We were all proud. We have been proud, actually. So we showed up ready to nurse.
We did it modestly, though not one of us bothered to “cover up.” We did it with discretion, being that we nursed exclusively among supporters — though we wanted to be seen and heard. So we shared our experiences on every format far and wide with a movement of hashtags and brelfies and nurse-ins to prove that breastfeeding can work (more on that in a bit).
We wanted to count; in fact, we made sure we were being counted.
And we broke the standing world record: 14,889 children (simultaneously!) latched on to nurse for at least one full minute on Friday and Saturday all over the world for the Global Big Latch On. I attended one of the Houston events as a local representative for peaceful parenting/Dr. Momma. There, 73 moms and 82 children were officially latched on!
This event kicked off World Breastfeeding Week, for which the year’s theme is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!” The idea is to draw attention to issues faced by working mothers who want to breastfeed.
It also reminds of all the things that hope so badly for breastfeeding to not work.
Things like shaming a mother on the internet for breastfeeding in public. Like shaming her in person for breastfeeding in public. Like imposing one’s own insecurities upon a mother breastfeeding past an arbitrary age, when her child still wants to nurse. Like giving insufficient or absent support as a partner or an employer. Like improperly educating about breastfeeding as a doctor, relative, voice for the media… by telling her that babies should be fed on a schedule, or that “a bottle early on won’t hurt,” or that infant circumcision won’t affect establishment of breastfeeding.
In these scenarios, breastfeeding doesn’t work like it should.
Breastfeeding works best when babies are welcomed gently into the world: with their whole bodies, just like they had for the first nine months…
When they get to sleep near their mother, just like they did for the first nine months…
When they never know true hunger because they’re fed on demand, just like they were for the first nine months.
So at the Latch On, The Designated Dad (TDD) and I set up a peaceful parenting/Dr. Momma booth to cover these areas and help currently or to-be breastfeeding families make it work.
“What would you like to know about peaceful parenting?”
“What do you love most? Cosleeping? Breastfeeding? Intact education?..”
In addition to the colorful table itself, some peaceful parenting buzzwords attracted many passersby from “that” community who know them all by heart.
“Oh yes, we still cosleep!” or “He’s intact, no worries,” they’d say, delicately stroking a babyworn child’s head.
People who stopped by our table were happy and proud to be “in the know” with those who accepted them. All aspects of peaceful parenting are forms of enlightenment, after all.
We were all there in the name of breastfeeding (in public), in the name of drawing global attention to nature’s design, and so by default in the name of our families’ best interests.
These are things that mainstream society is used to making parents feel guarded, protective about. But at The Big Latch On, not one of the 400 attendees at this Houston location needed to worry over that.
Let Me Tell You About the People
People said they felt grateful to see our booth, especially since as a non-profit we weren’t selling anything.
A few people thanked us for being there to provide the “much needed” circumcision information.
A woman approached us proudly saying that her baby, who she snuggled in a wrap, was intact. She said it was information she found through Intact Houston that led her to decide to keep her child intact — information she wish she’d known before her first son was born. Her eldest was circumcised because she hadn’t even questioned it, being normal in her family. She said she wasn’t able to readily nurse him after his surgery and thus breastfeeding failed.
Her new intact son did not have the same problems. TDD mentioned the option of restoration for her firstborn son when he’s older if he starts experiencing later-term negative effects, but emphasized that it should be his choice and he shouldn’t be pressured. She seemed thankful for the information, but her expression told of a sense of something stinging, bittersweet… As she left, she said, “Really, thank you for what you do!”
One woman approached the booth apparently completely clueless about what peaceful parenting means. “What’s this all about?” she asked, confused. “Is this like being gentle?” TDD told her how the peaceful parenting philosophy covers all aspects of raising children and how beneficial and natural it is to treat children with gentleness and respect in everything. He mentioned circumcision as one of these areas, but since she had a daughter she didn’t immediately believe it was relevant.
Then TDD noticed her baby daughter’s ears weren’t pierced. He said that respect for genital autonomy for both sexes is not unlike the issues raised with piercing a newborn’s ears, in concept. She said in her culture it’s tradition to pierce a baby girl’s ears, and it was done to her too. She then said she thinks it’s wrong. He said “And the message it sends…” She nodded agreeably. And then the “A-ha” moment…
An expectant mother in a striped sweater stopped by. She was very interested in all peaceful parenting topics but seemed a little overwhelmed in general. She said she was having a boy. I asked if she’d looked into circumcision yet. She froze. This was clearly a tough topic for her. She said she was undecided but knew it would be an important decision. I reminded her that the surgery cannot be undone, then gently explained how she can make it easier on herself and simply make no decision at all — just keep him intact.
I said if she still finds herself leaning the other way, she can always wait. I explained how it’s better to get circumcised as an adult than as an infant for many reasons, including proper pain management, preservation of frenulum, an understanding of the procedure, patient’s choice and consent, etc. She walked away saying she didn’t know what she would choose, but she really didn’t want to do it. I made sure she left with plenty of places to further her research.
Another woman with a baby boy and older girl stopped dead in her tracks when she saw this sign (below). She frowned deeply. She looked like she wanted to vomit. She spoke the hanging sign’s words aloud. She was not speaking to me. She was speaking to some ghost. Or maybe God.
I jumped in to save her from whatever conclusions she would make on her own — I explained that yes, it’s true, and in fact many researchers estimate the number to be much higher; that the reason we don’t have an accurate number is that hospitals don’t record infant deaths on autopsy reports as being from circumcision but rather “blood loss,” “heart failure,” etc. even though that “cause” was actually a direct result of circumcision.
I gave her information about the wonderfully supportive group called Keeping Future Sons Intact and a brochure that covers the short- and late-term issues to look out for in a circumcised child/adult.
A pair of doulas came by who were relieved to have the circumcision information. We showed them how the Gomco device works. They literally shivered as we described the mechanics of the tool. They said circumcision always comes up with their clients and they wanted advice about what to say so we referred them to our favorite resources.
Another young woman said when she was a student nurse at Ben Taub Hospital, she’d watched a circumcision being performed. She shuddered while talking about it. She said she’ll never forget that scream.
Several mothers approached us who were on the fence about circumcision. One had a week-old son who was intact but his father was pushing for circumcision. She was against the idea. This is perhaps the most common situation we encounter and attempt to help: The mother doesn’t agree with circumcision but the father’s idea of compromise is to make their child undergo the surgery.
Everyone who said they kept their child intact left with one of these to keep, and sometimes a few extra to pass out to friends or family. I also gave out some “I’m Intact, Do Not Retract!” stickers for those who said they were worried about forcible retraction by babysitters or daycares. I suggested they put the stickers on the baby wipes, diapers, diaper package, and each diaper itself.
She said she was mostly worried about returning to work. TDD gave her a pumping tip that worked for me: record baby’s hunger cry and play it to easily and quickly induce milk letdown.
Take Some Info
Here are a few binders we made available for easy (and uninterrupted) solo browsing:
**Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like the file for any of the above binders for FREE DOWNLOAD to print out for your own educational purposes.**
1). The top left binder contains information about what to expect with breastfeeding after circumcision, myths and misconceptions, and lots of peer-reviewed studies that found circumcision to be contraindicated for successful breastfeeding.
2). Do you know which celebrities are intact? You might be surprised! (Here’s a list of 340+ famous intact men). In this top right binder we also included celebrities who have spoken openly to the media about the harms of circumcision or why they disagree with the practice.
Interestingly I didn’t notice any women look through the Intact Celebs binder by themselves, but noticed several men do so, plus a presumably British couple who flipped through the pages knowingly, “Ah yes, he’s intact… he’s intact…”
3). The bottom left binder contains a detailed description of the procedures for Gomco, Mogen, and Plastibell circumcision as well as realistic complications and typical results.
4). I’m sure you already know… August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week and August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month! The bottom right binder contains 21 ways to advocate for breastfeeding other than the obvious (breastfeeding or pumping). You can read the list online here.
We also offered handouts that cover the functions of the foreskin, Islam/Jewish/Christian circumcision information, statements about circumcision from leading world medical organizations, and a brochure for parents of circumcised children to help them understand what issues to expect.
**Find lots of FREE PRINTABLES for your own advocacy purposes here.**
Now for the Goodies
Everybody likes stuff… lots of stuff. Colorful stuff, especially. And useful stuff, definitely!
And the Main Event: Latch On!
I nursed my nearly three-year-old son at the table before the Latch On began. This was a special moment of appreciation because he hadn’t nursed in more than twenty four hours, which was a first in nearly three years! (He’s back to his usual nursing pattern again now).
The official Latch On began at 10:30 a.m. Here is my requisite selfie of participating in the record-making event:
The Partner Support
MYTH: All fathers are offended by breastfeeding.
FACT: Real fathers support breastfeeding.