25 Things I Want Breastfeeding Moms to Know

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We’ve all had days when we wanted to give up.

There are breastfeeding helpers out there who won’t judge you. Keep looking till you find one who makes you feel safe and supported.

Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing.

Breastfeeding looks different for each mom and baby.

It’s normal for newborns to never want to be put down. Ever. And it’s normal for them to nurse all the time, sometimes more than once an hour. Really.

Almost all moms will make enough milk if they nurse often enough, but for a small number of moms, this isn’t the case. Low milk supply is a real thing, and if you have it, you deserve good, kind, thoughtful help.

Tongue tie really can impact breastfeeding. Tongues that are tied down can’t milk the breast properly (leading to low weight gain) and can cause a lot of pain.

Tongue tie isn’t always the problem, or isn’t always the only problem. Breastfeeding difficulties are usually multi-faceted, which is why all moms deserve the skilled help of a good IBCLC.

I wish all good lactation consultants were covered under insurance. But we are not there yet. Please spend the money to get good help. Most lactation consultants don’t cost more than a good stroller or a baby swing. Most lactation consultants will spend two or more hours with you and provide follow-up.

Most breastfeeding problems can be solved by going back to basics. If your nipples hurt, you probably just need to change position, shape and hold your breasts, or unlatch and start again. If you aren’t making enough milk, you probably just need to nurse more frequently. Start with the basics before assuming anything more complicated is going on. Trust biology, your body, and your baby.

Lactation cookies and herbs can really help, but they are only helpful if combined with other treatments for remedying supply issues.

Breastfeeding isn’t meant to be done alone. Find your tribe. Go to a breastfeeding support meeting. Find moms online who have babies your age. It can make a huge difference.

Some babies sleep long stretches and fall asleep easily. Some do not. It (usually) has nothing to do with how you are feeding your baby. It’s usually just genetics and temperament.

There is no magic age when babies should stop nursing in the middle of the night. Some babies need the nutrition well past the first few months, and many like the nighttime connection for years.

You should breastfeed for as long or as short as you want. It is entirely up to you (and your baby).

It is NEVER anyone’s place to judge a mom who chooses not to breastfeed. There are so many reasons why a mother might make this choice, and none reflects poorly on her mothering or her level of care for her child.

How much you pump doesn’t always reflect how much milk your baby takes at your breast. Most babies take more than the pump extracts; some take less.

Working and pumping mothers deserve all the respect and love in the world.

Exclusive pumping moms do too.

Babies who never latch are rare, but this does happen, and it is one of the hardest things I have witnessed as a breastfeeding helper. These moms deserve the right to mourn the loss of at-breast feeding, but they need to know this doesn’t make them any less a breastfeeding mom.

All mothers have a right to feel whatever they feel about how breastfeeding went for them. All feelings are normal. All feelings are real.

Whether or not you breastfed or were breastfed matters in many ways, and in many ways it doesn’t matter at all.

Breastfeeding, above all, is love. It’s one of many ways to exchange love with your baby, your toddler, or your child.

Children need to grow up seeing breastfeeding. It makes breastfeeding normal. It teaches them breastfeeding positioning, behavior, and more. This is one of the key ways we can increase the breastfeeding rates in our country.

Breastfeeding is normal. Breastfeeding is intense. Breastfeeding is simple. Breastfeeding is beautiful.

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It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and I will be sharing breastfeeding photos all week on my Facebook Page. Please come over and take a look. I’ll post as many pictures as I get. Email pictures to me at wendywisner78@gmail.com.

Q & A With Christine Organ, Author of OPEN BOXES

I am so pleased to introduce Christine Organ, a fabulous writer and friend!

What I love about Christine is how honest and genuine she is, both as a writer and as a person. As I read her beautiful book, Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life , I felt like I was being let into her mind. I watched her wrestle with questions of life, faith, parenting, marriage, and friendship. She goes deep. She says it all. And she does it with generosity and elegance. Her stories are relatable, but don’t shy away from brutal honesty. She writes about postpartum depression, eating disorders, anxiety, childhood pain, and finding herself as a writer. I really enjoyed this book, and I had the pleasure of asking Christine some questions about her writing process, and other fun stuff.

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Q&A With Christine Organ

Q: I am always fascinated with how parents (but mothers specifically, because I am one!) fit writing into their busy lives. What are your writing routines like? How did you manage to write an entire book while keeping two kids alive under your roof?

A: Finding the time and space – let alone the energy – to write is a constant challenge. While my specific routines have changed over time and vary depending on my children’s schedules, I generally try to write while they are at school or sleeping. I wrote my book over a 2-3 year period so it was written in short spurts. Thirty minutes here, a couple hours there.

During the school year, it is much easier to follow a general writing routine. My oldest son is in school all day and my youngest son is in preschool (soon to be kindergarten!) in the afternoon, so I block out that time in the afternoon for writing time. My mother-in-law also spends the morning with my younger son one day a week, which helps create a big chunk of time for tackling bigger projects.

This summer has presented a new challenge in that I am not only struggling to find time to write, but motivation. It’s hard to sit down at the computer when I would much rather be going to the pool or taking a trip to the lake. I do feel a bit antsy and eager to get back into a regular writing routine, but I am reminding myself that it’s okay to step back from my writing for a few months in order to enjoy this season of our lives. Come September I hope to hit the ground running again.

Q: I love how you cover such a broad range of subjects in the book, and the way that they all interact with each other to form a cohesive whole. Did you know you were writing the book as you completed each essay? How did you figure out the structure of the book?

A: Not at all! When I first started blogging, it was to create a platform for a very different book I had in mind. While that book never materialized, through blogging, I discovered my voice and the stories I really wanted to tell. Fairly quickly after I started blogging, I realized that I wanted to write a book about grace – the ways that it manifests itself and the profound impact that it can have on our lives. Over time, I noticed the common theme of openness and connection in several of the stories I wanted to tell. I also realized that wonder and the celebration of life’s little miracles were a big part of connection so I included those sections as well. With the theme of connection, the stories came together as one cohesive unit.

Q: You write about very personal subjects like postpartum depression and eating disorders. How do you feel about sharing these stories with the world?

A: It is definitely scary, but it gets easier over time. I am realizing that when we share the truth about ourselves, including the darker parts, we empower other people to accept their own truth as well. When we share our own war stories, so to speak, we are telling people that it’s okay that they accept their own war stories too. Not only that, but there is incredible freedom in owning the darker stories in our lives. By putting something out there, sharing these pieces of ourselves, we diffuse a bit of the power they hold over us.

That’s not to say that it stops being difficult. A few weeks ago, I shared an article on my Facebook page about eating disorders and I actually hesitated about posting it. I was scared to acknowledge that I have (and sometimes still do) deal with body image issues. What will people think of me?, I thought. Will people think less of me? And then I remembered all the things I wrote in “Open Boxes” about telling our stories and acknowledging our struggles. I wrote a whole chapter about eating disorders, for heaven’s sake! The cat’s out of the bag. And yet, there is a tendency to gloss over any lingering issues. I wanted to be able to say I beat this; it’s done. But life doesn’t work that way. I am a work in progress. I strive to live a life of authenticity and that means acknowledging the good and the bad, the beauty and the pain, the bitter and the sweet.

Q: What have been the biggest surprises since having the book published? What’s next for you?

A: I think one of the biggest – and best – surprises to me has been the diversity of people who have read and appreciated Open Boxes. As a woman and a mother, many of the stories resonate with women and mothers, but several men and non-parents have also told me how much they enjoyed the book. People from a wide range of backgrounds and faith traditions have found resonance in the book. This means a lot to me because one of my primary goals in writing “Open Boxes” was to find commonalities in the human condition, to draw on the ways we are more alike than different (while still celebrating our differences), and the wide range of readers has reinforced this for me.

Another big surprise to me is the amount of work it takes to actually sell a book. The marketing and promotional work is never-ending! I still feel very uncomfortable marketing myself, which can make it difficult. But I’m getting better at it.

Right now I’m focused on spreading the word about “Open Boxes” – speaking, book events, etc. – and there is always the writing that I do on my own website and on other (larger) websites, but I’m starting to think about possibly dipping my toes back into the book writing process soon. I’ve got some ideas brewing that I need to flesh out, but I’m hoping to throw myself into a new book project soon.

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I highly recommend delving into Christine’s book yourself. You can order it here.

And here’s a bit more about Christine, including links to her blog and where else you can find her.

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Christine Organ is the author of Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life — a collection of stories that celebrate the human spirit.  She lives in Chicago with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. Her work has appeared on The New York Times, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, UU World, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Role Reboot, and Mamalode. She writes at www.christineorgan.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Crazy Commenters on Social Media (Or, What is Wrong With the World?)

huhWriting for internet publications is a funny thing. I have been blessed to be published widely, and it is thrilling to be able to connect so readily with my audience, and get paid for it! As a writer who wrote primarily for print publications for years, I rarely had feedback on my work. If I did, it was mostly from friends and family, not total strangers.

I have been blown away by the positive comments on things I’ve written—people who have been moved to tears, people whose lives feel changed by my words (at least for a minute!). Yes, there are haters out there, but that’s par for the course, and I don’t usually let it get to me. I mean, I’ve had a post go viral in which I talk about breastfeeding a (gasp!) two-year-old, and there were some ugly responses, all of which I let roll off my back.

So I was pretty shocked when a post I wrote for Kveller got slammed by comments, replete with personal attacks on me and my family. It’s an honest, blunt piece about how in this season of my life with young kids at my feet, making phone calls is annoying and nearly impossible.

I should mention that the response to the article was overwhelmingly positive. It’s been viewed by over 14,000 users (and counting), it was shared publicly by the actress Mayim Bialik, and the comments on Facebook are mostly from mothers who identified with it and found it refreshingly honest.

But the comments on the website itself were just… well, you should read them yourself. I was called self-centered, pathetic, insufferable, and my kids were described as ill-mannered brats. Not only was my parenting slammed, but I was also declared to be a terrible friend and an even worse family member (because, you know, my family will die eventually, and I haven’t appreciated them enough while they’re alive).

All of this because I don’t have time to call people on the phone. THE PHONE. THE PHONE. Is that really the only way for people to connect? What?!

It doesn’t matter that I say in the article that when someone really needs to talk, I am more than willing. The article is about the fact that catching up, making chit-chat, shooting the bull—the kind of phone conversations that are just check-ins—they are what are difficult. The article says nothing about how often I see my extended family (which for the record, is OFTEN), my friends, or anyone else. It doesn’t say anything about all the other ways I show up for my family and friends. It was simply about the fact that I don’t prefer talking on the phone. Period.

I know that these comments aren’t really about me. These people are venting about their own problems. And most people don’t think of authors as real people who might read what they say (I don’t read every comment, but I check in to get the gist). Commenters have this feeling of being removed from the situation and feeling like they can spill any shit they want on the page, unleash all their rage and anger about someone else’s words.

My Kveller article is not a literary masterpiece. Maybe I could have made certain parts clearer, certain parts less snarky. But for goodness’ sake, when you read something that someone has written about her life, you are only seeing a small slice of that person. To make judgments about the writer’s moral character is not only insensitive, but ridiculous.

I NEVER comment on my own posts—but, because I felt that my piece was being misunderstood, I stepped in to clarify. What happened next was even more appalling. Even when the commenters knew they were speaking directly to the author, they were still rude and insulting. It was awful.

I am left wondering what it is that touched such a nerve with these people. I can understand people getting into heated arguments about politics or religion—but phone calls?! Maybe these people have been burned badly by family members who don’t stay in touch. Perhaps they don’t realize that in this day and age, phone calls are becoming obsolete and many people prefer email or texts. I, for one, would much rather have someone stop by my house to say hello than talk on the phone. Maybe it’s that the piece points to the fact that my children are the center of my world right now (because by gosh they are little and won’t be forever), and some people think that is exactly the wrong way to parent (those people can eat my foot).

Whatever the case, I am basically over the whole thing, and I kind of regret engaging with the commenters at all. None of it will stop me from writing and putting my thoughts and opinions out there, but boy oh boy has it made me wonder what the hell is wrong with the world.

UPDATE 7/21/2015: Happy to report that Kveller took down some of the worst comments. Criticism is one thing. Critiquing a kind of parenting or kind of writing is usually fine too. Direct insults, name-calling, blasting the character of an individual and her kids? Something else entirely. Being mean on the internet is the same as being mean. Period. All of this has caused me to think even more about what I post on the internet. We all need to be certain we are practicing kindness, in real life and online.

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What I Hope For My Children Now That Same-Sex Marriage is Legal

I was so incredibly happy when I heard the news that gay marriage was legalized everywhere in America. It struck a chord on so many levels. I have lots of dear friends who are gay and are raising families, and this news means the world to them. Not only does it offer couples and families the rights that all Americans deserve, but it sets a precedent, and it lays the foundation for acceptance and healing (though we still have a long way to go).

More than anything, I thought about what the decision means for my children, and for the generation of children growing up now. Happy to share this essay I wrote about that, for Role Reboot.

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I hope that someday no children will have to grow up living in fear of the enormous love their hearts hold.

Since becoming a parent, when anything big happens in the news—good or bad—I immediately think of how it will affect my kids. The news that the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage for all 50 states brought big, fat tears of joy to my eyes. I cried not only for the countless men and women who will finally have the rights and respect they deserve, but also for what it means for my children, and the whole generation of kids growing up now.

I remember all those years ago, when I was a senior in high school—practically a child myself—and my dear friend told me he was gay. We were sitting in his parked car, tears streaming down his face. But his were tears of fear and anguish. I was one of just a few kids at our school he was telling, and I was sworn to secrecy. What would happen if anyone at school found out? What about his parents? He took a drag on his cigarette. I wrapped my arms around him, wordless, scared for him, knowing all I could do was love him, and hope for the best.

I knew then and there that I would do the same for my children if they ever told me they were gay—I would hold them in my arms, and tell them I loved and accepted them. But back then, I wasn’t sure love from a few supporters was good enough for gay children, teenagers, women, and men. I was scared for my friend, and for anyone coming out then—professing their feelings, their love to a world that didn’t always love them back.

Click here to read the full article.

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Nursing In The Dark

My son will be three in September. Nursing has been changing lately. Most of it is done at naptime and bedtime/wake-up. I realized today that I can’t remember the last time he nursed during the day. A couple of times I have asked him if he wanted to, when he was really upset and I sensed that nursing could help him relax. He declined. I know the way weaning usually works: there is a lot of back and forth. Nursing sessions aren’t just dropped overnight. So I’m not ready to say that he is never going to nurse while we’re snuggled up on the couch again. But I have no way of knowing for sure. Maybe he’s just done with it.

I feel proud of him for not needing that afternoon or mid-morning nurse with the urgency he did before. And I feel a sense of wonderment about it because my older son wasn’t at this point when he was this age. I feel a bit of sorrow too, of course—that bittersweet feeling you get as your child reaches a milestone.

So lately we have just been nursing in the dark. Sometimes it’s light enough for me to watch him nurse—other times not so much. In just a few months he might be done napping, and that session will slide away. Today I realized all this with a rush of feeling, and so I decided to take pictures of our naptime nurse, in the half-dark.

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Oh my child, growing, changing, loving, breaking my heart, putting it back together again.

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Is It Normal Not to Like Breastfeeding?

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Many mothers start off thinking of breastfeeding simply as a feeding method. In those first few weeks, they want to be sure they are doing it right—and, of course, that their baby is getting enough to eat. Sometimes the technicalities of nursing can wear a mother down, especially if she is having difficulties. Sore nipples, for instance, are among the top reasons that women give up breastfeeding (sore nipples that make nursing unbearable are not normal, and there are usually simple solutions out there to remedy them). Other mothers are trying to remedy low milk supplies. Another, lesser-known discomfort is a phenomenon known as D-MER, where mothers feel strong feelings of depression and agitation when their milk lets down (these feelings are linked to hormones, and disappear soon after letdown).

Even without challenges like these, new nursing moms are often bogged down with concerns about feeding schedules (is he really ready to eat again?), leaking breasts, sleep deprivation, self-doubt, body image issues—and just the huge, often startling transition into motherhood. My own first son had trouble latching on. For the first few weeks it took lots of tries, repositioning, and coaxing to get him to latch on and suck. Once he latched on things were fine (though I was still an exhausted, leaky mess), but nursing often felt tedious, technical, and stressful. By the time the latching got more seamless, the fussy evenings began, and my son would often cry at the breast until we could calm him down enough to nurse.

I had this image in my head of tranquil breastfeeding, mom and baby nestled together with beads of light surrounding them. I had some nice moments, but I didn’t seem to be there yet.

This is very common, especially for first-time mothers. Breastfeeding or not—having a newborn for the first time is difficult. Very difficult. And it doesn’t help that there is pressure from within and without to “enjoy every moment.” It doesn’t help that people think breastfeeding is supposed to be easy and perfect right away. It doesn’t help that there is a seemingly easier solution out there (bottles and formula), while there is very little accessible, compassionate, affordable breastfeeding help out there.

I have led a monthly breastfeeding support group for six years now, and I can’t tell you how relieved breastfeeding mothers are when they gather in a room together and realize that all those conflicted feelings are completely normal. It is such a relief to them to know they are not alone. They relax a little then. And that is often when they start to truly enjoy breastfeeding.

Almost every time, it does happen: breastfeeding becomes enjoyable, second nature, comfortable—often lovely. When it happens varies for each woman, depending on her circumstances, support, and baby. Usually it happens after a few weeks, when any initial soreness disappears, and mothers actually get to see their babies growing from the milk their body produces. (Even moms with true low milk supply often are able to reach a point of acceptance with whatever supplementation is necessary, and are able to find peace with the amount of breastmilk they are able to offer.)

I remember when I began to relax into nursing. I was sitting in the armchair in my living room. My son was born in winter, and now spring was just beginning to blossom—little buds waving on the branches of the tree outside our window. I had just nursed my son, and he popped off the breast, milk dribbling out of the side of his mouth, his eyes fluttering closed, and a giant grin splashed across his face. I had heard the phrase “milk drunk” before, and now I saw it. It was bliss, pure and utter happiness. And it was contagious. I felt so content there. I was so glad that I had persevered and gotten to where I was with breastfeeding.

If you are at the beginning, know that chances are, you will eventually fall in love with breastfeeding (a small minority of women never enjoy breastfeeding, but most do). If things are so hard that you’re not sure how you’ll make it to the next feeding—just take it day by day, feeding by feeding, and you will get to the other side. Go to a breastfeeding support meeting. Meet other moms who are feeling as you are, and talk to other moms who made it through to the sweet spot of breastfeeding.

Even when you get there, know that it is normal to have rough days as your baby gets older. Teething, growth spurts, and other fussy phases can all drive a nursing mother mad! We have all been there. You have the right to complain. You have the right to vent. It’s all part of the cycle of life you are in with your baby, and with breastfeeding.

But all the difficult moments will be interspersed with the most delicious milky smiles, and the coziest snuggles. You’ll get there, in your own way, in your own time.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr

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A version of this post first appeared in Natural Child Magazine

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If you are looking for breastfeeding help, you can contact a La Leche League Leader or a Lactation Consultant.  If you are interested in setting up a breastfeeding consultation with me, visit my website , or contact me at wendywisner78@gmail.com.  I do in-person consultations for mothers in Queens or Nassau County, NY, and I also offer phone/Skype/FaceTime consultations for mothers outside of my area. 

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

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It feels good to feel wanted. I have felt that these past few months. Awesome places want to publish my work (and, often, pay me for it). New mommies want my help and advice. And of course, my children with their endless wants and needs (and love).

I had always been a writer, but things slowed down a bit when my first child was born eight years ago (here’s a new piece I wrote about my firstborn). When the new year hit this year, I decided I was ready to “dive in” again. I have been blessed with words, and new places and people to share them with.

In addition to freelance writing, I’m a volunteer breastfeeding counselor and IBCLC. I get frequent emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls for help. I manage a Facebook discussion group, and I host a monthly breastfeeding support group. I have a part-time IBCLC business. I do consultations on weekday evenings and weekends. It is very part-time at this point, but I always have a mom or two I am working with in this capacity.

Let’s not forget (because I do so often) that I am a full-time mom. My own mom does come by to help a few hours a week, but it’s just me in charge of the house and the kids for 10-12 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

I think I kinda forgot that. I thought I would do it all, all at once. I was wrong, as usual. It’s happened to me before.

I reached a breaking point last week. I had about four writing pieces out (including this one about breastfeeding older children that went kind of viral), which meant promoting them, getting and answering emails from fans, and just generally feeling full and overstimulated from it all. Plus, there were a few breastfeeding emergencies along the way, from both my volunteer work and paid work. And of course, kids, replete with tantrums, spills, nightwaking, early mornings, and sibling squabbles.

I don’t drink coffee (gives me terrible anxiety and tummy aches), but I eat bits of dark chocolate to power me through the day. I realize this is not a terrible thing if done in moderation. It started with a few squares here and there. But with all the endlessness of my days lately, I had been going through several bars of chocolate a week. Plus, I’d been exercising less, eating more crap, and just generally putting everyone else’s needs in front of my own. I don’t usually weigh myself, but I’d gained five pounds in about a month.

I felt the weight of it all, just everywhere.

So I did some things I’d been meaning to do for a while. I figured out some ways to cut back on my volunteer work, and streamline some other aspects of my life.

And I made the intention—just like I did six months ago, when I decided to write in earnest again—that I would take care of myself. That’s it. Take care of myself: those four words. However it works, however it manifests.

It may be thrilling to “do it all.” I may be able to do to it all, in the sense that I can get it done. But it doesn’t always feel right. Something gets lost along the way. This time it was me. Sappy, yes. But true, 100%.

Just saying I need to do it has made a difference already. The days have felt simpler already, less encumbered. I have been taking more time for stillness. I have been putting my phone away. I have been eating my bits of chocolate, but savoring each small bite instead of stuffing in more. And I have been enjoying my babies more, taking the time to sit with them, read to them, cuddle with them, draw with them—all those good things.

I want all the other things to, and I can have them, but I just need to take it slower, say no to some of them, and say yes to the ones that matter most.

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