Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She founded Mothering.com in 1995 and was its editor-in chief until 2012. Peggy was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.
In this interview, we discuss –
1. What parenting was like in the early 1970’s and 1980’s. It was pretty isolated for those of us who were into midwives, homebirthing, cloth diapering, bed sharing.
2. The steps that Lori took to find a midwife who attend her birth. How she eventually met a local mom who had a homebirth in the same apartment complex that she lived in. This let Lori know that this would be a possibility for her to have a homebirth for her next baby.
Peggy’s Background – People who know her now would be surprised to learn about the family that she grew up in. Her father was in the military and they moved around a lot. Her family were strict Catholics. She had a pretty conservative up bringing. She loved moving around and learning about other places, but moving around was very hard emotionally. Her parents fought a lot and drank a lot and there was domestic violence in her family. She had a lot of early experiences that made her feel like she would not be a good mother. Mothering for her was a way to sure her way up with information and research. She was networking before the word was popular. This was how she set myself up to be the parent I wanted to be because I did not have a good role model.
The things we learn an what we experience in our first 3 -5 years are laying down the foundation, hard wiring us for the future. When we are hard wired for violence and witness parenting that is not nurturing we have to look for ways to undo that. This can be done, but It is a process. Peggy feels that some parents who are reading Mothering are doing so because they are looking for that. They are also looking for alternative parenting that this generation had moved away from.
Her role models:
The nuns for her were someone who consistency encouraged her intellect and nurtured her this one in High School noticed that she was a good writer and put her on the school newspaper. She was also a good reader and read this book called – Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, which was about the English boarding school Summerhill School, by A. S. Neill. This book spoke about the innate goodness of the child and this reading told Peggy that, Wow, you really can be a good person without having to control everything you do. This was the beginning of Peggy really learning how to trust her own instincts. Peggy also acknowledges the positive influence of her 2 great grandmothers and aunts and uncles so she did have some good role models around her.
Lori described a fairly average childhood, which was a good childhood. Yet, her mother had all her babies in the hospital and formula fed all her 5 children. It is interesting to think how Lori even decided to breastfeed and looking into midwifery and home birth.
Peggy and Lori talked about mother’s groups, like La Leche, that exposed them to other like minded mothers and homebirth and midwives which influenced them. Peggy talked about life before her first baby, who is now in her 40’s. She lived in Southern New Mexico, she wanted a midwife attend her birth. Her husband worked with a woman who was a midwife in Britain. She had a couple of friends who were training to be midwives but they lived too far away. She called up the state health department and asked for a midwife referrals. They were not certifying them at the time. They were getting away from certifying the midwives and moving towards certified midwives so there was nobody in her area for her. She went to an obstetrician and started out her labor with an unintended homebirth. She had a very long pushing stage, there were too many people around her. She ended up transferred to the hospital.
Her very different breastfeeding experiences:
She had a vaginal birth, breastfed right away and her daughter was a very good breastfeeder. She did not have any difficulties with breastfeeding. Things went fine. However, she did have her second baby very close – 18 months later. This proved to be difficult to nurse 2 babies, to tandem nurse. Her second baby was a fussy baby and so this made it difficult. Her third baby was born with a cleft lip and palate. This was her most challenging breastfeeding experience. She pumped and fed him her milk with a spoon and then I made mixtures. He was not really able to breastfeed successfully. My 4th child nursed until she was 6. By then, I just didn’t care. I knew she would wean when she was ready and by that time she was nursing so infrequently. Peggy realized that the weaning process also included how she felt, that she would be ready to be done.
Did Peggy realize that when she was pregnant the second time, that she was at risk for dropping her milk supply? She said Noooo! That was the 70’s, we just didn’t know these things. She noticed that her nipples were sore during her pregnancy, but she did not think too much about breastfeeding her during pregnancy.
We talked about some of the myths about breastfeeding. Her son use to tease that his older sister stole his calcium. The breastmilk does not cause tooth decay. The dentist tells her that she has a very small mouth. She was not breastfed and has learned since that breastfeeding develops your jaw and the oral cavity.
Current lifestyle vocabulary – We talked about how their were ways that we parenting our babies that we just did and we often did not have names to it, like we hear now. Terms such as: tandem nursing and co-sleeping and babywearing and attachment parenting. Peggy is not thrilled with putting labels on all these activities because it makes it seems like it is a prescription that you follow vs. following what you naturally do. Peggy gave some excellent advise about learning how to follow your child, how to trust your child and not get to anxious about the developmental milestones not happening during the exact time period. If they are not meeting these goals, there is not much wiggle room and it brings up lots of anxieties and wish they could be a bit looser about some of these terms. Dont rush to such a quick judgement or let others influence you and create anxiety. When you thin all the others ae experts, you think that they know better and your instincts are put on the back burner.
Peggy also discussed the wisdom of not telling others what you are doing. It is okay to keep things to yourself as this may help to not only reduce your anxiety, but also help you to feel more freer to follow your own instincts if you do not have family members around you telling you are doing this wrong.
Her third baby – There was no immediate help for her with breastfeeding. He was born at home and she had to try and figure out how to do things on her own. She did have access to a woman who was more interested in watching that her son did not lose weight. If he did, they were going to take the baby away from her. She did have a discussion with a physician who said that she could spoon feed him. She did experiment and found ways to breastfeed him better. A certain position helped him have better suction. La Leche League did not have much information for her.
We talked about the influence of the internet and how we both feel about not having had the internet when our kids were younger. Lori felt that she might not have done well. Looking up information and not knowing what was reliable information, what were the myths, how much they would have distracted her from being a mom and paying attention to her kids. Peggy feels that since she lived in such an isolate area, that she would have liked it.
What would Peggy say to new mothers who are breastfeeding – Trust in your baby and let your baby teach you how to be a mother. Breastfeeding is a fantastic mothering tool. Follow their lead. By learning how to trust you baby, you learn how to trust yourself. It changes your whole relationship to everything. Learning to trust yourself as a parent helps you to learn about your own instincts and intuition. As an older person, this makes sense to her – Trust in herself.
Peggy likes this quote: “go to nature and be very quiet.” Hard to do when you have a new baby. It is a challenge to surrender into just being quiet with your baby, however it can help. They can perhaps try this when they are breastfeeding. She acknowledges that it is easy for her to do this now without young children under foot.
Email: [email protected]
Facebook is @PeggyOMaraJournalist
Twitter is @PeggyOM
Her Story. Part 2
Mothering Magazine –
Lori shares her experience, or should she say lack of experience of being able to observe other moms breastfeeding there babies. She loved looking at the pictures in Mothering Magazine of babies breastfeeding.
We talked about the ground breaking articles that Mothering printed on Breastfeeding and HIV positive. Other articles were quite controversial on topics such as vaccination and co-sleeping and circumcision.
Peggy tells us about difficult it was to be controversial and how the magazine lost advertisers over some of the articles. She clears up her motivation behind taking these risks. She says that she owned the magazine and could do what she wanted. Perhaps she could have kept quiet, but that was not her style. She is very pro information choice and thought that the last thing she wanted to see happen was people not having the information.
Breastfeeding Symbol Contest
This started as a result from a conference that she had attended and a workshop she took with Jack Newman presenting. The presentation showed images of just how prevalent bottles are in our culture. Bottle images are on clothing, baby products and nursing uniforms.
She decided to hold a contest with people submitting their graphics for a breastfeeding symbol. All of the symbols we have in public have babies with bottles in them. The winning symbol was designed by Matt Daigle. He is a Dad, with a wife who breastfeeds and he is hearing impaired. He said that he needed a symbol that makes sense to him. This logo has since become popular all over the world and is being used internationally.
It has become very popular all over and Peggy is very proud of this accomplishment: international symbol.
What does the research show?
We have a great conversation about organizations that by and large have good intentions and yet they have a vested interested in what information they share with the public. The AAP for instance, is funded by the pharmaceutical industry and the formula companies which is a conflict of interest. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that they are going to take a stand against formula. So, the public has to take a broader look at all the research, beyond the United States and not look toward the individual agencies to guide them in the right direction.
For example, In England, their whole medical system is now recommending births with midwives, either at home or free standing birthing centers as safe and cost effective places to give birth. Hospitals are a last resort as the research shows it is clear that there are more interventions in hospitals. You can check out the link to the Cochrane Report below.
The History of Mothering Magazine –
Peggy gives a detailed explanation of why Mothering Magazine shut down. She describes the magazine as being her baby and what a terrible tragedy it was to have to let go.
Lori tells us how much she loved Peggy’s editorials saying that they were her favorite and how she would make copies of them rather then rip them out to save. How sad Lori was when she learned the magazine was stopping production.
What is Peggy doing now?
She decided to start her own website and began to add her content to the site, peggyomara.com in August of 2013. She is developing a childbirth education program online and also a pregnancy newsletter online. She manages Earth Mama p Facebook page for parents who have suffered infant loss. It is called: Healing Hearts baby lost comfort
Links to this website is listed below.
Lori talks about her membership site – Allaboutmothering.com
This site specializes in information for parents who desire to have easy access to accurate information on subjects from conception to birth and postpartum. Lori interviews authors and experts in their chosen fields.
She will be contacting Earth Mama about working together to provide information to her members on the subject of infant loss.
Words of wisdom from Peggy:Trust in yourself!
Breastfeeding – Peggy definitely sees the need for IBCLCs. She also feels strongly that moms should get information from other moms and La Leche League and the breastfeeding community. It is as important to connect with other breastfeeding mothers as well and learn from each other.
How can we create a community around us, in our communities that support us.
Postpartum Stage: We talked about how important it is that we have help during the postpartum period as it is such a life changing time and often quite isolating. So many women either think that they can handle it all themselves and don’t put much effort into gathering all their help ahead of time. Other moms who know they need help, don’t ask as they think it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. Peggy reminds us that it is a sign of strength to ask for help, not weakness. Peggy feels that hiring a postpartum doula can be really helpful to the new mother and encourages moms to do this if it is within their budget.
We talk about the high breastfeeding initiation rate is and yet there is a very large number of moms who discontinue way sooner then they had planned to. While there are many reasons for this, not getting the help they need postpartum – household help, mom/baby help and breastfeeding help, are common reasons moms do not continue. Returning to work and pumping is another hurdle for moms to get through.
Peggy’s contact info:
Websites that she mentioned for more information:
Breastfeeding article and Logo:
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence –
Book that Lori mentioned:
Milk Matters – Maureen Minchin
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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