Actress Alysia Reiner has inspired viewers with her film, tv and stage roles, including the films Sideways (for which she won a SAG award), and The Vicious Kind; guest appearances on 30 Rock, Law and Order (CI) and the Sopranos and numerous award-winning plays. Alysia is currently appearing in numerous film festivals with SPEED GRIEVING a short film she created, produced and stars in.
We were thrilled that Alysia approached us to help our cause; she is incredibly warm, grounded, and passionate about her craft and about helping mothers succeed. She is constantly looking for ways to help us raise awareness and beat the “Booby Traps”. We are proud to designate Alysia Reiner as our latest Champion for Moms! By sharing her breastfeeding story exclusively with us, she knew we would be able to get more evidence-based, accurate information and resources into the hands of expecting and new mothers (we’re both Certified Lactation Counselors). She was also quoted in the USA Today story about the gift of donated breastmilk for mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding (or can’t breastfeed or decide not to breastfeed) and who want the next best substitute for their own milk—milk donated by another mother.
Best for Babes: Who or what inspired you to breastfeed, and to stick with it?
Alysia Reiner: I always thought it was such a mysterious and magical thing that women can do and always knew I wanted to try, my mom wasn’t able to, but I had heard it wasn’t as easy as one may expect – and then I found YOUR WEBSITE! When I found it and read the incredible article about the amazing benefits of breastfeeding, your inspiring interview with Gabby Reece, and maybe most important the BOOBY TRAPS which helped me prepare.
BfB: That is so cool that our interview with Gabby inspired you! Did you seek out breastfeeding advice during pregnancy? From where or whom?
AR: I went to a great class at Golden Bridge Yoga in LA, I got some helpful videos, read a bunch of books and had a lactation consultant’s number ready for after birth. I had enough friends have trouble that I knew it wasn’t as ‘natural’ as one may imagine.
BfB: What kind of birth experience did you have, and how did it impact breastfeeding? Did you have a “breastfeeding-friendly” ob-gyn, birth center/hospital and pediatrician?
AR: I gave birth in a birthing center, had fantastic midwives and an amazing doula – all which helped me so much because they were all very breastfeeding oriented. In fact at the center they took the bag filled with formula that they are supposed to give me, dumped all the formula and gave me blankets, witch hazel pads & and Lansinoh instead. My pediatrician is very breast feeding friendly, and even though Liv is a year now she encouraged me to breast feed Liv through the winter because it would be such a nasty flu season. Essentially I built a base of cheerleaders.
BfB: Who or what helped you the most during the learning curve of the first few weeks?
AR: My doula was amazing, and my friend Catherine who has 4 kids and breast fed them all, came over and set me up in the most amazing way. Everyone checked our latch a lot and all the research I did came in handy but David was my biggest cheerleader. He would encourage me and really educated himself to help (like supporting me and knowing I wasn’t crazy when I would take Liv off to get a good big mouth latch). He would write down feeding times, bring me water & food, he was so amazing.
BfB: Has breastfeeding detracted from or enhanced your relationship with your husband in any way?
AR: I think honestly he is in AWE so that’s always good. But seriously, becoming parents has so many deep ramifications on a relationship, it is hard to pin point what is connected to what. In general I would say he is just thrilled by it, it really is such an incredible thing our bodies do – that you can feed another human being nothing but this extraordinary liquid and see a human being grow and thrive! He is thrilled to see it and see the bond between Liv and I. Is he jealous sometimes? Sure. Have there been a few embarrassing intimate moments? Yep. He has to share my body, and a very special part of it, that he probably wishes he didn’t have to share sometimes but in general I think we both feel it’s worth it.
BfB: What do you like/love about breastfeeding?
AR: The closeness with Liv. Being able to soothe, comfort and make her feel safe and loved. I will be sad to give that up someday but she loves to hug and snuggle so much now. I also LOVE knowing what is going into her body. I have been so careful about food, additives, chemicals, because I am her source of nutrition, and that feels so good. I have gotten so healthy. Show me the wheat grass and super foods! And Liv is a great eater, LOVES veggies and I do wonder if it is because I have been so green in my eating. [BfB Note: Dr. Alan Greene says breastfeeding exposes babies to thousands of flavors!]
BfB: Has this experience been different in any way from what you expected? Any obstacles along the way?
AR: I didn’t expect to love it so much. To feel so miraculous. To do it so long. I thought I would stop when she could ask for it but then she started talking really early – oops. The obstacles were: the first month is HARD - just getting used to it, regulating your flow, pumping, all of it. Again girlfriends helped so much. Now it’s so easy.
BfB: What is the most unexpected gift you have received from breastfeeding Livia?
Being able to give my milk to another mother. I didn’t even know if I would be a make enough for one baby, as a small breasted woman I was actually very concerned about that (as it happens size has nothing to do with milk production). I have a lot in storage just in case of emergency and never needed it, so I started looking into donating it to a milk bank. At the same time I spoke to a friend who was having a very hard time with breastfeeding, and suggested she look into milk banks. Then it dawned on us both that it might be easier to just do a direct donation, similar to when you direct an organ donation or direct a blood donation. So I am happy to be able to share my milk with another mom’s baby. Feeding Liv is heaven and such a gift, but sharing my milk was the most incredibly unexpected gift of all.
*Best for Babes Note: Although milk-sharing and cross-nursing have gone on since the beginning of motherhood, any exchange of bodily fluids carries a risk of transmitting communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, etc. and mothers and babies have died from the transmission of diseases. (Salma Hayek cross-nursed another baby in Sierra Leone but we suspect (and hope) that both she and the baby were tested first, as it is possible for the baby to transmit disease to another mother!) For that reason, we strongly caution against direct donation and recommend that mothers wishing to donate milk or needing donated milk contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). HMBANA is celebrating its 100th year of SAFE, RELIABLE milk banking and we hope that someday that ALL mothers who can’t breastfeed, choose not to breastfeed, or whose babies are medically indicated for supplementation will have access to human milk from a registered milk bank, the superior, preferred substitute for direct breastfeeding or pumped breastmilk from the mother . HMBANA ensures that all milk is properly handled, screened for diseases, and pasteurized before it is given to another baby. Only if moms demand this superior substitute will it be made more available.
BfB: How did you juggle breastfeeding and going back to work? Did you run into any “Booby Traps“?
AR: I was super lucky going back to work. In the first couple months, I did a workshop of a new play, and the producer & director were both moms who accommodated the schedule to Liv’s feeding schedule. My amazing husband brought Liv to the rehearsals, and the studio we were rehearsing at gave me a lovely private room to feed her in. Next I worked on some TV shows, all of which gave me an extra room or more roomy trailer so I had room for Liv’s stuff, her car seat/stroller and a warm cozy spot to feed her. The crew were great about communicating to me about the schedule so I could plan her feedings around shots. I am so grateful to them all because I know that is not always the case. Now I am running around to festivals with my film ( SPEED GRIEVING – join our facebook fan page!), and it’s much easier because she feeds so much less often, and again my husband had been incredible about helping make it work.
I think for me it was such a diplomacy game. It was so important to explain right off the bat that I love to work, I am grateful to be invited to collaborate as an artist, AND this was a priority for me (just to be clear, even though I did pump and that was available to her just in case I wasn’t available, it was always my preference to be with her), AND at the same time be clear that I am a professional and I will show up as such – it’s such a balance.
BfB: Experience is the best teacher. Is there anything you learned along the way that you are inclined to share with her moms?
AR: 1) BE PREPARED: EDUCATE YOURSELF AS MUCH AS YOU CAN BEFORE YOU HAVE THE BABY.
2) HAVE SUPPORT & CHEERLEADERS.
3) KNOW THAT THE FIRST FEW WEEKS ARE ROUGH, BUT IT REALLY DOES GET EASIER.
BfB: Thank you so much for that awesome, perfect advice, and for helping us inspire, prepare and empower more moms!
Best for Babes Notes for Moms:
1. Tips for expecting moms: Find out what inspires and motivates you to breastfeed, and prepare yourself for breastfeeding by reading The Learning Curve of Breastfeeding and the Ultimate Breastfeeding Checklist to hit the ground running!
2. The Right Gear: While all you really need for breastfeeding is at least one boob and a baby, here are our 4 top must-haves: the Simply Breastfeeding DVD, the Earth Mama Angel Baby Breastfeeding Support Kit, a My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow, and a comfy chair with a stool (or a stack of books in a pinch). Chances are you already know about having a comfy, non-underwire nursing bra or tank top.
3. Your birth experience can dramatically impact your breastfeeding experience and success. Read Your A-Team to find out what you should ask your hospital and physicians about breastfeeding to know if you will get real help or just lip service.
4. Demand Donor Milk: Only if moms start requesting donor milk from a registered milk bank will it be made available! Too many doctors don’t even know about it, too many hospitals don’t carry it. Start spreading the word about this superior substitute for a mother’s own milk. Hopefully you won’t have breastfeeding problems, but if you do, you deserve the best supplement–pasteurized, screened, donated human milk from a milk bank.
5. Going Back to Work: Read great info and tips on going back to work, and an inspiring story on starting a corporate lactation program.
Special thanks to People.com for spreading the word about this interview.