…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding in Public: Eye Candy or Not?

This summer the pedestrian mall between Herald Square and Times Square in New York City is home to a unique art installation, Sidewalk Catwalk, promoting the fashion district.

The mannequin below was designed by Kenneth Cole.  Its tongue in cheek message made me think of the topic du jour…Breastfeeding in Public.


Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Cafe near Bryant Park is just a few blocks away from the “eye candy” above.   A New York mother claims in a law suit filed this week  that she was harassed there last summer while breastfeeding her 5 month old infant.

In the past 24+ hours her story has been trotted out on all the local media. Read more here.

Cathal Queally, the Irish candy man proprietor of Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Cafe, told the local NBC interviewer that it was a misunderstanding.   He said he grew up with sisters and was surrounded by breastfeeding women. He added that the target audience for his confections are mothers and children.  Indeed, there were signs welcoming breastfeeding mothers on his store front window.

It is Breastfeeding Awareness Month so any buzz on breastfeeding gets traction.  The comments on the blogs, news articles online and those solicited from New Yorkers on the street were mixed.

A cynical analysis might be that the entire episode is being “milked” for all it is worth by the parties involved.  On the whole. the impact of this publicity seems positive.

The media news blitz is educating the public about the law allowing mothers to breastfeed anywhere, rallying other breastfeeding mothers to have confidence to openly breastfeed and publicizing an establishment now very openly declaring that they are breastfeeding friendly.

I still find it quite amazing that breastfeeding in public ruffles so many feathers.   Breasts are mammary glands perfectly designed to feed human babies.  Their function as eye candy is contextual.

We have lost touch with the naked truth.  As the Kenneth Cole mannequin reminds us…Underneath it all you are all naked.

Human bodies are works of art in their own right.  When a mother breastfeeds her baby that stark beauty is expanded into a very sweet and tender tableau…

Eye candy in the eyes of the beholder.  What do you think?

August 17, 2010   3 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

Breastfeeding Instruction: What Gets Lost in Translation?

I have taught thousands of hours of breastfeeding classes in the multicultural, urban environment of New York City. 

We live in a world that revolves around information; knowledge on any given subject appears to be just one google search or click away.  This may explain why an increasing number of students who come to my classes lately seem to be there merely to confirm what they think they already know versus wanting to actually learn something new.  

Adult learners, often find it difficult to be open to the richness of a learning experience when they fear judgement or criticism.  It is often more important to be right than to risk being wrong or feeling like a complete newbie.

I am reminded of my first day in Japanese class. 

The appearance of a diminutive teacher who immediately began speaking in a foreign tongue made me feel at loose ends.  I ultimately mastered enough spoken Japanese that I was able to spend several wondrous holidays travelling throughout Japan.  I immersed myself in the culture and made many new friends.  My language skills have gotten rusty, but rudimentary communication is still  possible for me with little effort. 

A love of learning has impacted my approach to teaching.  There are several learning styles auditory, visual, kinesthetic.  It is not uncommon for some of us to use more than one at any given time to learn and anchor an experience into our memory. 

When your brain is under the misimpression that it already knows something you tend to filter for new data or for things that do not fit your preconceived notions.  Often that filtering process impedes learning because the mind is only attentive to parts of the whole. 

When participants ask me questions using terms and words that I have not uttered and ascribe them to me, it becomes clear that they are at best only selectively listening during class.  When these queries come from their own internal dialogue and are not directly related to content delivered, I thank them and clarify what I had actually said.  Hopefully, this helps them to take in a piece of new information. 

It turns out that cultural differences, apart from language, can also have a bearing on how the students in my classroom may interpret and receive the information.  According to the article published in the Winter edition of Tufts Magazine, ‘The Brain in the World-A Burgeoning Science Explores the Deep Imprint of Culture’, the field of cultural neuroscience is only about two years old. 

Tufts psychology professor Nalini Ambady puts it this way: cultural neuroscience shows that “there is malleability in the neural structure depending on cultural exposure.” The brain, she says, is a “sponge that absorbs cultural information.” What she and other cultural neuroscientists have discovered is that although the brains of people from different cultures do not exhibit large structural differences, certain neural pathways do become more ingrained from immersion in a particular culture. They’ve also learned that those differences in brain function can influence our emotions, our behavior, and our attitudes toward people from cultures other than our own.

It goes on to describe a study done with American and Japanese subjects who were shown groups of photographs and asked to rate them according to the characteristics of dominance, maturity, likeability and trustworthiness.  The researcher, Rule, then broke those down into two sub-groups of power and warmth.  The Americans overwhelmingly favored the powerful faces and the Japanese the warm ones.  When fMRI scans were done it was noted that the Americans were using the analytical parts of their brains and the Japanese the emotional areas.

But what he discovered surprised him: both groups were using the same part of the brain—the amygdala. Sometimes called the “lizard brain,” the amygdala, which has been with us since the early days of our evolutionary journey, helps us detect threats, but it has a more general function as well, signifying increased attention to any object in the outside world. In this case, the amygdala was firing for both the American and the Japanese groups when they saw the picture of the leader they preferred.

It should be noted that the amygdala is also a prime area for the infant’s experience of breastfeeding.  

As a teacher, I am left to wonder how I might better engage these amygdalas, the cultural command central of the brains of these mothers-to-be? The answer may lie in the common thread of child-like wonder that is a constant in every culture while we are young. 

So it not just the words, visuals and the practice of positions, but a cultural sensitivity that may ensure breastfeeding instruction does not get lost in translation.

What do you think? What has worked for you?

July 9, 2010   No Comments

How to Win by Quitting: A Model for Breastfeeding Advocacy

I was privileged to attend an amazing personal transformation workshop led by Jerry Stocking, Embracing Being,  Held in early June, this is an on-going course that he brings to New York City several times a year.

A group of us participated in an impromptu sales exercise.  We were sent out on the streets of Manhattan in the Herald Square area.  Each of us was asked to sell one copy of a book from Jerry Stocking’s catalogue of books  to a complete stranger.  Each book was to be sold for $10, which we were told was the price of re-admission to the morning session of the workshop in progress.

The Herald Square neighborhood around Madison Square Garden, Macy’s and Penn Station is usually full of pedestrians, especially on a warm Saturday morning.  People were in motion-many of them were rushing to a  destination or had time constraints needing to catch a bus or train. 

Enter our band of itinerant sales people.

To be successful, we had to break through our personal fears.  We had to confront our fears of approaching strangers, of being rejected, of not being fully conversant with the product we were asked to sell.

There are no accidents.  The book I chose, “How to Win by Quitting” was more fitting than I could have imagined at first glance.  I had chosen it thinking it would apply to giving up substances (smoking, alcohol, etc.) or resonate with folks trying to find their passions in this new global economy.  Actually, it spoke to the fundamentals of this “cold call” sales exercise.

Fear can stop us from attempting anything.  Be it sales or breastfeeding.  As the lotto motto reminds us, “You’ve got to be in it, to win it”.  By quitting my fear, I was fully able to engage in the experience and win big.

The basic secret of successful sales is that you must be able to put your attention on the recipient of the goods or services being offered.  It turned out that the objective of our morning exercise was not to merely sell a book.  It was to observe a process.

The win was not in selling the book as much as it was being fully engaged and attentive.  A personal, authentic human interaction was to be experienced.  Selling the book was just the icing on the cake.

If you are able to align yourself with the dance of communication, you experience life fully in the moment.  You can have fun and both sides reap a reward.

This is as true for breastfeeding advocacy as it is for successful sales.  Passion and playfulness need to to be the order of the day!

June 28, 2010   1 Comment