Amy Spangler of Breastfeeding: Keep It Simple

August 1, 2008 | 1 Comment

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I would publish a transcript of an interview I conducted before I started this blog. My guest was Amy Spangler, author of Breastfeeding Keep It Simple. Enjoy reading :)

Carrie Lauth: I am talking with mother and author Amy Spangler. She is a nurse, a board certified lactation consultant and the author of several very good books on breastfeeding including Breastfeeding, Keep it Simple, which is a personal favorite.

I am talking with Amy about how we can all help produce a more breastfeeding culture in our society. I think every mom who has nursed a baby is in some way a little bit of a lactivist. Every time she chooses to breastfeed her baby out in the open instead of hiding or every time she shares with another mom who may be expecting a baby the benefits that she has experienced with breastfeeding, she is supporting a breastfeeding friendly culture. But there is probably other things that we can do to help produce some more breastfeeding friendly culture and Amy and I are going to be expounding on that a little bit.

Amy Spangler: Hi there Carrie.

Carrie Lauth: It is such an honor to talk with you Amy because I have read at least a couple of your books and I have been a big fan. And you are a fellow Atlanta native! It is nice to talk to a fellow Georgia Peach.

Amy Spangler: Well, I was thrilled with the invitation. I am pleased with what you are doing and the information that you are sharing and it is wonderful to participate.

Carrie Lauth: You know we are celebrating breastfeeding this month because it is the 50th Anniversary of La Leche League and it is World Breastfeeding Week, which is usually celebrated in August. It is good that we are talking.

Amy Spangler: Yes it is. Your timing is perfect.

Carrie Lauth: We were just talking before about this controversy over the Baby Talk Magazine and it really illustrates one of the things that we are going to discuss; and that is how our community, the entire community, our whole society needs to come together to support breastfeeding.

Amy Spangler: Absolutely! I think the magazine cover was a reflection of the progress that many of us in the breastfeeding arena feel we are making in terms of making breastfeeding the cultural norm. At the same time, the reaction of readers and the public to the cover when they saw it is a reminder of how far we still have to go. Their reaction that this (a picture of a baby latched on to his mother’s breast) is in some way indecent, embarrassing, inappropriate, so many different words were used and yet you know the sad part is it could not be more appropriate. It is really the single most important activity I think that women can undertake to ensure optimal health for their babies.

Carrie Lauth: I am going to mention your book really quickly, Breastfeeding, Keep It Simple. That was probably the first one that I read and it is great. It is just a very simple guide, not complicated at all, but it covers everything. Breastfeeding, A Parent’s Guide talks about some of the facts and myths of breastfeeding and Breastfeeding, Your Guide to a Healthy Happy Baby. I agree with you that breastfeeding is one of the most important things that a mother can do to give her baby and herself the best chance as far as their health. It is interesting how we find out more and more to support that every year.

Amy Spangler: I think the reaction of members of the public to situations like this whether it is the cover of the Redbook Magazine, or the cover of Baby Talk, or even the cover of the Time Magazine. It generated that somewhat negative response when it showed the refugee woman fleeing during the Bosnian War carrying a child that was at the breast with almost no breast visible, and yet engendered the same kind of response. I think what it says to all of us individuals like yourself and myself who are very supportive of breastfeeding and consider ourselves breastfeeding advocates, that we need to really think about how we deliver our message, how we frame that message so that we can do it a way that invites support from every member of the breastfeeding community or from the public community and does not alienate segments of that community and that is the hard part.

I think that the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign was a reflection of that. It was a campaign that wanted very much to convince mothers that would otherwise not choose to breastfeed, that breastfeeding is something they should think about. So it delivered those risk‑based messages which generated lots of controversy. And we were back that same position of asking ourselves how do we deliver a positive message and change behavior and at the same time not make those mothers who for whatever reasons choose not to breastfeed feel uncomfortable with the choice they have made. That is the hard part and I think it will continue to be the hard part.

Toma antes del despegue
Creative Commons License photo credit: Daquella manera

Carrie Lauth: That is true because everyone is coming from a different place. Even people who are supportive of breastfeeding, some of them are still uncomfortable with some of these issues like nursing in public.

There are still people who feel very strongly that breastfeeding was the best choice for them and they did nurse their own children but they did it in the bathroom.

They still feel that that is the way it should be handled as if breastfeeding was necessary and good but like urination it should be hidden.

It is not about making women feel guilty who choose a different path but we cannot be dishonest at the same time.

Amy Spangler: Absolutely! We do not hesitate to tell individuals about other important public health activities like car seat safety, bicycle helmets, and healthy eating.

Carrie Lauth: And cigarette smoking in pregnancy …

Amy Spangler: Someone asked me recently, so often we try and draw similarities between cigarette smoking and giving babies infant formula. That recent bill that was put forward by Senator Harkin calling for disclaimers to be put on all infant formula products.

I was asked what my position is on that and I said, “I probably am a member of the advocacy arena that would likely not draw similarities between mothers who smoke cigarettes and mothers to get their baby formula because in reality there is no consumption of cigarettes that is ever recommended, that has ever been official.”

Yet with formula use, there are moments when it is recommended and it has been official.

So, my argument with the formula industry is not always the product that they produce, it is how they market that product. How do we get that idea across? It is not the “good guys and the bad guys”. It is “how do we come together in the best interest of mothers and children everywhere”?

Carrie Lauth: That is a good point.

Well, when it comes to this whole controversy about the Baby Talk Magazine, I could not help but think when I heard some of the comments that were made and reported on, that part of women’s reaction is coming from their loathing of their own bodies.

Being uncomfortable in our own skin so that something that comes so naturally and is so natural, we have this response to. Do you think there is any validity to that? Is it that we are just very uncomfortable with our own womanliness, our own bodies, and that explains some of that response?

Amy Spangler: Well, I think that is certainly true of some women. I am sure that there are probably an equal number of women that are very comfortable with their bodies and do not hesitate to display their bodies in ways that are provocative, or flattering, or inviting, or whatever the case may be.

I like to think more that it is a reflection of the fact that when there is an activity that is not commonly seen, when something is not in the mainstream, when it is infrequently observed or happens with rarity, then when it does happen it triggers a response, not always a positive response. I feel like that is where we are with breastfeeding.

If breastfeeding in public were something that women did nationwide and you saw it everyday, you would not even give it a second glance because you would think that that is just culturally acceptable and normal and therefore why should I observe or think twice about whether it is or is not appropriate. Of course, it is appropriate. That is truly the case in cultures where breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a child.

In America, bottle feeding is the normal way to feed a child and the most common method observed and more importantly the most common method displayed in all segments of the media. You see magazines with fathers giving babies bottles and mothers giving babies bottles. You see baby dolls sold in stores with the baby bottle that comes along with it. We reinforce all of those concepts that this is the normal way to feed a child. Therefore, to do that in public is fine because that is the norm, but to do something that is not perceived as the norm, it causes a reaction. I think that is where we are. We are on that continuum of trying to make breastfeeding the cultural norm. I have to say I do not think, as I approach 60, it will happen in my lifetime. I am confident it will happen in my children’s lifetime.

Carrie Lauth: I believe that, too. The reason that I said what I did was because I have noticed that men seem to be more comfortable with breastfeeding in public than women do.

Some of the really vitriolic comments seem to come from women, so it makes me think that.

One of the women that were quoted in this news coverage that I saw said, “I would not want my husband to accidentally see a breast that he did not want to see,” and she actually went so far as to shred the magazine and I thought you know I have never known a man to be offended by accidentally seeing a breast!

Amy Spangler: My temptation with these mothers is that I always wish I had the opportunity to say to them “please tell me what your experience with breastfeeding has been”. I cannot help but feel that women who respond in that negative a fashion had a very negative experience with breastfeeding; either personally or through friends. Some incident has embedded in them an attitude that truly is not an attitude I think we would see or that can be taught or learned. I think experience has to have given them that.Breastfeeding
Creative Commons License photo credit: _Shward_

Carrie Lauth: Whenever there is an emotion that is strong there is pain behind that somewhere.

Whether guilt pain, or just some kind of pain somewhere and it is not necessary to have that kind of pain.

I have a good friend; and it is funny because we are opposite in every way and our mothering styles are very, very opposite. She hates breastfeeding and she is very unapologetic about it, but she does not feel the slightest bit of guilt and so it is very refreshing. I have no problem nursing my 11-month-old around her. She has no problem with it either, but she is very open about the fact that “Oh, I can’t wait ’til this baby’s 3 months old so I can wean him, I hate breastfeeding!” She is very, very unapologetic about it. So has decided what is best for her and what is best for her family. She has told me that breastfeeding makes her feel very caged like her flesh is crawling.

The guilt aspect is something that people often bring up. They say we are making women feel guilty for not breastfeeding.

Amy Spangler: I think your comment is very, probably very perceptive, and very, very important in that you made the reference to the woman having a sense of hurt and that it was really not so much anger that causes those negative comments, but some kind of a hurtful experience that that woman had and I think those of us in the breastfeeding community need to always keep that in mind that when we have someone that makes a very negative comment about something like a Baby Talk Magazine cover, we need to be above the fray.

We need to step back and not do that knee jerk response like “Uh! What kind of individual are you? What kind of mother are you?”

We need to be able to say, “Gosh! What was your breastfeeding experience? Did something happen to make you feel this way?”

I think we all might be amazed at the outpouring of emotions that we might get in return.

If we give those individuals a chance to say why they feel the way they feel because I just think that it is a response to something bottled up inside of them. Maybe guilt is what is driving part of that and I am a firm believer that we do not make woman feel guilty. Guilt comes from within. It belongs to each of us. We allow ourselves to feel guilty based upon decisions we make or choices we make that we felt were outside of our control and like your friend she had significant control over her decision.

So, she is making a decision knowing what the information is and therefore she is comfortable with it. It was not the decision that you make for the child but you can mutually respect one another and that is the point that we all need to get in order for us to achieve a breastfeeding culture.

Carrie Lauth: Yeah. Compassion is always the answer.

Amy Spangler: Absolutely.

Carrie Lauth: No matter what the question, that is always the answer. That is a good point to keep in mind about asking a woman about her experience. That is something that I have told women who are having trouble with their mother or their mother-in-law, you know, undermining their breastfeeding.

That can be such a sensitive time post partum if you are having help around your home, your mother or your mother-in-law, is helping you. You need that help and you need that support but it is often that person who is supporting you and other helpful ways subtly undermining or not so subtly undermining your breastfeeding choice but instead of arguing about it or trying to convince them — talking, listening, and asking questions, it can do wonders.

Amy Spangler: I can remember when I used to teach classes and the concern on the part of many of these young expectant moms was when that mother or mother-in-law came after the baby was born.

The fact that they have not breastfed, would they indeed be supportive or would they actually be a detriment, and I would always encourage them — I do not know what your relationship with this mother or mother-in-law is, but it is always best to be proactive and if possible during the pregnancy say, “I am so looking forward to the help that I know I am going to need afterwards, but I do have some concerns about breastfeeding, can we talk? Because I know you didn’t breastfeed me or you didn’t breastfeed my husband and therefore I want to make sure — you have an understanding of why I’m making this choice and how important it is to me.”

I think if you can diffuse it and get that person to be less defensive, they are more likely to be on your side as a supporter instead of as an adversary.

Carrie Lauth: Yeah, and that is important. That is a good skill to practice and you might as well get it over with right away because when you have children you are going to be having to set boundaries with yourself and your parenting when it comes to other people.

“This is what my husband and I have decided. This is how we are going to do things and we value your opinion very much; however, the final decision rests with us.”

Amy Spangler: I think for many grandparents, the hard part is for them to understand that because you are making a different choice does not mean that you are denigrating their choice. What you are saying to them is I have different information available to me.

Now when I am pregnant with my child than you had when you were pregnant with my husband or my partner or whomever. Oftentimes that grandparent feels like “oh, this mom that is breastfeeding is saying I wasn’t a very good mother because I bottle fed this baby’s father.” That is not what you are saying at all, so I think to open up that discussion and put it out there allows for everybody to quit walking around and to be able to have a comfort level with it.

Carrie Lauth: Right. Well you mentioned that if you we are going to come to a place where breastfeeding is normal then the entire community has to be involved. What does that look like?

Amy Spangler: Oh Gosh! I have a perfect image in my mind. Number one and I think this is at the top of my wish list, if we are going to create a breastfeeding community it would be a community in which breastfeeding education is part of the kindergarten through twelfth grade curriculum. That does not mean for all of those people who might be listening to this that I think we should have mothers coming in and breastfeeding their babies in a third grade class.

It means that in kindergarten we should talk about mammals and we should discuss what is a mammal and what makes it a mammal because it provides its own milk to its young. There are dogs with puppies, there are cats with kittens, and there are human beings with human babies.

It sets that foundation and then we build on it. When my boys were in high school, they are now approaching 30, they had a health assignment, an issue paper that they needed to write.

Five young boys came to my home who were sophomores in high school at the age of 16. Among the topics that they could choose was the topic “The Benefits of Breastfeeding.” Now, they did not come to my house because they thought “oh gosh, this is a wonderful topic.” They came to my house because they knew I would have everything they needed to write this paper in the smallest amount of time, but that is okay because as a result of that these boys will be very different fathers and very different husbands.

That is what has to happen. We need to see it there and then we need to see a worksite where when mothers return to work at a reasonable period in time, not at six weeks post partum, but closer to three months or 12 or six months post partum. Ideally, yes, would a year be wonderful, but is six months reasonable to ask for? Yes, it is.

Even at three months it is far more negotiable and will interface better with breastfeeding than at six weeks but when those mothers return, they have co-workers that say, “Oh gosh! I’ll answer your phone for the next few minutes. I know you need to go and pump.” Or better yet, onsite childcare where you could go and breastfeed your baby and come back to the worksite.

There are so many things at the worksite that need to happen and in my mind a breastfeeding community would provide that kind of support. When you went to church on Sunday, you would have a place where if you wanted to breastfeed privately, a little room attached like we do at out church, it is the family room and you can sit in there with a noisy toddler, but there is a glass window that you can see the surface and that is piped in through a sound system so you can hear what the minister or the priest is saying. So those are just a few examples.

I used to say that a breastfeeding community would have — every state would have a law to protect the mother’s right to breastfeed and yet the reality is in a breastfeeding community you do not need a law to protect the mother’s right to breastfeed.

Laws are something we put in place as we try and move along in this continuum. I used to say that it would a place where when mothers came in for their prenatal visits, you would not ask them are you planning to breastfeed or bottle feed. You would simply say to them please tell me what you know about breastfeeding. You would make that assumption that breastfeeding is something every mother does and so this is the time to begin to learn more about it and for us to know what you do and do not know so we can fill in around it.

So those are the things that I think probably highlight — you look at all the service centers, you look at the national parks, we say, “Oh gosh! We want all of these public places to have a room where a mother can go.” Breastfeeding is the norm. A mother should be able to breastfeed wherever she is. We should not have to put her in a room behind a closed door even if it is not a toilet stall, even if it is a comfortable room with a chair and a footstool.

We are still isolating her and suggesting that what she is doing is something that should not be seen or heard and I find that unfortunate. That is why I encourage young women, if they have a comfort level doing so to please breastfeed their babies wherever they are because until we get that critical mass of women doing just that, we are not going to change the attitudes of the general public. It is going to take repeated exposures to help people along that comfort level continuum.

Carrie Lauth: Yeah. That is true. Well, you mentioned education in schools. I was just talking with a couple of teenagers yesterday. One of them had been home-schooled for years and was about to enter high school, public school, and the other one had not been home‑schooled. They were just talking about some of the things that they learned in school and how useless they feel as it is and they wish that they could learn some of the useful things like how to balance a checkbook. I thought that was interesting. How to be a good parent? Why do not we have parenting in classes in high school? How to be in relationships? How to fight fair? How to be emotionally intelligent? Well, we have sex education in school, what is wrong with breastfeeding education? I do not know if — I know that sex education is pretty uncomfortable for kids in school so I do not think adding a breastfeeding mother would be that much worse.

Amy Spangler: You know the fact that sex education is uncomfortable says something to us. Maybe it goes back again to if your premise is true that women have a discomfort with their bodies, that is a discomfort that they learn at a very young age. They learn it in the schools or at least if they learn it at home, the schools could play a role in helping them have a different attitude toward their bodies and body parts and why you have arms and legs, breast and teeth, and all of the other pieces.

Carrie Lauth: Uh-hmm. Yeah, that is right.

Women who embrace breastfeeding and do not have kind of a block with it, they find it pleasurable, not in a sexual way at all, but pleasurable the way that me hugging my 5-year-old is pleasurable or holding my 8‑year‑old’s hand in the store is pleasurable.

Perhaps it does go back to that being comfortable with our bodies. I am sure that is part of it. One other thing I was thing and now I have forgotten, but…

Amy Spangler: In response to the comfort issue, I remember when I first breastfed my first child and I was not that young girl that was comfortable with her body. I was a young girl where I grew up in an era where sex education in the home was you were given a small little booklet on menstruation and so forth and how mothers become pregnant and where babies come from and I remember being handed that book by my mother with directions “if you have any questions ask me.”

Creative Commons License photo credit: brooklyn

Well, after I read the book I was shocked. I was appalled. I thought, “Oh, my gosh!” and I was so embarrassed I said I will never ask my mother a question.

First of all, I cannot believe that my mother and father would even do this. So here you are this young adolescent and then there was no reinforcement. Rather than it being that mother saying, “I want you to read chapter one and then I’m gonna ask you some questions and we’re gonna sit down and talk about this.” Again, that was just my mother probably if I could clone her I would because she was the most wonderful mother and grandmother, but she brought with her her own attitude toward sexuality.

She passed those on to her children and then we, as we grow up, try real hard to pass on the good things and not the things that were not so good to our children. So when I breastfed my child for the first time, it was not because I was necessarily comfortable with my body. It was because as an educated nurse I knew this was what was best for my child, but then as you said the joy and the pleasure that it gave me and not at all from a sexual standpoint, but when I teach classes still I say to parents I never make the assumption that a mother who is pregnant has made the decision to breastfeed.

I always make the assumption that they are thinking about it and then I say to them of all of my parenting experiences, it is the one that I would most like to do again because I loved every minute of it. There is not many things in parenting that we can say that about.

Carrie Lauth: Right, that is true. That is something that you will experience when you are out and about with your nursing and, say, you will have woman approach you. I have had that happen so many times, “Oh, I miss those days.” I have only had one negative experience ever with breastfeeding in public, but I have had many, many, many positive experiences, so I know that things are changing.

Oh, but I remember what I was going to say about schools. When we talk about mammals, we need to remind people, children, that a cat or a dog does not worry whether she is going to have enough milk.

Amy Spangler: Yes, you are right.

Carrie Lauth: She just nurses the babies when they want to.

Amy Spangler: They all have multiple babies!

Carrie Lauth: Yes, but she does not ever worry about her milk supply.

Amy Spangler: I find it interesting that we are supposed to be the most intelligent of the mammal species and yet we are the one with the greatest amount of doubt and insecurity about our ability to do what should be very basic body functions.

Carrie Lauth: Right. Yeah, it comes from that huge intellect that we have.

Amy Spangler: Yes, maybe we think too much?

Carrie Lauth: We do. We think too much. We do not feel enough and we do not rely on our instinct enough.

Amy Spangler: I used to think as a lactation consultant and a nurse, is there a point where we worry too much about the guilt issue and how it is going to make someone feel and if the price we have to pay is someone feeling guilty in order to promote something that saves lives maybe that is a fair tradeoff, but deep down inside I want to believe that we can do both.

We can sell breastfeeding in a manner in which it should be sold as optimal activity for every mother and not make those mothers who choose not to breastfeed feel badly about that decision. I think we can find a happy meeting point. I just think we need to continue to work on that.

Carrie Lauth: Yes. Well, Amy, it has been a pleasure talking with you.

Amy Spangler: Carrie, you also. You are just a delight. My reassurance and hope for the future is always reinforced when I talk to young mothers with babies that are being breastfed well beyond those early weeks and hopefully well into that into the first year and into the second and who knows how far beyond because you are really the model of what we want other moms to be able to follow and have a comfort level with.

Carrie Lauth: Well, one mother can change the future of the world because of the way that she parents her children. I had a funny experience at a restaurant one time, my 5‑year‑old who was 4 at the time he saw a grandmother bottle-feeding an infant and my children cannot keep their hands off of babies. If they see a baby anywhere they are just right there oohing and cooing over the baby, but Julien looks up at me and he goes “Mommy, what is that lady doing to that baby?” “I suppose she is feeding the baby.” He goes “What is that thing?” It was so out of his…

Amy Spangler: It was so foreign to him. I love it.

Carrie Lauth: It was so foreign that he had absolutely no idea that that was a bottle and that she was feeding the baby and so I had to explain that some mommies give their babies milk from their mimmies and some mommies give their baby milk in a bottle, but that one thing just illustrates that his perspective is that breastfeeding is normal. Anyway, we could go on and on for hours…

Amy Spangler: You are right and hopefully both of us will be around long enough to see the day come where maybe it will be a bottle-fed baby on a cover of a magazine and it will incite such commentary that people will say, “Oh yeah, you’re right. We probably shouldn’t have done that.”

Carrie Lauth: Okay. Well Amy you have a wonderful day.

Amy Spangler: Carrie, thank you. You take care.

My Experience of Nursing Through a Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing

May 25, 2008 | 1 Comment

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers

Have you ever wondered if you can breastfeed your baby when you get pregnant again? A lot of moms automatically assume they must, or they are told to wean by their Doctors. The truth is, however, is that most women don’t have to wean their currently nursing child. The thinking that a mom can’t breastfeed while pregnant comes from the fact that the uterus contracts during breastfeeding, and the possibility exists that contractions can cause early labor or miscarriage. This isn’t the case however. The uterus contracts during normal activities and sex, so as long as these activities aren’t deemed off limits by your Doctor, nursing is probably ok too.

While weaning may turn out to be the best decision as your pregnancy progresses, you don’t have to assume that at the beginning. Many mothers have kept  nursing while pregnant and then gone on to nurse both children after the baby’s birth. You can join that rare breed of tandem nursing mamas if you and your child want to simply keep nursing. Moms who have tandem nursed have found that the older baby experiences less sibling rivalry and feels less displaced by the birth of the new baby.

There are other benefits too – for instance, tandem nursing moms enjoy a very plentiful milk supply yet don’t experience engorgement. Personally, I found that nursing while I was pregnant and very sick with nausea helped me get some much needed rest with a toddler who was otherwise keeping me on my feet! Here’s what’s in store for you if you decide to breastfeed through a pregnancy.

The first part of tandem nursing is nursing through an entire pregnancy. It is possible to temporarily wean during pregnancy and have the older child resume nursing after the baby’s birth. The child may want to, or she may not. In either case, you will be nursing through a significant part of your pregnancy.

The pregnancy hormones cause nipples to be more sensitive to touch in general, and nursing may be uncomfortable for you. At times it can be painful. Every woman’s body is different so you will have to
decide what you can tolerate. In many cases, the discomfort comes and goes at different times of the day or stage of the pregnancy. If it starts to hurt, you should try to figure out if it hurts all the time or if there’s a pattern you can detect. There are reasons why a mom nursing an older baby may have soreness that have nothing to do with pregnancy - for instance she and the baby may have gotten into some sloppy habits and aren’t latching on and positioning properly. This can happen even if you’re an “old pro”. If despite taking measures to prevent nipple pain there’s still too much discomfort, that may be a good reason to wean.

Another change pregnancy brings is in the taste of the milk. Often called weaning milk, the milk a mother produces during pregnancy is often more salty and the nursing child will notice this change in milk
quality. Many children will wean on their own because they don’t like the taste of the pregnancy milk. Some children will enjoy nursing so much they’ll put up with the saltiness. This was the case with my own breastfeeding toddlers – they hardly seemed to mind the change, it was a small price to pay in exchange for the continued closeness with Mom.

The quantity of your milk will also decrease. You will produce less and less as your pregnancy progresses. Some children will wean because there isn’t any more milk (my kids who nursed through their sibling’s pregnancy never seemed to care). Others will continue to comfort nurse even though they aren’t getting any milk.

It can cause discomfort or pain when a child is nursing and there is no milk. That may be another reason to wean. Regardless of whether you produce no milk or a little milk, your older child will be getting most of his nutrition from solid foods. Once the baby’s born and the milk comes in, there will be plenty more milk for both of them if the older child is still interested - and he might very well be, although some rare toddlers will wean when their mother’s milk supply returns in abundance. Mine didn’t, but I’ve heard of this happening. Mine just acted like they had hit the jackpot. The Milk Fairy had returned. lol!

read this for proper pregnancy nutritionWhile it is possible to continue to nurse through a pregnancy, it’s going to be an extra drain on your system in addition to growing the new baby. You will need to consume enough nutrient dense foods to make sure you have enough reserves for yourself, your children, and the many activities you no doubt will be doing throughout your pregnancy. Make sure you are eating well and often and getting much needed rest. Remember that since nursing is a relationship, there is nothing wrong with setting limits with your nursling in order to make yourself more comfortable.

Read more: Adventures in Tandem Nursing

Other carnival participants:

Amy at Crunchy Domestic Goddess
Permission to Mother
Breastfeeding Mums Blog
Attachment Parenting International
Motherwear’s breastfeeding blog
Milk Donor Mama
Breastfeeding 123

Learn More About Breastfeeding at MommyFest

May 13, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Marie Ynami interviewed me over at MommyFest and we had a great time talking about one of my favorite topics, breastfeeding. Go have a listen if you’re wondering about stuff like:

  • Combining working and breastfeeding
  • What kind of food you should eat while nursing
  • How to make sure your baby is getting enough

And other good stuff. She’s even giving away a free breastfeeding ebook.

Plus Marie has lots of other interesting guests discussing topics of interest to the mommas. Check it out!


Tied To the Nursing Chair

May 10, 2008 | 3 Comments

I have a question for you nursing moms (or those who have breastfed at some point in their lives). Did you ever feel like you were tied to the nursing chair?

I remember when one of my childhood best friends had her first baby. She told me that she started out breastfeeding, but weaned her baby very young because, as she said, “eventually I had to get off the couch.” I didn’t really understand what she meant because I didn’t have a little one of my own yet, but as my kids started to make their appearances, I began to get it.

I love(d) nursing and didn’t resent the time spent doing so, but I would have the rare twinge of impatience at a baby or toddler who seemed to take foreeeeeeever to finish up. Maybe I wanted to do “other things”. Maybe I was feeling a tad hormonal or touched out. Maybe the child was older and I was feeling a little impatient with his or her demands in general, and that was showing up in the nursing relationship.

When I felt like this, I tried to distract myself by multi tasking. Most babies don’t mind if you check email or read a book (or pray or practice relaxation breathing!) while you nurse. When my oldest was a baby, he was a high needs kid who nursed all the time - it was the only time he was happy. I got a LOT of reading done that year lol! I also discovered baby slings and learned how to nurse in one, hands free. I could wash dishes and breastfeed at the same time! Ya want that mammamiwk?
Creative Commons License photo credit: snaulkter

But overall, I knew that breastfeeding on demand, or as I prefer to call it, breastfeeding “on cue” was the right thing and would actually save me time in the long run.

Each nursing session is an investment in mine and baby’s health and their emotional well being. And each breastfeeding released hormones (oxytocin, prolactin) that made me feel less stressed out and that relaxed me. These hormones are nature’s gift to help us be better mothers.

That doesn’t mean I never set limits with my nursing toddlers because I did - it’s a nursing relationship and there’s nothing wrong with them learning the give-and-take that occurs in relationships.

What about you? Did you ever feel tied to the nursing chair? When? And what did you do about it?

Slow Weight Gain and Sleepy Breastfed Newborns

April 26, 2008 | Leave a Comment

I got an email from a friend asking me for some breastfeeding advice and she agreed that I could share with you all in case this information comes in handy.

And by the way, if you have a breastfeeding question please don’t hesitate to email me ok? I love helping moms with breastfeeding. I was a La Leche League leader for 6 years and have helped a lot of women breastfeed their babies. Plus I have almost 10 years now of nonstop breastfeeding myself. Ok here’s her question:

My little one arrived on the 10th. She weighed 6lbs 6oz at birth and when we left the hospital on the 12th she was 5lbs 12 oz. On the 15th we went to her first doctor’s appt and she had gained (6lbs 1oz) and the dr. said that was good (averaging 1oz. a day). Today she went for her 2week check up and her weight was 6lbs 4oz which isn’t to her birth weight yet, but close. I’m a bit concerned about this and so was the lactation consultant/nurse practicioner.

After some talking and her watching her nurse, which she latched on fine, she recommended that I take Fenugreek and Alfalfa (1-2 pills 3 times a day of each). She also recommended Mother’s Milk Tea. Seems it is a matter of milk supply and/or the baby not staying awake at the breast long enough to get to the hind milk. She falls asleep rather quickly most of the time.

I have to admit that I really thought she would have been back to or over her birth weight by now and I’m concerned about supply. I’m just curious what you think of the combination she told me to take. Do you have any experience or know other mother’s who have used those herbs for increasing milk supply? If so, how long should it be before I see a difference in my supply?

Also, if you have any suggestions of holds, etc. that might keep her awake longer while nursing could you pass those on as well.

Thanks so much for your help Carrie! :) I am so afraid that I might end up having to supplement or switch to formula and I don’t want to if I can keep from it and I really do look to you for true and honest information. Thanks again!

Hey Arika,

Here is your clue: “She falls asleep rather quickly most of the time.”

This is pretty common, and believe it or not some babies will sleep themselves into slow weight gain. So, if you work on this you will start putting the weight on her in a few days.

My second born was like this, always feel asleep on the breast within seconds. Here are some tricks to keep your baby awake long enough to get more into her tummy.

  • Don’t overdress her. When she nurses you might want to remove a layer of clothing, even everything but a diaper, and just put a light blanket her. If it’s warm in your house skip the blanket even. If she’s too warm it will make her very sleepy - like how an adult feels when they drive in a warm car.
  • When she starts falling asleep at the breast before she’s actively been sucking for about ten minutes or so, keep her awake. Tickle her feet, change her diaper, break her suction on your breast and switch sides… whatever you need to do to keep her actively sucking and swallowing for ten minutes. Later on you won’t need to do this, but during the sleep newborn period it’s important.
  • Is she nursing at night? If not, wake her up. I know that goes against the age old wisdom to never wake a sleeping baby - and I know you need your sleep! But if she sleeps longer than 5 hours at a stretch, wake her and put her to the breast.
  • The herbs are fine, but frequent nursing will work better. Take enough Fenugreek until your sweat smells like maple syrup.
  • Another trick to get her interested in actively nursing if she starts falling asleep: Put your fingers around your breast, with thumb on top and fingers underneath, high up so that you don’t break her suction. Squeeze gently. You will probably notice that she’ll get a surge of milk and it will get her interested again.

Try these tips for the next 3 days and sleep and rest and nurse as much as possible. Usually 2-3 days of increased feedings is enough to increase your supply - it that’s even the issue here, it probably isn’t. The sleepiness is probably the issue.

Arika wrote back to say:

Thanks so much Carrie. I really think the sleeping is a big part of it too and I appreciate the suggestions and will definitely use them.

I think a lot of it might be what you said about her being warm and comfy when nursing. I’ve also found a sitting up position seems to keep her awake longer too. As for night feedings, she is nursing at night and she might give me 1 or 2 four hour stretches when she sleeps but only once has it been more and that was 5 hours, so she’s making sure she’s nursing at night…which is a good sign. :)

Did you have any issues with a sleepy newborn and slow weight gain? How did you handle this?

Attachment Parenting International Announces New Parenting Education Program

April 2, 2008 | 1 Comment

attachment parenting internationalLast year on the show, I was honored to interview Lysa Parker, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International.

Attachment parenting was a word I heard a Mom say over 9 years ago at a meeting for parents who had taken Bradley Method childbirth classes. I thought it sounded so strange, but then I realized it embodied what I believed and what I had been doing with my young baby: cosleeping, nursing on cue, responding to baby’s needs, wearing him in a soft cloth carrier, etc. 

API has some exciting stuff going on right now to help parents learn and keep the principles of attachment parenting and I’m happy to help them spread the word.

What Is Attachment Parenting International?

API is a non-profit organization that promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. Some of the changes they would like to announce include:

  • A newly redesigned web site and new logo at Attachment;
  • Attachment parenting worldwide support forums;
  • Parent Education Program - a comprehensive series of classes for every stage and age of child development from infancy through adulthood;
  • A new book based on API’s Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting by API co-founders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson which is expected to be available this summer;
  • A series of podcasts, webinars, chats, and forums with API Advisory Board members and other supporters of AP. Future events are scheduled with Dr. Bob Sears, Dr. James McKenna, and Kathleen Kendall Tacket. Check out the events page for more information.

These are just a few of many exciting things going on at API. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out for yourself.

Breastfeeding and Yeast Infection - Taming the yeast beast

March 30, 2008 | 22 Comments

Now that it’s getting warm out, it’s time for me to write about an issue that might be affecting a nursing mommy out there: breastfeeding and yeast infection (thrush). Troubles with yeast are more common in the warmer months because yeast loves to hang out in damp warm sweaty places.

Thrush is one of those things that can creep up on a nursing mother and cause pain, even lead to her giving up breastfeeding. Sometimes women have no idea that a yeast infection is what’s causing their pain. It’s not understood very well and many women don’t even know that yeast infection of the breast exists. But it does!

I struggled with it for a long time when my oldest was born. At first it was just painful nipples, but because I didn’t know how to resolve it, it got much worse. The pain was very bad - I felt as if someone was sticking ice picks into my back. (This is because the yeast can colonize the milk producing glands high in the breast.) Even my shirt rubbing across my chest hurt. It felt like sandpaper.

I wonder how many moms have given up breastfeeding because they thought it was “supposed” to hurt like this?

I finally kicked it, but me, my baby AND baby daddy had to be treated. (Yes, it can be passed through THAT kind of contact too, and men are usually asymptomatic.) He and I took Diflucan, and that was enough to stop the cycle of transmitting it back and forth.

I have thrush and it really sucks!

As was mentioned before, sometimes a breastfeeding mother will suffer from pain during nursing which she thinks is “normal”. But breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. Repeat after me: pain with breastfeeding is common, not normal. If everyone knows what they’re doing and there are no anatomical anomolies (I just love saying that!), then there won’t be any pain. I had no pain nursing babies 2, 3 and 4 because we didn’t have this issue.

What often precipitates yeast troubles is that mother takes antibiotics around her birth (often in the case of a Cesarean delivery or a postpartum urinary tract infection) and comes down with symptoms. The baby may have thrush in his mouth, or he may not. He may have a diaper rash or he may not. But the baby and Mom pass the yeast infection back and forth. Baby may even be fussy at the breast. Mom thinks it’s “her milk”, and weans. This is a sad outcome.

While it is “normal” (again - in the sense of common) to experience some soreness with the initiation of breastfeeding, especially in the first time Mom, this should be little more than a temporary discomfort that goes away after the first few days or weeks. The tissue is becoming used to a new activity. It Mom is having PAIN, that is not normal and is a sign that something is wrong. Normal soreness typically only hurts when baby first latches on, then subsides as the feeding continues. Yeast hurts all the time, even when baby isn’t feeding and gets worse over time.If Mom has seen a Lactation Consultant or La Leche League leader and corrected any problems with latch on or positioning and baby’s anatomy is normal, she should suspect yeast.

This is especially true if Mom has had antibiotics, eats a high sugar diet, baby has any signs of thrush (white patches in the mouth, crying/fussing when feeding, diaper rash) or Mom’s partner suffers from yeast related symptoms (itching in the boy bits, although as I said, men usually get off scott free in this area).Keep in mind that weaning won’t make the yeast go away. It will just move to the vagina or gut if Mom weans the baby (it’s probably already there anyway), and the baby will have pain in his mouth when he bottle feeds also. Better to just get rid of the yeast altogether. Shall we?

Natural Treatments For Breast Yeast And Infant Thrush

Baking soda
Baking soda can be an effective treatment for thrush. It changes the ph of the skin, inhibiting fungal growth. You can make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to Mom’s nipples. Rinse off before feeding the baby. Baby can also take baths with a little baking soda sprinkled in the water, which will soothe any yeasty diaper rash (it looks bright red and hurts).

Vinegar also kills yeast by changing the alkaline/acid balance of the skin, in the opposite way that baking soda does (obviously you would choose one or the other, not both treatments!). It can be irritating to the skin however, so care is needed. One tablespoon added to a cup of water and applied to Mom’s nipples several times a day with a cotton pad can help.

Olive Oil and Coconut Oil

Olive and coconut oil are highly nutritious for lactating women and should be used daily in the diet. Both have antifungal properties and coconut oil in particular is excellent for immune system health. Coconut oil is delicious for baking, added to smoothies, used to cook eggs, etc. Olive oil is delicious in soups, casseroles, used to cook meats, etc. Olive oil and coconut oil can also be taken straight from the spoon.

Some moms have had success applying a bit of oil to their nipples. both for pain and to help heal the infection. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it on if the baby is a newborn, but it’s fine for older babies who are eating solid foods.

Don’t shy away from healthy fats if you’re in your reproductive years ladies. These two fats don’t make you fat. Nursing Mothers all over the world since the beginning of time have thrived on high fat diets. Low fat is not healthy for the lactating or pregnant woman. And eating cheap oils means the fat in your breastmilk is of lower quality.

Strict Hygiene

Fungus is very hardy. Good hygiene is important if you want to prevent reoccurence. Wash your nursing bras and pads, panties and cloth diapers in hot water and do a double rinse. Add vinegar to the first rinse to help kill yeast and prevent irritation from detergents. Wash your hands well with hot soapy water after using the toilet or changing diapers.

If you’re using any bottles or pacifiers, boil them before use. Throw away nipples and pacifiers after treating the thrush and buy new ones. Or better yet don’t use them if at all possible. Be sure to sanitize your breast pump parts too if you use one.

Avoid plastic backed nursing pads. They create moisture and heat which yeast loves. Use cloth nursing pads instead. Go braless when you can to let the breasts air out. And don’t use any type of soap on the breasts, ever.It’s a good idea for Mom and baby to use their own towels and washcloths for awhile. Launder them separately, using the vinegar rinse mentioned above. If it’s hot and sunny out, hang them in the sun to help kill yeast.

Wipe baby’s mouth with a clean wet washcloth or cloth napkin after feeding.


Garlic and Pau d’Arco have antifungal and immune building properties. Caprylic acid and oregano oil are also antifungal, and they’re found in Yeast Assassin. Oregano oil is antifungal also. You can find many supplements that contain these ingredients in one formula.


Another thing that will help is supplementing with probiotics. Eat plenty of plain yogurt, kefir and cultured veggies like homemade sauerkraut. These kinds of foods contain lots of beneficial bacteria that help keep the yeast in check in the gut. It’s also very important to eliminate sugar while treating yeast infections. This will be hard because you’ll crave it something terrible! But stay strong and remove sugar, white flour, all junk food and simple carbs (white rice and even fruit) for awhile. Eat plenty of meat and protein, and tons of vegetables while you’re clearing the infection.

There are some prescription medications that you can get for yeast troubles from your baby’s Pediatrician or your OB/GYN. One is Nystatin. It’s commonly prescribed as a liquid suspension. It’s sticky and full of sugar. I hated using that stuff. It didn’t work, and it only made me and the baby and my clothes stick together like glue. And the sugar content - hello!

Another old fashioned remedy is Gentian Violet, sold in some pharmacies. I tried this one too and it’s messy to work with because it stains everything bright purple. I couldn’t take my baby out for a week because he looked like Papa Smurf. And I had to wear an old purple T shirt so as not to ruin my entire wardrobe. But it is pretty effective. There are some concerns about Gentian Violet being carcinogenic with long term exposure, but it typically only has to be used for a day or two to work so most people who care about babies and mothers say it’s ok for this short term use. It’s also very inexpensive and available without a Doctor’s prescription or even a visit to the office.

Diflucan was the ticket for me. Along with the nutrition and other self help measures listed above, we finally kicked it for good. The thing with Diflucan is that a lot of Doctors who are ignorant of how breastfeeding works will tell you that it’s not safe for nursing moms. That’s pretty ridiculous because Diflucan is prescribed for premature infants! Medications and Mother’s Milk is considered the authoritative source on the safety of various drugs for breastfeeding women and Diflucan gets the ok. As for me, we had tried everything else first and the meds helped me get relief, fast so it was worth it.

Have you ever had breast yeast and what did you do about it? Do tell!

I Love It When I’m Right: Nursing Moms, Eat What You Want

January 8, 2008 | Leave a Comment

I find certain things really, really irritating. One of these things is when people blame every little thing a breastfed baby does on its mother.

Did the baby hiccup? Must be something you ate! Does he have gas? Uh-0h. Better go on a strict diet cutting out all dairy/corn/wheat/gluten/soy/bad ingredient du jour. Did he poop too much/too little/too often/too infrequently? It’s your fault. You have to give up your favorite beverage!


I read an article today that the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Apparently the AAP has reconsidered their previous advice telling third trimester and nursing moms to avoid certain foods. There’s just no evidence that it works to prevent baby’s allergies.

Man, they could have saved all that time and embarrassment if they had just asked me. ;)

Cute Nursing Shirts

December 21, 2007 | Leave a Comment

I never wear nursing shirts anymore since my youngest almost never needs to nurse in public, but oh my goodness when I browse the cute styles available nowadays I almost want to buy some!

These are so cute you could totally wear them whether you were breastfeeding or not. Enter:

This looks like something Gwyneth Paltrow would wear.  

And this one is simply dreamy with its filmy look.
I love that the new styles aren’t cut for maternity - duh - like we want to look pregnant once the baby’s out! More pretty nursing shirts

I’m for Breastfeeding, Not Nitpicking

December 6, 2007 | 7 Comments

Here’s something for Think About it Thursday.

The other day I was reading Jennifer Laycock’s The Lactivist blog. Jennifer is a wonderful blogger who is obviously devoted to the cause of breastfeeding. But lately she’s under fire from a few nitpicky mothers who want to strip her of her lactivist title… because she’s weaning her two year old.

Yep, you heard that right. Jennifer is referring to the backlash as “Weaner Gate“. Turns out you can’t be a lactivist unless you allow your child to decide everything about the nursing relationship! Bet you didn’t know that did you? :-)

Last time I checked, giving a child 2 years of breast milk was a pretty darn good accomplishment. After all, according to recent stats, only about 12% of tots in this country get breast milk at one year of age, and it’s probably far less for 2 year olds. Instead of getting a pat on the back, Jennifer is getting criticism.


I probably wouldn’t have posted about this except today I got an email from a woman who subscribes to my newsletter. She had a problem with my mentioning that Tylenol would be ok for a nursing mom suffering pain from mastitis. She said:

“I would appreciate a correction of this statement to use tylenol.  It’s simply not good advice.”

While she did say that she “loved my work.  I felt all of your other tips were wonderful advice.”, she still felt the need to comment that:

“I disagree with your suggesting a mother take tylenol for the pain of mastitis.  That is not anything close to a natural handling and is actually destructive advice.  Tylenol has known to cause liver damage and even death from a regular dose.  It’s dangerous.  Have a look on for more data.  Also, the baby would get the drug in the breastmilk and a young baby does not have a fully developed elimination system to metabolize the drug in his or her liver… I know of the dangers of drugs from my work.”

Now, I am not picking on this woman in any way. I actually agree with most of what she’s saying. I personally don’t take Tylenol for aches and pains and don’t give it to my kids either. However, I also know a couple of things from my work.

I know that most nursing mothers have an overly cautious view of using medications while breastfeeding due to the ignorance of the health care community. Time and time again I’ve heard moms say that their Doctor gave them that old knee jerk “pump and dump or wean” response when they were faced with having to take some medication. Many people in the health care community (erroneously) think that NO meds are safe for nursing moms - and weaning is recommended as the answer. That’s very rarely true.

In fact, many medications can be used during lactation. There are several factors to weigh including the age and weight of the baby, the seriousness of the mother’s health condition, the emotional effects of weaning, and the individual nature of the drug in question.

The comprehensive resource for this would be Medications and Mother’s Milk by Thomas Hale. It’s not a bad idea for a nursing mom to keep a copy of this book around, or at least have the phone number of a La Leche League leader who owns one.

Point two: For some women, especially those susceptible to it, breastfeeding pain will trigger postpartum depression. Mastitis can be awful. I had a bout with it several months ago when my youngest went on a nursing strike and I felt like I had the flu. My entire body hurt. I shook in bed all night long because of the fever and chills. But I knew what was going on and knew how to solve the problem so I chose to tough it out.

I would much rather see mom take a dose of an over the counter pain medication to feel better fast and then tackle the problem than to give up because nursing hurt. This is what so often happens:  Women start out breastfeeding, run into a problem they can’t solve, and quit.

I’m for breastfeeding, not perfection.

There are those who think you’re not a “real” nursing mom if you do this or don’t do that. I’m for stopping this elitist type of thinking and celebrating any amount of breastfeeding.

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