Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Feeding by Example

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

There are certain things in my life that have always been givens.  Breastfeeding is one of those.  My mom nursed my siblings and me, so of course I would nurse my children.  Doesn't everyone?  I quickly found out the answer to that assumption was no.  In fact, not everyone considers breastfeeding normal.  This is sad.  But it struck me as slightly amazing to discover that not everyone in my own family considered breastfeeding to be normal.

But that's changing now, thanks to "the family babies."  

J and Gus.  There are no pictures of me from this time
because I literally went topless for the first two months.
It was way easier.
When I was pregnant, my mom took my five year old cousin to the store to pick up some baby items.  J wanted to know why she didn't get any bottles.  Mom explained that some mommies fed their babies milk from their breasts and didn't need bottles.  J was amazed, and slightly weirded out.  She was adopted and had never known anything other than bottles as a way to feed babies.  To my aunt's credit, she followed J's lead and they dived into a journey of learning that is still ongoing.  They checked out books about breastfeeding and watched some tv shows where it was featured.  The real-life lessons came when J and my aunt came to visit when the boys were first born.  J was fascinated, watching me nurse the boys.  She still draws pictures of breast feeding, and talks about it with the nonchalance of the initiated.  

J is also the one who decided that Gus and Jack were "the family babies."  They belong to all of us. 

Nursing Jack while walking around a park.
It was this insistence of inclusion that gave me the courage to really and truly parent my babies in front of my extended family.  In the early days, since it was all we really did, this was mainly nursing .  I nursed Gus and Jack during rollicking parties (every get together is an event with my family!) and quiet moments at my parents' house.  I nursed them at the beach, at a backyard luau, and at the park.  I still nurse them at family dinners on Sundays and when our apartment is crowded with my siblings and cousins.  

My aunt sharing a moment with Jack.
This used to present a problem for my older male cousins.  They were embarrassed, and a little confused.  I'm certain they had never seen a functional breast before.  But they learned by example, both mine and the older generation's, that it was normal.  No one made snarky comments, no one questioned my choices.  I am very grateful for this simple acceptance from my family.  Now, no one bats an eye when I pull up my top and unclip my nursing bra.  I think it's their unmitigated love for my boys that allows them to see the need behind the nursing.  

I know for certain that my sister will breastfeed her children. And I fervently hope my brother's fiancĂ©e and any future families my cousins build will do so, too.  I know that they will at least have had an example to go by, and that they know where to come with any questions.  

After all, I've been feeding by example.  

I'm on the far right, nursing Gus during our family beach-at-sunset picture.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. The concept of the family babies is just too precious! This is an all around beautiful story of advocacy, and I love the title, too. "Feeding by example" is so important!

  2. "Feeding by example" - love it!! I have definitely been that person in my own family (although I'm still not sure whether my inlaws are particularly comfortable with bf'ing, although we're just not around them as much). I've been so pleased to see my younger sister nursing her little one (into toddlerhood!), and she was also weirded out by me doing it with Kieran first.

  3. Yes, let's normalize breastfeeding, family by family, generation by generation.

    I was breastfed until I was past my 3rd birthday, and I am completely certain that the way my mother nurtured me and met my needs is what has given me the courage and compassion to mother my own 4 little ones in a gentle, natural manner.

    Cheers to breastfeeders! And double that for a mommy who nurses twins!!

  4. @Melissa, thanks. J took pictures of the boys to her teacher, who asked, "Whose babies are those?" Her rely was, "Ours. They're the family babies." So that's what we call them now!

    @Dionna, I'm so glad to hear your sister nurses, too! I saw your post about cross nursing, and asked my sister what she thought about that. She doesn't get it, but I bet she will when she is a mother! Also, my in-laws are not quiet as on board since we don't see them as much, but they're learning...

    @Jazzy Mama, is your mom familiar with the terms and labels we use such as "natural parenting", "gentle discipline", etc? My mom just smiles when she hears me use them and says, "There wasn't a name for it when you were a baby. I just did what felt right." I appreciate that sentiment, but I'm also glad there are words to define it because those words help us find our community! Thanks for stopping by :-)

  5. So cute that they're "The Family Babies" (just to reiterate..)! I really enjoyed your post. I think the best way to "normalize" what should already be quite normal is to be an example to other people! Keep up the great work! : )

  6. Great post for CarNatPar! This just leaves me breathless how nurturing you are of your boys and your family. I love that your nephew was freaked out and then fascinated by it. I wonder what impact it will have as a parent. Breastfeeding twins is amazing (breastfeeding 3, but they're all different ages. So, the intensity of the need isn't there) and it is so great how natural you and your family are with it now.

  7. Wow. What an amazing post. As someone who didn't have a family history of breastfeeding, I really resonate with your musings on what it's like to nurse around your family. I love that J was/is fascinated by nursing and drew pictures of it. I had an interesting conversation with my four-year-old niece when she saw me nursing (she had never seen it before). When she asked, "Why is he biting you?"I explained to her that some mamas feed their babies with their bodies. She said, "Oh, like Spirit's mama?" (the animated horse in the movie). It's great to hear your story. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I think it's awesome that J learned so much from you and your boys! Sounds like you've touched a lot of family members and helped them to see that breastfeeding is normal!

  9. I had to desensitize my SIL in a similar manner. She was devastated she saw my breast while I was feeding my (now) oldest daughter. I'm happy to report that two babies later she couldn't care less if she sees a flash of my breast while I"m nursing. She even breastfed her son for a time!

  10. @Panda, thanks! It's funny how we talk about normalizing something that couldn't be more natural, but our culture has gotten so turned around when it comes to instinctual parenting.

    @Zoie, I cannot imagine nursing three! Hubby and I decided to wait and try for our third after the boys self-wean simply because I don't want to figure out "tri-deming". Kudos to you!

    @Megan, it is awesome that J is learning from me and my boys. She's a pretty all-around awesome kid :-)

    @I Thought I Knew Mama, thank you!

    @Erica, I will admit that my family has seen more than a flash of my breast. Jack in particular likes to pop off the nipple for a look-see, and still expects it to be there when he turns back! But it's ok, because right now my breasts are as functional and as necessary as my arms :-)

  11. Yeah.

    I've breastfed so much in so many places in front of so many people.

    The only ones I feel at all sorry for being ooked out about are the teenaged boys. Poor things.

    But I have warm feelings thinking about the normalizing I know I've done and the people who were so accepting.