I have a confession to make. Not necessarily a good one, given that I own a nursing bra company. Stay with me though, as there is a happy ending.
In 1997, when I was talking to Shery (my business partner) about joining Bravado as co-owner, I didn’t think that there was any reason that I couldn’t get involved in the business, and not – gasp – formula feed my future offspring. I had discovered Bravado through my consulting business and fell in love with its potential and the founders’ passion for the subject. I knew that Shery and her original partner Denyse were onto something special with their Original Nursing Bra, which garnered huge word of mouth buzz by moms in-the-know. So what if I didn’t share that same passion for breastfeeding? My passion was in building a solid business, and Bravado was, to me, very cool and very niche. I loved the company and its mission “to help promote a new mother’s self-esteem at this wonderful yet challenging time of her life”. However, I was very ambivalent about the whole concept of nursing for myself. This was of course something that I kept very private, as you can well imagine what my passionate breastfeeding advocate partner Shery would have had to say on the subject!
My family history had a lot to do with it. My mother, a prominent medical specialist, formula-fed all four of her children. I think we all turned out relatively okay, though the jury is still out on my actor/musician brother currently living at my mother’s (two years after he dropped in for a “visit”). He blames his “commitment issues” on the fact that my mother didn’t breastfeed him as a child (I’m serious).
I am a well-educated, fairly savvy person and always knew that I wanted children, and yet I had never given breastfeeding much thought – or really ANY thought at all. My mother not only didn’t breastfeed, she was back at work 9 days after her youngest was born and says that the few months that she spent at home with me when I was a baby (I’m the oldest) were some of the most horrible of her life because she was so bored. So I had no family history to lean on, no innate assumption that breastfeeding is natural and best for your baby.
The Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council (BBIC), Bravado’s information arm, has coined a term for women like me based on its extensive research: I am a First Generation Breastfeeder. What does this mean? Well, unlike those women who have a positive breastfeeding role model and knowledge base upon which to draw within their own families, we First Generation Breastfeeders have to start from scratch to establish our own support network. Even worse, we often come under criticism from those upon whom we rely the most when we embark on the journey of motherhood – our own moms – because our experience is so different from theirs.
When did I decide that I would give breastfeeding a try? To be honest, it had to very little to do with actually joining Bravado. I was talking about the company with my mother, she of the critical well-meaning remarks (I could write a book), and she simply said,
“If I had known then what I know now about the incredible health benefits of breastfeeding, I would have breastfed all of you.”
Her words that day thirteen years ago had more impact on me than anything that I could have read on the subject, or anything that Shery could have told me. Just like that, my mother changed my whole outlook on breastfeeding. As a First Generation Breastfeeder, I was lucky to have a mother who admitted that she didn’t know best. Despite her own lack of experience in the area, she strongly encouraged me to follow the breastfeeding path – even if I did endure ill-informed comments such as “I think you’re over-feeding him”, and “you’re giving in to her demands too much”. Many First Generation Breastfeeders, as our BBIC research has shown, are not so fortunate.
In the end, I sailed through the six month exclusive breastfeeding target that I set for myself with both of my children – not without my own set of challenges. (Yes, despite knowing almost everything there is to know about breastfeeding prior to giving birth, I still had a rocky road with my first child.) Both of them nursed for almost a year and I will always treasure that special time. Not to mention my pride at giving them such incredible health benefits. Thanks, mom.