Welcome back to our “Getting Real About Breastfeeding” series, where we spotlight various types of women and their nursing experiences. These individuals are kind enough to share their story with our Imalac community so that we may shine a light on the struggles and successes of breastfeeding, as well as provide tips to help guide each other along the way. This month, we had the opportunity to hear from a mother who built her organization by fighting for a woman’s right to nurse in public, which Imalac has continuously been an advocate for.
MEET ABBY THEURING
Abby Theuring is a blogger, podcaster, public speaker, activist, wife and mother of 2 who lives in Chicago, IL. She writes and speaks about everything breastfeeding. Abby has a master’s degree in Social Work and worked with abused and neglected teenagers for 14 years before her son, Jack, was born. Upon the birth of her son, she quit her job and refocused her passion for advocacy to breastfeeding. Abby struggled to get started with breastfeeding and now hopes to empower mothers through her blog, The Badass Breastfeeder, and her podcast, The Badass Breastfeeding Podcast.
How many kids do you have and how old are they?
I have two boys. My oldest is 8 next month and my youngest turned 5 just a couple of days ago.
Please describe your first ever experience with breastfeeding as you remember it.
When giving birth to my oldest son, Jack, I was induced and put under a lot of heavy medication in the duration of my 30-hour labor. The whole thing was the opposite of empowering. It was very scary and traumatic, which made it difficult to properly access my emotions once Jack was finally born. The nurse asked if I wanted to try breastfeeding, but I only remember being so overwhelmed in that moment. It was the first time I had ever seen any human breastfeed. A huge part of breastfeeding is seeing and hearing about other people doing it, but that delivery room was the absolute first time.
How did you become known as The Badass Breastfeeder?
After that moment, I eventually got home with Jack and my doctors were strongly encouraging me to supplement my milk supply. Based on little to no evidence, they claimed I was not producing enough milk. I read a lot on breastfeeding while pregnant as I knew it was something I wanted to do with my child. However, I kept thinking to myself, “When do I get to just breastfeed?”
I started going online to do research about breastfeeding and weaning. I found something called an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), which I had never heard of before. We consulted and she taught me so much, but the main thing is we got to figure it all out together! A few weeks later, I was exclusively breastfeeding. THAT was truly empowering and amazing.
So finally, I was out with a friend on a beautiful, warm day in Chicago. I asked her to take a picture of me breastfeeding my child and I posted it on a Facebook group. All of a sudden, my picture ignited a huge controversy and they threw me out of the group. I hadn’t realized there were so many politics surrounding breastfeeding as that was my first exposure to it. Being an advocate for kids in the child welfare system, I knew something was wrong here.
I created my own Facebook page where I share breastfeeding photos. I also started my own blog and told the long version of my breastfeeding journey. The response was incredible because so many mothers had similar experiences!
How can we as individuals provide more support for breastfeeding moms out there?
Compliments in public are great. Also, getting in on the conversation; whether it be on social media or in public! Sticking up for someone online or in person where someone is being harassed or having a difficult time, it could be very encouraging to have an individual step up and support you in that moment.
There are several different aspects of the normalization of breastfeeding, but I think if you’re learning about it, spreading awareness and being vocal about the issues, you are providing more support to these moms than you might think.
Throughout your years as a Social Worker, Activist, Podcaster, Blogger, Public Speaker and now known as “The Badass Breastfeeder,” what has been your biggest accomplishment?
I have to say that nothing will ever compare to messages from people that I get saying, “I was so scared to breastfeed in public and since following your page, I now have the confidence to do it.” Then, attaching a photo of their first time. That is the most rewarding to me. The more it’s seen, the more it will become accepted. Their confidence spreads to other people and hopefully society can become more accepting of it.
How do you deal with “mom-shaming”?
If you’re in public and someone is shaming you for your choice to breastfeed in public, I think it’s your choice to react based on safe you feel. Some people have the personality to just tell the person off and move on! However, let’s be real, if you’re holding your baby and you are upset, it might just be a situation where you would feel safer if you were to walk away and go home. As women, we know that some situations can turn really unsafe, really quickly.
Also, if you are that person who is judging the mother who did not react the way you would have, you’re continuously shaming a person who is being shamed. That’s not okay either.
I used to feel like I wasn’t doing my job if I didn’t get into internet arguments to defend others, but I realize now that the best thing to do is ignore.
**As a reminder, breastfeeding a child in public is legal in all 50 states.**
What is the biggest misconception that people have about breastfeeding?
One of the biggest misconceptions is when people think that their body is going to do it wrong. It is a fact that when a mother gives birth to her baby, their body is sending hormonal signals to the breasts to produce milk and their body will continue to do that until it stops breastfeeding.
Why is it that a mother has trusted her body to create a beautiful baby, but then doubts herself for the part that comes after? That is when an IBCLC comes in to offer knowledge on her body and suddenly, everything changes for that nursing mother.
Having said that, another misconception is that since breastfeeding is natural it’s going to be easy. That’s not true at all. Breastfeeding is a learned skill for both mom and baby. There are countless barriers that make learning this skill difficult for most people. If you are struggling, you are not alone.
Please provide some tips for breastfeeding moms seeking support.
My number one thing that I stress to everyone as early as I can: Find a CLC. Get their number and don’t hesitate to call them. They can help you get started on the right foot and will assist in dealing with problems early on.
My second piece of advice is to breastfeed on demand. Throw those schedules out the window! Cover all of your clocks if you have to, but just do it all the time when you can. This will help establish your milk supply and you’ll get to that healthy level of milk supply.
Tell us about your latest venture!
My big focus right now is my podcast with Dianne Cassidy, called the Badass Breastfeeding Podcast. A new episode comes out every Monday and we’re actually celebrating our 100th episode!
We tackle various breastfeeding topics and teach how you can deal with it. All the topics people are concerned about, including milk supply, lip ties, critical family members who are critical, etc. There’s only so much you can convey in a Facebook post, so for 30 minutes every week, we talk about game changers for breastfeeders.
To learn more about how The Badass Breastfeeder aims to support nursing women, visit her website or follow on Facebook/Instagram. If you are interested in tuning in to Abby’s podcast, a new episode of The Badass Breastfeeding podcast airs every Monday, which is available on all platforms.