…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Conscious Breastfeeding: Honoring Your Rhythms

Dedicated to Liz-a special mom in my practice.  She will be honoring her rhythms with her baby this weekend and reestablishing their conscious breastfeeding relationship.

Your input… thoughts and questions are invited.

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A wonderful summer…it is now when most of us allow ourselves to relax and spend more time outside in nature.  Typically it is when we plan our holidays and look forward to getting away.  Travelling requires us to make subtle or not so subtle adjustments in our daily routine.  We may be completely out of our comfort zone trying new foods and activities or doing similar things in different surroundings.  We may find that our digestion and sleep are altered…

I am reminded of one of my many trips to Japan.  It is a long plane ride and a half a day time difference which poses a big challenge of jet lag.  On my third trip, I decided to just go straight to bed on arrival so that I would wake up with the dawn and be in fine fettle.  Although it was not yet dark outside, I tucked myself in and fell into a deep sleep.  Suddenly I was awakened by what I thought was a bad dream.  I thought I was in my NYC apartment with someone trying to break down the door.  I soon realized that I was not in the States, but in a business man hotel in Tokyo.  The noise I had attributed to robbers was the clanging of the steel door and the shaking of my bed.  Still disoriented I jumped out of bed to try and look out the window.  This was my first and hopefully last earthquake… thankfully it was  very short, although it seemed a lot longer as it was happening.  I later learned that one should avoid windows and doors on such an occasion.

Segueing from my earthquake moment…Giving birth is intense and can also be a bit disorientating.  Typically there will be a disruption in the diet, sleep and many other changes going on in a mother’s body that will precede meeting her new baby or babies.  Having co-existed as one unit, she must now get to know her baby as a separate and unique individual.

For babies it is an even bigger shock… to be suddenly thrust out into a new world.  They have been in relative darkness for 9 months and have been experiencing gentle, steady motion throughout their time in the womb.  Mother’s heartbeat and body are intimately known to them.  Now they are on their own.

-As Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance notes…”Restoring a sense of rhythm to our lives is crucial to discovering Wholeness.”

This is echoed by the Wise Earth School of Ayurveda, Ltd., the first school for Ayurveda education in the USA  established in 1981, which recommends that…

… cultivating inner awareness and reclaiming our connections to nature’s rhythms (cyclical, daily, seasonal, lunar, and solar), carries the potential for self-healing and profound peace.

In other words… the Wise Earth (Sadhana) path of practice is embracing the integration of body, mind and spirit through nature’s nourishers of Food, Breath and Sound.  Each of these is integral to our existence:  we literally cannot function without breath; we are immersed in the sound of our mother’s heartbeat and rhythms from the moment of conception; we are dependent for sustenance and growth on the bounty of nature’s food…which of course includes breastfeeding.

So take time to rest, eat plenty of fresh whole foods and get outside often with your baby.  Wearing your baby will gently transition them into our world.  The gentle motion of walking with them close to your heart is comforting and grounding; it will help your baby to relax and will create natural intervals between their feedings.  Exposure to the light stimulates their pineal gland and establishes circadian rhythms that will set your baby up for healthy sleeping patterns.

Honoring our rhythms throughout life and especially during this important life passage is imperative…and fundamental for you becoming a Conscious Breastfeeding mom.

August 27, 2010   1 Comment

Conscious Breastfeeding: Being in The Moment

Maggie left a comment on the post/podcast The Law of Simplicity sharing her journey of becoming a breastfeeding mother.  She has been relishing the simplicity, but also expressed most eloquently her experience of …

“Being in the Moment”…a key fundamental of the Conscious Breastfeeding approach.

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Indeed, at almost every prenatal class that I teach, there are expectant mothers who are concerned about weaning before they have even begun breastfeeding. Having heard the “rules” and stories from other mothers, they are anxious about entering into an intense breastfeeding relationship which will to take up much of their waking day. They are looking for an exit strategy before they have even seen how their own experience will unfold.

Too often in the early days of breastfeeding mothers will fret that they cannot maintain the initial patterns “forever”. I remind them that their breastfeeding relationship will evolve. It is dynamic. Being pro-active rather than reactive, it will be optimized over time. This does not happen in the past or future but rather very much in the present…taking in the details of each Conscious Breastfeeding Connection.

I have been thinking about this idea of “Being in the Moment”

…this “Being in the Moment” with your breastfeeding baby. The intention and attention, the hallmarks of Conscious Breastfeeding, allow each time you breastfeed to be special. It is different from the one done a few hours earlier and will be different from the next.

Being present, in the moment, is mindfulness and is a simple, yet powerful form of meditation. Just notice the rhythmic jaw movements of your baby. The breathing and swallowing are synchronized and at the same time there is complete stillness in the rest of his or her body. The cadence of breastfeeding is like the pulse of a beating heart. Allow your awareness to follow this rhythm of your baby’s breastfeeding. Observe the patterns. Be in the moment. You are meditating without effort. The calm that descends upon you will be restorative and connects you to yourself and your baby on a very deep level.

Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, Wherever You Go There You Are  Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life says, “I like to think of mindfulness simply as the art of Conscious Living.”

What better way to begin than in the sublime moments you share with your baby as a Conscious Breastfeeding mother?

August 26, 2010   No Comments

Breastfeeding: The Law of Simplicity

Your input… thoughts and questions are invited to podcast/post below.

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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

Conscious Breastfeeding: Beginner’s Mind

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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