This week, August 1st through 7th, is World Breastfeeding Week. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be EXCLUSIVELY breastfed for at least the first 6 months, but the CDC reports that the average for the US of babies being exclusively breastfed at 6 months is only 18.8%. The benefits to breastfeeding are endless, so lets get these numbers up!
I created this mini-project to spread awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. I will be interviewing and photographing several mothers who want to share their experience with others. A big thanks to all of the mamas who participated! For the whole month of August I will be offering Breastfeeding mini sessions for $75.00. Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Stay tuned...
Ashley C., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding.
"I wish I knew how demanding breastfeeding was going to be. It requires me to be available 100% of the time. I cannot rely on anyone else to help or assist; it is completely my responsibility. "
"Breastfeeding awareness is not about passing judgement about the way a mother decides to feed her baby. It is simply educating people that they have a choice as to how they chose to feed their baby. "
"My biggest challenge to breastfeeding was acknowledging and accepting that I would the primary caregiver for my baby. I feel as though by chosing to nurse your baby, you are chosing to take a primary role in parenting. Your partner still contributes and has a role in the family, its just a different role. As a nursing mother, you are required to be present 100% of the time, regardless of your desires, feelings, or needs. It was challenging for me to accept that my husband could have "free time" when I didn't have that same opportunity. However, once I embraced my new role, I realized how truely magical and precious it is. When Hendrix looks into my eyes while nursing and smiles, I simply melt. All of the "free time" in the world, is not worth one of those smiles. The nursing years are short and sweet, and I will savior every moment of them."
"The best part of breastfeeding is the unconditional love I feel when nursing. Hendrix always looks into my eyes while cooing. It's like he is saying, "Mom you are so awesome! You are the most awesome person in the whole world." Never in my life will I ever be so loved. In Hendrix's eyes, I am perfect."
"Hendrix was clustering feeding for hours on end. Tired and overwhelmed, I called my cousin and told her that he was eating non stop. Her response was simple, yet profound. I could her the smile in her voice when she said, "That's wonderful!"
"Women and men need to be educated about breastfeeding. Once society understands its importance, we can begin to advocate for better maternity care. It is incredibly too difficult to have a positive breastfeeding relationship if you are required to be back at work 6 weeks after delivering. At 6 weeks, you are still trying to figure out how to find the time to shower. How can you expect women to back to work?"
Stefanie H., mom to 4 girls, currently exclusively breastfeeding.
"The most rewarding part of breastfeeding to me is the snuggles! The constant proximity from breast to face provides the perfectly designed way to get to know that magical new family member. As I nursed my third and fourth, I also value the quiet almost meditative nature of it. When else do we else do we just sit and be for constant time periods through the day. My mind wanders to my baby and elsewhere, it's like a cozy waking nap of sorts. Refreshing us. Ahhhh the love."
"My experiences have all been different, yet in many core ways all the same. I have nursed 4 babies over the last 12 years. For my older two I was tied to the clock and always concerned with how long/much I "should" feed them, as if there was a formula (pun intended) to follow. But, by my third I was lucky to learn a more holistic attachment approach to breastfeeding and realize it's not just about feeding, but so much more. This gave me the freedom to follow my instincts and just follow my daughter's cues. Also, all of my girls have very different temperaments, which affected our breastfeeding relationship. Some were calm at the breast, some were ravenous, some were slower & more distracted nursers. One was ready to wean after age one, another was difficult to wean at three (when I was the ready one!)"
"What I recommend for breastfeeding moms most is to "follow" the baby and not to give up when you face a nursing challenge (because you will!), such as a nursing strike, illness, teething, etc. Just like everything else with kiddos, just as you seem to get the hang of it, it changes again. That's okay, your body, your milk, your baby, will change together. It's a dance between you two and we are made to dance (plus the soundtrack of the suckling and coos is priceless). Just because feeding seems different than it was last month doesn't mean it needs to end. Nursing a toddler can be great too!"
"The most difficult breastfeeding experience is feeding my current baby who has suffered with severe reflux (GERD). She screamed at the breast, arched her back and was actually in pain in early feedings. With the support of my amazing postpartum doula, I learned to feed a small amount on a very frequent schedule and to pay constant attention to her positioning. We were able to avoid medications for her basically by sticking with breast milk and commitment to round the clock feeding and upright positioning. But, it is exhausting and just beginning to ease up now that she is eight months."
"Breastfeeding awareness month to me means spreading the word that breastfeeding is not only the healthiest start for mom and baby (which is finally being supported by most care providers), but also it's about CELEBRATING this amazing gift of nature. Breastfeeding is emotionally, physically and relationally rewarding and enjoyable. I wish for all women to have the support to overcome breastfeeding challenges so they can experience the benefits and wonder (and oxytocin highs!!)"
Samantha L., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding.
"To me, breastfeeding awareness means education and being conscious that breastfeeding is something done in the best interest of the child and mother. In my opinion, mothers are making the best choice by giving their child an amazing and nurtured start to life. I think that a woman's body has been perceived as a sex object by society for so long that breast feeding has unfortunately become a taboo thing... when in all reality, it's just a mother feeding her child."
"Thankfully, I have yet to feel judged while breastfeeding. My family and friends fully support me in my decision to breastfeed my son."
"I think that breastfeeding has taught me to be selfless (and patient). My life isn't about me anymore... It's about him. My life revolves around him. And in the beginning it's all about breastfeeding; every. single. hour. I'd give anything for this little boy. Including sleepless nights, rushed meals, and messy hair."
"My babe had a tongue tie that we didn't know about during the first 8 weeks of his life. We had corrected at 10 weeks. During those first 8 weeks I felt some of the worst pain in my life, as well as frustration and exhaustion. That's when I felt like giving up. 3am feeds while in excruciating pain, with a baby that can't latch (due to tongue tie) was enough to make me feel like giving up. Thankfully, I was able to pump at times and give my body a break. I'm happy to say he's been EBF since birth, even though we hit a little rough patch in the beginning."
"My best words of advice for a new mom would be, DON'T GIVE UP! It's so so hard in the beginning. You're exhausted and always on call to your newborn. Sometimes they want you literally every hour around the clock. You are their life line. They are helpless in this new world. But you are mom and you can give them everything they need. It doesn't necessarily get easier, but YOU GET BETTER. When you find your babe cluster feeding, my advice to you would be find a comfy spot, have the remote near by, grab a bottle of water, your phone, a book, and lots of pillows! Get comfy! You might be there a while... But in those hours spent nurturing that brand new life, enjoy it. Take the time to stare into those big blue eyes and relish the fact that you are giving this baby life. You are providing him with the best start humanly possible. You are mom. You can do this."
Kerstin S., first time single mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding.
"America is not breastfeeding friendly." Kerstin S.
"People say why don't you just give her formula, tons of babies have formula and they grow up fine. When I put her on and I see her face she becomes completely calm & content. I can't give that up. I see how happy it makes her. She knows me, she knows my smell, she's comforted by being on me. I can tell there is a difference."
"She was really tearing up my nipples when she first started feeding. People were telling me I wasn't doing it right because it shouldn't hurt. But, even when I did do it right, it still hurt. I started using the nipple shield and it didn't hurt anymore and she got a good latch, but then I wasn't able to breastfeed without using it. Now I'm using the nipple shield as a crutch, so breastfeeding has its ups and downs. I was going to give up, I worked through it and now she eats just fine."
"We should make things easier for babies to get breastfed. Many women are forced to go right back to work. Maternity leave exists, but it's not paid and the bills need to be paid. The workplace is not breastfeeding friendly, if they need you, you have to stop pumping and then you become engorged and it's painful. Spilling milk makes me want to cry. It's not friendly at all. By law they have to let you pump, but that's not how it really works. If it wasn't for my determination, she would not be breastfed."
"It's not easy and it won't be easy for a long time. For me, even though it's a pain in the butt and it's time consuming, the actual breastfeeding is the easy part. It doesn't hurt anymore and she enjoys it. Just know that it's not going to be easy and take the time to get accustomed to it. Have all the resources you can, stick with it and just know that it will get better. Also, having a support system is super important. A lot of the time I don't have another set of hands to help me and that makes it even harder. It's nice at night though because I don't have to get up and make a bottle I can just feed her in bed laying down."
Kerstin speaks about her experiences and the sad truth of breastfeeding in public.
"I'm judged all the time for breastfeeding and for several different reasons. I've had people tell me that I should go to jail for pulling my boob out. I've had guys stare at me like they're enjoying it, my delivery guy said "That's hot". I've had women give me dirty looks, especially when they have their husbands around. I don't know what the issue is, but people treat me like I'm dirty and shouldn't be doing that. Or people will talk about me while I just stand there. We need to make breastfeeding okay. You know, there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public it's just to feed my baby, there is nothing sexual about it. "
Melissa C., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding.
"Before I became pregnant I didn't give much thought to the subject of breastfeeding. Once I was pregnant I began to research everything about becoming a mother. I read about all of the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother. After knowing that it would give my baby the perfect nutrition and protect him from many illnesses while creating an amazing bond between us I was sold, the fact that it would help me lose weight was just a bonus"
"There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, it's hard to choose a best part but nothing beats looking into your baby's eyes while they are nursing. The worst part about breastfeeding is that it can be very challenging at times, however overcoming those challenges is very empowering and rewarding."
"Breastfeeding is very challenging. I wouldn't say it's harder than I expected but I am dealing with things that I did not expect to encounter. For example, my son has been very gassy and seemed to have a lot of belly pain. There were times that I thought my milk was making him sick. I contemplated giving him formula but I had a lot of support to exhaust all other possible solutions before giving him formula. Now that we are on week 3 we think we have figured out he actually has reflux and it's not my milk at all. I'm so glad I didn't give up!"
"I am very comfortable feeding my baby whenever and wherever. Mostly over the past three weeks of my son's life I have been feeding him in my house around friends and family without a cover. My family is very accepting and supportive of breastfeeding. So far I have nursed in public twice. The first time I did it I did not feed judged. I was offered a nursing room but did not feel the need to use it. I covered my breast as much as possible and fed my baby where I was. The second time I fed my baby in public I did feel sort of judged. I could tell that some of the people around me were very uncomfortable with the fact that I was breastfeeding despite the fact that I was covered up. "
Melissa's word of advice to new mothers:
"New mothers, Breastfeeding will be challenging. Your nipples will probably get cracked and sore; it may even hurt. You might get mastitis like I just did! You will watch your baby's diapers and cheer when you finally get the poopy diaper you were waiting for. Breastfeeding might not be easy at first. At times it will be really hard! My breastfeeding experience with my son thus far has been the most rewarding, special experience in my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Don't give up, I promise it's all worth it!"