…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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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

Breastfeeding With A Baby Nurse: Is it Less Work For Mother?

Bethenny Frankel, from the reality show Bethenny Gets Married, rationalizes the supposed luxury of having a baby nurse in the video clip included in yesterday’s post, “Breastfeeding on Reality TV“.

This notion of hiring a baby nurse aka “infant care specialist” so that there will be less work for the mother is not a new one. Indeed, it is viewed in some social circles as a necessity to make the transition to motherhood.  It has been a prevailing message directed toward affluent new parents in New York City throughout my professional life as a registered nurse and lactation consultant.

The article by Marie Brenner in New York Magazine, October 4, 1982 “Less Work for Mother” is a social commentary in and of itself.  It is worth a quick read to see how our world has changed over these past 28 years.

It is interesting to note that now, more than a quarter of a century later, the majority of  baby nurses welcomed into the homes of  New York City mothers are no longer Irish or European, but  hail mainly from the Caribbean or Philippine’s.  They own the niche.  These women are usually not medical professionals.  They bring to each assignment a knowledge base gleaned from their own life experiences as mothers and/or the on-the-job training they received while in the employ of various families over the years.

Lactation consulting has been a stand alone profession for exactly 25 years.  Initially many of the baby nurses were threatened by these breastfeeding experts entering the picture.  LC’s would come in for short visits and rock the boat.  Accustomed to being completely in charge of the care and feeding of their infant charges, this emphasis on breastfeeding made it seem as though the services of the baby nurse were not really needed.  (A sentiment that Bethenny voiced at one point in her interview.)

It is interesting to note how these two specialties have learned to co-exist during my tenure as a lactation consultant.   The growing trend by many LC’s  to encourage frequent pumping and a greater emphasis on measuring volume of intake has been embraced by the baby nurses.  They dutifully assist the mothers with pumping and urge that supplements be given to “satisfy” their babies when they are the least bit unsettled after a breastfeeding session.  On average, one or two direct feedings per day are skipped so that the baby nurse can give a relief bottle and the mothers can sleep.

The net result for these mothers who are pumping and breastfeeding much of the day is a feeling of being a milking machine.   There is little time to really relax and bond with their babies.

There must be a better way to manage this resource, or as Bethenny puts it, the luxury of having a nurse.   What do you think?

To be continued…

August 10, 2010   1 Comment

Breastfeeding Postcard Speaks Volumes

I received this postcard as a holiday thank you note from a family that I had helped in the early years of my private lactation consulting practice.  It has hung in my office for two decades.

Sergei Vassilev’s 1988 photograph “In the Maternity Home” captures the stages of profound connection that develop between mothers and their breastfeeding babies.  This group bonding moment is understated, yet quite powerful.

In recent years, there have been many nurse-in’s staged to make political statements.  Mothers have descended upon stores and businesses to protest unfriendly policies toward breastfeeding.   During World Breastfeeding Week celebrations each year there are often large groups that assemble in public places to breastfeed in numbers.  One of my favorites was the group nurse done on the A train in NYC.

Whenever mothers breastfeed it touches my heart.  I believe you cannot help but be inspired by the wonder of breastfeeding when you get an opportunity to witness the kind of very positive and primal energy that flows from my treasured breastfeeding postcard.  It speaks volumes.

What do you think?

August 8, 2010   5 Comments

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

Breastfeeding: We Are What We Eat

In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the negative impact of chemicals, preservatives and genetically altered foods in the adult diet.

John Mooney, a New York City chef, had a desire to grow his own food to ensure its quality and to do his part to encourage a sustainable system of food production grown close to home,,,up on the roof.

After a year of testing, his hydroponic vegetable garden has proven to be very efficient. This ancient idea has come to life in the skyline of the Big Apple and he hopes it will become a model for the future.

Mooney also grows Bibb lettuce atop his roof. His new restaurant,Bell, Book & Candle, will be the first in the U.S. to grow its own food on a rooftop using hydroponics. He intends to grow enough produce to serve an 80-seat restaurant nightly for 10 months of the year. (Sarah Rosenberg/ABC News)

I was struck by the parallels between Chef Mooney’s rooftop garden and breastfeeding.

In a relatively small space and at a rapid rate he was producing high quality produce that could provide the bulk of vegetables for his restaurant. He mentioned that all that was needed was air, sun and nutrient rich water. There would be a conservation of energy, very little waste and after the initial investment a more economical food source using this method of gardening.

The breasts, although variable in size, are relatively compact organs that continually produce a concentrated, bio-available fluid specifically designed to nurture and grow human babies. Human milk is 80-90% water; the mother’s diet and lifestyle can favorably impact the quantity and quality of her milk.

Definitely Food for Thought. What do you think?

August 5, 2010   1 Comment