…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Conscious Breastfeeding is Integrative Nutrition

Geneen Roth, author of ‘Women, Food and God‘ recently featured on Oprah has a philosophy about food that is very much aligned with Conscious Breastfeeding. She has been teaching here in NYC at Integrative Nutrition and describes why this is a good fit in the video below.

A comment thread to my post: Breastfeeding Relationship Status Update: It’s Complicated made me reflect upon these very points.   Breastmilk technically is a food. The natural delivery system is breastfeeding.  In modern times, the relationship inherent in breastfeeding has taken a backseat to it as a nutritional commodity.  An integrative nutrition view blends these two, the  relationship to mother and spirit with the quintessential food for human babies.

Ms. Roth speaks of  “Looking at food as a way of exploring the health and happiness of our entire lives.”  This is my view of Conscious Breastfeeding.  It is feeding with intention and attention; being fully in the moment and as a consequence developing a very powerful. intimate relationship with your baby that informs every aspect of his/her developing life.

Breastmilk  is the conduit for this energy exchange.  Thus, even when apart from the baby, the expressed milk maintains the connection literally and figuratively.  It is quite understandable that food is often equated with love, especially in breastfeeding circles.

Both integrative nutrition and conscious breastfeeding take a holistic view of  mind, body and spirit in relationship to the experience of eating.  Balancing the sum of these parts can help us to set the tone for health and well-being in our lives.

What do you think?

August 30, 2010   No Comments

Breastfeeding Status Update: It’s Complicated

Breastfeeding is just like most modern relationships, sometimes it is difficult to define.

More often than not, the romantic ideal of a blissful nursing couple is threatened by the addition of pumps and bottles. These artifacts alter the experience greatly for both the mother and her baby. She is likely to feel overwhelmed.

Breastfeeding Status: It’s complicated.

Tongue-in-cheek, my green logo above and query are inspired by Facebook.   The irony is that it has, on several occasions, banned breastfeeding photos.

What is your Breastfeeding Status?

Do you exclusively breastfeed your baby?  Do you breastfeed, then pump, then feed a bottle of your expressed milk?  Do you breastfeed, then offer a formula chaser? Do you pump exclusively?

Ideally breastfeeding should be a relationship with your baby, not the pump.   Couple therapists typically recommend banning the computer and television in the bedroom in order to foster greater intimacy.  In the same vein, focusing on direct breastfeeding will enhance both bonding and the milk supply.

There is a time and place for the gadgets, but in the bloom of new love or breastfeeding it is best that the focus be on the partner.  Being in the moment and keeping things simple can help lay down the most solid foundation for long term success.

It is all about making positive, conscious breastfeeding connections and upgrading your status to: In Relationship with your breastfeeding baby.

August 26, 2010   8 Comments

Conscious Breastfeeding: Beginner’s Mind

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

One of the most valuable concepts of Eastern philosophy is found in the Japanese word Nyuanshin which is commonly translated as “beginner’s mind”.  I stumbled upon an amazing post which draws upon this concept… The Inner Art of Airmanship…Master of the Wing , Yet Always a Beginner.

While reading this article I suddenly remembered a fun incident that I had shared many years ago with my youngest brother Stephen who flies silver jets…or so says his email handle.  To be more exact he is now a major in the Air Force Reserves currently on leave from being a pilot for American Airlines.

When he was in the final stages of getting his wings, Stephen had arranged for all 4 of us siblings and the parents to have a go with him in the cockpit simulator used to train pilots.  Sitting there with him and faced with a dashboard of complex and unfamiliar knobs and gauges was exciting, but daunting.  I was immediately overcome with admiration for him to have been able to master such complexity.  On another level, my desire to show how smart I was and to be better than all the other newbies in the family got in my way as I tried to follow his instructions in this unfamiliar space. I became filled with fear being asked to “pilot” this imaginary vehicle.   Although, I was quite comfortable with the technology specific to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, this was beyond my scope of knowledge and expertise.  I felt like a fish out of water.

So… to no one’s great surprise… I crashed the plane and didn’t even realize it until he exclaimed…gee…you’ve just  cost Uncle Sam millions.

We both had a good laugh!

My misadventures in the cockpit could be a metaphor for the way a new mother may feel when she starts breastfeeding, a bit vulnerable and out of her element.  Although she has lived in her skin for some time, she has not ever had to rely on her body and specifically her breasts in this way.  She knows that breastfeeding is natural and has most likely heard that it has a learning curve.  She may do a fair bit of reading, take classes and/or check in with her family and peers to get prepared.  She may expect that it will be easy, or not, depending upon the input she has had in advance of beginning her breastfeeding experience.

It seems to me that the Zen concept of Beginners Mind is particularly suited to a new mother.  It requires that she leave behind some of her preconceived notions and be open and receptive to learning, both in mind and body, the fundamentals of mother-led Conscious Breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, many mothers experience pain or may even be unable to get a good latch because they believe it should be left up to their baby or worse yet, a pump.

As in flying planes or practicing martial arts, breastfeeding requires attention be paid to the details of a learning a specific physical skill…in this case, the latch.  By “just doing” the specific steps that enhance the latch connection an optimized breastfeeding journey becomes possible.

A muscle memory of the latch will develop for both the mother and her baby; it is acquired after some practice and the rate of learning is different from one individual to another.

Coordination of this latch-on technique can at first seem difficult.  Through continuous repetition of the basics, a dynamic will develop for a Conscious Breastfeeding mom… where she is no longer needing to make constant corrections, but will still remain alert for any changes that could develop bad habits or set backs that might unfavorably alter her enjoyment of breastfeeding.

As a new mother you need to be patient, diligent and forgive yourself for being a beginner.

By embracing your beginners mind, you will own the experience.  Do the learning.  Walk the path.   And you, the student/mother will ultimately become the teacher for your baby of this way of Conscious Breastfeeding and many other life lessons.

August 16, 2010   2 Comments

Got Enough Milk? Part 2: Feeding Methods do Matter

As discussed in Part 1, there is a difference between breast milk and formula. However, it is not only the type of milk, but also the delivery method and style of feeding that can greatly affect the behavior of a baby.

It is not a very accurate scientific analysis when any amount of breastfeeding is weighted equally across the board. There are definite differences between exclusive breastfeeding, breastfeeding with occasional supplements of expressed breast milk and breastfeeding with formula supplements.

The types of milk offered, the delivery methods and styles of feeding can significantly impact any evaluation of breastfeeding success.

Milk:

  • Human milk, being lighter and easier to digest, does not make the baby go into a heavy sleep for the entire interval between feedings.
  • Formula, being heavier and more difficult to digest, and usually given in larger amounts by the bottle, seems to make the baby sleep much of the time, especially in the beginning.

Delivery Method:

Breastfeeding with a decent latch eliminates intake of additional air.

  • The flow rate of milk directly from the breast is slower being delivered in a fine spray that can be more easily handled by the baby. This reduces the need for much burping post feeds.

Bottles, no matter what the manufacturers may claim, always have additional air in the system which can add to the sense of fullness experienced by the baby.

  •  They tend to deliver the milk much more quickly than does the breast; the baby may gag and pull away or develop techniques to pinch off the nipple with its tongue to stem the flow. Obviously this action would not be pleasant if it was then applied to the human nipple.

Feeding Styles:

Exclusive Breastfeeding can vary a great deal from one nursing couple to the next. Much depends upon who is running the show.

Baby-led, or what I call free-style breastfeeding, tends to be more frequent and assessment of intake or quality of each feeding can be somewhat unclear to the mother, especially in the beginning of the breastfeeding relationship.

Conscious Breastfeeding, the term I coined to describe the mother putting the baby on with intention to ensure a qualitative feed, will lead to more defined patterns of feeding that can be optimized over time. NB. This does not mean a schedule, but rather a definite feeding rhythm.

Breastfeeding with Expressed Milk Supplements:

  • The lighter, species specific nature of human milk causes much less digestive upset in the baby.
  • Expressed milk given by a bottle is a pooled sample of milk and the ratio of water, fats, proteins, etc. may vary from one serving to the next.
  • Nonetheless, it will be clear that all growth is taking place solely due to the nutritional value and calorie content of human milk whether taken directly from the breast or via the bottle.
  • Additional air in a bottle of expressed breast milk may make the baby feel more full than when it feeds directly at the breast. This is one possible reason that premature babies only given human milk in a bottle, for days or even weeks prior to discharge, seem unsatisfied initially when switched to exclusive breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding with Formula Supplements:

Several variables are in play with this approach. The breast milk and formula are inherently different as has already been discussed.

  • Caregivers tend to be very generous with the readily available, heavier formula when feeding by bottle. There is a belief that the baby will sleep longer.
  • When formula is given there is usually an unlimited supply compared to the output that results from the mother’s pumping.
  • Since formula is harder to digest, breastfeeding more frequently will not be as productive. The baby needs to be alert and truly hungry to breastfeed well. Otherwise, it will snack on the breast and wait for the bottle.
  • The mom will think she is breastfeeding, but she is quickly becoming the aperitif rather than the main course.

Babies who have been on expressed breast milk and/or formula via bottles for a period of time are often difficult to transition back to the breast:

  • They have developed a taste for the method (firm bottle nipple) and speed of the delivery system (fast flow bottle).
  • The more bottles, the greater will be their discontent while breastfeeding.
  • Their mother who has become accustomed to measuring volumes of milk being given via the bottle will soon become insecure and worry that she doesn’t have enough milk in her breasts.

Babies react differently when breastfed only or breastfed and given bottles of breast milk and/or formula. For this reason it is essential that the utmost effort be made to optimize the baseline of direct breastfeeding.

Judicious use of supplements, preferably of human milk whenever possible, will foster a less complicated analysis and more enjoyable breastfeeding experience.

June 26, 2010   1 Comment

Conscious Breastfeeding: A New Paradigm for Modern Moms

I was here in New York City on that fateful, and absolutely beautiful day 9.11.01 when the world as we know it changed.   Every time I see an incredible deep blue, cloudless sky I am taken back to that day.  I remember feeling so invigorated by that late summer morning and then having the wind knocked out of me by the tragic events as they unfolded.

To this day, I have spent every subsequent 9/11 in quiet contemplation.  It touched close to home as my brother at the time was a pilot for American airlines.  Luckily he was on a different route that day.  We also had a close friend whose brother worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and didn’t make it out before the Twin Towers collapsed. 

Over these past 7 years,  I have dug in deep and examined the meaning of life and my passion for empowering breastfeeding mothers.   My own mother, and many of the mothers who I have helped along the way, had encouraged me to share my unique perspectives with the world.  I committed myself to this task fully in the last year and have kept my promise to all of them.

I am pleased to announce that on this September 11, 2008 I have published my book, The New Motherly Art of Conscious Breastfeeding.

In this multi-media book, I outline a  breastfeeding system that is simple and strategic.  I have traced the history of breastfeeding over the past 50+ years and show how a subtle change in perspective can have a profound effect upon a new mother’s experience of her breastfeeding.  We can no longer sell a model of breastfeeding that is not culturally sensitive and which doesn’t fit into a modern lifestyle.

I truly believe profound connections are made at the start of life and that in these deep conscious breastfeeding connections, therein lies hope for our world and future.  Breastfeeding is so much more than just feeding.  It is foundational and truly the elixir of life.  It will empower women, mothers, partners and children to be connected through loving, respectful relationships within the family and greater community. 

It is my hope that this personal and practical guide that I have written will support and encourage more moms to embrace this breastfeeding model which truly fits in a modern life and is…the new paradigm of Conscious Breastfeeding. 

September 15, 2008   No Comments