A Year of Celebrating the Breast
Images by Blue Fitz Photography. Event co-hosted by Sage Beginnings Doula Services. Thank you to all who participated in this calendar!
Images by Blue Fitz Photography. Event co-hosted by Sage Beginnings Doula Services. Thank you to all who participated in this calendar!
To promote acceptance of human bodies as inherently natural, innocuous, and not obscene, I’m proud to share this project celebrating Women’s Equality Day, Go Topless Day and the “Free The Nipple” movement.
By expressing this vision through art, we aim to encourage a change in societal and legal censorship norms to view bodies of women as truly equal to others.
If a woman wishes to feel the warm sun on her skin at the beach like her brother… to lay in the grass, babies grazing upon her chest while she picnics with her partner… to pop out of her home to retrieve something from her car without fussing to scramble for an appropriate ensemble… to garden in her yard without needing to keep the neighborly peace by donning a button-down… if she wishes to do these things, why can’t she?
On one level, because of the law. Did you know it’s illegal for women to be topless in public in 35 states, including while breastfeeding?
In a few states, women have a legal right to go topless in the same areas as men, but even those women cannot properly enjoy the freedom (rather an illusion of equality) when faced with risk of harassment and humiliation. Protection from this risk is a privilege men have enjoyed for a long time without even realizing it.
Men have legally been allowed to be topless in public since 1936, a freedom they too had to fight for in ways similar to today’s Go Topless movement. Gaining this legal freedom finally secured their right to go bare-chested on public beaches, in parks, pools, and so on. Men don’t always want their tops on, which is why they fought for their right to choose toplessness without fear of stigma or lawbreaking. Read More
Do you hate breastfeeding your toddler?
I actually don’t. Hate breastfeeding, that is. Maybe you can tell from the near-thousand breastfeeding photos I’ve shared on Instagram or the tens-of-thousands of words I’ve pressed into my keyboard about it here. But have I been enamored with every second? Certainly not. My love for breastfeeding is, in my own experience, a synchronized dance that swings along with the lyrical back-and-forth love I have for parenthood.
By now, the days of early nursing awkwardness seem so ancient, I might require a paleontologist to dig up those bones. I’m stuck like a thumb in a door jamb in a progressed era of breastfeeding, one that’s rarely talked about. I’m doing the nursing aversion thing… again. Read More
A few things you might not know, starting with the numbers:
A reported 27% of childbearing-aged women were sexually abused in childhood, and an estimated 40% including adolescent/teen years. According to LLLI, 90% of abusers are male, 70-90% are known to their victims; and for girls, 30-50% of abusers are family members.
These are just numbers. Numbers don’t speak, but many of the individuals behind the statistics are doing just that. Sexual abuse causes lasting trauma that cannot be isolated by a number; it follows the victim throughout life, and if this person is a woman on a path to motherhood it has many specific, new chances for recall of its memory. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding bring enhanced susceptibility to a woman’s life, leaving her in jeopardy of rewounding.
Karen Wood, PhD, who notes that 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 Canadian girls are sexually abused in childhood, observed in her paper “Infant feeding experiences of women who were sexually abused in childhood”:
“A history of [childhood sexual abuse] can affect a woman’s experience of breastfeeding, including acting as a trigger for remembering or re[-]experiencing the abuse. Women who were sexually abused as children need to experience a sense of safety, acceptance, sensitivity, and understanding.”
You might assume that women who were sexually abused would be more hesitant to attempt breastfeeding than other mothers, but in fact the opposite has been found to be true. In a nationally representative sample study, women who self-reported past sexual abuse were more than twice as likely to initiate breastfeeding. They also were found to breastfeed at the same rate as those without a history of past abuse.
However, women who were or are currently sexually abused are at greater risk for postpartum depression, disturbed sleep, and perinatal complications. Interestingly, exclusive breastfeeding has been shown in a study to reduce rates of depression and poor sleep among survivors, as compared with formula feedings and mixed feedings (read about the study’s background and a podcast interview with the author here).
Still, night feedings are often especially frightening for survivors of abuse. They may have an especially difficult time managing views of breasts as both sources of nourishment and sexual objects. They may also have significant anxiety around the exposure and vulnerability brought on by public nursing. Read More
I was so done with the world of new motherhood.
I was distancing myself.
I grew tired of writing about motherhood. You know why? Because I grew tired of being a mother. I was tired of everything mother. Being judged because I’m a mother. Always working but never ‘at work’ as a mother. Late nights that never end and early mornings as a mother. All the restrictions I feel as a mother.
I was tired of being a ‘stay at home’ mother. Tired of caring so immeasurably much about my children that my heart is always on the brink of hurting. Tired of having to choose between things that make me happy that don’t involve my children, and things I must do (or want to do) as a mother. Tired of being told it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s hard to make changes when you’re so tired. Read More
Looking to enjoy an animal-friendly pregnancy, birth, and beyond? Read on for some tips I picked up along the way…
First, a little about my experience: I decided to eat a vegan diet four and a half years ago and shortly thereafter began adapting the rest of my lifestyle to be cohesive with veganism. Why? For sake of brevity, I’d say in this order: 1) for animals, 2) for my health, 3) for the planet.
Before, I was a type of pescetarian for some years. I ate fish on a regular basis (I’ll admit, I was addicted to sashimi grade raw fish — blech!), scrambled eggs on special occasions, and I didn’t consume much dairy or cheese directly, but also didn’t notice or care if it happened to be hidden in foods (which is most of them, it turns out!). So for me, the switch to a vegan diet was a pretty much a matter of ordering vegetable sushi, scrambling tofu instead of egg, and checking labels for dairy and other hidden animal ingredients.
My oldest son had just turned one a few months prior to this lifestyle change. He was starting to eat food other than breast milk, and it ended up being plenty of time to get adjusted before my next pregnancy, which was fully vegan and perfectly healthy.
Both of my kids are vegan (M is five, J just turned 2) and so is my husband, so that makes things easy when it comes to dining out, stocking the pantry, cooking meals and so on.
Skip ahead to sections:
And coming soon in the next post…
“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” ― Cardinal Mermillod Read More
🌻 These two milk siblings, blood brothers, M and J. Just over 5 years and almost 2 years old, respectively — the former the same age as my nursing journey overall and the latter the same as my experience in tandem nursing. Such tiny numbers really. Hard to imagine we were nothing and growing and birthing and birthed and empty and nourished more than once over in that amount of time.
M and J don’t like to be separated. Though they annoy each other and feel overwhelmed with the art of sharing from time to time, as siblings do, they prefer each other’s close company. J learns a lot from his big brother (like how to get dressed and sing) and M never hesitates to include J in his activities.
Their bond began when J was in my womb, every day growing stronger until one day he’d feel ready for life Earthside. From age 2.5 to 3.5 years, M watched my belly swell bigger and bigger. He knew his little brother was inside ‘swimming in water.’ He knew J could hear him so he spoke to him often. He said “Good morning!,” and “Good night!” every day for months, with a morning kiss and night kiss (and lots of extras in between).
He saw J for the first time around midnight, about an hour after he was born. I was laying in our bed with J on my breast. M gave J a kiss — a real, live, salty, good morning and good night kiss — right on his freshly born little head.
M had the honor of separating his little brother’s cord. We chose a Sacred Severance ceremony involving quiet, meditation, and burning of the cord instead of cutting. M, his dad, and our doula held candles to the cord in gentle recognition of this significant alteration. M was not present for the birth so this was his special contribution to our welcoming of J into the land of lung breathers.
J has known M his whole life. Though M was Earthside 3.5 years longer, it seems he’s known J just as long. Read More
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. Read More
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?).
Thinking about sharing your birth photographs with friends, family, on social media, hanging them up in your foyer, perhaps printing them in a coffee table book for home visitors to peruse?
Here are a few worthwhile things to consider first.
A recent Centers for Disease Control public opinion study found “only 43 percent of U.S. adults believed that women should have the right to breastfeed in public places.” Theoretically, every time I go out with my baby, I can count every two people we pass and justifiably assume the next three people do not approve of my child breastfeeding there.
With this in mind, in my early public nursing days I felt too embarrassed to be seen struggling to breastfeed my little baby, especially with postpartum depression at a high, an anxiety disorder, and being the first among all my friends to become a mother.
I wanted so badly to live in a part of the world that was acclimated to the sight of normal infant feeding.
The sprawling, diverse metropolitan area where I live isn’t even a major hotspot for public breastfeeding oppression. That’s the frightening part. A quick Google search will guide you through countless stories of mothers across the nation being harassed, shamed, bullied, and discriminated against by strangers, coworkers, relatives, acquaintances, anyone with an opinion… because they breastfed their children in public.
With my first baby I started out nursing in my car. At the time, to me it felt pretty ‘public.’ I quickly realized this could only be a temporary solution to calm my nerves. Not only was it terribly inconvenient to retreat to my car for privacy multiple times per excursion, but it was also completely unnecessary. (And far from foolproof! Do you know where we were the first time I was harassed for nursing? Sitting in the front seat of my parked car minding our own business).
Out of the car and into actual buildings I emerged. I only felt at ease enough in low-crowd places and often found the corner of rooms to nurse so I could have privacy. Then I felt like a professional NIPer after working my way up to nursing on-the-go while babywearing.
Things became easier when I expanded my potential nursing spots to, well, anywhere we happened to be. I wore covers at first (I ditched them for good after that car harassment incident, and life got less complicated when I put those annoying things in storage).
It didn’t take long before I wasn’t giving a second thought to when and where I’d nurse my child because it was not an isolated event — it was just part of the flow of life, which doesn’t stop when you become a mother.
Four and a half years later, through babyhood, toddlerhood, another pregnancy, and tandeming, I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t nursed in public, and it’s been nearly that long that I’ve done so confidently.
Twenty helpful tips I learned along the way, in no particular order:
What if you’re a breastfeeding mother and want to exercise? Then you’re ten steps (or Zumba classes) ahead of the rest of us, fit mama!
We know gymnurstics doesn’t count as working out… so what does? Walking, jogging/running, biking and other forms of cardio, swimming, dancing, lifting weights, yoga, pilates, low impact exercise like stretching, home workouts, strength training, kick boxing, hula hooping, whatever gets your body moving and blood flowing.
The power of transformation is an inherent gift of woman. The spider, snake, and butterfly are just a few of many creatures regarded as manifestations of feminine energy and universal symbols of shape-shifting. A master of creation, woman’s body is the original 3D printer. When she nurses a child, as Mark Twain once said, “she has no equal among men.”
Somehow still, many of us know discontent with or hatred for our bodies, whether transient or persistent. What’s worse is we believe it’s normal. Accepted to the point of expectation. This is especially true at the moment we inherit our mothering bodies. Through literally all forms of media and outlets for opinion, we are told before anything else that mothering bodies are not sexy, therefore not valuable, therefore invisible.
It’s a dangerous trajectory for the postpartum woman who is vulnerable, open, and recovering — she is brainwashed to confuse these things with weakness, brokenness, incapability, and decreased desirability. Read More
Postpartum Padsicles bring soothing relief to sore, swollen, tender tissues after childbirth. Even if you didn’t tear or didn’t have an episiotomy, your (strong yet) sensitive passageway of life will thank you for looking out!
They fit nicely into those postpartum diapers or mesh panties you’ll be wearing for a while, too.
You’ll need about 18-24. I made 30 — just to cover my butt (ha).