Clever Cleavage

Everyone Meet Grace!

 

1. Tell us about your personal breastfeeding experience with your children:

I have 4 children. From the time I found out I was pregnant at 19, I knew I would breastfeed. It was normal, natural, what my mother did, and FREE! I figured if God gave us breasts, we might as well use them! Plus, you know, it was FREE! That’s a big deal when you are a broke 19 year old.
I figured it would be natural to just breastfeed, but thankfully, I got a lot of great advice… the first piece being that breastfeeding, in our society especially, is a learned skill. We don’t see much of it, and without being around it all the time, women can struggle. So I took classes, read books, talked to (and observed) nursing moms, practiced with dolls, and basically did everything I could to learn about breastfeeding.
When my daughter was born, I was able to nurse her right away in the delivery room. We did great, until my milk started coming in. Poor thing, I was making tons of milk and had a very active letdown, and she would just choke on all the milk! On top of that, I had all those unfortunate side-effects of a baby who can’t get a good latch: blocked ducts, nipple damage, and mastitis. I worked with my sister (a post-partum RN at the time) and a lactation consultant to figure out what to do, and also decided (eventually) to add a little more schedule to our nursing. All of these things helped, and we pushed through to nurse successfully for 18 months!
My second child was adopted and I did not nurse her. With my third child, we had a great start to nursing. However, when I became pregnant again (he was 4 months old), I started having supply issues. I did everything- supplements, hydration, pumping around the clock to increase stimulation… none of it worked. Eventually we had to switch to formula at the 6 month mark because I wasn’t producing enough, and he was too frustrated to keep going to the breast.
My fourth child is now 6 weeks old. Nursing is going great! I think she nursed 23 hours of her first 24 hours of life! My goal is to exclusively breastfeed for at least a year, and to allow her to self-wean after that.

2. What is your view of breastfeeding in public, and why?

I loved seeing women breastfeeding in Ethiopia, because it was just so unremarkable to those around them. Sadly, in the US, we have sexualized the breast to the extent that breastfeeding in public is no longer acceptable to many.
But I have 4 kids. We are never at home. My baby needs to eat. Therefore, I breastfeed in public.
It is my baby’s right to eat when she is hungry. Adults and even other children eat in public when they are hungry. So should she.
I nursed in public with all my kids, but now that I live in the Jackson, MS area, this is the first that I’ve encountered any real opposition. I’m glad I had the experience nursing my older kids before moving here, because in this area you never see women nursing, and if I didn’t feel confident, I probably would feel forced to stay at home or pump bottles before going out.
So now, nursing in public has become more meaningful to me. I think we need to normalize nursing… it should be like it was in Ethiopia- completely unremarkable to those around you! How do we do that? By exposing others to it. By treating it as normal ourselves. And by teaching those we can (starting with our children) that breastfeeding is totally normal, no matter where you are.
 

3. What is your view of sustained breastfeeding, and why?

When I was nursing my first nearly 10 years ago, most people I knew seemed to stop nursing at the 1 year mark. 18 months seemed like a long time to nurse, and we never nursed in public after her first birthday.
Now I know more. I know the WHO recommends nursing for the first 2 years of life. I know people like Jamie who were breastfed longer and who are breastfeeding their own children longer. I know that what is right for me and my family is no one else’s business. I hope to allow my littlest to self-wean some time after age 2 (she seems pretty opinionated, so we will see what happens!)
 

4. What is your view of adoptive breastfeeding, and why?

I wish I would have known more about adoptive breastfeeding when I adopted! My daughter came home at 18 months, and was breastfed the first 13 months of her life. While I don’t think she was ready the for physical intimacy of breastfeeding (and I’m not sure I could have handled the demands of a relactation protocol as a working single mom on a budget), if we adopt again, I hope to be able to explore this option. There is research that shows that even if children do not gain a physical benefit from breastfeeding, there is definitely a psychological benefit. I think more people in the adoption process need to be aware of adoptive breastfeeding as an option!

5.Is there anything you find unique about your breastfeeding story with your children?

I know most teens would not have chosen to breastfeed, and I think many moms would not have stuck with it after the difficulties I had with my first one. Other than that, I think my breastfeeding journey is a lot like life… there are ups and downs, but it’s mostly about what you make of it!
 

6. Is there anything you wish you did differently?

I used to have a lot of regrets about my parenting, including breastfeeding. But I’ve come to realize that I did the best I could with what I knew and what resources I had. I don’t regret the past, but I now know more for future decisions.

7. Is there anything you would like to add? Feel free to answer questions you feel readers would like to know from breastfeeding moms.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about breastfeeding out there (FYI- It doesn’t hurt, and if it does, it means you need some support! Also, it doesn’t feel weird.) Most healthcare providers don’t really know about the act of breastfeeding, even if they are able to tell you that it is the best way to feed your baby (and not all of them even know that much!) That’s why I think it’s important for anyone who loves a nursing woman- or a woman who might nurse in the future- to know the facts and be supportive of breastfeeding! There are lots of great websites with wonderful information. There are also groups like La Leche League who can be great sources of information and support.
I believe all women who want to breastfeed can be successful with the right information and support, so be a part of that!
Also, if you are breastfeeding, take pictures! You’ll never regret recording that special time!
Don’t forget to check out Grace’s Blog! gracelings.org


If you would like to be featured in “Clever Cleavage” please contact me: Jamie(at)iamnotthebabysitter(dot)com

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8 comments

Write a comment
  1. Christina Simon 24 January, 2012, 10:01

    Beautiful photo essay/interview.

    Reply this comment
  2. Jennifer 24 January, 2012, 10:35

    I wish there was less pressure (societal, unspoken, in-laws, wherever it comes from) on women to be “perfect” mommies. Parenthood would be so much better if we could all do it the way that works best for each of us, and this includes longevity of breastfeeding.

    Reply this comment
  3. Tania Luviano 24 January, 2012, 18:11

    I’m a big believer that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies! I breastfed both of my boys until they were 6 months. My opinion is, if your body and work schedule allows you to breastfeed you should do it,. Do it for him or her not YOU!

    Reply this comment
  4. Silvia 24 January, 2012, 20:01

    Honestly, I had a lot of trouble breast feeding my babies, thanks to lactation consultants and support from other moms!!! I really enjoyed this intimate time with my babies

    Reply this comment
  5. Caryn B 24 January, 2012, 23:10

    I agree….a stunning photo essay and interview. I nursed my daughter til she was 2 and my son almost to 1 1/2 and I am so thankful for that time and special relationship. The one thing I do regret is not taking photos

    Reply this comment
  6. Sharlene 24 January, 2012, 23:38

    I really appreciated this post. I am a mom of twins and I tried to breastfeed them both but eventually didn’t produce enough milk to keep them satisfied. I wish I was able to do it longer and if I ever did have another child I would definitely do it again. I think breastfeeding in public is perfectly normal and I hope more people will agree as time passes.

    Reply this comment
  7. Kate 25 January, 2012, 14:10

    I breastfed my son till a year when he self weaned a week after his bday. I must say I was sad because I wasn’t ready. But he had his own timing and it was the official end of his babyhood and entry into toddlerhood. I look back fondly though on those days and am happy I as able to experience breastfeeding with no issues or outside pressure to stop. Thanks for sharing Grace’s story.

    Reply this comment
  8. She'sWrite 27 January, 2012, 10:42

    I love this! So true about America’s sexualization of breasts. It’s ridiculous. I recently participated in the “nurse-in” at Target. Well, that’s overstating it a bit. I was in Norway at the time and posted on my blog about it as well as a pic of me with my babe attached. Check it out if you get the chance. http://sheswrite.net/motherhood/target-breastfeeding/

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