Breast Is Best!
Breastmilk: the ultimate superfood.
Breast is best!
From the immune-system building, the long-term microbiome formation, the teeth, jaw and facial development, the hormonal exchange and bonding, and the generation of perpetual bliss in both baby and mother, there is zero comparison.
We’re discussing the myriad reasons of why not in this episode, but suffice to say, this is an indisputable FACT.
Rather than defaulting to placations like “fed is best”, it’s essential that we have these conversations to empower women to make more informed choices.
And for those who say that “some women just can’t”, I would agree that the entire industrial and hospital birth system reinforces that notion.
The question is whether it’s actually true.
Or whether women have had their own bodily sovereignty and wisdom hijacked along the way, by pharmaceutical industries seeking to profit off their dependence.
This episode is a celebration of the magic of breastfeeding, and an impeccably researched treatise on just what has happened to make women, and the culture at large, reject the breast in favour of other options.
And who sold them to us.
Being pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding have been some of the most amazing experiences of my life.
The big lie is that they aren’t—that they are painful or tedious or unimportant or something to be endured.
All of these experiences at their peak, are euphoric and self-actualizing for a woman.
My guest today is Jennifer Grayson, author of Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy. We dive deep into:
- Breastfeeding all over the world
- The movement to sexualize breasts
- A million and one reasons why breastfeeding is the ideal choice
- The forces against breastfeeding
- How long to breastfeed for? Is there any benefit to breastfeed after a certain time?
- What kind of support women need to breastfeed
I’ve recorded this as a video interview you can watch here:
Or you can listen to the audio podcast version:
Or download and listen on the go:
This is my 8-week online salon on all things holistic pregnancy and ecstatic childbirth.
This is the real education we all ought to have received, and a complete overhaul to everything you thought you knew about what pregnancy, birth and beyond were supposed to look like.
We cover the full spectrum of pre-conception, conception, pregnancy, birth and the early parenting years. In this salon, we’ll also take a deeper dive into alternative forms of education, from homeschooling to unschooling and beyond.
Images: Jenny Tamas
The Anami Guarantee states: ALL people, ALL experiences.
Meaning, all women can have vaginal orgasms – G-Spot orgasms, cervical orgasms and can ejaculate across the room. And shoot ping pong balls with her vagina.
All men can have sex for eight hours straight, and can learn to separate orgasm from ejaculation and have rock hard erections well into their 70s and 80s.
Yes, EVERYONE can.
These are not just special experiences reserved for special or “lucky” people.
And no, there are no some people who just, um “can’t” for whatever reason.
So let’s flip that lens onto pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
In the allopathic mindset, the constant refrain is some variation of:
You Can’t. We Can.
You can’t heal yourself.
We, or this drug, or this surgery, can.
You can’t birth this baby.
This needle, or this knife, or this IV drug, can.
You can’t feed your baby.
This bottle with a disgusting mix of immune-damaging and carcinogenic chemicals, can.
Is all bullshit.
I have done many episodes on how OBGYNs are the great “make work” project of the century.
By removing women’s faith in their own bodies and in nature itself, they have created a profession for themselves, based primarily on fear.
And women dissociating from their own bodies and their inherent wisdom.
What we know about the hospital birthing protocols is that instead of helping to cultivate oxytocin – a woman’s natural pleasure, pain-relieving and birth-progressing hormone —
through a natural, relaxed, loving and warm environment — where oxytocin thrives – the crisis-oriented, strangers-walking-into-the-room-every-few-minutes, strange people shoving their hands up a woman’s vagina and making her lie in bed, attached to medical equipment, stall out her oxytocin.
OF course they do.
Her body, just like any other animal perceiving danger, tells her it’s not safe to give birth here.
And it stops the process.
And what’s the hormone we need most to breastfeed and create a milk production and let down series of responses?
So women, generally in a state of shock and PTSD because of what’s just happened to them, are quite possibly NOT creating milk.
A heavily subsidized hospital staff member hands her a bottle, with formula in it, and voila!
A formula-fed baby and a “I just couldn’t breastfeed” mother is born.
On a much more positive note.
You can change this direction.
Countless women have.
They take their power back into their own wombs and vaginas and breasts.
And through the act of sovereign birth, they rebirth themselves, and truly lay claim to the shamanic, goddess, life-giving power that is to be a woman.
Being pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding have been some of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Where divine forces opened up, the veil between worlds is thinner, and you claim your role as the facilitator and giver of life.
The true magic and power of being a woman.
KIM: I am here with Jennifer Grayson, an award-winning journalist and author focused on the environment, human evolution, and social change. She is the author of the book, Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy. Welcome, Jennifer!
JENNIFER: Thank you so much for having me, Kim. I’m a fan of your work, so I’m excited to be here.
KIM: Let’s kick it off with a bit of your journey into this.
Despite being exclusively formula fed yourself, you began to think about the true impact of missing out on this profound connection when you became a mother. Your book documents your worldwide search for answers about the first and most fundamental experience of newborn life. In your book, Unlatched, you go through the history of breastfeeding, all the way from biblical times to eighteen-century France, to modern-day Mongolia and inner-city Los Angeles, to describe how we’ve developed our current disconnection to breastfeeding.
Can you describe the feelings about breastfeeding throughout history and how they’ve evolved? Have there ever been times in history where our very nature of breastfeeding was as controversial as it is now, or are these views more modern?
JENNIFER: It’s completely a modern conundrum. It is the truth of what’s happening in our industrialized society, where we’ve basically become detached from every biological process.
KIM: Detached from the nipple. [Laughs]
JENNIFER: Yes, unlatched from breastfeeding and this essential biological function. Detached from what’s considered normal, detached from how to interact the way we have throughout human history. It’s safe to say that people, for two million years, seven million years since we split off from chimps, were not corresponding on Skype. We live in this world where everything is completely industrialized and not anything like it has been before. The same is true for breastfeeding.
The change really happened so quickly. A hundred years ago and for most of human history, every baby on earth was nursed from anywhere from two and a half to seven years. We know this from the anthropological record. Formula feeding wasn’t even an option until industrialization in this country. It literally didn’t exist.
KIM: When did formula feeding start?
JENNIFER: Well, that was one of the interesting things when I set off on this journey. First of all, I should say this was a book I never imagined writing. You introduced me by saying I was exclusively formula fed, but it wasn’t as though there was even an alternative that I was aware of. This was just the way babies were fed. I was from an upwardly mobile Jewish family, outside of Manhattan, and this was the norm at the time of my birth.
KIM: There was that era around the seventies where if you were upper middle class or beyond, this was the thing to do. You formula fed your babies. That was kind of an economic or social signifier.
JENNIFER: Absolutely, and what’s so fascinating is that the situation has completely flip-flopped. Now, you have this vast social inequity, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. People who have time and money in our society now can breastfeed, whereas there’s this giant underclass of people, partially fuelled by the US government, who are basically forced into formula feeding. It’s completely flipped.
Yes, when I was born, less than half of kids were nursed at all in New York City. I think it was something like 85-90 percent of babies were formula fed.
I didn’t know anything different. I never even saw breastfeeding until my cousin had her first baby when I was in my twenties. It was just this great irony because here I was thinking I had grown up holistic—my mom was super into the health-food store before anyone shopped there. I had this kind of bucolic Connecticut existence where I was always outside and planting pumpkins in our backyard. It was suburban, sort of upwardly mobile, but a very old-fashioned type of existence. When I was pregnant with my first child, Izzy, and there were a couple of big epiphanies that happened, I had the realization, “Oh my God, I was formula fed! These were the building blocks of my life!”
That’s what set me on the path, in response to your other question about when this shift happened. I had always thought it happened around the 1950s, when we think about the real sexualization of the breast coming into play, like Marilyn Monroe and the starlets in those cone bras.
But really, it happened so much earlier, and in fact, sexualization was almost a side effect. But the shift really happened to formula feeding because of our becoming an industrial society.
I basically fell down this fascinating rabbit hole of all these things I had never considered before. I was making my start as an environmental journalist and, admittedly, when I first thought about exploring breastfeeding, I still had personal issues with it. I wasn’t completely comfortable with it, even though I was pregnant with my first child and knew that I wanted to breastfeed her for health reasons.
Yeah, it was a real journey.
KIM: I just did this podcast on radical unschooling and how the creation of the public school system that we see today was born out of a need to make people more obedient and better factory workers, but also as a babysitting service for factory workers. It was some place to put their kids.
There’s a parallel then with the invention of formula. If you want to have people easily able to work away from the home, well, breastfeeding necessitates a closeness with your child. If you can introduce this idea of formula feeding, then there’s this whole push to make it normal.
In my work, I talk so much about the normalization of dysfunction and this idea of formula feeding as being just fine. I’m sure that this generation of people we’re talking about, say your parents, my parents, think it’s even better somehow than breastfeeding. It all conveniently fits this narrative of separation of the family. It also makes people into more compliant and less burdened workers to just go and do what they’re meant to do as part of these cogs in the machinery of society.
JENNIFER: Yeah. When you talk about being convinced that it’s a better thing, that was very much the attitude. You have to think about how science evolved in this country, too, and the introduction of germ theory. Doctors took over processes that for all of human history had belonged to women. Birthing, pregnancy, breastfeeding—there were no doctors involved. There were no men of medical science. Then these experts took over and then within a generation, we lost that innate knowledge.
But here’s the fascinating thing about formula: it was women who actually started artificially feeding their babies. It wasn’t as though in the late 1800s some formula companies came up with this invention and everyone said, “Well, this is convenient. Now I can work my factory job.” It didn’t work that way at all.
What happened was women in industrialization. People started moving to cities, like my great-grandmother who came to this country from Russia at the turn of the last century. You have 13-year-olds working in sweatshops. All of a sudden, people, out of necessity, are no longer with their children. They’re desperate to earn a living. They can’t be with their children anymore in the way that you have to be to breastfeed and nurture a young child, and so they started experimenting with feeding alternatives.
This is erased from the record now. We know this from an amazing historian, who I interview in my book, and from a lot of the research I did, but artificial feeding was one of the great public health threats of the last century. There were 1 in 10 babies dying because of mothers experimenting with homemade formulas. This was before the pasteurization of milk. Babies were dying of these horrible bacterial diseases of filthy milk.
And then, slowly, formula companies evolved. Doctors started experimenting with safer things. Pasteurization happened, but we were the ones who drove it, and that was so fascinating to me.
KIM: Very interesting, yeah. One of the things that I see in my work is how sexual disconnection affects women throughout their lives, and even men, in terms of how they view their girlfriends or their wives when they become mothers. We’re all existing under the umbrella of this Madonna/whore archetype and that’s really woven throughout all religions. Women are either sluts or they’re virgins, and there’s not a happy medium for them to coexist.
All of that comes to a screaming head. All of these things that we’ve unconsciously imprinted around when a woman has a baby.
Breasts are thrown in our faces all the time. We’re obsessed with breasts, but when they’re used for their true purpose, which is to feed babies, there’s this massive disassociation, and people can’t let the sexual and the sacred part of themselves coexist with this true physiological purpose.
In your studies, is this a thread that you have seen in the different cultures that you have observed, where people who are more sexually open or connected to nature don’t experience any of the shame that is bred?
JENNIFER: Yeah. It’s a great question. It’s not even that they’re more connected to nature or more open with their sexuality. Breastfeeding is the human norm. Every culture throughout human history, up until very recently, and still, a lot of cultures in different parts of the world, view breasts as only for feeding babies.
KIM: They’re not sexualized as much.
JENNIFER: There isn’t this cultural layer, no. They’re not sexualized.
KIM: At all or as much?
JENNIFER: Really rarely. For instance, the anthropologist Kathy Dettwyler, who I consulted a lot for this book, pointed me towards—have you ever read Patterns of Sexual Behavior?
JENNIFER: It was done by these two anthropologists. You would love this book. It is fascinating. Basically, these two Yale anthropologists, I think in the 1950s, went and surveyed 190 traditional cultures. Of those 190 traditional cultures, just 13 viewed breasts as sexually attractive, and just 13 employed some kind of breast touching during sex. I don’t know how they got this data, so I don’t know how reliable it is, but this is a glimpse of what it may have been like. Only three saw breasts as sexually attractive and employed breast foreplay.
JENNIFER: Universally, through all these different cultures, you would hear things about how Americans viewed breasts. They would say, “Men are big babies? They like sucking on breasts like babies?” It’s a shocker in other cultures. There are parts of rural India even now, where a woman will cover her face when a man comes by but will pop out a breast to feed a child.
This was the way to feed babies throughout history. There was no alternative. The sexual cultural beliefs came later. That’s not to say that they’re not pleasurable in a sexual way!
KIM: Where do you think this sexualization of breasts came from then?
JENNIFER: The two notable instances in our human history are where an entire culture stopped using breasts to feed babies. There are two big examples I give in my book. One is the United States and what happened with industrialization. When breasts became hidden from view, then they were ascribed other purposes and all of a sudden became, in a way, fetishized.
Then the other fascinating part of human history that I talk about is what happened in eighteen-century France and also some other European societies. Women of higher classes didn’t want to breastfeed or who had to stop breastfeeding to conceive another child—because breastfeeding, in the traditional way, does suppress ovulation—would use wet nurses. Before formula, there was wet nursing, where they would hire someone else to feed their babies.
I have a whole chapter talking about what happened in France. Wet nursing was so out of control that only 3 percent of mothers fed their own children. Everyone was outsourced to a wet nurse in the countryside.
KIM: Fully? From beginning to end or just at a certain stage?
JENNIFER: From beginning to end. Their babies were born, and they were put in a cart and sent off to the French countryside to be nursed by an unknown rural mother. The mortality rate was like 40 percent.
When you had situations like that, where women were not feeding their own babies on a mass scale, then interestingly you had, all of a sudden, those plunging bodices from the Marie Antoinette era and the rouging of the nipples. Those two things go directly together.
Of course, the ideals of industrial America have spread to the entire world now, which is why we see all over, it’s not just America anymore. You see this even when I was in Taiwan. Women are ashamed to breastfeed in public because breasts’ primary function is seen as being sexual pleasure.
KIM: To titillate—ha-ha.
JENNIFER: Yeah, to titillate, exactly. [Laughs] Yeah.
KIM: [Laughs] It’s funny because they’ve become these beacons of sexuality where prior to that, they were beacons for babies not just to nurse and get nutrition, but to seek solace and comfort. There’s an amazing story—I forget the name of the woman who wrote that article—about Mongolian women using their breasts to calm their babies and stop them from fighting.
Do you want to share some of those stories? Because I think they’re just so hilarious and inspiring and give us such a different perspective on the role of breasts in our culture.
JENNIFER: They do. I know, once you step outside our culture, you realize how incredibly bizarre our ways are, and yet we view cultures like Mongolia as so shocking. Ruth Pamnetzer, who I interviewed for the book, wrote this article that went viral. She was a Canadian expat. I think she’s a biologist. She lived in Mongolia and realized soon after she got there that breastfeeding children in Mongolia till age seven, age eight, age nine, is the norm. Two and a half to seven years is the norm when you look at most traditional cultures. Easily four to seven years. I nursed my oldest till she was four; my younger one I nursed till she was seven.
KIM: In my brain, I would say after maybe age four, I would classify that as extended breastfeeding.
KIM: I think anything age two, three, to me is normal. Then beyond that is sort of up to whatever circumstances people have. If I was to have another baby, it would be really rearranging my life to know that for those first three years, I need to be able to breastfeed a child on demand. Then whatever happens after that, it’s not a primary food source, and so it’s more supplementary or there are other attachments involved, which I still think are positive.
JENNIFER: Yeah! I know, there are so many attachments. Breast milk is so much more than a food, as I discovered, and as for the emotional connection, there have been no studies. Science has yet to quantify what that extended nursing period means to our emotions and our intellect.
But yeah, you’re right. That’s interesting. As I surveyed different cultures, the standard was two and a half to four years when you’re having multiple kids. And then because there’s no kid that comes after the last baby, the kid ends up getting nursed for seven years or more. Which is like my baby. I don’t think we’re having another, so that’s why she kind of held on longer than I thought.
In Mongolia they have this saying that the best wrestlers are breastfed for seven years. And the most shocking thing to our culture in a place like Mongolia is that when a baby is crying or a mom is not there, another mom will step in and nurse someone else’s baby, or a grandmother will step in, or even a grandfather will offer his nipple to a baby.
Ruth Pamnetzer described it as the most encouraging place you could possibly be a mother because everywhere you go, not only is breastfeeding the human norm, but it was like people were cheering her everywhere she went. Especially because she was from an industrialized society like Canada, the Mongolians just thought that Americans bottle feed, so Canadians bottle feed.
KIM: Oh, they thought that? They had that awareness?
JENNIFER: Yeah. Mongolia has changed a lot. There are very few untouched places now, and even in the year since I wrote Unlatched, so much has changed because of climate change; the traditional herding Mongolians are losing their way of life and more and more people are having to go into the cities. What you’re seeing there is what happened to us in America at the turn of the last century. They’re seeing industrialization and that movement away from the breast now, too. It’s just happening far later.
KIM: A friend of mine was the child of a twin. His mother and sister had their children at the same time, and he was breastfed back and forth between the two of them. That was just normal. He’s got an iron gut. We’ve been in situations where we’ve eaten something, and I have food poisoning and am up all night, shitting and puking, and he’s sleeping like a baby. He’s got this iron gut. I suspect it’s because he had this extra exposure to different microbiomes cultivated from dual breastfeeding.
I think there’s this basic idea of breasts supplying food. If you can just give them formula, what’s the big deal? Kids obviously are still alive. They’re not dying—maybe later in life—from formula. So, it’s not immediately obvious that there could be any lack from just having formula. But we know that there is.
People who actually look into it learn that breast milk does so much more than just provide nutrients. There’s the microbiome that gets populated; there’s the immunity that gets built in the child. Then there’s also this incredible biofeedback loop that takes place between the mother and the child, where the nipples actually get information from the baby about what it needs biochemically. Then these substances are pulled from her body and her breasts, which then turn it into milk. I call breasts the great alchemizers.
This is something that formula can never mimic. People can survive on it, but it’s really not the same.
What do we know about the emerging science or established science with talking about the components of breast milk, including things like immunity and the creation of a healthy microbiome? What are the ingredients of formula and the long-term health risks of being formula fed?
JENNIFER: Thank you for saying health risks, because I know that’s hard for some people to hear, but it’s the truth. You talk about the benefits of breastfeeding, but breastfeeding is the baseline. Breastfeeding is the norm and anything else, there is the risk. The problem is we don’t fully understand it yet because the science is so new.
KIM: And who’s going to fund it? A formula company?
JENNIFER: You’ll see things like “Now with new oligosaccharides,” or whatever it is that they’re promoting now on formula cans. That research is funded by the formula companies and they can say anything they want because there’s no regulation from the US government.
KIM: On formula, there’s no regulation?
JENNIFER: No. There is no regulation. The formula companies only have to verify that certain ingredients are in there so that infants can survive. There are nine basic components in infant formula. By contrast, we don’t know yet what’s in human milk. We’re talking thousands upon thousands of bioactive molecules, amino active substances. The microbes and oligosaccharides and prebiotics and hormones—I could go on and on and on—contrasted with nine in formula. And we don’t know the extent of what’s in human milk because the research hasn’t been done yet.
Science decided that we could map the human genome, and we know every unit of DNA in the human body. No idea, though, of what’s actually in human milk.
KIM: And I don’t think anyone would really want to know unless they’re pro-breastfeeding. No one with the serious funds to finance these kinds of studies is going to do it because that’s going to show the massive disparity between their product and breast milk.
JENNIFER: Well, interestingly enough, there is a tremendous amount of research from the formula companies. Part of it is so that they can start to put things in human milk, too, and market their products as being closer to breast milk.
But you’re right. Lars Bode is a glycobiologist at the University of California San Diego. He’s the one who I wrote this whole chapter about. He studies these oligosaccharides, these sugars, that basically prime the baby’s microbiome. They are specific to each mother and her baby. Each mother makes her own pattern that’s unique to her infant. You talk about priming the gut and your friend—if he got those two different oligosaccharides and microbiomes, there’s no way to quantify it, there’s no way to know, but it’s interesting to think about.
One of the real aha moments that set me off to write this book was that I have had chronic health problems my entire life. I couldn’t do much for most of my twenties and it took a long time to figure out what was going on. All the doctors I saw, from the top neurologists to the most holistic doctors to naturopaths—no one once asked, what were you fed as a baby?
You’re supposed to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of your life, according to the World Health Organization, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. You’re supposed to be breastfed continuously once food is introduced until two years or more. These are the building blocks of human life. I got this formula sample package when I was pregnant with Izzy and I turned it over and looked at the back of the carton. Hydrolyzed corn syrup, milk protein solids—this is what I was fed.
KIM: GMO! GMO seeding! Glyphosate for your gut.
JENNIFER: Well, thankfully, there were no GMOs.
KIM: At that point, yeah.
JENNIFER: Because I was born in 1979. I think my health problems would’ve been much worse. I’m so lucky. I really don’t have any of those big food allergies that you’re starting to see since the introduction of GMOs.
KIM: I’ll preface this episode by putting a caveat out for women who feel they’re being shamed about choosing not to be breastfeed. No, you’re not being shamed. You were duped.
JENNIFER: And I can also temper it with what else I discovered, which is about the politics and everything that causes this.
I knew I had been formula fed as a baby. When I was pregnant, I had planned on breastfeeding. Then that formula marketing package arrived in the mail. This is sent out by the formula companies to try to hook moms on formula, or try to introduce doubt in their mind, and for a second I did think, “Oh, I might need this. I might not be able to breastfeed.”
By the way, I had been writing this column for the Huffington Post about the environment and industrialized food, and I have always been a from-scratch cook and everything organic. I said, “Maybe I need this, just in case,” and my husband saw the package and said, “What is in this stuff?”
KIM: That’s so many decades of programming. Even if you’re looking at it another way, there’s still this really powerful message. Also, there’s permission given, “Oh, it’s okay if you don’t. Don’t feel bad about it.” We don’t want to shame women, but at the same time, breastfeeding a child is a really big thing. To just sort of give up on it really easily or not even take it seriously as a very important part of their life and especially as a seeding part of their life needs more examination.
JENNIFER: Right. I agree. I think that the toughest thing to realize is that most American women want to breastfeed. The statistics when I was writing the book were that 78 percent of women start out breastfeeding in the hospital. It’s really gone up since then. Eighty-four percent of women start out wanting to breastfeed, and then nearly half give it up within a few weeks, either completely or by supplementing with formula.
JENNIFER: That’s so much of what the book is about. It’s the influence of the formula companies. It’s the fact that we’re one of the only countries in the world without paid parental leave. Women have to go back to work within a week of giving birth, in many cases.
Instead of parental leave in this country, we have a free formula program sponsored by the US government that is in effect, a giant advertising campaign for the formula companies. Fifty-three percent of US infants get free formula from the government.
When you start to unravel all these invisible forces that no one has talked about, no one really knows about, that I uncovered as I was writing this book, you realize that so much of it isn’t choice. Mothers want to do right by their babies and yet there are all these forces coming at them.
KIM: Right. Not the least of which would be having a difficult hospital birth where their natural hormonal flow is interrupted, which is pretty much guaranteed in any hospital birth. I would say it would be very rare to go through a hospital birth and not be intervened with in some way, whether that’s by receiving Pitocin or other drugs. Some kind of trauma is brought into the situation that’s going to interrupt the natural production of oxytocin and other hormones that will support an easy breastfeeding process.
When women come out of that experience and they’ve been violated in some way, or experienced some kind of trauma or manufactured crisis, then they walk out of that with adrenaline and cortisol and almost PTSD. No wonder they can’t manufacture oxytocin, because the last fucking thing that they’re feeling is bliss.
They’re not in a big glow of oxytocin, which is what we ideally want and what would facilitate a really easy breastfeeding experience.
JENNIFER: Yeah. That’s the thing. You can’t talk about the denormalization of breastfeeding without talking about the denormalization of birth in this country. We’ve come a long way since what used to happen in the 1960s, where my mom told me these stories about my grandmother and twilight birth. Did you ever watch the show, Madmen?
JENNIFER: Okay. Well, there’s this scene where the main character goes to the hospital and wakes up with this stranger in her arms. During the birthing process, women were drugged, and babies were removed by forceps. We wonder why there’s an entire generation of kids who not only weren’t breastfed but had no connection with their parents and had all of these emotional problems. I don’t know a single person from my parents’ generation who didn’t have some kind of traumatic upbringing. That’s a huge part of it.
We’ve come a long way since then. There has been a baby-friendly hospital initiative, which has helped to bring back rooming-in; it’s helped to get the formula marketing out of hospitals. It’s helped to make sure that babies are put to the breast after birth to help facilitate that process. But that’s happening at the same time that we have a 30 percent C-section rate. That has to be reconciled, too.
I spoke with so many moms doing the research for this book, including my own sister-in-law, who had a C-section birth with my niece. She said, “I was in labor for two days. I had a very traumatic C-section. I’m puking on the table, shaking from the withdrawal from the medication, and then they hand me a baby and say, ‘Okay, breastfeed.’” She said, “If there could be a hell, that was it.”
We’re trying to reintroduce this not just primal, but biologically normal thing which we don’t know how to do anymore in a world that’s so technologically advanced, and we’re not there yet. It’s so hard for so many women. I didn’t really understand all those struggles before I wrote Unlatched.
KIM: Yeah. With a hospital-driven birth experience, women would be lucky coming out of that if it was an easy thing to breastfeed. Because even from the strictly hormonal perspective, it’s not really geared in their favor for that to be able to happen. Your body is in a state of shock and arrested from this trauma, so it’s not going to function and go into that healthy let-down state.
There are so many different elements to breastfeeding that people don’t realize are connected.
Something I’ve explored in recent years is jaw development. When you’re sucking from a bottle and a false nipple with a bottle, people end up with these V-shaped upper palates, versus when you’re breastfed, the tongue has to work harder in a different way to suction the nipple at the top of the mouth, which expands into a U-shaped palate. People can have everything from sleep apnea to TMJ because of this improper jaw development that happens as a result of having a bottle.
JENNIFER: Yeah. That’s fascinating. We have thousands of studies on erectile dysfunction and no tests or studies to determine the normal functioning of our mammary glands that are supposed to sustain human life.
Yeah, it’s interesting because Peter Hartman, who I interviewed in the book, was the one who discovered it’s actually the lips that form that really strong latch. No one knew about supply and demand before his research. Women think they have to take all these galactagogues—I never know if I say that right—but it’s really the baby being at the breast and the motion and the mechanics that stimulate the breast. The hormonal exchange that happens between the baby and the mom signals how much milk should be produced.
Yeah, that’s an interesting theory, and I would definitely be interested in exploring it more. I wish I had known about it.
KIM: It’s beyond a theory. There are people who have dug deep into it.
JENNIFER: There are people who have studied it?
KIM: Oh yeah. They’ve even compared the jaws of people prior to industrial diets or prior to formula feeding and you have these beautiful, strongly developed upper jaws, wide palates. Then you’ve got Western versions of that, with crooked teeth, narrow palates. All of this stuff is actually connected to breastfeeding. There may also be other factors.
JENNIFER: Oh, 100 percent. What’s amazing is that for all the people I hear talking about traditional diets, very rarely do people mention breastfeeding.
There’s that book, Blue Zones, where Dan Buettner talks about why all these people are centenarians all over the world and he discusses these traditional diets for long life. There’s no mention of breastfeeding. Why are these people so vigorous and healthy? Well, those Sardinian people were probably breastfed.
All of that is so fascinating, and I wonder, can we return to a world where breastfeeding was normalized? Will that return or has that been lost forever?
KIM: Gosh, I mean, I would think it would return, you know? It might take a few generations, and then perhaps there will be a return.
JENNIFER: Yeah. My parents were not breastfed.
KIM: Oh, really?
JENNIFER: The real drop in breastfeeding happened from the 1920s to the 1940s and 1950s. So, by the fifties, the vast majority of babies were not breastfed. My parents were not. Maybe my grandparents weren’t breastfed for very long either. Looking at the statistics, they probably weren’t.
This whole field of epigenetics is emerging, studying how genes get switched on and then are passed on to the next generation. The microbiome is passed down from mother to child through breastfeeding and through birth. That was an unbroken chain for millions of years. That’s a really profound thing to think about.
KIM: That is a very profound thing to think about. What else would you say are the benefits of being breastfed that you just cannot replicate with formula?
What are you risking?
JENNIFER: The science only knows, based on what we can look at from an epidemiological standpoint, until a baby is young-adult age. For instance, we know about increased risk of gastrointestinal illness, respiratory illness, diabetes, obesity, sudden infant death syndrome, increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer for moms.
But the truth is, we don’t know. We have very limited data because these studies have never been done in the long term. One of the top lactation scientists in the world is my age. When she first started, she was a graduate student in anthropology and wanted to know what studies had been done for primate milk synthesis so she could study it in humans, and there had never been any studies done.
We don’t know. What we do know is that throughout human history, up until around 1900, every human being was breastfed on average from two and a half to seven years of age. What we have is probably the greatest experiment in infant feeding in human history.
I know it’s a hard thing to hear. I know there are moms listening who weren’t able to breastfeed. It won’t help if people are just feeling guilty. We have to look at this head-on and say this isn’t normal. We don’t know the long-term health consequences. And how can we rectify some of this?
Because there are some things we could do that would really, really make a big difference, and we could do them relatively quickly.
KIM: Like what?
JENNIFER: Paid parental leave. The vast majority of moms who start out breastfeeding stop because they have to go back to work. That’s a huge thing.
KIM: For women like this, is it an option to pump or does that just become so labor intensive that they give up after a while? I didn’t ever do that, but I can imagine it would be a lot of hard work.
JENNIFER: Yeah. So, you didn’t pump? I barely pumped because I was a work-from-home mom. I had one of those single-side pumps and I never used it. My kids actually wouldn’t take a bottle. Even when I left, we had to spoon feed them, and I just never left until they were older.
I realize most moms can’t do that. Pumping is a nightmare. There is no mom who likes pumping. Why are we the only country in the entire world that is forcing women to go back to work and substituting it with an industrial machine that makes companies a lot of money and that doesn’t replicate breastfeeding? It’s a great substitute to the formula, but it’s really arduous; you don’t get that hormonal exchange that dictates your supply, and you don’t get the bonding.
We have done no studies about what the consequences are of an entire generation being raised without their parents nearby. Something like 70 percent of parents with kids under the age of one are working and have their kids in the care of someone else. What are the emotional consequences of that? What are the psychological consequences?
We have this globalized society, and we aren’t in little tribes anymore. We want humans to be healthy, and we don’t want to have skyrocketing rates of obesity and cancer, so we are going to have to make some concessions and get over this idea of every man for himself in America. We have to realize that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if women had six months of paid leave. We could figure out how to do it and then we’d have a lot of healthy kids.
KIM: Yeah. When I talk about this in my program, I tell people, “Look, try to make space in your life for at least a couple of years to be available to breastfeed your child.” If people are planning their birth or their pregnancy, I tell them to build in that space. Whether that means you move someplace where you have less rent or less mortgage—whatever that means so it’s possible to accommodate that, because it’s that important.
JENNIFER: I think you’re a great example because you did that and you’re very successful. There’s a wonderful author, Erica Komisar, who wrote this book called Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. She says, if you’re lucky, for most of us, life is very long, and you can do everything you want, just not at the same time.
When Izzy was born, Matthew, my husband, had been unemployed for years. We moved to that apartment so that we could afford our expenses. I didn’t want to go back to a full-time job. We ate a lot of beans and rice, and it was okay. We still had fun! I realize I come from a place of advantage to even be able to do that. We lived hand to mouth for a long time so that I could be with my kids. But as I discovered when I explored the federal WIC program, it’s not the same thing for women who come from Guatemala and Mexico and who are working in sweatshops and such. Not everyone can do that.
Or should we have to force people to do that? The greatest joy of my life has been being a mother. I feel like this is what I was put on earth to do, but it’s definitely affected my career. After writing Unlatched, I did not want to go back to writing another book. It took me away from kids. It’s uncomfortable sometimes, sitting with the idea that they’re little and maybe I’m not going to do what I want to do until they’re a little older. It’s not always easy.
KIM: I think feminism has maybe contributed to the move towards formula. Because there’s this push that we’re free, we can take the birth control pill, we can use formula; there are all these things that we can do to be away from home and be at work. We don’t have to be interrupted. We don’t have to be victims of our biology.
Growing up as a teenager, I was probably more in the mentality of “I’m going to be a career woman and I’m not going to fall into this trap of stay-at-home moms.” I didn’t even know if I was going to have babies because I thought that kept you away from your career.
Then in my early twenties, I had some shifts and my life changed direction. I had pivotal experiences that really opened me up and got me more into my truth, rather than other things superimposed upon me under the guise of liberation or feminism or whatever.
I decided I actually wanted to have a baby and I wanted to breastfeed and attachment parent and co-sleep. That was the truth and the way for me.
And extended breastfeeding. I was completely committed to that because I’m such a radically holistic person and my values on that are nonnegotiable. They’re not, “Oh, if it’s not convenient, I drop that value.” No, whatever it takes, I keep that value and make it a reality in my life.
How do you see that play out? Because maybe some people took the feminist movement as a way to more deeply connect to themselves and to their bodies, to treasure menstruation and birth and breastfeeding. Then there are other people who looked at the birth control pill or formula as things that liberate them to make them more independent.
This is understandable, but we see that there are massive long-term costs. Controlling our biology shouldn’t really be the goal. Rather, it should be merging our nature with our culture and coming to view these things as gifts, instead of burdens.
What do you see as solutions so we can move forward and embrace motherhood and career goals at the same time? I think you’ve touched on this with extended parental leave or just acknowledging that there might be a dip. I had my son young, in my early to mid-twenties. It was before I established myself as my career and I’m really grateful. Because I was fully committed, and there were so many things about parenting that translated into my drive that I can directly attribute to being a young parent.
How do you see all of that reconciling?
JENNIFER: You framed that so beautifully, and so much of what you say, I feel the same way. I didn’t have my kids as young as you did. I had Izzy at 30. But by LA/New York standards, I was the first of everyone I knew. And I was married at 25.
My mom always told me, “Look, you either have your kids young and figure out your career later, or you have a big career and then you have to leave it if you want to have kids.”
More and more, we’re seeing that’s what’s happening. The average age of first-time motherhood is going up and up and up as women wonderfully become more successful and able to work in whatever career they want. This book, I will say, truly made me a feminist. That word made me cringe before I wrote this book. I can’t pinpoint quite why, but I guess what I have come to see is that all of this liberation has happened still within the context of a completely patriarchal society.
We shouldn’t have to be different. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice having kids and being able to breastfeed them if we want to. We should be able to make the choices that we want, and society should recognize the beauty and the differences, because the truth is, we have to come to terms with the fact that there’s a consequence for that other kind of feminism.
When I was pregnant with Izzy, I met a lot of women in LA who said, “I’m not pushing my baby out my vagina! I’m going to have it cut out of me.” That’s not feminism. That’s ignorance.
KIM: It’s internalized oppression.
JENNIFER: Yes! And the same thing happens getting back to the sexualization of breasts. What? We’re a nation that surgically cuts open women’s mammary glands and puts plastic pillows in them. Who is that for? That’s not for women wanting to look how they want to look. That’s for the people at the top of our society, the people with wealth and power and men dictating what we should look like.
I think a truly evolved society would look more like the Waypas, which were societies that honored differences between men and women. How do we create not equality but equity so that we can do the things that we want to do?
What you see in societies like Scandinavia, which everyone holds up as beacons of enlightened industrial societies, is that they have very extended paid parental leave. They have full health care, and a lot of women have their babies very early there because they know they can. They know that they’ll be able to afford it and they know that they’ll be able to go back to their jobs. They know that they can keep breastfeeding and have childcare. To me, that looks more like a modern feminist society than what we have.
It’s hard to communicate that sometimes. It took me a whole book to do it. It’s really, really nuanced, and it gets translated in the media as just a lot of blaming and shaming, unfortunately.
KIM: I think this is a really crucial point because it’s a trap. I think it was Ogilvy who did this award-winning ad about formula a few years ago, and it features these—
JENNIFER: Yeah. I know what you’re going to say. [Laughs]
KIM: Yeah! These moms in the park. There are the breastfeeding moms and then there are the career moms who are bottle feeding or formula feeding.
Then one of the strollers goes rolling down the hill. All the moms run to save the baby and then they all merge together. Meaning, we don’t need to fight or blame each other or shame each other.
I would never advocate for blaming or shaming anybody, but if we get caught in that trap of not having these conversations because we’re afraid that people are going to jump on us for blaming and shaming people, we are fucked. It’s to the formula companies’ advantage to reinforce this division of, “Oh, we’re shaming women by saying this,” and covering up the truth of making those decisions. It’s a diversion to get people caught up in this arguing that we’re seeing all over the place with this same guise of blaming and shaming when really, the truth gets completely buried of what the actual differences are between these two choices. Did anyone give you this information before you made these decisions?
People get distracted, and so I really stand up against that because I refuse to be bullied into, “Oh, you’re blaming women.” Go fuck yourself! No, I’m not. Nobody is doing that here, but if we cannot have a discussion about facts, then you’re in la-la land.
JENNIFER: Yeah. The warm and fuzzy formula commercial, “We’re all in this together,” so we’re going to blithely ignore that two of the biggest formula companies in the world are in the United States and lobby the government to promote their products to unsuspecting women.
I spoke off the record with people who worked with formula companies, and there’s a deep psychology to these ads. And this is really how advertising works for any product. Coca-Cola wants you to think that it really cares about childhood obesity. And do you think Tide really cares about you doing your laundry beautifully? No. It’s all to sell a product.
Part of the problem is the information isn’t out there, and the people that we’re supposed to trust have been manipulated as well. Vast numbers of us aren’t birthing and breastfeeding anymore, so people are turning to their doctors. Formula companies contribute millions of dollars each year to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most people don’t know that. Doctors receive zero to tiny amounts of training about breastfeeding in medical school. They’re mostly schooled in formula feeding.
These are things we don’t know. Hospitals are given unlimited amounts of formula for free. They don’t have to purchase it, so when they have to give it to moms who need it, it doesn’t hurt the hospital’s bottom line. They never even have to confront those decisions. It’s all these invisible things that women don’t have information about how they’re being manipulated.
I’m with you. We have to talk about it. What is more important than the children that we are bringing into the world? To me, there’s nothing more important.
KIM: Yeah, absolutely. I agree.
Something that I wanted to ask you about was, can we dispel the myth that babies aren’t getting anything past six months of breastfeeding? Because the WHO guideline says, ideally, babies are exclusively breastfed up until that point and then people should incorporate other foods into a child’s diet.
But this really discounts the truly magical properties of breast milk and the bonding and the emotional connection. What do you say when people argue that beyond six months, nothing is really happening anyway, so what’s the big deal?
JENNIFER: That’s a great question. The guidelines are so murky that most people don’t understand them. You’re supposed to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, which means no food, no water, no formula.
But then you are supposed to complementary feed. The guidelines are, according to the World Health Organization, that you’re supposed to continue breastfeeding for two years or more. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says one year or more.
By the way, that was a political decision, because they thought that most American women would gasp in horror at the World Health Organization recommendations. I trust the World Health Organization, but—
KIM: On some things. I think back in the day, they actually used to be a source of legitimate information. I wouldn’t say that now, but this is older information that I would still say is decent.
JENNIFER: I would say they have amazing breastfeeding researchers and public health guidelines, at least from the research I’ve done. You can trust their breastfeeding recommendations because, quite honestly, those are designed for countries where there are no clean supplies of water. People can’t readily afford formula, and so if babies aren’t breastfed for two years or more, they die. It’s the number one way to stop diarrheal diseases, infectious diseases. Actually, one of my original chapters in Unlatched was supposed to be about breastfeeding in pandemic situations, and I never got to write it.
So first of all, you have the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization saying you should breastfeed beyond six months. That’s the point at which you introduce food, when a baby becomes interested in food.
That’s because babies’ immune systems aren’t complete until the age of seven. When you’re talking about priming the microbiome, preventing infectious disease, all of those things, we know that in situations where older babies are not breastfed in areas of the world where they need to be, infant mortality skyrockets.
KIM: And let me interject, we know that the US has the highest rate of infant mortality in the developed world.
JENNIFER: That’s 100 percent right, and the highest rate of maternal mortality as well.
KIM: Are there any risks of not breastfeeding?
JENNIFER: Yeah. The medical establishment says, “Here are the risks.” The federal government says, “Here are the risks of not breastfeeding.” They’re very clear about it.
KIM: Okay. So, in terms of benefits of breastfeeding, is there anything that we haven’t addressed or at the same time, health risks of not breastfeeding that we could actually describe?
JENNIFER: Yeah. Well, the health risks—and really, that’s how we should frame it, because breastfeeding is the human norm. Anything that’s different is really a risk. That’s how it’s described in the medical literature; that’s how it’s described by the US government. There are some really clear risks. There are increased risks of infectious respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal diseases.
We’re talking about things that can kill children. We’re not just talking about a tummy bug, especially in third-world countries.
Increased risk of diabetes, obesity, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer in the mother. Because think about it; there’s a real hormonal shift.
But obesity is the biggest one that’s really starting to come to light. And I think about the research I did in the book about the federal WIC program.
KIM: What’s the WIC program?
JENNIFER: WIC stands for “Women, Infants, and Children.” It’s a nutrition assistance program run out of the US Department of Agriculture. It’s become this beloved program for antipoverty activists and nutrition advocates because it provides supplemental food packages to women, pregnant women, and children under the age of five. But paradoxically, it has also been the biggest purchaser of infant formula in the country. They supply infant formula to more than half of all American infants.
When you look at when this program was created in the 1970s to today, child obesity has tripled. Child obesity is an epidemic in this country, and here is a missing piece of the puzzle that we haven’t looked at yet.
It’s really profound and kind of terrifying when you look at inequity in this country. This is a program for the nation’s poorest children, and what I uncover through a very long chapter is basically that the US government created all these milk surpluses through subsidies that started way back, generations ago. In essence, we are offloading our excess milk surplus in the form of infant formula to our nation’s poorest children. The consequences of which may be diabetes and obesity. We’re not just talking about a reduced risk of ear infections here. All of this should give anyone pause and make people think about how we need to look into this more.
But like I said, breast milk is not a food. It is a living tissue. That’s what the lactation scientist, Lars Bode, told me. All of the things that we don’t know that are in it—there are thousands and thousands of components. One recent analysis found that there are 1,500 distinct types of protein that are specific to breast milk.
All those things, it’s ridiculous that they somehow just stop. So your body just shuts off even if you keep nursing past a certain age? There’s no timetable. Otherwise throughout history, you wouldn’t have seen such extended periods of nursing. If something isn’t beneficial from an evolutionary perspective, it doesn’t persist.
KIM: One snarky reaction I often see to extended breastfeeding is , “You’re going to spoil your kid,” or it’s almost a sexual thing that they attribute to it. What do you say to that? I just roll my eyes, but it’s quite common. I saw somebody recently post something on Instagram about extended breastfeeding and I was pretty shocked at the ignorance and stupidity of people saying, “If they’re old enough to bite, it’s creepy.” It’s just juvenile stuff.
I guess, to me, it’s symptomatic of being sexually repressed and suppressed; of being ignorant, because they have no idea what breast milk does; and sexualizing breasts so they believe, “No, titties are for looking at and jerking off to. They’re not for milk for babies.” It’s just ludicrous.
If you were to indulge viewpoints like that, how would you counter them?
JENNIFER: That was one of the things that set me off to write Unlatched Two. In a culture where breasts are sexualized, the two biggest obstacles a nursing mother faces are breastfeeding in public, because every time you want to nurse your baby in a world—
KIM: Oh my God, it’s titties!
JENNIFER: Yeah! There’s a story I tell in my book when I went to my internist’s office. I was nursing Meekah, my little one, in the office, and the doctor came over and fashioned me a nursing cover from an exam table paper cover. Even medical professionals, supposedly well-acquainted with the workings of the human body, think that breasts are sexual things.
The breast is not a sexual organ. It’s not even a secondary organ. It’s a secondary sex characteristic which signals that someone has reached sexual maturity.
I often ask why we don’t use pubic hair to sell cars and beer. This is something that is completely cultural. The first thing that’s really tough is nursing in public, and the second thing is the extended breastfeeding issue because in a world where we think that breasts are only for sex, then once a child can ask, “Mommy, I want milky,” in a world where it’s sexualized, it seems incredibly sexually perverse and demanding, when in fact, because we’re in this bizarre cultural bubble, we don’t realize that it’s completely normal in many cultures throughout the world.
Hopefully, that’s on its way out, that idea that older children shouldn’t be nursed.
There’s this whole thing I haven’t even touched on yet that emerged based on really faulty parenting advice from doctors of the last century when all of a sudden people had to do industrial work and farmwork. It was like, “We’re on a timetable now. You can’t feed your baby whenever you want. Teach him early that life is hard. That he has to work 12 hours a day.” So much of that is just imbued in this horrible state that we find ourselves in now.
KIM: Yeah, absolutely. I was the opposite. I had my breasts out all over the place; I didn’t care. This is important. I think that something that I teach in my work overall is when you have genuine confidence and conviction, you can’t be fucked with. Nobody ever, ever hassled me about public breastfeeding. They wouldn’t dare.
JENNIFER: I’m sure! [Laughs]
KIM: It was just, “This is normal and I’m doing it,” and I didn’t care. Maybe part of it is that I don’t have body shyness. Nobody ever bothered me about it.
JENNIFER: Where did that come from?
KIM: Perhaps from some of my sexual comfort and comfort with my own body. And the conviction for the rightness of breastfeeding. I’m nonnegotiable about these things.
Then also, prior to that, I’d been exploring a lot of different alternative communities where nudity was acceptable. We would be going to nude saunas or go nude swimming or nude sunbaking. I was comfortable with my body all over the place. I had zero discomfort around public nudity. I think, combined with my own body acceptance and my conviction around breastfeeding, it made me sort of impermeable. “Here it is, take it or leave it. If you don’t like it, get the fuck out.” But it never got to that. I was just completely in my element and comfortable and loving it. Breastfeeding is, to me, one of the most beautiful things of being a mother.
I think all of that combined just imbued me with a layer of protection, where I was insulated.
JENNIFER: Yeah, I love that. That’s so awesome. I wish I had felt that way when I first started nursing, although maybe I wouldn’t have written Unlatched.
I have that comfort level now. Talking about being changed as a mother, having gone through that experience, and because I knew that this is what I wanted to do, I went down that rabbit hole of finding, why? Why is this not okay, and what’s wrong with our society? I started asking all those questions. I see now in the younger generations, they’re saying, “Don’t fuck with me. I’m nursing.”
I don’t like social media. When I had to do social media for Unlatched, I said, “I’m not going to post a nursing selfie.” I think I did one. But now, there are so many moms who are saying, “Yes, this is normal.” I think it’s wonderful. The more we see it, the more normalized it becomes. That’s why I have a lot of conflict about nursing pods. No one is really at the airport right now, but it’s a big thing. There are these lactation pods where you can go and nurse in private. Or nursing rooms.
No one wants to pump in public. If you’re a working mom who’s pumping, sure, that’s convenient. But the idea of culturally normalizing the idea that you have to go to a breastfeeding room is detrimental, I think.
If you’re a mom like me, who is more on the shy side, keep doing it. Don’t let anyone deter you and get used to it and get that comfort level. But if you’re someone who is like you, then the more people like you, the more normal it becomes. That’s awesome.
KIM: I agree with what you’re saying. It makes it seem like, “No, you have to go hide to do this.” Because if it’s normal, you just do it everywhere, any place, and it’s no big deal. But to say, “You have to go hide,” is putting a layer of judgment or shame on top of it.
JENNIFER: Yeah. Our policies have to reflect that, too. It wasn’t that long ago, when I wrote the book, that it was still not legal to breastfeed publicly in Idaho.
Literally not legal. Mothers are supposed to have a clean place to pump if they’re pumping at work and they’re supposed to have breaks to nurse. There are still a lot of exemptions to that law.
Our policies have to also reflect our values because if you’re a woman who is ready to fight, that’s great, but a lot of women aren’t. A lot of women are just overwhelmed. You know what it’s like when you have a new baby and you’ve never done it before.
KIM: Right. You don’t want to interrupt your flow to generate that energy of confrontation. You’re in the blissed-out state. Oxytocin is a gift of breastfeeding. One of many.
And then you have to put on a different kind of hat, unless you’ve got a protector around or your partner is there to confront somebody. You’re in a very vulnerable position when you’re in the middle of breastfeeding. That is really awkward. And to me, the biggest bullying you can do is confronting a breastfeeding woman publicly.
JENNIFER: And it happens all the time. Who are these people who feel like it’s their mission to interrupt a nursing mother? I signed up for Google Alerts to follow how often it occurs, and every week there would be some new story about a mom getting kicked off of an airplane or assaulted in a Target.
KIM: What? Kicked off an airplane for breastfeeding? That’s happened?
JENNIFER: I think it turned into an altercation because the mom asked, “What are you talking about?” That’s why in some of the other countries I looked at, for instance, like Taiwan, Vietnam, they passed laws that fine people who kick a nursing mother out of a place.
KIM: Oh, amazing.
JENNIFER: Yeah, but it’s also amazing that we live in a world where that has to happen.
KIM: Is there anything that we’ve missed that you’d like to touch on? What words of inspiration and positivity do you have for moms who are thinking of breastfeeding or questioning breastfeeding or who just want that extra push to stay committed?
JENNIFER: We covered so much, and you asked such great questions, so thank you. I can tell you’re passionate about it. It’s great.
But yeah, we miss a lot because this was three years of research. When you realize how multilayered this issue—I felt like I wrote ten books in one.
I guess, just to end it on a positive note and to empower people, just know that I was an unlikely person to write this book. I was exclusively formula fed.
I had a hard time breastfeeding in the beginning, and luckily, the hospital where I had Izzy was Kaiser Permanente, and they had free lactation consultants. I just kept going back. I said, “I’m going to learn how to do this,” and it wasn’t easy.
We have lost generations of breastfeeding knowledge that was handed down from womenfolk and which was an innate part of our human history. Many people don’t realize that it takes a lot of work to relearn it. But once you get over the hump and get the help that you need, it makes your life so wonderful.
I didn’t breastfeed Izzy for four years and Micah for seven and tandem nurse them because I’m some sort of breastfeeding zealot. I did it because it was the most astounding connection I’ve ever had to another human being. It was this thing that I could do that was how women have fed their babies throughout human history.
It was so worth it to me, and there’s so much to be gained that’s not scientifically quantifiable. So just keep going. Don’t give up hope. Get the help that you need. Because I really think when people don’t give up, they really can do it.
KIM: I think for some women, breastfeeding may be more challenging, but I would argue that a lot of that is stuff that they’ve accumulated. Maybe mentally, beliefs that they’ve taken in, or their birth experience itself, or their own internalized shame around sexuality and being a mother. So much of my work is about clearing that stuff prior to the experience.
And some women find it really easy. It’s not always a struggle for women, but I think that if it is, there are probably reasons. There’s stuff that’s accumulated in that person’s experience or belief system or in their birth itself that contributes to the struggle. That can still be worked on.
Yes, if you’re really convicted and have this belief, it’s all possible.
I want to really validate what you said about breastfeeding being the most amazing connection you’ve ever had with a human being. That brings tears to my eyes. I just love hearing that, and I guess, for so many reasons, the motivation for women to really commit to that process—for everything we’ve covered, but also, this transcendent feeling of love and bonding that’s really hard to duplicate anywhere else. Think about what that does for your relationship with your child, as well, to create that with them.
JENNIFER: It was easier when my children were babies. I know breastfeeding is not first nature to a lot of people, but the way I thought about it was, “Great! There’s this thing to comfort her.” I never second-guessed it. And we still have that wonderful bond. My kids are ten and seven, and I’ll say to them, “Remember milky?” They still get excited about it, and there’s this unbelievable connection that I have to them and this physical closeness. Not all parenting is easy, so it’s nice to have that at the beginning.
KIM: Yeah. It made me think, too, about my son. Throughout his growing up, we were always very affectionate. I’m an affectionate person, but I think born out of that breastfeeding relationship, it was just very, very easy. There’s a lot of tactile touch and connection that way that is beautiful.
JENNIFER: Yeah. It is. I was formula fed and my mom was so affectionate. I was raised by a single mom and it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t breastfed because it seems so antithetical to how she was as a mother.
That’s one of the amazing things about the book, too. I explored that with my mom, and she talks so much about how if she had only had the information that we have now, she would’ve wanted to breastfeed. That was what her heart was telling her to do, and society wasn’t there to support her.
JENNIFER: I think we’re more aware now of how, if this is something that you want to do, you should start researching way before you’re in the birthing room.
KIM: Right. Excellent. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I really appreciate that you devoted this time and energy to getting this information out there.
JENNIFER: Thank you, Kim. I’m so honored you had me on the show. Really, this was such a pleasure.
The main point I am trying to make, is that the modern industrial birth system WORKS AGAINST women to be able to access their natural rhythms and responses in birth.
What can you do to ensure your best chances at an oxytocin-guided birth?
Take my Sexy Mama salon!!
Break free of the programming and lies you’ve been told—likely since your very own birth—of what women’s bodies can and can’t do.
Because the problem with perpetuating these myths and misinformation like “fed is best” or “formula is just is good” is that we aren’t addressing the real culprits here.
No, it’s not women’s faults, for believing so-called experts.
Although, the facts and research ARE out there for anyone to perform their due diligence.
The problem is, that we’re not laying blame where blame is due.
And that’s with a hideously corrupt system that is designed to profit off the misfortune and violence done to women’s bodies.
The reason I went into all this detail to discuss breastfeeding, is because it’s all connected.
And to be able to dispel the “I was just one of those women” refrains, you have to see exactly where this chain all starts.
And the links that need to remain intact.
Connected by the divine thread of oxytocin.
This is your price of admission.
Sexual, spiritual and orgasmic bliss for the wins.
The Sexy Mama Salon is open now for registration.
This is THE holistic guide to all things conception, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and beyond.
Every detail in this program is rigorously researched and I present to you THE most potent and avant-garde information available.
If you are EVER considering having a baby, even way off in the future, this program is for you.
You have lifetime access to all of the material, so even if now isn’t the time, you can immerse yourself in this re-education at your own pace, and have an epic reference library of information and practices at your fingertips.
Here’s what Amanda had to say about her birth, after doing the Sexy Mama Salon:
“My birth was all the orgasms that I’ve ever had and will ever have, in one experience. It was one of the most pleasurable moments of my life.”