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Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and there’s perfectly-timed proof that such a month is necessary—not just to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, but to raise awareness of a woman’s right to do it.
Just last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum apologized to a nursing mom who was told she needed to breastfeed her baby in a bathroom. According to news reports, mom Vanessa Bailey was told by a security guard that she couldn’t nurse her child in the lobby, and that she needed to find a restroom in which to do so. (She’s hardly the first mom told to be told to nurse in a bathroom—in fact, there’s an entire campaign, When Nurture Calls, about it.) According to the Chronicle, “Bailey later tweeted and emailed her disagreement with the museum’s ruling directly to the Bush museum’s official social media accounts and also to former first lady Laura Bush and Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager.”
The museum did the right thing by apologizing to Bailey and letting her know that the security guard’s directive wasn’t “in line with their official rules, nor federal rules which state that mothers have the right to feed their children in public.” They also offered her free passes to the museum. (Hey, it’s something.)
The fact is, women have the right to breastfeed in public in almost every state in the Union. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 states, plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands, legally protect a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere in public or private. And yet it seems like practically every week another breastfeeding “controversy” makes news, whether it’s (ridiculous) complaints about a breastfeeding booth at a farmers market, people getting riled up about a woman breastfeeding at her graduation ceremony, or a breastfeeding mom being told to leave a Michaels store and nurse her child outside. (To its credit, the store apologized.)
Frankly, I just don’t understand the fuss. Breastfeeding in public is not immoral, indecent, or obscene. It’s not something that should be relegated to dirty public restrooms (or even clean ones, for that matter. Breast milk isn’t bodily waste, after all.) Lots of celebrity mamas do it. It’s healthy, and if you don’t like it, you have the right to look away. What you don’t have the right to do, in most cases, is ask a nursing mom to stop or go somewhere else. Let’s hope National Breastfeeding Month makes that clear.
Image of a woman breastfeeding: Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
A new documentary film opens today at the IFC Center in New York, and it’s a must-see for pregnant women and new moms because it tackles that tricky-yet-totally-natural, politically loaded, judgement-filled mother of all mothering topics: breastfeeding.
Breastmilk, the movie, was directed and produced by Dana Ben-Ari, a first-time filmmaker, and executive produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the duo behind The Business of Being Born. Billed as “an unflinchingly provocative, humorous, informative and inspirational exploration of just how, when and why the next generation gets fed,” the film follows a diverse group of new parents as they navigate the new territory of nursing. But don’t mistake Breastmilk for a breast-is-best PSA. (A New York Times review calls the film “admirably agenda-free,” and notes that, if anything, Ben-Ari’s documentary shows how “shockingly stressful” the whole enterprise can be.)
Indeed, among the parents we meet are a single mom with an abundant breast milk supply, a lesbian couple where both moms lactate and are vocally pro-nursing, a gay couple and an adoptive couple who both seek donated breast milk, and a mom who desperately wants to breastfeed but encounters latch issues and supply problems. We meet parents who resist supplementing with formula, and parents who seem relieved by the option.
“Together, they tell this one story,” Ben-Ari says. “And I can relate to every person featured in the film.” Adds Lake: “There’s someone there for everyone to relate to. It’s so poignant, and I just love that there’s no judgement. This rite of passage is very personal, and it’s different for everyone.”
Click here to see the trailer.
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Thursday, May 1st, 2014
I cringe whenever I read these stories about moms who are innocently breastfeeding somewhere in public—and are asked to take their boobies and babies elsewhere. In the latest made-the-news instance, a mother was nursing her 9-month-old in the locker room of an LA Fitness and told by a club employee she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed there. Which is especially weird. It’s a locker room, for crying out loud, where actual nudity abounds!
I remember being asked to move, just once, when I was breastfeeding in a lounge area right outside a department-store restroom. I had felt awkward enough as a new mom wheeling my Snap-N-Go around trying to find a semi-private spot to nurse my crying baby. I found a chair, threw a baby blanket over myself, and my grateful, hungry infant calmed. That’s when a crisp woman in a stuffy suit appeared before me and told me there was a bathroom with a private lounge in the department store that bookended the other end of the mall. If she’d been nice about it, I’d have felt grateful—it was useful information to know, at least—but as she continued to stand there, unsmiling, it was clear I was being scolded and was expected to leave, which I did. I wouldn’t have minded just finishing up our feeding instead of getting myself and my baby together to walk to another lounge clear across the mall.
This was years ago, before people did things like post their outrage on the Internet and hold nurse-ins as a show of solidarity and support, like the one that ensued at LA Fitness. If my nurseshaming experience happened to me today, now that I’m a more experienced mom and have already been through that humiliation once, I wonder if I’d still move. I hope my reaction would be more of a whatever eyeroll and to sit tight—at least that’s what I think I’d do now. But it’s not easy in the moment when a bully comes along and you’re tired and just trying to feed your baby, so I feel for that mom in LA Fitness. It’s especially rude if the company indeed, as the mom said, never apologized.
Have you ever incurred comments or raised eyebrows for breastfeeding in public? And what’s the most unusual public location you’ve nursed a baby? Personally, I have to go with that time on a crowded subway. (The baby was desperate!) The guy next to me did give me a couple of downcast glances, but I had a thought that could apply to anyone who now, in 2014, would wither at the sight of a breastfeeding woman: Surely you’ve borne witness to more unusual sights than breastfeeding?
And if you haven’t, you need to get out more.
Are you ready for another child? Find out!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Reading the flurry of recent online commentary about the new study that shows that the benefits of breastfeeding may not be as powerful as we think, reminds me of the way I feel whenever I read a story that reports that marathon running isn’t necessarily so fantastic for your health: Gotcha! Though I enjoy exercise, due to banal body reasons I will never cross a finish line after logging 26.2 miles. And “marathon running is bad for the heart” headlines, no matter how inflamed they may be, give me a wee bit of pleasure.
So it seems to be for those who write about breastfeeding. Put it in its place! Take it down! The Ohio State University study, published online in Social Science & Medicine, appears to have been well-designed without any conflicts of interest. It found that among children age 4 to 14 years, there was no difference between those who were nursed versus those given formula on outcomes, such as body mass index, asthma, hyperactivity and math ability.
And that’s really great news—a relief, really, since even nursing moms need to supplement with formula sometimes. I nursed my younger two daughters until a little after age one, right in sync with what the AAP recommends. My oldest daughter received pumped breast milk until 6 months, and formula after that, and I can say with her teacher’s blessing that she’s not at risk of being crushed in math. In other words, there’s really no difference among my three girls now, though I do emphasize now. As babies, my oldest had more ear infections, and was much more prone to infections, in general, than my younger two. Is it because of the breast milk? Well, we’ll never really know, she was also born premature, but research does show that breast milk passes along immunities that help prevent ear infections, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. Not to mention breast milk is easier to digest than formula (and gas never makes for a happy baby) and, most importantly, reduces the risk of SIDS. Those are benefits not to be dismissed.
It’s time to rephrase our thinking that if a study finds that formula is good, it must mean that breastfeeding isn’t worth the cracked nipples and plugged milk ducts. A step forward for formula doesn’t have to result in a step backward for breast milk. And I would suggest to anyone who thinks that way to do what I do when I feel envious of my marathon-running pals: Sweat it out in a spin class.
To keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule, download our care charts for breastfeeding or formula feeding.
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Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Even the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were shocked: The number of children ages 2 to 5 who are obese has decreased by 43 percent, according to the latest large government study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2004, 14 percent of preschoolers had a weight problem, and the rate was only 8 percent in 2012. Experts believe that the drop may be related to the fact that more moms are breastfeeding (which helps babies learn to listen to their own hunger and fullness cues) and young kids are not drinking as many sugary beverages.
This is particularly great news because preventing a weight problem is obviously much easier than dealing with one. Children who are overweight or obese at age 3 to 5 are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults. It is certainly possible to help older kids slim down or at least slow their weight gain—especially when the whole family gets on board. But for parents of young children, the key is get into good habits and stick with them. You’ve heard plenty about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables and being active, but also keep these three tips in mind:
Pour water. Make it the primary thirst-quencher in your family, rather than juice or soda. Of course, milk is important too. But avoid letting your toddler tote around a bottle or sippy cup filled with anything.
Just go outside. We are all struggling with the lure of screens. When kids get fresh air, they are naturally energized and eager to move around more. Even when it’s cold.
Don’t use food as a mood-booster. I have been guilty of doing this with my own kids. However, if children learn to seek out chocolate or cookies or pretzels when they’re hurt or frustrated, they may do it throughout their life. Instead of offering a snack to distract your child, offer to play catch or join in the pretend-play game of her choice.
Use our Food and Recipe Guide to find quick and healthy meal ideas for your family.
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