Formula and Clinique

July 18, 2012

Why are people up in arms about Mayor Bloomberg banning formula “gift” bags in NYC hospitals?

People think he is taking away a woman’s right to choose how to feed her baby. No, this is not the case.

Let’s talk about marketing.  Basically the hospitals are marketing formula and they are not getting paid for this.  In fact, it takes money to manage the storage and distribution of this product. Yes, the product. Formula is a product. The formula industry is a for-profit enterprise.

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Let’s take Clinique. I love Clinique Bonus time.

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I even subscribe to an e-mail alert system that tells me when and where Clinique is having their next Bonus. I remember in high school going to the Cross creek Mall with Mama and Traci and we would go to Thalhimers or Belk to the make-up counter and inquire about the next Clinique Bonus. Eventually the finely made-up ladies behind the counter saw we were loyal consumers and would clue us in – the Spring Bonus starts next week. Or the Fall Bonus is begins October 3.  I became a customer. Not so much of Thalhimer’s or Belk but of Clinique. You had to spend a minimum amount of money to get the “gift.” This is how is started using Clinique lipstick and mascara. For many years I wore Crystal Violet. I was truly saddened when they discontinued that color – it was what I wore on my wedding day.

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I never thought I would like myself in a frosted lipstick until I got a sample of Heather Moon – my replacement for Crystal Violet. I use Bamboo Pink on those days I don’t wear make-up – like when I go to the beach or gym (yes, I wear lipstick to the gym but that is all – I have very pale lips and well, I am a southern woman.)

I even became a Freelance Fragrance/Make-up Model in the late 80’s when I moved to New York and was a struggling actor. I loved getting the Clinique gig! Twice a year at Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales and Saks.  I learned a thing or two about make-up and I learned a thing or two about the cut-throat Store Modeling industry. But I always got the Bonus!

I don’t use every thing that comes with the Bonus. I used to trade items with Mama and Traci. Then I gave the unused products to varying roommates and friends. Now, I share with my daughters.

I would be sad if Clinique stopped their Bonus. But I don’t think they will. They got me hooked over twenty years ago and there are millions more to hook to keep them in business.

They spend lots of money promoting their product. The lines at the Clinique counters during Bonus time can be more competitive than getting the Select bus at 14th and First at 9:00am (lots of shoving and elbows.) The last Clinique Bonus I got just recently at Lord & Taylor took up a good percentage of the first floor. They will rotate it for the next Lancome or Estee Lauder Bonus.

This is what the hospitals do so freely.  They donate their space for the formula companies to store their product. The companies that make the formula make the hospitals sign a contract to only give their brand. This then makes the parents of new babies believe that the hospital endorses this specific brand. And guess what? By giving away this product the hospital is endorsing the Brand.

Formula companies want your business. The formula industry rakes in billions of dollars annually. And your hospital is helping to promote and pay for the promotion of their product.

And, it has been proven over and over that when formula is promoted breastfeeding is compromised.

If you want to feed your baby formula no one is stopping you.

To Pump or Not to Pump

March 25, 2012

When I was pregnant with Phoebe is 1995 I took a birthing class and a breastfeeding class. In week six of the birthing class the teacher brought in a guest – a woman who rents breast pumps. The businesswoman made it clear that if a person was to be breastfeeding she would need a good quality pump.

Phoebe and I struggled for a few days but got the hang of nursing and all was well. The pediatricians were impressed with her weight gain and were nearly shocked I was exclusively breastfeeding. Looming in the back of my mind was that little voice of the woman “you need a breast pump, you need a breast pump.”

After about four weeks I found a local pharmacy that rented pumps and plopped down my $212.32 for a two-month rental with all of the supplies. I brought it home and it sat on the kitchen table.  Rob came home that evening and saw the new appliance in the kitchen and said, I see you got the pump.

Day after day, Phoebe and I developed our routine. We both loved nursing and she grew so beautifully. Rob loved watching her nurse and saw how happy she was. When I thought she was nursing too much he is the one who pointed out how happy we both were at these moments.

About two weeks after I rent the contraption I realize I have spent this money and I had better use the thing. Phoebe lay asleep on the bed off the kitchen and as I watched her I set up the machine and began to pump. It was fascinating to watch my milk flow out of my breasts into the bottles. After about ten or fifteen minutes I had collected about three quarters of an ounce. I placed it in the refrigerator so Rob could feed it to her in the next day or so. After all, shouldn’t I let him get involved in this parenting adventure.  Why should I be the only one to bond with our little girl?

That night Rob came through the door beaming as usual to see us at the end of the day. He was followed by a thunderstorm that rattled our little house. The lights flashed off and on and off.  The electricity was out.   My mind went directly to the fridge where my precious liquid gold sat on a wire shelf. Rob, the electricity! My milk! You must feed it to her now before it goes bad! I ran to the kitchen ran the bottle under hot water and handed it to Rob with a hungry wiggly Phoebe in his arms. She started to root on his chest. He placed the bottle in her mouth she looked in his trusted eyes as if to say: What the hell are you doing?  I stared at them and my breasts began to tingle. They struggled, both looking betrayed.

Give me that bottle, I said. I unscrewed the nipple and poured the milk down the drain. Let me hold her. I latched her on and we all melted into the normal little family we knew. Is it okay if I don’t pump? I asked Rob. Of course, I never asked you to. I don’t need to feed her to feel connected. 

The next day Phoebe and I drove to the pharmacy and returned the pump and she never had a bottle.

It is important to know that Phoebe and I were rarely separated in the first year of her life. Well, in her case we were rarely separated for the first few years of her life.

Chloe, my second baby also never had a bottle.

Finn, my third baby was born slightly early and had a severe tongue-tie and lost a full pound by his third day of life.  On day six I rented a pump and for 24 hours I pumped my left breast and fed him the milk. In all, he had about three bottles. When he was about nine months old I left him for a few hours and left behind some milk. Rob said he through it across the room and he didn’t really need it.

That is my story about bottles and breast pumps.

Now I want to address the general population.

For many women a pump is an important tool to continue breastfeeding. Just as my story was unique to my situation, so it is for all moms. In 1995 there were not on-line mothers groups. The moms I met were face to face and the conversations about feedings were that – conversations, two- or three-way discussions. These days moms go to their on-line community and read posts. In many ways these forums are great but they can also be scary and mis-informative.

A recent trend I notice is that moms believe if they do not start pumping right away they will not get enough milk. Another trend is that it is important to have a freezer full of milk. All of this work puts so much pressure on new moms and takes away from the time spent face to face with her baby. It also throws off the balance of her milk supply.

Why do you need to pump?

There are different scenarios where a mom really should pump.

If a mom is directed by her doctor to supplement her baby then this mom should use a hospital grade pump to express her milk. This is so that she has a supplement for her baby and it also will help to establish her milk supply.

If a mom and baby are separated it is important for the mom to pump her milk to again establish her milk supply and/or prevent engorgement.

These days many women work outside of the home. In this case pumping her milk assures she has milk to feed her baby while they are apart.  If the mom is one to three days ahead of her supply she can keep her milk in the refrigerator. There really is no need to have a freezer full of milk.  The idea is to nurse your baby when you are with him and to pump when you are separated.

Some moms would like to have a stash of milk so that she can leave her baby in the care of someone else occasionally. In these situations it is truly fine to keep a bottle or two a week in the mix.

For some moms it truly is nearly impossible to pump while at work. Pumping at home after feedings is one way to save milk for this time. Other moms find they use either donor milk or formula as a supplement. If a mom is not 100% breastfeeding it does not mean she is not breastfeeding. There seems to be this idea that breastfeeding is an all or nothing proposition. It is not. When you are with your baby you nurse your baby.

Some moms like to include her partner or other family member with the feedings. Many moms find this helpful while others prefer help with other aspects of her mothering this new baby. A couple of things to keep in mind: be sure it does not complicate the feedings and not feeding a baby does not preclude bonding.

What kinds of pumps are there?

There are many pumps on the market. It seems everyone wants to get in the game. As a new parent it is important to watch out for marketing. New parents are one of the most heavily targeted markets.

Read reviews, real reviews, not just a couple of posts on forums. And watch for paid advertising. Not all pumps are created equal. Just because a pump costs more than others, it does not mean it works better or even as well.

If you need to pump in the early weeks it is important to rent a hospital grade pump.

If you have an established supply and you are working outside of the home on a regular basis you may need a rental pump or a good quality double electric pump.

Look at the size of the motor. Are you paying for technology? Or quality?

If you just need the occasional bottle often a smaller pump or a hand pump can work well. And do not forget your hand. Learning to hand express is a great gift. You do not need to rely on electricity or batteries. Hand expression is something all moms should know how to do.

Here is a quick tutorial:

You take the pads of your thumb and middle finger and place them just on the inner edge of your areola.

You put pressure as though you are going to touch your rib cage.

Then, imagine there is ink on your thumb – you roll your thumb towards your nipple as though you would make a thumbprint – not a smudge.

Repeat.

If you do not have milk flowing you can massage your breast toward the nipple.

You repeat until you have expressed  enough milk for your particular needs of the moment.

The best place to practice is in the shower. Sometimes you will find a “sweet spot” where you get a nice continuous flow.

When should one pump?

If breastfeeding is going well there is no need to pump right away. Allow time for you and your baby master this art. Let your baby and your body flow into a nice equilibrium. You can wait several weeks to introduce a pump and expressed milk.

If there are hiccups in your situation pumping may be indicated.

When to pump varies from person to person. There is no one size fits all prescription.  If you are not sure contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or a La Leche League Leader.

Infant feeding can be complicated or it can be smooth. It is important to find your way. Feel free to share it on your forums but please, please put a disclaimer that this is your unique experience.

Remember this story: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/opinion/sunday/10sex.html

And then I wrote this:

Dear Erica Jong

July 13, 2011

Dear Erica,

I read your essay in the New York Times “Is Sex Passe?”

This passage really got my ire up!

Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.

Well allow me to answer!

I remember when my first child, Phoebe, was a few weeks old and we attended an afternoon barbecue at my in-laws. The topic of sleep – the ultimate new parent topic – arose I shared that we had Phoebe in our bed. Cousin Norma jumped right in, “You can’t do that! It will ruin your marriage!” I was shocked.

I kept Phoebe in our bed initially as a survival method. When I placed her in the bassinet at the end of our bed in the tiny house in the NYC suburbs she looked like she was in California. Neither Rob nor I needed to leave our bed to attend to our baby. We adored her and loved having her close to us. It also made it much easier to feed her through the night. Rob and I could cuddle and make love without disturbing her. Having a baby in bed increased our intimacy. We were more focused, more intense.

At this backyard shindig I learned that Cousin Norma had  been married and divorced three times. She was the one with marital problems.

And Erica, I know you breastfed your daughter. Did you co-sleep? Did you put Molly between you and your husband?

When you parent you have to have a sense of humor. You have to laugh if one moment you are a sexual goddess caught up in the moment and suddenly you switch gears, twist your body toward your baby, offer a breast, keep skin-to-skin contact with two people, be two at once, settle the baby down and go back to being the passionate goddess. You have to be able to laugh.

You do not have to divide yourself into sections. Similar to parenting more than one child – you meet the needs of a younger child and an older child. You can be a present wife and mother.

Oh, dear Erica, I think you feel you need to be an orange – all segmented. Me, I am a juicy peach- no segments, a complete package.

After 18 years of marriage, twelve years of breastfeeding and even more years of a family bed Rob and I are a happy couple with an enviable sex life.

As a woman who writes essays about the guilt of mothering and feminism please do not discount attachment as anti-woman. You are stoking the Mommy War fires.

Sincerely,

Leigh Anne

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Well, I sent my letter directly to Erica as the New York Times was no longer accepting responses. And she wrote back.

Leigh Anne–

Thanks so much for writing. You’re right: we don’t need to be segmented. 

I don’t think I was writing so much about myself as about my view of other parents who are not as whole and loving as you.
I so appreciate your taking the time to write your beautiful letter!
Erica Jong
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I imagine as a writer you have to stir things up a bit. I will take her lead and not hold back. Not always be the sweet polite southerner. I can be tough and opinionated! So look out, y’all!

What Do Boys Get?

May 15, 2011

When I was about ten years old my breasts started to develop. They were tender lumps on my chest. When I told Mama that  I had sore lumps on my chest she marched me right up to Jo Voller’s house.

Jo was the oldest mom on the street. She had five children, four of them girls. She was a breast cancer survivor and she was menopausal. I stood in her kitchen, a kitchen I visited frequently while playing with the two youngest girls, Terri & Debbie; but this time I was alone with Jo and Mama. Jo asked me to lift my shirt and she gently, yet firmly, touched my growing buds and in a quick moment assured Mama that I was developing normally.

As my breasts grew Mama avoided buying me a bra and I avoided asking for one. Terri, who was two years older, had a training bra. I suppose she was training herself to wear one because there was nothing there to support.

I always knew my parents were growing up along side us kids – they were kids themselves when my brother was born.  Mom was straightforward and honest with us, forging new territory in honest discussions of human development. She checked out a book from the library with collaged illustrations for our talk about where babies come from.

When I got my period she gave me a pearl ring – my birthstone is a pearl. When my period came I was so excited and proud. For the  year before, every time  I got a stomachache I wondered if my period was coming. There was no stomachache or cramps, it just showed up in 7th grade following my first teen party and my first slow dance.

As a single woman in New York I worked at a small location scouting agency.  Cece and I forged a close friendship over the years at work sitting next to and across from each other in the small office.  We dissected our lives, compared and contrasted our development, our relationships. Cece and I are both middle children – she has two brothers. I have an older brother and a younger sister.

When Cece’s mom told her about where babies come from she briefly described the unfortunate circumstances that would make appearances monthly and devastate most of her life.  She took it in and asked her mother “What do the boys get? If I have to have this, what do the boys get?” She was distraught.

Several years later, pregnant with my third baby, I am having dinner with my two girls, Phoebe, nearly ten years old and Chloe, 4. Rob is out for a business dinner. It is a girl’s night. Phoebe tells me her breasts are feeling tender and lumpy. I go to the bookshelf and whip out my latest copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. There is a lovely illustration of the different stages of breast development. We discuss the development of girls and women’s bodies. They have watched my belly grow, they have both been nurtured at my breasts.

It is a school night, dinner is over and it is shower time. We go together to the bathroom. I turn on the shower, the girls get undressed and Phoebe looks at her nude body in the mirror and says “It is so cool! We get to feed babies with our breasts. We get to grow babies on our bodies. What do boys get? They don’t get to do that!”

The girls get into the shower and I “Yes!” myself for doing a good job. Then I weep that Mama is no longer around for me to call and tell her what I learned from her.

Bye Bye Breast Burka

March 23, 2011

Some of you have seen this but it bears showing from time to time: Katherine, a new mom, called me to discuss her milk supply. She was concerned with keeping up the demand of her baby. Then she asked me other breastfeeding questions. She was not sure how to nurse Sadie outside of her house. She thought it was because she needed her “special pillow.” The truth is she doesn’t know how because few women really breastfeed in public anymore. There was an orangutan at a zoo in Boston. The zookeepers mated her and she became pregnant. Ms. Orangutan had been raised in captivity. She had not lived among sister orangutans so she did not know what to do with her baby when he was born – the baby orangutan died. The second time around the zookeepers asked volunteers from the local chapter of La Leche League to nurse their babies in front of the primate.  When the second baby was born the primate placed her baby in her arms backwards but with some guidance from the staff quickly learned to feed and care for her baby. This is how we learn. We observe the behavior of others. When I was a pregnant with my first baby I had met a few breastfeeding mothers along the way including my sister-in-law. I took a breastfeeding class to learn as much as I could before my baby arrived. When Phoebe was born she was placed in my arms and we nursed for the first time for about twenty minutes. And then we nursed  – a lot. I felt awkward. I fumbled to unlatch my nursing bras, some of which were too big, some of which were too tight and one that broke. I bought dowdy nursing clothes. I wore button shirts. I still felt awkward. Phoebe was born on a hot summer day.  I am a gregarious person. I am best chatting with a group. As a new mother I felt isolated. I hungered for company That summer we had a few social events – a wedding, an engagement party – “showing off our baby” weekends. I noticed that wherever I went the host always had a “nice air conditioned room with a comfy chair” for me to go and nurse Phoebe. And Phoebe nursed all the time. I was even isolated in my socialization. Sandra, my brother’s wife had recommended attending a La Leche League meeting. The meetings had been a great resource for her as a new mom. I found the meetings helpful but even more important were the lunch dates after the meetings. Phoebe and I joined other nursing moms monthly at the Thruway Diner. We always sat at the big round table in the center of the bustling eatery. Six to ten moms and their babies smack in the middle of business suits, ties, skirts and silk blouses. This is where I learned to nurse out and about with confidence. I watched the moms with older babies. I saw unspoken communication between them. I saw how a baby might start to wiggle a bit and like Houdini the mom had unhooked her bra, lifted her shirt and latched the baby in seconds flat. It looked effortless and it also looked like there was a baby in her arms – no breasts hanging out, no cover ups – simply a babe in arms. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel that assured. I wanted to look that smooth and at ease. As I expressed my envy at their mastery they all assured me that they too had been awkward. They encouraged me to nurse Phoebe in front of a mirror and I did. I grew confident in my ability to nurse Phoebe whenever she needed.  At the next social gathering Phoebe started rooting and I said to Rob, “I am going to nurse her here.” He put his arm around me and kept talking. From there I declined offers for the “air conditioned room with a comfy chair.” I eventually became a La Leche League leader and then lactation consultant. I gave birth to two more children. I nursed them all over the place: the bus, the subway, Saks, Barnes & Noble, fancy restaurants, diners.  Usually no one except other mother’s knew I was nursing. I was not hiding behind anything just nursing my babies. When my youngest child, Finn, was about 6 months old I was at the pediatrician’s office for a well check up. In the waiting area were two new moms discussing a new product they had just discovered – “The Hooter Hider” one of them said in an embarrassed giggle. Then I started seeing breastfeeding covers everywhere. This was the antithesis of the Thruway Diner experience. A baby begins to fuss, the mother searches her bag for the cover, the baby fusses more, the mother opens the cover, ties it around her, by now the baby is wailing, the mom fumbles with the cover and the baby, the baby kicks about, perhaps not wishing to be under a tent. Now everyone knows what is going on under the fabric. How challenging this makes everything. Breastfeeding by its very nature is designed to be simple. We have complicated it. We have made it shameful and difficult.  Like the orangutan new moms today have no real life positive breastfeeding images. Courtney, another new mom, asked me a question about nursing in public. I asked her, “ Do you have any friends who are breastfeeding?” “Yes,” she replied. “So go hang out with them, learn from them,” I offered. “They use a cover or expressed milk in a bottle.” she answered. “Go to the thruway diner!!!” I want to scream. But that was another time, another place. I walk down the street and look into the windows of Victoria’s Secret, American Apparel and Abercrombie + Fitch – this is our provocative world yet we must put a tent around us to feed our babies? We flaunt our breasts to sell products. Breasts are sexy – until they become functional. Then we hide them. A few years ago I could spot a breastfeeding mom because I had a keen eye and I had been there. Nowadays anyone can tell a breastfeeding mom – she is the one hiding behind the overpriced piece of calico. Scan 121940003

Migrant Mother at MoMA

March 9, 2011

I took a trip with Chloe’s 4th/5th grade class to the Museum of Modern Art. They are studying heroes – everyday heroes. Brandon, one of Chloe’s classmates quickly pointed out that moms are heroes. He loves his mom. He told me, “Moms work really hard all day long but they make it look easy.”

Our MoMa tour guide, Grace, took us through the Museum. It was Tuesday, which is the day MoMA is closed to the public. It was so great to see the amazing art without crowds. Grace took us to the gallery to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It was truly breathtaking.

We saw Andy Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe, Picasso’s Girl in the Mirror and the beautiful sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity and Space by Umberto Boccioni.

The most moving exhibit for me yesterday was Dorothea Lange’s photographs of the Great Depression. We focused on Migrant Mother. Grace asked the children to comment on it and share their observations. They noted her pained look into the distance, they noted the determination in her expression, they noted the children  on either side of her. I was proud that Chloe noticed the baby in her lap – it is not so obvious. I noticed the baby looked full faced, well fed. I asked Chloe if she knew why the bay looked healthy when the others looked thin. She  rolled her eyes and let out a sigh and said, “because she nurses him.”  Grace looked over at us. I shared my observation of the full faced baby and Grace commented, “well, yes, the mother is determined to get her children fed.”  I said, “the baby is clearly breastfed.” Grace looked at me askance. I smiled. We moved on.

I was so moved by the exhibit and this photograph. I went home and googled Dorothea Lange and Migrant Mother. The Migrant Mother is Florence Owens Thompson. I will not get into the controversy surrounding the photos of Mrs. Thompson but I did find that Dorothea Lange took a few other images of her. There is a beautiful image of her nursing the baby.

Go to the MOMA.

 

Ban The Breast Burka

February 23, 2011

Katherine, a new mom, called me to discuss her milk supply. She was concerned with keeping up the demand of her baby. Then she asked me other breastfeeding questions. She was not sure how to nurse Sadie outside of her house. She thought it was because she needed her “special pillow.” The truth is she doesn’t know how because few women really breastfeed in public anymore.

There was an orangutan at a zoo in Boston. The zookeepers mated her and she became pregnant. Ms. Orangutan had been raised in captivity. She had not lived among sister orangutans so she did not know what to do with her baby when he was born – the baby orangutan died.

The second time around the zookeepers asked volunteers from the local chapter of La Leche League to nurse their babies in front of the primate.  When the second baby was born the primate placed her baby in her arms backwards but with some guidance from the staff quickly learned to feed and care for her baby.

This is how we learn. We observe the behavior of others. When I was a pregnant with my first baby I had met a few breastfeeding mothers along the way including my sister-in-law. I took a breastfeeding class to learn as much as I could before my baby arrived.

When Phoebe was born she was placed in my arms and we nursed for the first time for about twenty minutes. And then we nursed  – a lot. I felt awkward. I fumbled to unlatch my nursing bras, some of which were too big, some of which were too tight and one that broke. I bought dowdy nursing clothes. I wore button shirts. I still felt awkward. Phoebe was born on a hot summer day.  I am a gregarious person. I am best chatting with a group. As a new mother I felt isolated. I hungered for company

That summer we had a few social events – a wedding, an engagement party – “showing off our baby” weekends. I noticed that wherever I went the host always had a “nice air conditioned room with a comfy chair” for me to go and nurse Phoebe. And Phoebe nursed all the time. I was even isolated in my socialization.

Sandra, my brother’s wife had recommended attending a La Leche League meeting. The meetings had been a great resource for her as a new mom. I found the meetings helpful but even more important were the lunch dates after the meetings. Phoebe and I joined other nursing moms monthly at the Thruway Diner. We always sat at the big round table in the center of the bustling eatery. Six to ten moms and their babies smack in the middle of business suits, ties, skirts and silk blouses.

This is where I learned to nurse out and about with confidence. I watched the moms with older babies. I saw unspoken communication between them. I saw how a baby might start to wiggle a bit and like Houdini the mom had unhooked her bra, lifted her shirt and latched the baby in seconds flat. It looked effortless and it also looked like there was a baby in her arms – no breasts hanging out, no cover ups – simply a babe in arms. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel that assured. I wanted to look that smooth and at ease. As I expressed my envy at their mastery they all assured me that they too had been awkward. They encouraged me to nurse Phoebe in front of a mirror and I did. I grew confident in my ability to nurse Phoebe whenever she needed.  At the next social gathering Phoebe started rooting and I said to Rob, “I am going to nurse her here.” He put his arm around me and kept talking. From there I declined offers for the “air conditioned room with a comfy chair.”

I eventually became a La Leche League leader and then lactation consultant. I gave birth to two more children. I nursed them all over the place: the bus, the subway, Saks, Barnes & Noble, fancy restaurants, diners.  Usually no one except other mother’s knew I was nursing. I was not hiding behind anything just nursing my babies.

When my youngest child, Finn, was about 6 months old I was at the pediatrician’s office for a well check up. In the waiting area were two new moms discussing a new product they had just discovered – “The Hooter Hider” one of them said in an embarrassed giggle. Then I started seeing breastfeeding covers everywhere. This was the antithesis of the Thruway Diner experience. A baby begins to fuss, the mother searches her bag for the cover, the baby fusses more, the mother opens the cover, ties it around her, by now the baby is wailing, the mom fumbles with the cover and the baby, the baby kicks about, perhaps not wishing to be under a tent. Now everyone knows what is going on under the fabric.

How challenging this makes everything. Breastfeeding by its very nature is designed to be simple. We have complicated it. We have made it shameful and difficult.  Like the orangutan new moms today have no real life positive breastfeeding images.

Courtney, another new mom, asked me a question about nursing in public. I asked her,

“ Do you have any friends who are breastfeeding?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“So go hang out with them, learn from them,” I offered.

“They use a cover or expressed milk in a bottle.” she answered.

“Go to the thruway diner!!!” I want to scream. But that was another time, another place.

I walk down the street and look into the windows of Victoria’s Secret, American Apparel and Abercrombie + Fitch – this is our provocative world yet we must put a tent around us to feed our babies? We flaunt our breasts to sell products. Breasts are sexy – until they become functional. Then we hide them.

A few years ago I could spot a breastfeeding mom because I had a keen eye and I had been there. Nowadays anyone can tell a breastfeeding mom – she is the one hiding behind the overpriced piece of calico.

The Things I Carry

February 23, 2011

These are the things I carry:

My wallet, at least one lipstick, keys that now have a key card and at least

two obsolete keys. I sometimes carry a small purse, sometimes one larger,

just recently I stopped carrying diapers and wipes. I occasionally carry a

child, I carry a bag for work with an organizer full of handouts and

breastfeeding information. I have a bag of finger cots for testing a baby’s

suck, I carry nipple shields. I often carry a scale for weighing babies before

and after nursing to prove to mom’s that they do have milk or to

understand why a baby is fussy all the time. In my head I carry milk

storage guidelines which I can rattle off but I keep a printed copy for the

parents I see. In my pockets I carry super heroes and fairy dust. I carry

secrets told to me by my children, my other family members, not Rob – he

doesn’t seem to like the concept of secrets. I carry secrets from the moms I

meet, I know who had abortions, I carry milk in my breasts, I carry the

memory of the babies who died in my belly, I carry the feeling of birthing

my three children, I carry the wisdom of my mother and I carry the grief of

her loss. I carry words to songs in my head, I carry the residue of

secondhand smoke in my childhood lungs, I carry the secrets of growing up

in an alcoholic family. I carry a light inside that my mother never let me

forget was bright. I carry love, fear, joy. I carry hair ties.