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If You’re Haunted By Recurrent Mastitis: Help & Tips

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It comes on suddenly and leaves without a trace. I always forget how bad mastitis is until I get it again, then I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long with breastfeeding because I’ve felt hounded by those ‘quitting feelings’ during many a run with this illness.

I just recovered from my 8th (in 5 years) and hopefully final battle with mastitis; my second bout of the “boob flu” in two weeks.

Thankfully I’ve learned something new with each run of the boob flu madness… Continue reading

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No More Babies: How I Really Feel (Last Child Grief)

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Thoughts at 4 Months Postpartum

I only have two children, and two will be my only. We always planned to have two kids for the usual reasons: financial resources, practicality, health reasons, familiarity, and so on.

This pregnancy and postpartum were much different than the first. I suspect it has much to do with knowing they’ll be my last.

I feel the postpartum slipping away. My youngest is now four months old, which means a little more than a trimester ago he was playing, breathing, wriggling, and listening in my womb.

For these past months I’ve watched my body turn into something blooming and abundant to swollen and rumpling to deflated and limp, stressed from constant demands upon it and weak from the the endless drill of late nights and early mornings. I’ve felt unmotivated to move into a new chapter, for I know once that happens, I won’t get to call myself ‘newly postpartum.’ In my case, not ever again.

This is now the body I’m left with. Rather, this is the body I get to keep. I’ve got more skin than I had before, a herniated navel, and my hair seems to be grieving with me as it sheds like a willow in the fall.

I think I’ll say I’m no longer ‘postpartum’ when my linea nigra disappears. The first time it took a year. I think that’s when I’ll stop telling people “I just had a baby…”

Right now my body is a signpost of declarations that say this shop is closed, be back soon. I know better because my intentions are steps ahead; I know the shop is closed indefinitely. Continue reading

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Four Years Later, I Still Get Nervous Breastfeeding in Public

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“Bless you, ma’am.”

“What?”

“Bless you,” he repeated, with a nod toward my nursing baby. “Traveling with your family…”

Then a young woman on the train offered me her seat as I nursed baby Julep again. I smiled and declined with a thank you. She mouthed a silent “Okay,” hands clutching to her heart and a whispered “Aww, it’s just so cute!”

Later a United airline employee noticed Julep in the carrier busy with something. She peeked down at his face obscured by a chubby hand.

“I see you’ve got those fingers in your mouth, huh?” she cooed. “Oh!” She laughed as he moved his hand, revealing a tiny mouth latched to me and leaking breast milk. “I see you’ve got something even better.”

Mostly praise and endearing smiles in reflection of Julep nursing in public…

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When You Feel Awkward Seeing Breastfeeding in Public

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For one reason or another, some people feel awkward when they see a woman breastfeeding her child in public. This does not necessarily make them bad people. Their feelings can be perfectly valid; it takes a unique set of nature and nurture to arrive at the point of feeling awkward with a specific trigger such as this.

For those who aren’t accustomed to seeing breastfeeding in public and are largely uninformed about how it all works, a little patience may be needed as they adjust. After all, few of us have been spared from American culture’s mixed messages about women’s roles and heavy promotion of both infant formula and breasts as sex objects.

That said, misunderstanding and ignorance are acceptable; projection of fears and lashing out with harassing or discriminatory behavior are not.

Here are a few ideas about what to do and not do if you’re not yet comfortable seeing breastfeeding in public (but you’re working on it, right?).

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It Just Needs To Be Said About Full-Term Breastfeeding…

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I have two children, an almost 5 year old and an almost 17 month old, who both nurse. They both began nursing just moments after each was born and here we are, still nursing along. I often find myself in the position of explaining this decision (or fate, rather).

Why is an explanation needed and sometimes even demanded from those who choose to do (or simply end up doing) tandem- and full-term breastfeeding?

Now breastfeeding may be less frequent, quicker, less nutritionally vital, more physically active than it was in the newborn days when they had tiny gummy mouths and floppy bodies. Otherwise, it really isn’t much different. They’re the same people they were 17 months and 5 years ago. Still asking to nurse. And one day they won’t.

Continuing to nurse as age advances is no clue that nursing will go on forever, like an evergreen tree of connection to mother. One day, the child will feel differently about this connection and realize the shoe no longer fits. What is the rush or worry until then?

From the looks of many comments on August’s World Breastfeeding Month social media/news threads, it seems there are two kinds of people who weigh in whenever full-term and tandem nursing come up: those who truly fully support breastfeeding and those who don’t (though many kick off their commentary with “I support breastfeeding, but…”). Do the rest just keep quiet to maintain neutrality? I don’t know.

I don’t have the time or concern to respond to or even read every comment/message that aims to preserve the controversy, but I feel it’s necessary to address a few inspired by two videos I recently shared.

Mostly because there aren’t too many tandem nursing, full-term weaning videos and I hope to bust (see what I did there?) some of the myths for other mothers. Also because breastfeeding mothers hear/read these same comments all. the. time. I hope my explanations (not to be mistaken for defenses) will satisfy the wannabe mic-droppers and the apparently ever-curious.

(Links to videos at end of post)

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Breastfeeding Concerns During a Natural Disaster: Babies Still Need To Eat

 

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Via Associated Press

As I write this*, I’m taking note of the tornado warnings that have made my phone beep seemingly every hour for the past few days. The sound of rain pelting the windows. Bayous and reservoirs cresting over. I’m watching friends’ and neighbors’ homes flood in real time. Reading about pleas for rescue as families seek refuge from rising water in their attics and on their roofs. You could say things are out of control.

Amid all of this, babies still need to eat. Newborn babies who took their first breath at a Houston area birth center after tropical storm Harvey made landfall. Older babies who nurse around the clock or drink expressed or powdered milk or formula supplements.

The stores are closed and roads are crumbling or underwater. Formula is now largely inaccessible. But babies still need to eat.

Pumping moms need to continue pumping to avoid mastitis, supply issues, and maintain production. What about when the power goes out? Or when the house floods and the circuit board must be shut off? Hopefully they have a manual pump or have been taught how to hand express… because babies still need to eat.

New mothers, welcomed into motherhood with all the terrific drama Mother Nature herself could muster: I hope you have a (relatively) easy time getting started. The well-trained eye of a lactation consultant in your home, personally assessing latch and other tricky spots, cannot compare to scouring the internet for emergency breastfeeding help in the early days. But no one is risking travel across town for ‘work’ in a deluge. A lucky mother has her phone fully charged and ready to go with breastfeeding apps right now because, of course, babies still need to eat.

*(Flood waters have since receded from my neighborhood and we’re doing fine now. However, eleven million people in the southeast counties of Texas are still trying to get a grip on the continued consequences of this historic flooding). Continue reading

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Is Nursing in a Beautiful Field at Sunset a Natural, Realistic Depiction of Breastfeeding?

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I’ll cut to the chase right now: the answer is both yes and (sometimes) no.

It’s been said that breastfeeding is an art. The art of photography highlights the importance of this honest statement about breastfeeding.

Here we begin to view it as the beautiful, innocent, inherently harmonious and peace-giving activity it is (if we don’t do so already). And we notice it’s more than an activity, really. It’s a relationship.

In this way breastfeeding photos (and other art forms) reflect the many nuances involved in the relationship between a mother and her nursling. One that can’t be negated even when a mermaid costume, computer-generated rainbow, endless fields of lavender, or fog machines help set a more surrealistic scene (I know you’re curious, so just go ahead and Google those already!).

The subject matter is the same regardless of the brand of camera that captured it, or whether natural or artificial lighting was used. What we’re looking at is simply breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding photos are always candid and improvised even if attempts are made to pose. If you watch a breastfeeding photo shoot happen firsthand, you’ll understand the only one directing the scene is the nursling! Continue reading