Nurse In

October 5, 2017

In 2005, Barbara Walters spoke on The View about her discomfort with nursing in public and particularly called out an incident on an airplane where a woman nursed her baby next to Ms. Walters. A group of parents and activists gathered outside the studio in a peaceful protest. I was pregnant with my third baby and was excited to be part of this nurse-in. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/07/nyregion/lactivists-taking-their-cause-and-their-babies-to-the-streets.html

Much has changed over the last decade. Breastfeeding is promoted by celebrities and is seen as a good thing generally speaking.

 
As an IBCLC I mentor up and coming Lactation Consultants.

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I was contacted by, Perrine, one of my interns last week. She told me that her friend was asked to move and to cover up at a store in Columbus Circle. Perrine is from France and wanted to know what the rules and laws are in the US and NYC.
The laws are clear, you have a right to breastfeed where you have a right to be in NYC.https://www.nysbreastfeeding.org/laws-and-legislation/

My first thought was, “we need a good old fashioned Nurse In!”
Perrine was thrilled. Thrilled to be able to stand up for her friend, to do something that could effect change and to take action.
It was easy to put together. A quick Facebook event and a bit of sharing.
Last Friday, September 29, just before 10:00am I arrived at the Shops at Columbus Circle and the first thing I noticed just outside the store were these beautiful twelve foot Adam & Eve sculptures by Botero.
They are impressive bronze statues that are nude. Of course, Adam & Eve are nude.
I find it ironic that a woman wanting to feed her child in the most normal manner is told to turn away so no one can see her while twenty feet away from these colossal nudes.

By 10:10 several moms and babies arrived at the atrium and gathered in the shadow of the Botero sculptures. A camera man from a local news station walked into the mall. I asked him if he was there for the nurse in. He was but told me he could not film inside the mall. We walked outside the mall and he began to focus his camera on me. A security guard approached us and told the camera man he could not film there. The camera man told him he had cleared it with head of security and to go ask him. As the guard swiftly went in search of his boss I spoke into the camera. I told whomever would be listening that it is important to normalize breastfeeding and that people should not be shamed for feeding their babies. I said that the breast is overly sexualized and that people in our culture cannot separate the sexual from the simply functional.

Back inside as we all gathered I was approached by a man in a suit whom I assume was the head of security for The Shops. Our exchange went something like this:

Him: Hi, what is going on here?”
Me: “Oh, my friends and I are going to do some shopping at Williams Sonoma. And, we may feed our babies if they get hungry.”
Him: “alright.” He nodded his head and smirked a knowing smirk.

We walked into the festively decorated shop, it smelled of cranberries and roasted turkey. We were offered tastes of their mulled cider. It was delicious.
A baby started to wiggle and her mom said her baby was ready to nurse. We were standing next to a beautifully appointed table and I asked an employee if my friend could sit and feed her baby. She smiled and replied, “of course.”
Then other moms pulled out the chairs and nursed their babies. It was beautiful and peaceful and ordinary. I watched the moms one by one get comfortable in their act of “defiance.” A bit sheepish at first then, one by one, easing into a setting of just a few moms sitting around talking and nursing and admiring the beautiful décor.

I asked if I could take their pictures. One of the moms was at first shy about being photographed and then as time went on she said, yeah, I can be photographed. She smiled and looked up at me and said, “I am a Lactavist!” She held her head a bit higher and she beamed at her baby and at herself.

I decided to “out” us. I asked the woman who allowed us to use the table and chairs if I could speak to a manager about an incident that had occurred earlier in the week. She seemed genuinely disturbed that there was an incident and got the manager immediately.
August is a tall man with dark hair pulled into a neat ponytail. He approached me and when I told him of the Perrine’s friend he was upset. He wanted to know which employee it was who had made this mom so uncomfortable. He assured me that the store policy is that a person can feed their baby anywhere and they do not have to hide or cover up. This was heartening and I wondered if I had made a big deal out of an isolated incident.
I approached the moms some of whom were nursing their babies and others whose babies had drifted off into milk drunkenness.
When I told them they were happy. They commented that they were happy to be a part of something.
I realized this is important for them, for the store manager, for the employees, the head of security and the channel 7 camera man.
This was not a big rally but it had an impact. The ripple effects will carry on. The social media sharing that happened continued throughout the week. Every little bit makes a difference. I cannot be quiet when it comes to social justice. I may not always have the right things to do or say but I will not sit idly by and let people be harassed for feeding their babies.

We quietly dispersed, I went home, got my gear and went to see a couple of families in their homes to help them feed their babies. Just another Friday!

 

To Pump or Not To Pump

July 26, 2017

This is a question many new parents are faced with. People do not realize the amount of information thrown at new and expecting parents until they are expecting and new parents themselves.

One of the big decisions parents have to make is how they are going to feed their baby. It seems like most Americans consider breastfeeding. There are many obstacles that interfere with breastfeeding – that is a post for another day but let’s talk pumping milk.

I recall when I was pregnant with my first baby I took a breastfeeding class. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but did not have many role models so I listened intently on how to breastfeed. I remember the instructor talked about pumping and how it is best to rent a pump – I am not sure I remember much more. When Phoebe was born I struggled with how to get her latched and how often to feed her and I had a striped scab across one of my nipples and a hickey on the other from her latching onto the areola. I remember in a fit of frustration telling Rob WE NEED TO RENT A PUMP! NOW!

 

It took a few days for us to figure out how and where to rent a pump – this was 1995! Phoebe and I found our rhythm – she found my nipple I found how to listen to her cues. The pump arrived and I stared at it.

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For three and a half weeks. We rented it for four weeks. I knew I needed to use it before returning it and having spent over $80 renting and buying parts. I put the shields on my breasts and was impressed that milk came out of my breasts.

Later that night Rob came home from work. This was summer and there had been a storm. The electricity was out. Phoebe started to root around. “You have to give her this bottle! Now! My milk is going to go bad and we do not have a refrigerator and it is 99 degrees!”

Rob grabbed the bottle and tried to feed our screaming baby. I walked out of the room. My breasts began to tingle and leak.  Rob was sweating, Phoebe screamed louder and louder. Her head spinning like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I started to cry. I think Rob was crying, too.

“Give me the baby.” I latched her on and we both chilled out.

“What do I do with this?’ asked Rob.

“Pour it down the drain,” I told him.

It turns out I did not need to pump. The company I was working for went out of business so I became a full time mom.

I asked Rob if he felt he needed to feed Phoebe to bond. He laughed and told me he felt bonded with here.

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And eventually I became a La Leche League Leader and then a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

 

As someone who has been in the breastfeeding business for two decades I have seen different trends. With the Affordable Care Act offering up pumps to expecting parents and with social media there is a big pumping culture. And there is so much information shared that it can all be confusing.

If your baby latches on, you feel comfortable and your baby is gaining weight there is no need to pump.

Conversely, I have seen women who were told not to pump for two weeks or for one month or whatever someone told them was a rule. Or no one told them to pump while their baby is being supplemented with formula. In some of these cases this compromises their milk supply. The bottom line is that the baby must be fed. But if your baby is being supplemented and you want your body to make milk then it is important to pump. Milk is made by removing milk form the breasts – this can be with a baby who has a good latch, by hand expressing or by using a good breast pump.

 

Let’s now talk pumps. Pumps are not all created equally and not everyone responds to pumps the same. I have worked with people who pump using their hands – hand expressing – here is a cool video:

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There are hospital grade pumps, electric single user pumps , and hand pumps.

 

When should you pump?

  • If your baby is separated from you
  • If your baby is not gaining enough weight
  • If your baby causing you so much pain you cannot tolerate nursing
  • If your baby takes a bottle
  • If you are donating milk
  • If you are working away from your baby

There is no need to fill your freezer! Pumping is not an Olympic sport!

How many people compare their milk stash to those they see on Instagram?!

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You really only need enough milk to feed your baby.

If you want to pump that is cool but if you do not want to pump and do not need to then don’t pump.

People can bond with a baby without a bottle. If you want your baby to have a bottle of breastmilk, then pump.

Each situation is unique and blanket statements do not help new parents. For help call an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Find a Lactation Consultant or a La Leche League Leader.La Leche League International

 

 

 

 

This week I was in lactation nirvana.

On Tuesday I attended an all day conference on TOTs – this is Tethered Oral Tissues – this includes tongue tie, lip tie and buccal tie. The conference was put together by Dr. Scott Siegel, a physician and dentist who is uses laser to release these ties. The event was multidisciplinary with sessions given by and attended by IBCLCs (International Board certified Lactation Consultants), SLPs (Speech Language Pathologist) CNMs,(Certified Nurse Midwife) OTs (Occupational Therapist) Orofacial Myologists, doulas, and more.

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I have been in Private Practice as an IBCLC for 15 years. I have worked with hundreds of tongue-tied babies and even nursed two tongue-tied babies. I learned so much and more importantly had explanation for the things I knew instinctively and saw in my practice but could not quite explain. I have a better understanding of the impact of TOTs on people of all ages.

Wednesday night I attended a reading of the book, The Big Letdown by Kimberly Seals Allers. The subtitle is How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding. I live this book everyday. The obstacles against breastfeeding are immense. They keep coming. As we solve one issue another pops up.

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I was asked by a journalist yesterday to answer a few breastfeeding questions. One was “Does my ethnicity affect my ability to breastfeed?” My gut response was, “heck, no! Mammals are mammals.” But the reality is that breastfeeding is a learned and cultural experience.

What needs to happen is that families need to be supported on many levels. Education is imperative. There are so many obstacles. (More on these later.)

Sometimes I get weary of the repetition of some of the problems that could be resolved with education and normalizing breastfeeding. I never get weary of empowering and educating families. And I NEVER get weary of holding babies.

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I will continue to help families, educate myself and keep sharing my knowledge – even when met with resistance.

 

Sexual Assault

May 15, 2017

Well, here we are. He got in and it keeps getting worse by the minute. I thought it was a good idea to share this again. Spring is here and with the weather the desire to wear comfortable clothes that are cute should not make a woman, or anyone, feel like they are on display for others to grope and catcall them.

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I am happy to hear the conversation about sexual assault being brought out into the open. Perhaps talking about it can help prevent it.

I have been thinking about my experiences. In college I found myself in a couple of bad situations. When things got out of hand I blamed myself. I blamed drinking. I figured it was my fault. I had flirted and I had liked the initial attention.

When I moved to New York in the late 80’s I found myself the object of many a man’s cat calls and groping. I started to walk with my hands at attention waiting to feel the contact on my ass. What power I felt when the fingers began the journey between my legs and I grabbed them and bent them backward and in my deepest, strongest voice said, “Keep your fucking hands off me you mother fucker or I will…

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My Brilliant Career(s)

February 12, 2017

I have had many jobs in my life, some career worthy and others just a way to make some extra cash. Some have truly fed my soul while others ate away at my soul. Some were ordinary and others quite fascinating. Here is a list of most of my jobs.

Babysitter – a common first job for preteens – I started when I was eleven years old – when I think about that family leaving me with their toddlers – that was insane but they were expecting their third baby and they had two boys under the age of three – they probably didn’t care who watched their kids – they just needed to get out! They also knew my mom was across the street. I called her when the youngest boy peed everywhere and the older boy spilled milk all over the place

Sales clerk – I loved the discounts I got at Thalheimer’s – I was a “flyer”, this meant I worked in most of the departments, great for me to one day work in men’s cologne, another in children’s clothing and then another in housewares.

Waitress – Annabelle’s was a pub like restaurant at the Cross Creek Mall – I was terribly disorganized so it was good that I was in an Army town and I was cute – the soldiers tipped well and were not too picky

Starmount Forest Country Club – this was a different clientele and there was one cranky old man who always wrote in 10% for tips no matter who served him – the standard was to just sign the bill and the club added 15% – there were a few who wrote in 20% – it was good money to work an event like a wedding or bar mitzvah – there were always extra tips

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Dorm receptionist – I got to know who was dating whom, whose parents came to visit the most and who stayed out all night

Bouncer – OK, the Fifth Season was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Greensboro and I worked the door checking IDs and making sure the guests honored the dress code. Since Daddy was a soldier I knew soldiers were not allowed to drink in public in uniform – I loved telling the soldier to go back to his room and change into street clothes and not disrespect the uniform and our country!

Fragrance model – at major department stores I would demonstrate the free gift or the latest product for beauty companies – I promise I never squirted anyone who did not want to smell of cinnamon or lemon or gardenia or whatever the latest scent was but some people looked at me and ran – one woman actually jumped back three feet in fear of me dousing her in Estee Lauder

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Epilady lady – this contraption had a spinning spring system that literally ripped hair out of your body. At Bloomingdales one day I turned my back away from the Epilady stand for a moment. When I turned back to show the product line to a curious customer I saw a woman wincing as she swept the device across her chin and ripped out the chin hairs! We were trained to never use it on the face but I let that woman have a go at it as I saw her whiskers from ten feet away and I figured I would want to eliminate that extra hair growth if I had it on my chin. I moved my new customer to the teeth whitening EpiSmile!

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Model – I modeled jewelry for private parties for a jewelry designer – I once wore a necklace that cost more than my parents’ lifetime income!

Receptionist – this was my first NYC job! I moved to NY, well, I stayed in NJ with my close friend’s family, I arrived on a Wednesday, bought the Village Voice on Thursday and set up interviews for Friday and accepted the job offer that started on Monday and paid the highest. My office skills were limited because I had goofed off in typing class but I could talk and be pleasant and I had college debt and a total of $174 to my name, I needed that job immediately!

Office temp – again, I was a good receptionist but that did not pay as much as people who could type fast so,

Paralegal temp – I was smart despite my inability to process words quickly on a machine, paralegal temping required decent amount of intelligence and paid better than other temp jobs. And it was amazing to hear about frolicking going on between the attorneys and the paralegals and other scandals.

Location Scout – I worked in a location scouting office, mostly representing short term rentals for photo shoots and TV commercials but I liked to be out and about so I always volunteered when an odd request came up or the need to photograph a new spot for our catalogs.

Hair stylist – OK, my location scouting office shared space with a private hair salon, the stylists were top notch but they never learned to French braid. A woman from the pub around the corner popped in because she knew there was a salon in the back and wanted a French braid for a wedding she was attending. John and Terry were at a loss. I told her to sit at my desk and wove her hair into a lovely braid.

Personal assistant – a former boss married a millionaire and needed a bit of help with little things – I was happy to shop for her, to return items after a shopping spree or buy gifts for family and friends, ride around in her town car with Carlos, her driver.

Baker – I have always found peace in creating cakes and cookies so I decided to make it a career while parenting two young children, I baked cakes and pies and cookies in my kitchen and delivered them to cafes or to birthday parties or events – I still love to bake. I was often challenged to go outside of my comfort zone and bake something unusual or important like a wedding cake!photo 2

Caterer – this was an extension of my baking business – my most popular was a menu of friend chicken, potato salad and red velvet cake!

Producer – I produced stand up comedy shows and a full-length off-off Broadway play – sometimes you gotta cast yourself to get the parts you want! We did a two-week run of Crimes of the Heart at the Producers Club on West 44th Street!

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Actor and Comedian – see above and I continue to dabble a bit here and there – I recently did a show called Moms Cracking up!

Writer – I write for parenting – Bundoo.com, BreastfeedingToday.com and contribute to articles and books

Lactation consultant – this has been my longest career so far. I love helping, educating and empowering families. It is not always easy but it is important and it fills my soul to be in the presence of babies and their families. I see so many emotions bundled up and flying out. I have learned so many cultural traditions and learned to see how much people are different and how much they are the same.

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Life is full of interesting adventures and the career you pick when you are eighteen or thirty-five or any age does not have to define you but it sure can inform your life and enhance your worldview!

 

 

Babies & Holidays

November 22, 2016

The holidays are upon us and for new parents it can be fraught with anxiety. Whose family do we spend the holidays with? Do we travel? If so, how: car, bus, train, airplane?

Should we just stay home and have family visit us? But how will we be able to host people? I can’t even feed myself half the time let alone a dozen guests? And my baby just got into a somewhat predictable routine! Help!

Many families are eager to show off their new baby and want to have holidays with family and friends. It is not impossible to enjoy the the festivities with some planning and a change of expectations.

First, expect that your baby who is used to somewhat of a routine may want to be in the arms of her parents more. She may also nurse more than usual – nursing is calming for a baby, she feels safe in your arms, safe at the breast.

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Depending on where and how your baby sleeps, her sleep may be different when traveling or when you have company. This is not uncommon and know that you can get back into a routine once you get back home or the guests leave.

Sometimes it works to invite people over to your place so that your baby’s routine is fairly regular. Make it a potluck to take the pressure off. Make definite times for your event:

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People want to help but often need direction.

Assign jobs: setting the table, washing dishes, vacuuming, etc.

Some new families like to keep it simple and stay home and create their own traditions.

One family has a tree trimming party in early December. They make it an open house with set hours where people do not have to stay the whole time. Their friends bring ornaments and food. This is a great way to see friends and family in a festive way without the overwhelming scene of everyone all at once.

Another family started a tradition of staying home, eating their favorite junk food and watching silly movies. They wear matching pajamas. No friends or extended family – just their little family.

This may be the first time many of your loved ones are meeting your new baby. They all want to hold her. That does not mean she wants to be held by all of them.

I recall my sister’s wedding was the the first time many of my family were meeting my oldest for the first time. She was nine months old. She was comfortable in the arms of my husband, my mom, my sister and me. But everyone wanted to hold her. I have lots of photos of her with tears or a red face. It was overwhelming for her. After a while I told everyone they could take a picture with me holding her. Those photos show a smiling baby with her cousins and aunts and uncles – and me!

Some people may be critical that your baby is “clingy.” Your baby is in survival mode. You may be met with criticism of how often your baby nurses.

Speaking of nursing your baby may nurse more than usual or she may even get distracted and nurse less. If she nurses less your body will let you know! Just take her back and nurse her if your breasts are getting full. If she is distracted go to a private room – take a nap together! This can be your escape excuse!

Some have never nursed in front of family. Practice in front of a mirror or with a group of other nursing moms and you will see that very little skin shows. If you are one who feels like you need to partially undress to nurse, a pretty scarf can help offer some privacy.

Before these gatherings discuss your plans. If Aunt Martha is always critical of your parenting and you have to see her, plan on a few replies to her comments.

    “My that baby isn’t dressed warm enough! I would never have let my babies dress like that.”

     “Aunt Martha, thank you for your suggestions, we will consider them, for now things are working for us.”

    “My, that baby sure nurses a lot, you may want to give her some cereal in her bottle!”

    “Aunt Martha, our pediatrician says we do not need to give her cereal, my milk is all she needs.”

 

Many couples have an escape plan. They have a code for when the time is up.

It could be a wink or a phrase. “Honey, I left the oven on.” “Sweetheart, I have on two different color socks!”

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Make sure you take lots of photos. These memories should be preserved.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

The Unfathomable Loss

October 31, 2016

MY friend Ann wrote this – so powerful – so sad.

Quest for a Normal Day

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Babies die. Children die. Young adults die. No one hates these facts more than I do, no one. Because I was once one of the mothers who walked the interminable shadow of death of my two year old, so yes, I know of what I say. It is impossible to accept and more unfathomable to understand but it is in fact true

My two year old found his way into a swimming pool and drowned without anyone witnessing his ending. Her teen son decided to swim the rushing brook during a hurricane for kicks and was never seen again. Her son was driving home from the beach when a gust of wind flipped his jeep and he was gone despite all the riches and fame that family owned. Didn’t save him. Her daughter decided to switch drivers while driving home, no one survived. Her four-year-old son got a rare…

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