3 Encouragements for Navigating Public Breastfeeding

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I’d always dreamed of being a mom, but I never really saw myself being a breastfeeding mom. It wasn't that I was against it, but, rather, I was just completely oblivious to it. I had never seen it done and, honestly, had never even thought about how babies were fed. It sounds crazy, I know! I mean, there I was, an educated woman with a Bachelor's in biology, and I literally never considered how I would feed my future kids.

 

My husband and I struggled with infertility for about five years, followed by two years of recurring miscarriages, before I was finally able to sustain a healthy pregnancy. During that time we attended a nondenominational church in Houston and became really close to a few families in our small group. One mom had two children and was pregnant with her third, another mom was pregnant with her first, and they were both due a few weeks from each other. I watched their bellies grow and listened into their conversations about childbirth, breastfeeding, and raising kids. Once they had their babies, I was lucky enough to be welcomed into their homes and to simply do life with them. They would nurse using the "two shirt" method (wearing a nursing tank under your shirt to minimize skin exposure), and nothing about it felt weird or wrong to me. In fact, it all made sense, biologically speaking, and I decided that I would do my best to breastfeed my children as well. One of those friends jokes now that she should've covered more and apologizes for any boobs my husband might have seen, but it was good for me and my husband to be around women openly breastfeeding; I don't think we would've committed to it for our own children had we not seen it done. Additionally, I am glad my husband witnessed it, as well as how my friends' husbands supported their wives; because of that, he grew to value breastfeeding as much as I did. There would be moments later in my breastfeeding journey when I wanted to give up, or was simply too exhausted to think rationally, and my husband was always right there, by my side at midnight feedings, encouraging me, praying for me, and reminding me of the many benefits breastfeeding provides for our babies and for me. Our community in Houston quietly and consistently normalized breastfeeding for us, which laid the foundation for my success and my husband’s unwavering support.

 

Fast forward to January 2014, when I welcomed my first child. I delivered my son naturally in a St. Louis-area hospital (we moved there in 2011). Due to an extremely long and exhausting birth, I struggled to get him to latch. Those first 24 hours were a revolving door of doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, medical assistants, and visitors, but I didn't feel equipped to nurse my child. Because he wasn’t latching well, my lactation consultants and doctor quickly began pushing me to use formula, rather than exhausting every resource to support my breastfeeding goals. Even my family members were asking when they would get to feed my baby, assuming that bottles (either from pumping or formula) would be my solution. We found out much later that my son had an upper lip tie that went undiagnosed; had someone taken the time to properly diagnose it and refer me to an expert in my area who could revise it, my newborn baby and I likely would not have suffered as much physical and emotional distress in those first few days. All this to say, it was infuriating to me as a first-time mom that no one seemed to believe in my innate ability to nourish my child. It was evident that at that hospital and in my local circle, breastfeeding was not normal.

 

However, with the support of my husband and my friends in Houston (800 miles away!), I was able to breastfeed my son for 13 months; I was pregnant with my daughter for 6 of those months, which is the only reason I stopped when I did. When my daughter was born in May of 2015, I breastfed her from day one and went 19 months, again, only stopping because of another pregnancy. I am currently nursing my third child, who is 17 months, with no end in sight. If you do the math, I have been nursing for 49 of the last 57 months, and, while it has been very natural and normal for me, I have continued to face criticism and resistance from the world around me.

 

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines breastfeeding as “the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development” (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/). I find it ironic that the world normal is used, because if breastfeeding were normal in the U.S.:

  • More than 57% of mothers would initiate it after birth (https://kellymom.com/fun/trivia/bf-numbers/).

  • The average age of weaning here would be closer to the global age of 3 to 4 years (see Nancy Mohrbacher’s book Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple).

  • More than 3 states would report a percentage of mothers breastfeeding past 6 months to be greater than or equal to 70% (https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/facts.html).

  • Socioeconomic status and race would not be a contributing factor to breastfeeding success rates, and women across all races and income levels would have the support and education necessary to meet their breastfeeding goals (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db05.htm).

 

If breastfeeding were normal in the U.S., I wouldn’t have personally experienced hurtful, ignorant comments from both random strangers and close family members about how I choose to feed my children. But it is clear that breastfeeding is not normal in this country, so today I'm sharing a few tips for what to do when you encounter naysayers. If my struggles resonate with you, then I hope my story will inspire you to persevere through your own challenges.

 

1.     Be confident.

 

We all have that one family member that is known for not using a filter, right? That grandparent who tells you you’re still beautiful even though you haven’t yet lost the baby weight, or that aunt who famously ruined Thanksgiving by prematurely announcing YOUR pregnancy news? Well, while attending a family gathering a few months after my son was born, my filter-less family member told me to "put my goons away" while I openly breastfed my baby in my mom's living room. Completely taken aback by the comment, I froze, unable to challenge the ignorance (or at least provide a sassy comeback). Admittedly, I wasn’t confident in that moment. I was a first-time mom and a nervous wreck about taking my newborn to the family event. However, I’ve grown in confidence over the years, and I have found that people are less likely to say anything to me if they just see me doing my thing. Like dogs, people will smell your fear and uncertainty; if you seem overly self-conscious while breastfeeding, they will sense an invitation to say something. On the other hand, if you act confident in your choice and treat it as normal, more than likely so will everyone around you.

 

I hear you asking, “But what about when they say something anyway?” That’s a great question! Because it does happen! So, on to my next tip.

 

2.     Keep your eyes on the prize.

 

Did anyone else register for one of those “hooter hiders”? I did and received two super cute patterns that I assumed would be the perfect accessory to nursing my child. But, let’s be real. You might as well try to nurse your baby in a steam room, because those nursing covers and scarves make you and your baby so freaking HOT! And, if having sweat stains under your armpits and boobs isn’t bad enough, my kids thrash their bodies under there like they’re single-celled organisms under a microscope. So, the nursing cover went into storage, and I stuck with just doing my thing.

 

While on a date with my hubby at Starbucks one afternoon, my son had the AUDACITY to want to nurse, so I discretely unhooked my nursing bra and began to feed him. A young girl at the table next to me said to the people she was sitting with, "Is this lady serious? Is she honestly just going to whip out her tit right here?" I thought to myself, My tit? Really? Like, people really say that word? But having gained more confidence in my choice about how I would feed my child, I commented back with something less snarky like, “Wow, that’s really mature of you,” and continued drinking my PSL. Maybe six months had passed between the family gathering I mentioned and this Starbucks date. Although it was still disheartening to deal with criticism, I was proud to see that I had grown in confidence and continued to be firm in my conviction to do what I deemed best for my child. At the end of the day that’s all we are really trying to do as moms, right? There is no hidden agenda; we’re just trying to feed (educate, nurture, provide for, etc.) our children in the ways we have researched and settled on being the most beneficial for our families.

 

You are responsible for your baby and no one else. Stay focused on what you are doing (feeding your baby) and remember that criticism from others is a reflection of them—their upbringing, worldview, maturity, and education—and has nothing to do with you or your baby. And don’t forget to soak up these precious moments and melt into a puddle of mush as your nursing baby smiles, coos, and bonds with you.

 

3.     Breastfeeding is not sexual, no matter what our culture (wrongly) thinks.

 

Remember those lovely friends I told you about that, by simply doing their thing, unintentionally laid the framework for my views on breastfeeding? I knew them from church, watched them openly nurse their babies (and toddlers) during services, and grew in my faith from their friendship and counsel. Due to my infertility journey, I was no longer attending that church, or even living in Houston, with those friends by the time my husband and I began having kids, but I assumed my experiences with nursing in church in my St. Louis suburb would be similar. After all, that’s the effect of normalization, right? Unfortunately, I have discovered that the Church is not as immune to societal influences as one might expect. I want to tread this topic carefully and state from the start that I love my church. In sharing the following story of my experience with openly breastfeeding in my church, I am not badmouthing my church family. I simply want to bring awareness to the fundamental truth that breastfeeding is not sexual in nature, but has been oversexualized because of the objectification of breasts.

 

During a conversation with my husband about an unrelated topic, one of our elders nonchalantly mentioned that, in some round about way that I still do not fully know all the details of, some people in the church were concerned about me openly breastfeeding my infant in the service. We were encouraged to use the cry room or to cover up as other mothers do, in an effort to preserve modesty and keep other people from stumbling. My husband went to bat for me and spent the next hour providing our pastors with data that supports public open breastfeeding, the fact that breasts have been oversexualized in our culture, the lack of postpartum care and support for moms in our country, and the fact that most women do not meet their breastfeeding goals. We had meetings with our pastors, went through months of intense emotions, and even considered leaving our church.

 

Through those difficult conversations with our elders, we learned that the chief issue was not that I was breastfeeding in church—it’s actually very common in my church, and even all of our pastor’s wives nursed their children for some time—but that I was doing it openly uncovered. The issue of modesty was raised, as well as the concept of conscience. It was never an issue of sin, and we certainly weren’t being disciplined for our choice, but, rather, encouraged to consider putting the needs and comfort of others before those of my child and me. Unfortunately I still don’t have a clear understanding of what was said in those initial comments (Was it casual? Were they angry? Does their teenager struggle with pornography? Etc.) or who made them, so I wasn’t really able to adequately resolve the issue. Knowing more about these details would have allowed me to kindly approach these people and have a conversation about the benefits of breastfeeding, the reasons I choose to do it publically, and the assurance that my heart is merely invested in nourishing my child and not in making a bold political statement. 

 

However, feeling self-conscious, embarrassed, and ashamed, I ultimately decided to remove myself from the service and feed my baby in the Cry Room. I spent many weeks crying in that room while I looked into my daughter’s big blue eyes as she nursed. Here I was giving of myself to meet the physical and emotional needs of my child, and being faithful to God’s mandate to care for her. It wasn’t an inherently immodest act, but a demonstration of love and a poignant illustration of my dependence on the God who provides. I pray that those who have looked down on a mother for openly breastfeeding in church would abandon the immodesty argument and see it as a manifestation of God’s creativity within His provision. I’m not going to pretend I’ve completely recovered from this one; the wounds are still very raw. I don't harbor bitterness, but I do wonder how we are to ever change our culture if the women brave enough to nurse in public are continually asked (or guilted) into hiding. Jessica Martin-Weber said it brilliantly in a blog post on the topic when she said, “Instead of her personhood being valid and feeding her baby acceptable, forcing a woman to cover or hide feeding her baby values her sexual appeal over the personhood of both her child and herself.” (http://theleakyboob.com/2013/07/breastfeeding-and-following-jesus-uninviting-modesty-to-the-breastfeeding-discussion/). 

 

If you are a nursing mama who has experienced criticism and resistance over your choice, I hope these tips provide you with the encouragement and support you need to continue doing what you feel is best for your family and in the manner you deem best. But if, dear reader, you have ever been the one offering criticism to breastfeeding moms in your circles, I hope my experiences have given you a better understanding of how challenging it is to face opposition on a topic that is solely about meeting the physical and emotional needs of a child. If so, I encourage you to do whatever you need to do to make it right. Had I not found the right friends in Houston over a decade ago, many years before I even had children of my own, that could’ve been me, too. Honestly. But as I always say, “know better, do better, be better.”

 

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All photos by Allison Nicole Photography https://www.allisonnicholephotography.com/

5 Reasons To Sign Up for My Whole30 Boot Camp

June 11th is only a few days away, but there's still room for you to join my Pre-Whole30 Boot Camp. Here are a few reasons why I think this service is a MUST for anyone looking to change their life.

1. Boot Camp is not the Whole30, so you don't need to worry about changing your diet, buying certain groceries, or how your kids will respond to you cooking different foods (not yet, at least). The whole point is to learn the WHY and HOW behind the Whole30 so that you have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to DO a Whole30 when the time is right for YOU.

2. Studies show that we are more likely to follow through on our plans to make changes when we have the support of other people. By joining my Boot Camp, you will be accountable to me and other people, just like you, hoping to learn how to change their health, habits, and relationship with food.

3. As a Whole30 Certified Coach I am full of experience and expertise that I will be bestowing upon you. If you've followed me for a while, or know anything about my story, you'll know that I have not always lived this life. The Whole30 was the catalyst that jumpstarted my healthy lifestyle, and I have proven that this lifestyle can be affordable (hello, single income household) and sustainable. In my Boot Camp, you'll have direct access to me and my wealth of knowledge on whole living.

4. It's only two weeks, albeit a jam-packed two weeks, but I know you have done harder things and for longer periods of time. Let these next two weeks be about doing something for YOU! You don't have to wait until January to make a resolution to get healthy. Get signed up today and let's get you started on your journey towards incredible wellness!

5. It's only $50, but what you gain from it will be worth far more! If you're anything like I used to be, you probably spend $50 on Starbucks each month or at a restaurant with your family for one meal! This investment will set you up for success with tips and tricks of the trade that can help you meet your health and wellness goals.

I hope you'll consider joining me and the great group of people who’ve already signed up and are gearing up to change their life. Monday, June 11th is the first day, and because I want you to get the most out of the experience, I will no longer accept new members after that date. Hope to see you there!

Best in health,
Kelly

5 Tips for Making Your Next House Party a Whole30 Success

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I love hosting parties! Birthdays, baby showers, book club, a friend selling a product as a little side gig—I love it all! There's just something so fulfilling about opening my sacred space to others and gathering around the kitchen island for food and fellowship. I used to rely on prepackaged foods like chips, cheese and crackers, frozen meatballs in the crockpot, and store-bought desserts for these events because they required minimal prep . . . because, honesty bomb, my house is usually a disaster from raising three little ones, and no matter how long I stare at the dishes piling up since breakfast, they still refuse to wash themselves. (Insert Gif of Stephanie Tanner saying, “How rude!”). This template worked for me (and maybe you can relate?) until I completed my first Whole30 two years ago. Those thirty days not only changed my life but also set me on a path toward helping others break free from unhealthy habits.

I remember the first party I hosted after my Whole30. It was my son's 2nd birthday party, and, having picked baseball as his party theme, we decided to serve "ballpark food" to our guests. So during the most glorious part of my day—nap time—I got out my trusty G-2 ink pen and planner and started making a list of what we'd serve:

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  • hot dogs.
  • nachos.
  • chicken fingers and fries.
  • peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
  • popcorn.
  • pretzels.
  • cotton candy.
  • cookies decorated to look like baseballs.

As I stared at the list, I started to feel conflicted about serving our family and friends those foods. It had only been a few weeks since I’d completed my first Whole30 and my family had permanently transitioned to a Paleo diet as part of our food freedom. My energy was through the roof (even with a nursing baby keeping me up at night), and my husband and I could finally fit into our wedding rings again! Suffice it to say, we were loving our new lifestyle! As I sat there planning the party, I decided I needed to live by example and choose healthy, wholesome foods for the party.

We ultimately stuck with the ballpark food theme but made Whole30 versions instead. Our menu ended up looking like this:

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  • compliant hotdogs without buns.
  • build-your-own-nachos bar with grilled chicken, ground beef, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, jalapeños, guacamole, and plantain chips.*
  • fresh fruit tray.
  • fresh veggie tray with homemade dump ranch.
  • pretzels.**
  • baseball cookies.**

* At the time, plantain chips were compliant, but they have since been blacklisted (and for good reason). I think they're great for part of your food freedom and keeping house guests happy, though.

** Because food freedom is something I hope my kids learn, I let them decide from time to time if indulging in a treat is "worth it" to them.

We had a lovely time celebrating, and our guests commented on how delicious our “healthy” food was. When my husband and I finished the 387,429 dishes from preparing such a feast, we sat down to debrief the day (okay, and post our pics to Instagram). We decided that, while our food was delicious and it felt great providing mostly compliant food to our guests, we'd need to come up with food that required less prep (and fewer dishes) for our next party. Finding something that my husband wouldn't have to grill outside in below freezing temperatures or that could be prepped ahead of time would be our goal for the next party.

A few months later I found myself removing all the blue decor and hanging up pink and purple for my daughter's 1st birthday party. In an effort to simplify the cooking and cleanup process, we settled on the following menu for her party:

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  • homemade chicken salad with walnuts, celery, and grapes.
  • deviled eggs with homemade mayo.
  • fresh fruit tray.
  • veggie tray with dump ranch.
  • plantain chips* with guacamole and salsa.
  • bacon wrapped dates.
  • marinated kale salad.
  • Paleo chocolate cake.**

* I know, I know.

** Not Whole30, but my baby girl’s birthday was worth indulging.

In the days leading up to the party I started to worry that my guests wouldn't be happy. I mean, we did JUST throw an epic birthday bash for my son, and now all I'm offering is some chicken salad, fruit and veggies, and a few finger foods? Would that be enough? Would they eat, drink, and be merry?

The short answer is YES! So let me break it down for you and show you how we nailed it for my daughter's party and how you can too at your next event. I now present to you 5 tips for making your next house party a Whole30 success:

 

1. The fridge is your friend.

All but one item on our menu was fully prepared ahead of time, so that all I needed to do was set it out five minutes before the party! The day of the event included none of the stress of last-minute cooking, cleaning, and hiding dirty dishes (tell me I'm not the only one who does this?). As you plan your party, focus on foods that can be at least partially prepared ahead of time: just pop it in the oven, warm it up in the slow cooker, or set it out on the counter as is!

2. The magic is in the meal prep.

Utilize the party’s menu as part of your weekly meal prep leading up to the event. In my case, I roasted two whole chickens a few days before the party, and we ate part of one for dinner and then shredded the rest to make chicken salad. Doing this allowed me to avoid an extra cooking (and dishes) session just to make party food. What can you cook earlier in the week that would make perfect party food? This may be a main dish, a side dish, or even dips and dressings that you’ll need for your party. You know you’ll already be in the kitchen on the days leading up to your event, so you might as well make the most of each time you cook.

3. Leftovers are life.

Cook way more food than you need so you have leftovers, and develop a plan to make sure you eat everything in the days after your party. I always plan on having leftover veggies and will typically roast them or add them to a frittata so I don’t have to worry about cooking breakfast each morning. Another favorite use of leftover veggies is to finely dice and sauté them for a homemade Bolognese sauce. I’ll serve the sauce over spaghetti squash, add it to zucchini boats, or use it to stuff bell peppers for meals later in the week. Regarding my menu, kale salad gets better with time, and I love eating the leftovers as a breakfast side or adding protein on top to make for a quick and easy lunch. Should there be any leftover chicken salad, it makes for a quick and easy meal after a busy weekend celebrating. What leftovers do you love?  Simplify the days after your event by planning meals around them.

4. Consider what’s “worth it.”

Every food and drink you serve at your party will force your guests (and you) to decide if indulging is worth any potential consequences or not. Consider who will be at your party and where they are on their journey. Really ask yourself if, for example, cotton candy is worth it (for me, no), if Paleo chocolate cake would be a better option, or if the fruit tray will provide enough sweetness to satisfy your guests. You may find that having good, nutritious food at your event leaves your guests satiated and not wanting the salty crunch of chips or the sugar high of dessert. Or you may deliberately choose to serve mimosas to celebrate the fact that you survived your child’s first year of life. However it plays out, remember there’s no shame in your decision. Own it. Enjoy it. And Move on with your food freedom. 

5. Include a crowd pleaser.

In my case this is almost always bacon. If there's ever a time when you can justify spending $71.35* on Whole30‑compliant bacon, it's when you're hosting a party. Bacon‑wrapped dates are super easy to make and can be prepped ahead of time. Just throw those bad boys in your oven a few minutes before party time and watch as the smell draws your guests into your kitchen. Don’t plan on having any of them leftover for your weekly meal plan, though, because they get eaten pretty quickly! Maybe bacon isn’t your jam (gasp!); instead, consider who will be in attendance and what foods and drinks they love. Maybe your friend just got back from a year long sabbatical in Vietnam and loves spring rolls, or your siblings have fond memories of your late grandma’s famous sweet potato casserole. Prep it ahead if you can, make it compliant if possible, or just consider it “worth it” and lovingly serve it to your guests.

* Slight exaggeration. Most compliant bacon can be purchased for around $6–$7.

Whether I am currently doing a Whole30 or not, I love providing real, wholesome food to my guests. Doing so has allowed me to practice what I preach and to encourage others to improve their life by changing what’s on their plate. Do keep in mind, however, that not everyone coming to your event will have bought in to your lifestyle, and that’s okay. Remember why you’ve gathered to celebrate and let the food speak for itself. You don’t need to dust off your megaphone from your varsity cheerleading days and announce that all of the food is Whole30‑approved. Let them enjoy the party, and when they ask for your chicken salad recipe (because they will, trust me), you can use that as a springboard to a deeper discussion about eating real food. You never know; they might just decide to join you on your next Whole30!

Food is a central and vital component to our celebrations and relationships, and I want to demonstrate my love for the people in my life by serving them great food. Admittedly, my example menus are by no means exhaustive and could be modified to fit your next party’s food goals. Hit me up in the comments with what you would serve that could be prepared ahead of time, could be part of your meal prep, or would produce leftovers. I hope you found my tips helpful and that your next party is a success!

 



 

 

 

Life before the Whole30: A Necessary Step in My Journey to Whole Living

Life before the Whole30: A Necessary Step in My Journey to Whole Living

Cliché or not, Whole30 has changed my life. I am healthier, happier, and don’t have the same negative relationship with food that I used to. I don’t look back on my journey before Whole30 with regret, shame, or disdain. Instead, I know that each step was guiding me to the necessary place of being vulnerable enough to admit that I needed to make some changes in my life.

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