Born To Be Breastfed > Articles by: Marie Biancuzzo

Woman, write your own story!

Listen to the podcast “Hypnobirthing”

These days, we hear so much about empowerment. We hear women proclaim the importance empowerment; they emphasize their need to become empowered; they help other women to become empowered. But honestly, I’ve never heard a woman say, “I know that my birth experience could empower me more than any other event in my life. How can I maximize that opportunity for empowerment?”

The media repeatedly tells us that labor and delivery is a painful, panicky process. With that in mind, women have already entered the fear-tension-pain cycle, and seek relief. Most turn to drugs (often those given as epidural analgesia) to minimize or eliminate what they assume will be unbearable pain. I remember the first time I asked an expectant couple why they had decided to use epidural anesthesia as soon as labor began. They  quickly responded, “Why would you have pain if you could completely avoid it?” I stood there, dumbfounded, trying to figure out what to say. I’ve never come up with a response.

I always want to blurt out, “So that you could be fully present in the moment! So that you could feel the power of pushing a baby out into the world! So that you could savor the moment of feeling for a few moments as though you were a goddess, suspended between heaven and earth!” Having assisted hundreds if not thousands of laboring women, I completely acknowledge that there’s a time and a place for medication; I’ve seen some really rough labor/births. But I try to help women consider all options, because I know that some of them are missing that truly empowering opportunity.

With so much emphasis on how hospital practices—including medicated labors—can impact breastfeeding, I asked my guest, Robin Frees, to talk about hypobirthing in this episode. She talks about how “feel-good” hormones help you to have a good labor and a good experience breastfeeding, whereas stress hormones set you up for something very different. She talks about the value of writing your own birth story and practicing self-hypnosis. She talks about using imagery, visualization, and positive affirmations, and the power of our subconscious. She tells us that we can create our own birth experiences. How empowering is that?

As Deborah Day observed: “Rewriting the negative beliefs you have learned is the essence of becoming the director of your life.”
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Parents’ Best Gifts for Their Children

The Best Gifts Listen to the podcast “Parents’ Best Gifts for Their Children”
I have never met her. Yet over the past 17 years, we have talked (via email) many, many times. Some letters have been exchanged over the miles, snail mail providing an assist to our communication as letters I wrote were postmarked in my country and delivered in hers (and vice versa). I have seen pictures of her, but I have never seen her. Once, she chatted with me by phone. Tonight, she came to me by Skype. Always, during those 17 years, this woman has come to me through her book.

Books are funny things; they aren’t people and yet they introduce us to people. They introduce us to their characters—real or fictional. They introduce us to the character’s family and friends, and sometimes to our own friends. Often, they cause us to see parts of ourselves that were previously unseen. And, of course, books introduce us to their author.

I often like to describe how I met my guest for a particular episode, and I can tell you that I met award-winning author Marsha Skrypuch through her second book, The Best Gifts, shortly after it was first published in 1998.

Read Marsha’s book, and you’ll begin to know Marsha. Having written 19 books for children and young adults, Marsha is committed to sharing a view of the world as children see it, rather than as we adults do. This alone tells us so much about how important it is to her that children feel respected. Marsha’s message that breastfeeding is the ultimate gift of love and presence tells you so much about her values. The way she concludes the book helps you to understand that Marsha has a long-term view of the world and its families and communities. (No spoiler alert here. I encourage you to go read it yourself!)

During my “Born to be Breastfed” episode with Marsha, many things she said rang a proverbial bell with me: · She immediately thanked me for pronouncing her name correctly. Yeah, well, when you have a last name like “Biancuzzo,” you know that’s an important point! · Marsha mentioned her desire for parents to enjoy the book and not dread reading it again—as parents ultimately must read favorite books time and again. I was reminded of an earlier guest on the show, musician Laurie Berkner, who said she always tried to create kid music that adults would like! <br /><br />

The fact that her original cover for the book (featuring a naked, nursing breast) drew such a negative reaction from American booksellers reminded me of Rachelle Lestishen’s blog at describing the “Cyberbullies” who took down a Facebook post of a woman who was breastfeeding. Yikes. Rachelle’s issue, 17 years after Marsha’s book was published, is the same story, different day. Sigh…

I’m glad to have gotten to know Marsha as the result of her book, and I’m glad to be able to introduce her to you through this show. After listening, be sure to visit her web site to learn more about The Best Gifts and her many other fantastic books.

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Exercise for Health

Listen to the podcast “Exercise — Before, During, and After Pregnancy”
pregnant_exerciseWhat if I told you that by doing just one thing, you could become a rich person?  Let’s say I told you that by doing this one thing, doing it well, and doing it every day, you’d be a rich person within a short time. I would again emphasize that it takes only one thing to achieve that rich-person status. You’d probably want to know how such a simple thing would work. I’d explain that this one thing is a catalyst—a substance that increases the rate of a reaction. Maybe you’re already wondering how to achieve great wealth using this one thing—and only one thing, this catalyst—to accelerate your desired outcome.

OK, honestly, I don’t have the remotest idea what one thing will make you a rich person or even just a bit wealthier than you are now. But I do know the one thing that will make you healthier!


As famed American fitness and nutrition icon Jack LaLanne said, “Yes, exercise is the catalyst. That’s what makes everything happen: your digestion, your elimination, your sex life, your skin, hair, everything depends on circulation. And how do you increase circulation?”


Certainly, we can do a number of things to improve our appearance and all of our bodily functions: eating better foods, getting better sleep, and many other good habits. But if you’re looking for a catalyst—something that will accelerate the change—exercise is the one thing you need. That’s true even whether you’re preconception (planning a pregnancy), pregnant, or postpartum (recovering from pregnancy). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthy women engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity during and after pregnancy. And, women who are already involved in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity can continue to do so, with a physician’s guidance.

By the way, if you’re looking to be a rich person, you might try exercise to achieve that, too! Certainly, no one would trade wealth for health, but the two are not entirely unrelated. Many studies (such as this one) show that exercise improves cognitive function. I don’t think it’s a far leap between a better, clearer brain and a bigger bank account.

What other one thing can you name that brings about such diverse improvements? I’ve never heard anyone put the cure for improving her skin and hair into the same sentence with how to improve her sex life. Yet because exercise is such a good catalyst, it improves all bodily functions, and has also been shown to improve mood disorders.

Do just this one thing—exercise. Do it well, do it every day, and within a short time you’ll be a healthier person. Yes, continue doing all of the good stuff you’re doing to promote your good health, but if it’s going more slowly than you’d like, try using the catalyst—the one thing—that will accelerate your outcome: exercise
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“Doorknob” Approach to Prenatal Care Leaves Patients Cold

Listen to the podcast “Breastfeeding Support Before and After Birth”
When I think about prenatal care, I think about urine samples. I think of the blood pressure cuffs, and the kaklack, kaklack, kaklack of listening to the baby’s heartbeat. I think of the doctor’s hand on the doorknob.

Some years ago, a good friend of mine who had just returned from a prenatal visit started asking me some questions. Working as I was as a labor/delivery nurse, I was happy to provide some answers, but after several questions, I asked my friend: “Did you ask the doctor any of those questions?”

“Oh, I tried, “she responded. “But he had his hand on the doorknob. He always has his hand on the doorknob.” He was out the door before she had a chance to ask any of the questions she had.

It was only a few days later that her doctor came into the labor and delivery coffee room. Chatting with several of us nurses, he mentioned that he had taken care of 40 prenatal patients at his office that day. Another nurse called him out on his claim. “Those 40 women didn’t get actual care,” she said. “They just filed by.” Ah yes, I realized. He had his hand on the doorknob.

As far as I can tell, obstetricians rarely (if ever) assess the adequacy of their patients’ breasts during the prenatal period, although this is generally considered to be a good step for breastfeeding preparation. Few (if any) even initiate a conversation about breastfeeding.

This is in spite of the World Health Organization’s longstanding recommendation for health care providers to address several aspects of breastfeeding with women before their 32nd week of pregnancy. Know About Breastfeeding
Do you know of any woman who has had such a detailed discussion with her obstetrician? I don’t.

Did your doctor talk about these topics with you? I bet not.

Wonder why breastfeeding rates in the U.S. are so low? I bet it’s at least partly due to a failure to make breastfeeding counseling part of prenatal care.

As Terry Goodkind asserts, “Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed.” Unfortunately, many women approach their first breastfeeding experience armed with little more than a book and a computer (or, these days, a smartphone!). That’s not enough.

If pregnant women aren’t being given information about breastfeeding, they must initiate the conversation. If the conversation isn’t satisfactory, they need to continue asking questions. Women will find themselves either lost or bullied in breastfeeding and infant care unless they are formidably armed with knowledge.

Prenatal care aims to ensure the optimal environment for the baby’s growth and his mother’s well-being. Growth starts in an optimal place: his mother’s uterus. After he is born, the optimal environment for his growth and her well-being is at the breast. “Professional” care that does not address that is about as helpful as the doorknob in the provider’s hand.
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Stop the Biting: Top Tips for Breastfeeding Moms

Barnett 13 mo b cropSometimes, babies who are getting their teeth bite. It doesn’t actually happen while your baby is nursing–the motion of baby’s mouth when biting is different and incompatible with the motion of nursing. Rather, it tends to happen when the baby is put to the breast for a feeding, or at the end. Whenever it happens, it hurts! If your baby bites, try these strategies: 

1) Watch for a baby who is “reaching” when latching on. If your baby is straining his neck and reaching to get a deep latch, it’s a big clue that he is headed for slipping down on the nipple later. Slipping sets him up for biting.

2) Watch for “changing gears.” After your baby has suckled happily with long, slow, rhythmic sucks to get all the milk he wants, he will begin to make faster jaw motions that are not rhythmic, and do not compress the nipple and areola. This is a sign that he is nearly finished, which can be a clue that biting may follow.

3) Watch for signs of satiety, including distractions. Older babies are naturally more social and more curious about their surroundings. If you baby starts moving his neck and turning his face (often taking your nipple with him!) he may bite without meaning to.

4) Be alert for signs of baby’s mouth slipping onto the nipple. That tends to be a place babies bite. Slip a finger into the corner of his mouth to break any suction, and remove him from the breast right away.

5) Offer a teething ring when the baby bites. He may be biting because he has teething discomfort, so help him to find the right thing to bite on–a chilled teething ring or something similar, not you!

6) Try not to scold him when he bites. Sure, it’s natural to react, but mothers who respond with “NO!” can find themselves in a bad predicament if the baby interprets this as “no nursing.” Some babies refuse to nurse for many days afterwards, which can be hard on baby and mom! Instead, have the teething ring and different words ready. Offer the teething ring and say, “Bite this, not Mommy.”

7) Offer positive and negative feedback appropriately. Break the suction and let him know he should not bite Mommy. Offer an extra hug or nuzzle when the baby takes the teething ring.

8) If he does bite, push his head towards your breast for a second or two. His nose will become occluded, and he will open his mouth; quickly remove him. Although it seems intuitive to pull the baby away, it doesn’t help him to release the nipple, which only worsens the biting problem. If you try this approach the first time he bites, you may find that he quickly realizes that he shouldn’t bite. This strategy doesn’t work as well after the baby has gotten into the habit of biting. Also, don’t use this approach if the baby has a stuffy nose or any breathing difficult.

9) Be consistent with your approach. Babies are smart. They soon get the idea of what the boundaries are. 

10) Be positive. Although biting can be a challenge, breastfeeding is good for you and your baby. 
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Air Travel: Seven Top Tips for Nursing or Pumping Mothers

airportPumping Listen to the podcast “Top Tips for Air Travel”
Even as a nursing mother, you choose air travel for the same reason other people do. Either you believe it is a time-efficient way to get where you need (or want) to go, or it is the only way to get to your destination. (There’s no bridge to Hawaii!)You don’t choose air travel for fun, elbow room, or leg room.

You don’t choose air travel for its thrill or glamour. As Virginia Postrel observed, “Airline glamour never promised anything as mundane as elbow room, much less a flat bed, a massage, or an arugula salad. It promised a better world…[N]o one expected air travel to be comfortable.” Indeed, it’s that “better world” that beckoned when you reserved your plane tickets, and you didn’t seriously expect glamour. I’ve talked about the demands of travel before, but here I want to highlight seven top tips for dealing with the discomforts of air travel if you need to nurse or pump while traveling by air

1. Skip the Clamor for Glamour
Maybe you tuned in to hear Jeremy and Nina Blackman talk about their horrible air travel experience, or to hear Joan Ortiz discuss her published survey of how user-unfriendly the top 100 U.S. airports are for nursing or pumping mothers. If so, you know that the deep-seated problems of air travel aren’t likely to be resolved before your next plane trip. Unless you are fortunate enough to travel through a handful of user-friendly U.S. airports, like Burlington International Airport, the hard fact is you need to stop wishing and start planning. Find ways to deal with the non-glamorous experience
2. Make a To-Do List and To-Pack List
Sure, you’ve got to know what to pack, how much to pack, and where to pack it. But first, you need to actually have the stuff you’ll need. Make a list that includes everything you or your baby might need related to feeding, and more. Go shopping, if necessary. But also, make a to-do list that includes calling the airport, the car rental place, and the hotel. Print out the TSA rules. Be fully prepared before you even think about packing.

3. Packing is Key: Do it Right
Unlike a car trip, where pack-rat behavior can be effective, air travel forces you into packing only what you absolutely need, and packing the smallest, lightest-weight version of what you need in your carry-on bag. Pack items you wouldn’t necessarily need or use at home, and replacements for things which, if lost, could impact the nursing or feeding experience for you or your baby. Packing, when done right, is the key to making air travel much more manageable.

4. Pump or Nurse Near the Gate
Okay, that seems simple enough. Just do it. Oh, oops, no, it’s not always that easy! Nursing is easier than pumping. Pumping will most frequently finding the ladies restroom near the gate. If you plan to use an electric pump, you’d better make sure you can actually find a place to plug it in and keep it upright on a surface. The aim here is to remove milk from your breasts as soon before take-off as reasonably possible. Everything from what-to-wear to when-to-arrive will be part of your strategy for this last-minute opportunity.

5. Know TSA Rules and Regs for Your Milk and More
How many times have you read articles about mothers who were forced to leave their pump paraphernalia behind, or forced to discard their milk? Must you lift up your shirt, as one airport traveler was asked to do? (In one case, though, a woman who was hassled at the Phoenix airport got a court settlement.) Unless you know the rules and regs, you could find yourself in the same boat as women who have been misinformed and humiliated by TSA officials. Print and carry the rules! Don’t assume that the 20-year-old guy who started working for TSA last week knows the rules. By knowing the TSA rules and regs for your milk, pump apparatus and more, you can be your own best advocate.

6. Plan for How to Cope on Board
Flying often poses new challenges when you’re on board the aircraft. Cabin pressure may give your baby some discomforts he wouldn’t otherwise have. Narrow seats and no privacy can make pumping difficult. Emptying your bladder in a room small enough to give anyone claustrophobia is not easy. These are just a few examples of the difficulties you might encounter. Try to anticipate the difficulties and foresee what solutions you can. Many mothers find that the flight attendant can be a terrific ally in problem-solving, but it’s better if you can think ahead. You may find it helpful to ask other mothers you know how they coped.

7. Stay Focused
By definition, airline travel means that you’re in the air, you’re hundreds or thousands of miles from your own creature comforts, and you are out of your usual routine. If you have the baby or other children with you, you need many more than two hands. If you don’t have the baby or children with you, you may already feel like something important has been ripped away from you. Stay focused. You’ll be home soon, and breastfeeding is so important to the baby you love. You can do this. Just stay focused.

Let me help you focus on more details on my radio show/podcast. What has been your experience with airline travel? What has worked or not worked for you? I’m curious.
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Six Ways to Deal with Criticism About Breastfeeding

Do you feel uncomfortable when you know you’ll be in the presence of someone who may not share your enthusiasm for breastfeeding? The holidays are here, and it’s prime time for encountering relatives and friends you haven’t seen in a while, so be prepared for criticism—verbal remarks or just critical glances. How should you respond? Even as every fiber of your being wants to lash out, you may realize that there has to be a better way to deal with criticism. Indeed, there are six good approaches for dealing with criticism about breastfeeding your child:

1) Use non-response responses.
Often, you can get away with something as vague as “Hmmm or “Uh-huh.” If you want to up the ante, you can throw in, “Oh, I admit. You’ve raised an interesting point there.” These responses are a great way to say something without actually saying anything at all!

2) Focus on the “other” with active listening.
Communication experts have been teaching active listening for years, and with good reason. It’s a great way to diffuse the situation, because you’re focusing on the other person’s remarks or feelings, rather than defending yourself or your own words. Responses like, “I can see you have very strong feelings about this” or “I’m so glad that approach worked well for you and your baby” can help you avoid a squabble.

3) Focus on information or authorities.
The critical relative or friend picking on you may find it harder to question the authority of your child’s doctor or the American Academy of Pediatrics. Don’t hesitate to quote some professional or some organization as the be-all and end-all of knowledge. This approach will often shut down your opponent.

4) Focus on YOUR decision.
Over the years, I’ve learned that breastfeeding, like how to style your hair or who you go to bed with, is a very personal decision. Therefore, you need to make the decision that you feel is best for yourself and your baby, and stick to it. A comeback like “This works for our family in our situation, but it might not work for you,” or “Maybe you tried it and it didn’t work for you. I get that” often works.

5) Use humor.
If someone says, “If he’s old enough to ask for that, he’s too old to have it!” you could come back with, “Yeah, he’s 3 years old. Wow, if he asks for a Lamborghini, what am I going to do?” I’m not all that great at giving humorous comebacks, but has several you might like.

6) Try a last-ditch effort if things get out of hand.
Sometimes, no matter how you try to deflect criticism, you’re stuck. You can try to find some common ground, or just admit that the gap is too big to close. When necessary, resort to, “We’re really at odds here. Let’s just agree to disagree and remain friends (happy sisters, or whatever.)”  

Join me as I help you to activate your criticism-radar, find ways to prevent or minimize criticism, and respond to others in ways are more effective than lashing out. 
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