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Friday, December 01, 2006I remember back when I was EPing for Elnora for all those months...I'd hear moms talking about how much work it would be and how they couldn't believe I'd go to all that trouble...how breastfeeding was soooooooooo easy. To be perfectly honest with you, I kinda thought they were full of crap. ;) I mean I've always been a HUGE supporter of breastfeeding, but I really honestly thought that it was something "hard" that only really, really dedicated people managed to do. I admired moms that pulled it off and secretly kinda wished that I could be one of them.
Ha! Much like many other things in life, it turns out that breastfeeding CAN be exceedingly difficult those first few weeks, but once you get past that hump, it's so easy it's laughable. But I think back to my experience with Elnora and a few things REALLY stand out at me...
Firstly, I've realized that up until this baby was born, I didn't know ANYONE that had breastfed within the last 15 years. I have two aunts that nursed their children for a couple months each and I have a friend from church that nursed her sons 20-some years ago. But that's it. I had no peers, no friends, no one in close proximity that had breastfed. I think I really underestimated how much harder that makes it for a woman. Not having someone to turn to when things get tough, being the first to do something different...it's a HUGE mental and emotional step for some women.
This time around, things were a little different, but not much. The wife of a work colleague was breastfeeding her third child and was very encouraging and a friend gave birth just a week before Emmitt was born and is still nursing. In reality, the Delta Nurse-in last week was the first time that I had ANY exposure to women my own age sitting around nursing their children. Pretty crazy for "The Lactivist" eh?
Secondly, I was much more informed this time around than I was the last time. I knew what to expect and I knew that I had to get help at the VERY FIRST SIGN of a problem. (We did have problems and I saw an IBCLC on day four.) I was also having a home birth which already put me into the "blazing new trails" category, so breastfeeding really didn't seem all that strange to friends and family. ;)
I can't stress enough how important I think it is for women to see and know other women that breastfeed. Exposure does wonders toward educating, normalizing and promoting breastfeeding. It's been amazing to have the chance to help play that role for people around me. That's part of why I've made it a point to NEVER hide when I'm nursing and to do everything in my power to make breastfeeding a normal, natural thing that takes place around friends, family and the general public. It's been refreshing to see perspectives change...for example...
1.) My mother-in-law who was an L&D nurse in the early 70's. She was pretty terrified at the idea of a home birth, but actually ended up being here for it and thinking it was pretty cool. She also knew very little about breastfeeding, having bottlefed her kids in the 70's. The first week here she commented on how often I was nursing Emmitt and said "I thought you were only supposed to nurse every three hours?"
I explained that that was an old way of thinking and that that was part of why so many women had supply issues. Fast forward just two months later and we were talking at thanksgiving. The Emily Gillette thing came up and at some point, someone mentioned something about the kid's age...my mother-in-law piped up with "Well isn't it actually recommended that moms breastfeed for at LEAST a year and preferably two?" Tee hee.. Love it!
2.) My father. Dad's been pretty on board with the benefits of breast milk since I started the Lactivist project last year. In fact, he's come up with several of the slogans on our shirts (including Nip/Suck and "That's my baby's lunch you're staring at"). Anyway, during a discussion over lunch a few weeks ago the subject of breastfeeding came up. Dad paused, looked at my mom, and said, in a slightly accusing tone 'Why didn't you breastfeed our kids??' I laughed, but had to stand up for mom explaining that it just wasn't done then and she really didn't do anything "wrong" by not nursing us.
3.) My cousin's boyfriend. My cousin (age 25) and her boyfriend recently moved to our small village and have been spending a lot of time here. I was talking to her a week or so ago and she told me about his reaction to my nursing while he's there. She said that the first time I did it, he kinda freaked out, thinking "oh no! she's gonna nurse! what do I do!!" She said he was trying so hard to avert his eyes but also felt like he just couldn't look away. About a minute into nursing, he realized he couldn't see anything at all and every since he said he hardly even notices. He'd just never been exposed to it before and didn't know what to expect.
There's nothing extraordinary about those three examples. I'm not any different from any other nursing mom...I'm not really "blazing new trails" that other people aren't capable of blazing. In reality, these types of things are happening all over the world...every time a woman steps up to the challenge and becomes the first in her inner circle to breastfeed a child. The domino effect is a powerful one and every single one of us needs to realize the role that we play in pushing those dominos down.