How and Why to Stir the Pot

How to Stir the Pot

This is the easy part.

1. State your opinion about anything.

2. Post a photo of yourself breastfeeding. Or bottle-feeding. Or holding hands with someone of the same sex, holding hands with someone of a different race, with makeup, with no makeup, fat, skinny, with cleavage, without cleavage, eating a conventional (non-organic) apple. Or make a statement with a Democratic slant, a Republican slant, or thoughts on how to discipline children, or how to sleep with children, or how to drive, or what to do with your Tuesday afternoon–you see where I’m going with this. Opinions are something that we like to pretend we don’t care about, but we secretly care about more than anything else.

My mother-in-law told me that her local chicken Facebook group (yes, a group where people in the local neighborhood talk about raising their chickens) was split into 2 when the Admin (the Facebook group Admin who felt that this position provided him with a sort of authority over others) and a group member had a disagreement about something. I don’t know what the disagreement was. I am going to go out on a limb and say that it couldn’t have been that serious. But they are passionate about chickens and that’s cool.

I was also looking at recipes for something and I started to read the comments. I know, I know. You’re saying, “Never read the comments!” But it was a recipe so I figured I was safe and might find some fun alterations to it. Someone in the thread recommended using another type of vegetable and another person responded with something about “being judged.” My point is that you can post breastfeeding photos and the pot will be stirred, but it is not at all necessary to bare your breast. You can pretty much express yourself any way you want and you will likely agitate the subconscious of said pot.

3. All of this should be done over social media because nothing riles people up more than a little butthurt and some keyboard courage. But make sure you live your actual life with the same passion and courage for your cause or you’re just a fake, internet activist and that’s super lame. Social media is a great tool to mobilize people, but it can’t be your world. It is not the world. It’s a tool that is helping to change many things about the way like-minded people connect and “take to the streets” where real change is made.

 

Why to Stir the Pot

This is a bit more complicated, but much more interesting.

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I posted this meme (one of my first) in 2012 because in the short time I had been involved in Facebook I had heard many asinine arguments against breastfeeding, but there was one that I could not get over, still cannot get over. “I support breastfeeding, but… (as long as you cover, as long as you stop by 1 year old, as long as you don’t whip your tit out, as long as…)” and on and on with silly limitations and restrictions. I wanted to address this nonsense not only because I disagree with it, but because I know for a fact that there are women who choose not to breastfeed because of societal stigma surrounding it. Women who are perfectly informed about breastfeeding, women who have decided to bottle-feed not because it fits with their lifestyle or family situation or because breastfeeding didn’t work out or because it’s simply what they want to do, but because they want to avoid pressure and stigma from their fellow human beings surrounding breastfeeding. Even when it’s what they most want to do. That makes me mad. That is bullying. That is a sick society. I wanted to speak up for this group of women, help them to feel empowered and expose falsehoods that exist all over the breastfeeding world.

Part of me wants to laugh that breastfeeding is so controversial that it has literally opened up an entire career opportunity for myself and so many others, but then I realize that it is not funny at all. That it is in fact sick. It is symptomatic of a society that is not well. And for this reason I choose to stir the pot.

For the mother who is breastfeeding her baby, she is not making a statement, she is not putting on a show, she is not trying to get attention, she is not trying to stir the pot. However, I AM. When it’s my son and I alone, that is between him and me. When I post pictures on Facebook, when I write blogs, when I make memes, when I speak in public, I AM trying to stir the pot, to get a reaction, to get attention, to make a statement. And I do it because I believe that bringing attention to breastfeeding will help it become normalized. If just because people get sick of talking about it. But when my posts go viral, get seen by millions, have 3,000 comments behind them, it is clear to me that we have not yet gotten there. So here are some reasons to stir the pot:

1. To keep important issues at the front of people’s minds. It always kills me when people comment on social media with, “why are we still talking about breastfeeding?” Well, because I want to and you just did. So thanks for the comment and that much more Facebook visibility and attention to my cause! Personally I think it is a good sign when people get sick of the topic. That means it is getting so much attention that people are in the process of becoming desensitized to it. Which leads to the end goal of normalization.

2. To discover societal hang ups. I’ve posted a Nursing in Public (NIP) photo on Facebook a time or two. Reading comments on posts that went viral was a crash course in society’s views of NIP. I could then proceed to address the mass of misinformation and prejudices. If we don’t know why people have a problem with something then we can’t address it.

3. To challenge norms. There are a lot of things considered normal in our culture that are downright troubling. And things considered abnormal that are in fact normal. By pointing out flaws in thinking, strange evolutionary developments and our thoughtless behaviors we are challenging people to think about what they do.

4. To challenge authority. There are various forms of authority in our world and they are all cultural-bound. They are often perpetuating these troubling norms by threats of various kinds. This kind of authority is an illusion that we must expose.

5. To help our kids. Not only are you a role-modeling non-drone-like behavior to your children, you are teaching them to think critically. You are teaching them to challenge the world. You are teaching them to Question Everything. You change the world for the better. For the future. (And when they begin to challenge you, take it as a compliment.)

6. What are you doing here? If you’re not here to think, to challenge, to grow, to be a part of something then what are you doing? You are likely perpetuating some issue, some cause, that someone with some vision for the future is trying to make headway with. You are a drone. You are the enemy.

Am I a pot-stirrer, you ask? Yes, yes I am. I kind of like this subject. More to come…

 

Abby Theuring, MSW and Badass Pot- Stirrer

Breastfeeding in the Military: The Story of a Marine Mother

By Badass Meg

I never gave breastfeeding much thought. If you did you did and if you didn’t you didn’t. I was never the one to stare or praise or run and hide because I saw boob.  I was an active duty Marine when I became pregnant with my first. I still hadn’t given it much thought when I went in for a check up and my OB asked me how I was feeding DS. My husband started explaining we hadn’t talked about it and I piped up with breastfeeding. Walking out of that appointment I asked my husband exactly how I was supposed to do that because it truly dawned on me afterwards I had no idea what I was doing; my family just didn’t do that.

Over the coming months I went to all the breastfeeding classes the base offered and thought I was prepared. Looking back now I wish I’d skipped them because they were full of nothing but bad advice and booby traps.  When DS came everything seemed to be great. My milk came in with 25 hours of birth and I was super engorged. He had a great latch and was a champ, even the LC for the hospital said it. By week 4 of my 6 weeks of maternity leave something seemed off.  He took both sides for 20 minutes each and fell asleep with a smile. He pooped and peeped all day long but still something felt off. I took him into the ped and discovered his was failure to thrive. He was a pound under birth weight. The ped sent me up to the LC but she wasn’t available to see me for a few days. I was sent home with formula and told to give him a bottle of it until I could pump some breast milk. Not knowing any better I had bought a Playtex double pump simply because it matched my bottles. By the time I went to work my son was refusing the breast even with the SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) the LC had given us and I couldn’t pump more than 10 oz in a day using the lactina the WIC office gave me.

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The first place I was given to pump was the shower area of a bathroom because it was “separated” by a curtain. There was no office or conference room I was allowed to use despite that the military and the Marine Corps had policies stating I needed a space other than a bathroom. Finally a few weeks in I was given permission to use a old supply closet that I had to share with 7 other women. It was disgusting and we weren’t allowed to clean it but I had no real other option other than the bathroom again. About 5 months into my EPing for DS my unit finally gave us permission to us a barracks room across the road. It was a dream come true for all of us or at least we thought. More times than not when we went to get the key for the room we’d have to sit and listen to men and women  talk about how we needed to knock that off because that just wasn’t what boobs were for and we were so gross and just using it to be lazy and get out of work.

I EP’d for 13 months until I finally dried up. In that time I was constantly put down and told to stop that nasty stuff.  When I asked for permission to go and pump I was frequently made to wait 4-6 hours because something “had” to be done; mostly we sat around for no reason. I developed mastitis several times due to the waiting. Later I was diagnosed with IGT and insulin resistance which would help explain why I couldn’t produce enough. I took every pill, herb, food and drink under the sun that might possibly help. I sought help outside of the base and got a better pump, all of this was out of pocket because Tricare is not required to cover pumps or LCs even for active duty.

I knew having a family in the military would never be easy, but never in my life could I have ever imagined how horrible it would be. Some of the worst people were fathers and mothers themselves. I was just trying to give my son everything I could even if we had to supplement. Thankfully my contract ended and I just gave birth recently to my DD. We’re giving breastfeeding a try and I take every day I get with her as a true blessing even if supplementing is required at some point, because sometimes that just what breastfeeding looks like.

For more support and community for breastfeeding military moms visit Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

Ask an Expert: Breastfeeding and Dental Cavities

By Wendy Wisner, IBCLC

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

Fan Question:

“I have a question. My 11 month daughter has a brown speck on one of her front teeth. I have been doing some research and it may be a cavity caused by night nursing. Has anyone had this problem? I’m taking her to the dentist tomorrow I’m just curious if this happens often. Thanks!”
I’m glad you’re taking your baby to a dentist to get a proper diagnosis.  Stains on teeth can be caused by any number of things.  I hope it’s not a cavity!

If it is a cavity, the first thing to do is to make sure you have a breastfeeding-friendly dentist.  Unfortunately, many dentists believe that breastfeeding causes cavities, and recommend prompt weaning, especially at night.  But cavities should not mean automatic nightweaning.  If your dentist does not support your continuation of breastfeeding, ask your local breastfeeding support group for a dentist recommendation.

Breastfeeding in and of itself does not cause cavities.  First, unlike bottle feeding, breastmilk does not pool in a baby’s mouth all night.  Breastmilk only flows when a baby is actively sucking (and swallowing).  Breastmilk actually contains anti-cavity agents like lactoferrin, which kills the bacteria that causes cavities.  I have helped many older babies and toddler breastfeeding and the vast majority do not get cavities.

But under certain conditions and with other risk factors present, breastfeeding can contribute to the formation of cavities.  It is theorized that certain children are born with vulnerable tooth enamel.  Cavities are caused by the bacteria Strep mutans, so early exposure to these bacteria (usually when sharing utensils with a caregiver) can also increase the risk.  Studies have shown that breastmilk alone is similar to water, and does not cause decay.  However, when mixed with solid food, breastmilk becomes cariogenic (cavity causing).

So it is important to keep your baby’s teeth clean once he or she starts eating solids.  If your daughter does have decay, you will need to be vigilant about cleaning her teeth before she nurses to sleep (for night and naps).

Topical fluoride treatments can halt the decay.  Xylitol paste helps stop the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.  And there are other, more holistic treatments that are worth investigating.  Cavities can be halted, and breastfeeding can continue as normal.

Here is a great, thorough article about breastfeeding and tooth decay: http://kellymom.com/health/baby-health/tooth-decay/

And here is my personal account of nursing a toddler who had cavities: http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbiss1-10p20.html

unnamedWendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys.  In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding.  She blogs at www.nursememama.com.

Suckin’ Me Dry

I have shared many blog posts lately about the tough times in parenting, breastfeeding and breastfeeding a toddler. The most frequent response I get, even when talking about how weaning is not right for Jack and I just yet, is that I should wean Jack. “It’s just time. You need to wean him.” Besides how obnoxious this type of “advice” is, it’s not really the point when talking about tough times.

Why is it that I need to wean my toddler because I am overwhelmed and stressed out? If this is right for you and your family then by all means do it! But I believe this perspective is directly related to the stigma in our culture surrounding breastfeeding toddlers. It’s not something we see very often, it’s seen as optional, extra, not really necessary; so if things are not perfect for you then breastfeeding that toddler must be the problem and you should knock it off!

If there is something going on with me then shouldn’t I be focusing on me? It’s not my kids that are victimizing me and causing me to feel certain feelings. It’s me. The breastfeeding relationship is a 2-way street, yes. And my feelings are just as important as my son’s, yes. But when considering emotional health it’s not the first place to look. The first place to look is within. What is going on with me?

Jack has adjusted to the birth of his brother pretty well. Those first few weeks were a nightmare, then it got a bit better, then a bit more, and today we feel chaotic and busy and crazy, but we also have a good routine and our family unit is full of love. We have come a long way in this short time. We are in a place I feared we would never get. We are so lucky.

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But Jack has continued to struggle with sleep. Since our lives are more hectic than ever and this affects Jack in many ways we decided it was time to get some help. Something that I had been avoiding for a long time. Something that is a bit taboo in the Attachment Parenting community where we are taught that things will even out if left to their natural devices. Well, I have learned, through my breastfeeding relationship with Elxey, that sometimes people need some help. And it’s OK to ask for it. I have thought for a long time that a sleep consultant might be in order for us, but I avoided it for fear that she would reprimand us for our parenting style. “You need to get that kid out of your bed, get him into his own room.” And the ever dreaded “Wean that toddler.”

I was referred to Rebecca Michi. We have been working with her for about a month or 2 now. We have gained a ton of knowledge about how Jack’s natural temperament affects his ability to fall asleep, how the brain makes melatonin, things in our environment that affect the ability of Jack’s brain to make melatonin, tips for day and nighttime routines, tips for gently handling tough behaviors and so much more. We have good days and bad days, but when I sit quietly and look at our lives the good days are building on each other every time they circle around.

One of the unexpected things that Rebecca has provided for me personally is a place to vent. I can say anything to her and she responds with support and no judgment. She also always has some tips or thought-provoking questions. This was her most recent message to me when I expressed to her that I was having a hard time remaining calm with Jack at bedtime.

When do you get some time to yourself? What do you do for yourself? I understand if you don’t get much, you have two young kids after all! I feel that you are not taking care of you. You are on the go from the crack on dawn until late at night and caring for two people who are so dependent on you is exhausting. I want you to be able to fill your cup, when your cup is full you are able to help everyone more. When your cup is empty you are running on empty and having nothing to give. So what do you do to fill your cup? What can you do to fill our cup? Going for a walk without the kids? Going to the gym (ugh!)? Painting class once a week? A quick coffee date with a friend at the weekend? Think of some ways you can fill our cup and give you some much needed time. 

My initial reaction was that it was true, but what am I supposed to do about it? A few seconds later I was literally having a panic attack. This. This was the answer to everything right now. Where am I in all of this? I am barely treading water. I have given up showers, eating, peeing, getting dressed, combing my hair; not to mention reading, sitting quietly, writing for enjoyment, hot baths, listening to music and other things that fill my cup. It seems that we moms are always putting ourselves last. My husband says, “You have to remember that thing about the oxygen masks on airplanes. Put yours on first and then help those around you.”

So where could I find time for me? What would I do with that time? Would I even know myself well enough anymore to be able to plan something? Holy shit, someone was actually asking about me! I started to feel excited. I mean, I like me! How cool would it be to spend time with her?! Less than a day later I am here, by myself, at a local café, writing this blog post. I am writing it for me. I am writing it so that I can process my feelings about this. I am writing this so that I can rediscover who I am, how I got so far away from me and how I can rekindle this romance with myself.

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I was going to put a picture here of me alone, but turns out there aren’t any. Anywhere. 

There is a belief in the extremist AP community (in which I spent most of my early motherhood) that you shouldn’t spend time away from your kids and if you do you should at least hate it. I remember when Jack was very young I couldn’t imagine being away from him. Noe of my friends ever left their kids. I read all sorts of posts about how balance means something new now. “Free time is family time.” I left him for short periods of time a couple of times when I absolutely had to like to meet with HR to quit my job. Besides that I never left him. Ever. I believed that self-care now had to involve him; involve the whole family. I felt I wasn’t truly AP if I ever left him to be alone. That would be selfish. I think I am starting to believe that self-care isn’t truly self-care unless you are alone. Or maybe what I believe even more than that is that self-care looks different for each mother. And only she herself can decide what that is. Which is why Rebecca was asking me how I can fill my cup.

For me, self-care is fully disengaging from my family for a period of time to recharge my batteries, center my thinking and stimulate myself in a very different way than I am stimulated most of the time. I’ve spent 3 years now identifying myself as, “mother, blogger, social worker, advocate, public speaker” that I forgot to identify myself as Abby. Abby Theuring. Abigail Teresa Theuring. Individual. Fucking ME.

What do I like? Green Day. Loud music. Punk Rock. Heavy Metal. Books. Writing. Walking Fast. Magazines. Hot Bubble Baths. The Bachelor. Crocheting. Painting. Laughing With Friends. Photography. Talking Loud. Crossword Puzzles. Shopping. Eating. And so much more that I have let slip away since Jack was born. This is ME!

Turns out this really has nothing to do with breastfeeding.

Oh, what a tangled web this parenting stuff turned out to be.

Abby Theuring, MSW

 

 

Ask an Expert: Relactation

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Anne Smith, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“I am currently trying to relactate. I work full time Monday thru Friday from 8-5, and my job doesn’t allow me much time to pump. I hand express whenever I can, and then I try to latch her on as soon as I get home. The problem is that she gets really mad when not much milk comes out and she keeps pulling off the breast. I’m getting very discouraged. What else can I do?”

You don’t say how old your baby is, or why you’re trying to relactate, so it’s difficult to give you any specific advice, but here is some general information that may be helpful.
The younger your baby, the easier it will be to re-establish your milk supply and get her to start nursing again. Mother’s estrogen levels drop quickly after birth, and the time babies are a few weeks old, hormone levels have dropped down close to where they were before pregnancy.
Breast milk is produced by sucking stimulation and supply and demand. The more often you nurse or pump, the more milk you will make.  If you aren’t able to pump for a nine hour stretch while you’re at work, your milk production will slow down significantly. Hand expressing milk won’t give you the same stimulation as a double electric pump, so it’s not surprising that you haven’t been able to build your supply enough to get your baby to take the breast again.
Most babies younger than three months can be convinced to go back to the breast, especially if their attempts to suckle are promptly rewarded.  Many babies will get frustrated when you put them to the breast and little or no milk is coming out, so they will pull off the breast instead of staying on for long enough to stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
Using a tube feeding device may help by ensuring that the baby’s sucking efforts are rewarded.  Many babies will accept the supplemental feeding systems because they are receiving a steady flow of milk with each suck, much as they would with a bottle.
Babies between three and six months may or may not be willing to nurse, depending on their individual personalities.  Babies older than six months are often set in their ways, and it may be difficult to them to accept the breast at all.
Taking Fenugreek may help increase your milk supply, but it’s doubtful that it will be enough to make a big difference in your situation. There are some prescription medications that can boost milk production, but they are used only after increased nursing and/or pumping has been tried, which is not the case here.
These are general guidelines for relactating, and individual responses will vary. It’s important to remember that you can have very close and rewarding nursing relationship with your baby, regardless of how much milk you produce and whether you feed it by breast or bottle.

Anne Smith, IBCLCAnne has been helping moms reach their breastfeeding goals for over 35 years, as a La Leche League and an IBCLC in private practice since 1990. Breastfeeding six children gives her a unique combination of first hand experience as well as professional expertise. In 1999, she started her website,www.breastfeedingbasics.com, with lots of information on breastfeeding and parenting, and a wonderful group of bloggers, including Abby from The Badass Breastfeeder, Rachelle from Unlatched, and Marie from Anarchy in the Sandbox.

Join the more than six millions of moms who come to Breastfeeding Basics each year for information and support, and visit Anne on Facebook.

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