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Normal, like breathing.

No one argues that breathing is a normal, biological process that we, as human mammals, do.  We take it for granted, until it becomes difficult.  Then, we seek help to make it work again, because, it’s breathing.  Human mammals breathe.  It’s normal. Breathing promotes life.

I’ve struggled for years with the cultural attitude that breastfeeding, another life-giving, biological process undertaken by human mammals, is something other than normal.  A lifestyle choice, perhaps.  Extra credit.  If it becomes difficult (and, let’s face it, here in the United States, there are too many reasons breastfeeding becomes difficult),  we are called to heroism, to extraordinary depths of commitment if we are to make breastfeeding work.  How have we allowed this basic mammalian behavior to live on the fringe, as a matter of opinion, not a birthright for every baby born?

Last night, I participated in an online discussion about a mother from a subculture within our own, with a very severe breast injury, caused by an anatomical abnormality with her baby’s tongue.  Someone noted that this mother persisted through her immense pain because breastfeeding is important to women in her community.  I nodded my head in agreement at the computer screen, then read this profoundly wise response:

“I don’t think it’s so much that breastfeeding is important to her as that breastfeeding is what they do.  We don’t treat asthma in mothers to whom breathing is important. The importance of breathing is assumed by everyone at every level, and anyone having trouble with it is going to do what she needs to do to get it to work.  Period.  What a wonderful world it will be – and how much more easily successes will come – when breastfeeding is nothing more than what our own culture does.

Those words, from Diane Wiessinger, IBCLC and La Leche League Leader in Ithaca, New York (and co-author of the 8th, revised edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding), struck me so powerfully.  I wrote to Diane and asked her permission to title my new blog “normal, like breathing” and to share her simple, yet rich words with all of you.  To my extreme good fortune, she happily agreed.

You’ll get to know me better as you visit this website.  I welcome you here with a smile and a hug (if you’re a hugger), and I envision normal, like breathing as a tool that can bring our culture closer to embracing breastfeeding as “nothing more than what our own culture does.” Not special, not heroic, not if, then, either, or.  I’ll blog about breastfeeding topics in the news, about commonly-held perceptions and misconceptions about breastfeeding and human milk, and about subjects related to all of the above.  I encourage questions and dialogue.

I began my breastfeeding journey in December, 2002, with a newborn daughter and an onslaught of obstacles.  I received support, and in turn desired to give support to mothers.  As a La Leche League Leader and, since 2009, as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I enjoy helping mothers but realize our healthcare providers and larger community need accurate, current information.

After a few years of writing, speaking, and advocating for breastfeeding education, I discovered my calling to public service.  I hope to be part of a growing movement of maternal/child health advocates and policymakers who are normalizing breastfeeding in the United States.  Won’t you join me?

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Responses

  1. Oh, Diana. The world needs you. Thank you!

  2. (not sure where that avatar came from. Looks grouchy. Not my choice!)

  3. So going to hug you when I see you. So proud to work along side you.

  4. You are awesome! I’m Loving where I know this will take you! Proud to be related!!!!

  5. I just found your blog through the MotherLove facebook page and love it. I have it saved as a favorite now! Like you, i experienced many obstacles while trying to breastfeed my son, unsuccessfully and my daughter, successfully and am going through the coursework for the IBCLC. I am also on the path to become an LLL leader. Thank you for your blog, it is an inspiration!

    • Thank you, Laurel, and welcome! I’m glad you liked what you read. Congratulations on your choice to pursue Leadership with La Leche League and thank you for aspiring to be an IBCLC — there’s always room for more passionate, experienced advocates in our field. :)

  6. Hello!

    My name is Isabela and I am a student at Parkway South HS. As part of a web design class research assignment, I’d like to report a broken link I encountered on dianaibclc.com — it’s giving me a non existing page.

    Is this something I should direct to you, or can you refer me to the right person?

    Thanks!
    Izzy

  7. beautiful. enlightening. thank you.

    • It can be hard to get attention you may need to go to your doerctir and have a discussion about evidence-based information. Giving out incorrect information when the literature is so clear, could put your hospital in a very difficult position if a baby has a problem. This is not a grey area in any way.

  8. This blog is exactly what I need to help get over all the distressing negativity in the news about breastfeeding these days. Thank you so much!

  9. Not a mom, but a scientist. Love this blog. Will continue to follow!

  10. i aboslutley love your blog. I breastfed my 9 yr old for about 3months b4 i started to supplment with formula. W/my youngest Angelo -who just turned 1, i am happy to say i am still breastfeeding! I have to say, i never thought i would continue to do it into toddlerhood, but am so happy i am. my opinion on breasfeeding as a whole has changed greatly over the past yr and i am such a huge advocater now! It was great to read your positive powerful story, and am happy your daughter is doing so well! :)

    • Thank you for your kind words — I’m so glad you like my blog. Good for you for finding what works for you and I hope you enjoy the adventure of breastfeeding a toddler as much as I did. :)

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  13. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this blog and all of your work. I so needed this five years ago when I had my son. Despite heroic measures, herbal supplements, more oatmeal & cream of wheat than I could possible handle, reglin (sp?, it’s been awhile), and nearly constant pumping, I was never able to produce enough to feed him. However, none of the literature out there mentions the possibility that some women just can’t. I can remember sitting on my couch, surrounded by every pregnancy & lactation book I owned (all of them open to one point or another), sobbing because I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working when I was following every piece of advice I could find (most of which was “just keep trying!”)

    My OB was very supportive and when the reglin didn’t work, she said it may be a breast tissue problem that I couldn’t do anything about. But almost NONE of the literature out there mentions this. The only mention I ever found was in the Couple to Couple League’s NFP manual.

    Even when doing a search today, I found an article that mention (quite casually) that about 3 percent of women do have actual hormonal issue that keep them from producing. However, the tone of the information said, “It’s such a small percentage that it probably doesn’t apply to you, just keep trying.” It’s infuriating because it implies somehow that women aren’t trying hard enough, or just not doing it right.

    I’m expecting my second in December and looking for ways to combat this issue. Your site has given me some hope. I started levothyroxin for a thyroid issue about nine months before becoming pregnant. I’m hoping that it’s the root of the problem, and maybe I’ll have a better shot this time around. At any rate, my pump, fenugreek, blessed thistle, and SNS are all coming with me to the hospital.

    Thanks again for all the information you’ve provided Diana.


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