WBW 2016: 5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals central to World Breastfeeding Week this year is a call for better workplace support of breastfeeding women. Certainly employers have a large part to play in meeting this goal, but women also need step up to advocate for themselves, their babies, and their right to express breastmilk while at work:

It’s that day…the dreaded day that no new mother wants to face — the last day of maternity leave.

For a mother able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave afforded by the Family & Medical Leave Act, the last 3 months in baby bliss may instead feel like 3 short weeks, but regardless of the maternity leave length, the end of that special period arouses many emotions, especially for a nursing mother.

Naturally, a nursing mother’s mind becomes occupied with fears and questions:

  • How will I be able to provide enough milk while I am away?
  • What if my baby refuses a bottle?
  • Where will I find enough time to pump while I’m trying to work?
  • How will my boss and coworkers feel when I need time to pump?
  • What will happen to our nursing relationship?

This uncertainty creates even more stress and anxiety for the breastfeeding and working-away-from-home mother for she knows the important role breastfeeding plays in a secure attachment in addition to the numerous health benefits.

Mommy Kissing Baby LContinued nursing after the maternity leave period helps maintain a strong attachment between mother and baby. In his book, The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. William Sears includes a chapter entitled “Working and Staying Attached,” in which he points out that giving your baby your milk is a very important way of staying attached to your baby after returning to work. Expressing milk for baby to drink during the day allows mother to, in a sense, be with baby while she is away at work. When mother and baby are reunited, their attachment through breastfeeding can resume as if she never left.

Nursing beyond maternity leave not only helps strengthen attachment but also provides numerous health benefits for the nursing mother and her nursling.  In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” in Pediatrics. In this document, the AAP notes the numerous benefits of nursing, including those of nursing beyond 3-4 months. Some of these benefits for baby include a lower risk for developing serious colds, asthma, and other allergies; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and childhood and adult obesity. For the nursing mother, benefits include a lower risk of diabetes for mothers not diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a lower chance of arthritis, and breast and ovarian cancers. Essentially, the longer a mother can provide her baby with mother’s milk, the more health benefits received by both mother and baby.

In order to continue a secure attachment and experience the health benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers can maintain a strong nursing relationship while working away from home by following a few simple tips:

  1. Know your breastfeeding rights — Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many U.S. employers must provide a nursing mother with break time and a place to pump for up to 1 year after the birth of her baby. It is to be noted that companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from this law and instead offer pumping breaks at the discretion of the employer. Information, along with instructions for filing a complaint, can be found through the United States Department of Labor. Many other countries have generous allowances for nursing mothers at work, so be sure to check with your nation’s laws.
  2. Plan a pumping schedule — This schedule will differ from mother to mother. Planning to nurse right before being separated from baby and as soon as mother and baby are reunited can help reduce the amount of pumping sessions needed at work. While at work, a mother should try to pump about every 3-4 hours. For a mom working an 8-hour shift, she might pump once in the morning, once during her lunch, and once in the afternoon. The idea is that for each time baby receives expressed milk from his or her care provider, mother is pumping. In doing this, mother should be able to pump the amount of milk that baby will consume the following day. Talk with a local breastfeeding specialist for a pumping schedule tailored to your work environment and other needs.
  3. Discuss needed accommodations with employer — When a mother meets with her employer, she should be prepared by knowing her legal rights. A working-away-from- home mother should inform her employer of the needed accommodations before returning to work. The employer may need some time to make changes in order to accommodate the nursing mother. When the mother meets with her employer, she should provide her employer with a copy of her nursing schedule. This may also include pumping space accommodations. For example, the room where milk will be expressed needs to have an easy-to-access electrical outlet and should be heated and cooled.
  4. Nurse on demand — Although a working mother must have a pumping schedule while at work, at home, she can nurse her baby on demand. Nursing on demand means that a nursing mother nurses when cued by the baby. This might be every 30 minutes or every 2 hours. Since how much milk produced is based on demand, a nursling can help increase a mother’s supply by nursing frequently. Nursing on demand also allows baby to re-establish the nursing bond that was missed during the day. Nursing on demand can continue during the night. Frequent night nursing may lead to reverse cycling, meaning the baby will nurse more frequently during the night than he or she does during the day. Some mothers who encourage reverse-cycling find that they don’t need to pump as much while at work during the day. For example, a baby may only drink 4-5 ounces of milk while his or her mother is at work, but the remaining amount of milk needed will be attained during the evening and all through the night. Essentially, in 24 hours, the baby will have consumed his or her total amount of milk needed.
  5. Get support — Most nursing mothers need support throughout the breastfeeding journey, and nursing mothers that work away from home are no exception. La Leche League International and other nonprofit organizations provide local and online opportunities for mothers to connect and support each other.

While the end of maternity leave marks a transitional period for mother and baby, a strong nursing relationship can be maintained by carefully preparing for this changed and remaining dedicated to the desire to nourish baby with mother’s milk.

WBW 2016: Historical trauma, breastfeeding, and healing with Camie Jae Goldhammer

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International hopes you enjoy this throwback Thursday post, originally published August 7, 2015. It remains a great example of breastfeeding as part of sustainable development, the theme of World Breastfeeding Week this year:

It is often noted that part of what makes breastfeeding so challenging at times is that in our Western culture, we just don’t see breastfeeding happening on a regular basis.

Nursing in public is still a rare occurrence relatively, especially without a nursing cover. Breastfeeding mothers are still getting kicked out of restaurants and stores. A photo of a breastfeeding baby with more of the breast exposed than a tidbit between folds of fabric can result in an entire Facebook page being shut down. Children are still encouraged to feed their dolls with a bottle, rather than at the breast, in public places like childcare centers and preschool. Working mothers, at many places of employment, continue to be directed to broom closets and bathrooms to pump…if they are allowed adequate pump breaks at all. The working and breastfeeding law doesn’t cover everyone!

Even with all the advances our medical community has made in promoting and supporting breastfeeding, our culture remains woefully behind in some ways. What shame there is in strangers’ claims of indecency!

camieIn May of 2015, I attended a portion of the Standing Bear Symposium in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, to hear Camie Jae Goldhammer, MSW, LICSW, IBCLC, present “Mitakuye Oyasin: Health and Healing through Motherhood.”

Camie is a clinical social worker and lactation consultant, the founder and chair of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington, a founding member of the Collaborative for Breastfeeding Action and Justice, and a member of the Native American Women’s Dialogue on Infant Mortality.

As a Native American herself — Sisseton-Wahpeton — she is intimately aware of the challenges of breastfeeding women among Native Americans. It helps put non-Native American cultural challenges surrounding breastfeeding into perspective and can give us understanding of why culture can seem to be so slow to change on the view of breastfeeding. Let’s look at the very critical factor of historical trauma.

What is Historical Trauma?

We understand what trauma is: something horrific that happened, that has lasting, often debilitating, effects collectively known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Disturbing dreams of the traumatic event
  • Emotional distress
  • Avoidance of places, activities or people that remind of the traumatic event
  • Becoming emotionally numb or inability to feel happiness
  • Negativity toward self or others
  • Amnesia about the traumatic event
  • Difficulty in close relationships
  • Irritability and aggression
  • High anxiety, particularly a feeling to always be on guard for danger
  • A sense of overwhelming guilt or shame; and others.

Historical trauma is when the same traumatic event happens to an entire generation of people. Because it happened to the entire generation, there was no guidance within that generation as to how to heal from the trauma so that the PTSD behavior is transferred inter-generationally through the the parents’ thinking and behavior. And the same PTSD behavior continues to be passed down through the family tree, when healing has not occurred, with the trauma showing up generations later in certain stereotypical mannerisms attributed to that particular culture.

Camie shared an example of the Jewish people, in whom traits like high anxiety, overprotectiveness, and extreme frugality are seen as the stereotypical traits of this culture. These traits are also documented byproducts of the Holocaust among survivors. Without knowing it, Holocaust survivors passed these PTSD behaviors as family values to their children in how they coped with their trauma. And their children passed them to their children as part of their lifestyle, and so on and so on…to a point in their family tree where people with no firsthand exposure to the Holocaust continue to display the same PTSD-like behavior generations later.

That’s historical trauma.

Camie gave other examples of culture suffering from historical trauma: the peoples of Cambodia, Russia and India as well as the Native Americans.

How Does Historical Trauma Relate to Breastfeeding?

Among Native Americans living on a reservation, breastfeeding rates are extremely low. Statistics depend on the exact location, but here are the breastfeeding hurdles common to most reservation, to give you the big picture:

  • High teen pregnancy rates
  • No local obstetrician services so most women do not receive any prenatal care and therefore no breastfeeding education
  • Very few local lactation specialists, especially among peers
  • Low pump-at-work support from employers
  • Access to free formula through federal nutrition programs.

But these are surface symptoms of the real problem: The historical trauma of generations of oppression of native parenting, including breastfeeding.

Camie detailed 6 phases of unresolved grief through the generations of Native Americans:

  1. Colonization by white people – Besides introducing disease and alcohol, there was much death among native peoples at this time, including genocide.
  2. Economic competition – Native peoples began losing their ability to be self-sufficient, beginning to rely on trade with the white people for supplies.
  3. Invasion and war – White people begin exterminating native peoples, and those who don’t die become refugees.
  4. Subjugation through reservations – Native peoples are confined to locations often very different than their homelands and are forced to depend on their oppressors.
  5. Boarding schools – Native children are forcibly removed from their birth families to be educated in a foreign religion and customs, and were severely physically punished as they were forced to conform. This generation is called the “lost generation,” as 70% of native children were taken from their families and culture.
  6. Forced out of reservations – After the boarding schools were closed, white people resorted to forcing adolescent native youth to live off the reservations in what they called “red ghettos” in U.S. cities, away from their families and culture as an attempt to give them a better life than on the reservations.

From generation to generation — because each of these traumas were happening to all the peoples of each generation — there have been terrible, widespread effects on Native Americans, particularly those who live on reservations. The poorest areas in the United States — some without running water, even — are located on reservations. The generational response to this succession of historical trauma has resulted in:

  • Clinical PTSD
  • Depression
  • Unidentified/unsettled emotional trauma, which is displayed through mental illness, anxiety disorders and anger issues
  • High mortality rates, including suicide and murder
  • High rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse.

What’s more, there is also a prevalent discouragement from bettering oneself, because it feels like a betrayal of past generations that suffered and lost so much.

Women, specifically, have lost confidence in their bodies and their ability to mother, and have learned to defer their decision-making potential to a male-dominated culture. Native women see menstruation, childbirth and breastfeeding as shameful. The generational wounds of native women include:

  • Loss of empowerment in the mother role
  • Devaluation of native parenting, which embodies a feeling that parenting is a sacred responsibility, that children have wisdom, that children are the future of the Nation and therefore need to be raised with a sense of incredible value.

Because breastfeeding equals maternal power, how do we expect a native woman to breastfeed if this — disempowerment and devaluation — is what she feels like?

Breastfeeding Can Heal Generations

In her private practice, Camie works off the 7th Principle, meaning that whatever a person’s choices, that person’s actions have a ripple effect to the next 7 generations. Camie believes that breastfeeding can change everything…in how we view children, mothers, families, parenting, community, generations and humankind overall.

Breastfeeding is a statement: that a mother, family, community and culture is willing to give the best to their children. Breastfeeding is a protest to a culture that devalues children and families.

Breastfeeding is an act of power. The top causes of infant mortality among native peoples are Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infection and influenza. The risk of each can be lowered through breastfeeding.

Camie’s great-great-great-grandmother was the last generation since Camie to breastfeed her children. This relative had 5 sons and all were forcibly removed one day by the U.S. government to grow up in boarding schools. How they each coped with this separation and loss of culture rippled through the generations until it seemed that the knowledge and art of breastfeeding, and mothering, had been lost.

But it was not lost on Camie. She breastfed her oldest for 4 years, and is currently breastfeeding her 3 1/2 year old. Camie seemed to be born with the desire to always question the status quo.

Camie talked about how trauma, historical or individual, will always be passed down through each generation until someone is able to step back and question why their family does things a certain way and is willing to look deeply into that family’s trauma to heal.

Cultural Changes Helping Mothers to Breastfeed, Too

The culture has changed its attitude toward native mothers, too. Western culture has worked to help heal the emotional wounds of Native Americans, though there is still so much work to do. Camie identified these needs among native mothers to improve breastfeeding rates, which are not so different than what we all — Native American or not — need from Western society:

  • Support from peers, especially those trained as lactation specialists
  • Prenatal education specific to breastfeeding and emotional barriers, such as not wanting baby to be physically close, a sign of unidentified trauma
  • Targeted breastfeeding education to mother’s support persons, especially grandmothers, sisters, aunts and other women who the mother relies on for emotional support.

The Strength of a Breastfeeding Mother

After Camie’s talk ended, several native mothers shared their amazing stories of breastfeeding success against all odds. One woman told of how her boyfriend threatened to beat her if she continued to breastfeed past 6 months, so she would sneak the baby into the shower and other out-of-the-way places in the home to breastfeed until she was able to get out of that abusive relationship. It took months, but she is still breastfeeding — now tandem-nursing that older child alongside a newborn.

Another mom told of how she gave birth to her first child when she was still a high school student, but the school wouldn’t allow her to pump, so she hand-expressed breastmilk in the school bathroom. She talked about how she would leak breastmilk during the day and would have to put up with negative comments from peers and teachers about that.

The undercurrent through both of these and other stories is women finding their power as mothers, reclaiming their confidence as women.

White American Mothers, Historical Trauma and Breastfeeding

161052_1659While Camie’s presentation was directly related to the Native America culture and breastfeeding, I think it can be easily applied to any population of women living in a culture struggling with supporting breastfeeding.

I am not Native American, but as the typical white American, I can look back in my family tree and see the history of breastfeeding is much the same as it was for my white American friends: After World War II, formula really took hold as the “best” way to feed babies, so much that the medical community was recommending formula over breastfeeding. The only families that were breastfeeding for any length of time typically were the poorest families, those who couldn’t afford the cost of formula. Formula also gave mothers the choice to be able to work outside the home, a freedom of choice that coincided with the feminism movement. At the same time, however, our white American mothers were losing the significance of breastfeeding — that is central to not only infant and child health, but also the mother-infant bond and the beginnings of secure family attachments.

I was discouraged as a new mother to my first child, by a nurse at the hospital, to exclusively pump unless I didn’t qualify for free formula through the federal nutrition program. I chose to listen to my instinct instead: Breastmilk was something I could give to my baby that no one else could.

Breastfeeding empowered me to embrace the role of mother, despite strong discouragement at times from Western culture. For me, as a white American who is overcoming historical trauma placed on generations of white American mothers who were discouraged from breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting, breastfeeding is a statement: that I, as the mother, know what was best for me and my children.

Thank you, La Leche League

wbw2016-logo-textMary White, Edwina Hearn Froehlich, Mary Anne Cahill, Betty Wagner Spandikow, Viola Brennan Lennon, Mary Ann Kerwin, Marian Leonard Tompson — while these 7 names may not ring a bell, what they did has influenced so many lives all around the world. These 7 ladies founded La Leche League International (LLLI).

It’s because of LLLI that we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week each year!

La Leche League International is an organization that promotes breastfeeding. Its mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

Elaborating on their mission, LLLI’s philosophy is comprised of 10 statements:

  1. Mother Baby Embrace ClayMothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
  2. Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
  3. In the early years, the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food.
  4. Human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs.
  5. For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids — about the middle of the first year after birth.
  6. Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
  7. Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  8. Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
  9. Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
  10. From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.

With a vision of what breastfeeding could and should be, a mission was created, principles stated, and an organization that would change the world of breastfeeding became: La Leche League.

With a decline in breastfeeding rates, the first La Leche League meeting took place in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA, at the home of cofounder Mary White in October 1956. As the organization began to grow, the founders set a clear purpose, and the first edition of book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published.

In 1960, the first Canadian Le Leche League was established. Two years later, “chapters” were created with 5 groups in each. By 1963, the second edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding made an appearance. By 1964, the group changed its name to Le Leche League International as the organization has spread to Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. This year also marked the first LLLI conference. From 1972-1979, more Le Leche League organizations were established throughout Europe, and breastfeeding rates were improving. In 1981, the 25th Anniversary LLLI Conference was held with a record number of attendees, and the third edition — revised and expanded — of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was published. Throughout the 1980s, LLLI published various books. Then, in 1985, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners — created through help from LLLI — began its certification program, and the first IBCLC exam took place.

Although breastfeeding rates had increased to 61.9% in the early ’80s, by 1990, the rate had dropped to 50%, and in 1991, LLLI and other organizations and individuals came together to create the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The first World Breastfeeding Week took place in 1992. In 1994, LLLI moved its central office to Schaumburg, Illinois, USA, and the following year, the LLLI website was created. Breastfeeding rates increased to nearly 60%.

During the first decade of the 21st century, LLLI continued to grow, accrediting new leaders in various countries including Bulgaria and Ukraine. In 2006, the 50th Anniversary of LLLI was celebrated, and in 2009, LLLI created a Facebook page. In 2010, the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was released not only in English but other languages. Since then, LLLI has continued to accredit leaders in countries, helping the organization grow and spread its important mission.

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, we acknowledge LLLI’s notable contribution to breastfeeding and also recognize the extraordinary women, the founders of LLLI, for their initiative and hard work making LLLI what it is today.

Own the road you travel

OwntheRoadMediumPostAfter giving birth to my first son, I made choices and decisions based on my instincts and the purest love I’d ever known. I wasn’t following another’s footsteps. I wasn’t asking for advice. I wasn’t questioning my abilities or my commitment to this miraculous gift of life and love. I wasn’t afraid.

I experienced love in a way I’d never experienced before. I trusted that love to provide what I needed in order to raise this precious, tiny, human being. I became a mother.

Soon after becoming a mother, others expressed — either to my face or behind my back — what they believed I was doing wrong in terms of parenting and/or otherwise. I was often told I wasn’t doing things the “right way.” I was whispered about, talked about, and judged. Through that, I became stronger and more grounded on the path I chose and continue to choose, as a mother of 2 boys — in spite of the skeptics and the doubters.

I aim to stay connected to my higher purpose. I am always in search of what exactly that is, but being a mother is a big part of it. This I know, and I am doing my very best — with pure intentions, patience, acceptance, and love in my heart.

Many people thought I was crazy for not enrolling our boys in school and choosing the path of traveling. They didn’t understand. What wasn’t what they saw as “normal” made them uncomfortable. I see that now.

The world became their school and education is in front of and around them every day — with ancient history, new cultures, languages, art, architecture, nature, different ways of life, and so much more. I may not know what the future holds — who does? — but I will always do what is best for my children based on who they are and what they need at each juncture in their lives.

I believe traveling is one of the best ways to open the mind to curiosity: To expand beyond what we know to be possible, every time and then we rent a pickup from Flex Fleet and go outside to explore and visit new places, we will not learn everything about the world while traveling, but we will be exposed to new ways of life and things we never knew existed. I believe this is one of the most important decisions and choices we made in our decision to travel around the world: To expose our boys to the reality that the world we live in is not the only world there is.

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone believes they know best. Many can’t help expressing their doubts and fears. I learned to accept this and not to take their stuff on as my own and not to doubt myself. I continue persevering through and beyond it, and I am deeply grateful each day as I enjoy and witness the miracles of these precious human beings thriving before me.

My boys are strong, independent little souls. They have beautiful, uninhibited, expressive spirits. They are centered and free. They live on this solid foundation built upon the stability that comes from being loved, no matter where they are: An adaptability that expands from the excitement of a new place to play, explore, and sleep in after various modes of transportation to get there…the open-mindedness that develops when you witness all walks of life and truly understand and embrace that we are all different, yet the same.

My kids are not perfect, nor am I. I do not live a perfect life. We struggle and suffer and face challenges just like everyone else. I don’t claim to have everything figured out. I simply choose to have a positive outlook and a lot of gratitude for each day I am given. I choose love.

As I type this right now, I question whether I should just let all of this go and not express my feelings about this matter. Maybe I should do what Abraham Lincoln used to do — write this letter, let it sit on my desk for a day and file it away, never to be sent.

I decided to share this, because I want to encourage you to LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE. I want to encourage you not to let others put their self doubt, their unfulfilled dreams, their negative attitudes, fear, or insecurities on you. I want to encourage you to be strong and brave enough to recognize them as such and define and walk your own path and truly own it.

I am happy to know that home exists within myself and with the ones I love. I am happy to be away from the microscopes, the expected norms of society and the self-appointed, parental- and “life”-control officers. I am happy to be free in a world where togetherness and intimacy are not only accepted but encouraged. I am happy to raise my boys with the beliefs and values I choose, rather than the ones others impose upon them or society dictates. I am happy they love and respect nature and are participants in other cultures and societies beyond the comfortable bubble we popped.

I am happy to make mistakes and learn from them. I am happy we are all growing and enriching our lives each day. I am happy we are in this together, through the good and the bad.

My boys will be healthy, contributing parts of the society they choose to live in. This is what matters.

As for those of you who can relate to my feelings, my wish is for this to serve as a reminder that the life you are living is yours. You have been given what and who you see in the mirror, and your choices are yours. Ask yourself if you are running away from something or chasing your dreams? Choose based on what you feel and believe in the deepest part of your heart.

I am not here to justify why I believe this journey is amazing — or why I do anything for that matter — although this piece seems to be doing exactly that. I am sharing this with you, because I hope you don’t feel the need to justify or defend yourself against these types of people in your own lives: People who refuse to look in the mirror and would rather look out the window and tell others how to live.

Today is a gift. Today is yours.

Own the Road You Travel,

❤ Sandy

4 ideas for gentle weaning

beth mckay 2I often hear of the struggles mothers face when trying to nurse a baby in those first few weeks. For me, that has not been the case. Although both of my sons nursed differently, neither had difficulty nursing.

My experience is the opposite. My struggle comes at the end of the nursing relationship rather than the beginning.

For some mothers, weaning can be the most difficult part of the nursing relationship. Usually this difficulty arises when the mother would like the nursing relationship to end or change, but the child feels differently.

Imagine yourself in your child’s place. Your milk is what your child has known since the first day he or she came earthside. Your milk tastes good, but it also comforts and provides warmth and the feeling of safety. Imagine how difficult it might be to let something like this go. Imagine how much harder it would be if you were not emotionally, physically, and developmentally ready to let that something go.

Up to this point, your child has a positive perception of nursing. This perception can remain by weaning gently.

Consider how the word “gentle” affects the meaning of the word “weaning” when added to it to create a phrase. The negative connotation associated with weaning lessens. With the addition of the word “gentle” comes a positive connotation. This process will be slow, kind, loving, and without pain.

Gentle weaning is important. It is important to the development of our children. We know that negative experiences cause stress and can affect our children physically and emotionally. As parents, we want to limit the negative experiences of our children — not create them. Gentle weaning allows for mothers to wean children without creating a negative experience.

Just as gentle weaning is important to the development of our children, it is also important for the mother. At some point, every nursing mother will experience a nursing aversion, being “touched out,” pain (from ovulation, latch, or pregnancy), exhaustion from night nursing, and so on. It is important to remember that these feelings are temporary in the grand scheme of things.

Just as the child has a positive experience with nursing, the mother also shares in this experience. Weaning that is not gentle could create negative experiences that the mother will have with her for the rest of her life. The idea of living with no regrets can be applied to this situation. Weaning before the child is ready or weaning that is not gentle could create regret for the mother and negatively affect the mother.

For me, I wanted to start the weaning process when my son was about 18 months old, because I wanted to try to conceive another baby. Nursing proved to be an excellent birth control for me, and I thought that reducing some nursing sessions might help my cycle return.

beth mckay 1When my son and I started our weaning journey, I talked to experienced friends and researched weaning. The following are some ideas that helped me:

  1. Reduce the amount of time for some or all nursing sessions — Try to limit the nursing session to a certain amount of time. Set a timer for a specific amount of time.
  2. Reduce the number of nursing sessions — If your child nurses 5 times during the day, slowly reduce the time of one session until you eliminate it completely. Continue the process until all sessions are eliminated.
  3. Set limitations for when nursing can take place — Perhaps you would feel more balanced to only nurse during the daytime or only at bedtime and in the morning.
  4. Set limitations for where nursing can take place — I started by not nursing in public. If my son asked to nurse when in public, I would tell him that we needed privacy and to wait until we got to our car.

In order to be gentle, these ideas need to develop slowly, and the mother needs to be willing to judge each situation individually. For example, even though we only nursed in private, if my son got hurt, I would still nurse in public if he asked. Nothing has to be set in stone.

Nursing a child is a positive experience for both the mother and child, and it can remain that way through weaning by using a gentle process.

The latest research in nurturing touch, breastsleeping and babywearing

adele grantWhat do you get when you bring together Dr. James McKenna, Dr. Kersten Moberg, Dr. Ann Bigelow, Dr. Henrik Norholt, Dr. Charles Price and Dr. Raylene Phillips?

You get the latest research on skin-to-skin, oxytocin, “breastsleeping,” bedsharing and all things babywearing presented at the first annual Bond Conference in New York City — which I was privileged to attend.

Here is some of the research I found to be most interesting:

Nurturing Touch

  • Infants are born with immature brains and therefore need skin-to-skin and tactile stimulation for their brains to grow.
  • Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are the means whereby the immature-term infant continues gestation outside the womb.
  • Skin-to-skin promotes oxytocin release in mom and is shown to improve breastfeeding rates and improve bonding with baby.
  • With elective cesareans, no oxytocin is released. Thus, it needs to be compensated for through skin-to-skin, massage, babywearing and breastfeeding. While Pitocin injections are used to bring on labor, it is very different to natural oxytocin because it only affects the uterus and does not affect the brain, which would lead to the feel good feelings and bonding.
  • Oxytocin release is especially critical in the early days and months. If it’s missing, such as in the Ukrainian orphans that were studied, it is much harder to form secure attachments later on. When mom and baby get close after birth, there is an oxytocin release — they feel good, because dopamine is being activated; they see this happening in the context of the other; and with repeated exposure, this trains the sympathetic nervous system to expect the same response, which leads to a secure attachment.
  • Prolonged exposure to oxytocin has long-term positive effects of reduced risk of stroke and many other illnesses.
  • Some women naturally have lower oxytocin levels. But the good news is that it can be compensated for with skin-to-skin, massage and breastfeeding.
  • Nerve reflexes of the skin trigger an oxytocin release. If triggered very early on, it will have lifelong effects. The front side of the body has extra sensory nerves with the chest being most sensitive.
  • Skin-to-skin could be used as a possible alternative treatment to depression. Mothers with skin-to-skin contact reported fewer depressive symptoms in the first few postpartum weeks.

Safe Sleep

  • The further babies get from mom (non-bedsharers or solitary sleepers in separate room), the fewer feeds there are. Bedsharing babies nurse or “snack” more, because breastmilk is digested faster.
  • Bedsharing and breastfeeding are positively correlated. Dr. McKenna suggests the term “breastsleeping,” as there is no such thing as an infant — only the mother-infant dyad — so there is no solitary sleeping and breastfeeding: only breastsleeping.
  • Approximately 70% of new parents were found to bedshare at least occasionally. This would equate to 2.5-2.9 million mothers if the study were representative of the larger population.
  • Bedsharing in the absence of other hazards was significantly protective for infants older than 3 months.
  • At age 6, babies who bedshared had increased cognitive capacities. Babies who cosleep and get more touch and reassurance become happier and less fearful toddlers who make friends easier and are cognitively more advanced. Then they become less fearful and more optimistic adolescents who trust their own judgment. As adults, they become parents mimicking their own experiences with their own children.

Responding with Sensitivity

  • Infants as young as 3 months are aware that their behaviors’ impact others. When mom does not respond to baby, the infant increases vocalizations to get mom’s attention.
  • Increasingly, orthopedists are seeing more hip issues. They believe this is because of widespread swaddling. The latest recommendation is to leave hips loose until baby is 3 months old. If a baby’s hip does become dislocated and is not treated by 6 months of age, the hip may need surgical intervention for proper development. Lot of skin issues can be sorted by using discoid eczema treatment but sometimes yu may need ortho help.
  • Parents should also be mindful of baby’s hip development when choosing a baby carrier. In the baby’s first 6 weeks of life, the joints are very loose and the hips should not be forced into extension. Side-carrying positions are ideal for proper hip development. After 6 months of age, the position doesn’t matter that much.

This is all such reassuring information, because it backs up what I intuitively did with my first child before I even found Attachment Parenting and what Attachment Parenting International promotes for all children and families.

With continued research from these and other medical and scientific professionals as well as parents providing support to other parents, Attachment Parenting practices like babywearing, keeping babies close by holding them, ensuring safe sleep by keeping babies and children close at night, and extended breastfeeding will become the new norm. This is at least my hope for all the children out there and what I strive to promote in my community.

Editor’s pick: 6 evolved needs for healthy human development

“…we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.” ~ Darcia Narvaez, PhD, Notre Dame Psychologist, member of Attachment Parenting International‘s Board of Directors

The Attachment Parenting approach can be regarded as parenting guided by nature’s lead — being attuned to our own feelings and instincts as well as our child’s needs, such as following our natural instincts to breastfeed, respond to a crying baby and provide ample physical contact to a developing human baby.

Darcia Narvaez USE5Psychologist Darcia Narvaez has been conducting research on moral cognition, moral development and moral character. On her blog, Moral Landscapes at Psychology Today, she often writes about raising healthy, happy children and parenting. In her writing, she examines the importance of parenting practices that match up with our evolved needs. Narvaez refers to the Evolved Developmental Niche (EDN) as the early “nest” that humans inherit from their ancestors, which matches up with the maturation schedule of the child, emphasizing 6 components:

  1. Naturalistic perinatal experiences
  2. Responsiveness to a baby’s needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries
  3. Constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate
  4. Extensive breastfeeding
  5. Playful interactions with caregivers and friends
  6. A community of affectionate, mindful caregivers.

These evolved needs align with Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

This week’s featured article is a recent study featured in a report by WSBT Television and soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Science. The study by Narvaes and colleagues Lijuan Wang and Ying Cheng shows that childhood experiences that match with human evolved needs lead to better outcomes in adulthood.

In the study, adults reflected on the EDN in their childhood. The findings point out that children with parents who were affectionate, sensitive and playful developed into happier and healthier adults with better mental health — feeling less depressed and anxious — and better social capacity.

pixabay - newborn and dadAccording to Narvaez, one of the reasons that the well-being of children in the United States lags behind that of children in other advanced nations is because “we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.”

Young children’s needs and wants often get confused or misunderstood. Perhaps, with a clear understanding of the distinction between the two — needs versus wants — it may be easier for some to realize and accept the importance of meeting early childhood needs. Babies need — not merely want:

  • Their parents to respond when they cry at night.
  • Physical contact — to be held and get a lot of affection.
  • Their parents to be mindful and responsive.
  • To interact and play with their caregivers.

It is reassuring that, increasingly, scientific research shows what our instincts already know: Children need attachment, affection and sensitivity to thrive.

Learn more about how to discern between needs and wants with our infants and children with these API audio recordings — each just $9:

billsearsNeeds vs Wants: How to fulfill a child’s needs yet discern his wants in a way that preserves healthy attachment” with William Sears, MD

Jean_Illsley_Clarke_Photo“How Much is Enough? Attachment Parenting, permissive parenting and overindulgence” with Jean Illsley Clarke, PhD, CFLE

Editor’s pick: A moment of silence for the “mother” of doula work

free images com - agastechegI hired a doula for my third child’s birth. After an early preterm birth with my first and a medically necessary Cesarean with my second, my third baby was on track to be my first, and only, normal childbirth experience. I was pulling out all the stops, too — aiming for an unmedicated labor and a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). I knew in my heart of hearts that having a doula was the best chance I had to reach my goals, what with the Cesarean surgical team waiting outside my hospital room’s doors “just in case,” as the VBAC agreement with the hospital read.

When it comes to pregnancy nutrition, mothers-to-be should consider supplementing with whole food vitamins. These types of vitamins are extracted from natural sources rather than chemically engineered, and the result is better pregnancy nutrition before conception, during fetal development and after childbirth.

Why Do Expectant Mothers Need Vitamin Supplements for Pregnancy Nutrition?

The human body is an amazing machine with a remarkable ability to get what it needs from the resources offered by nature. By eating a healthy diet, we are able to extract the necessary balance of vitamins, minerals, fats, and energy sources needed to keep our bodies running the way they were intended to work. Pregnancy nutrition requires us to be even more vigilant in getting the nutrients required so that the fetus is able to develop into a physically and mentally healthy baby.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us don’t eat a properly balanced diet any more, and the need for specialized pregnancy nutrition makes this even more evident. There are numerous factors that play into this change in the way we eat, including the availability, convenience, and low cost of processed foods. Adding supplements like whole food vitamins allows us access to regain some of those essential compounds that are missing from the processed foods we eat on a daily basis.

Why Are Whole Food Vitamins Better?

Whole food vitamins utilize sources found in nature, rather than synthesized compounds. The advantage, whether as a part of pregnancy nutrition or not, is that they are more easily absorbed and utilized by the human body. Most of us know that the best places to find health-sustaining nutrients is through a diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, but few of us actually get enough of these foods in our day-to-day regimens. Whole food vitamins are extracted from these fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of other naturally occurring sources. Because the body recognize these compounds-as opposed to synthetic or isolated vitamins-it knows how to put them to use. In the case of vitamins that have been isolated from their whole food sources or even created in the lab, as much as 90% of them pass directly through our bodies with no actual benefit.

A pregnancy nutrition plan usually includes a need for extra vitamins. It is nearly unreasonable to add these healthy components to a diet only to extract 10% of the actual benefits. Instead, making whole food vitamins a part of an overall pregnancy nutrition regimen helps ensure that the nutrients are actually being absorbed and used for the health of both the baby and the mother.

Where Do Whole Food Vitamins Come From?

The whole food vitamins and Sunergetic Products used for pregnancy nutrition come from a variety of natural sources. Some are extracted from beets, alfalfa, and bee pollen, for example. Rather than simply isolating these nutrients, they remain attached to their whole food ingredients to allow the body to recognize and readily utilize them. Other sources range from herbs like parsley and to less obvious candidates like fossilized coral. Coral provides the calcium that is such an important part of pregnancy nutrition.

Because the whole food vitamins recommended for pregnancy nutrition also include live enzymes, they allow even greater access by the body. These enzymes help to break down the nutrients, which include antioxidants, in order to be absorbed by the cells that use them for proper functioning. By processing the whole food vitamins at low temperatures, manufacturers are able to preserve these live enzymes and create the most powerful supplements that science and nature can team up to make.

My doula made all the difference. Not only did I reach my birthing goals, but I also got to hold the only one of my 3 babies for the first time after birth. He was delivered and placed immediately upon my chest, and I was finally able to call the shots with one of my newborns, such as when he would be removed for weighing and bathing. I had no say with either of my first two babies, and I credit my doula for giving back control of my birth experience to me.

Dana, 90, passed away Feb. 2 at her home in Fairfield, Connecticut, USA. She was a medical anthropologist who studied under cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. The women cofounded the Human Lactation Center in Westport, Connecticut, USA, in the 1970s.

Dana was more than a student, being among the first scientists to challenge formula companies on the link among formula use and high infant mortality in developing countries. She went on to successfully pressure formula companies to educate women in third-world countries that formula should be used as a supplement to, not a replacement of, breastfeeding.

Dana also promoted breastfeeding here at home in the United States, seeking a way to restore the intuitive breastfeeding support lost to mothers of her generation. She summed it up well in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 1970:

“When Grandmother walked out of the nursery and took up painting and golf, out with her went the whole cultural tradition of pampering mother along with baby. No one is there to tell her how to hold the nursing infant, how long to keep him suckling or how to care for uncomfortably full breasts or irritated nipples. We prefer to leave the responsibility to medical authorities, usually males who are uninformed about the nonmedical aspects of breastfeeding.”

Perhaps her most pivotal contribution to breastfeeding support came in 1969 when her research gave her the idea of the “doula” — a term that Dana is credited with coining and which is derived from the Greek word for “female servant.” From then on, Dana advocated for the use of doulas to guide mothers during and after childbirth with the goal of more successful breastfeeding.

So it is because of Dana’s efforts half a continent away, 40 years before, that my doula was able to give me a truly healing and transformative birth experience — not to mention, doulas around the world now doing the same for countless other women, giving them and their babies the best start in bonding and breastfeeding and a secure attachment relationship.

We all owe Dana Raphael a moment of gratitude for helping to change the landscape of childbirth and breastfeeding support and continue to push the Attachment Parenting movement forward to where it is today.


**Photo source: Free Images.com/agastecheg