Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nursing in public : A mom under fire, a village of support

Nursing in public is a hotly debated topic, that elicits feelings from admiration to downright disgust. I used to think nursing in public was awkward and I used to shift my gaze away very quickly. Then, I had a kid. I didn't care anymore about it. It's something that just becomes natural and normal, the way it should be. I never grew up seeing anyone breastfeed really, so it was something foreign, something weird. "They're breasts!" I thought, "I feel odd looking or seeing another woman's breasts, especially being used that way". But, the thing is, when you have a kid, and you breastfeed (but not necessarily that you have to breastfeed to realize this), you experience for yourself, how breasts are actually supposed to be used and viewed. There's nothing more strong than a mother's feelings of having to feed her young, especially when this means breastfeeding. Once shy and timid women (like me) become these tenacious, fearless beings, caring less about scrutiny and criticism, and more about getting this kid fed.

Today, to my very pleasant surprise, I saw such love and outpouring of support to a nursing mother who was venting on Facebook about what I guess was an issue with her nursing in public. She said ;

Then, a flood of comments showing love and support followed

It was so refreshing to see a man too standing up and defending this mom. What was really cool was to see how many aruban breastfeeding mamas came to encourage her. My heart swelled with joy and pride thinking "Would you look at that! These are my mamas! my local mamas here speaking up!"

All I can say is, GIRLS! You nurse whenever, wherever and however you want. With a cover, without, in a restaurant, in a hall, standing on the street (I've seen that with my own eyes), anywhere! Just not in a restroom

For more reasons on why breastfeeding in public is beneficial to both other women, children and even men see "Why breastfeed in public" 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My love is...

Gentle parenting

My dear child, my love is never ending,
never failing
All transcending,
It is yours, both day and night,
My hugs and kisses,
Your basic right

If I'm busy or if I'm mad
My love for you is always there
To keep you happy, content and glad
At home, in public and anywhere

The clock, my schedule, does not dictate
the hours I choose to demonstrate
 the affection for the fruit of my womb
The endless amount of time I spend gazing at you

From my bedside, in my sling
Stroking, humming and some singing
from dusk till dawn 
I have drawn 
close to you, 
just to watch you yawn

Outragious, audacious people they say
'Put the child down, lest he get spoiled I say!'
I give no ear, and I turn away
Who is it that cares for this baby anyway!

It is me, it is I
My job and my pride
I look in my bed every night, and right there beside me
out like a light
a precious little creature, an infant serene,
asleep near my heart, 
nothing more valuable to me

I say to all mothers
Keep that child close
For tomorrow he's big and leaving the house

Aruba Doula - Angie Angela Geerman

One of Aruba's pioneers in Doula-ing is Angie Angela-Geerman. Mother of three, currently breastfeeding her 1-year-old son, she finds great joy in being an activist for keeping boys intact, breastfeeding, VBAC, and most importantly, supporting moms during labor and childbirth.

Angie and I met last year at Aruba's first annual breastfeeding challenge. She was there to participate with her 3-month-old son Aeden. Like a magnet, we quickly bonded and found common interests that we loved to discuss. I introduced her to babywearing and the friendship was sealed. We continued to talk and share our love for helping mothers with breastfeeding, and Angie was curious to know how a young mother and activist as myself came to find my path so quickly and definitely. I passed on some information about the school I was training with to become a Childbirth Educator, and I encouraged her to look into it.

Weeks later she eagerly shared with my how she signed up to become a Certfied Labor Doula and Breastfeeding Counselor. I was stoked!

She has three kids and takes care of the youngest one full time, but never misses an opportunity to study. She recently attended her first certifying birth, and supported the mom in her unmedicated vaginal birth. It was a complete success! The cherry one the cake was seeing and helping the mom experience the breastfeeding relationship she always dreamed of. I must say that, for the first birth attended as a doula, it couldn't have gotten any better!

Of course even though Angie did experience some difficulty with hospital staff and protocols that prohibited doulas from being present in the labor and delivery room, she gave her all while mom was at home laboring, and was present for the second stage. I sat in excitement as I heard her recount the birth, further whetting my own appetite to get my studies on a roll!

Angie, way to go girl! Kudos to the work you do, and may you help many many more mamas and families to achieve the birth they desire!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kim Kardashian does it again

Kim, stop talking to those aliens, they give you bad information...

After going through my blogroll, Dou-La-la wrote about how Kim put her foot in her mouth again.  Of course, I could not resist adding part 2, to her seemingly ongoing parade on breastfeeding non-sense.

About 2 months ago, her careless insouciance outraged lactivists all over the globe, with her commenting on how gross it was that a mother was nursing her baby in public (GASP!). The topic was so hot that even E! Entertainment spoke about her breastfeeding bombshell.

The fire has since died, (but I'm eager to see if they covered it in the upcoming season), but Kim insists on getting it wrong again. Jeez Kimmy, when are you gonna learn a thing or two from the sister you all keep dragging down??

In a recent interview for Allure Magazine, she said;

She plans to breast feed her kids for at least 6 months: “They say after a year there’s no nutrients.”
Who says, Kimmy? Who?

The lizard people living in the amazon?

Let's take a look at this statement in a factual light now. I happen to believe that we were created in a very good way, in a way that is orderly and logical. Having thus said, how logical would it be for a lactating woman's milk to all of a sudden have no nutritional benefit at the one-year mark. Do our breasts know of the impending 365th day, and start shutting down?


Did you know that as long as there is stimulation to the mother's breasts, they continue to produce milk? Why? Why is it only when the baby stops nursing, that her production ceases? Because that's the way it goes. And, imagine that upon completing a year, the milk had no nutritional value. Why would a mother keep on making milk then? If it had no nutritional benefit, then what would it consist of? Koolaid?

Oh yes, that's right. We magically start making koolaid.

La Leche League International has this to say about breastfeeding beyond one year (because I refuse to say extended)

What Research Shows
Research shows that babies may benefit from nursing beyond one year. One benefit is nutrition. Research has shown that second-year milk is very similar to the first-year milk nutritionally (Victora, 1984). Even after two years or more it continues to be a valuable source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins (Jelliffe and Jelliffe, 1978).
A second benefit is immunity to disease. The immunities in breast milk have been shown to increase in concentration as the baby gets older and nurses less, so older babies still receive lots of immune factors (Goldman et al, 1983). A study from Bangladesh provides a dramatic demonstration of the effect these immunities can have. In this deprived environment, it was found that weaning children eighteen to thirty-six months old doubled their risk of death (Briend et al, 1988). This effect was attributed mostly to breast milk's immune factors, although nutrition was probably important as well. Of course in developed countries weaning is not a matter or life and death, but continued breastfeeding may mean fewer trips to the doctor's office.
A third health benefit is avoidance of allergies. It is well documented that the later that cow's milk and other common allergens are introduced into the diet of a baby, the less likelihood there is of allergic reactions (Savilahti, 1987).
Psychological Considerations
Any mother who has nursed an older baby knows the tenderness and feelings of closeness generated by nursing a little one who is old enough to talk about it. We don't need medical journals to tell us it's rewarding for mother and baby. But has anything been documented and published on these benefits?

One paper written by a female psychiatrist (Waletzky, 1979) recommends natural weaning. She refers to early forced weanings as emotionally traumatic for the baby and states that most weaning recommendations given by pediatricians are "based on personal feelings and prejudices and not medical documentation." In her words: "Suddenly and prematurely taking from a baby the most emotionally satisfying experience he his ever known could . . . lead to significant immediate and long-term distress.... Such an approach considers breastfeeding only as a source of milk and fails to understand its significance as a means of comfort, pleasure, and communication for both mother and baby." Well said! Yet Waletzky's paper is based on her impressions from her psychiatric practice, not on research.

Research reports on the psychological aspects of nursing are scarce. One study that dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers' and teachers' ratings of social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children (Ferguson et al, 1987). In the words of the researchers, "There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding." The authors were cautious in their interpretation of the results, saying that they did not control for differences in mother-child interaction between breastfeeders and bottle-feeders, which could account for the differences they saw in later social adjustment. But it makes no real difference whether the improvement in later child behavior is due to breastfeeding per se, or the maternal behaviors that are typical of women who are open to nursing their babies for a year or more. The outcome is what matters; the children who nursed the longest were perceived later to be those with the best social adjustment. The link between duration of breastfeeding and social adjustment was stronger and more consistent when the children's behavior was rated by mothers rather than by teachers (although for both rating groups the association was significant), suggesting that mothers who breastfeed for longer periods may tend to view their children in a more positive light than mothers who do not.

I think most of us would agree that breastfeeding helps us to react to our children in a more positive way. It helps us to feel close and loving, which can be especially helpful in weathering the irrational demands and emotional upheavals of toddlers. No matter how tense I feel when I sit down to nurse my youngest child, almost invariably we both get up feeling relaxed and cheerful.

Now, before listening to breastfeeding advice from Kim, I would hit up the La Lech League website first, or Kellymom. 
Thanks Kimmy, but stick to fashion advice (or whatever it is that you do)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The difference between regret and guilt

Is there really a difference between regret and guilt?

Do these emotions even serve a purpose to us as humans? Or are they only present to bring us down?

I ponder these questions a lot, especially when it comes to decisions we face and make as parents.
I feel regret over a lot of decisions I've made in connection with my pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding relationship. There were many things I could've handled differently that would have had a major difference in outcome. One big one is how I handled my daughter's waning interest in breastfeeding. I feel regret over not handling it properly which ultimately caused her weaning before we were truly ready for it. Yes, it's normal even good to feel regret. But do I let feelings of guilt eat me up? No, absolutely not.

That's where I draw the line. Although I think that feelings of regret are very fitting, feelings of guilt really aren't. Guilt is something consuming, that can potentially eat a person up inside if left unchecked. Guilt can beat a mother to the ground, especially if she is already unsure of herself and her mothering abilities.

I asked on my Facebook & Twitter what people thought of a mother feeling regret or guilt because of not breastfeeding ;

Merriam-Webster defines guilt as ;

Main Entry: guilt 
Pronunciation: \ˈgilt\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, delinquency, guilt, from Old English gylt delinquency
Date: before 12th century
1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach
3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses

Google Defines Regret as ;

 re·gret  (r-grt)
v. re·gret·tedre·gret·tingre·grets
1. To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about.
2. To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.
To feel regret.
1. A sense of loss and longing for someone or something gone.
2. A feeling of disappointment or distress about something that one wishes could be different.
3. regrets A courteous expression of regret, especially at having to decline an invitation.

When it comes to breastfeeding and the internet, the word "Guilt" comes up a lot. Mothers blaming other mothers for making them feel guilty about a choice they've made or a circumstance they had no control over.
I think the words we use can have a tremendous affect on others, and like time, hurtful words once said, cannot be taken back.

The difference between guilt and regret in my opinion, means the difference between feeling beaten down, and feeling motivated. When a mother feels regret over a decision she made (whether it was informed or not), those feelings can motivate her not to repeat those actions should she find herself in the same situation in the future. Regret can also make people activists for a cause. I feel regret over losing my breastfeeding relationship and this motivates me to help mothers and their families make good choices, choices that they won't have to regret in the future. Guilt, on the other hand, just makes me feel worthless, reminding me that I can never get back what I gave up.

Some think that regret is bad. It isn't, it really isn't. It is completely appropriate if a mother feels regret over something she feels she should have or could have done differently. I think that we as caregivers, can lend a listening ear, and just acknowledge what she feels, instead of telling her how not to feel, she could feel better.

As fitting as feelings of regret are, we can warn mothers about letting these feelings turn into guilt. Guilt that can sap their energy and consume their every waking thought. This is counterproductive.

So.. I agree with all the ladies above, these feelings can serve a purpose, only if we control them for the better, and not let them control us for the worse.

International Babywearing Week 2010

Boy o Boy! Aruba is bustling this year with many maternal-child activities!

Just two-and-a-half months ago, Pro Lechi Mama Aruba celebrated breastfeeding by organizing a walk! A special twist was that babywearing parents could help raise funds by walking with their babies in a carrier of their choice. It was an utter success and even our Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Visser, was present along with his complete ministry of health and sports. How privileged we were!

Coming up in October, the first Saturday of the month, we'll be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week (again!) with our annual Quintessence breastfeeding challenge! Inviting ALL breastfeeding mothers to come and show their support and love for breastfeeding by nursing in public.

Something else very special and dear to my heart is babywearing. This year will be the firs year that Aruba will officially participate in the International Babywearing Week! I have some plans and am collaborating with another party to bring something cool and thought provoking!

Stay tuned for more updates on International Babywearing Week October 6-12 2010!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What's wrong with a law that aims to protect our babies?

My head hurts. It really does.

If you live under a rock like I do, you perhaps didn't hear about an opinion that sparked a furor. A few days ago, Brazilian supermodel, Gisele Bundchen, made a comment about breastfeeding that elicited everything from sheer outrage, to admiration.

Ironically enough, I got to hear (or read) about this comment from a formula feeding blog (I'm not going to even cite the blog name because I don't want her making money off of me by sending people to her passionately uneducated musings.)

Gisele expressed the following;

"Some people here [in the US] think they don't have to breastfeed, and I think 'Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?' I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months."

Wow. People.Got.Mad.

Wait, let me rephrase that. Moms got mad. Men couldn't care less if Gisele said that it should be mandatory to prance around in our underwear. Strike that, men would love that.

Moving on. Mother's around the U.S. got really mad. What was unfair though is that they tried to discredit her very correct opinion by citing the fact that she stole a pregnant woman's partner, that she's a stinking rich spoiled supermodel, that she's an alien from outer space, and so on and so on.

First of all, you haters, her marriage and how it came about is non of your business (or mine), and good advice will always be good advice, whether the one giving it is educated or not.

What made people really angry was that she didn't only say it is the best way a baby can be fed (6 months of nothing but breastmilk, that is), she also expressed that formula was chemical food and that it should be a law that a baby should drink only mother's milk for the first six months of life. But what's wrong with feeling that way? She certainly didn't mean it in the way that mother's who don't breastfeed, should be locked up and thrown in jail, she just feels that all babies deserve breastmilk. Yes. Yes they do.

Even though by choice or by unforeseen chance, it's not possible, the fact still remains that the number one, two and three best choice for infant nutrition is and will always be human milk. So... what's wrong with wanting a law that would only bring benefit to babies? Are we that self-concerned and short-sighted that we only perceive Gisele's comments as judgmental and air-headed?

Happy World Breastfeeding Week Y'all!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A good word is better than fine gold

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we just got back from our yearly convention in Curacao. As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I attend these three day conventions with much eagerness and anticipation. All of us go. At these conventions you see many peoples from all walks of life. Single people, married childless couples, single parents, and whole families. If you luck out, you'll see a lot of babies too. Depending on the culture and country, you may either see many strollers, or slings. In curacao there was a mess of strollers. Close to the door was a section reserved for families who chose to sit close to the door in case the baby or toddler threw a screaming fit and could not be consoled quickly in the main hall. Young kids are just like that, and Jehovah's witnesses know this and thus show consideration to these parents by giving them preference on these seats.

Of course, being at a convention all day long, a baby is bound to get hungry many times. This too, depending on culture, you'll either see many bottles (such as was the case in Curacao) or many quiet babies cuddled near their mamas. I was so happy and alert to watch out for any breastfed babies. And to my success, I saw one on the first day!

She was the only mother who nursed. She nursed in the main auditorium, in the side room, with a cover, without a cover, before the break, after the break and anytime in between. I was so proud to see her nursing an older baby (not toddler, just an older infant).So much so that on the last day, I could not contain my happiness.

I took my notebook, ripped a piece of paper out and wrote the following;

"I think that you breastfeeding your baby is something very beautiful. Never feel ashamed to nurse anywhere, anytime"

I folded it up, and hurried across to her seat, slipped her the note and rushed back to my seat for the beginning of the program. She got up to leave before the program was done but as she was going, she came to me, grabbed my arm tightly, to show her feeling, and whispered in my ear , "Thank you for your advice"
My heart sang.

If only I could slip all mothers who nurse in public a hand-written thank-you note I would

Can you do the same for any mom you may see nursing in public? They surely appreciate it!

I use a cover because your mother never taught you not to stare

I was browsing google images for breastfeeding photos and I can't help but notice how many pictures I came across of mothers using a nursing cover.

Covers are cool. They come in all sorts of colors and patterns. and like a good sling, I love to have many many different colors. I used to cover myself when I nursed. I have my reasons, and they were mine. I certainly don't feel that a woman must use the covers to nurse or else excuse herself to a private corner or room. Actually, I think that women should feel more free to nurse without one. But think about it, how many women use their hooter hider because people can't seem to stop staring. I, who love to watch breastfeeding mothers keep my stares brief and always make sure to flash the nursing mom a smile and give her a thumbs up. I don't mind people watching me, but staring , is a different matter. It's not about breastfeeding, or showing nipples or breasts, it's about people looking at your every move. Quite frankly, it makes me nervous. If I'm working or writing, or just zoning out, I hate it when people stare at me. I think it irks a lot of other mothers too.

So please, even if you find the sight of  a nursing mother to be tender and loving, keep your glances brief. Your mother always taught you that it was impolite to stare...

Is breastfeeding bothersome?

Today, at our press conference for the launching of Pro Lechi Mama's website , a journalist asked our vice president a question.

"Is breastfeeding bothersome?"

Now, you know what annoyed me was that question

Perhaps he asked it with the intention of our v.p. refuting it passionately, or maybe he really felt that breastfeeding is annoying. Whatever the case, our vice president, Minouche, answered quite thoughtfully.

"No, it's not. Compared to having to get up, make bottles, sterilizing nipples, walking around with hot water in your baby bag, and paying for a substance you can make for free, no, breastfeeding isn't bothersome."

Well, it isn't in my book either. But the reason why I got irked was because that question is making breastfeeding look like this out-of-the-world-act and that only superwomen pull it off. Granted, we don't have buttons on or by our breasts like a smith and dorlas coffee machine, but lactating comes without a hitch really. It's not annoying to the point that women feel it's much better to just pump. Sure, sometimes it can feel inconvenient at times when you rather just sleep, or really want to go out tripping for more than 4 hours without pumping, but then again, sometimes having to pee is an annoying bodily function, especially if there isn't a bathroom anywhere near me. You don't see women walking around with catheters, do you? It's just something you accept and deal with accordingly. Breastfeeding is the same. Sure, it comes with some changes in circumstances, but these are not new. Perhaps if we adjusted our expectations to be somewhat more reasonable, our mothers and the people around them wouldn't be so quick to deem breastfeeding as "bothersome"

Food for thought...

Babywearing and this one picture

My family and I recently came back from a small vacation to our sister island Curacao. We went for our yearly convention, and I enjoyed it tons.

On Sunday, we went to a bbq hosted by two childless couples whom we love dearly. My heart skipped a beat and I immediately grabbed my camera when I saw this photo hanging on the door of one of the couples.

Look at the baby on her back

This couple lived in Africa for many many years, and subsequently have many African items, including this big picture that hangs on their door.

Hooray for babywearing....

World Breastfeeding Week, Websites, Work and wots more

Instead of making a whole mess of posts ( which does in fact fill up blog space, but isn't feasible right now) I decided to make just one big one. Here's what's been going on in Aruba and my life recently;

This week is world breastfeeding week. Particularly, Aruba celebrates WBW in the 40th week of the year (the last week of septemper/ first week of october) along with Holland. Because of certain changes, we decided to celebrate it twice! YES! We LOVE breastfeeding so much, we are celebrating breastfeeding, not once but, TWICE this year. Isn't that awesome...

So, to mark it as special, our organization, Pro Lechi Mama Aruba , launched our new and improved website!

Finally it is back up and running. This website was and will be a means of dispensing information to Aruban parents in our native tongue, Papiamento. We are very excited about it, and see many wonderful improvements we will make on it. 

Even though this WBW we'll be celebrating more low-key, the one in September/october will be a huge blow out. We're holding our annual quintessence breastfeeding challenge, international babywearing week, and much much more. It's gonna be huge! So stay tuned.

On another note, you may have already noticed that my blog has been lacking a lot these past 3 months. That is because I now work somewhere else and the work load is tremendous. I barely manage to squeeze in time for my family, physical activity and my classes. As much as I love breastfeeding, it has come to the point that I must choose between spending time on my blog, or spending time with my baby (2,5 years still counts as a baby right?), and my kid won't stop growing so that I can finish a post. 

It's very frustrating because I've fallen behind on my studies and I have so little energy left that I cannot read as much as I used to, or would like to. I hope this changes soon. Soon. Soon, I keep consoling myself with that word. Soon.

On the upside, I did finally decide that I will no longer put my physical activity aside, to the detriment of my health. So, after putting Dahlia to bed, at around 8 pm, I get dressed and go to the gym. I enjoy this, and even though sometimes I have to drag myself, I feel much better, and contrary to popular opinion, I have more energy for other endeavors. 

I have also recently started giving bellydance classes to pregnant women. I must say, it's quite the rage and many eyebrows raise when they hear about it. In a good way, that is. I enjoy giving the classes because 1) I LOVE pregnancy and helping moms enjoy their pregnant bodies, 2) I love helping moms learn things they can use throughout their pregnancy and labor, 3) I just love bellydancing. It's a low-impact workout, but it sure makes you work up a sweat! I do allow non-pregnant women to join the classes too just because it's something so uncommon in Aruba and it's fun for both those with and without child. 

On yet another note, babywearing is also picking up in Aruba. I'm getting more and more calls and questions about babywearing and I am more than happy to oblige. Of course, because I own a business that offers these unique services such as babywearing classes, in-home consults and sling rentals, I profit financially, but truly, If I had to do this for free, I certainly would. I could charge outrages prices, but because my main aim is to further babywearing and not profit, I keep my prices reasonable. For midwives and others in the maternal-child healthcare workers, I invite them pro-bono to classes just to get acquainted with the act of babywearing, because I believe that if everyone knew how enjoyable it is, more babies 
would benefit. 

A babywearing client and new exclusive breastfeeding mama & happy baby

I have some nice big plans for the celebrating of International Babywearing Week in Aruba. It'll be the first official celebration of such here on our island, and