Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is This a Test?

Well, Grace has apparently chosen stubbornness over nursing. This is Day Three of her refusal to "say ahhh" when she wants to breastfeed, which is my requirement ever since she stopped doing it correctly. She had been agreeing and then still nursing the wrong way, but at least she was trying. Now, she asks to nurse, I tell her to open wide, she yells "no!" and finds something else to do. She has fallen asleep every night cuddled in my arms, rather than at my breast. I find that part very sweet. The rest of it is a bit emotional, since I'll never know when she would have chosen to stop nursing if the medicine hadn't interfered.

I am pumping, but I have to admit that it's only twice a day. Not much milk is coming out, so the whole thing is a disappointment. I know that my goal is to just maintain a tiny supply so that a nursing newborn can have something to start with. I don't know how long I can keep this up though. I should be pumping more often, but it's really hard to be tied down for thirty minutes at a time when you have a two year old. The older kids can do things for themselves, but it isn't their job to watch their baby sister all of the time.

As anyone who has ever read any of my posts knows, I am a strong advocate of breastfeeding. It is superior to lab-created formula in every single way, and the bond it forges between mother and child is irreplaceable. I feel like all of those beliefs are being tested right now. If I don't keep working on nursing, even though I have no baby or toddler to nurse, then I may not be able to breastfeed our adopted baby. I am trying to see past my regret that my carefully planned timetable of adopting while Grace was still nursing has fallen apart, but I'm struggling a bit. It isn't just the sudden weaning; we started the paperwork later than I wanted to originally, and then our social worker moved at the slowest pace imaginable. We are months behind, and now the choice is mine to make. Do I keep up the work, not knowing if I'll still be pumping in eight months, or if the baby will come soon? Can I make peace with myself if I choose to let it go and accept that I may have to formula feed my last baby?

I just don't know what I'm going to do.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I decided to go with the recommendations of many in the Breastfeeding Adopted Babies World and try using fenugreek to build up my milk supply. After one truly nasty cup of tea, I decided to work backwards and check for any warnings about the use of this herb. I found three on the first website that have given me pause:

1) Fenugreek is in the same "family" as peanuts and chickpeas. First of all, I didn't know that chickpeas were related to peanuts so closely that people are often allergic to both. My son, who has a diagnosed peanut allergy that I carry an epipen to save him from, adores hummus. For anyone who doesn't know, hummus is basically smashed up chickpeas. Anyway, I've been avoiding peanuts (but not the chickpeas) since getting pregnant with Grace. I haven't had any peanut-containing food while nursing her either because I don't want to expose her too early. One school of thought says to hold off on peanuts until age three if there is a family history of allergy. That makes me think that fenugreek isn't something I should be exposing her to through breastmilk.

2) Fenugreek is used to stave off asthma symptoms, but is believed to also cause asthma attacks in some people! Gee, that's helpful. Again, I don't want to expose Grace to something in my milk that may or may not bring on an attack of her problem that may or not be asthma.

3) Fenugreek either raises or lowers your blood pressure, depending on I don't know what. If you have a family history of hypertension, you shouldn't use it. Both of my parents have been on blood pressure meds for as long as I can remember.

More research is necessary, but it looks like I won't be building up my supply with this herb.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stupid Non-asthma

Well, I think I've figured out the origin of the latch issues my two year old is having. After analyzing the entire thing to the point of absurdity, I concluded that it really had nothing to do with me. Grace just wasn't latching correctly anymore. Since the problems arose after she'd been on breathing treatments for two weeks, which is the longest she's ever taken them, I decided to find out why. I was so worried that they had caused some sort of neurological disconnect because from what I've read, babies and toddlers don't spontaneously forget how to latch on and nurse unless they are separated from their mother for days.

Today, I finally found a side effect of one of Grace's meds that seems a likely cause to all of our grief. It can cause "dry mouth". It doesn't sound too ominous, but that condition can apparently interfere with breathing patterns and swallowing! Coordinating sucking, swallowing, and breathing is actually the key to successful breastfeeding (on the baby's part). Two weeks of that crap dried up Grace's mouth to the point that she could no longer get nursing to work the way it always had. The dryness can also lead to dental issues because of a lack of saliva to bathe things. One of the big things that I have noticed over the past month and a half is that I can literally feel Grace's breath on my breast inside her mouth. I now believe that it is all linked.

The bad part is that I don't think she'll ever get back to where she was. I have tried asking her to open wider when she latches on. Rarely, she complies. Most of the time, she says no and loses interest. As I've said before, my goal is child-led weaning. Child-forced-into weaning by a drug was not part of my plan. My other two kids weaned very easily; no tears from anyone. This time around, I've cried and Grace has cried, and that is awful. She still wants to nurse, but she doesn't need to nurse. That leads her to rebuff my efforts to get her to latch on correctly. That in turn leads me to suffer through extremely uncomfortable nursing sessions some times and distract her at other times.

I've been trying to remember to pump on something resembling a schedule so that my milk doesn't completely dry up. Sitting for thirty minutes with the drone of a Medela isn't very comforting, and I sometimes wish that I could just let this slowly go until Grace is totally weaned. I have to remind myself how important it is to me to breastfeed our adopted baby (whenever that happens), but it's hard.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

17 Kids and No Clue

I was watching an episode of TLC's Seventeen Kids and Counting last night while I pumped (finally got an electric), and something jumped out at me again. I cannot stand when super-duper Christians talk about following God's plan for having children. I am not a Christian, although I am a baptised Catholic. I have my own spiritual beliefs, and I don't judge the beliefs of others (unless they infringe on the rights of people). What I object to is the ignorant statement that God wants things a certain way without any research into the natural order of things. If God created everything in Heaven and Earth, then doesn't it follow that the way nature works is God's design? If that's the case, then not following a natural breeding pattern goes against that design...

There have been lots of studies and observations about what a normal reproductive pattern is for human beings who are not burdened by modern parenting notions. A woman becomes pregnant, her body prepares to make milk to feed the baby, the baby is born and begins nursing, the baby continues to nurse for several years, and during most of that time, the breastfeeding hormones suppress ovulation. If a woman follows the natural path, then she could have a new child every two to three years. There are exceptions, of course, where a woman's hormones don't suppress ovulation like they should, and she can become pregnant sooner. In the book Ecological Breastfeeding and Natural Child-Spacing, the very Christian author points out that our modern idea of breastfeeding isn't enough to allow natural child-spacing. Nursing on a schedule and forcing a baby to sleep through the night is fighting nature (or God). To truly follow the natural pattern, you have to feed on demand and night nurse.

On the show, the family was hosting another giant Christian family. They too were talking about letting God choose how many children they have (number seventeen is on the way). Unless God is making bottles of formula magically appear in their homes, I don't think He is directing their reproduction rate. I have nursed all of my kids on a natural schedule. With my first, my fertility returned at sixteen months, twenty-two months with my second, and twenty months with my third. At that point, getting pregnant was part of the natural cycle of things. My first two children are twenty-nine months apart, and my third was born when my second was forty months old. At that rate, I would say that God's plan for a woman Mrs. Duggar's age is to have approximately eight kids by now, not seventeen...

Friday, November 21, 2008


Well, nursing has still not gone back to what it was before. To make matters worse, I'm heading into another period, and things have gone downhill. The awful feeling that leads to me feeling angry is back. The upside is that I now know that this is all related to hormones and isn't something Grace is doing wrong. Since I've been nursing forever, and this issue has never come up before, I'm at a loss as to what it is. I think I'll have my doctor check my thyroid levels because thyroid problems can lead to lower milk production. Since the whole thing seems linked to my monthly cycle, I don't believe my thyroid is involved, but it's the only thing I can think to check.

I am still pumping once or twice a day, just to keep things going. Grace nurses when she wants to: to fall asleep at night, to wake up in the morning, and a couple of times during the day. We are now officially waiting for a baby to adopt, so I want to make sure I don't stop lactating before that.

On a happier breastfeeding note, I discovered two long-term breastfeeders at one party :) It was held at the home of a friend who nurses way past a year. She has a five month old right now, and one of the other women asked if she was breastfeeding her. My friend started to talk about how long she nursed her other children, and I could tell by her face that she was expecting negative comments. To both of our surprise (and delight), the woman told us that she nursed both of her boys until they were three. Then the other woman at the table mentioned that she nursed her daughters past their second birthdays! That led to a discussion about the ignorance we've all faced because of breastfeeding. What really made me happy about this exchange is that the two moms were not like me. They are much more conservative and are completely religious. It's nice to see that long-term breastfeeding is important to a larger range of people. It is sometimes easy to assume that only people exactly like me share my values, and exchanges like this serve to remind me not to be too quick to judge.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Is This the New Normal?

Well, nursing is still not regular. Grace is asking to do it more than she was for a week, and it is tolerable most of the time. I have been pumping a bit because my breasts feel sort of deflated. I can't tell if supply dropped and caused the weirdness or if her nursing less caused the low supply. Nothing like this happened with either of the other two, so I'm at a loss. La Leche League wasn't much help, which surprised me because they have always been a great support. The volunteer who answered my questions mentioned that Grace may be ready to wean. That's all well and good, and I am totally for child-lead weaning, but the strangeness is happening to me. She wants to nurse more again, and it's still not normal for me. That leads me to believe that I am the one with the problem. I get that a woman's body sends her signals on when to do certain things; that's why it felt painful and weird to nurse while I was pregnant (not that some women don't swear by nursing while pregnant and then tandem after the birth). I went with my body on those occasions. I have no reason to think that my body needs me to stop at this point. I guess I'll just have to give it more time and see what happens.

Grace has happily timed this stress to coincide with dropping her only nap of the day. I am now faced with a cranky toddler from about six until nine-thirty, when she falls asleep. No one else goes to bed that early, so it becomes a delicate dance to keep her asleep until we all go to sleep. If she wakes up, she's ready to go for hours. Last night (Saturday), she fell asleep at nine-thirty and woke up at eleven-thirty. She was up from then until two in the morning! Not great for me.

I keep hoping that things go back to the way they were, but I'm beginning to wonder if this is the way they are going to be from now on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Spoke Too Soon

Okay, so things are not back to normal. After I posted the last time, the nursing felt "off" again. I bought a pump in case Grace is weaning so that I can keep up a minimal supply to make breastfeeding the new baby a possibility. The thing is that I can't tell what's going on. Sometimes I think she's latching wrong and other times I think it's all my perception. It seems a bit better today, and my period is almost over. I hate that Grace seems hesitant to ask me to nurse sometimes, which I attribute to the way I've been freaking out. I have tried to keep it from her, but she knows that things aren't the same right now. I guess I'll have to see how it goes once my period is completely finished.

I've done a lot of reading in the past week, and apparently it's fairly common for toddlers to go through phases where their latch is off. It seems more usual when the mom has been gone for a few days, which is not the case with us. If Grace is ready to wean, then I don't want it to end on a sad note. Of course, if it kept going on perfectly for both of us, then I guess she'd never stop...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Biggest Challenge Yet

I just went through the worst three breastfeeding days I've ever experienced...Every time my daughter latched on, I had the creepiest, crawl-out-of-my-skin, hormone-filled anger feeling. It was awful. It felt like she wasn't doing it right anymore. It also felt like there was no milk coming out. I felt a similar thing when I was nursing her brother and was newly pregnant with her, so I'm sure it is all hormone related. My period started yesterday, so I'll blame that for the hormones. Usually, my breasts are sore about a week before my period. That didn't happen this time; I just ended up with this nightmare feeling. It's been extremely upsetting because not only do I not plan to wean her cold-turkey, but I need a milk supply to make breastfeeding the adopted baby feasible. The pressure I was feeling during the past few days was horrible. It was like I couldn't even remember what normal nursing felt like, and I've been doing it for years!

Luckily, today is back to normal. Grace has actually nursed quite a bit; I think she's making up for the past few days. I hope this doesn't happen again next month.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is My Head in the Milky-White Clouds?

As Grace grows older, I become more paranoid about having enough of a milk supply to breastfeed our adopted baby (whenever that blessed event happens). I am second-guessing our timing, but truthfully I didn't want Grace to be younger than this when she becomes a big sister. I was just reading an online post about adoptive moms and building up supply. Am I crazy to think that I can do this without buying supplements from Canada or Asia and pumping round the clock for months before? I think I've bucked the nursing trend already because I do not own a pump and have managed to breastfeed three babies/toddlers long-term without needing bottles. If I can do that, then can I do this? I know that it will take a little while to build from the supply necessary for a two year old to what's needed for a newborn. Since the baby will be formula fed for its first five days, I figured that I would continue to supplement that way until my supply built up. I've begun to wonder if I shouldn't go out and get a pump to have a frozen stash of milk to put in those bottles. The thing is that even though we've been working towards this for years and seriously going through the steps since June, it doesn't feel real yet. I fantasize about picking up a baby at the agency's office, but it still doesn't feel like something that will happen. Pumping from now on kind of feels like a jinx. I certainly don't want to look back to this time when I could have been doing something and regret my choices...I guess I'll be doing some comparison shopping for pumps. The few times I ever used one with my first baby (for like a month before I realized that I had no need for it), I didn't get much milk at all, even though I had an ample supply.

How did wet nurses do it anyway? I've read that they made sure to have the baby drain each breast completely, but I don't fully understand that. If my kids kept nursing after I was "empty" my breasts simply filled up again. Regardless, wet nurses in the past did not have access to hospital-grade double pumps.

Perhaps I'll buy a scale to weigh the baby before and after feedings to make sure he or she is getting enough. I guess I was wrong about not needing to buy any new things for the baby!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Invisible Lobby

This election season, we've heard lots about the importance of healthcare and its impact on the economy. Both candidates have mentioned prevention as a method of bringing down healthcare costs for individuals and as a way of lowering premiums for everyone. I have no expectation of ever hearing breastfeeding mentioned in a presidential election, but low breastfeeding rates do play into the overall health of our children aka future adults. Breastfed babies come down with fewer colds, they are less likely to develop childhood cancers, adult cancers, autism, high blood pressure, obesity, and the list goes on and on. Therefore, I don't think it's a stretch to proclaim that formula contributes to higher rates of those diseases and conditions.

Where are the government pro-breastfeeding campaigns? I've heard of them, but it was mostly in the context of people complaining that they were making formula feeding moms feel bad. Instead, we have campaigns (based on mattress manufacturer's data) to stop co-sleeping, which has been shown to have a positive impact on long term breastfeeding success. Of course no one wants a baby to be accidentally killed by a parent during the night. There should definitely be safety campaigns, but they should focus on ways to co-sleep safely, not on ways to avoid it altogether. Most victims of SIDS die in cribs; should we ban the beds?

When my nephew was born, his mom was in college, and his dad worked at a low wage job. They rented a house and mostly supported themselves. The baby was on Medicaid for his health care and my sister was on WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) to help pay for basic foods. She had to bring her baby in to the WIC office periodically to check on his weight and general health. One day, while my sister was in class, and I was babysitting,I took my nephew in for his appointment. He was six months old. The WIC woman asked me if he could hold his own sippy cup! I pointed out that he'd never had a sippy cup. I said that he was still breastfeeding and took bottles from his grandparents and myself. She would not let it go. According to her, he was behind if he couldn't hold his own cup. I didn't know much about breastfeeding at the time, but I knew that she was way off. I've since figured out how off. Every medical agency recommends nothing but breastmilk for the first six months, followed by the gradual introduction of solid food. Pushing cup use and acting surprised at the fact that a six month old was still nursing are not things that a public official who truly cared about the current and future health of an infant should do. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for at least twelve months. If that's the case, then in my opinion, a bottlefed baby should be allowed to use a bottle for at least that long. The need to suck does not go away just because a mom uses rubber instead of her breast. Furthermore, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years. Their goals are to improve the lives and health of infants and children all over the world. An American baby on Medicaid and WIC is exactly the sort of child they want to help. I agree that WIC should help pay for formula but only after a real effort to encourage breastfeeding.

The answer, I believe, lies in the giant industry that is Infant Formula. I've already written about how they "wine and dine" doctors and other hospital employees. Who knows how far they would go to keep breastfeeding off of the official list of ways to improve the health of Americans?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Impending Challenge

We are moving along (slowly) with our adoption plans, and that has lead me to obsess over a possible complication. I mentioned before that the social worker was caught totally off guard by my questions about the timing of placement and its impact on my breastfeeding our adopted newborn. That was back when I first contacted her via email to get info about her agency. I have not brought it up again because of her initial reaction. Since the agency has a firm policy of not placing babies until the biological mother has signed away her rights, which cannot be done before the fifth day, I researched my chances of breastfeeding a newborn who had only had bottles for his/her first five days. Everything I read and everyone I contacted (including La Leche League) agreed that it would not be a problem to switch a baby at that age from bottle to breast. That put my mind at ease that although it could take more work than initially nursing my biological babies, I could do this.

When we last saw the social worker, she mentioned (in relation to some other topic), "If the placement is delayed for a couple of days for some reason." Those reasons would be either the biological mother or father not signing to terminate their rights on the fifth day. That gives me a big challenge to think about. What if some mom chooses us to be the parents of her child, we accept, and then she or the father hold things up for another week or more? Being able to successfully breastfeed this baby is more than just a passing fancy for me. On the other hand, what would the biological mother, and more importantly, the social worker handling all of this, think if we backed out on the grounds that the baby might not be able to latch on after two weeks on bottles? She may wash her hands of us and refuse to show our book to any other moms. The poor woman who had made the difficult decision that we were the ones to raise her child would be left without a family for her baby and think that we were evil, selfish people. There are plenty of agencies and independent adoption scenarios that would allow us to bring our newborn home directly from the hospital "at legal risk" which means that the mom could change her mind until she signs the paperwork. We chose this agency for several reasons, and at the time, they totally outweighed the concerns of nursing a five day old for the first time. Hopefully, this is just me stressing about "what if's" and things will go like they should once we are matched...

Another thing that has come out of me thinking about nursing and timing is, am I doing breastfeeding a disservice by keeping quiet? Shouldn't I, as an experienced breastfeeding mother and advocate of nursing, be trying to educate our social worker about the benefits of breastfeeding (both biologically and for the adopted child)? She deals with adoptive parents and pregnant women all day long; she's in a position where she should know about this topic. I could flood her with websites, doctor's opinions, and real adoptive mothers' experiences to educate her. Instead, I have kept my mouth shut since her initial surprised reaction. I don't want her to think of me as that mom while she's writing her home study report and choosing which women to show our profile to. I think that makes me selfish, but this has been a long road, and I want to reach the baby at the end of it. Maybe I could give her all of that information after we've been placed with a baby. She could see how well it's going for us (fingers crossed) and read the information and come away from our adoption with new knowledge and acceptance.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nursing vs Nurses

Priests are supposed to listen to all of the bad things you've done and keep it a secret. Defense attorneys are supposed to help you get off, even when they know that you've committed a crime. Doctors are supposed to "do no harm" when they treat you. What are nurses supposed to do? I have had so many experiences with nurses who interject their own personal beliefs into their treatment of patients that it makes my head spin. Do they honestly not understand the position of power they hold in a patient's eyes, or are they intentionally bullying sick people?

In 2003, I woke up from a surgery to discover (by overhearing two nurses talking to one another) that my doctor had removed my entire ovary and a growth that could be cancer (it wasn't). When my family walked in, I began crying and asking my mom and husband what I was going to do about the baby. My son was nine months old, breastfeeding, and cosleeping. The surgery was supposed to have me out that same day, but now I was going to have to spend the night. The nurse turned to me, obviously ignored the tears in my eyes (or didn't care), and began berating me for still breastfeeding a nine month old! She only nursed each of her children for four months, which apparently makes her an authority on the subject. It wasn't until my mom said something back that the woman stopped and told me that the baby could spend the night with me. What right did she have to tell me what to do? It had nothing to do with what she needed to do to care for me. She was unprofessional enough to believe that her personal opinions had any place in that room.

Fast forward to a week ago. My youngest was hospitalized overnight with an apparent asthma attack. After an hour in the ER, my husband took the other kids to the cafeteria. My two year old was feeling better after a breathing treatment and asked to nurse. Just after we started, two nurses came in to start her IV. One of them took Grace's arm and was searching for a vein when she realized that the baby was breastfeeding. She began giggling nervously and telling the other nurse that she hadn't realized what Grace was doing. From that moment on, she thought I was from another country. An hour or so later, Grace was nursing again (they did not bring her food until I asked three times) when the nurse came in. She said, "How often does she eat?" which I took to mean food, since I'd already asked about it several times. I guess I took too long to formulate an answer because the nurse started touching her own breasts and saying, "Breastfeeding," in a voice that indicated that I either didn't speak English well, or I was mentally slow. "Does she do it every two hours?" she asked next. She seemed surprised when I said that it was more like two to three times a day normally. I pointed out that she hadn't had any food to eat yet that day, and she was sick.

I was confident that the nurses on the pediatric until would be more aware and supportive of breastfeeding (I can be an optimistic idiot). Nope. The first respiratory therapist yanked the curtain around Grace's bed and snapped something about privacy the first time I nursed her there. You have to know that when I nurse in public, you cannot see one inch of breast. Obviously it wasn't what I was showing, it was what I was doing that bothered her. A different nurse was surprised that Grace both breastfed and ate a regular diet. Don't other toddlers drink bottles or sippy cups of cow's milk? Isn't it supposed to be an important part of their diet? Do nurses not know that it is milk that comes out of a woman's breasts? The entire night, I could feel waves of judgement and disdain coming off of the staff. It made my skin crawl, and I had to stop myself from turning Grace down when she asked to breastfeed when someone was in the room. What kind of a mother would I have been if I'd let pressure keep my sick baby from the comfort she needed?

Mothers need to know that when they are under the care of nurses (at least in the two hospitals I've dealt with), do not be bullied into fitting into their worldview. Just because you nurse thinks that breasts are scary it does not mean that you shouldn't be breastfeeding. Don't let them force you to deny your child the very thing that comforts him/her the most. Understand that what they say is more often colored by their personal opinions than their professional knowledge.

I have to end by saying that I have met wonderful nurses who were supportive or at the very least, non-judgemental. The last labor and delivery nurse I had told me that she was still breastfeeding her two year old :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Interesting Website

Check out for inspiring breastfeeding stories and photos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Bitter Texan

We just returned a long vacation. It was all great except for our interaction with a woman from Houston with a chip on her shoulder so big, I was surprised that her tiny frame could carry it. She is some distant relative of my husband's; so distant that he had no idea who she was and had to ask his sister later. When she talked to him, she commented that she hadn't seen him since he was a small toddler. She then whispered, "And your mother was nursing you," like it was a dirty secret she'd carried for thirty-four years. Why in the world did she even remember that? Obviously because it was so horrible to her that it stood out in her memory. More importantly, why did she think it was okay to say that him? Either he'd be grossed out (probably what she hoped) or he'd take it as a slight to his mother (he did). Our two year old didn't ask to nurse during the visit, but I was tempted to whip out a breast and offer it to her just to freak this Texan out ;)

If the breastfeeding reference wasn't obnoxious enough, the woman made nasty comments about Katrina refugees in Houston, "They're all on welfare." Something tells me that this woman is racist; it kind of goes with her general air of ignorance. I hope to never see her again, but if I do, there is a good chance that I'll be breastfeeding my black toddler...I have visions of her running screaming into the night :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Will People Say?

We had our first adoption meeting with the social worker yesterday, and it went better than I'd hoped. I was so nervous going in, but she was wonderful. I did not bring up breastfeeding my adopted newborn since we'd been over that already. I posted a while ago that when I broached the subject, she was surprised and said that she'd never had anyone mention adoptive breastfeeding before :( I have already researched whether or not the breastfeeding community believes that I could successfully nurse a baby who didn't come to me until he was five days old, and the consensus was that I could. Of course, this puts me on a timeline that other adoptive families aren't facing, which is that I want to adopt while my two year old is still nursing.

I realized something the other day that had not entered my mind during the entire process of deciding whether or not we want to adopt. Our two main thoughts on this have been, 1) I want to breastfeed the new baby and 2) We will happily accept a baby of any race. Can you believe that until this week, I never wondered what people will think when they see me sitting at the park breastfeeding a black baby? I've been reading message boards for transracial adoptions to find out what other moms' experiences have been, and the breastfeeding scenario came to mind. Can you imagine the looks on the faces of southern Louisiana Good Ol' Boys to see a white woman nursing a black baby? Then imagine what will happen when that black baby is still nursing as a two year old...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cute Stuff That Mainstreamers Wouldn't Find Funny

My two year old nursling has some new breastfeeding habits that I find charming, but mainstream parents would see as a reason to wean. She has learned to say, "My turn," to her brother and sister when she wants something (lick of a popsicle, a toy, etc.). Of course, her English is sketchy, so it comes out as, "My nurn," and is often shouted rather than said. She has begun to say, "My nurn," when she wants to switch the breast she's nursing on for the other one. It cracks me up because it's always her turn when it comes to breastfeeding; she has no competition (until her hoped-for adopted newborn sibling arrives anyway).

A couple of weeks ago, we shared a sweet nursing moment in Target. I had taken all of the kids into the Family Bathroom (a genius invention) to pee before we began shopping. While her siblings were taking turns with the toilet, Grace asked to nurse. I employed a trick I figured out long ago when I had a toddler who wanted to breastfeed but was too heavy for me to hold while standing up. I pulled down the plastic changing platform and sat Grace on it with her legs hanging off of the front. That way, I could stand in front of her and nurse without straining my back. I was looking down at her sweet little face, and she pulled off to say, "I dub meemee," which translates to, "I love nursing," because meemee is her word for it. As soon as she'd said it, she latched back on :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When Fertility Makes a Comeback

I've read lots of questions from moms on Internet boards about when their periods will return after having a baby. I believe that the average length of time for a "true" breastfeeding mother is 14 months. In Ecological Breastfeeding: Natural Child Spacing, the author outlines what she defines as ecological breastfeeding. It involves breastfeeding on demand, no bottles, no pacifiers (though I would argue about that), co-sleeping, and night nursing. I did all of that with the exception that two of my three had pacifiers for a few months in the beginning. Strangely, my fertility returned most quickly with my first, who didn't get a pacifier at all. With Kathleen, my period started up again when she was 16 months old. I didn't get my period after Alexander's birth for 22 months. It took 21 months with Grace.

The little secret about having periods while still breastfeeding that I never read about happens to me the week before each one. My nipples become very sore; early pregnancy sore. I haven't really looked into the detailed reason; I know it is hormone related. Since it happens when I'm not pregnant, and therefore my body doesn't need to worry about sustaining a new life, I don't really understand the point. What is my body trying to tell me? Is it just a byproduct of hormones that serves no purpose? The pain totally goes away a couple of days before my period and doesn't come back for a month. I don't know anyone who has experienced this because the people I could ask didn't nurse this long, and the people I know who have nursed this long aren't ones I want to ask.

It's strange how moms won't talk about some things. I wish someone had told me how much it would hurt to breastfeed in the beginning, but all of the things I read said that if it hurts, then something is wrong. I had pain with my first two children that was intense, but only lasted two days. I had none with my third. I tell friends that it may hurt a lot, but if things are going well, it won't last long. I think telling them that it won't hurt is wrong. Pretending everything is always rosy never helped anyone.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The NICU: How It Hurts to be Helped

My firstborn spent her first five days in an NICU. I am still surprised that I managed to begin and continue breastfeeding under those circumstances, even though it was almost eight years ago. It bothers me to know even after all that time, breastfeeding in NICU's still isn't what it should be. I have read journal articles in periodicals directed at NICU professionals detailing the benefits of breastmilk and the act of breastfeeding itself to premature and sick newborns. I have read instructions to these professionals on how to better facilitate and accommodate breastfeeding mothers. Unfortunately, I have not seen much change in the
behaviours of these professionals.

I understand that it is easier to measure the input of formula when you are trying to get an preemie to gain weight. I understand that things flow more smoothly for the NICU when babies are on fixed feeding schedules. I understand that mothers constantly being underfoot can be a nuisance in the unit. I also understand that breastmilk is highly superior for all infants, including premature ones. I know that skin to skin contact is very important for babies to gain weight, regulate their temperatures, steady their breathing, and bond with their mothers. Did you know that premature babies are at a much higher risk for child abuse later on? The thinking is that their mothers aren't as bonded to them as they would be had the child not been kept away from them by medical necessity.

If breastfeeding was truly believed to be important by NICU professionals across the country, then there would be changes made in the way it is approached. I have a niece in the NICU right now. Her mom is dedicated and nursing and pumping so that she can breastfeed her daughter. She is being undermined by the staff, whether she recognizes it or not:

  • She is allowed to nurse her baby every three hours. Breastfed babies should be allowed to nurse as frequently as they want. Breastmilk is much more easily and quickly digested than formula, yet this baby is being fed on a formula schedule. What a shock; she isn't gaining enough weight, in fact she's losing more than they would like. What is an NICU to do then? They give her bottles of pumped milk, which they have now decided to fortify with formula.
  • She was told to pump before coming in to nurse the baby. That means that the premature infant who everyone is so concerned about losing weight and using too much energy has to work harder to stimulate the let-down because any of the milk left over from the last feeding has already been pumped out.

It is very hard as the mother of an NICU patient to recognize the fraud when a nurse tells you why they want you to do this or that. You know that they want to heal your child and send her home with you, and you want to do everything they say will help the baby reach that goal. You don't want to cause trouble, and you don't want to say things that they might dispute. The thing that every pregnant woman should understand before she has her baby is that the NICU isn't trying to deceive you. They aren't sneaking around to make breastfeeding difficult or impossible for you. They honestly don't recognize breastfeeding as having the value that it truly does, so they aren't working hard to preserve it. In a society that assumes that all babies will eventually be on bottles of formula anyway, they don't see a reason to fight that eventuality.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Natural Becomes Artificially Important

The other day, my mom reminded me that "they" now say that newborns should sleep with pacifiers to prevent SIDS. She is a healthcare professional who works with preemies and other sick babies. I didn't bother pointing out the reason that "they" recommend pacifiers at night because it has fallen on deaf ears before. Babies who sleep beside their mothers (as is natural) do not sleep as deeply as babies alone. They breathe in rhythm with their moms, they share sleep cycles with each other, and they nurse more often than if they were in another bed. All of this helps to prevent them from stopping breathing in their sleep (sleep apnea), which is something that lots of newborns do, especially premature ones. Since we aren't supposed to sleep with our babies, they sleep more deeply, and more die of SIDS because they don't wake up and start breathing again (one suspected cause of the horrible syndrome). If a newborn has a pacifier in his mouth, then he will suckle in his sleep and keep from falling so deeply that he might stop breathing. So now, your baby should sleep with an artificial nipple, even though it is taking the place of your own nipple and warmth and breathing that are supposed to keep him alert enough to live through the night.

It drives me insane that it is being promoted as a new way of saving babies, just like the "Back to Sleep" campaign. It definitely saved babies' lives, but it wouldn't have been necessary if people still slept beside their infants to begin with. A breastfeeding, co-sleeping newborn does not ever sleep on her stomach; she couldn't nurse if she did. Babies sleeping alone on their stomachs sleep much more deeply than their backsleeping counterparts. I feel like some day there will be a breaking scientific discovery that co-sleeping helps prevent SIDS. The news channels will be full of "experts" debating why this is true and why no one knew about it.

Living in a society where scientific studies show a reduction in SIDS when the mother breastfeeds and sleeps with the baby at least in her room, yet has a majority of mothers using formula and putting their babies to sleep in another room, can be so frustrating.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Advertising Genius

This ad showed up at the top of a bulletin board for mothers that I frequent. What it should say is: Breastfeeding + Supplementing = Weaning. The same companies who come up with this advertising are the ones that send Formula Reps (think Drug Company Reps, only slimier) to wine and dine doctors. If you are a doc who wasn't given any training or facts about breastfeeding in medical school, and then you get perks and meals from an attractive man or woman in a suit who tells you all about the benefits of their formula, what's going to happen? You end up on a "health" channel telling new moms that sometimes you "need to supplement".
Do new moms really need FREE tips, FREE advice, and FREE product samples from a FORMULA company? What are the tips and advice? Switch as soon as possible from your healthy, free source of infant milk to our less-healthy, expensive stuff?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Adoption Entry 1

As it turns out, my husband and I are not just talk. We are nearly finished with our pre-application paperwork with the Volunteers of America adoption program! In fact, the only hold up is a current family picture, which we plan on taking tonight. My goal is to mail out the info on Monday. We had to fill in all sorts of information about us, our children, our house, our parents, and our siblings. We also had to go through a checklist they call the "Comfort Level Assessment" on which they listed everything from drug use to letting the birthmother know our whole names. It really makes you think when you are presented with a checklist for your ideal child. Part of me thinks that you take what you get because that's what happened when we had our three children naturally. On the other hand, I would have given a lot when I was pregnant for a guarantee that my unborn baby was healthy. It has taken us almost a month to fill that form out, but I think we're finally ready to commit to our choices.

The next step involves the VOA deciding that we meet their criteria for adoptive parents. If we do, then I believe we will schedule an interview with the adoption coordinator to discuss our Comfort Levels in more detail. After that, we go through a homestudy with a social worker. Once we are approved by the SW, then we wait. We will probably have to submit a "Dear Birthmother" letter for pregnant women to pursue while searching for the best family to entrust their babies to. How in the world do you write that letter?

We aren't limiting our search to babies of any specific race, and from previous inquiries into this area, I have deduced that the wait might not be that long once we are approved. They warn you that it could take two years, though. As I am still nursing Grace and hope to nurse the new baby too, I hope things move fairly quickly once we start the ball rolling.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Insufficient Training Syndrome

I've never watched the Discovery Health Channel's Deliver Me before yesterday, but I see it advertised all of the time. I swear that I don't watch TV only to catch people sharing misinformation, but there is just so much of it out there that I can't escape it.

On the episode I was watching last night, a woman came in for her postpartum check up with one of the doctors. She said something about the baby wanting to nurse all of the time (I didn't catch the exact phrasing since my kids were playing a tickle game). Rather than explain that newborns need to eat at least every two hours (no one wants that to be true, but it is), the OB told her that some moms just don't make enough milk to satisfy their babies and NEED to supplement with formula. Then she said what I consider to be her real reason for the incorrect statement, "I had to supplement both of my boys with formula because sometimes I just didn't make enough." There you go: she can't admit that she did anything wrong, so she passes off her own inaccurate logic on her patients.

I believe I've blogged before about the purely western phenomenon of "Insufficient Milk Syndrome" which mysteriously only occurs in places where formula is widely available...Read the section in Our Babies, Ourselves about it to understand that it isn't really something that happens. To be sure, there are medical conditions and plenty of medications that can cause a woman's milk to dry up a bit. If the OB on the show had begun to investigate a true cause for this woman's low supply, which she never even established that the woman had to begin with, then I would have believed that she knew what she was talking about. A newborn nursing every couple of hours (or even every hour at some point) DOES NOT mean that the mother doesn't have enough milk. The baby could be going through a growth spurt or the mom could have gotten so out of sync with her baby's feeding needs that she was only giving him the low-fat early milk and never the high-fat hind milk. Did this doctor look into any of that? Supplementing leads to lower milk production! All she did was speed up the weaning process for this mother and possibly countless other mothers watching the show. The less the baby nurses because it's getting full of synthetic milk, the less milk the mom's breasts will make. It's SUPPLY AND DEMAND!!!

I found a good quote on Kellymom about doctor's education about breastfeeding:
However, very few physicians trained in North America or Western Europe learned anything at all about breastfeeding in medical school. Even fewer learned about the practical aspects of helping mothers start breastfeeding and helping them maintain breastfeeding. After medical school, most of the information physicians get regarding infant feeding comes from formula company representatives or advertisements.

It's truly awful that in this age of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and all sorts of other problems, doctors are not being educated about breastfeeding, when not breastfeeding has been linked to all of them. Don't listen to your doctor about anything connected to breastfeeding without first researching his/her advice first. The La Leche League is not out to trap you, they have lots of info that you need.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What's Up With Hospital Gowns?

I just emailed my sister-in-law a list of things I found necessary to pack for my trips to the hospital to have a baby, and one of the items I listed was a nightgown that allowed access to her breasts. It never occurred to me when I was expecting my first child that hospital gowns would restrict breastfeeding. I delivered at a facility with a reputation of being strongly pro-breastfeeding, yet their gowns made it a choice between bottles or sitting half naked in a room full of friends and relatives. Expecting a brand new mother to choose between her family's adoration of her new baby and sitting alone nursing said baby is too much; in her condition, she might be having trouble remembering where she is ;)

In case you haven't had the pleasure of ever wearing a hospital gown, they go all the way up to your neck and tie in the back. The only way to get to your breasts is to untie the back, which leaves the back flapping in the wind, and pull at least one arm out of the sleeve. That leaves nothing covering the top of your breast. If you thought to bring a robe with you, you can get more coverage by wearing it, but it still takes two people to get you set up to nurse.

I think that hospitals should either offer nursing-friendly gowns to new mothers. Since they currently don't, your doctor should suggest that you bring your own nightgowns. I've seen them listed in some pregnancy books as things to pack, but the majority of the ones I've read didn't mention a thing.

Not all nursing nightgowns are created equal, though. My mother-in-law bought me one when I had my first baby, and I was given a similar one when I had my second. They were the type that have two large openings in the front which are supposed to stay closed because of a pleat at the top of each. Maybe that works if you're a size 2 after you deliver, but real women still have a belly in the hospital after the baby is born. That pulls the holes open, and I spent the entire time with both having to check the openings to make sure my entire sad stomach wasn't exposed to my visitors. Forget walking around in them. A quick search of Motherhood Maternity's online selection of nursing nightgowns reveals that they no longer sell that type (at least on their website). There are plenty of attractive and modesty-protecting gowns out there. With my third baby, I brought along two regular nightgowns that buttoned up the front. Underneath, I wore a soft, sports-bra type nursing bra that was loose and comfortable.

Make sure to pack at least two because things can be messy after delivery, and you don't want to end up back in a hospital gown!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Now Up to Almost 7 Years

My youngest is two years old today, which puts my total years of nursing babies/toddlers to almost seven years! She's still going strong, which is good because we are going ahead with our plans to adopt a new baby :) Hopefully, things will move along at a pace that will allow me to breastfeed the newest addition to our family too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Better and Better

Read about a new Canadian study that links higher IQ to exclusive breastfeeding that is apparently the largest ever conducted.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Plastic Nature

I was flipping through Wondertime magazine yesterday and came across an ad for a "European Inspired" baby bath. It was so gimmicky that it made me a bit sick, but that phrase was nothing compared to the tag line at the bottom of the ad. It claimed that the bath made the baby feel like she was back in her mother's womb. Really? Do babies need to feel like they are in the womb to have a bath? Did my womb feel like a plastic bucket full of soapy water? How many babies did they survey to come up with their claims ;)

It constantly surprises me that a country so firmly entrenched in unnatural baby and child rearing practices still tries to claim that it wants natural experiences/products for their babies and children. Is it so important to a mother who feeds her baby synthetic food out of a bottle that bath time remind her baby of before it was born?

On a related note, I read an article about the negatives of Similac's organic baby food. Apparently, it's the only formula on the market that uses cane sugar to sweeten it. Pediatricians are horrified because it makes the babies only want super sweet things, it's worse for their teeth, and because an early sweet tooth can lead to childhood obesity. There are claims that they are doing it to get babies addicted to the sweetness and beat out the competition (Baby Crack anyone?). The mother they profiled in the article was a joke. In the first lines, they say she is a natural mother and proud of it. They go on to say that as soon as her baby was born, she went straight for the organic Similac because it was natural. WHAT? If she was truly a natural mother and she had a real, pressing reason to feed her newborn anything other than breastmilk, wouldn't she have mentioned it? If it were me, I would have felt obligated to lay out my medical reasons for having to choose formula because otherwise the term "natural mother" would seem like a lie...

Friday, May 23, 2008


Check out this video about a Chinese police officer who has nursed several earthquake victims to save their lives...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Shocking Acts of a Loving Mother

I think I reached a new pinnacle of breastfeeding this past weekend at our local movie theater. The older kids and their nine year old cousin were all excited to see Prince Caspian, and so were Mom and Dad. We tried to plan our outing around which time would give us a chance of Grace falling asleep during the film. That all went out the window because she fell asleep in the car on the way (it took us two hours to end up at the theater twenty minutes from home, but that's another story). We bought our super-expensive tickets (the matinee now costs what the night show used to!) and hoped for the best. That was our first mistake...

Even though we were there thirty minutes before our movie's start time, the seats were packed. The only row that would fit all six of us was all the way at the top. We've sat that high with Grace before, and it was perfect. She could walk back and forth between her Dad at one end and me at the other without disturbing any strangers. With that in mind, I chose the seats that had others in front of them rather than the first two that opened directly onto the steps. That was our second mistake...

I took the two youngest to pee before the movie began. Grace is smart enough to know that if she says she has to pee, we will take her the bathroom whether we believe her or not. The last movie she saw was Horton Hears a Who, which she enjoyed watching. I hoped that the talking animals in Caspian would hold her interest, but they did not. Just before the movie began, a teen aged couple came to sit in those last two seats above the stairs. That's when my error became apparent. Every time Grace asked to use the potty, we had to cross in front of the couple to walk down the stairs. Had we been sitting in those seats, it would have been an easy escape without bothering anyone.

About twenty minutes into the movie, Alexander whispered that he had to pee, even though he went just before it began. Grace had already forced her father to take her out, so I had to tell my son that he had to hold it because I couldn't leave the other kids to take him to the bathroom. I was secretly hoping that my husband had given up and wasn't going to bring Grace back up to our seats, but alas, he showed up a minute later. She immediately began saying, "Uh Pee!" in a loud voice. I grabbed her, crossed in front of the young couple, and headed out of the theater with Alexander in tow. In the bathroom stall, he peed. I then asked Grace if she had to go, to which she said no. I sat down to pee, and Grace said, "Uh oh!" and looked down. Apparently she had had to go because the evidence was dripping out of her Cinderella panties.

I threw away the panties because I had nothing with me in the bathroom to put them in. The little pants that matched her dress were a different story. I couldn't throw them out, so I rinsed them in the sink and dried them with the hot-air dryers. The entire time, Grace stood beside me lifting up her dress to expose herself. I kept muttering to Alexander to help keep his sister covered up, but she was relentless. Once her pants were dry, we started walking back to the theater. Grace was protesting the whole time, so I decided that I wasn't going to bring her back to our seats. I watched Alexander walk to the family to make sure that he was safe, and then I took Grace back out.

We spent the next hour walking up and down the hall of theaters. Hearing twenty movies playing but not getting to watch any of them is a form of torture I'd never considered before. Even the teen aged employees had it better than me because I saw them occasionally ducking in to watch a few minutes of a show. Grace got tired after a while, so we sat on a bench. She seemed calmer, so I thought that maybe I'd be able to stand inside the theater and watch some of the movie. That lasted about a minute before she was calling for her Daddy and squirming, so back to pacing the hall we went.

Eventually, Grace got sleepy and cranky (her car nap had been too short). Where was a nursing mother to sit? Normally, the movies are great for that because the theater is dark. I have always taken babies to the movies without bothering people because they nurse to sleep in my lap. This was the first time that I was stuck on the outside with a sleepy/hungry baby. The toilets had no lids to sit on top of, and I was afraid of causing a commotion by going back into the theater. We ended up on one of the benches lining the hall. Since I'd expected to nurse in the dark, I wasn't wearing a tank under my shirt or anything. I sat sideways on the bench so that my exposed side was towards the wall. Grace's body covered everything else. I was feeling a bit like I was being risky, but the hall was empty. Just when Grace entered that dangerous phase of being mostly asleep but awake enough to freak out if I pulled my breast away, Speed Racer let out...Fifty people, many of them with small, excited boys, trooped past me. I had no bag next to me (why that would have made it more comfortable, I don't know, but it would have), no person with me except for the nursing/sleeping toddler, a spotlight above my head. I didn't make eye contact with the families, but I heard some moms saying nice things or saying how cute Grace was. I know from seeing pictures of myself nursing that they probably had no idea that she was breastfeeding.

I sat on display for about five minutes. I am proud to say that I didn't stop nursing, and that I had started knowing full well that there might be a deluge of people to witness it. It's all very well and good to say that breastfeeding is better, that letting a toddler self-wean is natural, that I have nothing to be ashamed of, etc. but it's another thing entirely to practice what you preach.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Potty

For months now, Grace has demanded to sit on the potty. I found it to be a drag because she didn't "do" anything on it, and she usually wanted to be naked to sit on it. That meant getting her dressed and undressed several times a day for no reason. She's not even two yet, so I didn't feel like she was ready to actually learn to use the toilet instead of her diapers.

A couple of days ago, Grace refused to wear any clothes. Since we were going to be home all day, I indulged her. She ran to the potty every time she had to go. She even did the amazing "poo in the potty" that day. That makes her the youngest in the family :) At that point, I realized that her desire to stop wearing diapers wasn't something I should stifle. She's been either nude or in tiny panties ever since. We don't do POTTY TRAINING, and I will not have a child sometimes in and sometimes out of diapers. I've known people who were training for over a year, which is crazy. Let them use the toilet when they are ready and be done with it!

Even though she still nurses to sleep and sometimes at night, Grace's diapers have been dry. That's one of my biggest indicators that she's really ready to use the toilet. The whole night-trained vs day-trained thing is silly, in my opinion, and neither of my other kids used the potty regularly until they were already waking up dry.

This means that I am now on my second breastfeeding and potty trained baby. Before I had kids, I never imagined someone nursing a baby who didn't wear diapers anymore. Through my experiences I've learned something about the different effect of cow's milk rather than breastmilk on a small body. Alexander nursed to sleep and at night after he was out of diapers. He never once wet the bed. After he was weaned, he started to enjoy the occasional glass of chocolate milk. Anytime he had one after about 5pm, he would pee sometime in the night. It's gone on now for years, and he's only staring to grow out of it at age five and a half. This leads me to believe that all of the moms out there with one and two year olds drinking bottles of cow's milk instead of breastfeeding (who are day-trained to use the toilet but not able to hold it at night) are doing this to themselves. Maybe a cow milk drinker cannot hold it at night until they are much older, which is why you end up with giant-sized-night-use-only diapers...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Balancing Act

I once posted a comment on a message board about certain people's unnatural approach to parenting and was accused of being so one-sided that I must be raising my kids with a skewed view of the world (although my accuser didn't put it quite that way). I was even on a natural parenting site and totally agreeing with the original poster, so I'm not sure why I was singled out.

A conversation my seven year old initiated last night contradicts that rather excitable (and defensive) person very well. We were watching a show about two families who have sextuplets. Kathleen turned to me and said, "Well, that mom has a good reason to give her babies bottles." She wasn't so "brainwashed" by my views to think that everyone who uses formula is "bad". I've always tried to teach her that there are reasons for people to use formula, but that most people do it because they want to without knowing that it's not the same as breastfeeding. We went on to discuss how hard it would be to nurse that many babies and that she wouldn't be able to make enough milk for all of them because people don't naturally have six at once. I pointed out that another mom of sextuplets I've seen on TV did manage to nurse hers for a while (with bottles of formula to supplement). I mentioned that rarely, a mom dies and formula is needed for her babies, and Kathleen chimed in that adopted babies need it too. I'm proud of the fact that she understands the difference between needing formula and choosing formula. I don't believe that a child whose mother was one-sided and judgemental would have come to that realization at the age of seven.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I was just reading a well-researched blog entry about the presence of BPA in almost all formula containers currently on the market. The blog, Z Recommends, has long championed the cause of removing BPA from bottles and sippy cups. My question is, has anyone compared the potential harm the BPA in formula cans can do with the harm that the actual formula can do? I'm guessing that the bloggers don't want to start a controversy, and they are trying to serve the interests of formula-feeders, so they will never run that analysis. It just seems a bit strange to focus so much on the harm that formula cans and the bottles used to deliver the formula to the baby can do but to never mention that there is an alternative which is healthier in all respects.

It's sort of like warning people that eating fast-food burgers out of a certain kind of package can cause heart disease but never bringing up the fact that fast-food burgers themselves can cause heart disease. Don't get me wrong, I think the bloggers are doing a great job informing people about which companies are BPA-free and working tirelessly to bring the issue to the forefront. I just wish that they would occasionally mention that not everyone formula or bottle feeds. If you only read their blog, you'd come away with the idea that it's not in the realm of possibility for anyone to feed their infants anything else.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Either Way, We're Smarter

I just read the following article about a new study that claims to show more proof that breastfed infants are smarter than formula fed ones. It was interesting to see that babies who were given any formula at all ranked lower than ones who were exclusively breastfed. The study's authors don't claim to know exactly what makes the difference, whether it's in the milk itself, the act of nursing, or the fact that mothers who breastfeed long-term interact with their babies more and are themselves, better educated than formula moms. What's missing is something I've commented on before: breastfed babies aren't smarter than formula fed babies. Breastfeeding is the biological norm, so breastfed babies are of normal intelligence. Formula fed babies are less smart than breastfed babies. Until we start using phrases like that and drawing attention to the issue, people will continue to make excuses for their choices.

Here's the article I read:

Breast-fed Children Smarter
A new study provides some of the best evidence to date that breast-feeding can make children smarter, an international team of researchers said on Monday. Children whose mothers breast-fed them longer and did not mix in baby formula scored higher on intelligence tests, the researchers in Canada and Belarus reported. About half the 14,000 babies were randomly assigned to a group in which prolonged and exclusive breast-feeding by the mother was encouraged at Belarussian hospitals and clinics. The mothers of the other babies received no special encouragement. Those in the breast-feeding encouragement group were, on average, breast-fed longer than the others and were less likely to have been given formula in a bottle.
The children in the group where breast-feeding was encouraged scored about 5 percent higher in IQ tests and did better academically, the researchers found. "Mothers who breast-feed or those who breast-feed longer or most exclusively are different from the mothers who don't," Dr. Michael Kramer of McGill University in Montreal and the Montreal Children's Hospital said in a telephone interview. "They tend to be smarter. They tend to be more invested in their babies. They tend to interact with them more closely. They may be the kind of mothers who read to their kids more, who spend more time with their kids, who play with them more," added Kramer, who led the study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. The researchers measured the differences between the two groups using IQ tests administered by the children's pediatricians and by ratings by their teachers of their school performance in reading, writing, math and other subjects. Both sets of scores were

significantly higher in the children from the breast-feeding promotion group. Kramer said how breast-feeding may make children more intelligent is unclear. "It could even be that because breast-feeding takes longer, the mother is interacting more with the baby, talking with the baby, soothing the baby," he said. "It could be an emotional thing. It could be a physical thing. Or it could be a hormone or something else in the milk that's absorbed by the baby."
Copyright Reuters

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nursing Milestone

We just returned from a whirlwind road trip to Georgia for a surprise baby shower, and I noticed a shift in Grace's nursing. Until now, every trip we've taken has evenings filled with engorged and sore breasts because she didn't nurse as often during the drive as she does at home. I wasn't looking forward to experiencing it again, but apparently I was worried for nothing. The pain and over-filled breasts didn't happen. I realized that Grace has slowed down to the point that going five hours between sessions didn't have an effect on my supply. While it was nice to skip the discomfort, it made me a little sad. I know that it's the natural pattern and that she will still have days where she nurses often, but it's just one more change as she moves from baby to kid.

On a happier note, it was yet another vacation where I breastfed in public in a new city and didn't face any discrimination or even dirty looks. I can't decide if it means that people are more tolerant or if I'm so discreet that they never know what I'm doing!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sweet Memories

Yesterday morning, my five year old son told me about a dream he'd had the night before. He said that the whole dream was just him nursing :) That's the first time he's said that. Whenever I've asked him if he remembers nursing, he says no. I have always been surprised by that since he nursed until he was almost three, but I guess it just goes to show that breastfeeding for a natural length of time will not cause children to become perverts (like I ever believed that anyway!). After he shared his dream, I told him that sometimes during the night, he sucks in his sleep. Years of falling asleep that way have had an impact, and I think that the memory of it helps calm him while he sleeps now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tip-Toe Time

A dear friend of ours just announced that his wife is pregnant, which is something they've both wanted for a while. I'm thrilled for them, of course, but now I find myself in murky water (and not just because I live in Louisiana). I don't know her well enough to predict whether she's planning on breastfeeding, on the fence, or determined to only ever use formula. Despite the fact that I write pro-breastfeeding/anti-formula opinions and facts in this blog, I don't cram my feelings down people's throats in real life. I had a friend who was expecting her first when my first was only a couple of months old. She came to town with her cute round belly and immediately announced that she'd never breastfeed in a million years. She had several excuses and didn't ask for help or advice, so I didn't say a word.

When she had her daughter by induction, brought her home from the hospital and let her mother care for the baby for her entire first day and night home, never breastfed, and put the baby in daycare at six weeks (the income wasn't necessary, it's just what she and her husband wanted), I was an inferno of judgement, but I never let her know that. My husband and I talked up a storm about her choices, but I knew that she wasn't open to different ideas, so I didn't try and interfere.

We went to visit another friend after she'd had her third baby. She nursed the first two, but I don't know how long it went on. She was trying to nurse this baby too, but admitted that she'd already begun introducing bottles (he was only six weeks old). She mentioned feeling nervous breastfeeding in public, and with two older kids, staying home all of the time wasn't an option. She mentioned that he seemed hungry afterwards too. She also worried because she occasionally brought him into her bed to nurse in the early mornings and thought that it was wrong. As we sat in her living room, me with my thirteen month at my breast and she with her newborn at her's, we discussed the difficulties she was facing. I gave her some advice and also recommended a couple of books (she's way into researching things). We don't live near one another, so I have no idea if my advice worked, but at least I put out there while she was feeling receptive.

In both of those cases, I knew the woman well enough to be able to judge what approach I should take. This mom-to-be whom I'm just getting to know is an enigma. I am working on finding a balance between being a helpful, experienced mom and a nosy, bossy woman who annoys her. I have learned that when it comes to first time parents and advice, it's always best to give it when they are still pregnant. Once a woman has her baby, she will cling tight to whatever choices she has begun to put into practice and will take it as an insult if you suggest she try something else.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Phony

I don't generally base my decision on what movie or television show to watch solely on the actor's personal life (there are some exceptions to this rule). On many websites tracking every parenting choice of celebrities has become an obsession. Endless blogs and articles are written on the topic, and I don't usually read them. I just stumbled on some comments by Gwyneth Paltrow, though, which I found very disheartening. After she had her first child, I saw her on a couple of late-night talk shows discussing motherhood. Much of what she said resonated with me. It was apparently an act; she's just like the rest of the Mainstream Mommies out there...

In talking about how she suffered from postnatal depression (her husband is British, so she can't use the American term- postpartum depression) she claims that

she may have suffered from postnatal depression because she immersed herself in motherhood following the birth of her first child, Apple. No nanny, no relaxing massages, no time for herself

Wow! So apparently caring for the helpless, needy creature she brought into the world was the problem. What she should have done was give birth, dump the baby with a nanny, and go get a massage on her way home from the hospital.

By her definition, all mothers throughout the history of the world must have suffered intense depression after the birth of their babies. I'm so glad that Paltrow has hit upon the solution for us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Organic Infant Formula Ingredients Processed With Toxic Chemical

Organic Infant Formula Ingredients Processed With Toxic Chemical

Plastic bottle chemical may be harmful

What Makes Someone a "Parenting Expert"?

I will preface this post by saying that I don't spend my day watching parenting shows on cable. I have been nursing babies for years now, and I often flip on the TV while they feed :)

I never thought that I would refer to a show who's gimmick is featuring moms who are professional models as a source for reliable information about parenting, but Runway Moms on Discovery Health is just that. The women are very health conscious, which leads them to make good choices for their babies. There are lots of natural childbirths and I've never seen one episode where the mom didn't breastfeed her newborn. Several of the moms have talked about their careers giving them the opportunity to spend time with and raise their own children while still earning a living. Watching it, I actually forget that they are models with rich husbands.

The only other show about motherhood that I can recommend is House of Babies, also on Discovery Health. I think they are only showing reruns and not filming any more episodes, but honestly how long can an alternative birth center that promotes breastfeeding last on a channel paid for by hospitals and formula companies (conjecture; I have no proof, just observations). The show is all about the Miami Maternity Center.

I had watched a few episodes of the Baby Diaries on the same channel before today, but this was the first one that got me fired up. The couple they were following were poster children for a rotten start to parenting. As soon as his wife and new daughter were asleep on their first night home from the hospital, the husband grabbed some beer and snuck up to his friend's apartment. What a winner! She made a great choice for the father of her children! That wasn't the horrible part, though. At the end of the first week, the mother announced that she didn't get the hang of breastfeeding and would never like to try that again. Did she see a lactation consultant? Did the TV show about motherhood help her find one? No, she bought a breast pump. She was struggling to get it to work so that she could feed her newborn breastmilk without having to nurse her. I will grant that her solution was lightyears better than formula, but it isn't the same as breastfeeding (Mothering Magazine had an interesting article two years ago about the development of a baby's facial muscles and bone structure being compromised by exclusive bottle feeding). This wasn't the horrible part either. The segment that freaked me out was the little talk by "parenting expert" Ann Douglas.

I have a book co-authored by Douglas, and I'm bitter now that she earned a couple of my dollars. She said that pumping and bottle feeding were as good as breastfeeding (debatable, but not horrific). She then went on to say that if that didn't work out, then the mother should move on to alternative feeding solutions. Douglas made the statement that it's just as good a choice and that parents shouldn't be judgemental of other parents parenting decisions regarding all aspects of childrearing because "everyone has the baby's best interest at heart." She must be a god to those Internet message board moms who attack anyone who questions another mom's actions/choices/philosophies. I would like to ask Ms. Douglas if it's wrong of me to judge my neighbors for letting their four year old range free across the entire neighborhood? Is it judgemental to worry that he'll drown in the pond? Am I wrong to wonder if he'll be kidnapped? Do I need to apologize to those parents for my thoughts? I'm sure that they only have his best interests at heart! So does the young mother in the next town whose newborn and fourteen month olds were both drugged to shut them up (newborn died). I'm sure that she shouldn't be judged. What about the parents on drugs arrested yesterday in the death of their three month old? Comments like Douglas's only serve to empower ignorant parents everywhere. There are many parenting styles and choices with equally valid justifications. To say that no one should judge anyone and that everyone cares about their babies/children is to sugarcoat bad parenting.

I have a cousin who has made nothing but bad choices for her son. Not breastfeeding was actually the least of them (with the stuff she's putting into her system, he was truly better off with formula). She gave him Tylenol round the clock for weeks at a time because he was "teething", she put him in a regular bed at ten months "because it was cute", she smokes around him, she gets drunk while caring for him, and now she's abandoned him. I promise you that moms like her listen to statements like Douglas's and use it as ammunition to anyone who dares question them. I've seen it in my own family, and it's rampant on parenting message boards on the Internet. I might have been able to ignore the uneducated statement that formula is just as good as breastmilk if not for the added bonus of telling parents not to judge others for any of their parenting choices.

I flipped the channel at that point to The View. Sheri was talking about flying with her young son and his nanny to bring him back to LA from New York (talk about your part-time mothers). She said that he screamed for three of the six hours the flight took. I was sympathetic until she mentioned that he was strapped into his carseat the whole time. Gee, I wonder why he was crying? I guess it's judgemental to think that his mother or nanny should have picked him up. When he was born extremely prematurely, Sheri went on and on about God's miracle and her love for him. It is a well known statistic that kids who were premature infants have a much higher chance of being abused by their parents...Oops, sorry Ann Douglas!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mistaken Evil?

I read this article today and was surprised to find something new in the world of formula companies to be shocked by. I know all about the companies (Nestle in particular) going into Africa and hooking babies on formula, which leads to their deaths (google it). This was a new atrocity, and I can't decide what is more awful: doing it on purpose to gain new customers or doing it on accident because they honestly don't understand the dangers.
In case you don't want to read the article, I'll sum it up. Indonesia has discovered that after a natural disaster (like the big tsunami), formula companies rush in to donate formula. They don't mention that bottles need to be sterilized, the water needs to be boiled first, or that there are certain amounts of powder you need to mix in. Babies and toddlers are dying of diarrhea and are becoming malnourished. Women who are breastfeeding at the time of the disasters are being convinced to give bottles, and by the time things have settled down, their milk is dried up. The government is calling for guidelines and rules for the next disaster: formula is only to be given to babies/toddlers whose mothers have died in the catastrophe or ones who were already being fed that way. They also have a national problem with a low breastfeeding rate because formula companies are advertising that their product is better for babies' brain development than breastmilk!!! The government is also trying to hold the companies accountable to the truth.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Time's Almost Up

At the end of next month, my youngest will turn two. It has just occurred to me that at that point, I will move beyond slightly unusual to strange in the eyes of most Western people. It's one kind of weird to nurse past a year in this society; it's totally nuts to nurse past two.

Even my father, who is a staunch supporter of breastfeeding, thinks that two is the cut-off point. He's based that on the fact that when he was growing up in Iran, everyone nursed until the baby turned two. Then, the moms weaned cold turkey. They would put some bitter stuff on their nipples to make them taste bad to the poor, confused toddlers. From what I've found out about modern Iranian breastfeeding practices, formula companies have infiltrated. I doubt that nursing to two years of age is the norm anymore, at least in the big cities. My dad has mentioned, though, that his father apparently nursed until he was seven! He was an only child, which might explain it. He said that he never believed the story until I told him that the natural human duration of breastfeeding could extend that high.

I have no idea when Grace will wean. The other two weaned when I got pregnant with the next baby, but we aren't planning on doing that again. Alexander weaned two months shy of his third birthday. Although I have no philosophical issue with breastfeeding a three year old, I'm not sure that I'm going to do it. I can't see forcing Grace to stop before she's ready, though, so I guess I'll just have to take it as it comes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Head in the Sand as a Parenting Method

I was on a parenting message board yesterday doing some reading. I'm not sure why I still subject myself to the ignorance displayed on many of those boards, but it is interesting to see what "regular" moms are up to. Someone started a thread asking the other mothers if they were surprised to find out that so many parenting choices are controversial. She wanted to know what those controversies were; she says she's writing a research paper on the topic.

I began to read the responses, which all seemed benign. Women were listing the subjects that moms seems divided over, but no one was attacking another over her own choices. All in all, I found it amazingly civil for that forum. Then I got to another post by the woman asking the questions. She mentioned that when she became a mother, she was shocked by the debate over breastfeeding. She described going to a playgroup somewhere that had posters proclaiming "Breast is Best" on the walls. She was offended because she felt as though they were questioning her choice to formula feed, and stated that her decision was a good one.

It strikes me that anyone who is offended by pieces of paper might not be as happy with her choice as she would like everyone (including herself) to believe. There is also the fact that breastfeeding is superior to formula feeding. I understand that there are actual circumstances where formula is necessary, but in most cases in our society, there is a choice involved. I am astounded at the great number of mothers out that who parent based on what their friends and relatives and baby-product-sponsored-parenting magazines say instead of basing their choices on facts. Pretending that formula feeding has no down side is like sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the fact that our children's mounting health issues have nothing to do with the choices we make.

Here's an article that fits that parenting model. A woman was asked to nurse in the bathroom of her YMCA instead of in the children's area. They told her that a toddler went home and "mimicked breastfeeding" and his/her parent complained. What kind of person is offended when her child pretends to do something so innocent and natural as nursing her baby? Is it really so awkward to have to explain breastfeeding to your child?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Labels That Divide

I have had it with parenting labels! The term Attachment Parenting has always bugged me. I'm sure Dr. Sears didn't intend it to be annoying; he was trying to come up with a descriptive term for the parenting philosophy he advocates. What bothers me is that what people call AP tends to be what is natural and therefore Normal Parenting. What Western proponents of AP call Mainstream Parenting is actually far from the norm (bottle feeding, formula, solitary infant sleep, etc.). As with the label extended breastfeeding, nature is losing out in the language wars.

On a message board for AP moms, someone began a discussion about another parenting philosophy that I'd never heard of before. It's called Consensual Living, and it involves respecting your children as they grow. The woman who was advocating it discussed how it works in her day to day life. It sounds pretty much like the way I'm raising my own kids. What makes me balk is the use of a label for it. The title makes it sound elitist.

I don't want subtitles for the way I parent. I don't want to have to explain an entire philosophy to strangers just because they don't understand breastfeeding or cosleeping. I've read that doctors don't question formula feeding moms about their choice because they don't want to make them feel guilty. I think the same goes for moms who work outside of the home when their babies/children are small. I'm doing things a more natural way, so why do I have to explain it? Is it because I don't feel guilty?

I can't speak for other moms who parent naturally, but I think I put out the extra effort because I hope that if more of us spoke up, then our choices would be seen for the normal decision that they are. I never saw homeschooling as an equally normal option until I started meeting moms who were doing it. At one point, when my oldest was three, fully half of the mothers I spoke with about school for their children had already or were going to choose homeschooling. It went from a fringe idea that I'd never considered to something completely acceptable in a matter of months.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Update and the "Curse"

So out of my three new mommies with breastfeeding misinformation, one has made it! My cousin, who was pumping and wanting to start offering formula, is apparently only breastfeeding now. Her baby has doubled in size, and everything is going great. One out of three doesn't sound that wonderful, but I was quite sure that none of them were going to make it as breastfeeders.

As for the "curse", I never liked that euphemism for a woman's period before, but I get it now. I finally had my first postpartum period since Grace was born. Since I am not planning on having any more biological children, it really sucked to think that I will experience that for one out of every four weeks for another twenty years! That's one of the hidden (and very welcome) benefits of breastfeeding for a normal amount of time. With my first, I got a period when she was 16 months old, my second was 22 months old, and my third was 21 months. That's a lot of period-free months!

Now I have to worry about things like timing and ovulation, but not for the happy reason of wanting a new baby. I do want another one, but through adoption, not a third c-section. I think it might be time for Daddy to visit his urologist....

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pediatric Dentists are Weaners part 3

I'll set the scene: it was a beautiful spring day. I was eight months pregnant with my third child, and it was time for Kathleen to have her teeth cleaned and for Alexander to have his first dental checkup. My husband and I had been hyper vigilant about their teeth for years, so I had no worries as I took them into the brightly decorated pediatric dentist's office. No fear clouded my appreciation of the adorable mural painted on the waiting room wall or caused my heart to leap when my children's names were called. Sure, the circle the dentist had been "watching" on Kathleen's tooth now had a tan center, but I figured that one filling wasn't the end of the world. Boy, was I wrong.

Both kids had x-rays done when we walked in the back. Then, Kathleen had her "cleaning". The assistant (I thought she was a hygienist, but she wasn't) basically brushed and flossed Kathleen's teeth (for which I was charged $98). There was no spinning, cleaning thingy like my dentist used on me. Then it was the dentist's turn. She quickly scanned my daughter's teeth and started calling out coded information to her assistant, who made notations on Kathleen's chart. I know that I heard the word "preventative" at least twice. When she was finished, she announced that Kathleen needed EIGHT crowns. Remember, she already has seven; all put in by this dentist.

Before I could register what she had said, it was Alexander's turn on the table. He was too young for a cleaning (since it wasn't a true procedure, though, I'm not sure why that was), so the dentist only looked at his teeth. My sweet two year old lay perfectly still and let her poke and prod his little mouth. She started spouting out codes again (including the word "preventative"). Then, that hideous woman informed me that my son needed SEVEN crowns on his teeth.

I was so shocked, I was speechless. I managed to ask why this kept happening and point out all of the steps we had been taking to avoid this. She smoothly started talking about weak enamel, finding the mysterious cause of it, a possible genetic connection, etc. Then she laid an even bigger whammy on me; she wanted to do all of the work under general anesthesia at the hospital (local surgery center instead of Childrens this time). Kathleen was five years old! I have never heard of school-aged children being put to sleep for dental work. Alexander was two and a half, so it made a little more sense at his age. I knew the minute the words were out of the dentist's mouth, though, that there was no way we were going to do the hospital thing again. There are plenty of good, serious reasons to put your children to sleep, but this was not one of them. I still regret making the decision the first time, and I wasn't going to repeat that mistake. I asked about fillings (the cavities were on the sides of the teeth, so no fillings) and sealants to prevent this from happening in the first place(not an option for some reason).

As I paid $200 for my kids' checkups, the secretary plopped a printout in front of me of the cost for the combined FIFTEEN crowns the dentist wanted. It was a whopping $8,000! Please believe that if my children ever needed medical attention or treatments, cost would not be a consideration. The fact that I was feeling a growing dread at the legitimacy of this dentist, the amount was ridiculous. I told the woman that I'd have to let them know what we were going to do, and walked out to the car (actually, I walked out to the minivan we had just purchased days before for only $5,000 more than the dental work).

I buckled the kids in, sat in the driver's seat, and wept. I could not understand what had gone wrong. I called my husband at work, and could barely talk because I was crying so hard. After I'd calmed down enough to drive, I went to my mother's house. There, I broke down again. Coincidentally, she was about to leave for her own dentist visit at the very dentist I used for myself. She calmed me down by saying that she'd bring the kids up with him.

While she was gone, I began to really process the information. Hadn't the dentist claimed that Kathleen's problems were from breastfeeding at night? Well, my sweet baby was weaned between her diagnosis and her dental work. How could breastfeeding at night past a year have been the problem if we were facing the exact same thing now? Our old house had well water with no fluoride, which was also blamed for the earlier problems. Our new house had city water and Kathleen used a fluoride rinse at night. We had taught Alexander to spit at his young age so that we could use fluorinated toothpaste on him.

Mom came home and told me that the family dentist would see the kids for a free second opinion the next morning. I asked my husband to accompany us because I didn't want to face the bad news alone again. We were both a bundle of nerves as the dentist examined Kathleen's teeth. Guess what he said? She needed ONE crown, on the tooth with the circle. He also pointed out that it could have been FILLED a while ago before it became a cavity, even though it was on the side of her tooth. She had two other small cavities that were on her chewing surfaces of molars (the other dentist specifically said that they weren't on the chewing surfaces) that could be filled easily. Alexander's exam was even more shocking; the dentist said that he couldn't find any tooth in his mouth that needed to be crowned by any stretch of the imagination. He had three tiny cavities that could easily be filled.

There you have it. No mysterious cause, no genetic problems. Kathleen eventually went in for a real cleaning (it turns out that pediatric dentists don't use accredited hygienists, but only assistants). She had one crown done in the office with local anesthetic and some laughing gas. She had her fillings done in like five minutes. Alexander had his cavities filled all in one visit; they were so tiny that the dentist didn't even need the drill (or Novocaine). We had sealants put on his other molars. The dentist was shocked by the other's diagnosis. He said that she was, "Just trying to pay her rent." By crowning the teeth, she was basically getting rid of them to avoid later cavities. She wanted us to risk our children's lives and pay her $8,000 for NOTHING. What was worse, we had already let her butcher Kathleen's baby teeth, and we now had no way of knowing what actually needed to be done at the time.

In between the time Kathleen's teeth were ruined and the next horrible visit, we recommended the dentist for my nephew. Guess who ended up knocked out in a hospital getting crowns? When I started talking to other moms about this particular dentist, guess how many had been told that their children needed crowns?

A year after we started using our family dentist for the kids, I was in the surgery center's waiting room while my husband had a procedure done. I saw a family carry a drugged up toddler out to their car, but didn't connect the dots until I saw that evil dentist come out in her scrubs. She went over to a young couple a few chairs down from me. Do you know what she told them? That their daughter had cavities on the sides of her teeth, weak enamel, a possible genetic connection, etc. If their child's work hadn't already been done, I would have said something to them. I still wonder if I should have spoken up anyway. They may be facing the same thing in a year or two.