just growing up too damn fast?


These photos are from my Instagram account. If you're on Instagram, follow me for more cute photos of the kids. I'm Blacktating there, too.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Milk Samples Needed for Breast Cancer Research Study

African American moms are needed for a breastmilk study. Can you help?

As I've written before, I have the privelege of working with Professor Kathleen Arcaro at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on her groundbreaking breast cancer/breastmilk research.

Kathleen analyses breastmilk to study DNA changes in breast cells, which are naturally present in breastmilk, and their relationship to breast cancer. It's very gratifying work because a better understanding of these patterns may one day lead to new early detection, prevention and treatment strategies for breast cancer. Here's a sampling of some of the recent press coverage about this research.

Our current goal is to recruit African-American mothers to donate milk samples. Why African-American moms? Because Kathleen wants to ensure that her findings apply to all women, and to do that she needs a diverse sample of mothers participating. Having African-American moms well represented in this research is of particular interest because we have different patterns of breast cancer than women of other races. You may know that black women are more likely to get triple negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive and more likely to reocur, spread beyond the breast and result in death.
One of my main duties is helping Kathleen recruit moms to participate in her studies. The response to her work has been incredible, but we still need more black moms to donate breast milk! So, the UMass Breastmilk Lab is currently seeking:
•African American mothers who are nursing

•Living anywhere in the U.S.

•Willing to donate a *fresh* breastmilk sample (shipped via overnight mail at the lab's expense)

•Willing to fill out a consent form and questionnaire

Participants will receive $25 in thanks - and the knowledge that they are advancing our understanding of breast cancer! I hope that you can donate, or help us find moms willing to donate milk for this important research.

To participate, or for more information, you can email Beth, or call Beth or Eva at (413) 545-0813. More information is also available at the UMass Breastmilk Lab website. You can also like us on Facebook where we're keeping you updated on the latest in breastmilk research and Kathleen's work!
We need help spreading the word about this study. Contact me if you'd like me to write a guest post, and link, share on Facebook, Pin, and Tweet to your heart's content!

And if you're African-American (nursing or not), PLEASE consider signing up for the Love/Avon Army of Women, who are funding this important research. Please select "Breast milk study" when asked how you heard about the Army of Women.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monica & Brandy "Debate" Breastfeeding

I typically listen to the Rickey Smiley Morning Show on my way to work, but I missed an episode recently when R&B singers Monica and Brandy were in the studio and discussed nursing in public (shout out to my friend Kate for the heads up).

After listening to the short segment, I'm glad I didn't catch it while I was driving. The foolishness on that show can be hard to take on a good day, but two nursing moms being judgmental idiots about breastfeeding in public before my coffee fix? No, ma'am.

I'm not sure how the conversation got started, but in the clip, the first thing we hear is Brandy saying that she nursed her daughter Sy'rai until she was 13months old and "That's a little long...." She goes on to say that her friends thought she was crazy and Monica says, "Yeah, if you can walk and get your juice? You better walk and get that juice, honey!"

Sigh. Where do I even begin? Thirteen months is NOT, I repeat, NOT a long time to breastfeed. A thirteen-month-old is very much still a baby in every sense of the word. And it is worth noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse for a minimum of 12 months, and as long as mutually desired thereafter. Of course 13 months doesn't even come close to the recommended two years of breastfeeding per the World Health Organization. If Brandy breastfed for 13 months, she did so for only a few weeks longer than the bare minimum recommended amount of time. And please believe that that's not to put down any mom who doesn't make it that long for any variety of completely valid reasons. I just can't believe that we're supposed to think that just over a year of breastfeeding is "too long."

And should we break down that "walking and getting your juice" comment? Because it's tired. These arbitrary timeframes for when it's no longer appropriate to nurse a baby or toddler? I'm over it. Whether it's walking or talking or's all bullshit. Nurse your child for as long as you want to! My son walked at 8 months. Should I have told him, "No, you can't have the best source of vitamins, proteins and fat available to you when you're hungry...please go grab a glass of juice instead." He also had teeth at 10 months, so I guess since he was such a "big boy" at that age, the only logical thing to do would have give him a bottle. I mean, does this make ANY SENSE?

The rest of the audio, posted below, gets worse as they then discuss nursing in public. We're supposed to believe that they're on different sides, with Monica stating she would never nurse in a public place, while Brandy saying it's just fine as long as you use a cover. We're supposed to think Brandy is this earthy, crunchy weirdo because she put a blanket or nursing cover over her baby's head to completely cover herself while Monica is a respectable modern mom because she would leave and go hide in the car.

They're both assholes.

Hear me out. I know plenty of wonderful, breastfeeding (and formula feeding) moms who are lactivists and fully support a mom's right to nurse her baby in public, whenever, wherever, however, who personally use covers for their own comfort. I wish that we lived in a world where moms didn't need to be embarrassed to nurse in public, but I know we're not there yet. Those moms say it's not for them, but they are making decisions based on their own comfort levels, not on anyone else's, and want you to be able to do the same. Brandy and Monica are not those moms. Requiring a mom to cover up to appease your own discomfort with her breastfeeding is not support. Requiring a mom to leave a picnic in the park with her family to breastfeed her baby in the car is not support. If you say you support breastfeeding and add a disclaimer about privacy or covers or pumped milk in a bottle? You don't support breastfeeding.

I'm so tired of women holding themselves up as model breastfeeders because they do the "decent" thing and cover up or hide when they need to feed their babies. I'm so sick of celebrities, particularly black women, who could be fantastic role models for breastfeeding blowing it over and over. I'm so over folks acting like how or when a woman breastfeeds her baby is an actual question that is up for debate. It's your legal right to breastfeed your baby in public. At what other time do we slap up polls on websites and TV shows and discuss whether or not people should do something they already have the right to do?

I'm done with the nonsnse. Thankfully we won't have to hear much more debating from these two since they couldn't even get along long enough to go on their scheduled tour. I can't say I'm disappointed.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Post: Breastfeeding While Vegan

I'm so excited to bring you today's guest post by one of my favorite lactivists, Anayah. You may remember her from the hilarious "Sh*t People Say to Breastfeeding Mothers" video. Today she's discussing an important topic: how to stay healthy and provide the best nutrition for your baby while vegan.

We’re 23 months into this thing. SJ must have known how little I actually knew about breastfeeding, because he latched on perfectly within 30 minutes of being born. The midwife had included pamphlets in our home birth info pack, complete with troubleshooting tips featuring glossy, colorful close-up shots of conditions like thrush and cracked nipples. In my babymooning, I tucked them away and buried my head in the sand. I’d cross those bridges if I ever came to them. It turns out that the most difficult parts of this journey have been maintaining self-care on a plant-based diet and now, keeping my cool through weaning. There were no pamphlets for those things.
So, I’m one of those people who eat a vegan diet. This means that the foods I eat come from plants. On top of that, I’m somewhat of a health nut, so I eat lots of greens, very little processed foods, and try to make sure most of my meals are made at home. I’ve been vegan for about 20 years of my life, but breastfeeding pushed me to reconsider my diet in ways I didn’t have to before. Most people want to talk about protein when it comes to veganism, but since that’s a completely uninformed concern, I won’t deal with it here. I’m also going to take for granted that you’re just as concerned about nutrition as eating organic as much as is reasonable and fighting for clean water and air (heard about the jet fuel found in breastmilk?). Those things aside, I believe the most important concern for a vegan breastfeeding mother is FAT!

My first point of advice is to make sure you’re getting enough calories. We all know that breastfeeding can burn 200-500 calories a day. A vegan diet is naturally low-fat because we don’t consume the animal fats that omnivores do. I was dismayed at how quickly I lost my plump post-baby body; it took me a few months to realize that the demands of exclusive breastfeeding required me to be intentional about eating foods like avocados, soaked nuts, nut butters and coconut oil. Eating for two (or three or more), right?

The second thing to consider is vitamin B12. Actually, anyone struggling with energy might want to check on their vitamin B12 intake anyway. Low vitamin B12 levels can show itself as fatigue, memory loss, and/or depression. Vegans are particularly at-risk for B12 deficiency if we don’t eat foods that are fortified with it, like fortified cereals. I prefer to use nutritional yeast, which contains the B vitamins and has a nutty, yet malleable flavor. There are also claims that some coconut products, like coconut nectar, amino acids or vinegar have broad-spectrum B vitamins. I’ll wait for the studies before depending on them though.

Then, there’s vitamin D. There is lots of debate about which type of vitamin D is safe for vegans: D2 or D3. Most people get their vitamin D from the same place they get their B vitamins: fortified foods. Pretty much any milk (whether cow’s or almond) has vitamin D added to it. Since vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones, you definitely don’t want to fool around here (you do like your teeth, right?). Even before pregnancy, I knew from having my blood examined that I was severely deficient in vitamin D3. I take great pains to get lots of sun exposure and ensure adequate vitamin D intake. For the record, most vitamin D3 supplements come from animal sources, while D2 does not, though your body will still have to convert it to D3.

I’m trusting you to consult your doctor, nutritionist or whatever health professionals you trust on these things. Still, from one breastfeeding mother to another, I want to push you past nutrition talk to remind you to take care of yourself. If you’re a first-time mother like I am, please get into the habit of making sure your support circle supports your health, as well as the baby’s. Breastfeeding should not be at your expense, no matter how much of a “sacrifice” it is. In my case, taking care of myself meant constantly being vocal and clear about my needs. My husband and visitors were gently reminded to help make sure I ate enough, ate well, stayed hydrated and rested. I had to remind my husband that SJ would get everything he needed from my breastmilk, but that I needed to be conscious of what I consumed. Not getting enough calcium, your body is smart enough to take it from your bones (teeth!). So, eating well and self-care are a breastfeeding mother’s protection.

Now, when you develop the magic equation for stress-free weaning, drop me a line on twitter: @anayahrose.

Anayah is a blogging mother, wife, doula, childbirth educator and aspiring midwife. She earned a M.S.Ed. in Urban Education and is active in her community around food and reproductive health justice. She co-edited the forthcoming “Free to Breastfeed: Voice from Black Mothers” and gives talks about breastfeeding and food justice. In addition to the FtB blog, she co-founded SoulVegFolk, a social network that connects and nurtures African descended families through healthy, eco-lifestyles, and writes a personal blog.

For more information on breastfeeding while vegan or vegetarian, see Kellymom's page on Vegetarian Diets & Breastfeeding.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Alicia Keys on Breastfeeding

Well, well, well, look who has come out of the woodwork to talk about her experience with breastfeeding. It's none other than Ms. Alicia Keys! Now, back in October of 2010 when she had her son Egypt, I figured she wasn't breastfeeding. She never made mention of it in any interviews and she was seen out on the town sans baby frequently in the early weeks after his birth. I assumed she wasn't nursing and to be honest, I wasn't really checking for her anyway (yes, I'm Team Mashonda all day).

I guess Alicia couldn't stand to see Beyonce get all of the breastfeeding shine, so when she recently sat down with Lifetime for an episode of The Conversation, she had this to say:

On how her body has changed after she had her son:

I think that it’s changed in so many ways. I was thinking about this the other day; we were just saying that your body does things that it would have never done before. It’s a miracle and incredible; bones and structures of your body move to new places! It’s like how?

Then I also breastfed; I don’t know if it’s a total myth but when you breastfeed you kind of lose weight quicker.

On breastfeeding:

I loved it. Well, there were a couple of things no one told you. I took this whole class too which I thought was really good because I think a lot of people think you’re just supposed to have this natural instinct that’s suppose to happen out of thin air. There’s a technique to learn and if you don’t know it, it’s not your fault. I was glad I did that because I felt kind of prepared a little bit. The whole engorgement thing, no one mentioned that part.
I remember I was in the bed and I couldn’t move because it hurts and there is no way around it. I delivered naturally and I kept asking myself, “What is wrong with you? You spent hours and hours in labor and delivered naturally but you can’t take some [milk coming in.]" They skipped that part; they didn’t tell me about that one.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Welcome New Sponsor Evymama!

See that gorgeous ad to the left there? That is from my latest sponsor, Evymama! I'm thrilled to have them as a sponsor of Blacktating because of their commitment to breastfeeding and helping moms feel good about themselves.

Evymama is not just about feeling sexy while pregnant and breastfeeding, but that’s a big part of it. Owner Sarah LeMay-Kaplan launched the maternity and nursing apparel business with the idea that you should feel even more beautiful than usual when you’re a mom or mom-to-be.
LeMay-Kaplan found that the body image issues she struggled with pre-kids actually melted away with her first pregnancy. “I really came to appreciate how amazing and intricate my body was, and that confidence and love for myself and what I was capable of translated into an increased feeling of beauty and sexiness. What a revelation!”
Channeling the inner mother goddess begins differently for each woman. For some, overhauling the lingerie drawer with gorgeous maternity and nursing lingerie is the place to start. For others, it’s reading all the latest parenting books to gain that sexy confidence that comes with knowing what you’re doing and making informed choices.
Evymama is about honoring and respecting yourself and your metamorphosis into a beautiful mom and rejecting fear of stretch marks or labor and other made-up roadblocks to being the happy, whole, and complete mother you want to be, and doing it all with style and grace.
Find gorgeous maternity clothing and designer maternity jeans, beautiful nursing bras and nursing tops and dresses, stylish baby carriers, and pregnancy and breastfeeding-related accessories and books at online or in the company’s two Toronto boutiques. Free shipping to continental USA and Canadian addresses of orders over $300.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Quote of the Day: Beyonce on Breastfeeding

From this week's People magazine with Beyonce on the cover as the 2012 World's Most Beautiful Woman.

"I lost most of my weight from breastfeeding and I encourage women to do it; It's just so good for the baby and good for yourself."

A nod to the breastfeeding community and all of the kudos she got for nursing in public? I'd say so.

A good quote in a major magazine about breastfeeding from the world's biggest pop star. I'll take it.
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Beyonce Breastfed...... For 10 Weeks

People magazine has selected Beyonce as their Most Beautiful Woman for 2012. It's not unexpected, as Bey is gorgeous and talented and has had an awesome year. Her album 4 was lauded by critics and of course, she became a mother in January. Celebrity moms are en vogue in a way they have been before. From bumpwatch to birth and breastfeeding, motherhood has made even the most D list celebrities household names. Hell we've all seen how motherhood resurrected the careers of many of the stars of our childhood like Mayim Bialik, Alyssa Milano and Soleil Moon Frye. Celeb moms write books and blogs, get new TV shows and papped at the park. So it's no surprise People would choose to celebrate Beyonce, a huge star who's become even more famous since becoming a mom.

Of course the biggest story surrounding Beyonce in the past few months has been her nursing daughter Blue Ivy in public. We all wondered if the gossip was indeed true. Could Beyonce really be breastfeeding?

Well, the news outlets must have gotten an advanced copy of the People magazine (it hits newsstands tomorrow) because E! featured this story today.

It seems Beyonce is being uncharacteristically candid and discussing breastfeeding. So there you have it from the horse's mouth: Beyonce breastfed. For 10 weeks.

So as breastfeeding advocates and black lactivists, how do you feel about this? Is it still a coup now that we know she only breastfed for a little over two months, and it would seem primarily as a means to lose weight? Is this still a win?

In many ways I think breastfeeding advocates can let the perfect be the enemy of the good. After Beyonce breastfed Blue, it was covered in all of the major outlets and EVERYONE on planet Earth was discussing breastfeeding for weeks. That's a score, in my opinion. But in many ways, this stings. We've held her up as a breastfeeding role model and now it feels like she never really was. She wanted to lose the 50 pounds she gained during her pregnancy as quickly as possible and she happily switched to formula at 10 weeks. It's not really the vision we had of her, right? I know many of us were hoping to see Beyonce breastfeed for at least 6 months exclusively. And how cool would it have been to have a toddler nursing Blue?

Of course it's none of our business how long Beyonce breastfed or why, but it is interesting that she didn't even make it to 12 weeks, just like the average mom in the US. Around the time that women return to paid work, breastfeeding dries up because even with workplace pumping accommodations, it's still hard to make breastfeeding and work WORK. So many of us, myself included, enjoy our work but still cried into our pillows when we had to pack our babies up and send them to daycare when our leave was over. Maybe we didn't want to stay home permanently, but we did want more time. At least 6 months or a year to be with our babies and nurse them and not have to struggle with pumping. And here's Beyonce, a woman like us who loves both her baby and her job, who could make the choices we can't.....yet didn't. She could take Blue everywhere and if a photoshoot ran long so she could breastfeed, who would complain? Most of us can't take our babies to work and if we are late because the baby needed to eat we could end up out on our asses.

It's kind of baffling to me that I live in a world where Mariah Carey breastfed twins longer than Bey breastfed, but I've had to repeat my new mantra over and over again since I heard the news: Not my body and not my baby. But if I'm being honest, I'm still a little annoyed.

So how are you feeling about Beyonce breastfeeding for 10 weeks?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Black moms needed to sign up for the Army of Women

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you may have heard that I am working with Dr. Kathleen Arcaro of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst on her groundbreaking breastmilk and breast cancer study. Along with Tanya Lierberman, IBCLC of the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog and Kathi Barber, CLC and author of The Black Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding. We are specifically recruiting black moms to give a breastmilk sample to be analyzed in Dr. Arcaro's lab. The response from you all has been amazing and the milk samples are um, pouring in. Because of you, we are on our way to ensuring that this important breast cancer research represents ALL women. We will eventually need more of you to send in milk samples, but today I am asking you for a different, but just as important, favor.

I want all of my African American women readers, whether you're breastfeeding or not, to sign up for the Love/Avon Army of Women.
What's the Army of Women? It's an effort backed by Dr. Suan Love and the Avon Foundation to focus on breast cancer prevention. Great strides have been made in the treatment of breast cancer, but little progress has been made in preventing women from developing breast cancer in the first place. The Army of Women connects women with researchers so that they can participate in research (if they choose) to help us understand how to prevent breast cancer.

How does it work? You register and provide very basic information such as your name, email, age, city, and state of residence. You will then receive email updates from us announcing new research studies looking for volunteers with or without breast cancer, just like you. If you fit the criteria and you’d like to participate, all you need to do is “RSVP.” You will be asked to go through an online screening process to confirm you fit the criteria for the study. Throughout the process, you remain in complete control and you self select what you want to do! You will never be pressured to take part in any study. The decision to take part is yours—and yours alone.
The most important part is that when you fill out the registration form you check "breast milk study" when asked how you learned about the Army of Women.

Why are we looking for African American women? Researchers want to ensure that their findings apply to all women, and to do that they need a diverse pool of particpants for their studies. A good example is the current call for African American moms to participate in the Jewels in our Genes study, which is recruiting African American breast cancer survivors now.

What can you do? Please go to the Army of Women registration page and please select "breast milk study" when asked how you learned about the Army of Women. We thank you!

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Baby D Drops Review/Giveaway

If you had a baby sometime since November of 2008, your pediatrician has probably recommended that you supplement your baby with 400 international units (IU) of Vitamin D per day. This new recommendation was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics after there were published reports of breastfed babies with Vitamin D deficiency rickets in the US. Yikes!

I knew very little about the importance of Vitamin D until I went for my yearly well woman exam in 2006 and my OB suggested I get my levels checked. He had begun doing his own research on the importance of Vitamin D and told me that every woman he'd checked so far had been pretty low, but that the black women's D levels had been abysmal. Black folks have more melanin so in the simplest terms it's harder for us to make Vitamin D from the sun because melanin is extra protection from those UV rays.

We talked about all of the ways that your health can suffer if you are deficient in Vitamin D and he told me his belief that Vitamin D deficiency was connected to everything from autism to preeclampsia and several types of cancer. He insisted I go down the hall immediately to Quest Labs and have my blood drawn for a check.

You can imagine I wasn't really expecting to be led into his office after my paper smear to discuss this, right? I left in a daze with the prescription for the blood work in my hand and went down the hall for my test. My results came in a little bit later. My Vitamin D level? 15. At that time, my doctor said he considered 32  "normal", although his personal belief was that it should be more like 50. So pretty bad any way you slice it (and remember I live in South Florida!!!). I began supplements that day and have continued over the years. As the years have gone by and I've done my own research, I increased my intake to about 5000 IU of Vitamin D a day.

For a really fantastic overview of  Vitamin D and how it's made in the body and why it's particularly important for breastfeeding moms and babies, please read Diana Cassar-Uhl's My Thoughts on the Vitamin D Controversy. She wrote La Leche League's tear sheet on the topic and it breaks it down in a way that is easy to read and understand. You can also check out Dr. Carol Wagner's research on the topic.

I know some moms have bristled at the idea that their babies need a Vitamin D supplement, believing that as long as their levels were OK, their babies would be getting what they need through their breastmilk. I really do believe that breastmilk is the perfect food for babies, but after reading up on the topic I think, particularly for women of color, that a supplement is necessary. I really urge you to do your own research on the topic if you haven't already.

My pediatrician recommended supplementing my kids with the multivitamins you can buy at the grocery store that are made by the formula companies. No thanks. I knew that I wanted to give my babies a supplement that was Vitamin D and ONLY Vitamin D, and preferably not made by you-know-who.
One of my super smart Twitter friends recommended I check out a company called Ddrops out of Canada that made just such drops. She raved about them being easy to use as you only needed one drop for 400 IU. I decided to order them on Amazon. For some reason I placed my order I ended up with another brand of drops that were also only Vitamin D. This brand was a thick, oily liquid that came in a tiny vial with a dropper. The dropper had two markings, one that said 200 and one that said, 400 and instructions to use a "dropperful" with no information on what that dose was on the dropper or what it meant in terms of IU.

Needless to say, I was annoyed. I complained on Twitter about not being able to figure out the dose. The drops were expensive and when I finally asked my mom to bring me home a 1cc syringe from her job and saw how much I had to use for one dose, they became even less economical. Fail.

But being awesome, the Ddrops company contacted me on Twitter and asked if I would like to try their drops. Of course I said yes. They not only sent me the Baby DDrops for Aminah (400 IU per drop) but also the regular Ddrops 1000 IU for me.

This product could not be more fantastic. Before nursing, you turn the bottle over and put one drop on your nipple. Then you latch the baby on and voila! Baby gets her Vitamin D for the day. For my drops, I put 5 drops on top of my lunch to get my 5000 IU for the day. These drops are completely odorless and tasteless. No preservatives, no artificial coloring and gluten, soy, wheat, corn and dairy-free, for those of you whose babies have allergies. The dose drops out slowly so you really cannot overdo it. And if you're not breastfeeding, you can simply put the drop on your baby's pacifier (just be sure it's at a time, like naptime, when you can be fairly sure she'll suck for at least 30 seconds.) That's it. Could not be easier. I leave the bottle on my nightstand so I can give it to Aminah as I nurse her to sleep.

The DDrops company has offered to give THREE Blacktating readers their own bottle of Baby Ddrops so you can see how fantastic this product is for yourself.

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only. Good luck!

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leading Lady Nursing Bra Review

If you had asked me for a recommendation for a nursing bra a few years ago, I would have told you to get a Bravado. They were my favorite bras and I lived in them throughout the three years I nursed Miles. After the company was bought out by Medela, I didn't feel as good recommending them. Medela is presently not meeting its obligations under the WHO Code and it's not looking like that will change anytime soon. I've been searching since for a fantastic nursing bra and I have found one that I really like.

I was surprised when I received an email from Leading Lady about reviewing their nursing bra because I'd never heard of the company. I thought I knew about all of the nursing bra brands, but apparently not! Leading Lady makes both nursing bras and regular bras for full figured women. As a breastfeeding mom who is not-quite-plus-sized, I know how hard it is to find bras that fit, are comfortable and easy to nurse in. Leading Lady's nursing bras come in sizes 34B to 48F,

Leading Lady sent me two bras to review: the Nursing Bralette sports bra and the Molded Seamless wirefree bra in black.

Now, y'all know I am not sporty and I don't know when the last time I exercised was, but I loved the sports bra. I mostly wear it to sleep or when lounging around the house. It's extremely comfortable and supportive and has cute lace detailing across the top and bottom. For those of you who exercise regularly, this would be a great bra to add to your collection. The nursing clasp is super easy to open, and unlike some other nursing bras, there is no additional "flap" on these bras. Once you open  the clasp you are exposing your entire breast. This was true of both bras I tried. I prefer this version of the nursing bra because I find it easier to latch the baby on and much more convenient for pumping  at work.

The Molded Seamless is what I wear to work. When it arrived I was taken aback and how gorgeous it is. It is silky and smooth and perfect for wearing under your professional attire. Molded bras tend to not be the most comfortable, but this one is great. It lifted the girls and made them look fantastic. This is not an easy task, as anyone who has birthed and breastfed two or more kids can tell you. It even gave me great cleavage. A+!

Besides great comfort and fit, another huge bonus for these bras is that they are very affordable and you can feel good supporting Leading Lady, a family-owned business for over 70 years.

My only complaint about the Leading Lady bras is one that is an issue with most of the major bra manufacturers:  the lack of a flesh tone option for women of color. "Nude" bras are only nude for white women. I still have not found a great nursing bra in a color that could even marginally pass for "nude" for me so the search continues!

In the meantime I'll enjoy the new Spring 2012 collection, which will feature various bras in spring colors, including periwinkle, peacock and white leopard.

Leading Lady Nursing Bralette price for you: $24
Price for me: Free

Leading Lady Molded Seamless bra price for you:$30
Price for me: Free

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