An Enlightened Conversation with Breastfeeding Expert, Jennifer Davidson (photo credit: Keely Semler from Motherlands)

An Enlightened Conversation About Breastfeeding, Motherhood with Lactation Consultant, Documentary Producer, Jennifer Davidson

When I recently watched The Milky Way, a documentary exposé that dives into America’s relationship with breastfeeding, I walked away feeling validated in the many difficulties I felt I faced with breastfeeding and continue to hear about today from many mothers.

The film does an amazing job at sharing an array of women’s experiences after having a baby and breastfeeding – from the absolute highs to the downright lows. It culminates in this beautiful collective experience of motherhood with the most powerful takeaway being that trusting ourselves, our bodies and relationship with baby is the absolute in how we all can move forward.

Jennifer Davidson, one of the film’s producers and a pediatric nurse and lactation consultant for 40 years, helped bring the documentary to life. I had the honor of getting to ask her some questions, and what an enlightening conversation it was. She brings a breadth of wisdom and empathy that helps bring more light to this world.

Jennifer, your passion for supporting women who are on their breastfeeding journey radiates in the film. Where does this passion stem from?

My passion for helping moms has come from my absolute love and joy of breastfeeding my two boys. This I knew I was going to do. There was no question that breastfeeding was the natural, most healthy way to go as a mother, but I had no idea how much I, too, would receive, and all the many incredible long-term benefits for both of us. It came natural for me as a pediatric nurse to want to help all the new mamas in my pediatric practice. Pretty soon I decided to step up and add IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to my title, studying and taking the exam so that I could truly help.

It was and continues to be so frustrating for me to see how many mamas get the wrong information at birth and even before birth that discourages them. Sadly, these well-meaning experts and loved ones don’t realize that their words influence an early end of nursing.

It became my passion to speak positivity and support to mamas, and to continue studying and learning from the breastfeeding experts. It was this continual learning from their wealth of knowledge that inspired me to want to do something more about it. The making of a movie seemed the right thing since I was working at an office where so many of my clients were in the film industry. I figured this would have the biggest impact. So then began the long journey and a new added profession of filmmaking.

That's beautiful. And could you tell us a little bit about your own breastfeeding journey?

Yes, oh how I love remembering those days. My two boys nursed without much difficulty. Early days of blistered and sore nipples soon gave way to pain free nursing. I loved it. I never imagined it was not conducive to work my 12-hour shifts in the hospital and still nurse and care for my baby, everyone else was going right back to work after having their babies. But then I realized I hadn’t waited all these years to become a mama to have someone else raise my baby. It led me to my current position as a nurse in a pediatrician’s office. I was able to continue nursing for a total of two years, as this was when my son weaned himself.

I had always thought that two years was a long time to nurse a baby. I never had any idea that my next son was going to want to nurse on and on. Two years came and went, and he was not at all interested in weaning and since I actually enjoyed it - it was our connection and calming time - I continued. Though after two years I became shamed into becoming a “closet nurser,” no one knew I was nursing because too many people thought it was way too long to nurse a baby.

I got all kinds of comments as he approached two. “Are you STILL nursing?” “When are you going to stop?” “You’re going to turn him into a mama’s boy” Yep. So, we only nursed at home. We finally weaned when he was 4 1/2 years. 

It turns out that the natural time for humans to wean is between 3-7 years old!

In the film, we actually see a mother breastfeeding in the stall of a bathroom and you encourage her to come out and breastfeed at the front of the shop. Why is that?

How sad is it that any mama feels compelled to hide away in a dirty bathroom to feed her baby, making breastfeeding a shameful act. And so, one of my goals is to elevate the nursing mama out of the bathroom stall to a place of honor where she belongs.

Hence, we’ve started a breastfeeding art project called “The Art of Nurture,” creating muraled benches with images of nursing mamas to inspire and normalize nursing. We are just now creating bench number 7 that will live in Ojai. Very exciting.

The Art of Nurture Bench

We'd love to know, what are some tips you tell women who feel insecure about breastfeeding in public to help empower them? 

I would have them see my film, “The Milky Way”. It shows the importance, the history and how we need to elevate the image of the nursing mother to a place of honor. I hope after watching my film she would not feel insecure.

Also in the film, we watch the evolution of breasts’ role in America – from a place of art and celebration in ancient worlds to a hyper-sexualized role today. What are ways women can help empower themselves to start or continue breastfeeding in a society often obsessed with putting breasts in the sole category of sexual gratification? 

One way to shift this would be to join a breastfeeding group to help empower themselves and each other. Also, to help establish breastfeeding art to normalize the nursing mama. Art is such a great way to transform, to illuminate and inspire. Anyone wanting to join hands with “The Art of Nurture” can contact me @theartofnurture. And through our website The Milky Way Mamas.

Finally, what’s the most important thing you want women and all people to take away about breastfeeding?

That breastfeeding is so much more than feeding a baby. We know that breastmilk is the most essential food for human infants, building lifelong immunity and providing protection against all kinds of illness and disease. But the incredible connection that nursing provides between mama and baby is what is especially astounding, providing mothering hormones for the mama to fall in love and helping to build a most secure, connected and confident child. 


Want to learn more about Jennifer and her amazing work as a lactation consultant? Visit her Milky Way Mamas website here.

(Featured image credit: Keely Semler from Motherlands)

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