On Expectations

So much of what we hear from moms pivots on this theme: I didn't expect it [new motherhood] to be like this. This is equal parts crazy and totally understandable. On one hand, there has NEVER been more information out there for new moms. Thanks, social media. And yet, so little of it feels relevant until you're IN IT, and simultaneously, so few of the perfect Instagram squares rings true. 

This is certainly true of breastfeeding. When you've never seen a woman breastfeed, or you've muddled through a tricky pregnancy with risk factors, or emerged with a rainbow baby after loss... focusing on getting through each day and just surviving takes precedence. The breastfeeding research, and lactation consultants on speed dial seem to have very little to do with getting mom and baby to the other side healthfully. And don't get us started on perfect pictures of happy, shiny new moms and babies with no real context..

So there you are... shell-shocked, tired, and suddenly bombarded with advice. Latch this way. Self-attachment is key. All hail the magic hour. Skin to skin. And we believe all of this. No doubt. But without some prep and carefully considered consultation, moms in their most vulnerable moments feel like agency is being taken AWAY, when we actually want them to feel empowered. Our expectations are so totally misaligned. The village (nurses, LCs, well-meaning family) think they are helping mom be her best. But so many moms feel criticized, and that they aren't fully heard. 

Bridging this gap in expectations isn't simple. but we do believe it boils down to a very straightforward action: LISTEN. Leaping in to adjust latch, extoll the virtues of skin to skin, and swooping on to the next mom/friend/partner in need of our "guidance" without taking time to listen to mom, understand how she's feeling, hear her fears and anxieties and teach her how to listen to her own body to act with agency... this is our job as members of her village. Moms deserve to feel as empowered as we tell them they are. 

Merryweather Mamas at Work

Today, we're sharing #pumpinghero Jenna's full interview with Merryweather Co-Founder Lilly Schott. Jenna works as a nurse in a busy South Florida operating room. Her job is high stress and demanding, without a lot of built in time for breaks. As a new mama to Morgan Marie, Jenna balances her duties as a nurse with obligations to her baby, finding time to pump and building solidarity and understanding among her colleagues. 

What's the biggest challenge you've experienced going back to work as a breastfeeding mom?

The biggest challenge I found going back to work is finding time in the middle of surgery to pump. Thankfully I work in a department that is family oriented and supportive, as there are currently 5 other babies who were born to 4 other nurses and surgical technicians in our operating room. A couple of them are EBF [exclusively breastfeeding], so I find them to be a great outlet for questions, concerns, and support. 

They are more willing to give me a break and work with me without bad feelings because many of my coworkers recently have had babies or have children and understand the struggle of pumping while at work. 

Is there any part of your schedule that is predictable? How do you find time to pump?

I pump on my 30 minute drive to work and 30 minute drive home, so I don't have to bother them as much at my job to get me out of the OR and pump. I also don't take any lunch or dinner breaks (I pump and eat). Basically, I don't take any extra breaks. 

What do you find most rewarding about breastfeeding?

The best reward by far is the bonding relationship I have with my daughter... I don't think I'd get that any other way. there is just something about her staring into your eyes at 3am that really melts your heart. 

Any other challenges you've encountered and overcome that you'd like to share? 

I had a supply issue a couple of weeks ago, and I thank god for the support of friends, coworkers, and online support groups. Without them I wouldn't have known what to do to increase my supply again. I was so scared I wouldn't be able to reach my goal of one year EBF. I power pumped, made lactation shakes, and took fenugreek supplements and now I'm back to normal again. There is so much information and support for breastfeeding moms now! It's so invigorating! 

Thank you, Jenna!

Editor's note: we share #pumpinghero stories on Instagram each Wednesday because we believe that the challenges and successes of each mom are opportunities for us all to learn and build support systems. Each job, story, challenge is the mother's own, so we don't editorialize it with our own views on break time or give professional advice. xx-Lilly and Tawnya

Things to UN-Learn in 2018

Resolutions, setting intentions, goals... whatever you call it - if you're a mom who plans to breastfeed for any amount of time this year, this one's for you. There's a ton of bad info out there, and because we're always learning, there's constantly new information to learn and share, too. We're evolving, and that's a damn good thing. Our practices have to follow suit! So, without further delay, here are our top 5 breastfeeding myths to un-learn in 2018:

1. Babies don't know how to latch. Latching is an art form, no doubt about it. Mother and baby have to learn to work together, what's comfortable, etc. BUT! Your baby knows more about positioning and latching than you probably do. Allowing baby to self-attach and latch on after birth will show you. They look for the dark contours of the nipple, prod with their little hands (which serve to knead your breasts and send prolactin levels up!), and find their way for their first feed. From there, you'll notice that when baby displays hunger cues, if you bring your nipple toward their nose, they'll lean back their head (that's why you should hold the base of the head and neck instead of palming their little noggins like a basketball!) and open wide. This is the perfect position, allowing the nipple to enter at the top of the mouth where there's the most open space, perfect for the pulling and stretching baby has to do to bring about letdown, and most comfortable for mom, as well. 

2. Introducing solid food means pumping less at work. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily true either. Between 6-12 months, solids are largely for practice- hand eye coordination, introducing new flavors- and there are certainly babies who REALLY take to solid food. Generally speaking, they will still require the same nutrients and volume of milk for some time, and it doesn't really lighten the load on a breastfeeding or pumping mother. Mentally, however, there is a big boost for moms who have felt pressure being the only food source for a baby, particularly if that mom is working out of the home and spends a good part of her day in a lactation room. 

3. Babies should be sleeping "well" at 12 weeks. Sleep training is a subject that solicits as many opinions as breastfeeding, and the two can be closely related, too. We're not wading into the sleep-training debate today, but instead, we question what 'good' sleep is, and if the gold star we give ourselves for babies who sleep through the night wrongly pressures parents who are choosing to do things differently. Many babies benefit from feeding during the night, wake at least once per night for several months, and generally need the closeness from mom and dad. If the family is happy and rested, regardless of waking up once or twice during the night, that's all that matters. Bonus for the somewhat sleep-deprived mom: she probably has to pump less during the day if she works out of the home. 

4. Mastitis means the end of breastfeeding. If you're a breastfeeding mom, you've probably googled the M-word at least once, and shuddered at the symptoms. If you suspect you have mastitis at any point, the best person to call for help is your care provider. But know this: women nurse though it ALL. THE. TIME! And mothers go on to rebound in their supply, and continue to reach their nursing goals. Once you've worked with your doctor to diagnose mastitis and identified a course of treatment on their recommendation, please opt for additional self-care and work with an IBCLC or CLC to identify any latch or other feeding issues that could lead to another case. Curing the infection and getting to the root of the problem so it doesn't happen again is the best course. 

5. Going back to work as a breastfeeding mom limits you. Returning to work is incredibly overwhelming for many moms. We've been there. Pumping and making enough milk to sustain a baby that relies exclusively on you can also be overwhelming. Here's the thing - if this is what you want and your baby/family needs, we (and so many other women who've been there) have your back. There are hacks and strategies involved (its what we're really good at!), but we believe in enabling full participation and ensuring that every mom reaches her goals at home and work. Regardless of your specific situation, being open is the way to go. For us, that meant unloading frozen bags of breastmilk at LAX with our male boss looking on... and instead of the awkward moment we'd steeled ourselves for, he gave a knowing look, said, "I have three kids of my own and I know how babies eat," and thanked us for working harder than he ever could to keep it all going at home and in the office. People will surprise you. People want you to succeed. You've got this. 

2018: bring it on. If you have tips of your own, we want to hear, too! Click Contact Us and share yours. 

On Fed Is Best

If you spend any time on social media, you're probably familiar with the antidote to "breast is best," "fed is best." It's troubling that by advocating breastfeeding, mothers somehow get the impression that it's an all or nothing proposition resulting in hungry babies and stressed, broken mothers. Of course, like most hyperbole, this is not reality, but #fedisbest is a powerful movement that we struggle with. 

Why? Fed is a requirement. Obviously. We want healthy happy thriving babies.

Of course, formula is not the same as breastmilk. Doctors and scientists are just beginning to uncover some of the multitude of benefits for both mother and baby, and as we look more to our guts, where the balance and presence of certain bacteria have a very real impact on near and long term health, babies' first food matters.

But here's the thing: breastfeeding is hard. It can feel lonely. It is time consuming. And that's all true if its going well. We fill our Instagram feeds with gorgeous, ambitious, svelte new moms living their "best life" mere weeks after a baby, and uncertainty washes over us. Couple this perception of new motherhood with a culture that is still unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers AND fractured support from family members (how many of your mothers, aunts, or grandmothers breastfed and know what it's like?), and you have a recipe for disaster.

Breastfeeding successfully or struggling day by day or giving up or pumping your heart out for a baby who has trouble latching... none of these are measures of your worthiness as a mother. But goodness, it's difficult not to feel that way, when increasingly we're told "breast is best" but our expectations of post partum are completely out of whack. 

Newborn life can feel endless. Who among use can relate, as our Founder Lilly did, "Oh shit. I asked for this?" Yeah. She continues, "And that has to be a big contributor to why breastfeeding fails. Formula allows the sort of fractured maintenance of the old life and self." 

Increasingly, as lactation counselors, we're viewing breastfeeding as a mindset and philosophy. It takes over an unequivocally huge part of post partum life. That's what babies do. Being real about this, sharing experiences, and setting expectations that just make sense have to be a part of the support we provide. That, and letting all moms know its ok to ask, "What's in this for ME?" because that's ok, too. 

Merryweather Mamas @ Work

We started a weekly series on our Instagram account, @merryweatherlc, back in March. Every Wednesday, we profile a #pumpinghero. It's an opportunity to celebrate some of our moms and grow this amazing community of women working hard and managing breastfeeding at the same time. The fact that a small business and small community like ours brims over each week with new stories of support, challenges, and triumph is a credit to women everywhere. We work HARD.

This week, we're taking our little Instagram success story to the blog, because Rachel, a mother of two and lawyer in Washington, DC has a ton of wisdom to share. Check out the whole interview. Rachel reflects on her breastfeeding journey and return to work and gives some good advice along the way.

What did you find most challenging/rewarding about bfing?

Most challenging: Living life based on 3 hour (or really 2.5 hour by the time you account for all the logistics) increments. After being pregnant for close to a year, you still don't have your body back and have to constantly be watching the clock whether to nurse with the baby or go through the whole pumping escapade either at work, offsite meetings, car, bathroom, whatever. It's like feeling chained to something and always having to think ahead. I found that I was less likely to take on new opportunities at work, travel, or even do any personal social things due to the inconvenience of dragging the pump, accessories and having to explain myself.

Most rewarding: Having my babies look deep in my eyes and giving them what they need to flourish. Knowing how hard I work for it and the deep connection I receive because of it.  

How did you prepare to return to work?

Easing back in. First telework, then half a week, then a full week. My boss also let me tack on an additional telework day to my schedule. Two days of telework and 3 days in the office was much more manageable.

With my first, talking to other pumping moms to understand the "hacks" and making it work with my schedule. By my second, this wasn't as necessary but I did buy a pumping pouch which I thought was really useful.·         

Talked to my husband and agreed upon household duties.

Childcare: Who would do drop off and pick up. Who is the primary contact for my son's school and my daughter's nanny. Who would do doctor's appointments and stay home with the kids if they were sick. How we would do bedtime. Weekday evenings seem to be the most challenging with dinner, bath and bedtime for both kids so we have been adjusting this depending on needs.

Bfing/Pumping: I was obviously in charge of the bulk of this due to the nature of it. But, I did have my husband clean the pump parts daily, sanitize and be in charge of storage. I hated doing those things after already spending hours of my day devoted to bfing/pumping and it made a huge difference.

Other Household Duties: Our life was a lot more fluid before we had kids. Picked up groceries whenever, cooked when we felt like it, went out when we felt like it. We had to get more regimented about doing these things otherwise it felt like we were playing catch up all week long. As an example in terms of food, I do most of the cooking and the meal planning so my husband does food shopping, clean up and trash/recycling.    

What kind of support did you receive? 

Employer: my immediate supervisor is a mom of three young kids so she "gets it" and has been incredibly supportive and helpful as mentioned about. We also have great lactation facilities. There are two private rooms in the nurse's office with hospital grade pumps, sinks, fridges, etc. I only needed to bring my pump attachments and not drag my entire pump to commute. This was HUGE, and there's no way I would have nursed both my kids for a year without this.

Husband: My husband helped where he could, but overall I think he had trouble understanding all the work that needed to be done to keep it going. I know he mentioned several times why we just didn't give formula to make it easier on me. He did go to a breastfeeding class with me at the hospital while I was preggo with my first.

Friends/mom networks: This is ultimately what helped me get through all the bfing/pumping logistics. Talking to other moms and what has worked for them. I did sometimes use kellymom as a resource but that website and laleche league seemed more geared to stay at home moms and either didn't address pumping issues or did as more of an afterthought.  

What do you want other new moms to know?

That it gets easier and it is SO rewarding. With my first, breastfeeding was awful due to a combination of things (tongue tie, nipple shield, inexperience, pain) for the first 6 weeks. It slowly got better after that and then finally when we were in the swing of things it was time to go back to work. With my second, it was a lot smoother since I knew what I was doing. But the deep connection, bond and empowerment I received was so beneficial to both me and my babes. When I think back on nursing that's what I remember and it was truly an amazing experience.

Taking Your Leave

I came across a Facebook thread the other day, liked by a pregnant friend. The title was something about supporting Dads to take their paternity leave. I remember discussing this topic with a friend in Finland once. She couldn’t conceive of the thought that a father a) had no paternity leave and b) could be looked down upon for taking all of it. “It’s the exact opposite here. If you didn’t take your full leave, people would look down on you for being a terrible father and partner. It's part of creating stability and helping your partner heal.” It’s no surprise that I wish that were our cultural norm, so the article really caught my eye.

I clicked on the thread of comments after the article, expecting to see all sorts of commentary. But the thread was pretty consistent. It was mostly mothers who commented. “We feel lucky my husband can be home for a week.” “I’m going back to work the day after I get discharged from the hospital so I don't lose my position.”  “We have to make it work because neither one of us has any paid time off.” There weren’t many people implying their story was pitiful or unusual. It was a sharing of times that were just truly hard with a side of joyful.

It was one of the most desperate threads I have ever read. I’ll admit I stopped after a story about a woman who returned to work after 2 weeks off, unrecovered form her cesarean birth and pumping breastmilk in a car, through tears, on unpaid and harassed breaks. She reminded me of a patient I had a few years ago who had decided not to breastfeed her second baby. When we talked about her feelings, she said that she had to go back to cleaning houses in 3 weeks, and the situation had been the same with her first. But her first had become very ill when she transitioned her off the breast to the bottle, and it had been a financial disaster for her family because she was essentially a day laborer. She wanted to breastfeed her baby, but felt it was easier to start with formula than transition to it in three weeks.

I read comments like these from suffering families, and I wonder, quite literally, when does it end? An article that was supposed to be about encouraging men to take their paternity leave sparked an entire (very necessary) conversation about what families do when they have none. The thread might be more eye-opening for someone considering ending their paid leave early than the actual article! But these articles are important to encourage a shift in thinking about our priorities surrounding family leave. And they also spur the conversation further to include those who muddle through with none. I hope everyone who posted on that thread continues to share their story. I’m going back to keep reading.

Don't Forget About Texas

With a new healthcare bill approaching a vote in the Senate, and potentially 22 million people (via Congressional Budget Office report) left uninsured, we've been reflecting on the data at the state level. Specifically, those states that have stepped up to dedicate more resources to maternal health versus those that have not. Our Co-Founder, Lilly Schott, takes on the two largest states in this post.

I struggled about what to call this post. I struggled to even begin writing it. I am not from Texas. I have never lived there. I’ve visited and loved it. But there is a lot of state “mind your own business” rhetoric around these days. Do I have the right to comment on what’s going on in Texas? Ultimately, you know I answered 'yes' to that question, or you’d be reading precisely nothing right now.

Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the US. It also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world if you think of it like its own country. It’s big enough to be its own country, like California, so data has been extrapolated to see how it would fare when compared to other countries, not just other states. Unlike California, which has seen a 67% reduction in maternal mortality in recent years, more mothers are dying in Texas every year. Bills aimed at increasing health coverage and access for Texans have been squashed, despite the overwhelming data that this alone can help protect a mother’s health.

When it comes to issues of gender rights, equality, and access to healthcare, states often behave as if they’d like to be their own country. They want their own rules to uphold their own unique sensibilities and values. But hey, who doesn’t value a mother making it to her child’s first birthday? That MUST be a value all Americans cherish, right? As an outsider, not a Texan, am I supposed to ignore the gaping wound in my own country? Go fix whatever is wrong back home? Many have described the situation in Texas as an embarrassment, and although that may be fair, I think we should call it what it really is: a series of tragedies. If more than 100 mothers died in a fire in Texas, we would band together. Volunteers from different states would pour in to help the bereaved families and we would look at what had happened and make changes. Somehow, the slow burn of maternal deaths has escaped nationwide attention and effective action.

I care about mothers. I don’t care if they are from my state or your state or Texas (or really Timbuktu). Mothers shape so much of this world, and its our duty to protect them. They certainly protect us. How can we help Texas? And I am hoping the answer isn’t, “By minding my own business.” Too late for that.

My First Time

I don't want to feel like I 'won' at breastfeeding...

but that I was set up for success and everyone else shoud be too. 

I woke up to a familiar sound at 3:00 AM, 72 hours after giving birth to my first child. These were the longest of long days and nights. 3 days into motherhood, and it felt like an eternity already, tears shed by both of us and my baby’s high pitched cries for milk echoing in the tiny bedroom we shared. Still high on adrenaline at this point, barely sleeping anyway, I stumbled over to my daughter’s bassinet to scoop her up and lower my tank in what felt like one sweeping movement. We were already so familiar with this dance, the two of us. But this dance… it wasn’t romantic or beautiful or even natural. My milk hadn’t come in (though it would by the following morning); my nipples were red, chapped, sore, and I cringed at the feedings that went on for 45 minutes and restarted every 90 minutes. WTF was happening here?

 My husband, supportive and loving, cringed with me, unsure of how to help, what to say… particularly as some postpartum anxiety was setting in. My mom, in town to help for the week and the most stubbornly self-sufficient person I’ve ever met, went way out of character, searching message boards during nighttime feeds while I cried, hoping to reassure me (and herself) with accounts of other women’s struggles breastfeeding. It hurt. It sucked. Nobody told me. The waves of pain and frustration caught me totally off guard.

 I found myself recounting the previous 12 months. This was supposed to be the easy part. Our doctor had looked at us in uncertainty only a year before, searching for a heartbeat, then rushing in for a quick sonogram, and ultimately forced to report grim news when it was clear our baby was gone at 22 weeks. Of course, we saw the sonogram, too. We already knew. And when my milk came in 2 days after my D&E and I applied ice packs and wore sports bras, cursing my body for betraying me, for this added insult and reminder of what could’ve been, I admit, I also thought… “Well at least this part of me works. One day…”

 So here we were. The big healthy baby I hoped for was here. By every account, I was ‘doing it right.’ And the friend who shuttled with my husband and me to the hospital at 4:00 AM for the D&E the year before, then coached me through an induction, labor, and delivery just days before, knew a thing or two about breastfeeding, as well. This assurance meant a lot to me during the early days, and all the experiences leading up to this point - sitting alone in the middle of the night, blindsided by motherhood and what I thought was a natural thing, feeding my baby with my body - are my full circle.

 We muddled through the early, searing pain of week one, followed by thrush in week two and a new brand of pain, frustration, and annoyance emerged. I looked at the bottle of formula I’d purchased ‘just in case’ pre-delivery and considered it. For lots of reasons, I decided to stick to breastfeeding, mostly because it was what I wanted for my baby, and she was thriving despite my nipple pain and frustration, so I had the luxury of choice in the situation. It was a transformative time...feeding my now born, healthy, live baby, the way I intended, my body finally doing the work I wanted to do. Eventually, my daughter and I emerged an unstoppable duo, breastfeeding in Prospect Park, on picnics, at our local hang for pizza and beer where my husband and I held our wedding reception, also the year before, the party we needed after our loss, which cemented our partnership in ways we never imagined. This baby and I, we were Brooklyn breastfeeding cliches, shrugging off any pensive feelings and getting it done in public, wherever, empowered by a supportive community. No doubt I was also bolder given the trials that got me here.

 Before I knew it, it was time to go back to work. A new wave of uncertainty washed over me as I prepared to leave my daughter. My husband held my hand, listened to my anxieties, and lamented not being able to stay home himself, given leave policies and finances. The reality was that we both made important financial contributions to our household, and we both liked working, but this was a transition with new layers of complexity, navigating new schedules, leaving our baby for the first time in someone else’s care. Uneventfully, I managed to get dressed on THE day and faltered for a moment before being pushed out the door by a loving husband and sister/newly-minted aunt who would help care for my daughter that June.

 In some ways, I never looked back. I felt a hell of a lot more like myself talking to adults, solving problems, and getting dressed in real clothes every day. That’s glossing over it, though. I dreaded pumping every day, and eeked out the 16oz/day my daughter demanded while I was in the office by the skin of my teeth every time. I marveled at the moms filling their freezers with milk. I didn’t have a drop to spare, and wouldn’t have spent any more time with my breast pump, which felt foreign and cold and unnatural, if I had.

 Still, we all found our rhythms. There was never a freezer stash, but I dutifully marked my calendar and marched to pump milk several times each day. My daughter continued to grow into a chunky, delicious, mush wobbling around with a certain lovely heft when she took her first steps at 16 months, around the same time we weaned. My husband is still the most supportive person in my corner, really seeing me when it feels like no one else sees how hard I’m working to keep all the different pieces together.

 Despite these successes, this isn’t a victory lap. I’m not extolling the virtues of breastfeeding (today), and I will never endeavor to diminish the voices or the choices of moms who feed their children the way they want, having informed themselves and making a decision that’s right for their families. I am a little pissed off, though, knowing that like me, moms are largely struggling, juggling, and slogging through this new motherhood transition stuff by themselves. I once took a certain pride in being hell-bent on breastfeeding a year and making that happen no matter the challenges I faced as a working mother. I was stupid. Not stupid to breastfeed, but stupid to think successfully reaching my goals was solely up to me and my own determination. There are structural, cultural, and societal barriers that make this harder than it should be, and instead of offering information and supporting choice, a lack of meaningful support pits women against each other in a bizarre all or nothing war.

 Parents often joke about applying hard won lessons from ‘the first time’ to subsequent children. This was my first time. I don’t want to feel like I ‘won’ at breastfeeding my baby, but that I was set up for success and everyone else should be, too.

Paid leave, FMLA, and doing more for families

First, a quick history lesson:

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires employers to provide 12 weeks of job protection and unpaid leave for qualifying medical and family reasons. Health benefits must also be maintained. We bet you already know that the US ranks last among developed countries when it comes to paid leave. Every other developed nation has taken this on and have some form of mandated leave... but that's not exclusively what this post is about. If you want to review some well-researched information, give this a close look: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/26/u-s-lacks-mandated-paid-parental-leave/

Understanding our baseline is basically... nothing, the optimists in us see a ton of opportunity and room for improvement. And yet, in as recent months as those leading to the US elections, the notion of paid leave was trotted out as a largely non-partisan issue... something we can all agree on! Promises were made. How and to what extent changes would be made were certainly not well defined, but hey, the conversation was a start.

I think we can all agree that this campaign discussion has fizzled quickly since the election. It is one topic no one seems to be talking about.

More and more, it feels clearer that people, and women especially, are advocating for change themselves, taking their hopes for the future and finding ways to incite action. No one can wish a fix into existence, and given the dismal inadequacy of FMLA, perhaps we should create the model ourselves while still pushing for federal and state level changes. Select corporations all over the country are beginning to improve their Family Leave and Return-to-Work policies, realizing the inherent value without a mandate. The wider this action spreads, the more pressure there will be on other businesses (and eventually the government) to catch up and keep up.

Look, we wish we didn’t have the global embarrassment that is FMLA. We wish the federal government would wave a 1 year paid leave wand, though the best companies will still need to step up with great Return-to-Work policy and ensure inclusion is the norm. We choose to feel heartened and encouraged by activists and leaders of companies who are out there talking about the importance of leave, who embody the change we want to see. When Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook CEO, takes two months off to be with his newborn daughter and adjust to his new role of father, the world pays attention. Putting our own work into change will bring success. People all over this country agree these improvements are necessary. It's a matter of when. For now, we all have to keep speaking up. What was your Return-to-Work like post-baby? We'd love to hear.

On Peer Pressure (& Moms)

Do you feel the "bressure"...? We hate that word. We also hate the idea that choices pit mothers against each other, particularly at such a vulnerable time. 

Ever the sensible friend and expert, Nurse Lilly shares some thoughts from her mama:

I recently spent some quality time with my mother, who birthed three daughters between 1970-1980. We talked a bit about lactation, I realized I’d never really asked her about her breastfeeding experiences. I knew she gave my sister born in 1970 formula, because that’s what they told you to do. I knew she breastfed me to the age when my sisters made fun of it. 

It was interesting to find out what made her choose to breastfeed her second daughter in 1974. Peer pressure. She said her friends were very “with it” and she knew she had to breastfeed. For her, it wasn’t about breastfeeding’s benefits or any of the myriad of things we talk about these days. Just that she felt the pressure to do what friends were doing and things had changed in four years. And she said breastfeeding was very hard in the first few weeks, mostly because she wasn’t sure it was working. But then it did work, and by the time she had me, it was still hard but she knew to trust the process. Not in those words. My mother would never say “trust the process.”

The most interesting part of her discussion was not that the peer pressure was a bad thing. It was what it was. There was no impending war of those who did or didn’t breastfeed, it was just the culture in her circle that, of course you breastfeed. Knowing my mother, she never would have judged another mom’s choice in that regard. Never. Cultures all over the world support breastfeeding, not to tell mothers who formula feed that they are somehow subpar, but to show that breastfeeding is the norm.

How we support a culture of breastfeeding without making moms feel guilt or judgment is something we talk about all the time. I love a story like my mom’s, it shows it’s possible. I also just love her. Have family members shared wisdom and experience re: breastfeeding with you?