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?