I’m so excited to be blogging over on The Bump, one of the largest online communities for expecting and new moms. My latest: http://blog.thebump.com/2015/05/27/working-mom-breastfeeding-goals/
I have written a lot here (want proof? see posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) about that loud little subset of pro-breastfeeding people (other mothers, lactation professionals, people in the media, etc) who cross the line from “supportive” to “judgy.” But I also keep saying that the majority of pro-breastfeeding people are normal, kind people who have no desire to make you feel like shit.
I want to introduce you to one of those people. Lina Martin is a certified breastfeeding counselor and doula who Just. Gets. It. For a little restoration of your faith in humanity, read on to hear what she has to say about her approach to supporting women – especially working mothers – and their varied experiences with breastfeeding.
Last year, I wrote a post about being kicked out of a so-called breastfeeding support group on Facebook for asking for advice on gently weaning my 13-month-old daughter. It was a sad experience – one that really depressed me about the state of the breastfeeding wars, and about how even our attempts to re-create the village of maternal support can go horribly wrong.
Well, fast-forward almost a year (my baby girl is turning TWO next month!). I discovered this weird spam-esque inbox on my personal facebook account. (If you’re curious, go to your Facebook inbox and look for a tab called “Other”. That’s where messages from people who are not your FB friends end up.) It was a year-old message from a stranger, all about the Great Getting My Ass Kicked Out of a Breastfeeding Group on Facebook. And this message made me SO happy, I just had to share it. This total stranger came and found me on the internet to tell me she supported me and had my back and is part of my village. Oh my God, yes. THIS IS MOTHERHOOD. THIS IS SISTERHOOD. You have to read it.
NOTE: This is a work-in-progress looooong post that I’m considering as a new first chapter for my book (www.workpumprepeat.com) . I’m posting it here in the spirit of crowd-sourcing. This topic is SO difficult to navigate, and there is no clear answer to what is “good” or “bad” messanging about breastfeeding, for women who are struggling with it. I would really love and appreciate feedback – including critical feedback – about whether this hits the mark, or is way off, or is somewhere in between. THANK YOU!!
You’ve noticed, haven’t you, how it seems like everyone has something to say about breastfeeding?
- You should do it, for a specific length of time (which varies depending on the particular bully), and you’re a narcissist and unfit mother if you don’t do it.
- Also, you definitely shouldn’t do it in public, or in a way that interferes with your job in the slightest, or in a manner that asks for any sacrifice, patience, or even just tolerance from any other person on the planet. Otherwise you’re trampy and entitled and a drain on society.
- You shouldn’t supplement breastmilk with anything, no matter how hellish your emotional or mental state is, or how demanding your job is. Definitely give only breastmilk until your kid is a year old.
- Once your kid turns one, you must stop breastfeeding immediately, so as not to be an incestuous weirdo. And if you breastfeed beyond when the kid can “ask for it,” you should do prison time.
- You shouldn’t drink alcohol or caffeine. Also you should only eat organic whole foods; otherwise you’re poisoning your baby.
- Oh, also: you have to really, really enjoy it, otherwise you’re a broken un-woman who is missing out on the greatest gift of her entire life.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how the hell to make milk while doing your job, we need to talk a bit about the people and messages you will encounter on this journey of trying to breastfeed and work.
Throughout this book, you will read stories about amazing people who make life easier, saner, less scary, and more welcoming for working women who are breastfeeding. And you’ll read about bullies and jerks in all shapes and stripes, who will try to shame, intimidate, intrude, pressure, and judge.
It’s the tail end of #ISupportYou week, and I wanted to share what I think is the best video ever made about motherhood for our generation. I never cease to sob a little when it gets to the “Now I tell you love each other as I have loved you” part.
LOVE YOU, MAMAS OF EVERY STRIPE!
My wonderful friend Ellie Stoneley, a popular blogger based in the UK (and a Bruce Springsteen fanatic, which won this Jersey girl’s heart straight off), wrote a piece this week that has gotten love from both HuffPo and UNICEF. In essence, Ellie notes a recent study that found that PPD “is more than double in women who planned to breastfeed and then were unable to, whereas the women who planned to breastfeed and then did are 50% less likely to be affected.”
Ellie goes on to talk about how essential it proved to be that she prepared for breastfeeding, through classes and reading, before the birth of her lovely little sprite Hope, and how important postpartum support was. She advocates strongly that every woman, in every country, have ready access to ongoing support in the early weeks and months of her baby’s life, because, let’s all say it together: BREASTFEEDING MIGHT BE NATURAL, BUT IT AIN’T EASY.
Ellie’s piece resonated with me on a lot of levels, and I am so proud of her for advocating for something that ALL women and babies, of all socio-economic levels, everywhere, need and deserve. But it also got me thinking that something continues to be missing from this conversation. (I can say this, knowing that Ellie will have my back!)
I just got off the phone with a friend who is three weeks into her first baby. She was eating breakfast while talking to me, her baby asleep on her chest in the baby-wearing-thingie, dropping crumbs into the baby’s hair as we talked. She sounded happy – exhausted, but happy, and as at ease with being a first-time mother as one could expect.
All that changed when we started talking about breastfeeding. “I can’t leave the house,” she told me. “My husband is great and keeps telling me to go take a break, take a walk, whatever. But all I hear in my head, the whole time I’m gone, is the baby screaming with hunger. What if she gets hungry before I get back? I hate being the only way she can get food.”
GOD, I have been there. Being someone’s sole source of nutrition is one of the most physically and mentally taxing temporary jobs I have ever taken on. You get your “break” and all you do is stress that the baby got hungry before the normal feeding time, and next thing you know you’re texting your husband constantly – or worse, cutting your massage (side-lying, because your boobs hurt too much to lie on your front) or pedicure or coffee with a friend short and racing home to bring your boobs back within firing range of the baby’s mouth.
So, this friend and I got to talking through learning to use her pump, then beginning to build up a stash of milk by pumping once a day, immediately after the morning feeding. We talked about giving the baby a single ounce of formula to make sure she could tolerate it, and then having the can of formula on hand in case of absolute emergency and for some mental relief that there is a back-up method if it’s needed. We talked through introducing a bottle to the baby, and how she shouldn’t freak out if it didn’t go well at first (when my son first seemed to be rejecting the bottle, I went immediately to a dark place of I’m Never Going to Be Able to Go Back to Work, I’m Going to Be Tied to This Baby Until College). These tactics, together, create a tiny space for independence: get to the end of the pedicure, sip the cup of coffee slowly, take an extra loop around the block with the dog. Little victories that can lead to bigger ones later. And, for working mothers, these things also set up skills and resources for the back-to-work bonanza.
In the midst of this conversation, the second big thing my friend said to me rang just as true: “Why don’t any of the books tell me how to do this?” I asked her what she meant specifically, and she replied, “You know, they say ‘start pumping to save up milk for when you go back to work’ – but they don’t ever say HOW to do that. They say ‘introduce the bottle’, but they don’t tell you what that’s going to be like. You’re just totally on your own.”
Ok, ok, I know how late I am to the game of commenting on the “World’s Toughest Job Video” thing. (If you are even later than I am, watch it here.)
But I’ve been mulling over this video for a couple of weeks now, and finally had to put digital pen to digital paper.
First I ought to say that I mean no disrespect to the people who loved, got verklempt over, and posted/shared this video. If it made you happy, I’m happy for you. And if you are a mom, I bet you’re awesome at it, and deserved a moment of feeling appreciated.
And I get it. I get that sappy “moms are the best” videos play to our nostalgia and gratitude for our own mothers, and for current in-the-thick-of-it moms, play to our exhaustion and deep desire to be appreciated and recognized for what we do. I also get, as might sometimes be overlooked, that this video was made BY AN AD AGENCY, TO SELL A PRODUCT FOR A BUSINESS. That business? Trying to sell us cards to give to our moms for Mother’s Day. So, job done. A kazillion people have watched the video, and I’m sure both agency and card-selling-company have lavished in the click-bait.
But, like other commenters before me, my initial and lasting reaction to this video is to be insulted. I’m insulted on behalf of my husband, and of dads (and grandparents etc) everywhere who do this job, too. The sainthood of mothers alone cuts those people out of the picture and devalues their work. At the same time as it insults non-mothers who parent, it does women a disservice, by perpetuating the trope that it is moms, and moms alone, who should get up in the middle of the night, who should stay home with the kids, who should put their careers on hold or on the back burner, who should cook, and clean, and raise the next generation, all with a smile on their faces. It adds to that insidious cultural narrative that kind of lets everyone else – employers, dads, tax codes, schools that still think it’s a good idea to let kids out at 3 pm, when all full-time working people are, well, still at work – off the hook for their part of the job. Continue reading Surprise! I Don’t Hate Raising My Kids
I am having a holy-shit breastfeeding insight this week. Here goes: Guilt = response to what one does. Shame = response to what one IS. Which one is at work for me, and for other breastfeeding mothers?
Guilt played a huge role in my breastfeeding struggles, and in those of many, many women I’ve interviewed. Or at least, I have always thought of what I experienced as “guilt”.
Recap: Guilt = response to what one does. Shame = response to what one IS. As women struggling with breastfeeding, are we feeling guilt?: “I had a hard time balancing breastfeeding and work/older siblings/whatever”? Or – so much scarier – are we feeling shame?: “I’m a failure.” “I’m not a good mother.” “I’m not enough.” “I’m not fully a woman.”
I remember exactly what I said to my husband when breastfeeding my first child was ridiculously painful and hugely anxiety-inducing: “I’m a failure. Women have done this for all of human history, yet I can’t do it.” That was shame. That was me feeling that who I was just wasn’t good enough for my baby. Or, maybe, not good enough, period.