Washington, DC – Normalize Breastfeeding Tour
Only one word describes my trip to Ashburn, Virginia and Washington, DC — unforgettable. Friday afternoon, I was invited to present my work at the Loudon County Breastfeeding Coalition Meeting, which was held at the INOVA Natural Birth Center. It was a great opportunity to connect with their local lactation consultants.
Afterwards, we headed to a local cafe, Shoe’s, where a mother and waitress crossed paths last year as she was nursing in public. The waitress, also a breastfeeding mom, wanted to show the nursing mother her appreciation and support by writing her a thank you note on the back of her receipt and buying her a bottle of water to help her stay hydrated. It was a simple, thoughtful, act of kindness that urged me to reach out to the mom and waitress to create a reenactment on that special day.
“At first I was pretty conservative about where and when I nursed. I made sure to have a cover or used a blanket to shield my act from others. My first time in public was in a food court and I needed to be sitting and I put myself in the back of the room so no one would need to walk near me so I could have as much freedom to peek and not reveal myself. Lucky for me I ended up getting pretty good and becoming much more comfortable with nursing anywhere I was. I nursed him in my ergo in the grocery store and around town. When we moved back to Texas he was 6 months old. We continued to nurse and he started solis and came to nurse much less often. I think in the back of my mind I needed to be done when he was one. So I didn’t purposely deny him nursing time, but I think he also was actively into everything else in life and just naturally needed me less. We ended around 13 months when we moved to Virginia. I don’t remember the last time and it happened slowly over a few weeks but I know we were done in that last month. My second born in 2015 was a great nurser. We had even less issues. I had heard stories of other moms being harassed in public for nursing but I am thankful I never had any confrontations by strangers. I did have family members who were a little modest with the idea of me nursing where and when I wanted. With the second I also hardly used a cover since he would just rip it off anyways and it was way too hot under there.” –Crystal Corona Photography
The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing in Wegman’s, which I now LOVE, and I am hoping they will bring one to San Diego very soon! (NBFR – not breastfeeding related – but so awesome!)
Due to her extremely tight schedule, we spent an hour or so on Saturday morning with mother and lawyer, Rebecca Geller, of the Geller Law Group. Rebecca played a significant role in legislation for the year-old Virginia State Law that protects mothers and babies to breastfeeding in public, while she was nursing her own daughter at the time. The Geller Law Group continues to provide legal support to and legal services to families nationwide.
The rest of the day was dedicated to getting the #NBFtour Goodie Bags prepared for our mamas who selected the mini/private session! Here are some of the lovely things that they had to say about it:
“I was completely caught off guard – in a positive way – by the #NBFtour goodie bag! What a thoughtful take away from an already amazing event and experience with Vanessa. The t-shirt is high quality, super soft, and true to sizing. The other items in my goodie bag, and the bag itself, will bring me much enjoyment and will be useful during breastfeeding days and beyond.”
“Loved the goodie bag! Such cute and useful stuff for me and the baby!”
Finally Sunday morning we began dig in to the photo sessions, documenting the diverse variations of normal in the lives of local breastfeeding families. Much of our tour planning is virtual and the local moms help me to better understand what are good locations, time restrictions, permits needed, etc. It is quite a complex process to make these events successful and I can credit a good amount of the logistical planning to my incredibly knowledgeable host, Jill DeLorenzo, founder of PositiveBreastfeeding.com and National Administrator & Director of Nationwide Nurse-In .
After her personal breastfeeding incident at a local gym, she testified for legislation of the VA laws for breastfeeding moms. She then took a stand against the ignorant comments made by Hoda Kotb, about breastfeeding in public being “TMI,” as she organized the Nurse in at the Today Show. I was determined to make sure others could at least participate in the nurse in online through a Google Hangout. The rest is history! She started Positive Breastfeeding to help support breastfeeding organizations that have positive articles in the media.
After we wrapped her session, we packed up and headed out to the Jefferson Memorial. It was my first trip to the national capitol. It was incredible to see the historical buildings and the fascinating architecture. However, the best part was seeing how these locations, being federal property, also fully support and provide protection for mothers and babies nursing in public. Yet this begs the question, “When will federal protection be available for nursing mothers and babies everywhere in the United States?” With the rising amount of support for breastfeeding mothers, we are seeing more cases of discrimination against them. These mothers have no intention of causing a scene, they are simply wanting to feed their babies when they show signs of hunger or need of comfort.
Our photo session began with a group of active duty military mothers who occasionally breastfeed in public in uniform and pump breast milk for their babies during their breaks while on duty. They are serving their country and facing the challenges of motherhood day by day. It was so amazing to have participants from the United States Air Force, Navy, and Army. (All names of the active duty participant’s names have been removed from their uniforms for their protection.)
“I am a proud mommy of two amazing little boys ages 2.5 years and 3 months old. I attempted breastfeeding with my first son but had some issues and was not able to make it passed 6 weeks. I was not as knowledgeable at that time as I am now so I did not realize that I may have been able to save my supply or could have opted for donations if I had just reached out. Thankfully, my second son has done well with nursing right from the start despite a couple very minor bumps in the road. Three months later, we are still going strong with no end in sight. This time, I have done my research and have made it my personal goal not only to make it to at least a year but also to donate as much as I can to other awesome mommas who want the very best of nutrition from breast milk for their littles but can’t breastfeed for various reasons. -Amy
“Breastfeeding was always a major part in my plan for motherhood. I’ve been EBF for almost 10 months!I’ve wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember and as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was very committed to to the idea of breastfeeding for as long as I could. Being active duty, it isn’t very easy to keep my 11 month old on breast milk because pumping takes dedication and motivation and after doing it for 9 months, I’m tapped out. However, I’m not emotionally ready to wean my son. So, for now, my chunks will have his breast milk as well as baby food or my food. And I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.” -Carol
“…When my two-year-old, Charles was born, I knew I was not going to let anything stop me. I knew how to pump and get a good supply, I knew how to build up my stash, and I knew how to deal with bad latch and teeth. My goal was to get through TDY’s, long working hours, friends/family unsupportive comments, and not always completely supportive work environments to continue to nurse him until he outgrew the need on his own. He just turned 2, and he may quit any day, so I feel that I’ve met my goal. I joke that my first three kids were practice kids, and with this one, I’m finally getting it right. I talk to as many people as I can about my mistakes and lessons learned, in the hope that other families won’t have to wait until the fourth kid to meet their goals. I intend to become a Certified Nurse Midwife and a Lactation Consultant when I get out of the Air Force in 2020.” -Kelly
“…I’d never seen anyone breastfeed before I had him, and my mother didn’t breastfeed me, but while I was pregnant with him I’d done enough research to know that the best choice for him was for me to try. I read books and I scoured the internet learning all of the things I needed to know to be successful. From the start, our nursing relationship was everything I wanted it to be. … I donated over 600 ounces of milk to local moms who could not nurse for medical reasons and a breast milk bank. My nursing relationship with my son lasted until he was almost two, when I developed nursing aversion due to my pregnancy with my daughter. With her, nursing was not so easy. She had a milk protein allergy, and it took some accommodating to continue successfully with her. Now she is just over one year old, and still a strong and curiously athletic nurser. For me, I definitely found a calling in the effort it took to educate myself, and now I feel it is so important that other mothers have that access to education and support, so I’m in school to become an IBCLC.” -Tay
“While imagining the perfect birth for my 9lb baby boy, I was faced with reality. At 12:39 am Oct 6, 2015 I gave birth to Lincoln Thane, doctors immediately cut the cord and started working on getting the meconium out from digesting it. So worried that if I didn’t breastfeed right away he would refuse it later on, and my worst fear; him needing medical attention the next 48 hours. He went straight to NICU. Once I got into a room I started pumping for my little man, I’d bring it to him, feed him via syringe. It broke my heart that the first 24 hours I couldn’t feed him by breast but as long as he was getting my milk I was happy. The lactation consultant saw Lincoln and I the next day, he latched perfectly! Once we got discharged he was a nursing champion. Lincoln’s now almost 6 months, nursing and strong.” -Whitney
We took a short break while we allowed our military mamas to opportunity to change into their civilian clothing for the photo of the entire group. It was a delicious break as we munched on the amazing snacks provided by Bessie’s Best Lactation Cookies. They have committed to providing these for each location and we are so grateful because this is the perfect refreshment for these sessions.
“From the moment I found out we were expecting, I knew I was going to breastfeed. However, I never thought I’d be tandem nursing, but here I am tandem nursing! Nursing was easy for me, I believe, because my mind was made up that breastfeeding was the only option. I didn’t give up!!” -Jaleesa
“…The biggest “problem” I encountered was OVER producing. I was nursing on demand and still pumping 30+ oz a day. My deep freezer was full and I was running out of room. I found a mom who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t any longer I donated milk to her and her son, and made room in my freezer. I donated over 1000 oz of pure love, easily. My youngest is now just under 19 months, my goal of 24 months is drawing near and only recently have I (not so seriously) considered weaning this breastfeeding a toddler (or as we refer to the” newborntoddler”) is a WHOLE NEW WORLD!!! To hear his little voice ask for “tee tee” when he is sleepy, sad or just wanting to be close to mommy brightens my world on its darkest day. To know that I was able to provide and I am still providing my child with the best possible start in life is a great feeling. This has me considering a career change!! I’ve always been pregnancy/baby crazy, but to help moms successfully breastfeed would be great!” -Tamika
“My mom was my support in all things new baby but she didn’t nurse me or my sister so she didn’t have advice to give on this topic. Two of my best friends, both young mom’s in mid-20’s were doing it successfully so I thought, “how hard could it be?” Maybe an hour or two after I came out of surgery (c-section) and still hadn’t seen my son, a lactation consultant come into my hospital recovery room and asked if I wanted to try breastfeeding my son. I hadn’t gone to any courses to learn about it, other than watching a couple of videos but I knew 100% that I wanted to at least try to see if my son would take my milk; so I told her yes! She instructed me on the different ways to hold while feeding, told me I would need to have him only in diaper so he would stay awake, said my nipples were too big to feed a newborn so she gave me some syringes to feed him with just in case he couldn’t latch on, and left (before my son was brought to me) saying she would check in on me later… never saw her again. Needless to say my son took to the breast as soon as it was in his face. He nursed for hours on end from the very start, with no issues thankfully. The hospital nurses would continually remind me that I needed to get him on a schedule. But after talking to my sister-in-law who nursed all 7 of her children, I realized babies don’t need a schedule, that’s for our comfort not their’s. I eat and drink when I’m hungry and thirsty not when the clock strikes a certain time!” -Brittany
“I am mother of 3 sons and I breastfed all 3 boys. When I found out I was pregnant with Noah there was no doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed him as I had done his brothers. Around 20 weeks into my pregnancy I found out Noah had a small omphalocele (a rare abdominal wall defect) and that he would require surgery once he was born, which meant he would spend some time in the NICU. Born at 37 weeks Noah faced a couple other challenges, such as a small PDA in his heart and a grade 1 reflux of the kidney, that would make breastfeeding in the beginning a little difficult. Since he had surgery a day after birth he didn’t get to latch right away. His first taste of breast milk was from a bottle, which caused nipple confusion making our first latch proved to be a challenge. We saw the CLC at the Children’s Hospital who reassured me that things would get better. After a week of using a nipple shield, I was determined to get rid of the nipple shield and just nurse him without worrying. Because of his early birth and his other health issues, he gained weight at a slower paced than the doctor wanted and she diagnosed him with FTT (failure to thrive). She insisted on formula and I was determined to give Noah just my milk, because I didn’t want to cause any other health issues for him. So I went to the Breastfeeding Center here in DC and talked to an IBCLC who weighed Noah and helped me supplement with my own milk to ensure that Noah was getting all that he needed. After many visits and follows ups Noah is a healthy 14 month who LOVES his Milkies and there is no end in sight. My plan is to breastfeed him as long as HE NEEDS!!!” -Porteria
“I always knew I would breastfeed. My mother did it and I felt it was the only thing to do. I breastfed my oldest over 2 decades ago, but for a very short time. The support system while overseas was nonexistent. With my son I was excited and found wonderful support groups and discovered I provided a safe and secure place for other moms when they visited my home for play dates. That was important to me. Breastfeeding was difficult at first, my little guy didn’t latch right initially. The soreness and tenderness took some time to get used to. I went back to work when he was around 3 months. The company I worked for was more than accommodating which made the transition doable. I pumped twice a day at work in the privacy of my office until my son was 1. After that I moved to him finishing up the last of my stored milk at daycare then on to almond milk. We nurse on demand all weekend long and whenever he is with me. I find that it’s harder now that he is older. He will be 2 at the end of May. He likes to pull down my shirt in public, we are working on asking first. He also still enjoys nursing all night so we are working to stop that, it mainly for my sanity and desire to sleep instead of short naps all day. I will nurse from my breast until both him and I are ready to stop. It’s natural and who is to say when it’s no longer appropriate. Based on what!!!! Unless you are sexualizing it in am just feeding my child!!!” -Jocelyn
After we finished up at the memorial we headed over to Hains Point. It was starting to get pretty chilly, but with the sun still shining we finished up our sessions in this beautiful area of the park.
“Yusuf is our last baby so nursing him has been bittersweet as I know it’s not going to happen for me again. He is also my only child since I became a birth worker 8 years ago so my awareness about the importance of breastfeeding him and the future ramifications are heavy for me. He is also the first baby of mine that has had to go to daycare so I only nurse him at night and during the day on weekends. It makes me feel so good to see him make the sign for milk or when he parts my chest. It’s a beautiful connection that I can continue to give to him from my body even after he is walking, talking and eating solids, it’s the time I get to stare into his eyes and kiss his little hands and savor these last intimate connections before he becomes too grown to want to be around his mother…” -Muneera
“My first child was born at 36 weeks and was very small. Her birth was traumatic and we weren’t able to nurse for a few hours following. She was so small and so tired and just never latched well. Breastfeeding was so important to me so I worked very hard, sought the help of lactation consultants, went to a support group and was able to nurse her, with supplementation, for 10 months. She weaned herself, I was heartbroken, but also so proud. When my son was born 5 months ago, his delivery was smooth and he latched immediately. I was so relieved. He’s been a pretty great nurser ever since. However I do feel that my challenge with my first child gave me the knowledge and tools to form a better, easier nursing relationship with my second. He is still EBF and I am still so proud.” -Jesse
“I returned to work when my son was 8 weeks old and I was all in for committing to pumping. Before my son, my career demanded 60+ hours a week from me. I returned declaring that not only would I be limited to a firm 40 hours a week so that I could strike a balance between my job and my family, but was determined make pumping WORK in my work schedule. And I did. I made it to one year, my job did not suffer, in fact I able to find boundaries with my supervisor and coworkers in terms of my personal time which were not there previously. In the course of my 10 months of pumping at work I had a couple different desk locations, and at one point, I even pumped sitting at my desk in our open office. For the most part, I took breaks to pump in the accounting closet. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was what my private firm has to offer. It was not easy and I came up short of quotas every day; perhaps it was because I didn’t pump for long enough, perhaps because I waited too long between pumps… but around the six months mark I succumbed to supplementing because I was only producing half of what my son needed for daycare. I continued to pump because I wanted to maintain my breastfeeding relationship and it’s always been the most special time I have to reconnect with my son after being away from him for the entire day Monday through Friday. But I opted to supplement with donated milk from three other big-hearted & generous mommas in that same support group I attended in the beginning. In my personal time, I have since become an advocate for other breastfeeding mommas…. I petitioned the Washington Nationals for a family nursery because I was inspired knowing there so many of us out there who could benefit from having a clean and comfortable space to nurse or pump in large public venues.” -Katie
“I was fortunate to grow up in a family where breastfeeding was the norm, so I always planned to breastfeed my children. My first child was an easy nurser, and I had an excellent support system including an amazing Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who is also an IBCLC. I attended a bi-monthly breastfeeding support group for the entire 2.5 years that my daughter nursed. We were a tight-knit group, and the peer support helped to normalize the concepts of full-term or natural-term nursing and child-led weaning. My second child changed my experience of breastfeeding being easy, as we faced many challenges in the early days and months. I relied heavily on my existing support system during that time, and sought online support as well which had not been as readily available during my first child’s time breastfeeding. We persevered through the difficult times, and by the end of our breastfeeding journey my second child had nursed for five full years. Sometimes child-led weaning takes you unexpected places! From the beginning of my breastfeeding journey in 2004, I always knew that laws protecting breastfeeding mothers in my state (VA) were not ideal. In 2014, I decided to begin work to improve breastfeeding-related laws and founded the VA Alliance for Breastfeeding Laws. We had great success in 2015 with unanimous passage of our Right to Breastfeed in Public Places law. Since that time, our grassroots group has grown to over 800 members and we continue to work towards improved pumping laws, improved workplace protections for pregnant and lactating women, paid parental leave, and other issues relevant to families during the childbearing years. One of the most rewarding aspects of my breastfeeding advocacy work has been connecting with fellow breastfeeding supporters – like Vanessa Simmons – not only in VA but also across the country. I am honored to know such amazing advocates who support women, children, and families in their breastfeeding journeys.” -Kate
Katie, Jill, and Kate all worked together to help get VA’s public breastfeeding law passed.
Meet our Local #NBFtour Promoter
With the help of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, we established an “Active Duty Military Mama” Discount for military participants and brought in five additional participants with the promotion. It is now available at all upcoming locations. Active duty military moms have so many obstacles to breastfeeding that civilian moms don’t even have to consider. The one place they can go where they’ll receive support unlike anywhere else is Breastfeeding in Combat Boots. Veteran and author, Robyn Roche-Paull IBCLC, wrote the handbook to address all of the concerns of active duty breastfeeding mothers in the military. She also came out to be photographed for the tour and to show support to our active duty participants.
Thank you Washington, DC mamas for nursing in public and helping to normalize breastfeeding!
Special thanks to all of the #NBFtour collaborators for helping to make this tour great!
Contact us to sponsor a participant or a city email@example.com
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