Sunday, August 7, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week and a Giveaway

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), whose mission is “to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding,” holds World Breastfeeding Week every year in August.  This year’s theme is “Talk to me! Breastfeeding - a 3D Experience,” and refers to new ways of communicating globally, to “spread breastfeeding information beyond our immediate time and place to activate important dialogue.”  In other words, they ask advocates to encourage dialogue beyond our own communities, with others in addition to pregnant and lactating women, and across generations, cultures, and genders.  A blog is a perfect forum for this type of discussion!

In order to encourage you to contribute to the conversation, I will host a raffle for a signed copy of my chapbook Familia.  [FYI: this raffle took place in 2011.]  You will receive one entry in the raffle if you leave a comment on this post, follow this blog using the blue “Join this site” button on the left (current followers are automatically entered), or follow by e-mail using the subscription form on the top right.  If you have been thinking about following this blog, subscribing via e-mail or leaving a comment, now is the time!  I am aware that some of you follow or subscribe via Google reader, bloglovin’ or other reader services; I appreciate your readership, but since I can’t view subscriber lists for these services, I can’t put you in the raffle.  So, if you’d like to enter, please contribute to the conversation.

You can learn more about Familia (and my other publications) by clicking on the My Publications tab above.  If you already have a signed copy of my chapbook, you can always give another as a gift if you happen to win this raffle.  I must thank my friend Sylvia for the raffle idea and disclose that she is already a follower, so she is automatically entered in the raffle.  

In my post Natural Mom TV, I briefly mentioned my breastfeeding story, and my friend Karen encouraged me to tell more.  Writing about my difficulties may help other women understand how to overcome breastfeeding problems, so I think it’s a good way to start a conversation during World Breastfeeding Week.  By the way, the Texas Department of State Health Services is celebrating World Breastfeeding Month with the theme “Every Ounce Counts”, so feel free to join this conversation through August 31; I’ll close the raffle that day.

My difficulties with breastfeeding were multiple, some physical, and some due to societal pressures and attitudes.  I have two physical issues, both of which made it difficult for my babies to latch on, but which are possible to work around.  The problem is, since my mother, other relatives, and close friends did not breastfeed, I had no one to talk to about this.  Also, my family, and even the night-shift nurse at the hospital, due to prevailing cultural attitudes, felt that it was more important for my first baby to eat something, than it was for she and I to spend time learning how to breastfeed.

I was using a nipple shield to substitute for my flat nipples, but I sometimes let her try to latch on directly to my breastBecause she was also drinking formula from a bottle, she learned that a bottle would give her food much faster than my body would, so she didn’t put much effort into learning to nurse.  I tried for two months, while using a supplemental nurser with formula, and I also pumped my milk for her to drink from a bottle.

Another problem we had was my fear of asking for help.  I did meet with lactation consultants at the hospital, I talked to them on the phone, and I hired one for a home visit, but we needed more help.  I knew about La Leche League, an organization that “help[s] mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education,” but I didn’t attend their local meeting, partly because I was ashamed that we couldn’t get it right, and partly because I didn’t know how much talking to other women could help.  I desperately wanted to breastfeed, so I was devastated and frustrated that we couldn’t seem to work it out.  I cried about this every day.

After two months, my baby had learned to drink from the tube of the supplemental nurser better than from my breast.  I gave up nursing her and pumped my milk, but didn’t have enough and continued to supplement with formula.  After nine months, my supply ran out.  Plus, my daughter was very active by that age, and I could no longer take the time to pump.

I did successfully nurse my second child, after similar difficulties, but I’ll write about that another time.  My story highlights the need for women to talk to other women about breastfeeding in order to learn, to help, and to encourage each other.  Once a woman has decided to breastfeed, the support of her family, friends, and community can help her succeed, especially if she encounters difficulties.  In a culture that sees bottle feeding as the norm, breastfeeding is a counter-cultural act.  The support of others is essential when women who want to breastfeed face pressure to bottle feed, whether due to difficulties, societal attitudes about nursing in public, or insufficient pumping breaks at work.

So, now it’s time for your part of the conversation.  In the comments, I encourage you to briefly tell your breastfeeding story, to discuss how you have supported or helped lactating women, or to share your thoughts on societal attitudes toward infant feeding.  I can’t wait to read your comments, and to see who wins the raffle!

In 2013 I am linking with:  Breastfeeding Support & Tips


  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I remember after Zander was born he lost a lot of weight, I beleive over a pound before we went home. The nurses at the hospital were really concerned since I was breastfeeding and he kept on losing weight during each weigh in. I was producing colustrum, but maybe it wasn't enough? While at the hospital I had to keep a written log of how many minutes he nursed and on which side. I remember Kaz using a stop watch to time every precious minute Zander would nurse! Luckily our pediatrician wasn't so concerned with the weight loss. She said that was typical of breastfed babies, and he should start gaining when my milk came in. It is hard especially with your firstborn. You have no clue and just want to do what is right for your baby. The nurses made it seem like I was starving Zander. My milk did finally come in on probably the third day after he was born when we were already home. Luckily I really didn't have many problems nursing Zander. Also, with Zander the pediatrician pushed cow's milk and weaning him at one year. I started him on cow's milk right after his first birthday and he totally gave up nursing at 13 months. I wish I had known then that cow's milk isn't even necessary! Lyla hasn't even had cow's milk to drink yet and she is just over two.

  2. I'm much more inspired by women sharing their "real" stories of breastfeeding than those who share just the bad or just the good. Thanks!

  3. I would add that once in my Women's Studies class I took an informal survey by show of hands at who felt uncomfortable around a woman who was nursing. Those who were also responded that they were not opposed to seeing a woman in a bikini. We had a great conversation about it after that.

  4. Jen:

    Thanks for your story, too. Weight loss is yery typical with breastfed babies, yet nurses do seem to think the baby is starving; imagine how their behavior can influence someone to bottle feed! My pediatricians (and almost everyone else) have pushed cow's milk, too. With my youngest, the doctor was satisfied as long as she drank it once in a while. I wish doctors would push other sources of calcium, such as leafy greens, etc.

    That's a great conversation starter!

  5. Thank you for inviting me to your raffle Elisa! I am pro-breastfeeding as well!! Thank God, I was able to nurse 3 of my four children and it was a wonderful experience!! Way to go!! Blessings!! Xhonane

  6. Xhonane, I must also thank God for my success the second time. I started praying for breastfeeding help when I learned I was pregnant, and continued praying for about a year until we got it right. I'm sure it helped, because my youngest was a happy nurser for 22 months.

  7. Elisa, I breastfed my second son. My first never latched on. With my third I was too ill after my pregnancy to even try. I am happy so many women do breastfeed. Sadly, there are still those who advocate that breastfeeding is just another form of subjugation. I'm thinking of a professor who gave a male student a failing grade on a paper he wrote that discussed the advantages & advocated for breastfeeding. This professor showed me his paper thinking that I would understand her position. I was breastfeeding at the time. I wonder if she had known, would she had fired me from my TA position? Just saying.

  8. Maria, thanks for sharing your stories. Unfortunately, there are some, like your professor, who believe women can only advance if they separate their reproductive work from their public work. However, this view ignores two really important sources of subjugation:
    1) The public sphere has always been a male sphere and thus does not allow the integration of reproductive work (childcare and breastfeeding) with public work. Until it does, women who reproduce cannot achieve equality with men, and neither can those men who want to spend more time caring for their children and less time working.
    2) Our society does not respect women's choices. Women who devote themselves to their careers and never have children are criticized for not being womanly enough. Women who devote themselves to family and mothering instead of performing public work are criticized for not contributing to society. Even women like myself, who prioritize mothering and work part-time are criticized for not wanting to make a choice between family and work. Women can't get respect, no matter what choices we make, and this is the real subjugation.

    There is a great article that explains these issues and more by Penny Van Esterik titled "Breastfeeding: A Feminist Issue” at


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