Posts Tagged ‘lactation consultation’

Boobies Are Complicated

October 10, 2010

At the request of my very best friend, The Roaming Naturalist, I am writing an update about my lactation studies. It has been more challenging than I expected in two ways: first, the lessons themselves are dense and difficult for someone who does not have a medical background, and secondly – it’s hard as hell to find time to study with a toddler running around the house!

I take a lot of notes, and I prefer to devote a solid 3 hours towards a lesson, because only finishing one halfway and then picking it up later only leaves me more confused. I have never – EVER! – had three hours of time to myself since Eve’s birth, unless you count the time I spend at work (and I sure as hell don’t). I have attempted to study while she is in the room, but it’s hard to concentrate and listen to the lecture when she’s climbing into my lap to nurse for boredom, funsies, or attention about once every ten minutes. And when she’s kicking the keyboard. And pulling all of the DVDs off of the shelf. And…well, you get the idea.

That being said, human breasts are nothing short of FASCINATING. It kinda makes me want to wear a t-shirt that says MAMMALIAN PRIDE. And honestly, I may just screenprint just such a shirt for myself…if I can find the time.

In addition to the usual studies, I’ve also found myself chairing the marketing/promotions committee of my local breastfeeding advocacy group. It pretty literally fell into my lap, and while I haven’t been able to exactly DO anything yet (I’m still waiting to receive the contact information of the rest of the committee members), I have big, big plans and a list of ideas a mile long.

How has everyone else been faring?

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On The Brink Of Change

September 24, 2010

I feel really good about today. My pathway 3 application to the IBLCE was approved, and today I start my lactation course. I’ve been reading books about breastfeeding, mostly from a cultural and sociological perspective, and while it is fascinating to study and certainly critical to a comprehensive understanding of breastfeeding, I’m also very anxious to finally delve into the biology and clinical practice behind it.

Today is also the last day that I will be driving my car to drop Eve off at daycare and to go to work. I’m picking up a folding bike, a beautiful vintage Raleigh Twenty, which I will be using for mixed mode commuting. Starting on Monday I’ll be dropping the baby and the car off at daycare, then riding my bike to the rail to go to work. It’s the first step towards becoming a full-time bike commuter and I am excited.

While both of these things seem minor, they are actually pretty big deals for me. I spent most of my life being absolutely befuddled about what I wanted to do career-wise; I’ve been miserable at the same crappy corporate job for the past six years and to finally have a path – and to take a step onto that path! – is at once exhilarating and terrifying. In order to put my all into this, I’m eventually going to have to quit my job; and despite the fact that my job has always made me unhappy (and at a few times has been literally detrimental to my mental health and wellbeing and my physical health and wellbeing), I am really afraid to leave it because for almost seven years it’s been everything that I know. The idea of changing jobs scares the shit out of me.

Unfortunately, due to the bike-unfriendliness of my city, so does commuting. I didn’t grow up using buses or rails because my brother and I were never allowed to use them without my parents – and my parents refused to use them. We did everything by car, even little stupid trips a few blocks away. Cycling in the road scares me (although not as much as it did before I started doing it), taking the bus scares me, and riding on the rail scares me. Even walking scares me. I feel so vulnerable when I’m not in my car and I worry about people trying to hurt me whether it’s particularly warranted or not.

I’ve come to realize that my decision to go car-lite (with the eventual long-term goal of being car-free) requires much more mental rewiring than I anticipated. Just the other day, I rode my bike two miles to Home Depot to pick up some brackets. I felt so proud of myself for doing a chore by bicycle, and then soon after getting home I drove about 500 feet to a 7-eleven in my neighborhood. It wasn’t until I was actually parked in front of the 7-eleven that I realized what a massively stupid and thoughtless thing I had done. I tried to rationalize it by telling myself that they wouldn’t have let me bring my bike in anyway (and I don’t have a bike lock), but then another part of me said, “Well then you should have walked, asshole.”

I’m trying to undo the training that compels me to use my car for every simple thing. I have to remember to ask myself, “Can I do this another way?” before reaching for the keys. It’s a work in progress.

So yes, today is a day of changes, and despite my fears and reservations, I feel good about them. I have butterflies, but I’m trying to tell myself that butterflies are okay.

How about you, dear readers? Any changes brewing in the distance?

Lactivism Is Not Work For Whites Only

August 18, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, my super long-term goal is to start a nonprofit that provides marginalized parents with lactation guidance in a safe, diverse, and accommodating environment. While the populations I have in mind include trans and gender queer folks, non-hetero folks, and teens, I also intend to help racial minorities.

One of the things that has consistently disappointed me in my recent search for lactation books, materials, and swag is the overwhelming whiteness of it all. Searching Etsy for handmade breastfeeding art brings up jewelry and artwork that is full of white women; browsing CafePress and Zazzle for ridiculously overpriced breastfeeding t-shirts likewise does the same. Even the textbooks and study guides that I will eventually need for my lactation internship, such as The Breastfeeding Atlas, Clinical Lactation: A Visual Guide, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, and Counseling: The Nursing Mother all have covers featuring white babies, pink nipples, or women without even a touch of kink in their hair. [The cover of The Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice is one of the rare exceptions, although I will note that unlike the more modern style of the other books, this cover features a pre-industrial illustration of a non-white nursing dyad, which is slightly dodgy considering the all-too-common tendency to depict POCs as if we’re all stuck in a time warp.]

While I do understand that authors do not have total (and sometimes any) control over the art that goes on their books (for example, check out the feathers that were understandably ruffled over the cover of Liar, a young adult novel told from the point of view of a black girl that features a white girl on the US version of the cover – because according to the publisher, books with black faces on them “don’t sell”), I still can’t help but feel slighted by the racial homogeneity of these books that will be some of my most important resources in the next year (and for my entire career beyond that).

I do not ever, as a general rule, buy or wear swag (such as buttons, t-shirts, etc) that depicts only white skin, and I do not buy those things for Eve either. Because of this, I have to really look to find images of non-white breastfeeding advocacy swag, and have to stick to text-only or non-racial iconic artwork if I can’t find anything else. It’s not that I don’t find such images and art beautiful because they are white – to the contrary, some of the artwork I’ve found almost hurts me with their beauty.

But I will not support artists who do not support brown lactivists, brown mothers, or brown children. And if it has never crossed an artist’s or mother’s or lactivist’s mind that not everyone will identify with a pinkly-nipped white woman, then they are obviously so deeply steeped in their ignorance and privilege that I cannot support them with my hard-earned dollars – and I am especially not going to wear images that erase my very existence on my own person. I refuse to accept whiteness as default, as the norm, or as the ideal image of the nursing dyad.

Fortunately, there are other women of color out there who are fighting the good fight. Elita from Blacktating asked recently, “Where are the images of black mothers?” and the answer was quite disappointing:

Take a look at Nestle’s Baby Milk website. The first thing you see are two images of women of color, a mom who appears to be black and another who is Asian. When you get to the main content page all you see is black women and babies…

Compare that with La Leche League’s magazine, New Beginnings, where I was unable to find any pictures of black women breastfeeding in the recent issues. The seminal breastfeeding organization in the world, the go-to folks for breastfeeding information, and no images of black women.”

Elita is also one of the presenters for this year’s National Seminar sponsored by the Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Association. I wish I could go, but alas, I am in another state – and the seminar is being held on a damn Monday, to boot.

Also holding it down for nursing black moms (who have the lowest nursing rates among all races) is the blog Black Women Do Breastfeed, which features an adorable close-up of a black baby happily nomming on a black breast at the top of the page.

Finally, allow me to share white anti-oppression blogger Arwyn’s letter to white lactivists who kinda suck at race.

Breastfeeding Success Is A           Collective Responsibility

July 13, 2010

During class last week, the professor had us do an exercise in which we paired off with one another and had to learn about each other. We then had to address the class and tell them what we’d learned about our partner (if you’re wondering what exactly the point of the exercise was, I can assure you that it was indeed a waste of time). One of the things that I told my partner, a super shy 16-year-old who was literally quaking in her seat next to me (I know my afro has been kind of unruly, but am I really that scary?), was that I want to become a lactation consultant.

When it was our turn to share what we’d learned about each other, this is how it went:

Classmate: “She’s twenty-seven.”

Class: *eyes glaze over*

Classmate: “She’s a mother.”

Class: *eyes start to close sleepily*

Classmate: “And she wants to be a lactation consultant.”

Class: *GASP* SHOCK! HORROR!!

Honestly, you’d have thought that she’d just told them that I want to fly to the moon and open up a fucking Starbucks. The class erupted in confusion, and my professor just looked at me with her mouth hanging open and asked, “Is that what it sounds like?” I assured her that yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Cue more confused murmuring. One of my classmates piped up and said, “It’s true! I work with someone who saw a lactation consultant in the hospital.”

I started to say something about how breastfeeding is not always as straightforward as people assume it to be, and how the presence of an expert can help ensure a healthy nursing relationship, but another classmate interrupted me, saying, “Well, I guess you need someone to make sure that they don’t nurse the baby for too long.”

I looked at him and mother help me, I was about to start quite the lecture of my own, but Professor G decided that we’d wasted enough time and moved on to the next pair of students.

The whole encounter only reaffirmed the reasons that I want to go into lactation consultation in the first place: the myths surrounding the breastfeeding relationship between parent* and infant are harmful to that relationship and are by extension harmful to the communities that would benefit the most from higher rates of breastfeeding. I’m sure that my classmate – we’ll call him E – who expressed concern about parents “nursing too long” is the same guy who shames parents for nursing in public and breeds insecurity in new parents by telling them “your baby needs some ‘real’ food and you are selfish for not giving it to him.”

I wonder how long E thinks is ‘too long.’ Three months? Six months? What would he say if he knew that my 11-month-old daughter still nurses happily several times a day and once or twice overnight? The fact is that the nursing rates are entirely too short: while the World Health Organization recommends that infants be breastfed for at least two years, in 2003 only 5.7% of parents were nursing their children at 18 months old in the US.

I want to clarify that I do not believe that it is any one person’s obligation to breastfeed their child. Rather, it is our collective responsibility as a society, for the health of our children, to provide an environment in which breastfeeding is normalized, encouraged, and accommodated. We can’t keep saying “Breast is best!” and then nix legal protections for nursing in public, spread misinformation even in medical settings, fail to provide for parents who need help during the postpartum period, refuse to offer paid parental leave, deny medical coverage for pumping equipment, etc.

And we cannot shame parents who do not choose to breastfeed, whatever their reason – especially since we have set them up to fail. Even if parents were well-supported in deciding to nurse, there will always be those who choose not to or are unable to, and that is okay. Choosing to nurse or not to nurse does not make any parent better or worse than any other. We must be compassionate, supportive, and address the needs of those who will or can not nurse as well. The goal of breastfeeding advocacy is to ensure healthy nutrition for all infants, not to shame parents and tell them what to do with their bodies, when, where, and for how long.

The fact that I have been able to nurse Eve for this long is not an accomplishment on my part – it is a privilege. I was lucky to birth a baby with a good latch, lucky to have nipples and breasts that do not impede our nursing relationship, lucky to not need any medications that would have negatively affected my supply, lucky to have found the resources that I have in order to sort myth from truth, lucky to have a husband that supports my decision to breastfeed (the single most important factor in whether a parent chooses to nurse is whether they have the support of their partner), lucky to afford to take 3 full months off work in order to fully establish a nursing relationship, lucky to have a friend who was willing to give me her old breast pump… The list goes on.

My success in breastfeeding was a collective effort. I could not have done it on my own! It was the support I received from others and the privileges that I have that allowed me and Eve to start and continue our nursing relationship, in spite of the obstacles that society has placed in front of us. Our society cannot blithely say that parents have the right to choose to nurse when we have literally stacked the game against them socially, financially, and logistically. I want every parent to have the same support that I had – and more! – so that breastfeeding can be a proper choice.

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*There are trans men who choose to birth and nurse a child, so it would be cis-sexist for me to assume that every breastfeeding dyad consists of a woman and child.

This is the Start of Something Beautiful

May 26, 2010

Yesterday I mailed in an application to a local community college.

I’ve been doing some reading, some thinking, and some more reading about school. I’ve been saying for years that I want to be a nurse, and that I want to work with mothers and babies. But I could never figure out in what capacity. I wasn’t really interested in Labor & Delivery, nor the NICU, nor Obstetrics. I saw myself doing any one of those things, but not forever, not as an endpoint, not as a goal. I’m a person that does not act without motivation. If I don’t have sufficient motivation to do something, I just will not do it.

So I never went to school for nursing, because I’ve been an unmotivated student before (twice, actually) and it never worked out. I’ve been a psychology major (fascinated by psych but I didn’t want to do clinical and was lukewarm on R&D and teaching), an English major (I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, I’ve just always loved literature), and a business major (I had NO interest whatsoever in business, it was just the major I picked that I knew my job would pay for). I got As in every class but one (I got a B in Statistics; it was an 8am class that I skipped a little too frequently) regardless of my major.

But I didn’t follow through on any of my attempts at higher education because I just didn’t care enough to follow through. I had no specific goals and no motivation. So even though I figured out three years ago that I wanted a nursing degree and that I wanted to work with mothers and babies, I still didn’t make a move even though I hate my job and I want out. It was too vague a goal, and I didn’t like the options in front of me, and I knew I’d do poorly or even just quit if I got started. I know myself pretty well.

But lately I’ve been thinking, and reading, and thinking some more about lactation consultation. I want to be an IBCLC – an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s not an easy certification to achieve, and the bar just keeps getting raised every year. You don’t have to be an RN to be an IBCLC, but that is one path that you can take. I don’t just want to be an IBCLC, I want to be the BEST damn IBCLC that I can possibly be, and I believe that for me, going the nursing route will help me achieve that.

The carrot on my stick is not nursing, which is more of a means to my ends, or even to be an IBCLC working for a hospital, but to provide services for those who are most in need of help to establish and maintain healthy nursing relationships with their children. I would like to someday start a nonprofit that will provide breastfeeding resources and guidance targeted towards teens, families living in poverty, minorities, folks with disabilities, queer families, and trans people. These are the populations that have the least support financially and/or socially to nurse their children, many of whom stand to gain even more from breastfeeding than their privileged peers would, and I want to help fill the gap.

And I’m not just talking about counseling or support groups (though I intend to provide that as well), but providing pumping equipment at reduced or no cost to those who need them, advocating for laws that protect and encourage the nursing relationship, building awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding amongst at-risk and general populations both, and negotiating mentorships for other aspiring IBCLCs. I just want to do so much, and it will probably take me twenty years to get there, but I feel that it’s a goal well worth the time and effort.

The first step is school. I hope to have my associates degree before I’m 31, and I hope to be an IBCLC before I’m 35. I hope to found my nonprofit before I’m 45. Tall order, I know, but it feels damned good to finally have something to work towards.