Our theme for this year’s Mother’s Day is “The Broken Circle of Breastfeeding: Helping Our Mothers Heal,” inspired by the letters between BfB Co-founder Danielle Rigg and her mother, Jill Berke. Like many of our mothers, Jill didn’t breastfeed her children, because, like seatbelts and sunscreen, she didn’t know any better and was ordered to use formula. Unlike many aspects of infant care, the passing down and joy of sharing breastfeeding information from new grandmother to new mother has been shattered, and so breastfeeding can be a very sensitive subject. Understanding, compassion, and respect can rebuild relationships and the circle of information.
We asked some of our (very brave) celebrity Champions for Moms to walk down this road with us and share their mothers’ experiences, and whether and how it influenced them:
Jenna Elfman: “When I was about 11 years old, I saw a family friend breastfeeding her son. It was the most beautiful, peaceful and intimate thing I had ever seen. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my future children. It’s interesting, I didn’t even know breastfeeding was something to do until I saw her doing it. I had only ever seen babies being given bottles. I was not personally breastfed, but it wasn’t for my mother’s lack of trying. She tried with my older sister, but it turns out my mom’s milk never came in* (after trying for 2 weeks) and my sister was starving. I know that sounds almost impossible, but my mother herself was born very prematurely– her mother was only 5 or 6 months pregnant when she delivered my mom, and this was in 1935! So the fact that mom even survived is a testament to mom’s feisty (and sometimes stubborn) spirit!
Because she was born so prematurely, they thought perhaps her body didn’t develop fully in certain capacities that would facilitate her milk coming in–or least that’s what the doctor concluded in 1958. So she didn’t even bother trying to breastfeed my or me brother after that experience. Did she have special circumstances that COULD have been overcome, but there was no knowledge of HOW to overcome it in 1958? Very likely. A Booby Trap? Yes, quite literally. I asked what made her want to breastfeed in the first place– since at that time I’m pretty sure that formula was being touted as ‘the better option’ over breastfeeding. She simply responded, ‘I just knew that breastfeeding was best for the baby.’ She has always been supportive of my breastfeeding efforts and I’m always grateful that I have the wonderful, loving and supportive mother that I am so lucky to have.” Read how Jenna donated her milk to help a sick baby and her other Booby-Trap-beating adventures.*Editor’s Note: It is quite possible that Jenna’s mother suffered from Insufficient Glandular Tissue, a condition affecting a very small percentage of mothers. Much more is known about this condition today; there are more effective ways to boost milk supply and for moms who can not breastfeed, there is greater access to donor milk. For more on this topic, see Don’t Invalidate Moms Who Say They Can Not Breastfeed, Yes You Can Breastfeed, No Matter How Much Milk You Make, and How to Bottlefeed like You’d Breastfeed, a guide to best bottle-feeding techniques.
Kelly Rutherford: “My mother did breastfeed for a few months … She of course was told to use formula as it was promoted as easier and they were marketing it at the time so fewer women breastfed.
I just thought it was important to do because of all the research done regarding the benefits and better health. I also read that your body naturally gets back in shape faster. We were traveling and my son would be so much more calm on flights.
I breast fed both of my children and it was such a time of love and nurturing for me as a mother. My mother totally supported me breastfeeding. She is really into health and well-being.” Read how Kelly struggled and went on to tandem breastfeed her son and daughter.
Alysia Reiner: Alysia asked her mother, Terry Berenson, to share her thoughts. She responded: “If I had my life to live over again, I would definitely have breastfed. I am very happy that my daughter Alysia and granddaughter Livia shared this important bonding experience and that Liv received all the health benefits we didn’t fully understand when I was a new mom.” Read how Alysia donated her milk to a friend in need.
Do you know any other celebrities whose mothers breastfed them, or have shared that they were not breastfed? One famous breastfeeding mother-daughter duo that comes to our minds is Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn . . . Tell us whose mother-daughter story would you like to hear, and we’ll give it a try!