Clever Cleavage

I’d like everyone to meet Jenny! She is a rock star in the breastfeeding world!

1. Tell us about your personal breastfeeding experience with your children:

My daughter joined our family via adoption when she was 10 months old. I had followed the Newman-Goldfarb Protocols for Induced Lactation (www.asklenore.info/breastfeeding/induced_lactation/gn_protocols.shtml) for the previous 12 months so that I’d be able to breastfeed her. I amazed both my husband and myself when I was able to bring in a significant milk supply by the time we traveled to Ethiopia to pick her up. I knew at 10 months old, there was a chance she would not accept nursing at the breast. In fact, she didn’t. My daughter had been bottle fed since birth and quite possibly had never seen a breast in her life. She regarded mine as if they were alien beings and wanted nothing to do with them. But boy did she love her momma’s milk from a bottle! So for many many months I pumped around the clock and fed her my milk from a bottle, then later in a sippy cup. To make a long story short, just after she turned two years old, and just when I’d about had it with pumping and was considering stopping, my daughter decided to latch to the breast. It took about 3 weeks for us to learn to nurse comfortably and regularly. Now we are nursing pros. Even though my daughter had already been home with us for over a year when she started nursing, it has still been a wonderful part of our bonding and attachment to each other. There is a mutual vulnerability and respect when she nurses. And there’s a one-of-a-kind connection that we both recognize. It’s beautiful. 2. What is your view of breastfeeding in public, and why?

(A quick word about breastfeeding in Italy, which is where I live. People here couldn’t care less where I feed my daughter. I love it! If they see us they look, notice, smile, acknowledge and move on. It’s just considered a natural beautiful thing and not indecent in the least. Living here, it’s become very clear to me how hung up the American society is about breastfeeding in public.)

Breastfeeding in public: As a lactation consultant I have always encouraged moms in this area. I had to put my own courage to the test when my two year old finally started nursing. I chose my “first time” carefully. We went to a park on the military base where I work. Ha! Lucky for me it was deserted. We sat down on a bench in the middle of the playground and I nursed my toddler. We saw only one person the entire time my daughter nursed. I don’t think the person was even close enough to realize what we were doing. Still, it was a bit nerve-wracking and I spent the time furtively looking around, checking for observers. Since then we have nursed at the pool, the park, the food court, restaurants, shopping centers and my office at work. My view is, my daughter deserves this milk, it’s not at all about me and my comfort level. That attitute got me over any public shyness very quickly. When nursing around Americans I do try a little harder to be discreet than when I nurse around Italians or other Europeans. And if I do feel a bit uncomfortable, I just look at my daughter and ignore what’s going on around me. But you know, one thing I’ve noticed is I have NOT gotten any odd looks or comments from anyone, even on base. I know Europe is breastfeeding friendly in general, but who would have imagined a military base could be? How cool.

3. What is your view of sustained breastfeeding, and why?

There is a great fact sheet on Extended Breastfeeding at Kelly Mom (http://www.kellymom.com/store/freehandouts/extended_bf_factsheet.pdf). It lists several benefits of sustained breastfeeding to both mother and child. The most impressive benefits in my opinion are the nutritional and immunoprotective. Did you know that a nursing toddler can get about 1/3 of her daily calories from breast milk? Isn’t it interesting that non-nursing toddlers get sick more often and their illnesses last longer than nursing toddlers? I also really like the practice of allowing the child to decide when to wean. So much of nursing my daughter is about her comfort and security. As her mother it comes naturally to provide her as much of that as she needs. So you can guess by now that I am in favor of sustained breastfeeding. Actually, I should say I am in favor of child-led weaning, at whatever age the child is when s/he decides to end nursing. No age limit.

4. What is your view of adoptive breastfeeding, and why?

Adoptive breastfeeding amazes me. Physiologically I think it is literally incredible that a woman who has never even been pregnant is able to bring in a full milk supply in order to nurse an adopted infant or child. It’s also evidence of the immense well of love, adoration, determination, empathy, and respect that a mother has in regard to her children. It comes from the deepest mothering instinct a woman can have – to protect and nourish a vulnerable young one. You know how touching those photos are of a mother dog who adopts and nurses an orphaned kitten? Or the story of the 130 year old giant tortoise in Kenya that adopted the baby hippo in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami (www.owenandmzee.com)? Those stories are so moving because they underscore one of our greatest fears, being alone with noone to love and care for us, and illustrate the mutual joy of adoption. While adoptive breastfeeding is a phenomenon most Americans are surprised to learn of, many many adoptive mothers have discovered the healing and bonding powers of their breastfeeding relationships with their children. 5.Is there anything you find unique about your breastfeeding story with your children?

Each mother and child’s breastfeeding story is personal and unique. 🙂

6. Is there anything you wish you did different?

Nope! My daughter learned to nurse on her own time, when she was ready, and she’ll continue to nurse as long as she wants to. This experience has been incredible for our whole family, even my husband and teenaged stepson. My stepson is learning what breasts are really for, that it’s natural and normal to nurse your baby/child. What a healthy thing for a teenaged boy to learn! Breastfeeding is so special to my daughter that she often wants to share her milk with her other parent, her dad. She’ll point to my other breast while nursing, wanting her dad to nurse too (no,we don’t do that, but we think it’s so sweet of her to offer!). Or, she’ll want her dad or brother to sit right next to her while she nurses so she can put her arm around his neck or play with his hair. There are so many awesome things about my daughter breastfeeding. At the very least this has been a wonderful bonding experience for all of us, we wouldn’t change a thing!

7. Is there anything you would like to add?

I am a wife, mom, nurse and internationally certified lacation consultant. I live and work at a US military base in Italy. My daughter is featured on my public blog at www.mygirlscurls.blogspot.com.

If you would like to be a featured “Clever Cleavage” mom, please e-mail me jamie(at)iamnotthebabysitter(dot)com

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Men Can Breastfeed?!

I wanted to end World Breastfeeding Week with a futuristic thought of breastfeeding….kind of.

How do you feel about men breastfeeding?

Not possible? Not true.

There is actually scholarly literature on the subject!

“Male Lactation” by Professor Patty Stuart Macadam of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto (Compleat Mother, Fall, 1996, Volume 43).

Male breasts have milk ducts. Men also produce oxytocin and prolactin, the hormones you need to produce milk. This can be stimulated using lactation inducing drugs, or merely enough nipple stimulation.

The first time I heard about this was a news story about a Sri Lankan man that lost his wife in childbirth. This is what he said about how he started breastfeeding:

“My eldest daughter refused to be fed with powdered milk liquid in the feeding bottle.”

“I was so moved one evening and to stop her crying I offered my breast. I then realised that I was capable of breastfeeding her.”

He started lactating and he is able to breastfeed his daughter. It was clear that he loved her very much, and I was moved by his story.

male breastfeeding has also been studied in other mammals….

So, as our culture changes is this perhaps going to be seen in our own society in the future?

I don’t know, but it IS possible! Who knew!?

Adoptive Breastfeeding

Here is another “Magical Milk” picture, but I need to find another title. I am not wanting to rip off Christine’s great weekly post.

Any other catchy title’s that are as happy as “Magical Milk?” I’d love suggestions.

But anyway, here is my latest blog-worthy nursing photo:

My friend nursing her two-year-old Ethiopian daughter. Beautiful Picture! You will learn more of her story, soon! It is AMAZING.

Breastfeeding Rant

Why isn't she using a cover in front of all those other male Macaques?! And how dare she breastfeed her child at that advanced age!?

This is my last annoyed breastfeeding post. Promise….at least on this blog. I want this blog to be more of a silly/happy/fun place. So if I’m going to end my irritated posts (well about this subject) I’m going out with a bang:

Oh Goodness.
Church.
I love Jesus, but sometimes I’m confused by some people that claim to be his followers.
I think half of our sexual repression leading to our oversexed society is partly due to puritan beliefs coming from mainstream churches.

I’m going to get really hippyish on you all, warning to leave now if you want.

The irritant coming from churches right now for me is breastfeeding.
When I enter the “mother’s nursing room” (a room designed specifically for breastfeeding ONLY) I see a about 12 infants all with their mothers wearing covers. Isn’t the point of this room so you don’t have to wear a cover? Not that you should even feel like you have to when you’re not in the room, but I just figured society would deem uncovered nursing in a “mother’s NURSING room” acceptable. I guess not. I don’t care what they do, but leave me alone, please.

Oh no, that is too easy. Funny looks I am used to I just smile and generally don’t talk to people, but once and awhile you’ll get a bold person that wants to make a cheeky comment. “Isn’t he a little old for that?” In a ridiculously condescending tone. My response, “No, he’s not a little old for that” in the same tone…yeah, I’m mocking her, I have no shame- if you’re going to be rude I’m going to be rude back. Of course that is the wrong attitude and I feel bad about it, but it shocks me that out of all places, churches are the most judgmental.

What bugs me is how people think they’re right about this.

Breasts are mammary glands. They are not designed to be an erogenous zone (technically the whole body is, but that is another conversation). Why do some people get aroused specifically by them? Because our repressed society is viewing them like this because we are told they should be hidden and it is the power of our minds (another reason it is so important that our society needs to get desensitized by breasts!).

I’d also like to point out it wasn’t long ago that knees (yes, patellas) were considered a sexual part of a human body. In a cultural anthropology class I read so many bizarre snippets of literature written in that time showing sexuality as cultural. All about knees. Explicit things about knees. It was hilarious, but seeing that that is how some people view breasts at this time in  society it suddenly makes sense.

Now that knees can be seen walking around modern society we suddenly lost our lust for them. I also think a lot of it has to do with intent. If our intent is to arouse by taking our top off it is completely different than when we take it off to sunbath or feed our children. We can also arouse people in a bathing suit, or even in our clothes…intent has to be there.

Clearly, beauty and sexuality are subjective. Logically, we should be looking at what is biologically normal for the genus Homo. That will help us sift out cultural norms and look more at what our bodies are designed to do.

Another argument I hear is that women have full breasts and men do not, so clearly they will arouse men. There is slight truth to this statement.  Men don’t gestate human beings. Women need breasts to feed their children. Plain and simple. Biologically, men look for strong and fertile women.

Human breasts are different from every other animal’s in that they are large even when we are not breastfeeding. When we became bipedal, the primary area males were attracted to, the posterior/gluteus maximus/whatever you’d like to call it, became subsidary. The breasts evolved to attract males, and not leave this large torso area on a woman to be unsexual and could leave her unfruitful.

Also, the shape of the breasts often indicate the fertility of the woman. Progesterone causes the breasts to become rounded, and progesterone is something some infertile women lack.

The problem today is the failure to see that everything on the human body is functional. Breasts are sexual, but that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is. The vagina is sexual, but that doesn’t mean giving birth is. The penis is sexual, but that doesn’t mean peeing is.

It really scares me when people in western society actually see sustained/extended breastfeeding as sexual molestation. I mean, it is ridiculous and very very sad.

I also find it odd that some people may have a problem viewing a photo of a child being breastfed by their mother. At my parents house there is a very large photo hanging over my parents fireplace of me breastfeeding my mother. Company has always seen this picture, and photos and stories of breastfeeding did not just stay in the safety of our house, she made sure this was known. The way I was raised breastfeeding is no more intimate than cutting a child’s toenails or hugging or snuggling their mother. Would people find those pictures inappropriate? Of course not!

I definitely can get the argument of now posting ANY photos of your child’s face anywhere public, that is a legitimate argument to me, and you’ll have to take it up with 90% of blogging mothers….but specifically breastfeeding as unacceptable? Goodness gracious, I thought we were slightly more enlightened than that.

Our children pick up on these things. If you are showing pictures of everything but breastfeeding (or if you practice breastfeeding in private) they soon will feel it is a secretive and dirty act. Creating yet another generation of prudes 😉

I’m not saying everyone should breastfeed their child for five years, or at all. I’m saying it should be up to the mother when and where she does it. If you don’t want to do it, fine…but let other mothers parent the way they know is right for their child. We know what is right for Aram and even when I did feel like my body might be ready to wean, I realized his wasn’t. This is not something that we’re doing for self gratification (have you seen what happens to your breast after prolonged nursing? :-O )  It is something that we’re doing for our children, and I think every mother has a right to parent their child to the best of their ability- for some that may be sustained breastfeeding.

I’m also not saying that every mother should breastfeed their adopted child. Brian and I have decided that any personal contact or information from and of  Samuel’s birth mother will remain personal to him and close friends and family, unless he is wanting to share. However, I will say, if Samuel’s birth mother had specifically weaned him (or he self weaned) prior to relinquishment or there would be disapproval (or just not specific approval) from her, we would change our parenting plan, because of how important her role is (and will continue to be) in his life. I feel every adopted parent knows what is right for their child…just like a biological child, and we must do what is right for them. Every child is different.

And that is my hang-up about breasts/breastfeeding in our society.