Archive for the 'My Breastfeeding Saga' Category


Just Noticed This…

February 12th, 2008 by MamaBear

I just noticed that The Lactivist’s Tuesday, June 05, 2007 post on The International Breast Milk Project accurately reflects the current reality with the IBMP and Prolacta now (Hm. I recently noticed Prolacta.com looks different — different colors and different pictures and different overall format — kind of annoying since before it was more technical and straightforward — though woefully incomplete — and now it’s more “soft” and “vague” and “wishy-washy” — and still missing a lot of really important information. When someone’s primary motivation is making a profit, you gotta wonder about these things…).

I want to thank her (The Lactivist) personally for updating her original, breakthrough thoughts on the IBMP with this thorough post: Thank you, Jennifer. :)

Please read her post. She has captured a lot of the concerns I’ve been writing about with regard to Prolacta and the IBMP. As a recipient (Jennifer is writing from the perspective of a donor), I can agree with most of what she has to say. I am not a capitalist at heart. I have learned to work within The Patriarchal Machine, and I do it really well, but I really do believe in a true democracy, where money doesn’t really matter (and everyone is equally important). But that information is not really that relevant to this particular post of mine. It’s really important that y’all read what Jennifer has to say regarding “What This News Doesn’t Change” and “Where Does This Leave You?” if you’re thinking of formal milk donation (unlike informal milk donation — like MilkShare, which for me as a mother who has desperately needed breastmilk for my child on numerous occasions and gotten it through there, has been a Godsend).

Please read her post. It’s very important. Don’t miss it.

Thank you. The International Breastfeeding Symbol Website and Blog thanks you.

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MREs and Truth in Advertising

December 2nd, 2007 by MamaBear

When I was an adolescent, the country I was living in got caught up in a war situation, to put it mildly. Without revealing too much of myself I’ll say that my adolescence was not spent in the United States.

During the occupation the country I was living in experienced, which resulted in thousands of casualties, most of them innocent civilians caught in crossfires (as is the case with most, if not all, wars), the country’s economy shut down for a few months. Most grocery stores closed, and the tiny corner shops with food that had enough unlooted merchandise to sell would sometimes open, but only sporadically, and with very limited, mostly canned, products. Most supplies didn’t get to most places, so most places couldn’t open for business (not to mention most of the goods had long been ransacked from most stores during that time).

As a consequence of this, the United States military (which was there, and played an active role in the occupation) would issue to the general civilian population (of which my family and I were a part) MREs. What are MREs, you say? MREs are “Meals, Ready to Eat.” They are a food source, issued by the United States Armed Forces, that is ration-quality. At the time, my family, though thankfully not poor, was having considerable trouble finding places that sold food. So the free MRE packages, which consisted of food and other items hermetically sealed in brown plastic with no-nonsense black lettering describing the contents inside, came in pretty handy. We were grateful for them. Now I know in the military (and from talking to American military men and women who had to subsist on MREs), MREs are not popular. They are ration food, after all… Meant to be used in emergency situations, like wars (which should be rare, but sadly, are not).

My family and I ate the MREs; like I said, we were grateful to have them. They kept us from starving for a few days, weeks, however long it was that we ate them… But we also recognized that we could not subsist on them forever (they are not recommended for use beyond 21 consecutive days, probably because of the high sodium and other health reasons). Once the food supplies started coming back into our city, we were able to buy real food again, and we stopped eating the MREs. The ones that were left in our home became novelties (unopened and uneaten novelties, which we passed on to other people who needed them more than we did) after the real, fresh food started to come in.

I think of infant formula as MREs for babies. Both MREs and infant formula have most of the necessary nutrients, the baseline needed for survival, but they are not meant to be used exclusively when a better option is available (which in most normal situations, a better alternative usually is). The thing is, baby formula is a ration-quality product intended for special circumstances (mainly, the inability to breastfeed or pump). People were not meant to subsist on MREs for extended periods of time, not unless there is no other recourse (but if you had to subsist on MREs for a year or two, it probably wouldn’t kill you — you would likely survive). The same can easily be said for formula: babies were not meant (biologically) to subsist entirely on infant formula for extended periods of time.

Since it’s clear to me that infant formula is substandard infant nutrition (compared with the biological norm, breastmilk), and since it’s also pretty clear to me that way too many people in power (doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and personnel, etc.) seem to be confused about this, because they aren’t assisting new mothers with breastfeeding the way they should be upon the birth of their babies, and too many of them, furthermore, PUSH the use of infant formula inappropriately, I thought I’d start to make things a bit more truthful with a proper label.

Here it is:

simple.jpg

Compare it to a can of formula anyone could buy in any supermarket in the United States:

comparison.jpg

The difference in visual information is huge.

Here are some caveats about my label: The label I created does not contain any nutritional information. I probably should have put that on there, but since I’m not actually selling formula, I don’t have to. :) I was going to give away some extra cans of formula to a shelter here, but I didn’t feel good about leaving the labels intact with all that formula marketing on them. I also didn’t feel good about ripping the labels off because then people wouldn’t know what was in the cans and might throw them away. I couldn’t bear to think of that waste, so instead, I created an alternative label that wouldn’t offend me as much. I simply designed it, printed it out, and pasted it on top of the existing label. That way, if anyone cares to look, they can still find the other one underneath, but they will first have to have read a differing point of view. I took a few artistic liberties with the part that says “Price,” where I said that it was free but available by prescription only. I got that idea from one of the commenters on this blog. The label I have on my download page for anyone to download is slightly different from the one pictured here because the final version has the volume information on it just under where it says “Cows’ Milk-Based.”

Anyway, I thought some of you might want to have this label as an option, so that you could, whenever Freecycling or donating excess cans of ready-to-feed formula to people who might need them, print some truthful labels out and paste them (or tape them, whatever) onto existing formula cans. But please be sure the information is accurate. Most routine formulas are 20 kCal/fl oz and cows’ milk based, so if you’re giving away soy formula or formula that is made with a different formulation, please do NOT use my downloadable label. Feel free to design your own alternative, truthful formula label, and please tell me about it so that I may link to your site and have others see your awesome ideas. Keep in mind that whatever label you create needs to mention that the biological norm is breastfeeding, and that formula is an MRE for babies, not an ideal food for long-term, exclusive use.

Also, I want to say that I welcome constructive criticism of any of the content on this label. If you feel that something on it isn’t accurate enough or may be portraying infant formula or artificial baby milks in too favorable of a light, I need to know that so that I can alter it, or at the very least draw attention to that so that others will be aware of this. Thanks.

Here’s the label itself, which you can download off the download page here at breastfeedingsymbol.org:

truthinadvertisingsmall.jpg

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Why I Do Not Recommend Using Powdered Infant Formula

October 11th, 2007 by MamaBear

I’ve used powdered infant formula maybe two times in the entire time I have supplemented for my daughter (I have supplemented with formula for over a year, out of necessity due to breast hypoplasia and breast surgeries). The main reason why I was never keen on using powdered formula is because of the theory of free radical damage from using a powdered reconstituted animal product. Now, I don’t know if the ready-to-feed and concentrate forms of infant formula I’ve been using contain reconstituted powder in them. If they do, I’ll probably feel like the world’s biggest schmuck. But the more research I do on the subject, the more I realize the oxysterol powdered-milk theory isn’t the only reason why using powdered infant formula isn’t a good idea.

Powdered infant formula is the most affordable form of infant formula there is. Every other form (concentrate, ready-to-feed cans and bottles) is significantly more expensive. This is why most people who for whatever reason decide not to continue lactation (or who can’t easily lactate because of a physical barrier which impedes it — think adoption or breast surgery) usually decide to buy powdered infant formula. It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than the already prepared stuff. Many people who would otherwise be able to breastfeed or pump milk for their babies for a lot less money (the price of renting a hospital grade breast pump can be as little as $35/month, or less; the service of a lactation consultant is often cheaper than the cost of one month’s supply of formula), instead buy the powdered infant formula because it is erroneously perceived to be a “cheap” and “good” alternative. There are many barriers impeding the success of breastfeeding for new mothers, but one of the biggest ones is the fact that it is easier (and less taboo) to learn how to prepare infant formula than it is to learn how to breastfeed or pump (also, figuring out how to prepare infant formula can be done easily in public; figuring out how to breastfeed, topless, for example, is unfortunately not acceptable in most places — and trying to figure out how to breastfeed while wearing clothing is like trying to figure out how to swim by practicing in a bathtub — it’s not very effective). Formula companies exploit this whenever they can, seducing women with the promise that formula is “just as good” for their baby and much easier to figure out than breastfeeding in the middle of the night when holding a screaming, hungry newborn and without anyone to help you.

Unfortunately for most mothers, formula companies don’t actually care (in deed; they always pay lip-service to “caring”) if the product is prepared properly or if it’s even safe before preparation. They feel that’s “not their problem,” legally speaking, so they sleep easily at night, even if infants who use their mislabeled products die.

I do not recommend infant formula use at all unless there’s no other feasible option, but I especially do not recommend the use of powdered infant formula. Powdered infant formula is not sterile. Infants have already died from contaminated powdered infant formula (even when prepared according to the manufacturer’s directions). The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration advise against the use of powdered formula in hospitals because of the contamination risk it poses. It is impossible to sterilize powdered formula in the factory in the same way that liquid formulas can be. Furthermore, if preparing the powdered formula with boiling water to kill the bacteria, some of the vitamins in the formula may be damaged beyond even what the sterilized liquid formulas undergo.

Even when prepared according to the manufacturer’s directions, however, powdered formula never dissolves completely. You can shake the powdered formula with the proper amount of water in a baby bottle until the cows come home (this is what the directions on most if not all powdered infant formulas say to do — shake the measured scoops and water together in the baby bottle), and you will inevitably be left with undissolved lumps in the resultant liquid mixture. These lumps mean the concentration of formula in the liquid is less than it should be, and the lumps often stick to the sides of the baby bottle and never get consumed like they’re supposed to.

In addition to powdered infant formula not being sterile, the possibility of free-radical cell damage from oxidized cholesterol/fat from the formula powder, and the problem with the formation of lumps upon reconstitution, there is also the very real possibility that the directions on the can won’t be followed properly. Most women in the third world don’t have schooling beyond primary school. Consequently, a basic understanding of weights and measures (like liquid measure and powdered formula scoop measure) is often not understood very well. This sometimes leads to formula being prepared at too high of a concentration if the powder is measured before the water is, or it sometimes results in a too-dilute preparation if the woman in question is trying to save money by using less powder than is called for on the can. A too-concentrated formula can lead to dehydration, renal failure, and death in the infant. A too-dilute concentration of formula can lead to malnutrition and a lifetime of health problems, in addition to the possibility of eventual death by starvation. While it may seem “affordable” in the short-run to provide a third-world woman with “free” formula for a time, in the long-run, the results are disastrous and not worth the true, human, cost. The woman dries up, no longer produces milk with her own body, and becomes needlessly dependent on a far inferior, even dangerous product. It becomes like a drug, then. A woman will do anything to get more of it for her baby, because it’s the only feasible option left to her for nourishing her baby once her milk dries up (her milk will start drying up as soon as she starts supplementing with formula if she does not provide stimulation to her breasts — often the woman is not aware of this consequence because not many people are aware of the supply-and-demand aspect of breastfeeding). Over more than one generation, this dependence on infant formula will lead to a loss of knowledge of breastfeeding for a given society (and increased breastfeeding ignorance), leading more women through the generations to become dependent on an external, purchased product rather than trusting their own bodies. It is unconscionable to provide formula to third world countries for free for these and other reasons. It’s also immoral to encourage people to buy “cheap” powdered infant formula when the truth is that the female body can produce a far superior (and practically free!) product, if only the proper education were disseminated about it.

Maybe if everyone had to pay the price of liquid formulas when choosing to formula feed (which is what would happen if everyone knew just how inferior — and even dangerous — powdered formula was), perhaps then breastfeeding and pumping wouldn’t be seen as “gross” and “too much trouble.” It would definitely incentivate a lot of people who erroneously believe formula and breastmilk are “just as good” as one another to at least try breastfeeding and/or pumping before the “easier” formula-feeding, and it may motivate new moms to stick it through the tough times for longer. At the very least, if no one were to buy the powdered formula anymore, it would incentivate those in the formula industry to charge less for their liquid “premium” products, which would be better for everybody — (except, of course, for formula manufacturers and their shareholders).

Formula does not have to be part of the cost of raising a child. It’s not a necessity like a car seat is (for those people who own a car). It is an artificially created need, artificially created through baby-unfriendly hospital policies, aggressive marketing tactics, and the unofficial endorsement of many health care workers (doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, some midwives, etc.) the world over. This artificially created need causes needless illness and death, and it’s all for the sake of making a buck. It is never about the health and well-being of mother and child.

The use of infant formula (homemade or commercially prepared) should be the option of last resort, to be used after all other (better) options have been exhausted. Breastfeeding should always be the first choice, except for the very rare case of severe galactosemia. Powdered infant formula should just never be used at all — babies have better options no matter where in the world they are; much of the time, it’s just a matter of allowing breastfeeding to succeed. Too often breastfeeding is sabotaged by the inappropriate introduction of formula by health care workers, misinformed and exhausted postpartum moms, or well-meaning but misguided family members.

Due to all the health risks associated with consumption of any type of formula, moreover, it is completely inappropriate for any hospital employee or volunteer to feed newborns infant formula routinely unless the mother of the infant is dead, has abandoned the baby, is HIV+, or does not have functioning breasts. And actually, for extreme cases like that, the infants involved should be fed donor breastmilk whenever it’s available (in the case of an HIV+ mom, the mom can try manually expressing her milk into a clean container and flash-pasteurizing the milk to kill the HIV before feeding it to her infant — it would still be far superior to any formula). Funny that if breastfeeding were considered as routine as formula-feeding is now, more healthy donor milk would be available to feed babies whose mothers cannot… Imagine that: A world where every baby is fed breastmilk, and where no corporation is profiting off the sale of human milk. That would surely be a beautiful thing.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 1st, 2007 by MamaBear

Breast cancer. It’s one of women’s greatest fears, right up there with “rape” and “death of a child.” It’s not just bad ’cause it could kill you. It’s bad ’cause it could leave you disfigured for life. Women take great pride in their appearance, and losing a breast, or having one scarred by surgery (as I have; both breasts in case you were wondering), is a very real threat to an individual woman’s femininity.

Breast cancer is a subject very near and dear to my heart, for reasons I don’t want to talk about just yet, but I can assure you I take it very personally. It’s one of the reasons why I am such an ardent breastfeeding advocate and always will be. As long as I’m alive, I will use every ounce of my strength to make sure accurate information about breastfeeding and breast health is disseminated.

I am kind of sickened, though, by the lip-service I see for “breast cancer awareness” without real awareness of this disease. I am torn, because on the one hand, any kind of awareness brought to breast cancer is a good thing, but on the other hand, a lot of people are deluded into thinking that breast cancer awareness means slapping on a pink ribbon and calling it a day.

Most of the pink-ribbon paraphernalia that touts “Breast Cancer Awareness” don’t actually support breast cancer research, btw. What they really support is the person who sold them. (I sell all kinds of products in my two stores, but I make sure that a significant percentage of what I make goes to organizations that fund truly breastfeeding-friendly organizations. Otherwise, I’d feel kind of slimy asking for your money.)

Breast cancer awareness should always include the awareness of breastfeeding’s ability to help prevent breast cancer. The ability of breastfeeding, particularly extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding that extends beyond a year), to reduce the incidence of breast cancer, is amazing. Unfortunately, this kind of information is sorely lacking from a lot of mainstream literature for breast cancer awareness. There are several reasons for it, but it can be boiled down to one simple principle: people who have the power to make this information available to the masses have little incentive to disseminate that information (or they aren’t made aware of it themselves). That’s why it’s not very common to read an article about breast cancer awareness in a mainstream magazine (online or otherwise) and have it talk about how breastfeeding cuts the rate of breast cancer by whatever percentage… More than likely you’ll read about how to buy some useless pink object you’ll never need (which may even be bad for you) to promote yet another empty gesture.

I firmly believe that the breast cancer epidemic our society is witness to now is a direct result of, among other things, the medical establishment, starting circa the 1920’s, discouraging women from breastfeeding their babies (by encouraging artificial baby milk use and telling them their human milk was “no good.”) Of course, the medical establishment — doctors, nurses, hospitals — were encouraged by the dairy and burgeoning formula manufacturers to push artificial baby milk onto their patients, in exchange for money and/or free formula samples. They still are.

Would women still have breast cancer if they breastfed? Yes, most certainly, some of them would; the disease has always existed (my own great-grandmother had breast cancer and she breastfed six children — though the disease didn’t kill her). But there probably wouldn’t be nearly as many cases as we’re seeing now had every single woman breastfed.

Anyway, this is all a lead-in to say that in my International Breastfeeding Symbol Online Store (not the CafePress one — that one 100% of the profits I make will always be donated to the HMBANA Austin Milk Bank), 100% of the profits I make for the month of October will be given to breast cancer organizations hand-picked by me. So far I’m looking at The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and Breast Cancer Action. I need to do more research on both before making a final decision, but even if I opt not to donate to either one of them, I will donate 100% of the profits to a breast cancer awareness/education/research organization that I’ve researched pretty thoroughly. With all the scams in the world, though, I need to be cautious, so I’ll have to, like I said, research some more. For the symbolic month of October, I can find no better cause to donate all my money to than true breast cancer awareness.

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Caring for the Post-Partum Woman (A Long-Overdue Rant, Rated PG-13)

September 7th, 2007 by MamaBear

When I was post-partum, which, for those of you who don’t know what that is, means “just pushed a baby out your hoo-ha,” what I wanted more than anything was for someone to care for me. From all the conversations I’ve had with other women who have experienced the exquisite delight that is caring for one’s own beaten body, one’s new baby, one’s spouse, one’s household, and one’s other various duties simultaneously the first month after giving birth, I think this desire is resoundingly universal. Post-partum women want to be cared for.

A lot of people think they know what that means. Many people erroneously believe that when a woman who’s just given birth says, “I just want someone to take care of me,” she means, “Take care of my baby.” Well, I hate to break it to these people, but that’s not what she means. When she says, “I just want someone to take care of me, she literally means, “I just want someone to take care of ME.” (emphasis added for clarity)

So, how does one go about this…this…”care of The Post-Partum?” (”The Post-Partum,” I know, sounds like a description for a legion of zombies in a horror movie… The really scary part is that if you were to amass together a large enough group of post-partum women, the resemblance to this would be striking.)

I don’t want to generalize too much, so instead of saying how all post-partum women wish to be cared for, I’ll just share with you what I wanted when I was post-partum. (”I” statements can be very empowering, or so I have heard.)

Without further ado, here’s my personal diatribe wish list, in no particular order, for the post-partum period (the “you” in it is whoever has the temerity to attempt to fulfill my wishes):

  • Don’t touch my baby. Just… don’t. Don’t ask to touch the baby, either. Also, don’t ask why I don’t want you touching the baby. Furthermore, I don’t care if it’s irrational. Some things just are. It’s my baby, so deal with it gracefully. And! …No guilting me for not letting you hold my baby either. Your attitude about this is supposed to reflect absolute understanding and sensitivity. I want to hear you say, with complete sincerity (no sarcasm, or I will personally claw your face off with my filthy post-partum fingernails), “Of course I wouldn’t even consider taking your beautiful, gorgeous, perfect baby from you. I totally understand how strong your biological urge and need is right now to keep your baby close. It’s so important for bonding and getting breastfeeding properly established, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to short-circuit that with my own selfish desire to hold a new baby, or for any other stupid reason, stupid being defined at your discretion.” I’m glad we have an understanding.
  • I want food. Good food. Give it to me!! Not something from a fast-food restaurant, either, and certainly nothing with partially hydrogenated oils in it. I want something home-cooked, USDA certified organic, made with lactogenic herbs and foregoing the use of anti-lactogeni… You know what? It might be a good idea for you to read Mother Food from cover-to-cover before preparing me a meal. I have, and I insist that you learn about galactagogues so that I don’t have to keep explaining to you what I can and can’t eat. Once you bring me my meal, which should actually be equivalent to at least 2.5 normal meals in portion size (or I will put a gypsy curse on you and your family), you will cut up all my food into bite-sized pieces for me so that I don’t have to. And then you will lovingly feed it to me as I concentrate on figuring out how to breastfeed my new baby. You shall do this every day — more than once a day, if need be — for at least a month, possibly longer.
  • While we’re on the subject of breastfeeding, I would really like you to bring me an experienced, sensitive, knowledgeable, non-judgmental, woman-friendly person to show me how to breastfeed, and I’d like her to show up the instant I need her, preferably well before the first feeding, and not when my child is already so frustrated with the effort of eating that he/she completely refuses to come near my breasts. This woman need not be a lactation consultant, because that title unfortunately does not guarantee competency, but she certainly can be. She would preferably have a baby of her own of a similar age to mine and she will show me with her baby how she does it. This person will also magically know exactly how to fix all my breastfeeding problems and additionally, will imbue me with this knowledge (and magic) in less than a week. This person is allowed to touch my baby, but only for the purposes of aiding me with breastfeeding.
  • I need water. Lots of water. Bring me glass after glass of water, filtered. The water doesn’t need ice, but — oh heck, I might as well go all out — It needs ice. Not ice cubes, either; I want that deliciously fun crushed ice, the kind that gets pulverized almost instantly when you hold it firmly between your molars, but not the kind that feels glassy and sharp. I want continuous free refills of this iced, purified water left at my bedside, with a bendy straw, and I want you to bus all used dirty dishes and glasses away as soon as I’m done with them, without me asking. Also once you’ve taken all the dirty dishes to the kitchen, wash them, dry them, and put them away for me, as I don’t think I’ll be up for that task anytime soon.
  • Unless you’re a disease-free, drug-free lactating mother with a good milk supply, don’t offer to feed my baby for me. However, even if you are a disease-free, drug-free lactating mother with a good milk supply, there is no guarantee I will let you feed my baby. Please refer to the “hands-off the baby” policy outlined above.
  • Under no circumstances is anyone to tell me to feed my baby formula or to “just give the baby a bottle.” You don’t want to know what will happen to you, and all of your descendants, if you should try to defy this wish.
  • If after weighing the baby and accounting for poopy and wet diapers, it is determined that the baby isn’t getting enough milk, and after I’ve done everything reasonably within my power to increase my milk supply and deemed that it still isn’t enough for the baby, wash your hands and fill my Lact-Aids for me with donated breastmilk or formula and, only if you are extremely knowledgeable and experienced in this, help me latch the baby on while I wear one.
  • Tell me what a great job I’m doing, and what an excellent mother I am, even if it’s clear that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I just put the diaper on the baby inside-out. And backwards.
  • Encourage me to rest with my baby. Help me learn how to latch the baby on while lying down. Help me learn how to consistently get a good latch, and not a shallow one that will soon turn my nipples into raw ground chuck.
  • When you see that I’m using cloth diapers and that the diaper pail is looking full, say, “Hey, let me throw those in the wash for you,” and then do it. Do it like I would, and make sure you don’t ruin any of my diapers. It’s not likely, but if you do ruin any of them, get me equivalent replacements, pronto, without me asking. Also, when the diapers are done, throw a load of regular laundry in the washing machine too. The dirty clothes and linens will probably have piled up since the birth, and I don’t really have the extra energy reserves to do laundry right now.
  • Remind me gently when I need to take all my 30+ daily pills (pain medication, iron tablet, laxative, prenatal vitamin, calcium, galactagogue, galactagogue, galactagogue, omega-3 oils, other supplements, etc.), galactagogue tinctures, and any other necessary medication (salves, ointments, unguents, etc. if applicable), throughout the day. Also, make sure to keep my supplies of witch hazel pads, clean panties, ice-pack sanitary napkins, and ordinary sanitary napkins refreshed.
  • You know what else needs attention? The bathroom. I’ll bet, what with all the bleeding I’ve been doing, that it’s not at its “freshest.” So, if you would, please scrub it down for me: toilet, tub, sink, floors…take out the trash… Just… everything. It all needs attention, which I don’t have the energy to give right now since I’m focused on (1) learning to keep my new baby alive with my breasts and (2) trying to mend my torn body back to health.
  • I was lucky enough to not have needed a cesarean, but if I’d had a C-section, I’d also want someone to: clean, dress, and monitor my wound (several times a day), help me get out of (and back into) bed whenever I needed it, and keep the baby’s diaper changed for me so that I can concentrate fully on breastfeeding while recovering from my surgery (the “hands-off-the-baby” policy makes an exception for this situation as well). Also, if I’m too weak to hold my baby, please put the baby to my breast for me. In this and all Mama Bear postpartum situations, let’s pretend formula and baby bottles don’t exist. This means you and I work hard and do what we can to keep the baby nursing as often and as much as possible from my breasts, even if I am not conscious. Capisce?
  • If my baby fusses, don’t automatically assume that he/she is starving. Instead, reassure me that my milk will come in if it hasn’t yet and that billions of women before me have breastfed successfully even though their milk didn’t come in for days after the baby was born. Remind me that colostrum is the only thing my baby needs in his/her digestive system in the first few days, that it is perfect in quantity and substance for his/her tiny, marble-sized sensitive newborn stomach, and that I produce enough of it to meet my baby’s needs. Also, remind me that the baby is still within normal weight range if he/she takes two full weeks after birth to get back up to birth weight (as long as the baby is urinating and defecating properly and also shows no signs of dehydration).
  • Remind me to feed my baby with my own breasts every hour, on the hour, to help establish a good milk supply. Gently encourage me to wake the baby with this much frequency, if need be, round the clock until my milk supply becomes well-established. This takes some finesse and good judgment, and I can modify this request as many times as I want, so as not to exhaust myself nor the baby. It is because of this that I need to be encouraged to lie-in with the baby, to stay all day (and all night) in bed with him/her if need be, because establishing a milk supply can be very exhausting, especially with a precarious milk supply situation.
  • It should go without saying that I want my baby with me, in my arms, from the instant he/she is born to forever. It makes no sense to separate me from my child, none at all, for any reason other than for a grave life-threatening emergency. “Washing off” the baby is not a grave emergency, and neither is “observation” nor is “hospital policy.” Kangaroo care isn’t just for preemies. All babies like it, and I think all babies should have it. Babies aren’t born expecting a cold incubator or bassinet, nor do they expect to be fed with anything other than a breast. Babies, when they are born, expect to be held by their mothers and breastfed. If their mother is not available, they still expect to be held by someone, so if I’m not available to hold my baby, give the baby to my husband, teach him how to hold the baby if he’s not sure how, because he’s the father and he has way more right to hold his own child than even the highest-paid hospital worker there is. If my baby’s father is not available, the baby should still be held by someone who cares for him/her, has no contagious diseases, and can properly hold a baby (preferably a loving adult relative), until I am able to hold my child… That is, unless everyone’s arms are occupied or unable to hold the baby. If that happens, then, as a case of last resort, the baby should be put in a bassinet or incubator. (I’m still confused, though, as to why the bassinet is the first choice in hospitals, and not kangaroo care. Kangaroo care is better for the babies and cheaper for the hospitals, so why is it not the dominant medical paradigm’s first choice whenever possible?! …Don’t answer that; I can warrant a few guesses.) I feel that bassinets/incubators (and formula, i.e. artificial feeding) should be the option of last resort, only to be used when no better option is available or possible, but I guess that’s just way too much to ask of most hospitals in the United States.
  • Unless I am dead, if you want to feed my baby, put the baby to my breast, even if I am passed out unconscious. If you don’t want to do it yourself, teach my husband how to put the baby to my breast. Whatever you do, don’t feed my baby with a bottle, and definitely not formula.
  • Don’t even think about giving my baby a pacifier
  • Take care of any other household duties for me, child care of older children, pet care, plant care, lawn care, and guest-care, etc. Ward off obnoxious, clueless, oblivious-to-the-needs-of-postpartum-women guests as needed. Tell them that I said to fuck off, especially if they show up without food for me and even moreso if they are showing up just to see/ogle/touch/hold the baby. If they expect to be catered to by me while I’m recovering from having just had a baby tear out of my body, as in, “I’d like a glass of water,” that sort of thing… Ask them if they’d like some of my lochia in their water. I cannot guarantee, because I’m recovering from a pretty physically traumatic event, as outwardly ordinary as it may appear to them, that I’ll have the wherewithal, between caring for my newly born infant and my own pain-wracked body, to remember to wash my hands after using the bathroom and before preparing their glass of water. After you inform them of this fact, then I’d like you to call the cops and report them as intruders. Seriously. I don’t want people like that in my house. Also, even though you could get them their water, I’d rather have you take care of me, and not cater to able-bodied, ungrateful, oblivious houseguests that, frankly, could get their own damn water on their own time and don’t deserve the privilege of meeting my baby or even stepping foot in my house.
  • Listen to me when I want to talk about, well, …anything. Listen with your whole heart and mind, and nod in all the right places with genuine (not feigned) sincerity and interest. Tell me what you think, too. Share with me, without judgment or criticism, what you feel. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Don’t patronize me by telling me that I must be suffering from post-partum depression because I sob from the depths of my soul at unpredictable intervals. It is normal to cry at the life-changing event of having a baby, to acknowledge that the unbelievably perfect and beautiful angel in my arms is a complete miracle of the universe, and to be awed and humbled and completely taken by surprise at the sheer incredibleness of this life-altering realization. It is to be expected that I sob at the terrifying reality that this exquisite creature has been entrusted to me, and that I am now in charge of his/her life and well-being, forever. Trying to minimize this emotional upheaval and necessary mental/emotional processing by telling me there’s something wrong with me that needs to be medicated out is unconscionable. If watching me cry and experience the natural range of human emotion (which includes sadness, anger, and even — *gasp*rage) makes you uncomfortable, do me a favor and put another load of laundry in the wash for me or go out and get me some more food. If you can’t do that, at the very least practice what you preach and take a pill that will make you not care how emotional I get. That alone would do heaps more for me (and my baby) than paying lip-service to the knee-jerk response of “getting help” for PPD the PhRMA way. You want to know what real help for a postpartum Mama Bear looks like? Re-read this list.
  • You know what else? If you were to actually fulfill all of the above recommendations for me, I think the probability of true postpartum depression entering my postpartum world would be next to nil. Just FYI.
  • Let’s see… What else can you do for me? A foot massage every once in a while would be nice, too. But I wouldn’t want to overburden you. Looks like you’ve got enough on your plate.

All in all, that about sums up my postpartum rant wishlist… This is what I would want, truly want (if I’m going to be brutally, tactlessly honest), during the postpartum period. It doesn’t have to be all from one person either. I’m guessing that in the ideal situation, a postpartum woman would have this kind of care and protection from a combination of sources: a supportive group of mothers, compassionate relatives, reliable friends, a loving spouse, competent health care workers, and/or paid help. I can’t speak for any other women, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if most women who’ve given birth would have wanted at least some of what’s on the above list. I also, sadly, wouldn’t be surprised to hear that too many women don’t get any of the right kind of help when they’re at their most vulnerable.

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Breastfeeding Ad Campaign Hoopla

September 1st, 2007 by MamaBear

I’ve been sitting on this for a while, letting my thoughts percolate through my mind. Recently it has come to light, through a Washington Post report, that certain breastfeeding promotion ads in 2004 were toned down because of pressure from The International Formula Council (representing, as of April 2004: Ross; Mead Johnson; Nestle USA Solus Products; PBM Products, LLC; and Wyeth Nutrition).

The ads which were toned down depicted a rubber nipple placed on an asthma inhaler or an insulin bottle, with a syringe in the background. The images, in my opinion, are striking and definitely attention-getting. Some might even call them inflammatory.

When I first read about this on a few blogs, I was very upset about the original ads getting pulled because of pressure from the IFC. Clearly the incentive on the part of the formula companies is to make money, and a negative ad campaign like that one would make formula a difficult sell to any mother who thinks of breastfeeding as a mere “lifestyle choice.” But what bothered me the more I thought about it is that the inflammatory ads would disenfranchise a person like me, too, who does not bottle-feed by choice (my baby refuses to breastfeed). As it is, even with a mostly anti-breastfeeding culture, I find myself in the position of having to explain to perfect strangers why it is I’m feeding my baby with a bottle (because they ask me), or getting impolite stares when I pull out a bottle to feed my baby. I pump every day, eight times a day, for twenty minutes, using a double electric hospital grade breast pump (actually, two different ones), but I still manage to only produce about 16 ounces for any given 24-hour period. This means I must supplement with something else, some other, lesser milk, so that my child won’t starve. For various reasons, I’ve chosen this supplement to be formula. Yes, I have received donor breastmilk from extremely kind-hearted donors, but it takes a lot of milk to feed a baby, and now that she’s a year old, my donors have understandably “hung up the horns,” a euphemism that means they’ve stopped pumping for my baby. So I am left with the only viable option: supplement with another mammal’s milk.

I am not under any delusions that the formula companies make their formula better or “closer to mother’s milk” because they care about my baby. I know they are watching their bottom line, and any new marketing strategy, including improving the quality of their artificial baby milk so that it contains more components found in breastmilk, will improve their chances of making a sale. I know this, and as a consumer, I don’t buy formula because I want to help the formula companies succeed with their business. I do it because I need to feed my baby something that will sustain her, since the quantity of breastmilk I produce isn’t sufficient to meet her needs (notice that I said “quantity” and not “quality.” The quality of my milk is far superior to any formula or other mammals’ milk for my baby; I just don’t make enough of it).

So, within this context, here’s my take on the ad campaign bruhaha: I agree that the ad campaign which featured a rubber nipple on an asthma inhaler and insulin bottle is inflammatory and, because of its negative nature, would not be effective at convincing women to breastfeed. It would succeed in shaming women who aren’t successful at breastfeeding, and that would turn a large percentage of women against breastfeeding activists, which would in turn, slow or stop all progress toward getting breastfeeding recognized as a cultural norm.

I think the alternative, softened, ad campaign is also not effective at getting women to breastfeed, though.

Furthermore, I think trying to convince women to breastfeed using ad campaigns is like changing a tire on a car because the engine overheated and burned out. I think the problem lies much deeper than merely women “choosing” not to breastfeed, and I don’t think individual women should take the fall (in the form of criticism for their feeding “choices”) for a societal and poorly incentivized medical model problem.

The real problem? It’s very simple: doctors and nurses don’t have the right incentives in place to encourage women to breastfeed. Our United States “health care” system (and quite possibly, other health care systems around the world, with completely different medical models), is not about health. It’s about making money. Unfortunately, because most hospitals in this country and their affiliates (like pharmaceutical companies, which make and sell drugs) are for-profit entities, and because we as a society tolerate that in the spirit of democracy (which it really isn’t) and capitalism (which is definitely is), corporations that benefit from this broken system buy off a lot of politicians that could enact real social change but who choose not to because enacting real social change to benefit the majority of the population is not lucrative enough. Not as lucrative as, say, receiving a check from the IFC. Or, if need be, a threat, overt or implied.

This is what makes Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s recent decision to make hospitals more breastfeeding-friendly in New York City so incredibly revolutionary. It seems like such a small thing, especially with the negative way the media handled it, but it’s not. It’s HUGE. For a politician to stand up to such a powerful lobby like the IFC and say, “Nah, I’m not interested in your money or your threats. I’m going to enact this breastfeeding-friendly policy anyway, regardless of your negative media publicity because it’s the right thing to do,” speaks volumes about the sort of person Mike Bloomberg is. This is the sort of legislation that needs to take place in cities all over this country if our culture is to ever going to accept breastfeeding as the norm. An ad campaign is a nice idea, but it will not have the impact that enacting breastfeeding-friendly hospital policies will.

Now the only problem is figuring out how to do that in places that don’t have Mike Bloomberg for a leader.

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Cloth Diaper Tutorial, Part 4

July 21st, 2007 by MamaBear

Now that you’ve learned about diaper pails, cloth wipes, some of the different types of cloth diapers and how to wash them, you’re going to learn how us crazy cloth-diapering mamas leave the house. Behold, my arsenal:

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From left to right: backpack, water bottle, three cloth diapers, cloth wipes, two “wet bags.”

The two “wet bags” are where I put my dirty diapers when on the go. I change the baby like I normally do and just stick the dirty diaper and used cloth wipes in the “wet bag.” If I forget to put my washable “wet bag” in the diaper bag, I make sure I always pack a gallon-sized zipper style plastic bag. In a pinch, I could always use a plastic bag from a store and tie it with a knot. When I get home, I dump the contents of the “wet bag” in the diaper pail. I never have to touch anything any more so than if I were using disposable diapers.

I carry the water bottle around for two reasons: (1) I like to always have water to drink, especially since I’m lactating, and (2) if there’s no sink with which to wet the cloth wipes, I can always squirt the clean cloth wipes with water from my bottle. I keep refilling the same bottle with filtered water from the tap to cut down on waste.

In addition to the above items, I also pack: a travel diaper changing pad (got it free at the hospital after I gave birth), a blanket, a change of clothes for BabyBear, and a baby bottle with breast milk + formula in it (she refuses to breastfeed, and if I could fill the bottle with only breast milk, I would — I’ll go into that in more detail when I chronicle my breastfeeding saga in the near future). I don’t usually pack diaper cream because it may ruin the fleece (the white inside part) in the AIO pocket diapers by making it repellant. (It may not ruin it forever, though, so don’t fret if this happens to you. Stripping the diapers could fix the problem.)

I don’t use a traditional diaper bag because I like to pretend I’m still in college when I’m schlepping my baby around in public. Actually, I just think it’s practical. The one-strap diapers bags, as cute as some of them might be, are kind of cumbersome and weigh me down on one side. With a backpack (nothing fancy, just a regular old backpack), I can have both hands free for holding the baby. When we flew to Florida, I had my baby in a Moby wrap in front and put my backpack on my back and I still had my hands free to roll my luggage around in the airports.

Read more about cloth diapers at these other great cloth diapering resources:

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