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Holiday Weaning

November 24, 2009 7 comments
Santa Nursling from EnchantedDandelions

photo courtesy of EnchantedDandelions

A phenomenon has been observed by many breastfeeding supporters… holiday weaning.  The holidays are a time full of events, obligations, cooking, cleaning, visiting, shopping, etc.  What about mothering?  It is so easy for mothers, even brand new mothers, to get caught up in obligations and to-do lists.  Pressure from themselves and family end up ensuring that they aren’t nursing often enough and encourage them to supplement with a bottle.

How do we let this happen?  There are many common reasons.

  1. Offering bottles while tending to to-do lists (shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc)
  2. Offering bottles while with family so that they can feed the baby, hold the baby
  3. Offering bottles while with family so that mother doesn’t have to nurse in front of family
  4. Delaying feedings while busy, etc
  5. Offering bottles so that mother can drink alcohol
  6. Mother not getting adequate rest and fluids
  7. Older children can become distracted and not request to nurse as often

New mothers, at least those that feel they can function, often feel driven to take on just as much as they had previously and the holidays make this desire more pronounced for some.  However, if there has ever been a time to sit back and let everyone else do the work, now is the time!  Did you know that just offering one bottle can affect your supply if you are not also pumping when that bottle is being offered?  Many La Leche League leaders have observed that the new mothers in their monthly meetings often dismiss the idea of “holiday weaning” when it is discussed.  Then, after the holidays, those same women often return and share their stories of finding themselves on the brink of sabotaging their nursing relationship, all without meaning too!

image provided by @crunchynurse

So, how can you avoid this accidental weaning or even just a dip in supply?  It is simple, put mothering first this holiday season.  Offer your baby the breast often, sit and relax as much as you can.  If you are going to be around family that doesn’t support breastfeeding, prepare yourself mentally.  Enlist your spouse to be a barrier.  Excuse yourself and nurse in a separate room if you are more comfortable.  Don’t be afraid to take your baby back if he or she is being held by others.  Remember, your baby needs to eat and you are one with the food.  Babies can also easily become overstimulated during the holidays, so the break to nurse will be good for them for that reason too.

We all love our families, right?  But that doesn’t mean that they are perfect and never offer uninvited advice on your parenting!  Have a code worked out with your spouse that tells them if you are tired, or uncomfortable.  That way they can help excuse you without making a scene.  Family gathering can be difficult anyways, but add to that a new mother and a new baby, you have a perfect opportunity for unwanted advice or hurtful comments.

So, before you sign up to make that pie… and potatoes… and green beans… oh and the turkey (or even host the whole darn thing!) think about it first… what would you like your holiday to look like?  Stress and time away from your precious baby?  Or would you rather be snuggled up next to a fire or a tree and nursing your little one?  There will be many more holidays to come, maybe these first few years can be about you being a new mother and less about you being a hostess.

La Leche League makes these recommendations to help you avoid inadvertently weaning your baby during special occasions:

  • Let friends and family members know that you cherish your breastfeeding relationship. Don’t present it as a problem. For example, when aunts or grandmothers want to help, give them a task—not the baby.
  • When family members ask to feed the baby, tell them, “Thank you, but I’m breastfeeding,” and smile.
  • Use a sling or other carrier to keep baby close to nurse.
  • Work around nap times and other times when baby is sleeping.
  • Avoid long car and plane trips if possible. If it’s unavoidable, make sure to take plenty of time for nursing breaks.
  • Choose clothing that provides easy access to the breast for the little nursling.
  • Shop for gifts online or from catalogues. Keep “real life” shopping trips short or take plenty of breaks to breastfeed.

(This list is from How to Avert Nursing Strikes during Special Occasions)

I hope that anyone reading this will keep it in mind during their own holidays, making sure they aren’t falling victim themselves and also support their family and friends so that they do not either.  After all, breastfeeding truly is the BEST gift you can give your little one!

Also, if you take any great holiday nursing pictures, let me know!  I would  love to feature them on the Breastfeeding Imagery page of this site!!

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“You Will”

November 8, 2009 11 comments

Breastfeeding M

Several years ago, while finally nursing M quietly and painlessly, I decided that I wanted to give back.  I wanted to do for other women what had been done for me.  I wanted to help other mothers overcome whatever obstacles they faced and help them develop a healthy nursing relationship.  I quickly became fascinated with the science of the female body and the evolution and natural beauty of what it does.  I started to form a path, a road map of how to do this.  I looked at the options and they seemed to include the obvious, become a lactation consultant, but that requires a lot of time and training.  So, I did what I always do and threw myself into the research to find out how to reach this goal.  My road map became this:

  1. Attend local meetings and learn all I can on my own
  2. Become a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor
  3. Become a La Leche League Leader
  4. Become a Certified Lactation Counselor
  5. Become an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)
  6. Possibly become an RN to allow me to work in a hospital setting on a maternity ward

As you can see, I formed my list of goals in an order of attainability, after all I am a realist.  I figured that this would allow me ample time to test this field out and see if this is really what I want to do.  It is a MAJOR career change for me.  I come from over a decade of working and learning in the field of Media and Technology!  I have earned a BS and an MS.  I don’t take anything part way, so to make an about-face now is a BIG deal.

Crystal Gold completing Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training in 2007

Crystal Gold completing Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training in 2007

In July of 2007, I completed my Breastfeeding Peer Counselor training with La Leche League in Chicago.  I was thrilled!  But I found quickly that because the organization didn’t officially sponsor this program any longer there was little support or structure.  The training was invaluable though and it set me up to do the work and continue learning on my own.  I have felt comfortable helping my friends and family because of this training and felt the call of the field stronger than ever.  It became very obvious that I wanted to continue on my path.

In the summer of 2008, I overheard the Leader of our Carmel LLL group talking to someone about leadership.  She knew of my passion and asked me if I would like to sign up for the Leader Applicant program.  As a believer that opportunities present themselves as you are meant to have them, I took this as a sign of it being time.  The fact that she had the confidence in me to approach me made me feel like maybe this would  be something I would be good at.  So I started my journey to my next goal.

The path was a long one, much longer than I expected since most of the learning and reading had already been done.  But, as is often the case, life got in the way and the process took a solid year.  I am very thankful for the gentle pushing I received from my Leader to keep with it as much as I could.  I felt, not pressured, but encouraged to do what I am meant to do… to meet a destiny.  Through the process I had to reflect a lot and discuss the changes I have gone through as a mother and a person.  I might post those items here soon.  It was a truly amazing experience, especially to have someone else read these thoughts and reflect back to me an outside response.  It was rewarding and encouraging.

So, the culmination of this work took place today.  The LLL of Indiana hosted a party to celebrate some pretty major organizational changes and was able to have one of the Founding Mothers of LLL attend.  So, let me put this in perspective for you.  In 1956, seven mothers joined together to support each other in breastfeeding their babies.  This was a time when it was looked at as dangerous compared to the ‘safety of the modern medical marvel, formula’.  These women were, in the words of Marian Thompson, “looked at as selfish women putting their babies’ lives in danger to make a point”.  They knew in their hearts that what their own bodies made for their babies had to be better than anything science could produce.  Their support for each other turned into support for other local women.  These women asked how they too could help, and so developed La Leche League, now an international organization helping millions of mothers each year.  Marian Thompson, now turning 80, was one of these pioneer women.  She cast aside the current beliefs and gave power to the knowledge within her, the natural knowledge of how to birth, raise, and feed a baby.  Having the opportunity to see her speak in a room of about 50 people is such an honor, but I was also, as fate would have it, sitting at a table with her the entire day.

Marian Thompson, LLL Founder, and Crystal Gold, Nov 7, 2009

Marian Thompson, LLL Founder, and Crystal Gold, Nov 7, 2009

I couldn’t help but look at her and think to myself  “Here sits a woman who changed the world!”  I was able to have a 10 minute one on one conversation with her when she asked me how La Leche League came into my life.  I told her of my early struggles, my mother bringing me the book “Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and attending my first meeting when my son was 3 months old.  I told her how at first much of it seemed a bit too much for me, but as I let my heart lead me and my natural mothering instincts take over, I found myself closely aligning with the beliefs of LLL.  I still am a working mother who had to be away from my son, but I recognized the importance of respecting his need to be with me and made it work well for him.  I also told her of my dream after my miscarriage of nursing a baby and being able to physically feel that child at my breast, even though I had never nursed before.  I explained that I was never able to figure out how breastfeeding became the purest example of mothering to me even before ever doing it, but that it was that moment I knew I was ready to be a mother.  We spoke about the effect she has had on so many women, which she graciously attributed, not to herself, but to all the mothers after her.  And finally we spoke of my dreams and goals of being somewhat like her… helping mothers but also working to make changes in laws and science.  She looked at me and said “You will”.  Two words.  “You will”.

Never have two words, aside from “I do”, meant so much to me.  This woman is so much of what I want to be in life.  She has sacrificed her time to helping this cause that I feel is and will change the world.  She is warm, gracious, and loving.  She is approachable and thoughtful.  And here she is encouraging me with two little words.  I will likely never forget that moment, that look on her face, or the sound of her voice.  “You will”.

Crystal Gold hugging Marian Thompson at Leader Recognition Ceremony Nov 7, 2009

Crystal Gold hugging Marian Thompson at Leader Recognition Ceremony Nov 7, 2009

I officially became a La Leche League Leader today.  I joined the ranks of thousands of women who have worked tirelessly over the last 50+ years to empower women to trust themselves and do what they were created to do.  I took another step on my journey of discovery and change.  And I realized even more that this is what I am meant to do.

I want to share a quote that Marian shared today.  I felt as if she was speaking directly to me and my worries and fears about these changes…

“When you don’t follow your nature there is a hole in the universe where you were supposed to be” – Dane Rudhyar

“You will.”

 

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Mind map… who am I?

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Mind Maps have been used for centuries to visualize concepts and brainstorm ideas. So, I have decided to utilize this time-tested tool to decipher who I am and who I want to be. I am at a crossroads in life. I am feeling pulled towards a new career and trying to figure out how this will materialize in my life. At the same time, I am balancing the needs and desires of my family and other obligations. It is a difficult path to walk, balancing life, reality and desires. This blog will be one way I intend to do this. And to start, I began creating a Mind Map of me. Here is what I have so far…

Mind Map of Me

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