Thursday, August 17, 2006

All I Want for Christmas...

I just learned about these breastfeeding education videos, produced by a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and mother of seven. They appear to be well researched, informative, and beautiful. Just watching the little clip that's shown on the web site brought me to tears.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lactivist Manifesto

From a recent comment submitted by Anonymous: "The problem with you nazis is that you marginalise mothers and women who make alternative feeding choices." well put. Nazi. Yes, that'd be me. By day, I'm an ordinary boob-flashing mom-about-town, selfishly dragging my kids to parks, swimming pools, grocery stores, and cafes so that I can freak out the squeamish by nursing topless. By night, I get together with my brigade of nursing-bra-burning Nazis to strategize about how to marginalize formula-feeding moms and win the Mommy War once and for all.

This is the problem with flinging accusations at people whom you've never even met, Anonymous. I am, in fact, quite aware the many reasons why it is so difficult to breastfeed in the United States today and I do not judge harshly mothers who choose to formula feed. There is MUCH work to be done before breastfeeding can possibly become a choice most mothers make without sacrificing themselves and their families in ways that many now feel they cannot.

What work would that be?

Mothers need the option of taking at least six months of paid leave after the birth of a child. Fathers (and, in an alternative universe in which lesbian and gay couples could legally marry and enjoy the privileges heterosexual couples take for granted, the non-lactating mom in a lesbian apologies to gay men for seeming to exclude you from this equation, but I haven't worked out in my own head what this alternative universe would look like for you) should also have the option of taking at least a month of paid leave, to support their spouses and care for older children during those first few critical weeks as mom and babe establish their breastfeeding relationship. It would be nice if all employers would accomodate mothers who want to return to work, offering them time and space to pump, but there are so many jobs which cannot reasonably accomodate a breastmilk pumping mother and returning to work can negatively affect a mother's supply. Police officers, flight attendants, and trial lawyers are just a few off-the-top-of-my-head examples of people whose jobs don't just stop 'cause it's time for mom's 30 minute pumping break. Rather, moms should have the option to stay home during those first six months of exclusive breastfeeding.

Americans need to get over their breast fetish. I'm not suggesting that breasts should no longer be considered errogenous zones, but we need to stop fetishizing them to the point where people are uncomfortable with them performing their primary function. Some people find ankles quite sexy, but don't freak out and complain to management when they see a woman in an ankle-exposing outfit at a grocery store. Breasts have a job to do. Let's let them do it in peace.

Lactation consultants should be as on the scene after every baby's birth as pediatricians are today. Every mom should be visited by a lactation consultant at home or in the hospital during the first days after giving birth, see one again later as necessary, and have those visits covered by health insurance.

Breastmilk banks should be as common as blood banks, if need be, and women who donate their milk should at the very least be honored with a nice little lapel sticker that says, "I donated milk today." Just as the Red Cross goes around to college campuses and business parks, seeking blood donors, they should set up pumping stations where lactating mothers can come donate milk. If every lactating mother donated four ounces of milk once a year, would that be enough for the babies whose mothers cannot breastfeed or pump themselves, or die before their babies reach one year of age?

What about the moms who still, given six months off work, visits with the lactation consultant, etc., do not want to breastfeed? Of course, every woman has that option, just as she has the option of smoking cigarettes during pregnancy. Every mother should know, however, that choosing to formula feed actually puts her child's longterm health at greater risk than choosing to smoke during pregnancy. Statistically speaking, smoking during pregnancy, which can lead to low-birth-weight, actually poses fewer risks to a child's health than being fed formula during the first year of life outside the womb. Does anyone say that doctors are trying to make mothers who smoke feel guilty when they advise them to quit smoking?

We need to stop talking about "making" mothers feel guilty about not breastfeeding and start talking about the fact that formula is a processed, inferior food. While it contains calories and nutrients, formula is missing much that breastmilk supplies. Of course, no one forces parents to feed their children 100% organic whole foods everyday, but most of us recognize that Ritz Crackers and Fruit Roll-Ups are no substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables. Nutrition experts are not labeled "fruit Nazis" for trying to persuade more people to eat healthier foods. Mothers the world over breastfeed not out of guilt, but because it is the least expensive, most convenient, and healthiest way to feed a baby.

Breastfeeding advocates like myself are not the vanguard of the Mommy War (that would be the mass media). While some of us don't always take the time to understand the unique challenges moms who don't breastfeed, many of us do. Let's stop fighting and start working toward building a culture that supports mothers who want to breastfeed and celebrates them, rather than shames them, for doing the very best for their children, whenever and wherever they are hungry.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dear Anonymous

I will not allow anymore comments on this blog that demean nursing mothers, their babies who deserve to eat whenever and wherever they are hungry, or the wholesome beauty that is breastfeeding. Respectful disagreement is welcome, however profanity, personal attacks, and red herring arguments will not be published here. Go somewhere else and spew your filth.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Article in the Oregonian

MomMA co-founder Chrissy and I appear in a story in yesterday's Oregonian about the "breastfeeding landscape" in Portland.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On the Selfishness of Mothers Who NIP

Mothers who advocate for their babies' rights to nurse wherever and whenever they are hungry have been accused by some of being selfishly unconcerned with the feelings of others. Who is the selfish one, though, really? The mother who puts the needs of baby for nourishment and comfort ahead of her own personal concerns for modesty or the passersby who put their psychological comfort "needs" ahead of the real, physical needs of a baby? I am so tired of being told that I am being selfish. Since becoming a mother, I have learned a whole lot about setting my needs and wants aside in the service of the needs of my children. Aren't the selfish, self-absorbed people those who believe that their needs are more important than the needs of babies and children?

When I was nursing my daughter three years ago, it never occurred to me that I should breastfeed discreetly for anyone's comfort but my own--I nurse as discreetly as I can in public because I prefer not to expose my breasts to strangers. Sometimes, though, when nursing a fussy or distracted baby, even the modest mama finds herself briefly exposed. I grew up with the understanding that it was rude to stare at any woman's breasts and assumed most strangers, polite ones anyway, would do their best to avert their eyes at such critical moments.

I also was taught that I am responsible for my feelings and my reactions to whatever I encounter in the world around me. I don't expect others to put my needs above theirs or those of their dependents. Growing up, I learned that babies often require us to put their needs above our own...even babies who are not ours, because parents deserve our support as they raise the next generation.

If the sight of a mother nourishing her child makes you uncomfortable, avert your eyes. It is the height of self-absorption to demand that busy mothers, some with more than just one child with them as they go about their daily lives, concern themselves with whatever screwed up ideas you have about the wholesome, nourishing act of breastfeeding. If you unwittingly catch a glimpse of a woman's breast while she nurses her child and that makes you uncomfortable, take the time you would've spent complaining to a manager or venting on my blog and look inside yourselves. Why do you believe that your needs supersede those of a baby? What is it about breastfeeding that makes you so uncomfortable? Why do you pervert a something as innocent as a mother feeding her hungry baby?

Think about it.

Nursing Mothers Counsel WBW Awards Luncheon

Today the Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon hosted a luncheon to celebrate our state as a leader in breastfeeding promotion and highlight what is left to be done to improve the long and short term health of Oregonians by increasing breastfeeding rates. Awards to important contributors to Oregon’s breastfeeding promotion efforts were presented at the luncheon as well. I was honored at the luncheon as an award recipient, but rather than just toot my own horn, I want to tell you about the work all the other award recipients have done to support, protect, and promote breastfeeding in Oregon this year as well. What a list of accomplishments:

Media Matters for Breastfeeding Mothers Award
KATU News featured three recent breastfeeding stories by Shellie Bailey-Shah and further supported breastfeeding through a morning segment after the launch of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.

KGW News supported breastfeeding by highlighting the roll of breastfeeding support in Fit Pregnany Magazine's survey results which declared Portland the #1 city to have a baby.

Breastfeeding Champion Award
Oregon State Nutrition and Health Screening Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) was commended for its long-term, multi-faceted approach to breastfeeding support, promotion and protection. Oregon State WIC was among the first in the nation to use food dollars to purchase and distribute breastpumps instead of infant formula, and to send Nutrition Leads to Lactation Educator training.

Breastfeeding Mother Friendly Employer Award
Oregon Health Science University has the distinction of being the largest employer in the state to earn a designation as a DHS Breastfeeding Mother-Friendly Employer.

New Seasons Market has the distinction of being the first grocery store and the first chain to earn the DHS Breastfeeding Mother-Friendly Employer designation. The company's policy is exemplary and sets a high bar for multiplicity at several retail sites. The company also has a commitment to supporting breastfeeding mothers in their stores.

Legislative Legacy Awards
There are three women who share principal responsibility for Oregon's legislative legacy in breastfeeding support and protection: Martha Johnson, RN, IBCLC; Dixie Whetsell, MS, IBCLC; and NMC volunteer lobbyist, Diane Garrett. Martha and Dixie are the co-authors of many successive versions of workplace accommodation legislation. They have brought drafts of the bill before the legislature since 1999. Through the efforts of Diane, the Oregon State Legislature passed SB 618, a bill encouraging employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees.

The Voice for the Mothers Award
I was incredibly honored to accept this Nursing Mothers Counsel award, which reads:
In Celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, August 2006, Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon presents the Voice for Mothers award to Chris Musser, for transforming a personally challenging situation into a catalyst for empowerment, from one mother to others. Though you dubbed yourself the "Reluctant Lactivist," you quickly became a highly effective one, launching Mom's Milk Anywhere for the support and protection of breastfeeding in public as SB 744 ensures.
There are so many people who deserve credit for enabling me to stand up for myself, my children, and mothers and children everywhere who want to nurse in peace. I don't know what I would have done without my brilliant and impassioned friend Chrissy Gardiner, whose support, outrage, and ideas have fueled me throughout this experience. Creating a social support group for nursing moms was Chrissy's idea...I honestly don't think that big on my own. Chrissy and my other NE Knitting Mom friends, especially Alenna, Brittney, and Sally, spent many Monday evenings listening, advising, and encouraging me as I went from feeling humiliated and ashamed to empowered and activated. They are the core organizers of MomMA. While I was still deciding whether or not to do anything about my humiliating experience at Fred Meyer, I called the Nursing Mothers Counsel help line and received the encouragement and direction I needed to stand up for myself and be a voice for mothers who have suffered in silence after being harassed for nursing in public. I also want to thank my husband Mike for his continued and enthusiastic support. He's a devoted and wonderful husband and father who has helped me stay true to myself and my ideals as I navigated through an exciting and challenging time. Finally, I want to say how much I appreciate all of you who have written to me with support and encouragement. Reading your kind words, knowing that so many people out their get it and appreciate the importance of celebrating, not humiliating, mothers who nurse in public, has helped keep me going even when the negative, uninformed commentary of others dragged me down. Thank you. Please keep up the good work. It's such a boost.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Mom's Milk Anywhere held its first gathering of World Breastfeeding Week at K&F Coffeehouse this morning and KATU-News was there. I'm thrilled to see this issue getting so much press coverage this week (the Oregonian plans to run stories in both its Living and Business sections as well) and hope that it will help persuade more people that breastfeeding in public is a perfectly normal and decent thing to do!