Archive by Author

Whoot! Whoot! Katrina does it again!!

2 Apr

We are so proud of our Executive Director and Founder, Katrina Pavlik! She is the force that drives us all and with pieces like this, that get published in the Trib – you can see why. Read it – it’s good!

See the Op-Ed here:

Tell us what you thought of this piece. What have you done to advocate for yourself as a mom?

Sweet! We’re in the paper today!

28 Mar

Just a quick head’s up that Breastfeed Chicago responded to an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune, and it got published! We just love seeing our name in print. That’s probably why we have a blog.

See the whole thing here: (Nevermind that “stigma” is spelled wrong – not our fault!)

Do you have ideas on how we can make Chicago a more breastfeeding-friendly place for moms? Please share with us!

Apply for Small Grants to Support Your Breastfeeding Community!

27 Mar

Way back in November, we held a t-shirt design contest to raise money for our Leadership Development Project. Revolution Altrui, a t-shirt printing company, made our dream into reality. In four months, we were able to raise $563 from the sales of the shirts! Thank you, all!

Now it’s time to give all the money back to worthy causes – yours! Until we run out of funds, we’ll be giving away small grants to Breasfeed Chicago members who have a plan for making breastfeeding better in their community.

Who can apply?

Any member of the Breastfeed Chicago Facebook group.

What can I use the money for?

Any initiative that encourages breastfeeding in your community.

No, really, what can I use it for?

Here are a couple of our ideas, but we trust you’ll have even better ones:

  • Pay for a breastfeeding training/certification so you can help other moms
  • Buy a book for your favorite doctor (Medications and Mothers’ Milk, for example)
  • Pay for a breastfeeding conference (like CABC‘s in the fall)
  • Stock your local breastfeeding support group’s library with some fun books
  • Buy supplies to show the size of babies’ stomachs for the nurses at your local hospital (example)

How much can I ask for?

Depends. Funds are limited, so you’ll need to really make a case for a grant of over $50. We really like matching grants, so if you and/or your friends can match the funds you’re asking for, all the better!

What’s the catch?

Nothing in this life is free. You get money, you gotta do something for us in return. Take pictures of yourself delivering the goods and post about it OR write a post for our blog about your experience OR volunteer to be a moderator of our group OR volunteer for our World Breastfeeding Week event… the options are limitless.

Apply here:

I AM enough

2 Mar


I am enough.

I fell for Brené almost immediately. Granted, I watched her TED lecture on vulnerability when I was an emotionally raw new mother. But I remember being smitten immediately when I heard her talk about holding our perfect little babies and telling them “you know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. And when I watched her second TED lecture about shame and heard her say that for women shame is “do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat,” I was hooked.

So when Katrina Pavlik suggested I write a blog for Breastfeed Chicago about Brené I said yes without a second thought. I was sure I’d have something to say that you’d want to hear.

And then I got stuck. I love Brené and find her work powerful. Her lectures and books speak to me like poems that I keep seeing in a new light as my own life evolves. But how could I make you see? Why should you care?

So I put the whole project on the back burner for a while.

Then one day my cousin posted this link to a podcast about women who felt let down by Ina May Gaskin and the natural birth movement. Women who really wanted a natural birth, who did all the right things and who were not able to have the birth they wanted. The comments section was a series of incredibly powerful stories of heartbreak, trauma, shame and resilience.

And as I was reading these stories something else fell into place for me. I’d been observing from the sidelines all the hoopla about that one formula commercial. (You know the one where the ugly stereotypes of moms and some dads lash out at each other until they chase a stroller down a hill to save a baby. I’m not going to link to it but you can easily google it.) And the question that nagged me was not whether it was pro-breastfeeding or anti-breastfeeding. It was this: why did this go viral? What emotional chord did it strike for people? Why on earth were people sharing this?

And that’s when I realized that the feeling the commercial was tapping into was not guilt about the choices we make – it was shame about who we are. Guilt is when we feel we’ve done something bad. Shame is when we believe we are bad. Guilt is “I made a mistake”. Shame is “I am a mistake”. When we feel shame we believe deep down that we are not enough and therefore are not worthy of love and belonging. And this commercial tapped into two huge shame triggers for women: our bodies and our babies.

Maybe some people shared the commercial to show how judging can be hurtful. But I think it was way more visceral than that. Shame is not about what other people say to you. It is about your own internal dialogue: what you say to yourself. I believe people shared this as a way to connect with others. As a way to say “See? I’m not the only one hurting. I’m not the only one failing here. I’m not the only one who’s not enough.”

And that’s when I realized that Brené and I had something important – urgent even – to say to all of you. Shame is a normal human emotion. The only people who don’t feel shame are psychopaths. Shame can also be enormously damaging and isolating. But there is a way forward and it’s called shame resilience.

There are basically two steps to shame resilience. The first is recognizing when you feel shame. Sometimes there are physical signs: your face turns red, your palms sweat, your neck feels tingly, you want to hide. For me the most telling sign is hearing my inner voice tell me I’m an idiot. Recognizing and naming shame is the first step to controlling it rather than letting it control you.

The second step is to reach out to tell your story to someone worthy of hearing it, who can stand with you in your struggle without running away and without judging. Maybe even someone who can share her own story of feeling the same way. Brené says that you are incredibly lucky if you have one or two people in your life that can stand with you in your shame.

I’ve been a moderator on Breastfeed Chicago for a few years now and I often struggle with what to say. It’s easy when someone is asking for information and we can connect them to the right page on kellymom or the number to infant risk. But solutions don’t always cut it. I need to keep reminding myself that behind many posts is a shame story, someone who feels like she is doing her best and she is failing, someone that needs my empathy more than my knowledge, someone who needs me to say “I know what it’s like and you are not alone.”

And maybe that’s the answer to these so-called “mommy wars.” We can practice courage, compassion and connection by telling our story to someone worthy of hearing it. We can support each other when we hear these stories by simply saying “I know, I’ve been there too and it sucks. And you know what? You’re imperfect, but you’re wired for struggle. You are worthy of love and belonging, mama, and you are enough.

Danit Schleman lives in Wicker Park with her husband, dog and 2 daughters (3 and 1) She works in Diversity and Inclusion for a Management Consulting firm and enjoys cooking and yoga in her (limited) spare time.

The Value of Breastfeeding Meetings in the Age of Social Networking

1 Feb

Dear nursing mama,

Q: Do you need to go to a meeting of Breastfeeding USA or La Leche League?

A: If you think you need to, then you do. If you think you do not need to, then you need to even more. A hospital class, I am sorry to tell you, is not the same thing at all. Of course, any way of getting information is good. But what you need, whether you know it or not, is a circle of women: experienced, less experienced, those who are giving back, those who are unsure about the whole breastfeeding thing, those who have had setbacks and are looking for answers, those who just want to be with other moms who won’t judge them. You need to be able to absorb by osmosis some of the philosophy that goes along with a breastfeeding relationship.

In the 1980’s, I wrote an article for La Leche League News, as it existed then, entitled: “La Leche League Meetings: Who Needs ‘Em?” At that time, La Leche League was going strong, but there were many moms who didn’t see the point to attending meetings to learn something that they assumed would come “naturally.” Many expected that their doctors would tell them all they needed to know. How wrong they were.

Most doctors were clueless about breastfeeding (it is not an illness). And breastfeeding does not come naturally to mothers who grow up in a bottle-feeding society.

Breastfeeding is deeply cultural. We live in a society that is barely tolerant of breastfeeding. The world-wide web does not replace that age-old circle of women helping women.

Here we are in 2015, and the moms of today are equipped with google and web md and can contact all their friends at once with a tap to a screen. Surely, with modern technology, we can access all information worth knowing. Surely, we are beyond the need to sit in a circle with other breastfeeding moms and their babies and toddlers. Aren’t we?

Trust me here: with your first baby, and even with your second and third, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are questions you would not even think to ask. You can prevent problems from even occurring if you have the information up front. And not only that.

When you become part of a breastfeeding support group, you develop relationships with the other moms over time. You encourage one another. Playgroups spring out of that, with the children growing together and the moms growing together in their confidence and their own mothering philosophy.

Breastfeeding is not just about getting that great breast milk into the baby. It is also about the relationship between mother and child that forms along the way. And that circle of women will show you that—in a way that no book or website can.

Couldn’t you just ask for help from professional lactation consultants or from Breastfeeding USA counselors as issues arise? Sure, many moms do. Along with that approach come preventable problems, last minute panic, unnecessary stress, and premature weanings. Why would you want that?

What will you get if you attend meetings? You will continue to learn something new each and every time. You will make friends with women who do not question your decision to nurse your child. You will develop confidence in yourself as a mother. You will pick up something that cannot be easily described, but that is very real: a sense of connection with these mothers and with mothers all around the world and throughout all of time—yes, just by sitting in a circle of women and sharing your questions and answers and love of breastfeeding. You will learn more than you could think to ask, and your heart will expand with the love that fills the room when mothers and their nursing babies gather together.

Please, give it a try. Go to some meetings, and tell me if I told you the truth.

Want to check out a breastfeeding support group? Click on this link to our Breastfeeding Support Group map to find a group near you:


Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC is a counselor with a private practice in Hinsdale, Illinois. She can be reached at Her website is

7 Breastfeeding Mistakes I Made, So You Don’t Have To

6 Jan

Silly, crazy smart goof-ball.

This is my cute, little first-born.

Well, OK, he’s not so little at a whopping 8.5 years old (how the heck did that happen?). His babyhood might be long gone, but the memories of all the challenges we faced – real and imagined – are far from forgotten.

Of all the things I wish I could change about that first year, breastfeeding is at the top of the list. After a lot of pain and frustration with breastfeeding, I threw in the towel at 8 weeks and decided to pump exclusively for him.

Looking back, I made some rookie mistakes that might have helped us avoid all the tears (his and mine). I’m not alone. Around two-thirds of moms who plan to breastfeed don’t reach their own breastfeeding goals. Why? If I were a betting gal, I would wager they fell into many of the same “booby traps” as I did.

Here’s hoping you learn something from my mistakes!

  1. I didn’t prepare! I was *incredibly* prepared for the birth – took classes, took tours of the hospital, read books, talked to friends… I figured breastfeeding would take care of itself. Wrong. Ugh. Smacking my head.
  2. I didn’t talk to my health care providers about breastfeeding. The doctors and midwives I met before the birth said nothing about breastfeeding, and I never thought to bring it up. I didn’t even know if there were lactation consultants on staff at the hospital, let alone how often they worked and what their credentials were!
  3. I didn’t stand up for myself. After the birth, a nurse came into my room to assess his eating. She said I had “flat nipples” and gave me a nipple shield. I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to say or ask or do. And then she left. I had no idea how often he should be eating, what feeding cues to look for, or how to know if he was getting enough. I should have asked for (aka demanded) another visit from her before I left the hospital and gotten all my questions answered.
  4. I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. At home, baby was very sleepy and not soiling his diapers (signs that he wasn’t getting enough). I don’t know what got into me, but I was determined to make things work… without help. In my mind, I was supposed to know what to do and asking for help would be like admitting failure. I know now that’s just crazy talk.
  5. I didn’t stand up for myself (again). Eventually, the pain got so bad, my husband made me visit the hospital lactation office. They looked at the latch and checked his milk transfer and said things looked good. Things were not good. I was still in terrible pain… every. single. time. he. nursed. I should have realized that not all lactation professionals are created equally, and if these ladies couldn’t provide the right help, I needed to look elsewhere for answers.
  6. I didn’t seek out emotional support. I not only needed technical support for breastfeeding, I needed to know that what I was going through emotionally was normal. Yes, hubby listened patiently to my tearful complaints, but I needed other moms to talk to. In real life. There was a breastfeeding support group not far from my house and I never went. Shyness? Shame? Ignorance? All of the above. Smacking my head again.
  7. I didn’t know that things could get better. I thought that I’d be in pain forever if I kept nursing. Little did I know that good latches can be learned over time, with the right support and a lot of patience.

This story at least has a happy ending: I ended up with a great kid who got a lot of breastmilk in his first year of life. His younger brother benefitted from all my early mistakes – none of which were repeated, by the way, and he breastfed successfully for a long time.

Are you planning to breastfeed? Check out our awesome post, chock full of great resources for a successful beginning!

Before You Breastfeed: Ten Steps to a Great Start 

Author’s Note: As we all think about the mistakes we’ve made (and we’ve all made them), let’s remember to distinguish between where we “failed” and where we were failed by others. Our health care providers are not properly trained to support breastfeeding and our institutions are not set up for breastfeeding success. We are being failed, and we cannot accept that as the norm for our mothers and babies. So, in short, let’s all give ourselves a hug, learn from our experiences and make Chicago the most breastfeeding-friendly area in the country! Rock on.

Donating Breastmilk, Explained

1 Jan

I am a donor mom. I started donating blood when I was 17 years old, I donated my hair a few times, and most recently I donated my breast milk. I will admit, the first time I donated blood it was to get out of class in high school. But, the satisfaction of knowing that I may have helped save a life kept me donating for years to come.

For the most part, everybody is familiar with blood banks and hair donation programs. The world of milk banks is far less accessible. I hope that changes soon.

When a person decides to donate blood they can typically do so fairly easily. There is a short screening process, and the trip to the blood bank to make your deposit really doesn’t take more than a few hours out of your day. You might even get some cookies and juice and a sticker to reward you for your contribution.

When a person decides to donate hair, the process might be a little bit more involved. It takes some time to grow a foot or more of hair. But again, the donation process is pretty simple. A couple of snips and a sassy new short hairstyle and you are all set. In both cases our bodies will automatically replenish what was lost with no extra effort on the part of the donor. But when a mother decides to donate her milk, it is not quite so straightforward. Our bodies make milk because of a supply and demand system. While some mothers produce an oversupply of milk, others produce just enough. All of us who wish to donate must invest a lot of time pumping to express the extra milk we need to share.

I personally did not make enough breast milk for my own first son. He received a combination of my milk and formula through his first year of life. Looking back I know that I could have definitely avoided the formula with the right support system, but that is another story. When my second son was born we had a much easier time nursing, but I still struggled with supply. I never thought I could become a milk donor. However when I learned of all the amazing, life saving benefits of donor milk I knew I had to try.

Happily, I now have an incredible support system. I am surrounded by several knowledgeable lactation consultants at work (New Mother New Baby), and I am part of the Breastfeed, Chicago! online community. The Chicago area is a great place to be for a breastfeeding mom! When my 3rd child was born, I made it a personal goal to donate breast milk. After giving myself about six weeks time to recover from her birth, I began pumping.

Unlike blood or hair donation, breast milk donation requires dedication. I pumped every single day. As a working mom it wasn’t just about donating. I was also pumping to make sure that my own daughter would have enough milk at home on the days that I was gone. I made sure to keep up with my prenatal vitamins, eat a good healthy diet, and avoid any kind of medication or supplement that was not ok for donor moms. When my older boys got Hand Foot and Mouth disease at school, I kept my pumped milk separated so as to make sure I did not donate milk from the time I was exposed to the illness. In short, I was very careful with the milk I pumped for my daughter and for potential recipients. For over a year I followed this protocol. I also started the donor screening process. I filled out a few forms, had a blood draw, and got signatures from my doctor and my pediatrician.

The amount of time and effort it takes to pump made it clear that I needed to make sure that my milk was going to the best possible place. I wanted to help save tiny lives! The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is the governing body for non-profit milk banks across the country. HMBANA banks provide milk to the most vulnerable infants first in order to avoid a devastating illness called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NECkills far too many formula fed preterm infants. For those of us here in the Chicago area, our local 501(c)(3) bank is the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. (MilkBankWGL) Although the processing facility will not open its’ doors until early 2015, they already offer 27 places throughout Illinois and Wisconsin where pre-screened moms can drop off frozen breast milk. These sites are known as Milk Depots. When I first became a donor, there were only 2 Milk Depots in Illinois – now there are 6! In less than a year, the number of depots has tripled! I know that HMBANA Milk Banks try to make the donation process as easy as possible for donor moms, but it will still always require the dedication of regular pumping.

Recently I have seen some talk of milk banks that will pay certain moms for their milk. While that might seem like a great idea on the surface, I don’t really think it is a good choice in the long run. The “banks” that are offering compensation are actually “for-profit” companies that market themselves as milk banks. Some take the milk that mothers donate and turn it into a human milk based product that they sell to hospitals for a premium. In addition, I was surprised to learn that there are even companies that call themselves milk banks who in fact make a profit off of moms’ breast milk without any form of compensation for the donor moms. These companies often claim that a milk donation will benefit preemies – but there are many hospitals that will only accept milk from HMBANA milk banks. Some of these companies produce and sell human milk based nutritional supplements that may not even be intended for babies. As a donormom, I like to know where my donation is going.

I want to know that the product I worked so hard to create will go directly to a child who needs human milk to survive. I want the assurance that the processing methods are of the highest safety standards and keep the integrity of my milk alive. I want the sickest babies to be the first to benefit from my donation, regardless of the finances of their families or of the hospitals where they happen to be born. Consider that hospitals that purchase milk products from for-profit companies will spend up to $100,000 more every year. I think it would make more sense to use those resources to pay a lactation
consultant or peer counselors to help NICU mothers provide their own milk for their babies.

I know that as a volunteer donor I have no motivation to dilute or alter my milk in any way. I know that I will feed my own child first and only donate the milk that I can spare. I know that mothers who struggle financially will not be asked to choose between feeding their own child or earning extra money for the family. I know that I will stick to the safety guidelines for diet and supplements because my milk could potentially be used to treat a seriously ill baby. I know that when my milk is blended with the milk of other moms as an additional safety precaution I can be confident that they are donating for the same reason I am – to save tiny lives.

When I made the decision to donate my milk, I chose to donate to a Milk Bank that is part of the HMBANA system because I could be certain of what would happen to my donation. There are several NICUs in the Chicago area that currently order donor milk from our closest processing facility, The Milk Bank in Indiana. They will soon receive their milk from our local bank right here in Illinois. As more Milk Depots continue to open, I truly hope that HMBANA milk banks become a widely recognized resource not only in the NICU and breastfeeding communities, but to all families.

I am happy to know that I did not help any company make a profit. I don’t want to be paid for my breast milk. I simply want to know that it helped a family in need. My blood will flow and my hair will grow, but my lactating days are limited. I am proud to know that I may have contributed to the survival of a brand new baby.



For more information please check out the following links…


Susan Urbanski is a fellow breastfeeding mom, along with being a knowledgeable breastmilk donor. She works at New Mother New Baby and is an active member of Breastfeed, Chicago!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 376 other followers