I had the opportunity recently to speak with Jennifer Grayson, environmental journalist and author of Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy.
Beautifully written, I love how Grayson weaves her personal account of breastfeeding and motherhood throughout the book. As a fellow breastfeeding mom, I find it inspiring and motivating to hear other women's accounts, finding again and again so many women who struggle with it in the beginning. By the end of the book I was in tears, truly moved by Grayson's story.
Her book is extremely well researched, and I found myself fascinated by the history of breastfeeding in the U.S. and abroad, and was surprised by the original role of formula companies. I highly recommend this book for mothers and parents, and anyone interested in anthropology, sociology, history, and American studies.
It was a pleasure getting to speak with Jennifer.
ABOUT JENNIFER GRAYSON
Grayson started her career planning to study medicine and anthropology at University of Pennsylvania, but while there she became more and more interested in singing, and transferred to New England Conservatory of Music to study classical opera. Years later when President Obama began his campaign, Grayson joined in as a volunteer and got into environmental issues. She started her former political and environmental blog, The Red, White and Green, and from there wrote popular columns for The Huffington Post, Innovation Earth and Eco Etiquette. After having — and breastfeeding — her second daughter, she got the idea for Unlatched.
ON MOM-LIFE BALANCE
Jennifer and I spoke a while about the balance of motherhood and work. Grayson is a work from home mom, and while she was trying to do it all as a working mom for many years, she just recently started having someone come and clean the house. She recommends finding ways to have people help, however you can. "And be okay with doing less," she advises. Let those piles of laundry and dishes go. Sleep is crucial too. "It's really tough," said Grayson. "I'm trying to start paring down, like checking email once a day."
Time is always sparse, so we need to find the best ways to use it wisely.
STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO MAKE CHANGE
I also asked Jennifer what we as parents and citizens can do to make breastfeeding more accepted in American culture. She said for those who feel comfortable, to breastfeed in public, using a nursing cover if one wants. She recommends educating oneself about breastfeeding, and finds the website KellyMom especially useful. Look for a pediatrician who is also a lactation educator, so you know that they not only understand the ins and outs of breastfeeding, but are advocates too.
And finally, Grayson touched upon how much time breastfeeding demands. "We underestimate what a commitment breastfeeding is," she said.
For me, a current stay at home mom, I have more time and ease to breastfeed my daughter. But for women who need to pump at work, conditions are often undesirable (pumping in a bathroom is so not reasonable, or sanitary), or it's hard to fit in the time, so many women give up pumping and breastfeeding altogether.
Grayson recommends that we call our representatives and senators to tell them that breastfeeding and paid family leave are issues that need to be addressed. "This is important," Grayson said. By making paid family leave mandatory, women would be able to stay home with their children and breastfeed if they choose to.
We sure have a long way to go before breastfeeding becomes a normalized part of our culture. But with books like Unlatched bringing the controversy to more of our eyes, we will get there, one day.
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In preparation to speak with Jennifer Grayson, I received one advance copy and one published copy of Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy, and one published copy for a giveaway.