2017 marks the 25th World Breastfeeding Week, and my 4th year part of Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. These past years have been an incredible ride, affording me opportunities to meet some amazing women and stretch myself creatively.
First, I must give a warm “thank you” to the local businesses that welcomed us with open arms this year: Starbucks, East Market Street in Leesburg (shout out to my sister-in-law, the best barista ever!); Chick Fil A, Leesburg; Magnolia’s Natural Nail Care Clinic, Sterling; Busboys and Poets, Shirlington; and Shoes Cup & Cork, Leesburg. Please know how much I appreciate having your support, and how empowering it is to the mama’s who participated. I thank you for having us, for encouraging us, and for providing lots of coffee.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite moments from the 2017 Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project, along with some of the inspiring/heartbreaking stories from the moms themselves. The project was more to me this year than breastfeeding in public. This year it was truly about telling their stories, about portraying the deeply emotional and complex meaning of what breastfeeding is to them. This year, there was a lot of tears as well as laughter (we shared the craziest places we ever nursed on my Facebook page – for me, it was at the dentist, getting my teeth cleaned!)
“He has pushed himself to the point of exhaustion more times than I can count because he knows without sleep my supply will diminish. He washes my pump parts and prepares my bag for work each day. He stands outside the car while I pump to give me a semblance of privacy. He walks in front of me through store isles and repositions covers that fall at dinner. He encourages me to give what I can when my supply can’t keep up with the demands of a growing child.⠀
He unapologetically supports me in feeding our children in the best way I can at any moment in time, even when that means supplementing or weaning early. ⠀
This is our child and this is our feeding journey.” – Abigail E.
“Audrey was diagnosed with a life-threatening immune disorder (HLH) the week after her first birthday and received a bone marrow transplant in February 2016. I started weaning her right before she became sick but decided that now was not the time for major changes and we were going to just focus on getting our little girl better…boy was that the right call! I ended up breastfeeding Audrey through doctor’s appointments, blood draws, many failed IV attempts, echocardiograms, before and after major surgical procedures, during chemo treatments and during the actual bone marrow transplant itself. I was even able to pump in the hospital and have my milk given to Audrey through a feeding tube during the absolute worst of days when she couldn’t eat or drink anything and needed a morphine pump because the mouth sores from the harsh chemo drugs were so insanely terrible. Never in my life did I think I would breastfeed this long but I couldn’t be more proud of the two of us. Audrey is doing extremely well and I know that our journey is coming to an end but I will continue to enjoy this special time while it lasts.” – Jen B.
“I never thought about breastfeeding before I had kids. I would baby-sit other people’s babies and feed them formula or warm up previously pumped milk but it never really occurred to me what I was doing. When my husband and I got pregnant with our first child, that (obviously) changed. I went from not knowing anything to wanting to know everything I possibly could. #LilRasp came into this world and the moment she was laid on my chest, I just knew that I wanted to do the best I could to give her the best (milk) for as long as I could. It wasn’t easy. I ended up breast-feeding her until she was 14 months old. When she turned 2, we got pregnant with our second child. #LilLentil came into the world and I knew, again, that I wanted to give him the best that I could for as long as I could. One day, while I was breastfeeding him, my daughter was playing ‘family’ when she announced that her baby doll was hungry. She proceeded to climb up on the bed where I was nursing her brother, grabbed one of my nursing pillows and nursed her baby doll next to me. It occurred to me that she was imitating me but, also, that this was normalizing breastfeeding for her (at such a young age)! Breastfeeding my son became a bonding time not just for him and I but also for her and I. Both times that I’ve breastfed have been fraught with problems from clogged milk ducts, mastitis, latching problems, lip ties (that I did not have snipped or lasered), jaundice (at first), popping issues, etc. but what I discovered is that you are not alone! I cannot emphasize this enough! So many other women have gone before you and can help, give advice, be there to hold your hand and/or encourage you. I am so thankful for the community that I have that supported me and continues to support me!” – Amelia S.
“I recently had my fourth child. Three normal, healthy, full-term pregnancies and three separate times of feeling like nursing them was really hard but necessary. The fourth baby, Ashley, arrived almost 6 weeks early and spent 11 days in the NICU. Recovering in the hospital, most women have their babies with them in their room and bond with them in large part with nursing. I spent my time in my recovery room with an alarm set to go off every three hours and a hospital grade breast pump. Ashley spent her time in an isolette trying to gain weight, learn how to regulate her body temperature and get her jaundice under control. My other babies had me to take care of them, but Ashley largely relied on the amazing NICU nurses at Reston Hospital to take care of her.” – Justine K., part 1 of 3
“The lactation consultant came to visit with me while I was still in the hospital and we talked about Ashley being in the NICU. After about 15 minutes of talking she looked at me and said “If I’m hearing you, it sounds like you’re concerned about being able to keep up your supply.” I burst into tears and nodded. In that moment, I realized how much nursing meant to me.
When I would go visit Ashley in the NICU, I would try to nurse her. After a few minutes of trying, however, she would fall asleep because nursing is a workout for preemies! Ultimately, I would end up feeding her a warmed up bottle because it was easier for her and she would get the food that she needed to get bigger and stronger. When I was discharged without her, I cannot explain the feeling of emptiness that I felt. I went to stay with my parents so that I could be closer to her, and one day I told my mom that I might drive to the hospital at 11pm so that I could feed her. My mom was confused as to why I would do that instead of sleep, so I told her this: “I am not in control of anything in this situation. I can’t control her weight, I can’t control her jaundice, I can’t control how long she has to stay in the NICU, but I CAN control my breast milk and supply, so that is what I’ll do.” – Justine K., part 2 of 3
“I know that nursing isn’t always easy. I know that sometimes it’s just not possible. But for me, pumping and nursing is what helped to create a bond with Ashley when she spent so much of her time in an isolette away from me. After she was released from the NICU, I realized how much I cherish our time together when I nurse her. That is why I was so ready and willing to have Blaire document me nursing her for PBAP. I am happy that I was able to breastfeed all of my children but with Ashley, it felt like an especially amazing gift.” – Justine K., part 3 of 3
“My first child was stillborn. I birthed him, I held him. Of the thousands of things I never got to do for him, nursing was but one. So much had gone wrong, but my body didn’t know otherwise. When my milk came in, it felt like pain on top of pain, right there over my broken heart. For days, I sat with ice packs on my chest, right there over my broken heart.
We don’t know so much about our bodies until we can get pregnant—or we can’t, until we can take home our babies—or we can’t, until we can nurse—or we can’t, for whatever reason. I learned that my body produces milk. I hoped that one day I would be able to give it to a living child of mine.
When she was born, we had trouble nursing. My breasts were so engorged that she couldn’t latch well. We needed help. We needed nipple shields and breast pumps and bottles. We both cried, but we figured it out together. It worked best lying down, so I nursed mostly at home. I got mastitis early on, and then again and again and again. Somehow, we soldiered on, she and I. When we finally weaned, I was unprepared for how hard it would be, physically, emotionally, and hormonally. We had done so much to start and keep going, and then we had to learn to stop.
When my second daughter was born, she latched. My infection mostly stayed away. We had the experience of it I dreamed about. She is 15 months and we are still nursing, neither one of us quite ready to let go. To me, nursing is a lifeline—to the babies I grew. To my child in the dark after she cries, our fingers reaching out to the other, our bodies once more connected. I have nursed her whenever and wherever she needs.
In my motherhood and all its forms, I have become more grounded, less worried about the opinions of others. I am most at ease, here with my third baby in my arms, my body able to give and give and give.” – Jennifer P.
“I’m honored that we can help normalize what feels like such a normal part of life — eating, nurturing, and bonding.” – Jennifer P.
“On June 23, I received an email that changed our families’ world. It was the genetic results of my baby with whom I was only 10 week pregnant at the time. We found out that the baby was a GIRL and that she had a 99.99% chance of T21 abnormality. At that moment of shock my one plea to God was that I could breastfeed my daughter. I had just stopped nursing my 15 month old son, and I already missed the warm snuggles. I didn’t know at the time how substantial it would benefit our daughter to breastfeed and how many doctors would tell me to not expect that of her. Shortly after the Down syndrome diagnosis was received we also learned that like 50% of ALL Ds children, she would also have congenital heart disease. I kept praying, I was desperate for a way to connect to my daughter that I was already terrified of not loving because I assumed she would be different.” – Dana L., part 1 of 2
“Much to my surprise, arriving on her own 4 weeks early, with not one but three major heart defects and yes, Down syndrome she successfully breastfed within one minute after birth. I was so amazed and madly in love with my little girl. I had thought I knew everything about her, because of what doctors told me. Right out of the gate she showed me that should exceed my expectations at every turn. My Emma nursed exclusively thru a 2 week NICU stay, 2 complicated cardiac caths and 1 major open heart surgery. Her occupational therapists believe that nursing has improved what some DS kids commonly are prone to as a tongue thrust. Thru breastfeeding, my daughter has strengthened her mouth muscle which will benefit her in speech and tongue control and more importantly it has created our bond and taught me to NEVER limit my daughter again. She is #Emmastrong! #CHDWARRIOR #morealikethandifferent” – Dana L., part 2 of 2
“I feel that women’s breast/bodies have been so sexualized that doing what they were made to do – feeding our babies is now seen as something that we need to cover or hide. Or do “at home”. I want to show the world how natural and beautiful, not sexual feeding your child with your milk is. I want to show them what that looks like uncovered.” – Amy S.
“I was the girl who was afraid to eat in the cafeteria alone. I was the girl who hated being in a room full of people. I was full of fear! Controlled by what people might say. Afraid to stand. I didn’t know who I was or what I stood for. Being bullied by “friends”. Lol…..That was then, this is now. Today is a true testament to who God is shaping and molding me to be. I have heard some of the WORST remarks concerning my personal decisions. I realized that I was letting others’ thoughts of me control my decisions. I was honored again to partake in the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project to step outside those mental chains, and break free. Last year, was the first step, but it was a private one. This year, she helped me publicly and boldly make a statement. Thank you Blaire! You truly were a vital instrument in my growth!” – Crystal H.
Being a Northern Virginia breastfeeding photographer is about so much more than taking pictures of nursing moms. It’s about telling your stories, capturing your journey. It truly does go by so fast. Please click here to learn more about the public and private breastfeeding sessions I offer. It would be an honor to provide you with tangible memories to last a lifetime.
This week’s guest blogger is none other than NoVa real estate agent extraordinaire Laura Griffin! If you live in the area you may be familiar with her helpful tips on Facebook, full of fun info like where to catch the fireworks on the Fourth of July or the best fountain parks around. She is often referred to as The Real Estate Mommy because she is well-known for her work with families in particular. She was kind enough to share with us her best tips on how to go house hunting with kids.
How To Survive House Hunting With Kids
Hi Everyone!!! I’m honored to be here with you on the Second Ave Photography blog. Thank you to Blaire for allowing me to share my tips with you! I am a Real Estate Agent in the Northern Virginia area. My specialty is helping clients trade up from their current home into a larger home. Often times while helping clients with selling their home and purchasing a new one, we have to take little ones out with us house shopping. I have put together some of my favorite tips to make that journey a breeze, I hope you enjoy it!
If possible, leave the kids with a babysitter. When purchasing a new home you need time to process your likes and dislikes about any potential homes. Spending the time you have in a home focusing on the house is key to finding your next perfect home. Having your kids, especially kids under 10 years old can be very distracting. Find a family member, baby sitter, or trusted friend to watch them so you can have an undistracted showing process.
If you can’t find a baby sister talk try to schedule showings during your lunch break or take off a few hours from work to see homes while the kids are in school or day care. Being able to process the homes you are seeing will not only help you make the best decision but help to not place additional stress on you during this time
Can’t find child care to view homes? Don’t worry! I have a few tips to help ease this process.
Spend a day or so before explaining what is going to happen. When kids are prepared and you set the expectations, you will be setting them up to be successful. Kids tend to act out when they don’t know what is going on or what to expect. If they haven’t met your Realtor, introduce them and get them comfortable with the Realtor and become friends for the day.
Distractions, distractions, distractions.
Do your kids have an iPad or Kindle? Bring it along with you. Let the kids hang out at the kitchen table while you tour the house. Kids can be easily distracted by toys and other items that the current owners might have in the house. Have them sit at the table and watch a video on their device will prevent the kids from being tempted to play with items in the home.
I need a helper!
Kids love to be helpful, so give them a job. I give the kids an info sheet on each of the homes that I show my clients that day. The kids are my secretary, their job is to write on the back any notes that myself or their parents might want to remember about the home. I also have them ask their parents once they get in the car what they like or didn’t like about the home. Keep them involved and give them mini tasks to do. Including the kids in the process will make a day of touring homes fun with the kids.
Maximize your time.
Do some extra research on the home prior to seeing the home with your agent. Drive by the home a few days in advance, spend extra time looking at the pictures or floor plan online. If you feel from your prior day’s research the house isn’t a fit then take it off the list. If you are seeing homes with or without kids I would say limit yourself to no more than 5 homes. Seeing more than 5 homes in a day is overwhelming for anyone, especially kids. If you walk into the home and already know this isn’t the right home just let your agent know and move on to the next house. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings it just means this wasn’t the right match for you.
Sometimes shopping for a home can take a few hours, pack a cooler with some snacks and drinks for the car. Give the kids something to eat in the car on the way to the next house. I suggest bringing special snacks that you don’t normally give your kids, make it special. But don’t forget the baby wipes to take care of sticky hands before the next house. Please don’t give kids snacks in the home, no one wants cookie crumbs trailing throughout their home.
I have to go potty!
“I have to go potty!” is never a sentence you want to hear from kids when we are in an area that doesn’t have one. From time to time a house might be vacant or not have the water turned on which means no working bathroom. Try to plan a potty break on the way. If you can let your Realtor know a head of time that the kids are coming ask them to schedule in a potty break between houses.
Buying your next home is a fun and exciting time for not only you but your kids. Get them involved where ever possible. If you have to bring your kids house shopping I hope my tips will help make the process a fun and smooth experience. Once you find your dream home, I highly recommend the book The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day; it’s a great book for kids all about moving to their new home.
About the author:
Laura is a buying and listing agent with Pearson Smith Realty servicing Loudoun and Fairfax County. Laura brings passion, perseverance, determination, and tenacity; making her an exceptional asset to Pearson Smith Realty. Her enthusiasm and drive for success will enable her to attain the home of your dreams or get you the most for your current home. Laura has a keen aptitude for real estate and is dedicated to guiding you in one of the biggest financial decisions in your life and assures you that it will be an honest, enjoyable and seamless experience.
Laura spends her free time with her husband Chad, daughter Madison, and son Brayden. She enjoys traveling, crafting and checking out the latest new restaurants around town. Laura is also the moderator for a few local mommy groups in the Loudoun County area. She has a passion for helping other moms succeed in their family and work life.
Find Laura on her website or Facebook page.
Our fourth installment of the guest blogger series features Jessica, the calm, reassuring voice behind Creative Lactation. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jessica for the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project, and I’m thrilled to share her post debunking some of those myths that you can’t eat certain foods while breastfeeding! Have a fussy baby at home? It might not be what you think.
Debunking Myths About Breastfeeding
Among all of the well intended but unsolicited advice that new parents find themselves subject to are pervasive myths about breastfeeding. These permeate our lives with not so great information in books, on tv, in movies and just about everywhere that new mothers might find themselves, even in the doctor’s office. In the interests of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7th,“Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” we will replace a couple of myths with truth and help make breastfeeding more sustainable.
You may have heard that you shouldn’t eat certain things while breastfeeding. Something or other could cause the baby gas, this food might upset the baby, certainly babies can’t tolerate spicy foods. There is no list of foods that breastfeeding mothers should always avoid. Our bodies digest food and absorb nutrients along digestive system and from several points along the way. Mammals milk is made from what passes into the mother’s blood. When we eat “gassy foods” they cause gas because the intestines are working to digest masses of carbohydrates/fiber. Luckily for baby, gas does not pass into the bloodstream, just the nutrients from those foods. It’s true that flavors of foods can be passed along but studies have shown babies actual favor things like garlic. Women around the world eat a large variety of foods and eating the foods common in your culture helps babies get used to the tastes and smells of the local food. All things that set baby up for a lifetime of healthy eating.
You have probably heard the term “pump and dump” in relation to alcohol consumption. This myth that you have to empty your breast before your milk is safe to drink again also comes from a misunderstanding of how human lactation works. You do not have to bleed yourself in order for your bloodstream to get rid of the alcohol and you do not have to remove milk from your breast to get rid of the alcohol from your milk. Your milk metabolizes any alcohol that passes into it just as your blood does. The breast not a vessel for storage but a complex system of it’s own which works in harmony with the rest of the body. A good rule of thumb is that if you feel alright to drive, you’re alright to feed your baby.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week I hope that you will take a moment to dispel a myth of you hear it or do something to support a breastfeeding mother in your everyday life. Small things can make a big difference for a breastfeeding mother and baby.
More about foods and breastfeeding: http://www.llli.org/faq/avoid.html
More about alcohol use as well as medications and breastfeeding: http://www.infantrisk.com/
About the author:
For over ten years, Jessica has devoted her time and energy to helping families achieve their personal breastfeeding goals. Calling upon her years of experience, Jessica problem-solves with mothers, creating a roadmap for their breastfeeding journeys. Jessica prides herself on evidence-based methods, clear communication, and a thirst for knowledge that leaves no stone unturned.
As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Jessica provides lactation consultant services to families in Loudoun and eastern Clarke county, Virginia. She contributes her expertise to the Loudoun Breastfeeding Coalition and several online breastfeeding support forums. She is also a member of the International Lactation Consultant Association and the United States Lactation Consultant Association. Please visit her website or Facebook page for more information.
Today is our third installment of the summer guest blogger series, and we’re here with my friend and client Erin sharing her passion for finding safe skincare products.
The Truth Behind Safe Skincare Products
Hello! I’m honored to be here with you on the Second Ave Photography blog, and so thankful to Blaire for having me. Not all blog posts apply to all people, but I promise you that if you live in the US, my story is relevant to you. Thank you for spending a few minutes with me!
When we wake up each morning, we usually think about what we want or need to do for the day. Maybe it’s working, preparing food, taking care of kids, volunteering, errands, chores, exercise, projects around the house, or most likely, a combination of those. What is the common theme of most of these things on our to-do lists? Creating a good life – for ourselves and for others. We work hard every day to take care of our loved ones, our homes, and – hopefully equally – ourselves.
But there is something that you do every day that might be – unknown to you – harming you and your loved ones. Do you remember the fun fact from biology class that our skin is our body’s largest organ? And what you put onto your skin can affect the rest of your body. Every morning we rub shampoo, conditioner, soap, sunscreen, lotion, toothpaste, deodorant, maybe some mascara, lip gloss, or tinted moisturizer onto our skin. Once those products are on our skin, their ingredients can and often do become incorporated into our bodies – absorbed and then circulating around in our blood.
OK, so think about this for a minute. When you’re sick, depending on how bad it is, you might decide to take medicine to help with the symptoms or to make the illness go away faster. You swallow a little liquid or a pill, and hour by hour, day after day, your body reacts to the medicine and you see your symptoms improve. But before any of these medicines are allowed to be sold to you, they are screened by manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various aspects of safety and effectiveness. After all, if a tiny dose can have a big impact on your body systems and therefore your health, we need to be sure that it’s safe to use.
© Erin Gulick. When dance recital time arrives, I can do her stage makeup without worrying about harming her health.
Surely similar safeguards are in place for the products we put on ourselves and our kids every day, right? Well, no. US laws do not require personal care products or their ingredients to be tested for safety. The FDA is the agency responsible for regulating the industry, but they have almost no authority to take meaningful action – they cannot conduct safety tests, they cannot request access to safety information from companies, and they cannot issue recalls. Congress would need to grant them the authority to do these things. Of the 85,000+ chemicals used in commerce today, only about 10% of those have been tested for safety. Federal laws regulating the industry have not been updated since 1938!
On average, most people use between 5-15 products on themselves and their children every day – on their hair, in their mouths, on their faces, and their bodies. What do you use each day? Do you know what’s in yours? Chemicals linked to autism, cancer, fertility problems, allergies, early puberty in girls, weight gain, and more are LEGALLY allowed in products we buy to rub onto our bodies (and our babies). Outrageous.
When I learned all of this, I was shocked, offended, and motivated. I knew that some products were better to use than others, but I had no idea just how harmful many of them are – and what a big impact this is having on millions of people’s lives. My interest in health and environment issues goes back to my childhood and has been a big part of my life ever since. I studied government and environmental science in college, and worked for an environmental non-profit organization called Conservation International for 7.5 years until my first daughter was born. After that, I volunteered for a local conservation group where I live. I have lost several people to cancers. My older daughter has nut allergies. Several of my friends have children with developmental delays and autism.
© Erin Gulick. If our laws don’t protect her from harmful chemicals, then it becomes my job.
Once my eyes were opened to the full picture, it felt like pieces of a puzzle coming together. I found a way to formally get involved in tackling the problems, and I jumped in. Now, as a representative of a Benefit Corporation called Beautycounter, I share this information, educating people whenever I can, getting safer products into people’s hands, and I advocate for legislative change. In March of this year, Beautycounter consultants from all 50 states (and 8 Canadian provinces) met with their government’s legislative representatives (I headed to Senator Mark Warner’s office on Capitol Hill) to share ingredient safety information and request better regulation. The current legislation pending in the US Senate is called the Personal Care Products Safety Act – and we hope it will be voted out of committee sometime soon.
© Beautycounter. Safer beauty advocates in action on Capitol Hill.
Beautycounter makes products that are as effective as anyone’s favorites, while also being free from harmful ingredients – all too rare in our country. The EU bans over 1400 ingredients from use in products; the US bans just 31. Beautycounter’s Never List consists of over 1500 ingredients that we will never use. Our products contain only ingredients that are studied and proven to be safe. Here are some of my favorite resources for learning more about these issues and finding products that will not harm your health:
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep searchable database
The EWG Healthy Living app for your phone
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website
Beautycounter’s Never List
Our mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. By educating people, we increase consumer demand for safe products, which will move the market in a healthier direction. Share this information with your friends and loved ones. When we know better, we do better. And we all deserve better.
Some of the most discerning people I know have tried and love Beautycounter’s beautiful products, made safe. We are proving that people no longer have to sacrifice their health in the name of beauty, or vice versa.
Reach out if you’d like to learn more. I love helping people make the switch to safer, so that the products you reach for every morning are one part of your “good life” to-do list that you don’t even need to think about.
About the author:
Erin Gulick is an environmentalist at heart, who aims to do useful work that benefits the planet and the people who rely on it (that’s all of us), one small decision at a time. As a part-time work-from-home parent, consultant, educator, volunteer, wife, friend, active citizen, conservationist, and small-time bon vivant, she lives a full life for which she is constantly grateful. Learn more about detoxing your daily life via Erin’s Better Beauty group on Facebook, and visit her website here to find products that protect your health and pamper your skin. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.