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

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.

image

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 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

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 Success: Less Than Six Degrees of Separation

Living in NYC, there are many opportunities to interact with celebrities.   However, one of the reasons John Lennon loved it here is that, for the most part, his privacy was respected.   

I stood on line behind Kevin Bacon at my Starbucks.   I could feel my father desperately channelling through me an urge to engage him in conversation.   Although I inherited my dad’s ”gift of the gab,” I could not utter this joke forming in my mind.  “So, this is what they mean by six degrees of separation?”   If only I had remembered at that moment that his wife Kyra had breastfed.   Given my penchant for marketing at Starbucks , who knows what I might have been able to say. 

All kidding aside,  I have found that there is less than 6 degrees of  separation for breastfeeding success.  

  • Your mother, partner, a sibling or close friend, doctor (pediatrician or obstetrician), lactation specialist can all impact your choices and the trajectory of your experience. 

Six Degrees of Separation For BF Success

One of the most important considerations is surrounding yourself with positive breastfeeding role models and enthusiasts.   Given the barrage of hormones, any lack of support, whether real or imagined, can shake your confidence.  Those who love you do not want to see you exhausted and overwhelmed.  They may try to relieve you by offering to give a bottle or encourage you to consider an exit strategy. 

Breastfeeding is natural, but it is also a learned skill for both mother and baby.   Tensions can build when couples are not on the same page about this essential aspect of caring for their newborn.  Attend a breastfeeding class together if at all possible.   Remember that coaching does not end after labor.  

Many of you will defer to the “authority figures” such as the doctor and lactation consultant.  

  1. No Pediatrician will hang out a shingle saying they are opposed to breastfeeding.  However, early supplementation with formula is a big clue about their knowledge and support of breastfeeding. 
  2. A survey of Pediatricians published in late 2008 verifies that their promotion of breastfeeding is down.
  3. Lactation consultants that rely too heavily upon gadgets and pumping may further overwhelm a mother. 
  4. Check out your local parenting boards and read them carefully.  Look for someone who has the clinical expertise to fix your latch rather than manage your pumping.
  5. Ask your friends to  honestly share their breastfeeding experience and judge if you want some of the same.
  6. Follow me on twitter or become a member of  The Breastfeeding Salon

We live in an interesting period of human history where popularity and affiliation are highly valued.   With some preparation you can assemble your dream team of breastfeeding support within six degrees of separation.

June 27, 2010   No Comments