I was actually born pre-term and the doctors told her that she would kill me if she tried to breastfeed. She happened to have a nurse who stood by her side and basically fought for her right to breastfeed.
Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CLE, CCCE, CLD is an author, international speaker and pregnancy and lactation expert. She served as the Executive Director of Lactation Programs for CAPPA, the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association for 16 years and now is on the Senior Advisor Board. She is on the Board of Directors for the United States Breastfeeding Committee and also on the Advisory Board for InJoy Birth and Parenting. She owns MotherJourney, focusing on training perinatal professionals on integrative and holistic information regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. She has her degree in Maternal Child Health: Lactation Consulting and is an internationally board certified lactation consultant. Wilson is the co-author of two books, The Attachment Pregnancy and The Greatest Pregnancy Ever and contributing author to Round the Circle: Doulas Talk About Themselves. She loves to blend today’s recent scientific findings with the mind/body/spirit wisdom. Laurel has been joyfully married to her husband for more than two decades and has two wonderful grown sons, whose difficult births led her on a path towards helping emerging families create positive experiences. Laurel spends her free time reading piles of research, running in the mountains with her dogs, and kayaking. She believes that the journey into motherhood is a life-changing rite of passage that should be deeply honored and celebrated.
I was born into a military family. My mother was a huge hippie which really conflicted with living on a military base. My very early years were in Florida and then we moved to Tucson, Arizona. My parents were both open and loving parents. They always had time to focus on being parents and trying to do the best they could. We did a lot of traveling – very low income traveling because we were not very wealthy at all. We had a lot of fun and did crafts and what we called pillow piles where we would just hang out in bed and watch movies and read together. It was a wonderful, wonderful childhood. A lot of what I came to believe as a professional in breastfeeding and in childbirth and as a doula, really stemmed from my family.
This reminded Lori of her days as a young kid with the family going for rides in the station wagon. Laura said that her family had a Mustang with the hatchback where the seat would roll down and this was before we had seat belts. They would lay the blankets down and my brother and I would read for hours and pretend we were creating movies. We would go into the Desert and go on an all day long hike it was just so much fun. We actually lived at the base of the Catalina Mountains in a tiny little town hall called Oracle.
Well strangely what I wound up doing was nothing that I intended to do. My father when I was a very young child, was a primatologist. He studied chimpanzees and he really instilled a love of animals in me as well as a love of Primates. As a young girl I spent a lot of time studying primates and learning about chimpanzees and all the great apes. That really was my intention was to follow my father’s early career after he had been in the military. However, I fell in love at a very young age. I have been with my husband since High School. That took us in the military and took me on a trajectory that led me very far away from doing anything close to primatology and studying animals. Through becoming a mother and the struggles that I had in the military and becoming a mother, led me to do the work that I do today in advocacy and promotion of health through healthy childbirth and breastfeeding.
I think we can learn a lot from animals. This whole new phenomenon of laidback breastfeeding, if you look at any mammal other than humans and how it is done the mother just positions herself in a way that the baby can access the breast. I think we can learn a significant amount from our little animal friends.
>Were you breastfed?
My mother was a very free and open mom. She read Ina May Gaskins book, she swam every day in the ocean during her pregnancy. She swam with dolphins and was baking bread every day. She was determined to breast feed, even though noone else in her family breastfed.
I was actually born pre-term and the doctors told her that she would kill me if she tried to breastfeed. She happened to have a nurse who stood by her side and basically fought for her right to breastfeed. Had it not been for her nurse I don’t know that my mom would have even had access to me. That was in the days when babies were kept in the nursery. But she did breastfeed me, brought me home and continued to breastfeed me and has always been a real advocate for proactive parenting.
When I became pregnant with my first child, she sent me was Ina May Gaskins book Spiritual Midwifery. That was my very first present.
Tell us about your breastfeeding experience:
I did read Spiritual Midwifery and I did have a lot of conversations with my mom and with WIC. We were a military family and I did tap into the WIC services. We were living Guam at the time. I was very determined to breastfeed. I wound up having a forced cesarean at a naval hospital and this led to separation for me and my baby for the first couple of days.
I wound up unable to stand up and walk to the nursery due to my condition. They had a policy at that time that you had to be able to stand up and walk to the nursery in order to see your baby. I kept passing out in the hallway and eventually my husband just said this is ridiculous and he carried me into the nursery. He said that you can’t stop her from seeing her baby. The first time I saw my baby he was hooked up to all sorts of tubes and was connected to every kind of tube and wire you can imagine.
He was a giant child he was not born early but he seemed so fragile to me. I wanted to breastfeed him and try and breastfeed this little person who I haven’t met. I had not even been able to see him because I did not even have my glasses on when he was born. When they held him across the room I couldn’t even see that there was a child there. It had been days and I had to touch him and feel him and get to know who this little person was and then to try and breastfeed him with all these wires. Breastfeeding was difficult. Eventually they brought him into my room and every session from that point on for the first few weeks was challenging. There was a lot of bodily fluids, like tears and breastmilk because I cried every single time I fed him. There was no La Leche League in Guam, so I didn’t feel like I had many avenues for good information. My Dr. told me that if it was hard that I should just breastfeed. And it is funny, I remembered exclusively breastfeeding. I think it is because I have such a passion for exclusivity. A couple of years ago my mom shared with me some early video clips of those days and there are video clips of me bottlefeeding him in the hospital that I have completely blocked out. It sent me into this spiral kind of grief to know that I had formula fed him and knowing what I know today and knowing what I felt about formula feeding at the time.
It did lead to a very deep bonding experience with my son and I. I am so grateful for having that experience too. I do know that I was exclusively breastfeeding from his second week on and really do not know how many time I supplementing him those first couple of weeks. It was a good experience after the first couple of weeks. Now, after having been in the field for over 20 years I do see that with many of the feelings that I work with. We are sleep deprived and we are in a relationship with a new person and we’re learning their personality. It is not just about feeding them. It’s how we are interacting with our baby and how we are developing our relationship.
Laurel shares her experience of working in a Syrian refugee camp and tells us about one of the mothers gave birth, had a baby in the NICU and the NICU is in a totally different building then where the mother stays postpartum. They cannot see their babies until discharged.
Laurel talks about what is most important thing is about how you feel about your birth experience, how you feel about your breastfeeding experience and how you feel about your new mothering. What is most important is to set yourself up with the support people that make you feel the best and understand your needs. How we feel, changes our perception of everything. It can erase the reality of memory.
She focuses on helping mothers feel connected and emotionally attached to their babies. This can likely overide stressful events of becoming a new mother and about being a parent, because parenting is very stressful. The more attached we are to our babies, the better off we are forever, in terms of our familial memories.
What can Laurel share with new mothers who do not have a familiar support system?
She should focus on what she feels is most important to her in that moment. One of the key challenges that every mother faces throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding and parenting long term is the interaction of stress and allowing stress to be chronic in our lives. It changes how we perceive our world around us. It changes our hormonal releases. It changes even how and who we focus on because when we are in a state of chronic stress it actually shifts the brain into a state of ego. Ego driven behavior is not necessarily maternal driven behavior. Maternal driven behavior always puts your baby first. Whatever is happening to her, helping her find ways to reduce stress and in her life is what needs to happen.
Laurel talks about the importance of helping to reduce the mother’s stress.
If it is Day 3 and she is looking around her house and the mess is what is bothering her, then having a talk with her partner on how to remedy this is important. Identifying the one thing that can be worked on to reduce her stress so she can focus on bonding, breastfeeding and being a new mother. Laurel feels stress is something that contributes to so many long term Parenting challenge for families around the world. There are some really simple strategies that parents can learn to reduce stress in their own body and to manage stress because we can eliminate stress. We can’t control the world, but we can help to control how we perceive it and how we react to it. We can control our body and how we respond to stress. She gives us some good tips on breathing and movement. Even something as simple as repetitive yawning helps to reset the precuneus in the brain which helps our brain deal with stress better. Deep breathing. Movement – take a walk around the block with your baby in a carrier to get your large muscles firing as this helps to reduce cortisol.This is so important because if we can move from the ego state to the maternal state and that connection becomes more alive and deeper between mom and baby.
We need to know what mothers needs are.
We talked about how mothers are often not listened to and also that mothers sometimes have a hard time speaking up and telling us what they need. She suggests that mothers remove themselves from a situation that they might not be able to change. If you can’t stand to see the dishes in the kitchen or you have visitors over, you can leave the area.
Moms are sometimes sitting home alone, in quiet and darkness and so isolated. We talk about how moms are more likely to stay home then connect in real life with others. When they do connect, they are doing so by online groups. They don’t get the same kind of support and connection that they get from meeting outside the house with other mothers. They are missing the oxytocin release from being in the same room with other mothers and having that interaction. We talked about how moms are spending a lot of time on the phone while breastfeeding their babies and we wonder how this might be changing how moms connect with their babies.
Lori brings up her discussion with Aditi Singh, who is a writer and a blogger. She wrote an article for Huffington Post about cell phones and mothering. She said something that I love to quote: “our devises need a bedtime.”
Laurel talks about the need to take the time to take care of our emotional self during pregnancy and how our thoughts and feelings impact us.
She shares some fascinating research on how our placenta is listening in, to everything that is going on in the mother’s environment and using it as a guide to parental programming. It is not all the varied states of emotion, however, it is the chronic state of stress that moms might be in during their pregnancy that is the concern.
We have a great discussion about the health of the placenta and what role this plays during pregnancy. Laurel tells us that the human placenta is now being studied with the Placenta Project. We don’t know very much right now but we hope to know more in the next 10 years.
We get into a really good discussion of guilt. How do you share good information with moms without making them feel guilty.
Benefits to the 3 year old:
Breastmilk always contains the immune factors and the anti-inflammatory factors andamazing amazing protein and carbohydrates. It is not as though it stops at one year. Every meal that they have they are receiving amazing nutrition as well as the connection to their mom. There is no stopping point where all of a sudden breastmilk turns into an inert fluid. It is always a nutritionally good and amazing fluid.
The challenge is that we don’t see a large body of research where they are looking at long term breastfeeding and health outcomes. The majority of research has looked at the gold standard, which is for the first 6 months. We are interested in this, however, researchers do not have the funding and probably the interest in learning this.
There is a benefit to every meal and every connection with mothers. Lori shares her story about what she calls “Day 365.” What happens then? It would be nice if we don’t put so much emphasis on timing. How long to feed at a feeding? On a breast? how many months? years?
Please share with us some projects that you are working on or any lectures that you are giving?
Laurel is quite busy with teaching and trainings that she is doing all over the country. She has a special interest in epigenetics and the microbiome, the Placenta Project,and marijuana and breastfeeding.
Check out her website – motherjourney for details about where she is lecturing and the projects she is working on and for more information about the books she has written.
Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC
Lori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter. She has spent much of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years. Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant. She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years. Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges. She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out. You can reach Lori by email at: [email protected] or contact her via her website: allaboutbreastfeeding.biz/contact
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