Oklahoma City, OK – Normalize Breastfeeding Tour

I headed out to Oklahoma City and man was I in for a surprise! This city has the kind of hometown feel that made me want to pack up my family and move there right away – if I could only bring the San Diego weather along with me!

I arrived midday and was picked up by my host, Jillian of Lettering Express, and sponsor of our annual t-shirt fundraiser. We headed back to her shop where her nursling was also being cared for, and I had a chance to see our #idtNBF16 t-shirts being printed. It was very cool to make this connection to something that I have worked so hard to create and I take pride in the quality of their company’s products and their efficiency.

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She is a young breastfeeding mama of one chunky-loving baby, so of course I have decided to make this a long-term partnership to get all of the #NBFmamas their pledge t-shirts. Once she clocked out and everyone headed home she took a moment to nurse her baby boy, then we loaded up her car and headed to her house, where I stayed for the weekend.

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If you love big green trees, lots of grass, vintage homes, and that old town feel then you will love Oklahoma City! However, I was told while I was there, “just wait five minutes and the weather’ll change!” It poured rain as we were planning to all meetup at a local family event, so we moved under a patio cover at a restaurant called Fassler Hall and had some delicious dinner. Afterwards, we headed home to enjoy some wine while we caught up on the details for the following day.

Then next morning I was greeted by a local midwife and last-minute mentorship participant, Margarett Scott. After our talk at the shop the previous day it was obvious that she would benefit from my mentorship class about starting your own passion project and it would be great practice for me to teach as well. I am proud to say that we successfully launched her project, 1000 Births, which aims to bring awareness to trauma and shame in the birth community.

That evening I got down to business with putting together all of Goodie Bags for our mini session mamas and even got some cute tiny bags for the group session mamas to make it easier to pre-package the yummy session snacks provided by Bessie’s Best Lactation Cookies. It took a few hours and plenty of wine, but the result was totally worth it! To my surprise, I received a late night video call from my 30 month old nursling from San Diego as I was getting ready for bed. He wanted to show me his new motorcycle that his dad bought for him. I was sad as we hung up because he refused to blow me a kiss. I am sure that he was missing his mama milk and warm snuggles.  🙁

The big day was finally here! I slept in, and it felt great. I needed all of the rest I could get before tackling a 4+ hour group session with a nice size group of local mamas and breastfeeding supporters. Before the session started, I was blessed with the opportunity to photograph a Prairie Band Potawatomi, mother of four, in front of a culturally appropriate mural for her mini session in traditional dress. Here is her story:

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6133“Nico Jovan is my 4th breastfed baby. My oldest was born with a cleft lip and I was able to nurse him successfully for over one year. I knew if I could nurse him through a cleft lip and gum line and subsequent surgeries I could and had no excuses why I couldn’t nurse all my children. My second was nursed for 2 and half years and the 3rd a little over a year. Nico was Born via C-section and the first latch was done as I was still very numb and stuck on my back, with the assistance of my very supportive husband who held him very awkwardly so baby could get that very important first latch. Nico is my first child to attend daycare so I had to learn how to pump, freeze milk and wash bottles which was a totally new learning experience for me. It has been an amazing experience to nourish my children for as long as I have, they are only babies for so long and then they grow up so fast…..So from a mama of 4…13, 9 ,4 and 1….Nurse often and cherish that bond!!!
“Mine gé gi penojéyek gé winwa pené na gi-bmomaywik, tkenagnen. Ngot-pon na zhi wgi-bmomawan. I je na wpi é-wép-pamsét o penojé wgekéndan na ode ézhnagwek mtegwagke édnezyak. Ngoji na é-bwa-ngeshek é-wi-nsedonek na bémejiyet. Mine zhe na ngot-pon ngoji gi-dodoshkéwek. Nursing. Ngom wwi-ne-ndo-shemawan wnijansewan kwéwek wzam zhe na mami. I se gé ode jayék é-wi-ngetoyék ngi-gomen.” (translation) “And the children also were always carried, cradleboards. They carried them for a year. So when the child starts walking around, he knows what the woods look like where we live. So he doesn’t get lost somewhere, he will recognize where he is at. And they nursed for about a year. Today women try to start feeding their children [food] too soon. You all will lose all of this, we were told.” This was written by a highly respected Potawatomi Elder named Jim “Bemwetek” Thunder. He is a language preservationist who was speaking about respect when he brought this up. I love how he speaks on things that were so natural in our Native Culture yet now are very controversial like baby wearing and breastfeeding.” -Enedina

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Unfortunately, some of our Oklahoma City Participants were unable to attend the meetup and group session event due to family emergencies and sickness. I must say, however, that I was taken by surprise when breastfeeding mother and 1st grade school teacher, Sarah Carp, offered up her mini session to sponsor three local moms to participate in her place! This is her story:

“I am a single mom of two. With my first son I wasn’t able to breastfeed due lack of support and him having a milk protein allergy. Now this time around with my almost 23 month old it was a challenge but we are still going strong. From latching problems in the beginning to working full-time. My son suffers from a lot of medical problems. He has a colon that doesn’t function properly, allergic to dairy and rice, dysrhtymia, and seizures. Breastfeeding is so much more than food to my son it also provides comfort and a feeling of security. I will let him self wean when he is ready.” – Sarah

And only a few days before flying out to OKC another registered mama, Kristyna Cleek – who is studying for the IBLCE – was also forced to pull out of the event due to a family emergency also offered to sponsor another local breastfeeding mama to take her place. This is her story:

“My daughter was born perfect, 8 days past her due date. Labor was difficult, 40 hours long, and exhausted us both. When she was born, she was interested in nursing, but had a hard time latching. After six days of constant nursing, and very battered nipples, we perfected our latch and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. Nursing has evolved as she has grown- it’s gone from contented sleepy-nursing to boisterous “adventure nursing” as she’s become more aware of the big world around her. She and I have loved the bonding, cuddles, and closeness nursing brings us. It’s been my life’s greatest joy to nurse our beautiful, happy, loving daughter. She is the light in our lives and I’m looking forward to every minute more of our nursing relationship.” -Kristyna

Thank you Sarah & Kristyna for supporting the #NBFtour in OKC!

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#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6186“I knew from the day I found out that I was pregnant that I wanted to nurse my baby! I did every type of research possible, from reading articles to watching videos, I was determined to be successful. Once Waylon was born it wasn’t as easy as I had wanted it to be but that didn’t stop me. We battled a shallow latch and possible tongue tie with cracked and bleeding nipples. We sought professional help through LLL and an ENT for his tie and eventually we got the hang of things. Once going back to we battled pumping, and that was a whole new adventure! We have successfully nursed and pumped for over 11 months with amazing family support!” -Kalli

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6168“After the homebirth of my son in 2012 I imagined breastfeeding would be a smooth and easy endeavor for us.  I was wrong – very wrong.  Getting a latch seemed impossible, let alone a good latch.  Then came the cracked and bleeding nipples, double mastitis, nipple shields, lanolin and prescription cream.  I winced in pain and cried at every feeding the first 3 months.  If you would have asked me 4 years ago if I would still be breastfeeding my child at four years old, I probably would have told you that you are crazy.  But here we are – 4 years and 4 months of breastfeeding later and I wouldn’t change anything.  I am proud to breastfeed in public and uncovered to show the world how beautiful and innocent a mother and child are when they share a breastfeeding bond.” -Kristen

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6195“I had no question that I would breastfeed my son, just as I was certain about having a unmedicated natural birth. I was so fortunate to have both things work out perfectly! We began with a nipple shield because he would lose his latch and have difficulty getting back on. At 3 months, after I had resolved myself to using the shield permanently, I just took it off for one nursing session and we never used it again! He is 13 months old, and I am 7 months pregnant with his new little brother. I plan to tandem nurse them until they outgrow the need to nurse entirely. The connection that nursing has brought us will last a lifetime – for both boys and for me!” -Juliet

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6201I’m so psyched to still be nursing my baby girl at 22 months with no plans to stop until she’s ready. I love breastfeeding and love the current normalize breastfeeding movement! 🙂 ” -Marla

 

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6217“While we were in the hospital, we did incredibly well. But once we got home, the difficulties began. At 2 1/2 months old, Ella was diagnosed with a severe tongue tie, lip tie, and buccal ties. Once revised it became incredibly hard for her to latch; my supply eventually drop and we had to use donor milk. Through community support and lots of breast-feeding education, I managed to increase my supply and begin to nurse my daughter once more. When originally we thought we couldn’t make it more than three months, we have made it past one year and hope to last for another year.” -Swey

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6224We started with lip and tongue ties and battled low supply. He also had jaundice. We got through everything without supplements! 14 months strong and we will continue until he weans himself!” -Casey

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Funny story…this beautiful woman below is an amazing Oklahoma City midwife who I connected with immediately after arriving. She was wearing her Birth Without Fear shirt and I was wearing my Milk Mama shirt. We hit it off and talked FOREVER about how we also need to normalize birth (coming soon)! She decided to register for my mentorship class and be photographed to support the tour. I helped her to focus her ideas into a relatable cause that she can identify with and will also help her to push for change in the birth community.

“After a life threatening pregnancy and c-section, I became a homebirth midwife. Over the course of almost 30 years I have assisted over one thousand births.” Appropriately, her project name is 1000 Births and it is brought to you by Heaven Sent Births.

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6265“My first breastfeeding experience was HARD! Severe pre-eclampsia, bags and bags of mag sulfate and not being able to nurse for days due to my condition made nursing almost impossible. My other nursing experiences with my children were better but i still had struggles, due to hypoplastic breast. I am committed to helping women discover their innate wisdom and strength in birth, breastfeeding, and raising their children.” – Margarett

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We popped into a nearby coffee shop and I snapped this lovely candid image of this mama who arrived after the first group image above.

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6304“I never thought I would feed my baby any other way. Before I was pregnant I knew I would breastfeed my children. I gave birth to my daughter in July 2015 and we’re very fortunate that it came easy to us. I am happy to give my baby the very best I can! I love nursing her and we won’t stop until she’s ready.” -Aerin

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Special shout out to the Thrive Mama Collective for allowing us to use their space to stay cool and hydrated!

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Right behind their beautiful shop was our next location; it was incredibly vibrant!! Some of the older babes were no longer interested in nursing, but hey, that’s totally normal! 😉

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#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6368My story begins with the birth of my daughter Imelda in 2013. I was a first time mom and always assumed that I would bottle feed because I was working full-time and furthermore, I was on daily medications for my Lupus. When I realized I would be able to, I was nervous and excited. It was definitely a challenge. My daughter latched only after a few attempts and I thought it would be easy from then on. However, pumping was not as successful, I am saddened to say it was a struggle to even pump 12 ounces a day. Formula supplementing was my only choice. I did not try to get too frustrated and was very happy that when she was with me she would feed fine. I have loved every second of breastfeeding and after 2 years of breastfeeding her, I discovered I was pregnant with my son and I have breastfeed him now for 6 months without any issues. I get sad when I think about not doing it anymore. I have never felt embarrassed or ashamed. I can’t believe I once even considered formula feeding from a bottle.” -Marisol

 

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6356My daughter was born March 5, 2014, we’ve been breastfeeding since, and I will allow her to self-wean.” -Cassie

 

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-“I’m a first time mom who gave up breastfeeding after a month and began my re-lactation journey when my son was 4 months old. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s now such a comfort for my son and I and we are still nursing strong at 8 months. I plan to nurse as long as he is interested in nursing.” -Sarah

#nbftour_okc_©vanessaasimmons-6403“When I was pregnant with my daughter, whether I would breastfeed her wasn’t even a question. I had already nursed her brother who was 4 years older until he was 3 despite originally thinking people who nurse their toddlers are crazy. Turns out breastfeeding that long isn’t as crazy as it sounds when you are the mother and your child is looking at you for that liquid comfort. My daughter who is currently still nursing at 3 years old, loves her “milkies”, which she reports tastes like “honey yogurt”. I am so grateful I’ve been able to nurse two children past infancy and normalize full-term breastfeeding. Now, as a CLC and apprentice midwife, I am humbled to help other families throughout their birth and lactation journeys.” -Taryn


Meet our Local #NBFtour Sponsor

letteringexpress
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“It was never a question for me whether or not to breastfeed, I always just knew this is what I would do when my little was born. After a difficult labor that ended with an emergency c-section, I was overjoyed that my son knew exactly what to do and latched immediately, it was one of happiest moments of my life. We had a little struggle in the first few weeks with weight gain, as I know many do. This is when I learned how valuable lactation consultants were. I hadn’t realized there was a “way” to breastfeed before then but our lactation consultant quickly corrected our issues and we were able to avoid supplementing. From then on, breastfeeding has been “easy” for us. Yes, it is very demanding ( more so then I had ever imagined) and yes I am up ten times a night but I can’t imagine it any other way. I can see my son’s appreciation as I am able to not only nourish him with my breast but also provide comfort and warmth. I don’t often think about it, but it is truly amazing how we have been able to bond. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, and that is perfectly fine; but for us, it was just the way to be.” -Jillian

 

Thank you Oklahoma City 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!

SPONSORS:
Sarah Carp, 3, 1st grade Teacher
Kristyna Cleek, 1, Studying for IBLCE

PARTNERS:
Indigo Willow Breastmilk Jewelry & Keepsakes

DONORS:
Boob & Baby
Anchois Coffee Co.
Sakura Bloom
Bessie’s Best Lactation Cookies
BooneOakley Breastfeeding Stickers

PROMOTERS:
Lettering Express
Breastfeeding in Combat Boots
Mom2Mom Global: Military Support Group
Natural & Holistic Baby Expo
Moms Pump Here

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