Archive for the 'My Breastfeeding Saga' Category

Preamble to My Breastfeeding Saga, Part 4

August 15th, 2014 by MamaBear

Part I, Part II, and Part III of the Preamble.

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know when I would get another appointment. It was hard to get the one I had. The scan was half done anyway, so I reasoned that I might as well have it overwith. I didn’t ever want to have to go back to that godforsaken place. Also, I was in complete shock, so it paralyzed my thought processes. I looked up at her face, and she was smiling like she’d just won first prize at a bitch contest. This was the first time I saw her smiling, and it confused me even more. What in the world was wrong with her??? How did she ever get hired? How was she able to keep her job? I was instantly reminded of the other ultrasound tech thousands of miles away in a completely different country, almost a decade before, who also mistreated me. I couldn’t help but wonder if the anonymity of the profession made it so that patients were more likely to have a bad experience with an ultrasound technician than with most other health professionals.

I didn’t report her because I figure she’s had a rough day, she’s working on a Saturday after all, and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle. I had bigger problems to deal with. I took the ultrasound films the next weekend to Dr. Enthusiastic.

Dr. Enthusiastic scanned my breasts himself before the procedure, and he told me my breasts are “busy” because they inexplicably create a bunch of tumors. He performed the cryoablation and also aspirates some fluid-filled cysts as well (these are new). He was very competent and his personality is reassuring and kind, but the procedure is nonetheless unpleasant: painful, scary, and humiliating. I had to be awake for it, which is part of why it was painful, scary, and humiliating. It took longer than I thought it would, and it left more scarring, though small scars, smaller than if I had had another biopsy. Unfortunately one of the new scars is now on my left areola.

This new procedure was done in a state-of-the-art facility in the U.S. However, Dr. Enthusiastic, a breast specialist, never once mentioned future lactation. Nor did any of the health professionals that attended me in the context of my cryoablation.

I had another cryoablation procedure done with him a couple of years later. It was about the same, but in this procedure, I had the added discomfort of having a drug representative sit in for it. She wasn’t a health professional; she was a salesperson. I don’t know why she was there, but she was and she got a first-row seat to see my mutilated, hypoplastic breasts, too. I don’t remember consenting to having her in there, but I may have, inadvertently.

Since none of my doctors ever mentioned anything about breastfeeding or lactation, I never thought to ask. I figured they were the professionals and if there was something important to say, they would mention it. It bothers me that out of the dozens of health professionals that came in contact with me in the context of my breast surgeries, nobody mentioned anything about lactation or possible problems in the future. For my part, I took for granted that I’d be able to breastfeed my future children, in part because of what my friend who had the breast augmentation told me, in part because nobody mentioned anything about impaired future lactation, and in part because it never occurred to me that I couldn’t. Also, whenever I would research breast surgery, on the internet or in books, future lactation or possible problems therewith were never mentioned.

I think the reason why lactation is never mentioned is a simple one: nobody thinks about it. Our culture takes for granted that babies get fed with bottles, so that if lactation should fail, there’s an easy safety net. Even if it did occur to one of the doctors attending me to mention lactation and possible future problems, they probably stopped themselves because it probably never occurred to them that it would be so important to me. “She could always feed her kid formula,” is probably what they thought to themselves.

That breaks my heart. As kind as most of the doctors I had were, it breaks my heart that in the end, I was just another faceless customer. No one special or important who wanted to provide the best for her baby. No one needing information which would have made a difference in what kind of care she would have demanded. I wonder how many of them opt to breastfeed their own kids? Probably a fair number of them, given that it’s the best way to feed a baby. Did they use the same high-quality standards for me that they would use for themselves? I don’t think so.

I’m hoping that by writing this out, as painful as it is for me, that I can help someone make better decisions for herself.

If you must have breast surgery and if you have a choice in the matter, talk to your surgeon beforehand, and don’t let the surgeon cut your nipple or areola. Try to make the incision as far away from this area as possible, so as to minimize the damage to your milk ducts and to preserve your future lactational ability. If I can spare even one person the pain I’ve been through by sharing my story, it’ll be worth it.

This is the last part of the Preamble. My Breastfeeding Saga may get written someday, if I have the time.

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Preamble to My Breastfeeding Saga, Part 3

August 14th, 2014 by MamaBear

Please read Part I and Part II first.

Twenty-one years old: I discovered more lumps in both breasts. By now, I was a veteran at this. I scheduled with the same plastic surgeon, Dr. HairPlugs, and anesthesiologist, Dr. Competent, as last time. I had the usual round of ultrasounds again. By this time, it feels like half the country’s health professionals had seen my breasts, much to my chagrin.

Before going to get the surgery done, I spoke with a friend of mine who had had breast surgery herself. She’d never had lumps. She had had a breast augmentation. She told me (and showed me) that her plastic surgeon had placed her implants by making an incision around her areola to reduce the appearance of scars. I thought that was very clever. She furthermore told me that she’d had this surgery after the birth of her first child, who she breastfed, and before the birth of her second child, who she also breastfed. She had two kids after that, too, who she claimed to have also breastfed. I learned all too late that when she said she’d “breastfed” them, that it was only for six weeks, and that the whole time she breastfed them, she was also supplementing them with formula. (If I’d only known then what I know now…)

So, armed with this new “knowledge,” I asked my plastic surgeon, Dr. Hairplugs, to go in through my areola on my right breast to excise the tumor because I didn’t want a visible scar on the breast skin itself. This was stupid for so many reasons in hindsight, and if he had mentioned even once that my breastfeeding ability would be impaired, I would have said no. He never did, though. None of my doctors ever did. So I was acting on the knowledge I had at the time. Every time I think of the memory, it makes me feel a little sick. He seemed to pause a bit, and I told him, “Well, if it’s too much trouble, never mind.” Something about the way he paused made me want to change my mind, especially since I already had a scar where he was about to do the surgery anyway (UGH!!). But then he went ahead and said, “No, it’s no trouble at all.” And that was that. (sigh) That is my biggest regret, and is probably what made the difference between having an adequate milk supply and starving my baby.

So I had surgery, for the third time, to remove breast tumors. My right areola was sliced, but thankfully only the top half. The bottom half was left intact.

Fast-forward a few years. Twenty-four years old: I discovered more lumps. I had a job of my own, was no longer in college, and no longer under my parents’ insurance, so I was essentially on my own. I researched on the internet to find out what the latest in fibroadenoma treatment was. I learned about cryoablation, which means you freeze the fibroadenoma in situ and then let the body reabsorb the dead tumor over time. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, out-patient, and pretty brand-spanking new.

Before I had the surgery, I went to get the requisite ultrasounds done. I was sent to an ultrasound facility somewhere in Houston, scheduled for a Saturday appointment. I showed up and donned the appropriate gown. The technician, a woman in her early twenties, told me to get onto the table. I did everything she asked of me. I was trying to remain lighthearted because I hate hate hate hate hate the pre-surgery ultrasounds. Have I mentioned that I hate the ultrasounds? I disrobed my top half and tried to be as complacent as possible. She started scanning me, and I asked her what she saw. She told me, “Your doctor will tell you that.” I didn’t understand her reply because usually when I’ve asked this question (and I’ve asked this question dozens of times to dozens of ultrasound techs), I was told something vague and then some harmless, time-passing chit-chat usually got started. Confused, I asked her, “What do you mean?” There was no one else anywhere near us, so I guess it made her feel safe in doing what she did next. She gave me a dirty look, raised her voice and said, “I CAN’T TELL YOU ANYTHING. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO TELL YOU ANYTHING. DON’T ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS. DON’T TALK TO ME AT ALL.” Then she smacked me on the breast with the jellied-up wand to continue the scan. There was a horribly uncomfortable silence as she finished. She was, after all, scanning my naked, mutilated breasts and because she decided to be a total psycho, I couldn’t talk to her. Also, let’s not forget: she hit me. On the breast. With the ultrasound wand.

Part IV tomorrow.

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Preamble to My Breastfeeding Saga, Part 2

August 13th, 2014 by MamaBear

Please read Part I of the Preamble first.

Fast Forward a few years. Eighteen years old. I’d been avoiding chocolate and all-things-caffeinated for two years. During a routine breast check ( I started doing those since I found that other lump two years prior) I discover… More lumps. In both breasts, this time. One of them is in the same place the first one was found.

I went to get my ultrasounds. I went to a couple of different places and had different technicians, male and female. I hate hate hate hate hate having ultrasounds. It’s always so cold, impersonal, uncomfortable, humiliating. But I have to do it, so I do. Thankfully, none of the technicians were rude or unprofessional to me this time. Whew!

Dr. Compassionate suggested I consult with a plastic surgeon to do the surgery because she doesn’t want the scarring to affect my already battered self-esteem. The surgery she performed two years prior left a large pink scar across the top of my left breast, and she was hoping the plastic surgeon would clean it up with finer sutures. Also, she didn’t see anything wrong with my ovaries this time, so all I needed were a couple of breast lumpectomies.

I consulted with the plastic surgeon, Dr. HairPlugs. He looks at my breasts (who hasn’t at this point?) and says he can do it. I talk to some people in the hospital about who my anesthesiologist will be. I tell them about my eye-drying experience and about the after-surgery pain I experienced last time. They made sure my anesthesiologist for this up-coming surgery was Dr. Competent.

Just before the surgery, a nurse tried to put an IV in my hand. She picked the thickest, largest, Most Painful-Looking IV Ever and jammed it into the back of my hand. She maneuvered the plastic needle around under my skin while I tried to stay as still as possible so that she could find the vein. After about thirty seconds of this, it was just too painful, so I yanked my hand back. She left the IV halfway stuck into the skin on the back of my hand, told me I was not cooperating, and walked away. Dr. Competent came by, saw my hand and told me, “It’s going to be all right.” He gingerly removed the Horse IV and came back with an IV intended for use on preemies. He was so gentle I didn’t even feel it go in. He smiled as he taped it on, patted my other hand reassuringly, and told me it was all going to be okay.

The surgery went without a hitch. I woke up from the anesthesia with moist, sparkling eyes. Unfortunately, when I come-to, I experienced some pain and confusion and was inexplicably unable to talk. I see Dr. Competent right in front of me. He said, “There, there now. It’s okay,” and injects a small amount of clear liquid into my IV. I went from incoherent pain to drifty bliss in an instant. I became unconscious in a matter of seconds.

The biopsies came back and revealed that on the left side, I had another fibroadenoma (or two, hard to remember). On the right side, I had what’s called “fibrocystic breast disease,” which basically means, “we don’t know what this is, so we’re calling it ‘fibrocystic breast disease.’”

As good as the experience was this time, nobody mentioned anything about future lactation.

Part III tomorrow.

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Preamble to My Breastfeeding Saga, Part 1

August 12th, 2014 by MamaBear

I said I’d talk about My Breastfeeding Saga, so this is the preamble, necessary to understanding the problems I faced when I had BabyBear. It’s a multi-part series, and it’s kind of heavy, so read with caution.

Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I remember seeing women breastfeeding their babies and thinking to myself, without any hesitation or repulsion, that that’s what I wanted to do when I had a baby of my own. As I grew up, I acquired more knowledge about breastfeeding that solidified my opinion: it’s far superior to any artificial milk, it protects the infant, etc. I was a breastfeeding supporter, though an often silent one, for as long as I could remember.

My problems with breastfeeding actually began years before I ever conceived BabyBear. I was sixteen. It was summertime, and I was reading some Stephen King novel that had just come out. I think it was Gerald’s Game. I was laying down in the bed and holding the book above me with my left hand. With my right hand, I reached over to scratch my left armpit. Scratch, scratch, scratch. As I scratched, I noticed something wasn’t right. I felt a… No, it couldn’t be. I felt again. Omigod. It was.

A lump.

I felt again. Yup, it was a lump. Not in my armpit, but in my left breast. The tears welled up. At that time, everyone I’d ever heard of with this sort of problem ended up undergoing chemotherapy. I foresaw the following future for myself: cancer, baldness, death. This was pre-internet and I lived at the time in a third-world country, so I couldn’t reassure myself that there were plenty of other people who had experienced this before and been okay with results from a Google search.

My mom took me to the gynecologist, Dr. Compassionate.  She felt the lump, examined me thoroughly and told me that in all likelihood it wasn’t cancerous. She said it was more than likely a fibroadenoma, a benign breast tumor. To be on the safe side, though, she wanted to remove the lump and have it biopsied. She said nobody knows why some women’s breasts make fibroadenomas, but that I should try and avoid caffeine in all forms (including chocolate) and try to live a healthy lifestyle (exercise, eat fruits and vegetables, etc.)

Apart from the lump itself, the avoidance of chocolate and coffee was the hardest part. I learned, for the first time, to appreciate vanilla and strawberry, among other previously ignored flavors.

An ultrasound was scheduled prior to the surgery. This was in lieu of a mammogram, which wasn’t really feasible given that I was so young and my breasts were so small. While the ultrasound was being done, I began to cry. The room was cold and this strange lady was feeling up my normally chaste breasts with an uncomfortable wand covered in frigid jelly. I looked at the screen and the tears just came out. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this, but I couldn’t stop them from coming.

“What are you crying about?” The technician scowled at me. “Girls younger than you come in here to get scanned for the same thing and they don’t cry about it. Don’t be such a baby.”

This was the first I’d heard of this, though I didn’t feel reassured by the fact that I wasn’t alone. It didn’t change the fact that, for example, nobody I knew had even heard of such a thing, that all my friends (as far as I knew) had normal, healthy breasts and I was the only one I knew who needed to have breast surgery.

Her tone and expression were impatient and devoid of compassion.  My crying had angered her, somehow. Surely she wasn’t trying to make me feel better, was she? I still don’t know what made her react that way. Bad day? Long hours? Having to see people sicker than me all the time made her not-so-compassionate when she saw a relatively benign case? Maybe my ugly boobs caused a revulsion so visceral that she couldn’t hold herself back? Who knows?

Unfortunately, this would not be the last negative ultrasound experience for me. Nor the worst.

During that ultrasound appointment, in addition to the lump in my breast, it was also discovered that I had a multitude of cysts on at least one of my ovaries. Dr. Compassionate told me she could cauterize those with a state-of-the-art (at the time) procedure using video laparoscopy. I was pretty sure that, in 1993, I was unfortunately the only kid in my high school who knew what that procedure was.

I was put under general anesthesia a few days later. The lump was removed, biopsied, and found to be a fibroadenoma, as Dr. Compassionate had predicted. During the same operation I’d had a laparoscopy to cauterize the multiple cysts in one of my ovaries. A tiny video camera had been inserted through an incision in my belly button, and grasping and cauterizing instruments were inserted through two other small incisions located further below on my abdomen. The footage on the video had been recorded, and I was given a copy of the tape for posterity. I have no idea where the tape is now, but I can assure you, other than earning me geek coolness points for allowing me to say, “I know what my ovaries and uterus look like,” it’s about forty minutes of pure boring.

I woke up from the surgery with blurry vision that wouldn’t go away and stinging, dried-out eyes. Also: a throbbing, aching body. The anesthesiologist didn’t bother to close my eyes during the entire operation, nor did he administer any pain medication, apparently. I’m kind of surprised I survived the operation at all with that kind of neglect, actually. Was anyone even monitoring my vitals while I was under?

It took a few hours to get my eyes to focus again once they were remoisturized (by allowing myself to cry freely — not hard at all under the circumstances), and the rest of me recovered eventually (sort of). I was given regular strength Tylenol for the pain.

Nobody, not even Dr. Compassionate, ever mentioned anything about my future lactation.

Part II coming tomorrow.

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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 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:


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


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


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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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