…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding: The Law of Simplicity

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A core concept of Conscious Breastfeeding is Simplicity…Getting Back to the Basics.

Contemplating what Simplicity means in our daily lives reminded me of my own search for a zen simplicity during my travels throughout Japan.  Fascinated by the hot springs or onsens that dotted this volcanic country, I bought a book “A Guide to Japanese Hot Springs” that led me on  an adventure moving through roads less travelled in search of the most rustic springs I could find.   I was especially fond of the rotenburos which were set in the mountains and were outside in nature.  I stayed in Minshukus or family run bed and breakfast establishments. This was the most authentic experience of what life used to be like in Japan and was a far cry from the crowds and neon of Tokyo and the other large cities.  Being one with Nature was extremely peaceful and relaxing.

One one occasion, when my language skills were rudimentary at best I was served the traditional Japanese breakfast of a small fish, miso soup, nori seaweed rice and a raw egg.  Thankfully the hostess asked first.  The nurse in me could not find much appeal in that raw egg and I tried to decline.  At first she didn’t understand me.  With very simple logic and equally simple Japanese I created a new expression:  Tamago is egg and Sashimi is raw fish…so I called it “Tamago Sashimi” and she got my meaning.

That experience taught me a valuable life lesson…distilling language, ideas and information down to simpler forms makes for better communication.  It has powerfully informed my practice with moms and their babies over these past 22+ years.

Albert Einstein is credited with having said…
~Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler~  I fully agree.

As a breastfeeding mother you are travelling in new circles…not necessarily a foreign land, but there are certain parallels.  You are learning to interpret the communications from your baby as you teach them your own formal language. Breastfeeding itself has its own lexicon of terms with which you are becoming familiar:  latch-on, rooting, hunger cues, hind milk, foremilk, let-down, pumping, growth spurts etc. Add on the endless array of gadgets and the stress of weight checks and percentiles and you are a far cry from experiencing the simplicity which is supposed to be found in a breastfeeding relationship.

The elegance of the female body is that is designed to both grow your babies and sustain them beyond their time in the womb…one stop shopping if you will.  Unfortunately, we live in a culture that places such a high value on technology that over reliance on pumping, etc. can diminish our confidence in our bodies and over-complicate the entire experience of breastfeeding.

The inherent simplicity of breastfeeding should afford you quality time with your babies.  Cherish this unique opportunity to be quiet in the course of your day.  It is breastfeeding, not pumping, that connects you with your body’s inner wisdom. Your milk supply is developed in direct response to actually feeding your babies.

Pumping does have a place, but in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey the primary focus should always be on relishing the profound simplicity of just breastfeeding.  Build your milk supply and experience on a solid foundation.

When you reduce the complications and distractions and are focused on your connection with your baby, you will find the simplicity that is…Conscious Breastfeeding.

August 23, 2010   2 Comments

Breastfeeding Office Memorabilia

It has been many years since I first donned this button from the Florida Lactation Consultant Association (FLCA).  I found it doing the August Cleanup suggested by Dr. Jeanette Cates on her blog.

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I wore it on my lab coat while I was the first lactation consultant at a major NYC hospital.  It was a conversation starter.  People were intrigued and wondered what it meant.  The nurses thought it was a great button for me to wear as the representative of breastfeeding on our maternity unit.

I have to laugh as its message was unclear to anyone who was unfamiliar with my passion for breastfeeding promotion and support.  One day on the elevator a man asked me, “Are you a vegetarian?” His companion chimed in, “Are you Hindu?”   My Irish eyes were smiling as I explained to them the meaning of my button.  “Human babies should not drink cow’s milk which is for cow’s.  They should be breastfed by their mothers.”

Believe it or not, not long after that comical incident, I was called into the office of the Director of Maternal Child Health.  She told me that I was offending formula feeding families with my FLCA pin and demanded that I should remove it from my lapel.  I explained  its purpose in detail, but my protests fell upon deaf ears.

It should be of no great surprise that I resigned soon after that encounter to go into a full time private lactation consulting practice.  I figured I would be better able to help new moms and breastfeeding families on the “outside”.

To still keep a foot in the system, I  moved to another hospital to teach all their prenatal breastfeeding classes.   I felt that empowering mothers with information before birth, one of the Ten Steps, would be the best way to set them up for success.

What continues to distress me after all these years is that there still seems to be a need. here in NYC, to temper the endorsement of breastfeeding when dealing with the consumers of maternity hospital services.

You’ve come a long way baby or NOT?

Is this an only in New York phenomena?  Or have you also received  mixed messages about breastfeeding in the hospital or from members of your health care team?

Can you share what approaches helped or hindered you as you began your journey as a breastfeeding mother?

August 15, 2010   5 Comments

Breastfeeding is Eat, Pray, Love

I was gifted this book by a mother in my lactation consulting practice.

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You would have to be under a rock to miss that the long awaited movie rendition of Elizabeth Gilbert’s moving memoir Eat, Pray, Love opens today in theaters throughout the States.  Her yearlong journey of healing and self-discovery has touched the heart strings of millions of readers the world over.

Some will call it a “chick flick”, but it is really a love story that invites us all to live our lives with authenticity.  Elizabeth’s narrative spoke to the fundamentals of what binds us all together as human beings: food, connection with spirit and love.  Now the vicarious and passion-filled travelogue that was so transformational for her is about to come to life on the big screen.

Although different in form, this is quite similar in substance to the symbolic journey taken by a new mother.  Buffeted by a flood of hormones, her body and psyche will expand while she eats for two and contemplates the new life growing within her body.  During that first year of pregnancy and breastfeeding she will navigate tremendous changes in her self-image and identity.  She moves from morning sickness through the energized passionate appetite for life of the second trimester.  Finally toward the end of the 9′th month, this morphs into a cocooning phase which will extend through early breastfeeding.  She has prepared throughout this entire period to be fully present for meeting and embracing her new love…her beautiful baby.

In the zen stillness of a breastfeeding moment, a baby is nurtured and much love is shared.

Breastfeeding is Eat, Pray, Love.

Every breastfeeding mother has a story.  What is yours?

August 13, 2010   1 Comment

Musings of A Breastfeeding Mary Poppins

Today is the end of World Breastfeeding Week 2010.

As it ends I invite you to contemplate this Celtic Mandala of Anu or Aine, The Great Mother.   She is the womb of life and and through her breasts she passes on its spark and vitality in the form of mother’s milk.

Anu or Aine-The Great Mother

In my world, where I am a community-based registered nurse and lactation consultant, protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding will continue on a daily basis.

I’ve been privileged to help so many moms and babies to join our global breastfeeding family.  Over the past 24+ years, it’s testimonials and feedback like this that have kept me going.

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Although, I still feel at times like a salmon swimming up stream, I embrace being called a “Breastfeeding Mary (aka Máire) Poppins”

Just the other day, during this week of breastfeeding celebration, I ran into a mom and her daughter that I had helped about 14 years ago.  Mana Allen re-introduced me to Molly who had gone on to breastfeed for many years in an  extended breastfeeding relationship that they had both relished. They thanked me yet again and Mana commented this week here on the blog.

Someday soon I imagine that I will have the honor and pleasure of helping Molly or another graduate of my practice to become a breastfeeding mother.

That will be a full circle moment!

August 7, 2010   No Comments

The Zen of Conscious Breastfeeding

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It was a hot day like today when I was last at the famous Zen Rock Garden of the Ryoan-ji Temple  in Kyoto, Japan.   It was a very still and peaceful place, save for the other tourist moving about and inserting herself into my photo.

I sat at the edge and contemplated my breath while gazing  at the gently raked rock garden gleaming brightly in the heat of the day.

I am often reminded of this feeling when I am in the presence of a Conscious Breastfeeding mother and baby.  There is a stillness that descends upon the nursing couple.  A rhythmic sound of breathing and soft swallowing comes from the baby while it is feeding.  The mom looks serene and comfortable as she is very much in the moment.

In this fast paced world in which we live, each breastfeeding session offers an opportunity to become centered and quiet.  A mother can connect deeply with her baby, both literally and figuratively.  She is sharing her physical and emotional space, as well as her milk, with him or her during this time.

The sales pitch for breastfeeding is that it can be done on the go- anytime, anywhere.  Although this may be true, I strongly encourage moms to explore the benefits of  a more zen experience.

A Conscious Breastfeeding mom creates a sacred space in her home where she is able to focus fully on breastfeeding her baby.  Ideally she will be using a high-backed chair.   Seated with both shoulders resting against the chair, she will draw her baby deeply onto her breast for a pain-free latch.  A secondary benefit of  her good  posture is that she will be facilitatating a sense of comfort and calm in both herself and her baby.  Feedings done this way become a form of zazen, or sitting meditation.

In Zen Begin, Live Your Life the Zen Way, this Zen-Meditation is explained…

Zen is all about focus. Meditation or zazen is an exercise in creating a one- pointedness of mind. The comparison with muddy water is often made. In calm water the mud sinks to the bottom and the water becomes clear.

A Conscious Breastfeeding mom puts her baby to her breast in an intentional manner; she maintains a calm pose and deep rhythmic breathing throughout each feeding session.   As a result, she and her baby come away feeling rested and fortified.  The baby will be in quiet alert and receptive to socialization and interaction with her and other family members; mom’s mind will be more clear and focused.

This mother and child statue was at the edge of a hot spring in the Japanese Alps.   May she inspire you to embrace the the Zen of Conscious Breastfeeding.

What has been your experience of this special breastfeeding time with your baby?

July 21, 2010   No Comments