I make milk … what’s your Superpower?
You see the phrase everywhere. On t-shirts, bumper stickers, blogs (ahem). It’s cute and I like it. It’s a powerful statement and what’s more … it’s true! Making milk is a super power. It’s pretty darn awesome! It is healing, life saving, empowering, easy, soothing, nourishing, convenient, free, primal …. and on and on.
Between the Surgeon General’s recent Call to Action on breastfeeding, the rise of more milk banks and greater serious clinical discussion of milk sharing, local Human Milk for Human Babies chapters, breastmilk ice cream, super celebrities tweeting about their breastfeeding … I feel it’s a great time to be a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding is a hot topic in 2011, and it’s charging its way to national and global awareness! Yee-ha!
But what is this doing to our local mom-on-the-street? I am loving the increased “normalcy” of breastfeeding, don’t get me wrong. It makes me squeal with excitement and delight. It’s a paradigm shift that is long over due (are you listening Birth World … AMA, ACOG? You’re next!).
I worry though about fast swinging pendulums that can swing at the expense of some. I hope we don’t throw baby out with bath water whereby many of our moms get caught in the middle. I’m speaking of working moms or moms who have significant breastfeeding challenges … moms who need to find supplemental infant nutrition to tide them over a hurdle or even long-term.
I had an email yesterday from a mom who frequents my Breastfeeding Arts Facebook page. She was venting privately with me of her confusion, grief, anger … and jealousy towards moms who were posting about the ease with which they pump, or worse, moms who didn’t need to pump, SAHM’s who have the choice not to pump. This working mom is having trouble finding internet & real-life community to meet her needs (shout out if you have ideas, please!)
Now hold on, yes, this is an age-old tale of how we moms can be in competition with one another like no other creature on Earth. It’s not exclusively a breastfeeding pickle we put ourselves in. We do it to ourselves, how we compare and judge, and how we toss out comments and don’t realize how they impact those other moms around us who have lifestyle differences.
I try, as an IBCLC, to pay very careful attention to the full picture of a woman’s life as a new mother. There is more going on than we will likely ever know and I need to be sensitive to that. If we listen closely and not leap to assumptions about birth choice or infant feeding choice, we can open a respectful dialog that really problem solves, rather than turns folks off because the initial contact and conversation was one dappled with judgment and presumptions.
Many American women must return to work early on. Many struggle with pumping, with relaxing during a busy day to breathe and find quiet time to elicit a true milk let-down. Often I get calls from moms who feel their milk supply is diminishing at such a rate that they won’t be able to keep their baby in breastmilk for the entire 1st year. And it’s heartbreaking for them.
This “working mom” … her Superpower is that she is an enlightened mother who cares. Her superpower is that she wants to provide the best possible nutrition for her baby. Her superpower is that she reaches out to all parts of her community to find answers and feel supported. And yet, she can often wind up feeling isolated. Perhaps even more so now with all the fist-pumping, “I’m a breastfeeding mom, hear me ROAR!”
There are no breastfeeding specific new-mommy groups for working moms in my area (we’re working on it!). Do any moms head out to the playground after a hard day of work or stroll around the park after dinner? So there are few connections to be made there. And, if mom can sneak away and attend a new-mommy group on the weekend or during lunch hour, it is often filled with SAHM’s and there in lies that age-old comparison game and mental trip we lay upon each other.
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action specifically asks us, the IBCLC and other conduits of support, to step in and help here … “a society-wide approach to support mothers and babies who are breastfeeding. This approach will increase the public health impact of everyone’s efforts, reduce inequities in the quality of health care that mothers and babies receive, and improve the support that families receive in employment and community settings.” (italics my emphasis)
Ok, so how can my Superpower be to help these moms find the support they need? What can I do to help her find her balance and comfort zone as a working, breastfeeding mother?
A question in all this not being talked much about is maternity leave itself. Has the Breast Pump Revolution put an end to any serious look at changing maternity leave policy? Does work place pumping legislation and pumps & bottle manufactures as big-$$$ industry allow us to ignore the issue of better post partum and maternity leave policy? I’ll leave you with that thought and this most excellent New Yorker Article from 2009 that asks just that. Take the time to read the article and figure out if all our collective superpowers might be best applied rallying for better care and support for all mothers in the first year of their newborns life!