Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
"I support any mom who wants to breastfeed, and anywhere she wants to, but my old-school upbringing about ‘good girls’ don’t show their boobs in public keeps getting in the way."
"I read your friends’ posts Loralee and I’m sorry, but their posts just made me feel angry. I do NOT agree with what these women feel is their motherly right. Fine, breast feed, go ahead, but cover up first! I feel sorry for the children, who are not theirs, subjected to quite honestly, a traumatic and disgusting event! NO ONE should EVER be subjected to having to see that. I agree, women should NOT have to go to a bathroom, or leave the room, or do it in private. BUT I do feel absolutely, they they CANNOT and SHOULD NEVER be LEGALLY allowed to whip out their tits..." (There is more to this shocking quote, but I will omit the rest, as it would certainly distract from the point of this post.)
"I never comment on anything that can be controversial. Ever. That being said…I nursed all my children and when necessary I did so in public however, it was never obvious. It doesn’t have to be. Nursing our babies is a natural thing but we can be discreet. My youngest child is 29 years old so that was quite a while ago. My daughter-in-law nursed all the grands and she too was discreet. There’s nothing wrong with not putting “it” out for all to see. Just saying…discreet."
I repeat. Oy vey.
For the record, I would never criticize or look down on a woman who wants or needs to use a nursing canopy to feel comfortable nursing her baby out in a public place. In fact, if that is what a mother needs in order to breastfeed when her baby wants/needs to, then I am right behind her, holding the straps (figuratively of course, otherwise I'd be breathing down her neck). They are a useful device, and certainly they are valuable to mothers everywhere. But I digress. The real point of this article is to explain WHY nursing uncovered is so important to breastfeeding moms everywhere, and why they should defend their blanketless state with emphatic arm-waving and raised voices. I repeat, I am NOT opposed to the option of covering whilst nursing, however I am opposed to the idea that some sort of cover is a NECESSITY for breastfeeding in public, and that all moms should use some kind of object to cover themselves so no one can see what they are doing.
Now you are thinking, oh brother here we go. Entereth the raging feminist with her trident of women's rights! No, actually. My concern is not the comfort of wee babies, or overheating, or woman and child rights, or even the reckless abandonment of muted colours in nursing covers (although these do factor in as well). No, instead my concern has to do with brain function and future generations.
You see, as Kathleen Kendall Tackett points out in this 2009 article, breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. That means that no matter how many times we discuss it, how much we read about it, and how much we study pictures of it, we cannot teach our bodies how to do it. We need to be in close proximity to breastfeeding in order to understand the concepts associated with positioning, latch, swallowing, and multiple other small factors that go into breastfeeding successfully. It is something that Nature designed us to learn from our mothers, or from the community of women we interact with daily. Nature intended us to see other women breastfeeding their babies, and to internalize that knowledge to use with our own children. It is not something we can comprehend from the pages of a book, or from staring blearily at a nurse lecturing on the importance of breast milk.
As Kendall-Tackett states in her article, learning to breastfeed is much like learning to ride a bike. So, picture this. You have never seen a bike up close in your life. Maybe you saw it in a movie, but the bike was turned so you could only see the wheel, or the person riding it was mostly offscreen, or they just cracked weird bike jokes the whole time. You know that in 10 months time, you will be in a bike race. This bike race will be one of the most important events of your life. For months, people talk at you about riding a bike. Some people tell you to make sure to put your weight in the back, others say the front. Some say peddle swiftly, others say peddle backwards. Some say grip the handlebars just so, others say don't touch the handlebars, because that didn't work for them. You watch a couple videos about bike-riding, but they seem overly technical, and a lot of the jargon flies right over your head. You ask your parents, but their only reply is "We never rode a bicycle, just give it a try and hope it works for you." You go out in public to garner some information, but almost everyone who rides a bicycle rides them behind very tall hedges that you cannot see through. You feel a bit panicky, and a lot apprehensive. At last, the day of the race arrives. You wobble up to the starting line, someone hands you a bike, you climb on hesitantly, and they give you a good shove down a very steep hill and yell "YOU'LL FIGURE IT OUT!!!"
Metaphor much? Yes, breastfeeding these days is a lot like that. We don't see it done. We get some bits and bites of information in the months leading up to birth, then when the moment arrives, someone puts the baby on you and says "Okay, go!" How are you to know what this should all look like? What should it feel like? And really, how are we to know?
The thing is, most of us can't learn this from our mothers. We lost generations of right-brained hereditary knowledge to aggressive marketing and bottle-feeding. For those moms who do come from a family where breastfeeding was the norm, is it still enough to internalize the breastfeeding knowledge we need? How old were you when your youngest sibling was weaned?
Now what if everywhere we went, we saw moms nursing their babies, comfortably and openly? Every time we witness a friend, relative, or complete stranger breastfeeding their baby, our brains subconsciously make notes. So when it comes to our turn, our brain gathers up what we know, and we remember that the baby went THIS WAY, and mother held him just so. We may have even had the opportunity to ask questions. This is how we learn, and how we will know.
I think there is no better illustration for the necessity of seeing breastfeeding than this story, found in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:
"In a zoo in Ohio, a female gorilla was born and raised in captivity, got pregnant and had a baby gorilla. On the day she had her baby, she didn't know what to do. She had never seen another gorilla nurse, and she had no concept of breastfeeding. Sadly, the baby gorilla died.
When she became pregnant again the gorilla's keeper called The La Leche League and had volunteer nursing moms come down to the zoo and nurse their own babies in front of the pregnant momma gorilla. At first the gorilla ignored them, but as her delivery date grew closer she became very interested. When the baby gorilla was born the momma gorilla forgot all that she'd learned and started to freak out. The keeper quickly called the La Leche League and another volunteer rushed over and slowly showed the momma gorilla what to do. "She brought her baby's chest to her chest, slowly cradled the baby's head in her left arm, held her breast with her right hand, and tickled the baby's lips with the nipple to get the baby to open his mouth. Then she pulled the open-mouthed baby toward her breast and with one rapid arm motion, got the cooperative baby quickly onto her breast. The gorilla watched, mimicking the moves step by step until, with a nearly audible sigh of relief, the gorilla looked down at her chest and saw her baby feeding happily for the first time."(p 29).
So I ask of you, when next you see a mother breastfeeding her baby without some sort of covering implement, please give her a big smile and bring yourself and your child closer to see. I can guarantee she will smile back, and most will comfortably explain to your child what they are doing. You are doing your child a favour, so that when she has her own baby, the imprint of this encounter will rise in her brain, and assist her instincts in learning to breastfeed your grandchild. If your child is male, he will internalize how to assist and support his partner in her breastfeeding journey. Please, no more calls to "cover up". Anyone who cries for a cover over the beautiful sight of a nursing mother and child is unwittingly and devastatingly calling for the destruction of womanly knowledge, and the handicap of the next generation of breastfeeders.
(Blogger's notes: We are not yet to the point where we see breastfeeding moms everywhere and anywhere, where we are able to internalize by watching. But luckily for us, Nature always has a back-up system where one system fails. Please check out Biological Nurturing and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett's article here to learn about instinctual breastfeeding, and how best to trigger both mom and baby's instincts to achieve a strong latch. Also please consider attending a breastfeeding support group meeting, like La Leche League during your pregnancy. Many women breastfeed openly at these meetings, and they are a great resource both for right-brained knowledge garnering, and for creating a support network, and meeting new mommy friends!)
Sunday, July 10, 2011
The problem is, the idea of a perfect mom is subjective. We know that. Part of being a mom is staving off annoying criticisms of well-meaning strangers, while simultaneously inwardly cussing all the helpful old ladies who are sure your baby would do better THIS way, because their baby did. When someone approaches me and assures me my child is slowly dying of frostbite because I did not sufficiently clothe her for a balmy 20 degrees Celsius June day, I thank them politely, chuckle inwardly, roll my eyes, and go on my merry way. 98% of the mothers I know react the same way. We’re mature, intelligent women, and we know how to raise our own kids, thanks. We can handle criticism and questioning, we handle it every day.
What I want to know then, is why can’t we feel the same way about infant feeding? Anytime an article expressing the merits of breastfeeding or the demerits of formula feeding arises, there is an almighty chorus of “Don’t make me feel guilty!” Huh? We can take the hard-of-hearing perfume-laden granny up in our faces yelling about whether or not our child is too fat or too skinny, but we can’t take a scientific article from some faceless guy in a white coat, telling us what our baby is consuming may or may not be good for them? Where did this guilt thing come from anyway? Because ladies, it is tripping us up on the road to successful breastfeeding. That’s right. Decrying breastfeeding information because of an onset of guilt is actually stalling the breastfeeding information. Moreover, it is increasingly leading doctors and other health providers to make decisions FOR us, while withholding information, in order to spare us from GASP! Guilt!
I don’t mean to undermine the emotional intensity that accompanies the decisions made about these precious beings in our lives. Our new lives with them are fraught with emotions, love, fear, anxiety, longing, joy, and yes, guilt. When we feel anxious, or fearful, or joyous, or loving, we dissect these feelings endlessly. We run them through in our minds again and again, trying to find the source of them, the reasoning behind them, the likelihood that they are truthful and will reappear in the near-future, whether they will help or cripple us. So, when did guilt become a bad word? It is another emotion; it has a source, a reason, and a truth. It has smaller underlying emotions that make it up. It is not the large, terrifying beast that it has become in the mothering and medical worlds. It is okay to feel guilty. It is a natural reaction, and the emotion will not cripple us. It is not dirty. It is not horrifying. It is not taboo. It is just an emotional reaction to an event or experience. Guilt is designed to make us deal with our feelings. It returns again and again in order to force our minds to dwell on an experience, to dissect it, and to accept it. That is the physiological purpose of guilt. It’s nature’s way of helping us evolve, of forcing us to do things differently next time, and of ensuring that we don’t cripple ourselves emotionally the next time a similar situation comes around, that we do not suffer post-traumatic recollections. It is an important and valid emotion, made from the roots of fear, anger, hurt, and pain. It is necessary, and we need to listen to our bodies and work through it.
The problem is that blocking guilt cripples us. It stops us from making level-headed decisions, because when the time comes to make the decision, if we have not examined, dissected, and accepted our guilt, it rears its ugly head once again and affects our ability to see clearly and to make our decisions based on logic and facts rather than overwhelming emotional intensities. That’s why whenever the choruses of “Don’t tell me this, it makes me feel guilty!” and “Mothers should not be MADE to feel guilty!” arises, whatever the source, I wince and then rage at the conceptions that guilt is an evil, terrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. I believe women should not feel guilty, but for different reasons. I believe they should not feel guilty because they should allow their feelings to come to the surface without holding or restraining them, then those emotions should be examined, explored, dissected and eventually accepted. Only through this process comes healing. This holds true to all aspects of life, and is something I learned at an early age when recovering from a traumatic childhood event. Our feelings, emotions, and reactions define us, and when we block them, we deny ourselves the chance to heal, and to release our anger, hurt, and guilt. As a mom who has formula-fed and breastfed both, I feel this healing is something we do not grant ourselves often enough.
I no longer feel guilty about formula-feeding my daughter early on, but I am still angry, and occasionally I fill up with rage so intense that I desperately want to scream at the next white-coated, stethoscope-touting, smug doctor that I see. I deplore my daughter’s hospital paediatrician, who denied me information essential to recovering our breastfeeding journey, and instead gave me sappy, cliché drivel about “not feeling guilty” because she felt that preventing the horror of guilt was more important than doing her damn job and GIVING ME THE INFORMATION I NEEDED. In her eyes I was no longer a mature, intelligent, capable woman and feminist, but instead a snivelling, emotional mess that needed decisions made for her. She undermined my rights, my capability, and my right to informed choice. She, an almost complete stranger, made a flash decision about me and my ability to handle myself, and took away almost all chance I had of doing something desperately important to me. She determined that I had an emotional fragility that was more important to protect than the health and wellbeing of myself and my baby. She stereotyped me, she prejudged me, she made me into something I am not, and was not. Her fear of guilt tripped up my breastfeeding journey. It is not right. We cannot and should not withhold information from women because we judge them incapable of handling guilt. It is decidedly chauvinist and misogynistic. It is anti-feminist. It is WRONG.
No, instead when a woman has an experience that alters her life, that hurts and sorrows her, we need to support her in her journey of mourning and healing. Don’t tell her not to feel guilty. Don’t assume she is incapable of handling emotion. Don’t shelter her from her own self. Guilt is a tool of sorrow and of mourning. It is an essential ingredient to healing. She needs support, not belittlement and judgements about her strength of character. She needs the tools and the support to examine her guilt, however raw and sore it may be, and to move on to a place of peace. We are crippling ourselves by making guilt into a mythical chimera, an all-encompassing hungry dragon, and a troll under the bridge, lurking to snatch us from our place of safety when we least expect it. Only by facing our fear, our hurt, our sorrow, our rage, and our guilt can we tame them and have peace. We need peace. Be peaceful. You are a woman, you are an incredible creation, a beautiful goddess, an earth mother, an equal being, and a strong vibrant person. Make peace with yourself, let yourself be.
Monday, January 31, 2011
NOTE TO READERS: As always, these kind of posts stir many feelings in readers, particularly in those whom these issues have affected deeply. We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time, but the issue of guilt always seems to arise with these kinds of articles. I urge you to move past the guilty feelings and really look at the valuable information contained within. As Maddy Reid said, “We cannot withhold facts for fear of offending, because the importance of the information outweighs people’s rights not to be challenged in their beliefs.”
Ah, the hot button issue. There has been a large kerfuffle of attention lately over the start-up of a new milk-sharing network on Facebook called Human Milk 4 Human Babies (Human Milk 4 Human Babies HERE). The brainchild of fierce Montreal lactivist Emma Kwasnica, Human Milk 4 Human Babies is a network run by merit of individual state, province, and country pages where moms or families who are having difficulty with milk supply can turn to other lactating mothers for donated milk to supplement or feed their children. Moms with oversupply provide the milk, and Human Milk 4 Human Babies provides the space. It is a good setup, with Human Milk 4 Human Babies administrators and creators putting emphasis on the need for informed choice. The FAQ on their page is thorough and provides information on flash-pasteurization, disease transmission, and obtaining medical history from potential donors. Soon after Human Milk 4 Human Babies emerged as a major player (and a major threat to the formula industry), many medical groups jumped to issue vehement statements to the media, with their focus being less about informed choice and more on fear-mongering. The response from Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society has been extremely cautionary, focusing on the risks of breast-milk sharing and calling the practice "very dangerous".( See Story HERE) Health Canada states that “unprocessed human milk should not be shared.” (see Health Canada’s statement HERE)
Considering the rapid rise of popularity for informed milk sharing, it should come as no surprise that this spring Health Canada chose to revise and rewrite its existing infant feeding recommendations. What is shocking however, if that the new recommendations state that “Commercial infant formulas are the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk” (See full draft statement HERE). There is no mention of donor breastmilk, either through a milk bank or via less formal channels. In fact, not only is the option of donor breast milk completely ignored, but the make-up and risks of formula feeding are also completely absent. Instead a huge portion of the document focuses on what formula is, what it contains, what types are available, and how it should be prepared.
Not only are the risks of formula feeding skated over, but Health Canada spends more time discussing the benefits of bovine-based formula over soy-based formula than it does on the Ten Steps from the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, an Initiative that is essential to boost and maintain breastfeeding rates in maternity wards.
Come on Health Canada! Doctors receive little to no breastfeeding training during their time in med school. If you are lucky like me, you find a doctor who did his residency in a breastfeeding clinic (and still needs some of the finer points explained to him). Doctors and nurses in Canada turn to Health Canada for their information on infant nutrition, and aside from people in my lucky situation, most doctors still believe that formula is an equal alternative to mommy milk, and shoddy documents like this do nothing to inform them of risks and facts about formula, which can then be passed to new moms. So, in light of this ridiculous oversight of real formula facts, and the (very mild) explanation of what formula is, I will give you an exposition on what formula is NOT. Much of the credit for this list goes to several lovely ladies from the facebook page, “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding Is Not Obscene!” (namely, Elizabeth Anthes, Stephanie Knapp Muir, Jo Slamen, Emma Locker, Karen Coffman, Murielle Bourbao, Jennifer Dunston Lane, Kasey-Louise Traynor, Nicky Lawrence, Cheryl Giovenco, Barbara Rail, Lucy Fensom, and the lovely Alison Kennedy. Thanks ladies!)
1. Formula is not sterile.
Have you heard E. Sakazakii? It’s a pathogen commonly found in infant formula that can cause major illness for the baby if formula is not prepared properly. It is essential that all bottles, nipples, and equipment be sterilized before every feed, and that boiling water is used to make the infant formula. It’s not enough that the water be “sterile”, like the companies who make those huge containers of sterile water would lead you to believe. The water needs to be hot enough at the time you prepare the bottle to kill off potential pathogens like E. Sakazakii. This leads us to point two.
(Reference: http://www.mramodels.org/esak/ and http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/micro/en/qa2.pdf)
2. Formula is not convenient
For those of us breastfeeding moms who have supplemented or used formula at any point, we fully understand the truth of this statement. It is a million times easier to NOT have to get up, walk to the kitchen, boil the water (to kill the E. Sakazakii), prepare the formula, and then rush back to the baby, while all the while he is shrieking at the top of his lungs to be fed. Nor is it easier to haul all the paraphernalia associated with formula-feeding. The bottles, the sterilizer, the container of powder (oh damn, it spilled AGAIN), not to mention where oh where in this stupid mall can I find a place to boil my water? Oh shoot, we’ve been here for 7 hours, and the pre-mixed formula I made is only good for 30 minutes at room temperature! I forgot my miniature cooler! (http://www.nestle.ca/en/FAQ/baby_nutrition_faqs.htm) It is so much easier, once the initial bumps of learning are past, to just roll over, pop out a breast, and go back to sleep, or to find a seat (or stand, if you are talented), lift your shirt slightly, and latch baby.
3. Formula is not cheap
Oh boy, is it ever not cheap! That fancy little can costs anywhere from $18 a week to $50 a week, if you need a special kind. Sometimes they come on sale, and lots of moms will stock up then. However, it is not widely known that you should not switch your baby from brand to brand unless it is medically indicated! Feeding a baby a new type of formula every week because there was a sale is not a medical reason. This is very hard on your baby’s gut. If you are formula feeding, you must pick a brand and stick to it, regardless of cost, unless baby becomes ill or rejects the brand and type you have chosen. With formula, bottles, nipples, and other gear, formula feeding can cost the average family around $3000 a year. Breastfeeding is cost-effective. It’s free. No, you don’t have to buy a pump. Have you heard of hand-expression? It works just as well (and in many cases, better than), and is entirely free.
4. Formula will not save you from “breastfeeding problems” like mastitis, engorgement, breast pain, and leaking
Regardless of whether you breastfeed or not, your milk will still come in, you will still get engorged, you may still get mastitis, and you will still need to buy breast pads and special bras. You will leak like mad. That milk has to go somewhere, and since the baby isn’t easing your pain, there will be several days to weeks of suffering while you wait for your milk to “dry up”. Just feed it to the baby. Breastfeeding can be rocky initially, after all, we are designed to learn breastfeeding by watching our mothers and other women breastfeed their children, and there have now been several generations where we lost that opportunity to formula feeding and “modesty” implements, like breastfeeding covers and super top secret nursing areas. (Please see Emma Kwasnica’s amazing note, Why SEEING Breastfeeding Is Important, My Personal Challenge To You) Breastfeeding should be easier, but it’s not. It’s now a learning curve. So let yourself learn, because after 3 months or so, it does become easy. Then formula feeding is not easier.
(No reference needed, engorgement is a mean beotch. Mastitis is a bugger, avoid it!)
5. Formula batches and ingredients are not approved by the FDA or Health Canada
Formula is not a standardized product. Health Canada and the FDA inspect the factories where the formula is made, but the formula itself is not regulated. No one inspects individual batches, no one even regulates the ingredients to ensure the same cocktail is made up for every can, or every batch. Rather, the formula companies use whatever ingredients are available and cheapest at the time. So from batch to batch, the actual % of vitamins and content is different. (Jack Newman and Teresa Pittman, 2009 - Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding - Toronto, Canada - HarperCollins Publishing) Health Canada and the FDA also leave it to consumers to report potential problems or dangers found in the formula can, such as the beetles found in Similac in 2009. Parents were reporting finding beetles for months before the FDA responded, and Similac issued a recall. Formula cans also contain bisphenol-A, or BPA, a controversial chemical that was declared toxic by Health Canada in October 2010. Despite the declaration, formula companies continue to line their cans with BPA. BPA can leech into the powdered formula and be absorbed by the infant in greater quantities than found in plastic bottles. (http://www.toxicnation.ca/node/142) For more information on formula ingredients not listed on the can, please see THIS GROUP.
(Reference: Jack Newman and Teresa Pittman, 2009 - Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding - Toronto, Canada - HarperCollins Publishing and http://www.toxicnation.ca/node/142)
6. Formula Is Not A Biologically Normal Food For Babies To Eat
Formula has only existed for less than 200 years. Breast milk has been around since the dawn of humanity, and Nature has been working on perfecting the make-up of it since then.
7. Formula Is Not Risk-Free
Formula is a risky business, not just for baby, but for mom too. There is a lot of information readily available on these risks, but I encourage readers to visit INFACT Canada for a good resource on the risks of formula feeding to mommy and baby.
(Reference provided above at infactcanada.com)
8. Formula Is Not Safe Or Easily-Available During Natural Disasters
As demonstrated by the earthquake in Haiti last year, or the recent flooding in Australia, natural disaster can hit quickly and without warning. When this happens, moms can be stuck trying to feed an infant. Without a safe water source or access to sterilizing equipment, formula feeding is not safe for babies and children.
“When there is an emergency, the biggest danger to babies is the risk of dying as a result of diarrhoeal illness. Babies who are breastfed have a secure and safe food supply, they are not exposed to disease causing bacteria and parasites that can contaminate water supplies and they receive antibodies and other disease fighting factors that help to prevent and treat illness. They are protected from the worst of the emergency conditions. However, babies who are not breastfed are at great risk. In an emergency, food supplies are disrupted, there may be no clean water, overcrowding is often a problem and the health care system is likely to be stretched beyond breaking point. Outbreaks of diarrhoea are very common and spread easily in these circumstances. Babies who are not breastfed are very likely to contract diarrhoea-causing illnesses from unclean water and, with a weakened immune system and limited treatment, many will die."
(Reference: http://www.ennonline.net/pool/files/generalpublic/ife-guide.pdf . Also see http://www.unicef.org/media/media_55775.html)
9. Formula Additives Like DHA and ARA Do Not Make Formula “Like Breast Milk”
This one is pretty contentious. Formula companies rip off millions of people every year with their claims that they are closer/closest/the closestestestest EVER to breast milk. DHA and ARA are complicated fats that occur naturally in breast milk and help to build brain tissue. The DHA and ARA added to formula are not naturally occurring. They are extracted with hexane from algae grown in a lab, and then added to the formula. Not only does this allow traces of the neurotoxin hexane into the formula, it also allows the companies to charge exponential amounts of money for a product that has never been proven to actually do what breast milk fatty acids do. Their claims of brain growth are unsubstantiated and unproven, guys. If you are formula feeding, please don’t be taken in and buy the $40 can for the unproven hexane-riddled algae fat. The non-DHA/ARA stuff will serve your baby the same, cost you less, and potentially save them from ingesting trace amounts of a neurotoxin.
(Reference: http://cornucopia.org/DHA/DHA-Update-2010.pdf )
10. Formula Is Not A Safe Way To Make A Baby Sleep Through The Night, Babies Should Not Sleep Through The Night
When a new mom is struggling with sleep deprivation, and trying to figure out ways to catch some extra Z’s, she will often hear the refrain “Top him up with some formula, so he will sleep through the night”. This is a formula-feeding myth that we hear often as new moms, and even during our pregnancy. The idea that formula will make your baby sleep through the night is not true. Ask any formula-feeding mom of a four month old how many times they wake to give the bottle to a baby at night. Ask a co-sleeping, breastfeeding mom. She won’t be able to tell you, because she doesn’t wake up. A recent study found that breastfeeding co-sleeping moms get the most sleep of any moms, and are most rested. Not what you expected to hear? The idea that babies should sleep through the night is a fallacy. There are some major myths that need to be addressed here. First, babies are NOT biologically designed to sleep through the night! Oh yes, you heard me right. All those advertisements about night-time formulas, and magical sleeping tools, and magical sleeping babies are presented to make you buy a product that does not work, and that you should not be using in the first place, because it can endanger your baby’s life. Formula is difficult for a baby’s system to digest. The animal proteins linger in the lining of the stomach and intestines, and the ill-absorbed iron causes it to sit like a lump in the baby’s stomach for much, much longer than breast milk. This throws a newborn baby’s whole biologically perfect sleep/wake system out of whack. They will initially sleep longer and deeper, although that effect generally fades after a few months. Contrary to the belief that sleeping through the night is a good and even necessary thing however, it puts your baby at risk for SIDS. Formula fed babies are at a much higher risk for SIDS death in the first year of life than breastfed babies. Breast milk exits the newborn’s system quickly, causing them to wake every few hours. If a mom is breastfeeding and sleeping with the baby nearby (at least in the same room), she will wake as the baby wakes, put the baby to her breast, and promptly go back to sleep. These kinds of feeding/sleeping arrangements provide the best sleep for moms, and the normal feeding/waking patterns that a baby needs to avoid SIDS.
(Reference: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/113/5/e435 and http://www.thebabybond.com/InfantDeaths.html )
11. Formula Is Not The Only Way Daddy Can Bond With His Baby
This one really bugs me. Babies are not dogs. They don’t automatically bond with whoever feeds them. They don’t ONLY bond with people who feed them. There are a million and a half ways for Daddy to bond with baby that doesn’t involve a bottle. Daddy can bathe, sing to, read to, wear, and cuddle his baby. Daddies who have breastfed babies are not any less close to their babies than dads who give bottles. Feeding can be a special time, and if you want to share that with Daddy while simultaneously breastfeeding, here is what I recommend. My husband and I would often sit together as I breastfed our daughter. He would sit in the corner of the couch with his legs spread out and his knees bent, and I would sit inside the circle of his arms and legs and feed Babe while he looked over my shoulder. She would gaze lovingly and adoringly into my eyes, and then switch her gaze to him and gaze just as lovingly and adoringly into his. At over a year old, Babe is a daddy’s girl. She is five minutes on the breast and off again like a shot. Books are brought to Daddy first to read (he does the character voices soooo much better than I do). Bath time is almost exclusively Daddy’s domain too, except when I take a bath with Babe. She is as closely bonded with her Daddy as I am, without having been bottle-fed by him. Breastfeeding together was a special time for the three of us, and he got to share in the experience without risking my milk supply, or feeding artificial milk.
(See Just One Bottle)
12. If Your Baby Has Food Allergies, Formula Will Not Solve Them
This one seems to come up a lot too. “My doctor said my baby was allergic to my milk.” “My baby is lactose-intolerant and needed special formula.” “My baby would throw up my breast milk after every feeding.” This one is fairly personal for me. If you have read my Birth and Breast story, you know Babe has a severe milk allergy. She spent many miserable hours, days, and nights screaming her little head off, writhing from side to side in pain, and panicking doctors and nurses with her poor weight gain. The first thing that medical professionals will inevitably prescribe (with the exception of a golden few who actually research these things) is highly specialized, highly expensive infant formula. These formulas still contain the allergens that your baby is reacting to in your milk. The proteins that are causing the reaction are hydrolyzed, which means they are broken down into minute size so they will not stick in the baby’s intestine and cause a reaction, or as great of a reaction. The first problem is, the process of hydrolization also breaks down many other essential proteins and nutrients that are needed by your baby for optimal growth. The second problem is, the allergens are still present, and still causing your baby’s immune system to overreact. This continual exposure can worsen the allergy, cause asthma, or create autoimmune disorders. Did you know “Seven to eight percent of babies are allergic to cow's milk formula; 50 percent of these babies also are allergic to soy formulas, [and that] use of cow's milk is not recommended until after the baby is one year old [?] (http://www.infantfeeding.info/RisksofAF.htm)” For a baby who has milk or other sensitivities, the best solution is not a $60 can of nutrient-deficient hydrolyzed formula, but instead an adjustment to mom’s diet. Dr. Jack Newman has some fabulous information on foreign proteins in momma’s milk at Colic In The Breastfed Baby.
(Reference: http://www.infantfeeding.info/RisksofAF.htm )
13. Formula Is Not Custom-Tailored For Your Baby And His Needs, It Is Not Living
There are hundreds of different types of formula, different brands, different flavours, age-specific formulas and so forth, but there is no ONE formula that is exactly made for your little baby. Formula is just that, a formula. It is a guess at what a baby might need at a certain age. Breast milk is tailored according to your baby’s age, health, needs, the time of day, and even the weather outside. It is tailored down to the minute in a feed, with certain fats appearing at certain times of the feed. It contains higher levels of immunities based on your child’s current state of health, and on how often they play in dirt on the floor. It is custom-tailored around their environment, with a higher water content on hot days, and higher fat content during cold days. The amount of fat in your breast milk depends on your baby’s gender, their genetic makeup, and their age. Formula is not that specific, and will never be able to gauge that level of specificity, because it is dead. Breast milk is a living thing.
(Reference: http://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/hrnewborn/bhrnb.html There are pretty much a million other articles about the custom-made nature of breast milk, but to add them would make this thing 8 pages instead of 7, and I just don't think my Toshiba laptop can handle it.)
14. Formula Is Not A Failure, Formula Does Not Mean You Can Never Breastfeed, Formula Is Not Your Only Option
Before making the switch to formula, please do your research. There is a lot of contradictory and wrong advice out there, and many of us make it worse by perpetuating myths about breastfeeding and formula feeding. Do your research ahead of time, don’t make the decision in the hospital delivery room. Attend meetings of your local breastfeeding support groups, read books by notable breastfeeding experts, explore your options. Understand that breastfeeding is a learning curve. Each baby is a new experience. You learn as your baby learns. It takes time, and more than time, it takes patience, namely with yourself. Know where your International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are (Find an IBCLC). Know what you will do in case of trouble. Learn, learn, learn. If you are on your second child, and couldn’t make breastfeeding work with your first, know that you aren’t a failure. Don’t be tripped up by your guilt and anger. Try again. Equip yourself. Don’t be afraid to read breastfeeding articles, don’t let yourself be restricted by guilt, anger or hurt. Forgive yourself. Forgive your body. You can try again. If you have given up on breastfeeding, and wish you hadn’t, you can relactate, if you wish to. If you feed a bottle of formula, there is going back. You can return to breastfeeding, if you so choose. Support is key. Here is a list of amazing internet resources that I turned to in times of breastfeeding trouble. I hope they help you as well. I also recommend calling your local La Leche League Leader, or IBCLC and asking for help if needed. You can do this. You are capable. Breathe in, breathe out. If it is done, if you are at the end of your breastfeeding journey, before you wanted to be at the end, make peace with yourself. You are loving and loved, regardless of how it all turns out.
(Reference: Life experience. Dude, there's no http at the front, but it is lot harder to obtain than by just clicking a mouse.)
La Leche League International
Dr. Jack Newman's website
Eats On Feets
Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding Is Not Obscene!
The Leaky B@@b
INFORMED CHOICE: BIRTH AND BEYOND/Eats on Feets GLOBAL
Thursday, September 23, 2010
While I understand the outcries of anger over James' statement, I can't help but feel it has some merit, particularly in the wake of this week's recall by Similac. (Story here: http://www.nowpublic.com/health/infant-formula-recall-2010-similac-recall-abbott-labs-2677378.html Recall information here: http://similac.com/recall/default.aspx) The fact of the matter is, the prescriptive drug industry is far more regulated than the food industry. In the States, the FDA has thorough processes in place to test the safety and value of a drug before allowing it into the market. Similar processes are in place in Canada. While the formula industry has already recalled several of their products in various countries around the world this year, there has only been one recall of Children's Motrin and like products. The drug recall was dealt with quickly and efficiently, and stores and pharmacies were stripped of the offending product as quickly as possible. Within two days of the recall, there was not a single recalled product to be found in any of the stores here in my city. The news reports included the recall numbers in the report, and parents were able to check quickly to ensure that they did not have any recalled product in their medicine cabinet. This Similac recall, however, surely as important as the great Motrin Mishap of 2010, has been handled poorly and without the urgency. The news reports did not include recalled batch numbers, causing Similac's recall website to crash, their phone lines to be permanently busy, and leaving many parents poring over their cans of formula, wondering if they possibly contained beetle body parts, and if they would make their children sick. What to do? Many moms I've talked to have simply pitched $40-$100 worth of formula. Imagine all that money going down the drain with the beetle larvae. Many parents can't afford to throw that much away, and many parents are left wondering if that illness their baby experienced in the last month was related to undigestible bug parts in the baby's intestinal tract. What kind of regulation is that? If formula were indeed a prescription drug, the formula companies might even have to step up and start regulating what is IN the cans, making the recipe consistent, rather than just using whatever ingredients are at hand and cheap at the time (Newman and Pittman, 2009, p. 34)(1). A warning in Canada last week was issued when a baby became ill after consuming formula that had been tampered with, a man had replaced the formula powder with flour. If formula was behind the counter and safely in the hands of pharmacists, parents would not have to worry about contamination or tampering. Mothers would feel less guilty, as their decision to formula feed, or need to formula feed, would have been vindicated by a medical professional, and they would know that they had taken every possible step to try and breastfeed. There would be less doubts about the mother's decision to bottlefeed. In addition to this, with a ban on formula advertising, as purported by the WHO's International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes (http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/code_english.pdf), the millions of dollars that formula companies pour into advertising each year could be put to better use improving and regulating the actual formula. Rather than targeting expectant, new, and already breastfeeding moms to use their product, formula companies could ensure the product is safe and consistent in content, creating a better alternative in cases where breastfeeding is not possible. Pamphlets could be created to teach formula-feeding parents how to safely formula-feed, and the proper procedures for sterilizing bottles, water, and equipment. More money could be put into ensuring that the formula itself is more sterile, and not as susceptible to outside contamination. Formula-feeding pairs could only benefit from this kind of monetarial input, and industry regulation.
Finally, we all know that breastfeeding is the normal biological way for a baby to eat, and as such, more emphasis should be placed by the health systems on assisting mothers in breastfeeding when they encounter difficulty. As a mom who hit walls with breastfeeding every step of the way, I know what it is like to go and see a doctor for breastfeeding assistance, only to find out I know more about the issue than they do. Dr. James' intentions are not to humiliate mothers, or to make formula-feeding parents feel guilty, but rather to push the healthcare systems in Australia (and worldwide) to develop more breastfeeding resources, and to look at formula as a medical solution, rather than an equal alternative to breastmilk. If formula is made into a prescriptive medication, babies can only stand to benefit from better regulation on the industry, better help from the medical community in achieving breastfeeding goals, and a safer option for those mothers who legitimately cannot breastfeed.
(1) Jack Newman and Teresa Pittman, 2009 - Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding - Toronto, Canada - HarperCollins Publishing Ltd.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I was 23 when I got pregnant with my daughter. I was still a newlywed, my husband and I had been married all of 8 months, and we had blissfully been enjoying our married life. We lived in Fort McMurray, Alberta, a northern mining town in Canada, and all around us women were getting pregnant, or had new babies. I was envious, and my husband was starting to notice babies whever we went out, wanting to play with them, commenting on their looks, their size, their cuteness. We decided maybe we wanted to start having children. We had decided to take the "Hey Sarra, sarra" approach to having children. We tossed away all contraception and decided whatever would be, would be. Within two weeks of our toss-away decision, we were pregnant. Until that point, I had never given any thought as to how I would feed my baby. I had always seen bottles and formula as the norm, so I assumed we would formula feed. When I called my parents to tell them I was pregnant, they were very excited, and my mom gave me the recipe for her homemade formula.
At 4 months pregnant, we decided to start attending birth preparation classes. I've always been the girl scout type, so I wanted to ensure we were prepared in every possible way. A local doula group, called Birth Choices, offered free prenatal classes to expecting parents the second tuesday of every month. They advocated for natural birth, but explored every avenue with expectant moms, including epidurals and medical pain relief. The main teacher, Lisa, had a 7 month old son that spent the classes happily crawling all over the room, playing with parents, and generally getting into whatever he could get into. Halfway through the second class, Connor crawled up to Lisa, who was sitting at the front of the class, and started tugging on her shirt and rooting. We all chuckled, and Lisa calmly pulled up her sweater, unhooked her bra, and latched Connor on, then continued to talk. There was a shocked silence, and from the corner of my eye I could see my husband, Lyle, desperately trying to catch my eye. His cheeks were flaming red, and I could tell he was embarrassed, but I refused to meet his eye. It was the first time either of us had witnessed a woman breastfeeding, and we discussed it a lot on the way home that night. We laughed a little over our embarrassment, and decided that if he needed to be fed, well, I guess he needed to be fed. I had been breastfed myself for six months (my husband was formula fed from day 3), but I didn't know it until I discussed the 'incident' with my mom on the phone. "Some women are comfortable like that." was my mom's airy reply.
At 8 months we decided to attend a more formal prenatal class. Our local gym held a prenatal class over a weekend twice a month, and so we signed up to attend. Our instructor was a South African midwife named Vilia, and it was because of Vilia that I became determined to breastfeed. Vilia was a breastfeeding advocate and lactivist. We spent nearly the whole weekend watching kangaroo videos, charting the benefits of breastfeeding over formula, discussing the health risks of formula feeding, and reading Jack Newman's handouts. My husband is a severe asmthatic, and had expressed worries every night that our child would be asthmatic as well. That weekend, he became gung-ho about breastfeeding as well, as soon as he discovered that if I breastfed, our child was much less likely to develop asthma or diabetes, conditions that plague his side of the family.
So we awaited our due date, December 8, 2009, eagerly and with much anticipation. Unfortunately, the pregnancy took a turn for the worst, and I developed high blood pressure, and then pre-eclampsia. At 38 weeks the the obstetrician told me that I needed to be induced, for my own safety, and the safety of my baby. On Tuesday November 24, I went in at 7 pm for the first application of cervical gel to soften and dilate my cervix, and hopefully bring on labour. The OB wasn't hopeful though. My body showed no signs of being labour-ready. I went home and rode out the contractions, breathing and counting with my husband. We were due back at the hospital the next morning for a second application. After a night of small, uneven contractions, we arrived at the hospital at 7 AM, where I received a second application around 8:30 AM. At 9:30 AM, the OB on call decided to start pitocin. The contractions were now excruciating, my body wasn't ready, the baby was sitting high, tucked against my ribs. All day I tried to breathe with the contractions, and keep my labour natural. I ended up with one shot of morphine, and decided against having any more drugs. The morphine nearly stopped the contractions, so they cranked up the pitocin again, and I rode the crimson waves of my contractions. At around 8 PM the contractions all but stopped, coming infrequently and without the same intense feeling they had contained all day. At 11:00 PM my daughter kicked me in the ribs, and my heart sank as I realized she had not dropped even an inch. At 11:30 PM the OB arrived and checked me, then announced I was only about 3 cm dilated. He was worried about the baby's heartrate, and the pounding she was taking from the false contractions. I was in for a C-Section. I was disappointed and upset, but too tired to argue. I was prepped and taken down, and the whole procedure went down without a hitch. From behind the curtain I heard my daughter's first scream, and I caught my breath. The delivering doctor swooped by, flashed my baby at me, and then took her out of sight, to a table behind me. I strained my neck to try and see her, and Lyle patted my hand reassuringly and went to be with our daughter. I felt dizzy, and the doctors shouted that my blood pressure had dropped to an extreme.
My baby and husband were rushed out of the room, and after I was bandaged up, I was sent to recovery for an agonizing two hours without my child. I felt disoriented and confused. After my two hours were up I was wheeled upstairs and sponged off, then lifted into my hospital bed. My daughter was placed on my chest, and I put her to my breast, while my husband and I agreed on her name. I honestly can't remember if she fed or not. I'm assuming she did, but I was so drugged and so tired that I can't remember those precious few moments, and the first few hours of her life have been narrated to me by my husband. She was bundled up and placed in a bassinet next to me, and we slept. Whenever she cried that night, my husband brought her to me, and I put her to my breast again. The next day the pediatrician came to see our baby. The doctor was concerned because Babe was covered head to toe with bruises (probably from the pitocin-induced contractions) and she had a high white blood cell count. They put a tiny IV into Babe's wrist, and we were ordered to stay in the hospital for 3 days, so that antibiotics could be run through the IV every four hours, with sugar water running through the rest of the time. My daughter became lethargic. Fed by sugar-water, she didn't want the breast. Hurt and confused, she cried constantly. I was frantic with worry, and so was my husband. We waited with bated breath to be told everything was going to be alright. On the 4th day we had all our bags packed, beyond excited to get home, where my parents were waiting to help us, with a clean house and tons of groceries.
It was not to be. Babe's bloodwork came back with high bilirubin. The sugar water prevented her from breastfeeding, the lack of breastmilk allowed her bilirubin levels to climb higher and higher. She needed 48 hours in a bili-tank. I cried for almost two hours. The nurses brought the huge fishtank looking thing into our room, and ordered me that I was only to take her out every three hours. The more I took her out, I was warned, the longer we would have to stay in the hospital, and the longer Babe would need to be in the tank. I was a new mom, I had no breastfeeding experience, no access to a lactation consultant, and no breastfeeding resources. I didn't know that putting the baby on a schedule would ultimately affect my milk supply. After two days of bilitank, we were finally allowed home. Each night I sat in front of the Christmas tree and nursed Babe. We coslept, I nursed her on demand, I was blissful.
Two weeks after our arrival home, I developed mastitis. I spent two days in bed, feeling absolutely wretched. My mother-in-law, who had come to help, was sure that Babe was starving. She cried constantly. My MIL begged to feed her a bottle of formula. I don't know why, but I refused. My MIL was helpful everywhere else, but breastfeeding frustrated her. She couldn't see how much the baby was getting, she wasn't able to offer advice. After 5 days, my MIL left. Lyle and I settled down into a routine. Babe was difficult to feed. She was constantly sleepy. I'd no sooner put her to the breast than she'd fall asleep. We stroked her with a wet cloth, tickled her feet, undressed her and nursed skin-to-skin, but to no end. At 3 weeks old, Babe was again hospitalized with severe jaundice. This time her bilirubin count was higher than it had been at 4 days old. Again she went to the bili-tank, this time in the pedes ward. Again she was put on a schedule. The pedes nurse told me she was a breastfeeding advocate, but she didn't believe in starving the babies. They told me I had no milk. This was determined by my pumping output after a feed, which was less than an ounce. Again, I had no idea that this was a normal output for a nursing mother, well within the normal range.
Babe was ordered to be supplemented with formula after each nursing session. I felt horrible every time I gave her a bottle of formula. She writhed and cried and screamed, waving her little arms around. I stood next to the bili-tank with my hands on her almost all the time she was in. I stroked her head and assured her she would be okay. I sang to her, and every three hours on the nose, I pulled her out and breastfed her, clutching her to me as long as I could. The nurses got annoyed with me. I was scolded twice for taking her out to feed her before the three hour mark, and given heck for taking longer than a half hour to nurse her. After two days, we were allowed to take her home again. They sent us home with a huge box of premixed Enfamil, and orders to supplement her after every feeding. The on-call pediatrician told me I should skip two nursing sessions a day and replace them with formula, to allow my breasts time to fill up. I remember having the insane urge to giggle, picturing my breasts as milk jugs slowly refilling themselves. I was near hysterical. If I started laughing, I don't know if I would have been able to stop.
When we got home I immediately started breastfeeding Babe, and with a heavy heart I sterilized, mixed, and then fed her formula at the very end of the feeding. I had to stop and analyze my feelings. Why was I feeling guilty? So many moms formula feed, why did I feel so awful for doing it myself? I have long understood that we cannot ignore our feelings and instincts. Mine were telling me that this was wrong, wrong for me, wrong for Babe, and despite its commonality, just wrong for us. (I later was vindicated in this feeling, as it turned out Babe has bad dairy and soy allergies, which would have been difficult, if not impossible to avoid when trying to find a dairy and soy free formula. I have to keep my diet dairy and soy free to avoid projectile vomiting and other complications on Babe's part).
I told my husband I would need uninterrupted hours with her. He agreed. We stocked my nursing area with DVDs, water, snacks, books, and blankets. I was frustrated by the nurses and doctors, and felt like a failure for being told my breastmilk wasn't enough. My instincts said something was wrong, and I have long trusted my instincts above medical advice. As I spent the next few days nursing Babe around the clock, I began to search YouTube for videos of breastfeeding. I googled supplementing, and its necessity. Everything inevitably brought me back to Jack Newman. I ordered his books and began to read them in earnest. I learned that breastmilk was a natural laxative, and expelled bilirubin from the baby's body faster and more efficiently than formula. I learned that pumping output was a poor indicator of milk supply. I learned that the more I supplemented, the less milk I would produce. The second night home from the hospital, I took all the formula samples that came in the mail, and all the formula the hospital sent home with us, and chucked it out. Maybe that was extreme, I should have probably donated it, but I felt both a need to express my frustration (the clang of the formula cans hitting the bottom of the garbage can was sooo satisfying) and I had a fear the hospital would find out what I had done and come yell at me some more.
As I studied the latching videos on Jack Newman's website and taught myself to breastfeed, I also taught my daughter. I took fenugreek and drank olympic-size swimming pools of water (maybe too much water, I learned later on). Two days later, I defiantly told my pediatrician that I would not supplement my daughter. To my surprise, the pediatrician (not the one from the hospital) chuckled and said she agreed with me, and that I should not supplement my daughter. Two months later, when we discovered Babe was allergic to both soy and cow's milk (through allergic reaction to the proteins in my milk), we again felt proud and relieved that we had had the strength and determination to make breastfeeding work for us. Babe is now a happy, bright-eyed 7 month old, curious about the world and everything around her. She loves to give her dad, me, her grandparents, and my boobs affectionate kisses accompanied by a loud "Mah!" noise. She's our joy, and every time I watch her nurse to sleep, or feel her warm body cuddle against me at night, I feel a surge of love inside, and a telltale dripping feeling at my breasts. I am sure the two feelings are linked. ;)
Author's note: After learning about oxytocin, I know for sure that they are!
Saturday, June 26, 2010
So I've been meaning to start a blog for a long time now. When I was a child, and then an overdramatic teenager, writing was my ultimate release. The steady flow of ink on ruled paper was a purging, a cleansing, a wonderful burgeoning expulsion of all my emotions and thoughts. I've always wanted to be a writer, but the world and life caught me in its throes, and so I've decided to blog instead.
I want this blog to be about many things. My experiences as a new mother, how my view of the world has changed as I've immersed myself deeper in parenthood, and all the incredible changes it brings. I want this blog to be a wealth of information and interest for other new moms. I want to advocate those parenting practices I believe in, and to explore some of those that I might otherwise disdain.
Maybe an introduction. You can call me Breast. My 7 month old daughter is Babe. Some days, I feel as though I am only a personality attached to breasts. That's weird, you might think. Maybe, but as a full-time breastfeeding mom, the sentiment of being a floating pair of boobies is not so odd as one might believe. My whole life has become about Babe, and as for Babe, well for the first few months of life, her whole life revolved around momma's breasts. Now, at 7 months, Babe still has most of her life revolve around her momma's boobies. She's become somewhat of a conoisseur, though. She stops halfway through eating to hold a boob in both hands, admire it from every angle, pinch it, talk to it, and then return to taste-testing. She's realized that they still exist when out of sight, and is bound and determined to see them under the cloth when they are hiding. Every food she tastes is compared to them, every person who holds her gets the privilege of a visual breast exam from her, and sometimes a pinch as well. It's the most important part of mommy, and sometimes I have to practically wave my hands and dance a jig to get her attention away from them. Is it so strange then, that I sometimes feel like a set of levitating boobs? As any breastfeeding mom can attest, nah, not really.
How did I decide to breastfeed? How were our major parenting decisions made? Next time. It's a long story.