Born To Be Breastfed > Articles by: Marie Biancuzzo

Tweaking Your Swing

Many new mothers start with a clearly-stated goal to do exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Many have a solid plan for how to meet that goal. But sometimes, things don’t start out exactly as these mothers had hoped or planned, or they run into an issue later in the game—maybe when they return to work. More times than not, I’ve seen women thrown off their game—not by the huge factors that require them to be on a whole new playing field—but by the small things that require an adjustment in their swing.

Peak performance coach Tony Robbins tells the story of hiring an instructor to help him learn to play golf. As I understood the story, he swung the club, and hit the golf ball right into the rough. The instructor told him that he almost had it; he just needed to adjust his swing a few millimeters. Robbins scoffed and pointed out that in fact the ball had landed in the rough; it was many yards from the hole, not just a few millimeters! The instructor explained that although the ball had landed in the rough, his swing was off only a few millimeters; hitting the ball a few millimeters off the correct angle can make a big difference to where the ball actually lands. I loved that story, because it demonstrated what I’ve always noticed about breastfeeding mothers. The needed “correction” is often little more than tweaking what they are already doing.

If you’re feeling like something has thrown you off your game, maybe it’s time to tweak your swing a few millimeters. Join me for this show. Maybe you can get out of the rough, win the game, and meet your goal.
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How to Save a Life with Kim Updegrove

Kim Updegrove, Executive Director of the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin TX and immediate past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), helped me think about the “supply and demand” of breastfeeding in a way I’ve never thought about it before.

This past year, HMBANA-regulated milk banks dispensed 3.2 million ounces of human milk to very, very small preterm infants throughout the United States.

Does that sound like a lot? It is—and yet it doesn’t even come close to meeting the need. HMBANA milk banks received requests for about 9 million ounces of human milk during that time. In other words, HMBANA was able to help only about one-third of the critically-ill infants who needed life-saving milk.

Human milk is not best; it is vital for these premature infants. According to Kim, when milk banks are unable to meet infants’ needs for human milk, the shortage of supply leaves many (or even most) of them waiting to die. The most fragile infants in need of human milk cannot survive on artificial formula.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference between life and death. If the mother of a healthy full-term infant collected just 4 ounces of her milk each day for 25 days and donated it to the milk bank, she would meet the milk bank’s minimum requirement and save a baby’s life. In the space of less than 1 month, this mother could be a life-saver.

So maybe the first month of her baby’s life is still too chaotic for the mother to make this commitment. Good news! Milk banks accept milk of mothers up to their baby’s first birthday. Think about this: When your child begins accepting “solid” foods and your “supply” or milk is suddenly quite a bit greater than her “need” for it, you could celebrate your baby’s reaching such a fun developmental milestone by donating the extra milk your body makes to help another baby grow.

You see, life-and-death decisions aren’t always heroic, headline-making acts. You don’t have to run into a burning building or oncoming traffic to save a baby’s life. You can save a baby even as you nurse our own child, by saving a few ounces at a time and getting them into the hands of a milk bank. (Even easier: you may be reaching your baby’s first birthday and find yourself with a freezer stash of milk you know she’ll never consume.)

Less than a month of pumping. A simple phone call. That’s all it might take to help save a baby’s life. Want to know more about donating? You can listen to our show podcast—then call Kim at the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin, toll-free at 877-813-6455.

Call now—by Thanksgiving—and mention “Born to be Breastfed” or “Marie Biancuzzo,” and we will enter you into a random drawing to receive a $50 Amazon gift card. (You don’t need to donate in order to enter this contest.)
Calling is the first step. Donating milk is the second step. Being a hero just takes a small commitment. 
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An Unexpected Dance with Kuroji Patrick

I met V. Kuroji Patrick in a most unusual way.

I was attending the USBC 2014 Coalitions Conference, and exploring the exhibits. I noticed Kathleen Kendall-Tackett there, and wanted to invite her to come on my radio show, but she was talking with someone else, so I decided to wait until she was finished. Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, came a tall, slender man who took my hand, and began moving me in a dance-like fashion around the exhibit floor, twirling and whirling me with graceful steps and chatting in a soft-spoken voice. In a minute or so, he asked how this felt. I chuckled and answered, “Well, you’re a little tall for me, but I guess it works.” Continuing to chat while waltzing me around, he declared, “You’re leading, you know.” To which I retorted, “Yeah, I generally find a way take the lead, whether it’s dancing or anything else. And, by the way, I’m Marie Biancuzzo. Who, exactly, are you?”

He said he was Kuroji Patrick. I had never met him, and had never heard of him.

Admittedly, this was not the manner in which I usually strike up a conversation. Yet, in an odd way, I found myself immediately at ease while talking with him. I found out a little about what he does, and why he’s so passionate about helping fathers to be supportive of breastfeeding. He has this compelling, serious side that is just as interesting as his easy-going, funny side. Instinctively, I knew that Kuroji would be a great guest for the show.

I feel sure that you’ll enjoy spending time with Kuroji.
Listen to Marie’s interview with Kuroji Patrick
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Nancy Mohrbacher: A Non-authoritarian Authority

Seemingly everyone in the lactation community knows Nancy Mohrbacher. Beginning as a La Leche League leader, Nancy is often known for her ability to speak authoritatively to mothers without sounding like an authoritarian. There’s a difference. I’ve owned Nancy’s books for years, but I didn’t meet her until recently. Just being in Nancy’s presence is a treat. She has such an accepting, calming demeanor, and a reassuring voice. I wanted listeners to “meet” Nancy on the show, and I admit feeling disappointed that no one called in with a question for her. But, it’s never too late to ask. Anyone can submit a question to and we’ll send a personal reply, or address the question on a future show.

While I’m the host of this show and have enough expertise to talk for the entire hour by myself, I like to have guests, because I always learn something from them. I may or may not learn any new facts, but I almost always learn about ways to present information in a way I might not have thought about, or I gain insights into myself. Nancy definitely gave me some insight into myself. Towards the end of this show, I described an interaction I had recently had with a breastfeeding mother who was very overwhelmed with the new baby, the job, and a dying grandmother, too. She had asked me for ways to improve her milk supply, and, although I generated several recommendations to fix the problem, none seemed acceptable or realistic to her. On the show, I asked Nancy how she would have responded to this mother. Interestingly, Nancy’s reply focused on values and options. I suddenly realized how much of a fix-it person I am. I don’t feel badly about that—fixing is often needed—but sometimes, fixing isn’t realistic or comfortable. I loved Nancy’s response, and will keep that in my head for a long time.
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Marian Tompson: A Dream Come True

I have always thought of Marian Tompson as somewhat of a legend. Many times, I had heard the story about how La Leche League had been started at a picnic near Chicago. As I understood the story, seven women were at a picnic in 1957, and decided to start an organization. Marian Tompson was one of those women. But when I interviewed Marian, I had a much clearer understanding of how the story really unfolded.

Marian had just had her fourth child, and her doctor very much encouraged her to breastfeed. Mary White, another mother, and the wife of a doctor, was having lunch with Marian in the park, and the two women discussed how good it would be to have support from other breastfeeding mothers. It was later that they pulled five of their friends along for more mother-to-mother support. While I had always assumed the “picnic” was a planned and boisterous event among seven giggling women, it was more like a quiet lunch shared between two friends in a park. They certainly didn’t realize they were starting a not-for-profit organization.

Talking with Marian was like stepping back in time. With a little real-life experience and a lot of imagination, I conjured up the scene in my head. I imagined Marian with one of those I Love Lucy hairdos, toting a Melamine bowl of potato salad in one hand, and holding a baby in the other while half-chasing a sandwich on a paper plate near the Windy City.  I found it a bit more difficult to imagine, though, how she would be feeding her baby in the park. Wouldn’t that be breastfeeding in public? Hmmmmm. It occurred to me that in some ways, today’s woman is faced with many of same issues that Marian and her friends faced.

 As you celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, dream a little. Marian’s is a story of how one woman and her friend had a dream, and made it come true. 
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Emma Kwasnica, Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network

When you hear about informal milk sharing, how do you feel?

If you have any background in transmission of infectious diseases through human milk, you probably cringe and feel repelled by the idea. If your child has ever needed human milk and you were unable to provide it yourself or get it from an established, regulated human milk bank, perhaps you feel almost euphoric that some woman was willing to take to the time and effort to express milk for your child. Maybe you’re vaguely aware that there are formally-established, strictly-regulated milk banks, and a loosely connected bunch of women who participate in milk sharing, but you feel confused by how the two models differ from one another. Maybe you’ve never heard of milk sharing, and you feel completely clueless.

I asked Emma Kwasnica to come on the show and talk about milk sharing because it’s a hot topic for supporters and skeptics. Some listeners will feel that her establishment of Human Milk for Human Babies Global Network makes Emma a villain; other will feel she is a hero. Some will come away feeling conflicted about the not-so-clear risk-benefit ratio. But no one will come away without feeling something.
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Interview with Linda Smith

Linda Smith is a colleague, and a friend. I’m not sure when I met Linda, but it was many, many years ago. I really got to know Linda when we were both working on the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). At first, we simply enjoyed each other’s company at the lunch or break times, or defended each other on various issues. Later, on the nights before the meetings, Linda slept at my house, just outside of Washington D.C., where the meetings were often held. We had some great conversations then. Eventually, Linda was elected Recording Secretary the same year that I was elected Corresponding Secretary for the USBC. I especially remember one day when some project was stuck. No one seemed to be moving it forward, and the leadership team didn’t seem worried about the lack of progress. Linda, not being a woman with much tolerance for inertia said, “I think the two secretaries need to take this on. Marie and I can do this.” She hadn’t asked me, but she didn’t have to. She knew me well enough to know I would cheerfully agree. 

Linda and I don’t always see exactly eye to eye, and we have some distinct differences. She’s fairly concrete; I’m fairly abstract. She’s fairly brave and courageous; I’m more timid. She is a barrel of fun; I’m more serious. But we have similar philosophies and values. She has always accepted me exactly as I am, and while that may not be easy, she makes it look easy. 

Usually, you can ask Linda anything and she’ll give you plenty of facts or opinions, and she is quick to differentiate one from the other. She is also a great story-teller. I distinctly remember one day when I asked her about something, and she laughed and replied, “Oh Marie! That’s a 3-beer story!” 

I know you’ll enjoy this show where Linda will show her wit, and her wisdom.    
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The Laurie Berkner Band

Listen to the podcast “Sing Baby a Song”
Purchase “The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band” on Amazon

I don’t have small children, so I had never heard of  Laurie Berkner or her band. But the mothers on my staff definitely knew about Laurie Berkner, her band, and her music. Phrases floating around my office were, “Laurie Berkner is HUGE in our house” and “My kids love all of Laurie Berkner’s stuff” and “Laurie Berkner is very popular with our kids, but even I love Laurie Berkner! That last one definitely got my attention. I wondered: How could an adult love kid music? I agreed to invite Laurie onto my radio show, even though she wasn’t exactly about “breastfeeding,” it was apparent to me that she was about children, and that was good enough for me.

Really, though, I didn’t have the faintest idea how I was going to construct the interview. I always have a clear goal in mind for the show, and sometimes, pages and pages and pages of pre-prepared content. I didn’t have the remotest idea where I was going with the upcoming show with Laurie Berkner. So, I decided to take a look at Laurie’s web site. 

I learned much about Laurie’s music, and something else. But I could not define, in my own mind, what that “something else” was. There was something inviting about Laurie Berkner’s web site that made me want to stay; made me want to linger and learn more; made me want to connect with her. I couldn’t identify what it was, but that sense of wanting to connect was very present. I found myself wondering, How did this woman get from stashing her music in a bedroom closet to becoming a famous recording artist?  

Eventually, I had the opportunity to chat with Laurie on the phone. Within minutes, I understood why Laurie Berkner became so successful. It’s because she has an unusual ability to instantly connect with a person. And as we chatted on the phone, she talked about how she wants to connect with children through her music. Her passion to make a connection with children, or people in general, is amazing.

Don’t miss this show. Yes, you’ll hear her sing on the show, but what you hear in your ear will last only a few minutes, what you hear in your heart will remain long thereafter. Laurie is like a magnet. You’ll feel yourself drawn to her, and to her music.  
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Jim Akre

I distinctly remember the first time I met Jim Akre in person. I had just finished doing an assessment for a hospital in Tennessee that was attempting to earn the Baby-Friendly Hospital recognition. I literally stepped off the plane, hopped into my husband’s waiting car, and sped off to meet Jim at a restaurant where I had never eaten before.  I was weak and weary from the trip; very weak and weary, actually. I knew that Jim would be in the greater Washington DC area for only a very short time, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him. I just didn’t think I looked very presentable, and my brain was fried. But I showed up anyway.

It was a memorable dinner. Prior to meeting him, Jim and I had had multiple, lengthy email exchanges, and even a transatlantic phone call or two. I had anticipated that when I met him I would find him to be intelligent, articulate, and opinionated. Indeed, he was, and is! What I had not anticipated was that he was-and is-warm and witty. It’s difficult to have any interaction with Jim without plenty of smiles and laughter.

We’ve had lunch or dinner together many times since. Most times, we’ve shared a meal when he has been in the greater Washington DC area where I live, or when we’ve both been at the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) conference.  Once, we had lunch just outside of Rochester, NY. It’s a small world, you know? We discovered that his sister and my sister live about 5 miles away from one another. With his lovely wife, Pia, my husband and I had lunch at a charming restaurant right on Canandaigua Lake. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Jim.

I know you’ll enjoy listening to the podcast with Jim.
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Judy Masucci

I was very impressed by and all of the wonderful products there. If you’re looking for bras or coats or swimsuits or anything else while you’re pregnant or lactating, I’ll bet you’ll find it on this site.

What’s almost as amazing as the web site is the woman behind it: Judy Masucci. Complete with a PhD degree in her back pocket, Judy Masucci seems to have had it all, given it all up, and gotten “it” all back again during her second career. Clearly, the second “it” is more meaningful to her. When I talked with Judy before the show, I was astonished at how she gave up what seemed like every woman’s dream: A big job with big money. But, as all of us know, having a child changes your life and beckons you to re-examine your priorities. Clearly, Judy did that, and she is happy.

I am amazed that Judy seems to have thought of everything for her online store! Take a look at that site! It’s amazing! On the show, you’ll see that Judy and I spend the entire third segment talking about products that I’ve never heard of. Let me put that into perspective. I’ve been in the breastfeeding business for over three decades. If stuff that I’ve never heard of is listed on her web site, it’s a sure indication that Judy has made an effort to think of and list everything that any pregnant or breastfeeding woman could possibly need or want.

Judy is not just another retailer. She’s not just another career woman. She’s a woman with vision, drive, and a passion for helping other women. Be sure to hear all that she has to say about her journey. I had much to learn from Judy, and I think you will learn from her, too!

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