EKL’s Projects for 2015

I know, I know, it’s hard to keep up when you’re moving and shaking this hard and fast. That’s why I wanted to share a recap of what I’m up to for the New Year! – Glad to have you along for the ride! Continue reading

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Top 5 ways Fathers can bond with their new baby! (that support breastfeeding)

WHO_breastfeeding_graphic_series_dad I’ve been around a lot of stellar papas lately, prompting me to write about how it’s done right!

Until the day comes when we no longer coo, ooh, and ahh – not at baby, but at the dads – for doing something that we wouldn’t even bat at an eye at mama doing, here is my top 10 of things that new dads can do to that support breastfeeding, but more important, develop that ever-so-important papa-baby bond!

  1. Skin to skin (aka kangaroo care). Stripping down to your skivvies with your baby provides them with reassurance, comfort, regulates their body temperature, respiration and heartbeat – and releases that ooey gooey love hormone oxytocin. There is almost no better way to fall in love with your baby.
  2. Babywearing. Choose an ergonomic baby carrier that you are comfortable installing baby in (this might take a little practice, but so do most new things!), and tote them around the house, on outings, for naps, and hey – it’s a good workout!
  3. Take a bath with baby. Getting naked with your kids helps them develop a healthy sense of body image, plus you get clean (this can be a challenge for new parents haha), and all the benefits of skin to skin – all in one!
  4. Sleep with your baby. You know you want a nap. Mama knows she wants a nap where she can turn off her “baby-dar” for an hour or two of precious rest where papa is on duty.
  5. Anything other than feeding. Yep, that’s right, anything that needs to be done with a baby can be done by papa EXCEPT FOR FEEDING. Shopping, playing, going to the park, changing diapers, changing clothes, playdates, tummy time, naked time, singing, the list goes on and on!

What are the ways the Dads in your life bond with their baby and support breastfeeding?

Places I have Breastfed my Baby

Klimt

My daughter is exclusively breastfed, and she asks to eat about every 2-3 hours.  Sometimes it is just not practical to rush back to your house to feed the baby.  My liberty of movement is important to me, and as such has led me to feed my little girl in various different places that I would never have expected throughout her first 3 months of life.

 

Places I have breastfed my baby:

  • On the side of the highway at a park-n-ride overlooking the St. Lawrence River
  • My father-in-law’s bedroom (uh…it was way less sketchy than this sounds)
  • In a yoga studio
  • At a CLSC (community health clinic)
  • In the parking lot outside my office (in the car)
  • Ikea Boucherville (they have a sweet set-up for nursing!)
  • Waterbury, Vermont
  • Promenades Saint-Bruno (top of the line “salle d’allaitement”, but a bummer men aren’t allowed.  Papa waited outside.)
  • US Consulate in Montreal (security cleared!)
  • On a movie set (no joke, but no, we’re not stage parents, it was a favour for a friend who is a filmmaker)
  • In the bathtub, in bed, on the couch, in front of the TV, in the kitchen…
  • All over my house!

I’m looking forward to feeding her:

  • At the office on lunch break when Papa brings her to visit
  • In the garden on lazy sunny summer days
  • Anywhere, every day!

Some general observations about feeding your baby on the go:

  • What you wear makes a difference.  Whether you are a fan of the tank top underneath tactic or the draw-back v-neck thing, there are two major comfort/practical considerations: 1) you need a good nursing bra no matter what and 2) make sure you are comfortable with the various states of undress you may find yourself in.  For instance, if you are wearing a dress that zips up the back that you need help getting in and out of – that may not be your most pragmatic choice.
  • If you ask, “Are you comfortable with me feeding my daughter here?”, people either say “No problem, go ahead!” and actually mean it or they say “No problem, go ahead!” with a terrified and freaked out look on their face.  And then they proceed to either frantically avert their eyes, stare at my breast, or make intense I’m-not-looking-at-your-breast eye contact with me.  Either way, I appreciate every effort made to make me feel comfortable while I care for my baby.  It is very endearing.
  • Nursing covers or hoods are crap.  At least in my experience.  My baby doesn’t like having the hood over her and she gets all hot and agitated.  When she starts squirming around, the hood gets all displaced and I end up flashing people anyway.  Also, it’s not true that you can see your baby while nursing with the hood unless you position it perfectly and then neither of you move!  Like that is going to happen!

My advice to new nursing mothers:

No matter where or when you end up feeding your baby, like other parts of parenting, go with what feel right and comfortable for you.  Your baby and its health comes before anyone else’s breast issues.

My feminist rant:

I never intended for this post to be about public breastfeeding as a cause.  I am not even terribly comfortable feeding my baby in all of the wacky places I’ve done it so far.  Sometimes, though, duty calls.  Baby gets hungry.  And when you are a mother, your baby’s needs just surge ahead of anything and everything else.  I am physically incapable of letting my child cry or stuffing a pacifier in her mouth when she is hungry.  And babies can get hungry any time!  Even when you just fed before leaving and hoped to be back in time for the next one.  Parenting is a lot of gray area – things don’t always work out the way you planned!

Nonetheless, I had never really considered my feelings about what I considered a battle that I felt concerned others willing to take up the fight, not me.  My thoughts on the issue started to gel for me when reading this fabulous blog post by the Feminist Breeder.  I realized that if you are a nursing mother, you automatically have to deal with the nursing in public issue unless you plan to hole up in your house for 6-12 months and never invite anyone over.  If that’s your plan, great.  If not, there will likely be a time in which you’ll have to breastfeed in front of relatives (some of whom can be the most freaked out!), strangers, medical professionals, men, children and pets.

I now firmly believe that it is good for everyone to observe breastfeeding.  Not ALL the time.  Don’t get me wrong, I cherish my sweet, intimate feedings with my little girl with her beautiful eyes looking up at me as we snuggle and feed.  But, it should not be treated as something that is secret or shameful that must be closeted and put out of sight, either.  In fact, I believe that public exposure to breastfeeding would go a long way in the battle against they hypersexualization of women and girls.  If we demonstrated and accepted the breast as something other than an object of sexual arousal and desire, but rather as a life-giving resource, perhaps the way women’s bodies are viewed in general would be more balanced.  The more we saw it, the more comfortable everyone would be!  Youth would grow up respecting the power of a woman’s body to create and carry life for 40 weeks and then provide nourishment for that little being into toddlerhood.

It really is a beautiful and amazing thing.  We should all revel.

Namasté!

Feel free to comment: Where are some notable places you’ve breastfed your baby?

Introducing: The Pregnant Feminist Series

The Pregnant Feminist at Work!

The Pregnant Feminist at Work!

On January 20, 2013 my life changed forever – I was blessed by the birth of my first child, a precious daughter.  During my pregnancy I faced challenges regarding my identity as a feminist, which resulted in a three-part missive, The Pregnant Feminist Series.  I didn’t publish the posts right away (I wanted to be sure that I still agreed with my assertions post-pregnancy hormones haha), but have chosen to share them now.  Hopefully this series will eventually give birth (hoho, pun intended) to a series on feminism and motherhood.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please enjoy The Pregnant Feminist Series:

  1. Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public
  2. Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life
  3. Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal

The Pregnant Feminist Series: Part 3

My daughter at 2 months

My daughter at 2 months

I am now 8.5 weeks postpartum (with a 2 month old baby)!  I am making this post Part 3 of The Pregnant Feminist Series, although I no longer pregnant (obviously).  Perhaps I will become one of those “mommy bloggers” and do my next series on diapers or something (that was a joke…sort of).  Meanwhile, I invite you to see also Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public and Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life.

Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal

I said it in Part 1, but there is no better time then when you actually have a baby in hand to reaffirm that motherhood is feminism’s final frontier.  The gender-typing started when I was pregnant, which I mistakenly assumed was a transient state, like the pregnancy.  Oh, was I disheartened to find that it was greatly exacerbated once my little bundle of joy graced us with her presence.  The New Normal.

I had taken it badly when I was told that the men in my family weren’t going to be interested in coming to the baby shower.  It’s a woman thing, I was told.  I protested and insisted that if calling it a baby shower meant that the men wouldn’t come, let’s call it a family baby party or something – find a way to make the arrival of a new member of the family something that would actually concern the whole family and not just its female representatives.  I was thrilled when the men showed up!  Well, most of them at least (all the ones that counted, for sure).

I had managed to break free from the shackles of gender roles!  Temporarily…

While pregnant, my partner and I had often lamented the fact that it had to be me that was pregnant.  Not that I didn’t want to be pregnant – in fact, I ended up loving the experience and can’t wait to do it again – but rather the frustration stemmed from the lack of choice in the matter.  Silly, I know, but feminists are big on choice, you see.

Now that our daughter has been born, traditional gender roles have been sneaking up and tackling us, in spite of ourselves.  

The first visit to the pediatrician felt strange until we realized that every time my husband asked a question, the doctor looked at me and answered.  I thought she was going to report me to the DPJ (Child Protective Services here in Quebec) when I mentioned that I was not taking the full year of maternity leave that we have the right to in Canada.  In fact, I am going back to work 2 days after my daughter turns 3 months old.  WHY, she asked me emphatically, to which I found myself frantically attempting to justify reasons that are personal, individual, and frankly, none of her business!  And she has not been the only one to have this visceral response at what I feel is a private family matter.  I have explained over and over that…*gasp*… my husband is the one who will be staying home with the baby.

One could claim that taking a “short” mat leave is a cultural thing, or merely a matter of perspective.  Millions of women in the USA go back to work mere weeks after giving birth – although it could be said they have no choice.  Since I have the choice, it must be because I don’t want to spend time with my baby.  My maternal mechanism must be somehow skewed or altogether broken.

But that’s not the only new-baby-ism that has confounded my couple’s feminist values.  Do breastfeeding and feminism have anything to do with one another?

I asked this question to my husband just the other day.  His reply was categorical: “No!”

While pregnant, my partner and I had discussed at great length our plans for feeding our daughter once she would be born.  I wanted to try nursing for a variety of reasons.  Research-based evidence in hand, I easily convinced him that breastfeeding is the best possible option for our child’s health (with health benefits for Mom, too! – I will post a feminist-approved resource list one day).  The decision was an intellectual one, based primarily on health.  My husband was concerned about the bonding part of things, and so we agreed that I would express my milk some of the time so that he could participate in feeding and connecting with our child as well.  It all made so much sense.

Nursing my daughter has been one of the biggest challenges and most rewarding experiences of my life.  It blows my mind.

It blows my mind because it came as a big surprise to me – that it would be challenging…or rewarding…or anything, really.  I’m not sure why, but I hadn’t really even thought about how I would feel about it.  It was just an action that I was going to perform, for health reasons.  Well, it turns out that I have a LOT of feelings about nursing.  In fact, I feel that it has changed me as a person.

My nursing relationship with my daughter started out with a lot of difficulty.  I have since learned that this is an experience common to many women.  In spite of the fact that there is a ton of information out there, the majority of what you find is anecdotal.  In my frustration while googling about one day, I exclaimed, “Why is there no good information on the internet about breastfeeding other than all these grammatically offensive forums!”  My husband noted that we live in a “mother knows best” culture.  I’m supposed to know everything I need to know by instinct.  Which is the hugest motherhood myth ever.

My body and spirit were ravaged by our initial attempts at nursing.  My morale was seriously flagging as I dealt with the discomfort of recovering from a vaginal birth, and the blinding pain of bruised and bleeding nipples during the relentless feedings every 2-3 hours around the clock, day in and day out.  I hadn’t slept longer than an hour or two at a time for weeks on end.  I felt so isolated and exhausted in the middle of the night all alone with this little being that was losing too much weight and just wanted to eat – causing me toe curling pain – and I was the only one who could do it.  What’s worse, I was starting to feel terrified of my baby, when everyone around me was saying, “How are you enjoying being a new mother?  She’s such a joy!”  When feeding time came around, I wanted to run and hide!  Mixing up some formula and having my husband get up in the frightening wee hours seemed like a brilliant idea.  Feedings turned into a team effort.  My husband would accompany me with each feeding, cheering me on and offering support.

Fortunately, in Quebec, free access to a lactation consultant is included in your health care coverage.  Without the guidance provided by the wonderful nurses and LCs at my local CLSC (community medical clinic), I am nearly positive that I would have given up on breastfeeding within a few weeks of my daughter’s birth.  In fact, I’m not sure what kept me from preparing that bottle of formula.  Sheer stubbornness, I guess, that did eventually pay off.  We devised strategies to enable us to keep at it – using an electric pump to increase my milk supply, feeding her with a cup or spoon or finger-feeding when I was too painful or exhausted to nurse, introducing a bottle with Papa and my expressed milk one feeding per day so that I could recover.

It worked.  Nursing has since become a pleasurable experience for everyone involved; a great source of love, tenderness and intimacy.  We have even revised our objectives to try to continue breastfeeding for a year + instead of the initial let’s give it a whack for six months and see how it goes.  Right now I can’t imagine not nursing my daughter!  I plan on expressing my milk after going back to work and hope to continue our nursing relationship and providing her with the best possible nutrition for as long as possible.

At first blush, I thought that my husband was right: breastfeeding and feminism have nothing to do with one another.  It does force us into certain roles in the eyes of society and certain members of our entourage.  Also, formula is often seen as a way of “liberating” the woman from her traditional role as primary caregiver of the child.  Anyone can prepare a bottle of formula and thus provide for one of the most important basic needs of baby.  In fact, Mom isn’t even required at all in the formula-fed baby’s life structure.  

But is simply removing the mother from the picture really liberating her?

Perhaps for some women having the ability to not be required for baby’s care is empowering.  To me, breastfeeding is incredibly empowering.  I alone have the power to nourish my child with my amazing body.  It is a way to assert control over my body and reclaim my breasts, sexualized by the patriarchy, and render them purposeful and essential.  I feel powerful in the face of a consumer culture that wants me to believe that a commercial preparation could be anywhere near as healthy and appropriate for my baby as my own perfect free amazing milk.  Going back to work and continuing to nurse is also an inherently feminist act, and not simply by virtue of role-switching with my husband: I can have the career that I want and care for my child the way that I want.

The Postpartum New Normal

It is no lie when they say that having a baby changes everything.  You formulate an entirely new identity in relationship to all of the newness.  Now to just keep reminding myself that the new normal does not have to mean abandoning all of the old normal.  You just try things, go with what feels right, and trust yourself!

Namasté!