Breastfeeding Ecology (Part 1) – Podcast Episode #72

Breastfeeding is often portrayed using images of serenity—a mother and baby, often reclining or relaxing inside the house, mother gazing lovingly at her baby. If we take a step back, we could look at breastfeeding from an ecological standpoint. Breastfeeding isn’t one single behavior, but a category of behaviors that is happening in the context of all your habits and your environment.


KATY: That’s why. That’s why.


DANI: Ok. Thank you.


KATY: That’s whyyyyy.




KATY: Welcome to the Katy Says podcast, where Dani Hemmat and Katy Bowman talk about movement; the tiny details, the larger issues and why movement matters.   I’m Katy Bowman, biomechanist, and author of Move Your DNA.


DANI: And I’m Dani Hemmat, a chronically curious movement teacher.


Music fade


DANI: So today’s show is about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding ecology to be more precise. You’ve got a notion – I don’t know where your notions come from – to do a breastfeeding show and so we are. Let’s just start off with something that you flesh out in Movement Matters. It’s a quote by the most awesome Dian Fossey.




DANI: Ok. It reads. This is from Dian Fossey. “One of the basic steps in saving a threatened species is to learn more about it; its diet, its mating and reproductive processes, it’s range patterns, it’s social behavior.” So how does that fit in to what we’re talking about?


KATY: Good question. I was still thinking about notion. I went like, “when did I? Why did I… why did I decide…”


DANI: How did we get here? What?


KATY: You know why? It’s because I finished, I completed, my book – the book processes for the year and I swear what happened was, I was like, “I have this, there’s a question I need to write about.” It was just a compulsion. A compulsion to write about this book called Breastfeeding Ecology. Which will probably end up being a chapter or a section in my book about babies and kids. In a few years. But it was probably that compulsion.


DANI: Yeah, yeah.


KATY: So I have to do something. I have to do something to dissipate the compulsion. The podcast will suffice.


DANI: I was even gonna joke, “Did you write a book since we last talked?”


KATY: No, no. Not yet.


DANI: In your head.


KATY: And I think, you know, Movement Matters has a lot of breastfeeding in it.


DANI: It does.


KATY: And it’s also this, I probably got a couple questions on it initially. But, this quote. I read this quote in a National Geographic magazine from the 70s. I was staying at a rental house that had the entire National Geographic collection along a wall of their house. Imagine every single issue.


DANI: I can’t even.


KATY: I know. It was the best thing ever.


DANI: Like from the beginning of the magazine conception.


KATY: Yes.


DANI: Oh my gosh. Wow.


KATY: Yes, it was a whole wall. You could just make a whole yellow and .. and it was a trip. And I went through a lot of them while I was there. Tons. A whole wall full and maybe even more than one wall. But anyway. I just happened to pick it up, like I believe that, I’m constantly being inspired by just grabbing something, opening it, letting my eyes fall where they may and that .. and like meditating on a sentence as a regular meditation that I do. And this is the one that popped out. I wasn’t reading the article. I flipped open to this. And it’s been a theme in a lot of my writing since then.


DANI: Wow.


KATY: Anyway, breastfeeding to me, to me it’s this, it’s a category of very important behaviors. And if you, if you’ve paid attention to the history of breastfeeding, you’ll see that until very recently, you know, the last handful of years, breastfeeding had kind of gone away. It was on the endangered human behavior list for a particular set of humans. And then there was consequences to that in which there’s been this rallying back of breastfeeding from the medical community and maybe the scientific or maybe more like the public health community it’s like,


DANI: Mm-hmm


KATY: “No. Breastfeeding is something that we need to get back to doing.” It was outsourced for this long period of time. Now, keep in mind, before, as far as humans go, it’s been a very small group of humans over a small period of time, relatively speaking, who have not breastfed …


DANI: Right.


KATY: …or who have given the work of breastfeeding to


DANI: I mean pretty much the first part of the…


KATY: The ninth…


DANI: This century. I don’t know maybe from the, I don’t know, the 40s, 30s to the 70s?


KATY: Yeah, the early 1900s and around there. So it’s, it was an experiment for sure. A natural experiment.




KATY: But, it’s this, I, you know, as we’re talking about human health and understanding the behavior of animals, you know, she’s talking about looking and trying to save, you know, an entire species or an entire species in this particular location of animals and I’m just really interested in this diversity of humans, diversity of behavior. I’m interested in that. So breastfeeding to me is key. And also I get a lot of questions. So you talked about breastfeeding ecology. So what is breastfeeding ecology? So breastfeeding – it’s a category of behaviors. People will say, “Did you breastfeed?” and you’ll say “yeah” or “no” and the person saying “yeah” could be saying yes to a large range of behaviors. And of late probably the most interesting delineation to me of breastfeeding, and to other people, they’ve written some books on it, was the normalization of breast milk without the breast. That you would say that you were breastfeeding if, even if you were putting your milk into a bottle to then be given to the baby. Right? That, the baby was breast milk fed but not breastfeeding. That category was still put in to breastfeeding. So it’s kind of made research breastfeeding outcomes, the process, the mechanism, like how it works, it’s confounded a little bit because we’re not all describing the same behaviors. So…




KATY: I think that… I always like to start with language first. Like what are the variables that we’re talking about and so breastfeeding is one of those human behaviors and it’s also not, we think of it as being behavior between two people, right? Like the mother and the child. But I would argue that it also involves more than those two people. That it’s gonna be involving many more people. That when you look at it ecologically, it’s a process that involves many body parts and many systems. it involves your environment. It involves your job and the support, the alloparent that you do or you don’t have around you. Your sleeping arrangements. To say it another way, breastfeeding is happening in a context of all of your habits. It’s something that’s happening within your life. And so I think that because there are so many discussions on it at the most basic level, like, “Make sure you breastfeed.” “Make sure you breastfeed for one year”, that I think we need better language. Better, delineation of variables and then also to begin to take a more ecological perspective when we’re talking about it. Especially for people who are interested in solutions. So.


DANI: Yeah, so it’s more about support and the whole, this way of looking at it, what I hear you saying, it’s not just, “ok yeah, you should breastfeed for a year,” but if we look at it in the broader sense it really bolsters that support for the entire system of breastfeeding.


KATY: And also, our, the way society… The society: does our society support breastfeeding? And right now we’re focused on making it a normal, like we are still at the level of not having mothers breastfeeding being yelled at for doing something indecent. I mean we’re like on the most basic, like Kindergarten level of like, “Use you kind words.” Like we’re at that level with breastfeeding. So I’m not sure how long it’s gonna take us to get to discussions on, on the variables that might be influencing your experience. The babies experience. It is bigger than, you know, “is it something we should be allowed to do in public or not.”


DANI: All right. Well, this is huge. I mean just looking through the stuff that we got this weekend was just, I told you my head cracked open.


KATY: I know.


DANI: I have it, like, taped together with duck tape. Old hula hoop tape. And we’ve talked about this briefly before. I think we talked to it in the food podcast and maybe another one and I’ll list where ever we talked about it in the show notes. We’ve brought it up briefly. But let’s just move forward on some things like the questions that we got.


KATY: So many questions.


DANI: On, I mean, you put a call out and I don’t really check facebook that much on the weekend and I was like “oh I got tagged, ok” And I kind of freaked out because there were so… it was so broad.


KATY: I know.


DANI: I loved breastfeeding. I mean I loved every second of it. I miss it a lot. My kids are giant so they don’t breastfeed. They’re 14 and 12, but I loved it. Like never once did I think “this sucks”. But looking at it in the perspective of more of the ecology of it, I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I had had all of these different ways of looking at it. So let’s just go, I mean, how do you even sort… how do you deal with the questions?


KATY: I sort them. I sort them.


DANI: I freaked.


KATY: There’s a lot of questions but a lot of them could be easily, they’re easily sorted. So I kind of, I thought about them in the two separate categories. One category is that general, like what I would call the science or data of breastfeeding. Like what’s the frequency of this? How does this process work? You know, kind of technical questions.




KATY: And then the other questions, and those questions, they might be coming from moms who are nursing who want that answer, um, a lot of times they’re coming from professionals. Professionals who are trying to, you had a positive experience breastfeeding, but not everyone does. And I think it’s also worth a nod that not everyone wants to breastfeed.


DANI: Right.


KATY: If I could go back and put in, my overarching theme of really what I’m always about is more figuring out how things work, not necessarily being swayed by is this something everyone quote should be doing. Like that’s not my perspective. My perspective is how does something work. Because if you’re going to make a decision about it, it’s nice to have all of the information. If you’re… essentially you’re doing these very quick cost/benefit analysis decision. The more information you have the more accurate you can be in deciding and the less you’re maybe struggling. So, again, I, to breastfeed or not based on how the information sorts for you…but that all being said I think that there’s a lot of information that people who want to be able to do it and who aren’t having successful outcomes don’t have. And so, like, that would be, I guess that information falls too into two categories. Um but, so that second category of the professional questions would be moms as having an experience that they’re not, that’s not working for them and they’re like, “How can I make this experience better?” So those, I would say, they’re technical as well but they’re a little bit different and a lot of them, those can be, they’re usually like, “this hurts” you know, “why do my shoulders and my back …” and “why does that hurt?” And then there also, “why do my nipples hurt”


DANI: A lot of nipple hurtin’


KATY: A lot of nipple hurtin’ and then that gets us into other things like “well what are some of the mechanisms?” or “what are some of the causes” if you will very loosely “about sore nipples”. So I just kind of separated them into two categories from there. And that’s kind of how I do everything. I start to sort. I just sort sort sort until I figure out what the questions are. And then I can start reading. So because I’m looking for information.


DANI: Oh maybe I should do that. Yeah. I just got overwhelmed going down the list. But sorting makes sense. I do it with other stuff in my life and I should do it with questions.


KATY: Yeah. I mean that’s all that information is. And you kind of sort through, “oh this is easily answerable.” “this is a statistic” and then you go “has anyone asked this question” and you find the answer to that statistic. So for a lot of you out there, a lot of your questions are answerable with a pretty good google search. And if you’re not familiar with google scholar, you know, you can use words like “prevalence of” you know or “frequency of” you know if you’re trying to get closer to the source of the data rather than, like, reading a source that maybe kind of tries to explain it more breakdown. So just searches are good. You can enhance your search skills over time. There’s a lot of questions. My plan today isn’t… we’re gonna do two shows. That’s how many questions we go. We’re gonna do two shows.


DANI: Excellent.


KATY: Yes?


DANI: Two shows. One for each boob for breastfeeding.


KATY: Well, and then there was that one woman who said she only ended up breastfeeding off of one. She didn’t realize it. She was only nursing off one one boob and there it was. So maybe we’ll do two shows, one for each half of that one breast that you’re nursing from. You know, that’s a reality. I imagine that…


DANI: No, I’m laughing because I did that without even thinking about it because like sleeping and side lying and stuff like that


KATY: Sure. Sure.


DANI: and stirring the pot with one arm.


KATY: Always stirring a pot Dani.


DANI: Always stirring a pot while holding the baby near the hot stove. That’s me and my left breast was just the nipple was pointing way, way off to the side.


KATY: Like instead of south, it was going east or west or…


DANI: just goofy. Yes. It wasn’t going like headlights of a car, it was like a broken headlight. And after I stopped breastfeeding I was so worried I was like, “Oh my gosh. Look what I did to my boob.” But after a couple of years it just


KATY: You lost me in like a car. Are you saying that before you started nursing everything was going straight ahead?


DANI: Yes.


KATY: Wow. Defying gravity.


DANI: In fact, my mom used to always comment when I’d wear a tank top commando she’d be like, “That’s like two headlights.”


KATY: (Sings… )


DANI: Mm-hmm. Not anymore. All right. Let’s move forward.


KATY: No more show tunes.


DANI: No more show tunes. No more boob talk. Oh, we’ll talk boob. Ok well, I have one question before we move forward and you have to answer it.


KATY: Ok, because I’m not gonna… I think that the next show will be more like “ask me a question” boom “ask me a question” boom.


DANI: Good. Because we have a bunch of those.


KATY: I’ll answer your question before…


DANI: Well because everyone asked everything else but you do write about breastfeeding multiple times in one of my favorite books ever, “Move Your DNA” and also “Movement Matters”. And you relate a little bit at the beginning of this podcast, you know, why it’s breastfeeding you think it’s important. But why write so much about it in those books. I mean, you were done breastfeeding a couple years ago.


KATY: Well I can’t write about things only in my own personal experience. But it helps. But I think it fits into the body of my work because it’s natural movement. This is my whole point with the .. we have become exercise-centric. We do not, like, natural movement has become this like workout of the greatest skills. And we’re not as interested in maybe the foundational movements. And you could say the foundational movements are running and jumping or whatever it is, walking and floor sitting and squatting but then you can go down before that and we’re like what about the gathering and then, then the nursing. You know, that there is a relationship between all of these movements and this is just as, I mean this is something that every human being has the potential for doing, you know, in almost 100 percent of the situation. I mean like this is a – this is a human, like, a biological component and it deserves our attention. And just the fact that so much funding and interest is to the success, you know, a certain group of humans at a certain stage, I’m really interested in the natural movements that can be benefitting many people. And in exactly the same way that I’m interested in a squat. You know, I’m interested in sprinting, I’m interested in squatting, I’m interested in breastfeeding.




KATY: It’s a natural movement. And I think that breastfeeding, we think of it as a nutritional behavior. A dietary…you know like it’s a diet, it’s a biochemical phenomenon,


DANI: Right. The immune system and all that.


KATY: We keep looking at the milk. We have reduced breastfeeding to milk and then we’ve pulled out the nutrients within milk as the reason humans breastfeed. And thus the recommendations for how long and even the process of delivering the milk stem from that perspective. The mechanical benefits, as well as a bunch of other benefits, the mechanical nutrients, if you will, of breastfeeding, have hardly been acknowledged. And I’m not talking about general acknowledgment by many people. I’m almost always talking about a scientific perspective. Meaning what are the questions, like how is culture influencing the questions that we’re asking. That’s an interest of mine as noted in Move Your DNA. So because the scientific questions on the mechanical aspects aren’t considered… and I think again it’s because of an unrealized or unacknowledged assumption that the benefits are in the milk…


DANI: Right.


KATY: that they’re not, they’re not being asked. And one of the questions… I said I wouldn’t say questions but here’s one of the questions. “What are the benefits of breastfeeding beyond a year?” And so my sister’s pediatrician told her she didn’t need to breastfeed her one year old anymore because there were no more benefits and it would be just more stressing her out. So like the cost benefit would be there’s no more benefits. You are more, your stress level is more important and with my comments on that recommendation are we barely inquired into breastfeeding. Barely. So one must understand that the recommendations that we get, and it’s not the science itself, it’s really the application of the information that we’ve gathered so far, that but those recommendations are only based on the questions that have been asked to date. So it would be more accurate to say “we don’t know all the benefits that breastfeeding has at this point.” And then also keep in mind that when organizations gather research they’re often only looking within their particular fields. So if someone was to do a literature review to make some recommendations for their organization, chances are they would not be looking at all of the information on that particular thing.


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: They would be looking at sources where they feel most comfortable with the language and the culture, if you will, for the nature of the research. I mean… so there’s definitely a cross-field… I’ve noticed that a lot of times in data, I was like, “oh of course” well that’s the data I was going to be most common or normal to their data…to their ability to work through a data set. I mean we’re all kind of confined to the things we understand.


DANI: Right.


KATY: And I don’t mind that. I don’t have a problem with that. But the person, the end recipient, usually doesn’t know that, right? That’s the expert on the matter and they think that they’re getting all of the information when they’re usually getting, you know, what’s easily available to whoever is doing the compiling. And so there, you know, also along with that kind of acknowledgment that this is all we have at this point, which is nothing wrong with only having a portion of it. I mean, that’s why you’re to acknowledge alongside of it “this is what we have so far” is this idea…


DANI: Well but then I guess it’s…


KATY: Well then the rest of that sentence is “here are the benefits we do know of” and you can consider that along with all of the other considerations that make up your life when you make the choice. But it doesn’t usually come across like that. It’s usually like, “There’s no benefit.” You know, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry, you’re fine.” And so I just, I find that that leaves many people struggling and kind of confused because the rest of that portion isn’t given, it’s kind of perpetuated. That “this is the rightest way”, you know, rather than we’re all slogging to find it, you know, so anyway.


DANI: Yeah, well I’m glad we’re doing this show then.


KATY: Yeah. I think it’s important. I just think it’s important to add more information. So, of course, nutritional benefits. Huge. And I’m talking about the dietary nutrition, but there’s more to the story and you can see more to the story the more outside of nutritional science you read on breastfeeding.


DANI: Mm-hmm


KATY: So, you know there’s so many inputs that haven’t, you know, there’s, like what about the microbiome? That’s in milk but what about between the close proximity of people? You know. Or skin inputs. Like recognizing now what the skin is inputting, you know, like what is, when you have someone with you, are you only… and I’m talking about breastfeeding meaning, I think that it’s time now to delineate between breast milk bottle fed and actual breastfeeding. So when I use the term breastfeeding I mean literally as in pulling milk from the breast, you know, that direct exchange. And so, there’s so many things.


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: And we talked about it in another show before, the mechanical process. Meaning there’s movements that get milk out of the boob versus out of a bottle. That’s a different show you can acknowledge. I can’t remember what show we did that before.


DANI: Yeah. We’ll put it in the…


KATY: …in the notes. What about hormonal stress? I think sometimes too, I think there’s a lot of people who would say that there are benefits to breastfeeding outside of nutritional one. Like there’s comfort and all those things. And I think we have a tendency to, I don’t want to say, I’m saying reduce but not without a negative connotation, to reduce the things we don’t understand to be more, well it’s just a comfort. To just generalize it going there are other human inputs that are just as technical as vitamin, vitamins and the fatty acid chains, but we’re just beginning to know what they are. You know, that there could be temperature regulation and other physiological cues that, just because we don’t understand them doesn’t mean that they’re not happening.


DANI: Mm-hmm


KATY: So anyway, that’s my, that’s the reason I focus on it because again it’s it is a human movement that, again, you know, is, appears to be important. And so I think that understanding it in the spirit of Dian Fossey is if we’re not to understand these processes it’s very easy for them to become easily eliminated as shown by our own history.


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: When we don’t understand something, when it’s easily replaceable and you don’t see, you know, the baby doesn’t die in the case of you not doing it then there are other things that are important, maybe, to function beyond simply survival. So anyway. That’s why. That’s why.


DANI: Yes. Ok.


KATY: (whines) That’s WHYyyyy.


DANI: Thank you.


KATY: You’re welcome




DANI: I think I know where you got this… I don’t know where you got this notion. You were inspired. But a few days ago you did post an old throwback Thursday picture of you breastfeeding, was it Finn?


KATY: Yeah it was the boy.


DANI: The boy. And he’s standing.


KATY: Mm-hmm.


DANI: This was just like a few days ago but I’ll but the link in the notes of your Instagram feed in this picture. And you are leaning over and he is doing the boob reach and standing while he’s breastfeeding.


KATY: And he was I think 11 months in that picture.


DANI: Ok. All right. Because he’s still got those cute little round feet.


KATY: Yeah, he wasn’t quite a year.


DANI: OH! I hate when those flatten out. But it’d probably be weird for an adult to have those. Anyway, I’m gonna read what you wrote. But you’re so much more eloquent in your Instagram posts than I am. My gosh. I’m like four words. Ok, so you say: “Throwback Thursday to when I was both pregnant and nursing. I’m working on a piece about breastfeeding because I don’t think we talk about it as much as we need to. Sooooo many people ask me about the best alignment for nursing, and here’s the thing: it’s like all other human movements in that you can use all the positions. Same in the sense that all the positions is what makes it easier in so many ways. Yet, in our culture, we’ve created a repetitive use habit, where babes and moms alike are strong in one single way (the one way they do it over and over again) and weak in all the other ways. I rotated positions right off the bat so we’d have all the positions to choose from. So we wouldn’t have to stay inside and have the right chair and pillow, so we wouldn’t have to pass on hiking for hours.” And I’ve seen a picture of you holding a baby hiking too, by the way.


KATY: Sure.


DANI: Long time ago. “So we could be strong (read: developed) in all the ways. Breast milk is a work-payoff-work-payoff relationship. It’s a natural training program where the reward for movement is food (as it all used to be). As we’ve moved to value convenience we’ve forgotten that we still desire (or at least require) the work! We’ve just forgotten where to find it. Anyhow, this is my throwback Thursday.”


KATY: You’re welcome.


DANI: It says “Imagine how long the article is.” Yeah, wow, that is good. I feel like I should be more…


KATY: You feel like your Instagram…


DANI: …wordy in my, yeah.


KATY: I feel like I closed my blog and then I just opened my blog on Instagram. I just, like I Instablog.


DANI: laughs. Instablog.


KATY: Yeah. I like it ‘cuz it’s a, you know, a picture’s worth a thousand words.


DANI: It is good. And it’s a quick … it’s quick. Not as involved.


KATY: Or edited.


DANI: Right. Let’s talk about we got a bunch of questions about soreness.


KATY: Yeah.


DANI: And I’m thinking that this would point a lot to how to alleviate or avoid that sort of thing. All the positions. And just so you know, listener, I took out all the hashtags just because you would have heard a lot of those.


KATY: I hashtag a lot.


DANI: Hashtag all the positions. Hashtag all the positions. What… I mean how does that relate to all those questions. Because even though they were all about different body parts being sore, it all basically relates to that one point.


KATY: It’s an idea, you know. I think that we’re used to thinking of it like this, “My back hurts. What am I doing wrong?” “My shoulders hurt. What am I doing wrong?” “My ribs hurt, my hips hurt…” like, we experience, you know, pain or discomfort in these particular areas and so I think our assumption is there’s something wrong with that area. “What can I do to fix” you know “that area”? Where my perspective is, I feel my perspective is given regularly so sorry to keep saying the same thing. But it’s kind of like Move Your DNA stuff, right? We’re not very strong to begin with. Our lifestyle affords us, you know, the privilege to do barely anything with our legs and our trunk and our pelvic floor and our breasts and our hands and our arms throughout our entire life and then we do this amazing athletic thing. We grow and we deliver a baby. And we do this with our … our relatively weak body – and no this isn’t a harp like “you’re weak, you’re weak”. It’s not that. – I think we have to understand the relative weakness of our body given our lifestyle. Meaning that we just, we’re just a sedentary culture. So you’re doing this amazing thing with this body that, and we’ve got a lot of conveniences to make this athletic event very supported externally, and then … and then you have this baby. So first you push it out, you know, or have it pulled out. Either way, it’s taxing. And then it’s like the straw that breaks the camel’s pelvis.


DANI: Yeah. That old saying. My grandma used to say that all the time.


KATY: It is. Lost in translation.


DANI: Yeah. I think so.


KATY: So the issues that are arising during this phase of our life, you know, they’re just relating back to this idea that we’re under moved. So, if I frame it another way. Let me frame it this way. You don’t do much with your arms, or your back, or you know really any part of your body your entire life and all of a sudden you start this – you’ve got a baby now, right? This 200 reps a day program with a 7 to 10-pound weight. You are engaging in, like, 30 minute holds, 30 times a day. You’ve gone to, you’ve gone from barely moving…


DANI: Good…


KATY: You’ve gone from barely moving, you know, to this repetitive movement program. And p.s., you have no sleep. You don’t get to eat. You don’t get to eat, you don’t get to sleep or eat that well the way a professional athlete might, you know, because there’s not a lot of people necessarily valuing your athletic performance right now. They’re kind of normalizing…


DANI: You can’t get sponsors for motherhood, what?


KATY: Nope. No, you can’t. Well, hopefully you have people around you who are sponsoring.


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: That’s the idea. You have other people who benefit. That’s the idea of community. Other people are gonna benefit from your successful offspring. But we don’t really have that anymore so…so that’s kind of – of course you’re sore. Of course. Of course.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: Like it makes sense physiologically. I don’t know if you have physiological sense. But anyway, my recommendation is always, you know, it’s super boring. “How can I, how can I do this, you know, without, you know, large, like almost like disabling pain or discomfort” is just like a super general and maybe admittedly not that helpful idea that we need to get moving before we’re pregnant and breastfeeding. Like you want to go into your athletic event with a little bit more muscle and strength and movement skill. And then of course, from there…


DANI: Ideally yeah.


KATY: Of course, “now I have a baby. Can you give me something else?” And it’s like yeah, that’s basically what the bulk of my work is. Is after you already have the baby, like, great do these correctives. Let’s get your arms moving and let’s get your shoulders and your elbows strengthening. Let’s check the way that you’re holding and nursing to see if we can make it load your muscles more and your connective tissues less. Let’s then vary your holding and nursing movements. Let’s vary your carrying. Let’s get some help. Let’s go to bed earlier. Let’s eat more nutritiously. You know. it’s easy. Simple. Simple.


DANI: Simple.


KATY: But easy because breastfeeding is happening within the context of your life. It’s not a problem most likely in the seconds that you’re doing it. That’s where you’re experiencing that maybe it’s not working for you as well but it’s a result of everything that is happening in your life. It’s the whole picture. Right? It’s breastfeeding ecology. So there are definite, we’re definitely approaching solutions to the moment by moment experience. Meaning, “put this on your nipple to make it easier for you”. And that’s great. But there is a larger, there’s a larger set of questions that have yet to be asked so that maybe not so many compensations are necessary.


DANI: I always think often after we have these conversations that it reminds me of this quote that a lot of homeschoolers have up in their house and it says “Teach a child not what to think but how to think.” And that always, like, dawns on me after we have these conversations. Just to step back and look at it in a broader sense and the solutions come more freely, I think, when I don’t get so narrow in my view.


KATY: Well, you’re trying. So there’s two, there’s two categories. There is one: How does breastfeeding work. You know? That’s of a particular interest. And I think that interest is important and helpful and there are questions that are asked from that. But then there’s the other set of questions that are “great, I’m doing this now” and you have a very narrow window, right? I mean you’re trying to milk into your child. You don’t have 47 years to wait for all the research…


DANI: Right.


KATY: I mean, 500 years. It’s gonna be, hundreds and hundreds of years worth of questions if not more to get a robust picture of how things work. Like that’s just the reality of reduction.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: Not wrong with the process. The duration is very long. And the fact of the matter is that means very little to me, who has a baby in my arm and I’m struggling in this moment. So there are, there’s seeking how it works and there are seeking solutions and you need both and so I do think that the minute by minute questions need pondering as well. But they’re two, it’s two separate questions, right? There’s two…


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: There’s two separate approaches that are happening. And I do think that considering both, you know, they are definitely going to influence each other. But yes, I think that sometimes thinking about it as, you know, it’s a system. It’s a system…


DANI: Right.


KATY: …it’s not happening in a vacuum, right? Your ducts are inside your breasts. What’s your breast experience been like? Well, how is that being influenced by the muscle underneath them and you know and how do they feel before. Maybe you didn’t, maybe you’re feeling sore now but if you think back, you know, you weren’t sore when you weren’t doing much. What would happen if you’re training or doing any sort of movement or doing exercise, being sore is part of that process. But being sore, if you’re not used to it, can become a, it’s a perception of discomfort because it’s against your will. Right? Where if you go to the gym and throw some weights around then you can kind of see, “well no, this was my choice to do it. I understand the physiological benefit or the relationship of the soreness to the progress.” But we don’t have that mindset around breastfeeding. Because we don’t see it as a movement. Because it’s not an exercise that you’re doing so you don’t take or apply your understanding of exercise and put it toward something like breastfeeding.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: You don’t think of cross training. You think of it, it’s like this serene activity. Like if you google breastfeeding images you’re gonna see, you know, subtle variations of the same one picture. And that has influenced us, I think, to …


DANI: Mm-hmm


KATY: … to limiting our emotions. I get a lot of questions, like, “I read Move Your DNA. I want to go out more. I want to walk more but I have this nursing baby. I can’t”. And it’s like, “Well, why?” It’s like, “Well, because I, I often nurse. You need the chair… I have, I need a chair and I have to keep my arm at this…”


DANI: Right.


KATY: It’s like a very ergonomic perspective. “I can’t get it done.” And then, it’s like, well, I mean I had zero or you could say, I had zero repetitive breastfeeding positions.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: You know, you breastfeed in all of them. Which means I just keep on hiking while I’m doing it. And then it’s like, “Well, yeah. I’m not strong enough to do that.” And it’s like, yes, I know. This is an example of movement, like, being competent in many different movements gives you more ability to move. It’s not only for the sake of being able to do the movements. Though being able to do those movements gives you a certain… a movement sovereignty. Right? You are able to move more.


DANI: Right. It totally reminds me. My first child, I had the boppy. I had the nursing chair. You know.


KATY: Right.


DANI: You know all that stuff. But it became so inconvenient, like, I couldn’t go do anything else. I couldn’t do anything else in the house, out and about, because I realized I had become dependent on that. So I just, out of necessity, ditched it because I wanted us to keep, you know, going and doing stuff.


KATY: Which only facilitates both. Like it allows you to breastfeed…


DANI: Right.


KATY: You know, if you can’t, if breastfeeding is not portable for you, then you’re likely to do it less or to transition away from it sooner. And maybe sooner than you want to but you’re like, “but I have to make the choice; breastfeeding or all the other things in my life.” And it’s like that’s because breastfeeding, or one of the reasons or one of the groups of people asking that question, is because breastfeeding has been reduced to one particular scenario which is impossible to duplicate anywhere else. Right? So it’s just about that idea of expanding … it’s the same thing. You expanded your workout, your idea that you couldn’t or, you know, the repetitive way of using your arm. Breastfeeding it’s the same thing. It’s become kind of this repetitive use scenario where you do it so much then the baby’s strength, too, is only in that one particular way and then it becomes, you’re unable really to do it in any other way without a tremendous amount of work. And so it’s… it’s just, I’d like to see the book Breastfeeding Ecology on that, which it’s breastfeeding is a globe of experiences, not this tiny two-dimensional circle. You know, it’s, you can do it anywhere and everywhere. And I would love to see more, I posted that picture, you know, of my child standing, looking up from my boob while I’m bending over just giving it to them because I’m like passing through and they want to nurse. We did, you know, continual breastfeeding which we’ll talk about on the next show – the details of that. But it makes it easier for you. I mean it makes it easier for them.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: It makes, it allows you to do more of the other things that you want to do because it doesn’t have to be something that’s happening like exercise, out of the context of the rest of your life. I can’t do anything else besides maybe look at my phone, I’m breastfeeding right now. It’s like, well, I believe that you can take your breastfeeding out into the world in lots of different ways. And of course it’s gonna be a little different for every single person given their particular scenario but I think everyone can think of it a little bit larger than they are right now.


DANI: Yes. I agree. Of these 800,000 questions that we got. We had questions on things that are, they’re different. Ok so like we have milk production and nipple length and things that make nursing difficult. There’s no way we’re gonna be able to cover this today.


KATY: No it’s two shows baby. Two shows baby. Yeah.


DANI: Two shows. Ok, so do you think people, until that show drops, until that show lets down, do you think people wanting to know more about breastfeeding should read Movement Matters?


KATY: I think if those listening want to think of breastfeeding in a larger context, that it’s a production and movement of milk, if you will, that’s happening and perhaps being influenced in an otherwise kind of barely moving body and that, they need to think of movement beyond exercise. And as something that drives many processes within the body. That’s probably the concept to get first. And that’s Move Your DNA. And then…


DANI: Makes sense.


KATY: So, I mean, I, there’s a little bit of breastfeeding in Move Your DNA too, as well, but I think that’s the more important context. If you can get that, then you can apply that really to anything, not just breastfeeding. All that stuff about movement and mechanotransduction, all of that applies to breastfeeding as well. You don’t have to take a break from movement during your breastfeeding time of life. They go hand in hand. They always have. Historically. You know, human, long human timeline besides a small break that we are talking about beforehand. And then after that, Movement Matters, yes. Because then Movement Matters starts to, it starts to broaden… that would be kind of more the things that we’re talking about. Where there are many variables, so many variables and it talks about, you know, the mechanical stimulation of the, of the jaw. And so maybe, I mean I would imagine that the pediatrician who had recommended that there was no benefits beyond one year was getting his information through his organization. And his organization maybe hadn’t looked at some of the other stuff that’s coming up through dentistry. Right? Which is …


DANI: Right.


KATY: like, palate formation. Because they’re concerned with different human outcomes. Right? So, you’d have to go to many different health care practitioner types and then you could go to a different type of doctor who is maybe involved in other things to go, “Oh yeah, you know, maybe breastfeeding does this” or I don’t even know. Cuz, I only have my field. And I can barely read out of my field, just like everyone else. Movement Matters would help, I would say, give more context to this idea of what I mean by ecological… what I mean about the ecological perspective as far as movement goes. So breastfeeding ecology part two next time.


DANI: That sounds good. So you can listen to Move Your DNA while you’re walking.


KATY: Yeah, it’s audio.


DANI: Audio


KATY: Yes.


DANI: Yep. That’s pretty good. All right. So next time. What are we gonna put in that show? See, I’m already feeling the overwhelm over questions.


KATY: Yeah and I think I’ve got it sorted into the more technical questions. So there was a couple questions on breastfeeding and breast cancer risk, you know, like why is it, is it protective against all types of breast cancer and what is it about it exactly. Tongue ties – so many questions.


DANI: Which I totally had to look up.


KATY: Really?


DANI: Like when I started seeing those questions I was like, “Oh, what’s that?” And looked it up. Fascinating. I can’t wait to talk about that.


KATY: Yeah. That’s a huge one. And I mean that one could really be its own show and I…


DANI: Oh, you’d probably have some pretty happy listeners if you did that.


KATY: Well there’s only so much like I’m not the tongue tie expert. There are a lot of other people. What I can do is put it into context. What I am usually pretty good at is putting it into context with lots of other questions. Not answering anything but really going, “here’s all the questions…”




KATY: When I answer something I’m usually just answering based on my own process or finding which questions have already been answered scientifically usually, which ones are still open and any ones that I’ve thought of that I haven’t seen presented and here’s how I would think about it. Because you know, there’s barely, I don’t really think there are answers. There’s just more questions.


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: So you’re always just wading through all of that and then choosing on your own. Like that’s always what’s happening. There’s very rarely a definitive answer. You’re just trying to wade through what questions have been asked? How are they answered? What are the criticisms? It’s all outlaid in the stuff that I’ve written and my own process. So. That kind of stuff. So. They have a lot of reading, a lot of tongue tie stuff because again different fields of people think about it differently so I’m trying to get well versed in how do speech pathology think about this. How do lactation consultants think about it? How do pediatricians think about it? How do nursing moms? What about adults who have had the release? What do dentists think about it? Right? Every single group …


DANI: Right.


KATY: …has its own perspective. Like the lactation consultant doesn’t really care, or the immediate need is not adult outcomes of neck pain or shoulder alignment, right? They’re thinking…


DANI: Right.


KATY:   … not care is not the right word but everyone is trying to answer immediate need. It’s like you’re to the dentist, you’re done breastfeeding by the time you’re being evaluated for a tongue tie in the dentistry office. And then also, my big hangup which, I’ve been asked this question before and my big hangup is, there are no measures. There’s no clinical measure to determine what actually constitutes one. There are qualifications for sure. But I can talk about that more next time.


DANI: Cool.


KATY: I mean that can be a half hour on its own.


DANI: Well read away. Until the next show, part two, breastfeeding ecology. Let’s play a clip of the Movement Matters audiobook in the appendix that you have on breastfeeding.


KATY: Yeah.


DANI: And if you want more of that you can get the book on Audible and Itunes. So here’s that.


KATY: (on audiobook) “There’s a lot of “breast is best” mentality that right off the bat can make people who are unable or choosing not to breastfeed feel badly. Instead of contributing to that perspective, I prefer a more scientific approach and the “breast is breast” message. A “breast is breast” perspective is one that seeks answers to questions like, “How do breasts and breastmilk and breastfeeding work?” Instead of starting with the assumption that all methods of feeding a baby are equal, similar to how much of our science assumes that walking over terrain is the same as walking on a treadmill, the “breast is breast” mentality calls for specific definitions and investigations. We all have to make decisions about our own lives and the more information we have the more we can ensure our decision align with our personal mission statements. “Breast is breast” is also “bottle fed is bottle fed”, is also “bottle delivered breast milk previously frozen is bottle delivered breast milk previously frozen”, is also “bottle delivered formula is bottle delivered formula.” This approach allows us to be more specific in our investigation and to consider the largest perspective possible when we’re gathering data so we can accurately represent and assess the details. When you read research or opinion pieces on feeding babies, always check to see how breast and bottle feeding are defined when weighing the conclusions at hand. If you’re interested in information on the culture and history of our and other culture’s relationships with breastfeeding, here are some resources to check out. Lactivism: How feminists and fundamentalists, hippies and yuppies, and physicians and politicians made breastfeeding big business and bad policy by Courtney Jung. In the New York Times, Lori Gottlieb writes of this book: “Perhaps most interesting is Jung’s astute observation that what is being so ardently promoted isn’t actually breastfeeding; whereby a baby is fed from the breast, but human milk as a product, creating pressures for working mothers of all income mothers to pump in less than ideal conditions when what might benefit them and their babies most is paid maternity leave.” This delineation and the critical lens with which Jung views the cultural context of breastfeeding are essential reading. Kathy Dettwyler is an anthropologist who offers an abundance of research regarding worldwide breastfeeding practices on her website. See also the book she co-edited with Patricia Stuart-Macadam: Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives.


Hunter Gatherer Childhoods: Evolutionary, Developmental and Cultural Perspectives. Edited by Michael D. Lamb and Barry S. Hewlett. The book is a compendium of literature describing various childhood practices and it offers valuable insight into the varying breastfeeding practices found in certain hunter-gatherer cultures.


If you’re interested in breastfeeding and want in-person assistance or support, there are groups and services available. You can contact your local hospital or nursing group to request an appointment with a lactation consultant, hire a postpartum doula, or meet up with your local La Leche league or other breastfeeding support group.


Websites offering support:

La Leche League


International Breastfeeding Center found at


KATY: All right is anyone else creeped out listening to the sound of their own voice?




KATY: It’s not as bad as my answering machine message where it’s like, “oh is that how I sound?” So yeah, hopefully there are some resources in there. I think a lot of people…


DANI: Yeah it was extensive.


KATY: If you’re thinking about breastfeeding before you actually do it, even more awesome to become informed before hand. That’s great so…


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: So thanks for sharing that.


DANI: Yeah, it was awesome. I love those audiobooks. And that’s it. We’re done. Oh my gosh, that was, huge and we just have scraped, barely, the surface of it all. Thank you all for listening. For more information, books, and online exercise classes you can find Katy Bowman at You can also sometimes find me, Dani Hemmat, at Thanks for listening.




KATY: Bye.


DANI: Bye.



VOICE OVER: Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful. But it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.


Music fade.



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