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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Best Milk Ever!

I just found out via New York Family magazine that this is World Breastfeeding Week (first week of August). And this is why this post is about that magnificent feat.
I'm very partial to the issue, as it literally is quite close to my heart. I'm not into politics and usually neither into public protests, but when my daughter was a baby, I did stand along with many other breastfeeding moms in front of the ABC headquarters on the Upper West Side after one of The View's TV show former hostesses made some offensive comments against breastfeeding. And there I was seven years ago, feeding my hungry daughter with no bottle nor zippy cup, making a statement on West 66th Street.
That's when I wrote this "article" that I tried (not very hard, though) to get published. None of the few publications I pitched to was interested, but now, I have a blog and I can write whatever I want (and only if you want, you can read it).
Here it is:
My Breast Effort

"Please Lord, send her a blanket to cover her breast," I silently
prayed as my mother’s best friend nursed her fourth daughter sitting
on a bench in the middle of Disney world. Then, I made a promise to
myself: I would never, under any circumstance feed my babies in public
without total coverage. That was when I was about 10. Almost twenty years later, I’ve broken my promise more times than I can remember. I’ve fed my little girl in restaurants, parks, planes, cars, hotel lobbies, bathrooms, stores,
Central Park West, friends’ apartments, museums, and although I
haven’t made it to Disney world yet, at this point I would do exactly
what my mom's friend did.

Have I lost my dignity? Maybe. But after having my breast out in the
air for 90% of the day (including the night), I’ve reached a point in
which I don't care anymore. Just for reference, if you’re planning on
breastfeeding exclusively as I did, at the beginning of his life, your
little bundle of joy will cry for food about every two hours, and that
time starts counting the minute he starts eating (not when he’s done),
which in the first weeks might take up to an hour. Then, experts
recommend to let the breast air-dry for about ten minutes to prevent
infections. By the time the breast finally makes it back into the nursing bra,
it'll be time to bring it out again.

Of course, the first time of doing it in public was the hardest. Our baby
was just a couple of weeks old when we all ran out to get some lunch
after feeding her. She was sleeping like an angel. But seconds
before they brought my salad, the little one woke up in fury demanding
to have lunch too. I felt electroshocks going through my body and cold
sweat running down my forehead. I couldn't see my face, but I could feel it
was boiling red. It was pouring outside, so running back home, as I had done in previous occasions, was impossible. The angel was roaring, so I breathed in deeply, took her out of the stroller, grabbed a blanket (of course), and tried positioning her so she would eat. In a failed attempt to find my nipple, she kicked, screamed and squirmed her little body in frustration as I held my breast with one hand, her body with another one, and the blanket with the third hand that seems to show up in every female body after delivering a baby. As I struggled, my mother-in-law was trying to help me hold the blanket on one side, but inadvertently uncovered the other one. I yelled to let her know what she was doing (but you should not yell at you husband’s mother) and then I tried telepathy as I repeated in my mind: “please, Vietnamese-restaurant-waiter, please don’t look in my direction. Please don’t look at my bare boob.” I don’t remember what happened next, but everything went all right, as I slowly began the practice of feeding my baby wherever hunger struck her. That’s how I became a “Mom Gone Wild.” I just lift my shirt whenever my baby needs to eat. By now, she knows her way quite well and suctions better than a Dyson vacuum. I still feel uncomfortable if strangers watch, but I’ve decided that if they do, they’re stupid, childish or perverts.

But not all breastfeeding moms strip on their baby’s cue. In New York, where privacy is quite limited (there are always others in the bus, cab, subway, street, office, restaurant, store, and pretty much everywhere else), I’ve met moms who deal with the issue in different ways. As I’ve said, I’ve “Gone Wild,” along with others. Some of my friends have become “Cinderella Moms.” They keep looking at their watch, and when the time of the feed approaches, they stop doing everything and run back home, before the spell of a happy baby is broken with the first hungry cry. Others have turned their babies into “Social Drinkers.” These moms bring bottles with formula for when they are away from home. And last, the fourth category I’ve found is the “Pumping Iron Moms.” These women extract breast milk from their bodies and feed their babies with it through a bottle. This kind of breastfeeding women, I have to say is the one I admire the most, as I’ve found pumping milk to be the most frustrating and uncomfortable activity a mom can do, including diaper changes with all its variations (a topic for a whole other article). When pumping, instead of a cute little baby in your arms, there’s an ugly little plastic valve milking your body. However, as much as I don’t enjoy it, it’s the only alternative for moms who work away from home and still want to breastfeed. One breast pump manufacturer even has a product that promises to “Pump In Style.” I believe that’s pushing it too hard. How chic could a woman connected to cow’s equipment look? Seriously, pumping moms deserve a special applause…
And so do all breastfeeding moms, whatever their public feeding techniques are. Overcoming pain, engorgement, mastitis, bleeding nipples, rookie babies and relatives with opinions can be physically and emotionally challenging. Especially when you add it to the pain after delivery, gummy bear body after pregnancy, baby blues and sleep deprivation. So, why should women feeding their babies in public feel bad about it as well? Our society should encourage them to feel proud about nursing, not embarrassed. Breastfeeding is a hormonal miracle stimulated by the baby’s suckling, and it brings a lot of perks. It’s healthy for both, mother and baby. It can protect mothers against breast cancer, while breastfed children have reduced incidences of childhood obesity and asthma, and stronger immune systems. It’s nutritious. It’s the perfect food, with just the right amount of protein, carbs, fat, vitamins and minerals the baby needs for the first 6 months of his life. It has no artificial ingredients, and it’s definitely organic. Breastfeeding is quite convenient. There’s no preparing, washing or sterilizing needed, and the breasts can’t be forgotten at home. It’s also aesthetic. I got bigger breasts for a year without plastic surgery. Jumping from an A cup to a C was quite an experience! And also, is there anything lovelier than a mother feeding a baby? For some women breastfeeding is even physically pleasurable. The much-lauded bonding of mother and baby through breastfeeding is not a myth, but quite a sublime feeling. And finally, breastfeeding is free. I’m still trying to convince my husband that I deserve to go on a shopping spree with the thousands of dollars we saved on formula and bottles!
However, not all women are able to breastfeed. For different reasons some don’t produce enough or any milk at all. Others have certain health related problems that prevent them from doing it. And a group of women don’t do it because they don’t enjoy the experience. It’s all quite respectable. I just wished everyone gave it a shot before making a decision or judging. I must confess that despite all I’ve said, I still carry a blanket around, just in case. It’d be wonderful if I felt I didn’t have to, because as what a lovely gentleman told my blushed friend breastfeeding in the supermarket, “from there, food comes out warm, instantly, and from the most beautiful containers...”

Don't worry, I will not give you a recipe to prepare breast milk, as that's more a Divine process than a kitchen task. But when I was a new mom, I barely had any time to feed myself. I lost a lot of weight and I barely ate anything but power bars. However, once in a while I would make no-cooking required dishes, and the following one is a healthy, quick, easy option that only needs a Tupperware container with a lid, and a can opener. No washing, cutting, cooking, marinating. Just mix and eat! Plus it is made with good for you veggies and legumes. Yes, they are frozen, not fresh, but when you have a crying baby on a strapped carrier on your chest, this is a good dish to make.
I dedicate it to all those hungry, busy moms feeding their babies. You have to look after yourself too, especially when you are a milk producing facility. I hope you enjoy it!


-1 (10-ounce) bag frozen organic green peas
-1 (10-ounce) bag frozen organic corn kernels
-1 (15.5 ounce) can cannellini beans (preferably EDEN brand), rinsed and drained
-2 teaspoons organic veganaise (or mayo), it's OK to eyeball it, or to taste
-1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar, or to taste
-Some drops of organic soy sauce (I like tamari)
-Nutritional yeast, to taste, optional
-1 pinch turmeric
- Black pepper, to taste

Empty the contents of the pea and corn bags into a plastic container (BPA free). Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover with the lid and shake to mix. Let peas and corn thaw for a couple of minutes and enjoy!
This is a great picnic or bring-to-playground food for you or a perfect while-baby-naps meal.
If you want to turn it into a full meal, serve it with hard boiled eggs, cooked salmon or canned sardines in olive oil.


kim said...

Too funny! I loved this article, as I sit hear nursing my daughter!! Thanks!

Alexandra said...

So glad you were multitasking, and I'm honored you were doing while reading my blog!!!