Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Blacktating Posts: 2010 Edition

Another year is ending, and I wanted to take the time to highlight some of my favorite posts from this year. The stuff that made me angry, made me smile and made me think.  If there was a post you particularly liked that I left off, please leave a comment letting me know!

Black Women Breastfeeding: A Multi-Generational Story. Yes, black women do breastfeed, and some African-American families do have a legacy of breastfeeding that has endured.

Did My Birth Experience Set Me Up to Fail at Breastfeeding? Too many of us have experienced an overly medicalized birth, where even seemingly benign interventions have gone on to cause problems. No wonder so many women are having so many difficulties with breastfeeding.

Why African Babies Don't Cry. Need some reassurance that your hands-on, attached parenting style is not only OK but pretty freaking great? Here you go.

New Nestle WHO Code Violation: House Parties. The post that got me a link on AOL Health News, launched BYOBoobz parties from Best for Babes and got me a shout out from Marsha Walker who called my blog "wonderful."

Target's Idea of Breastfeeding Marketing. Hint: it's light on actual breastfeeding. What happens to breastfeeding when it becomes all about the pump? Great conversation here on how and why some moms choose to exclusively pump and how marketing is influencing how new moms breastfeed.

Is Breastfeeding Intimate? What is your definition of intimate and would you use that word to describe breastfeeding? This post got a lot of intersting comments, on the blog, Facebook and Twitter, and even spilled over onto another blog.

Little Known Black History Fact: The Fultz Quads. A look at the beginning of the mass marketing of infant formula to the black community.

Empowering Breasts! How breastfeeding can actually be healing, rather than traumatizing, after sexual assault. Survivors can be encouraged to breastfeed as a way to reclaim their bodies, not only for themselves, but for their children.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Parenting Magazines Without Formula Advertisements

The other day someone emailed me to ask whether or not there were any magazines for parents that don't advertise formula. As you've probably noticed, most of the mainstream parenting magazines are financed in large part by the formula companies. In fact, the breastfeeding articles in these mags are so poorly written, I've often wondered if this isn't part of the advertising deal, too. "Don't write anything that makes breastfeeding sound too good, or we'll pull our ads!"

Anyway, I live in the US and when I started to think about this question, here is what I came up with.

Brain, Child

Brain, Child bills itself as the "thinking mothers" magazine and there couldn't be a more apt description. This quarterly magazine features articles on topics like co-sleeping, weaning after a cancer diagnosis, adoption interruption, non-custodial mothers, abortion and politics that are smart and engaging. You may even notice some of your favorite bloggers featured within its pages. The ads are for things like boutique clothing stores, wooden toys, gluten-free food products, etc. There is nothing specific in their advertising requirements that prohibits formula ads, but my guess is you'll never see one in Brain, Child.

Mothering Magazine

I always think of Mothering as the original "crunchy mom"'s magazine. I discovered the online forums before I started reading the magazine. Mothering has all of your granola needs covered and in the magazine you'll find articles on everything from breastfeeding and natural childbirth to green living, babywearing, vaccines and homeschooling. Digital subscriptions are an inexpensive way to access the magazine, which I find sells out quickly at Whole Foods. I've never seen an ad for formula in Mothering and my guess is I never will.

Kiwi Magazine

Kiwi magazine's tagline is "Growing families the natural and organic way," and their focus is on healthy parenting. In Kiwi you will find articles on raising kids to be socially responsible and to care about the environment. It's also full of eco-friendly craft projects and healthy recipes. I've only been reading Kiwi for a short time, and so far no formula ads (although this month's issue did have an ad for an organic cleaning product that featured a cartoon mom holding her baby in a nursery and feeding him a bottle). So far I am enjoying the magazine. Kiwi is also currently looking for members of a new Parent's Advisory Board that will help them shape the magazine in the future.

These are the only 3 parenting magazines I've ever found that aren't covered in ads for formula and bottles. I enjoy all of them, although they are not perfect. Diversity is a problem for all of these magazines, both in photographs and articles tackling topics that are of interest to parents of color. Although there have been a lot of articles on race and parenting in Brain, Child, they have typically been from the point of view of white parents who are raising biracial children or who have adopted children of color. This problem is not unique to Kiwi, Mothering and Brain, Child, though. The mainstream parenting magazines don't tackle race and have very few pictures of people of color in them. And there isn't a parenting equivalent of Essence or Latina so our choices are severely limited. If I had to pick, I'd much rather read a magazine where breastfeeding is the norm.

Are there any other parenting magazines you read and enjoy that would appeal to natural and attachment parents?

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrity Babywearing

Some lovely photos of celebrities babywearing, inspired by Leigh of Marvelous Kiddo.

Keyshia Cole

Kimora Lee

Laila Ali


Padma Lakshmi

Sean Patrick Thomas

Tisha Campbell-Martin

Camila Alves

Christina Milian

Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon

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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gift of Confidence

Welcome to the December Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month's theme is the gifts of breastfeeding. You'll find more posts on this topic linked at the bottom of this one.

When I was pregnant in 2007, I knew that I was going to breastfeed. It never even crossed my mind to bottle-feed my baby. Breastfeeding was normal, natural and provided the baby with the perfect food as well as immunities. I also knew there were fringe benefits for me, including easier post-partum healing, weight loss (allegedly!) and a decreased risk of breast cancer down the line. What I didn’t know was that breastfeeding would in many ways shape the way I mothered my baby and the gift of confidence it would give me.

Like many modern moms, the message I seemed to get from everyone around me was that you didn’t want to hold your baby too much, that it was good for your baby to cry sometimes, that I should let someone else watch the baby so I could get a break, etc. But because I was breastfeeding, my baby really needed to be near to me and held constantly. Because I was breastfeeding, my baby rarely cried and when he did I assumed he needed to nurse and so I let him. I couldn’t really pass him off to anyone else for more than a few minutes, so I bought a sling so I could keep him near me and still get things done. I quickly found that sleeping with my baby made breastfeeding easier and helped all of us to sleep better, so we co-slept as well.

All of these things made me feel so confident as a new mother. Once we got breastfeeding worked out, I never had to really worry about anything. Baby fussy? Stick him on the boob. Tired? A little nursing and he’ll be out like a light. I knew how to keep my baby calm and happy, and it made me a happy and calm mama! On more than one occasion I had people remark that they were surprised this was my first baby because I seemed so confident, that new motherhood had left them frazzled, but I seemed serene. I give the credit to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding gave me the gift of confidence to follow my instincts and parent my baby my way. What gifts has breastfeeding given to you?

Check out the other participants in this month's Carnival!

The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: A gift I never expected
Momma's Angel: The 12 gifts of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding Moms Unite: The gift that keeps on giving
Motherhood Actually: The gift of life: breastfeeding during a time of war
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: The intangible gifts of breastfeeding
The Milk Mama: Breastfeeding: My baby's gift to me

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Should Black women feel guilty for not breastfeeding?

A new article in Science Online rehashed the recent study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual conference this fall. You may recall the study claimed that there was evidence that black women "just don't want to breastfeed" and was based on surveying 62 black women in Camden, New Jersey.

The new article emphasizes again that some black women just don't seem to have the desire to breastfeed, and that the authors of the study think we need to find other motivational factors to "convince"  black women to breastfeed, since education doesn't seem to be the key here. The black women knew that breastfeeding was better, but still chose to formula feed. The authors suggest that black moms would benefit from one-on-one counseling in order to change their minds. Class is not mentioned overtly, but I can only assume we are talking about working class and/or very poor women here, since Camden, NJ is one of the poorest, most violent cities in America, having the distinction of having the highest crime rate in the country in 2009.

Now, I want to increase the black breastfeeding rates as much as any other breastfeeding advocate, but I'm curious as to what could be said to working class black women to convince them to try breastfeeding? Although it wasn't stated, would guilt tripping and shaming be a part of the techniques employed? I can't help but wonder what could be said to a woman who has no desire to breastfeed, even after understanding the benefits, in part because she probably doesn't have the kind of life that makes breastfeeding feasible in the first place.

I found this particularly interesting in light of a recent book I read, At the Breast by Linda Blum. Blum spent some time interviewing both white and black working class mothers on their attitudes about breastfeeding. The book was published in 1999, yet Blum found the same to be true: black working class women knew breast was best, had been educated by WIC counselors and their doctors, were surrounded by white colleagues who breastfed and still chose to formula feed. What was most intriguing for me was that the white working class mothers were wracked with guilt, while the black mothers were perfectly fine with their decision. She writes:

The Black mothers who rejected exhortations to breastfeed, seemed, in their telling, to be relatively free of the emotional anguish many of the white mothers expressed. In fact, as sociologist Carter suggested, rejecting medical advice may enhance some mothers' feelings of autonomy and well-being. Much of the mothers' discussion, however, was similar to that of the white mothers; they spoke of difficult life circumstances and a lack of the time, space and health that would help make breastfeeding a positive experience. This raises the question again of whether some mothers are better off rejecting breastfeeding--like these Black mothers--than feeling that they have failed at their motherly duty.

I can't help but agree here. Until we can change the circumstances for working class moms, how can we expect to convince them to breastfeed? Isn't energy better spent securing real paid maternity leave for women and laws to protect a woman's right to express milk at work, even at blue collar jobs? The women interviewed in Blum's book were janitorial staff at a large hospital, where the nurses were able to take breaks to express milk but they were not. When it comes to the working poor there is not even the guise of an even playing field. How do we expect breastfeeding rates to change when the life circumstances for these moms is still the same?

I also often hear breastfeeding advocates repeat this quote by Elizabeth Gene:“Women should not feel guilty if they are unable to nurse their baby, but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference.”

So is this really where we are now? That even if you are being intellectually honest about why you chose not to breastfeed, we still want you to feel guilty? Only those moms who try hard enough get a pass? How does this help us increase breastfeeding rates, particularly for working class moms of color?

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Join the December Carnival of Breastfeeding!

We'd love for you to participate in the December Carnival of Breastfeeding. Our theme for December is. "What gifts has breastfeeding given you or your family?"  During this holiday season, we'd love to hear how the gift of breastfeeding has impacted your life.

Submissions are due by Monday, December 13th and the Carnival will be on December 20th. We're still using Google Docs to collect submissions, so please fill out this spreadsheet in order to submit your post.

As always, we're looking for posts that are:

- Well-written and grammatically correct
- Thoughtful and on point for the carnival subject
- Submitted by blogs that pertain to subjects of interest to our readers (breastfeeding, parenting, etc.)

If your post is selected for inclusion, you will be asked on the day of the carnival to edit your post to link back to each of the other participants in the carnival. Examples of past carnivals can be found here.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Generations of Breastfeeding

Welcome to November's Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month we're all writing about the history of breastfeeding in our families. Please be sure to click through to the other posts linked to at the end of mine.

I was raised by my mother as a single mom with help from her mother and aunt. I know very little about my father's side of the family and that includes any breastfeeding history. I can assume that as the descendant of Africans brought to South Carolina during the slave trade that there is probably a rich history of breastfeeding and some very interesting information to be shared. Unfortunately I don't know any of it, but I do think the history on my mother's side is as fascinating.

My maternal grandmother was born and raised in Lithuania. She and my grandfather (who I am named after) were Holocaust survivors, and my aunt was born shortly after the camps were liberated and the war was over, in West Germany. My grandmother breastfed my aunt until about age two, which would have been very typical for Jews at that time and place. My grandmother also probably had very little choice in this matter. My guess is that infant formula probably wasn't available there, and if it was, it would've been too expensive. The only options available to a woman who was unable to breastfeed were either to mix your own concoction of cow's milk and Karo syrup or hope there was another woman around to cross-nurse your baby. Thankfully my grandmother had plenty of milk. In fact, she used to hand express milk for a neighbor who was unable to breastfeed. She would express milk every day and bring it in to the woman to feed to her baby in glass jars. My mother isn't sure how long this arrangement went on, but her guess is that it was for at least 6 months, at which time solid food could have been safely introduced to the baby.

My mother is first generation born in America in my family. When my grandparents and aunt made the trek to America in the 50s, like many Jewish immigrants they ended up in New York, where my mother was born. In the hospital they were able to convince my grandmother that Similac infant formula was better than breastmilk and so she decided to bottle feed my mother. It seems strange in some ways that a new immigrant family would be willing to spend so much money on a product they could barely afford when breastmilk was available for free, but it was a different time, when modern medicine was saving and improving lives, medicine and doctors had become gods, and it was easier to believe that science could produce something better than nature.

When my mother became pregnant with me in the late 70s, she knew she was going to breastfeed from the start. She was reading books and going to Lamaze and wanted a natural birth. She was a hippie so none of this is surprising to me. My mom says she just instinctually knew that the milk her body would made had to be better than cow's milk for her baby. After a fairly quick and easy birth, she nursed me immediately. I was surprised to learn that in those days there was no rooming in at the hospital, so I was brought to her every 4 hours or so, around-the-clock so she could nurse me. This seems like just barely enough to create an adequate milk supply, but my mom says I was greedy and latched on and nursed like a champ. Because I was jaundiced we stayed in the hospital for 5 days. There were no lactation consultants and the nurses had zero knowledge of breastfeeding and no help, information or support was offered. No wonder only about 30% of women were breastfeeding!

Although my mom suffered from some sore nipples, she said after a few weeks everything seemed to have worked itself out and she never had any problems with supply. She says my father had no opinion on whether or not she breastfed but my grandmother thought she was crazy and backwards for wanting to breastfeed. She said bottle-feeding was easier, but my mom said she thought the idea of having to sterilize bottles and nipples, buy milk and mix and prepare it sounded like a lot more work so she continued to nurse. She did get strange looks and cause folks to whisper and point when she nursed in public, even with a blanket. She said it was a very bold thing to do in those days and something people were definitely not accustomed to seeing. She decided to wean me when I was about 18 months because she had returned to school and was working part-time and it became too much work. She weaned me by telling me there was no milk left and I never asked again and she was amazed at how easy it was to stop. By that point, friends and neighbors had been expressing their disgust for months that she was still breastfeeding me, but she said that didn't factor into her decision, she just had a lot on her plate and breastfeeding had become more of a chore.

Interestingly enough, I remember thinking that everyone always seemed very positive about the fact that my mother nursed me into toddlerhood. For me, it was always a source of pride. In fact, when I had my son, my goal was to "beat" my mom's record and nurse him until at least the age of two. Growing up I had heard so many wonderful stories about breastfeeding that I always thought it was normal and natural, even though I never really saw it around me. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed.

I am curious about what breastfeeding will be like in 30 years or so when my generation's kids are having kids. My son is being raised in a bottle-feeding culture and has told me before that babies drink "baby milk" from bottles and that "milkies" are for big boys. When he hears a baby cry in the store he will say, "Mommy, he needs a bottle!" He is in daycare and it's what he sees. I'm hopeful that he will have some memories of our nursing relationship and will remember me breastfeeding any subsequent children we may have. I hope that breastfeeding will be the norm if and when he decides to have children and that he will be supportive of his partner if she decides to do it. It's difficult to think of him having a child and that child not being breastfed but of course that is out of my hands. I do know that my children will grow up knowing about the legacy of breastfeeding in our family and my hope is that it continues on for many generations to come.

Check out the other fantastic posts from this month's Carnival participants.

Christine @ Christine's ContemplationsCarnival of Breastfeeding- My Family History of Nursing 
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Family History of Breastfeeding
Jona @ Breastfeeding Twins: Beer & Bottles (and other motherly advice)
Jake Aryeh Marcus: Breastfeeding? Not in My Family
Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip: How Women in My Family Feed Babies
Alicia @ Lactation Narration: Only the Hippies Were Breastfeeding
Dr. Sarah: Breastfeeding, Circa 1950s
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: An Unbroken Chain

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Essence Magazine, Do Better

When I saw the October issue of Essence magazine at Publix, I about choked and died.

Now, if you know me, you know how much I love Blair Underwood. Like a fine wine, the man just gets better with age. I have watched some really craptastic TV just to stare at Blair. When that whole Chris Brown and Rihanna debacle happened, Blair Underwood was the ONLY black male celebrity to speak out against domestic violence and to condemn Chris Brown's behavior. None of that mealy-mouthed celeb doublespeak from Blair. No sir. Accompanying this gorgeous photo was also an article where Blair was going to talk about loving black women? Well, Essence tempted me for the first time in YEARS to buy a copy.

So as I picked up the magazine to flip through it while in line to check out, I also noticed the cover story, "7 Breast Cancer Tips to Save Your Life." Now I just knew that Essence was hitting it out of the ballpark with this issue because this article was bound to be chock full of information on breastfeeding, right?

But Essence let me down. The article actually doesn't mention really breastfeeding. The "tips" are really 7 mistakes that black women make when faced with a lump that could be breast cancer. They are: Ignoring the signs, Thinking we can't afford reconstruction, Not being strategic about clinical exams, Failing to assemble a team, Letting size get in the way of our health, Automatically opting for mastectomy and Refusing the assistance of loved ones. So the article wasn't about prevention as much as it was about dealing with the reality of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Now while I think these are important things to discuss, particularly the link between obesity and breast cancer, is there really no room for information about breastfeeding in Essence magazine? Strangely they used a stock photo of a woman nursing a baby with the caption, "It's the number of kids you have that can lead to sagging breasts--not breastfeeding" but didn't actually discuss how breastfeeding can lower your risk of getting cancer in the first place.

Essence magazine has been getting a lot of flak lately for not covering issues pertinent to young black women well. And I think that by not covering breastfeeding in their magazine, they are doing their readers a huge disservice. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and I think we should be talking to women about the importance of breastfeeding before they become mothers. Breastfeeding is just as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as eating your fruits and vegetables, exercising and being a non-smoker are. I'm sure Essence has covered these topics in their Body & Soul section.

I did a database search of Essence magazine going back to 1988 and I found two articles about breastfeeding. A paragraph on how breastfeeding benefits moms from 2004 and a piece on breastfeeding after returning to work written in 1993.

And honestly, it's not just that they need to be covering this topic more, but Essence also needs to make sure when they do, they get the information fact-checked by a lactation professional. In March of this year they published a piece online only about the study that suggested that black moms were more comfortable with formula feeding, and that this could explain the disparity in breastfeeding rates. The author (whose name isn't listed) to decides to throw in that while breastmilk is touted as complete nutrition, it is low in Vitamin D. Her solution to this problem is "regimen that combines breastfeeding and formula-feeding with an added vitamin supplement. This could also be the way to go to get mothers who aren't enthusiastic about nursing all the time to incorporate it into their feeding routine."

Now TRUST there was no place to leave a comment on this tripe or I would have. It's completely and totally inaccurate and um, who asked this anonymous blog writer for her opinion on how to get black mothers to breastfeed? Yet and still, this bad information is sitting on Essence's website to this day. That's a problem.

So while I know that Essence magazine probably thinks they have bigger fish to fry at this point (their Editor-In-Chief Angela Burt Murray has just left, after all of the controversy surrounding her hiring of a white woman as Fashion Editor) I do hope they will try to write about breastfeeding more frequently, or at the very least, with accuracy.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest post: Empowering Breasts!

I'm really pleased to share with you an email I received from an anonymous blog reader about how she was able to use breastfeeding to reclaim her breasts and body for herself and her baby after being raped. I understand that this may be triggering for some of you, so please walk away if you cannot or should not read anything related to sexual assault. I think her message is incredibly powerful and may be just what someone else needs to hear: that it is possible to breastfeed successfully after sexual assault. If you know of any resources for women who are rape survivors and are pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding and natural labor, please leave them in the comments. 

Hi Elita,

I am one of your readers - an anonymous reader at this point. I love reading and educating myself about breastfeeding. There's one point I rarely read anything about, but which I am thankful that you in several posts have pointed out: how empowering breastfeeding can be.

About two years ago I was pregnant and scared. Scared about how I was going to be able to deal with a vaginal birth - am I going to feel powerless and violated like I did during the gang rape? Am I going to have flashbacks of the rape during internal examinations, when the birth becomes very painful, if they have to stitch me up? And if so, how am I going to deal with it? Will I be able to bond with my child? So I surfed the internet for information, wanting to read about women like me, rape survivors, who had given birth. In serveral articles, breastfeeding was mentioned too - as a potential problem. I read that survivors of sexual abuse may feel uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding, their bodies belonging to someone else again, their breasts being handled, with the pain that breastfeeding sometimes causes. I hadn't really thought about that before, but reading about it triggered a lot of questions. Maybe that's how I am going to feel? What if the little baby starts searching for my breast and I will feel nothing but disgust? There were only questions and no answers.

And then I gave birth and it was both a smooth birth with effective contractions and no need for pain relief and at the same time a tough birth that required vacuum extraction in the end. But I had been concentrated and calm, there had been no flashbacks and I felt strong and good about myself. The bonding with my baby was immediate. They put him on my chest and I loved him. So simple. He searched for my breast and I gave it to him, lovingly. It took us about six weeks to get the breastfeeding right and those were tough weeks filled with tears, but also with determination. But we got it right and breastfeeding became simple and natural and a pleasure for both of us (and it still is as I decided to let him wean himself when he is ready).

I never felt like the baby was taking over my body in a negative way, the way he sucked never reminded me of the rapists abusing my breasts and the rest of my body. There simply was no connection like that. Instead, I felt myself growing stronger. In fact, it felt like my body belonged to me for the first time since the rape. My body was being used for something positive and normal; I did this, I could make my son thrive and blossom.

I would have loved to read empowering stories when I was pregnant and scared. Instead I got the impression that having been sexually abused is a really legitimate reason to bottlefeed the baby from the start. Of course it is, if the woman just can't deal with breastfeeding. But it shouldn't be presented as the norm, as a logical result of sexual abuse. Breastfeeding has empowered me and I believe it can empower lots of women with lots of different backgrounds and different baggage. And also we must also ask ourselves: is the bottle the solution for a woman who has issues with her breasts? Is the bottle going to solve her problems? Is the bottle going to empower her as breastfeeding could if she gave it a chance?

No, I have not been able to find a support group either. It would be so helpful, though, because one's past affects one's parenting so much. It's not over once you have given birth. When I was pregnant, I wrote a letter to my midwife explaining my fears and she sent me to a hospital psychologist who works with women that are afraid of giving birth. It felt like the psychologist didn't understand me and the issues I have at all and that struck me as very weird - I couldn't possibly have been the first one coming to her with those worries. A c-section was immediately presented as an option and as I said that I want to give birth vaginally, but that I need support, we spoke about what exactly I'm worried about. But she didn't offer any tools on how to handle the situations should they occur. Some psychologists seem to think that you just have to name your fears and they will disappear. One of my greatest fears had been ending up having an instrumental birth - as that has a very specific connection to the rape - and as I mentioned, that's exactly what happened. I think it could have gone either way; I could also easily have experienced the birth as something very traumatic that might have affected the bonding with my child. But I had such a wonderful midwife assissting me, someone who had read my journal and who somehow seemed to know exactly what kind of support I needed. I wish all midwives, obstetricians and lactation counsellors would learn how to deal with the results of sexual abuse and rape, I wish it were part of their training. Of course it can be a relief for someone who has troubles breastfeeding to hear from someone professional that it's ok to give the baby the bottle. But that person is also saying that it's ok for the rapists to still control that woman's body. They should try to fix the underlying problem, try to find out what kind of help the woman would need to overcome her fear/disgust/phobia. It's not fair to tell her to bottlefeed and to allow her to continue to feel that way about her body. She is worth to be healed. And it's certainly not fair towards her baby either.

And returning to the idea of a support group for moms who had been raped or molested - there is no other place where you can feel as comfortable as around people who have experienced the same. I'm pregnant again and I'm wondering how things are going to turn out this time. Will the midwife assissting me at the birth be as understanding as the one I had last time? Will I be able cope with everything without suffering any flashbacks? Will it be an instrumental birth again and what would that feel like? I'm not even sure I will talk about it with someone this time. I have the feeling that they'd think: Hey, you managed well last time, what are you worried about now? Hm, who knows, I might start such a support group if one day I feel strong enough to be more open about it.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weaning Has Me Worried Sick

My son had a bit of the sniffles this entire week. Nothing major, a low grade fever off and on for a day or so, a little bit of a drippy nose, waking up with a crust of boogers all over his face. He was never sick enough to stay home from daycare, although I gave him a dose of medicine once when he woke up in the middle of the night coughing.

Miles has had the occasional cold, starting from when he was a tiny thing, only three weeks old. My husband is a teacher so he brought home a bug, I caught it and passed it on to the baby. Because I was breastfeeding, the baby got the mildest form of the cold of all of us, but it was still hard to see him sick, struggling to nurse and breathe at the same time with a stuffy nose. But honestly, that's been the worst of it. Runny or stuffed noses, fevers, accompanied with clinginess and a desire to nurse non-stop. We've never had a case of diarrhea, no puking, no ear infections. His pediatrician has even remarked that he has the thinnest medical file of a kid in daycare he's ever seen.

I was talking to another mom once about poop (what else?) and she said how the worst poop she's ever smelled is when her kids were on antibiotics. "Am I right?" she asked. "Isn't it awful?" She was totally stunned when I told her that my son has never been on antibiotics so I couldn't say.

Breastfeeding has really been the best thing ever for keeping my son healthy. And though after three years I have HAD.ENOUGH. I'm totally afraid to wean him. Because I know the second we stop nursing, something catastrophic will happen.

I've heard the horror stories from too many moms to not know how this will end. You wean your  kid, then he gets the plague and you no longer even have breastfeeding as a way to comfort him. I know women who have nursed their kids until they self-weaned and wham! next thing you know, the kid ends up in the hospital with something awful.

It makes sense, in a way. The research shows a child's immune system isn't fully formed until about age 5 and most of us don't nurse for that long (and I have NO desire to be nursing a kid who's in kindergarten....NONE). At some point you're probably going to have a child whose immune system isn't yet completely developed, who is covered in a coating of germs from his classmates and playmates and who is no longer breastfeeding. That is a recipe for disaster and I wonder how long we can make it unscathed.

So for now, although I'm ready to be done, I'm sticking it out a little longer, for the health of my son. At least through the end of flu season.  I hope.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Your family history

For the November Carnival of Breastfeeding, we want to hear about the history of breastfeeding over the generations in your family. Did your mother breastfeed you?  Did your grandmother breastfeed?
Do you know why they made the feeding choice they did? Here's your opportunity to ask if you don't know!

Submissions are due by November 15th and the Carnival will be on November 22nd. We're using Google Docs to collect submissions, so please fill out this spreadsheet in order to submit your post.

As always, we're looking for posts that are:

- Well-written and grammatically correct
- Thoughtful and directly on point for the carnival subject
- Submitted by blogs that pertain to subjects of interest to our readers (breastfeeding, parenting, etc.)

If your post is selected for inclusion, you will be asked on the day of the carnival to edit your post to link back to each of the other participants in the carnival. Examples of past carnivals can be found here.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Breast Is Best, Where's the Confusion?

I received an email in my inbox today at work, from an industry magazine, linking to some new reviews that were available exclusively online. Since I do all of the collection development for my library, I decided to scroll through and see if there was anything interesting.

Well, hold on to your hats because apparently there are still people out there who are questioning if breast milk is really any better for babies and decided we needed a treatise defending formula feeding. The book is called Is Breast Best?: Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood. The author, Joan Wolf, decided to expound on a 2007 essay she wrote for the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law after the US government's ad campaign from 2006 used risk aversion as a means of promoting breastfeeding ("You'd never take risks before your baby is born. Why start after?" asked the ads, featuring heavily pregnant women log rolling and riding a mechnical bull at a bar).

Now, when a certain journalist tried to parse through the scientific studies and decided they were "flawed," she was criticized by nearly everyone, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Breastfeeding Committee. So I'm sort of surprised that a gender studies professor somehow thinks she is more qualified than say, Dr. Melissa Bartick, to determine whether or not there is strong science to support the case for breastfeeding.

For goodness sakes, even the reviewer, a journalist and freelance writer says, "(Wolf) seems out of her element when describing perceived flaws in medical studies of breast milk and talking about financial issues." Her review also states, "Inexplicably, she fails to discuss the price of formula, which can easily run $1,000 to $2,000 a year. Instead, she talks about what she sees as the 'exorbitant' costs of breastfeeding."

This idea of the high price of breastfeeding gets brought up again and again. Yes, pumps and milk storage bags and nursing clothing can be pricey, but there is also this argument that breastfeeding is only free if a woman's time isn't worth anything. And honestly, I'm not buying it. Do bottles make themselves? Does formula just show up at the door? (wait...don't answer that.) Do parents not have to actually take time to feed the baby once the formula is prepared? And when families are bottle-feeding, is the work always split 50/50?

Are we seriously still asking women to believe that breastfeeding isn't compatible with feminism? Wolf seems to be. In an essay she wrote for the website Opposing Views, she says that breastfeeding promotion   "derive(s) from an ethos which presumes that a moral mother will subjugate herself completely to a culturally defined, all-inclusive notion of the needs of children. When mothers have wants, such as a sense of bodily, emotional, and psychological autonomy, but children have needs... then good mothering requires that mothers repress their own wants.  Each mother is responsible for adopting behavior that reduces even minuscule or poorly understood risks to her children, regardless of the cost to herself." Again, I would argue that the risks of formula feeding are understood and that those risks are not miniscule, but you don't have to be a martyr to breastfeed. Many women come to the conclusion that bottle-feeding was not as freeing as they were led to believe it would be. And isn't the harassment of nursing moms in public that we hear about every day, the judgment of our choices from friends, family and healthcare providers alike, the pushback to any accommodations that are made for us, just as worthy of feminist discourse? Where are the scholars writing about that?

So just be prepared come January, when all of the various media outlets and morning shows trot out this "expert" to tell women around the country that there is no reason to breasteed and sites like Mom Logic and Babble applaud her for her work. You can't say you weren't warned.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baby Baby Oh Baby: Breastfeeding

When my son was a newborn, one of my favorite things to do was to massage him with oil or lotion after his bath, before nursing him off to sleep. Sometimes when he was fussy or overtired, I would strip him down to his diaper and rub him down and instantly he would calm down. I learned about infant massage from Dr. Sears' The Baby Book, where he suggests some specific techniques, like "milking" the baby's legs and the "pit stop" where you rub the lymph nodes under the armpits. I could never remember exactly what I was "supposed" to do and I didn't drag out the book every time. It really didn't matter, though, as my baby enjoyed the massages and so did I. We just sort of played it by ear and it became another way in which I learned about my baby and taught him about the world. Dr. Sears has outlined some of the benefits of massage to babies on his website, but I think it was just as beneficial for me as a new mom and gave me another way in which to bond with my baby.

A few weeks ago on Rixa's blog Stand & Deliver, she mentioned a new DVD that teaches parents about the importance of infant massage called BabyBabyOhBaby: Bonding With Your Brilliant & Beautiful Baby Through Infant Massage. What I loved about her review is how the DVD stresses the relationship between parent and child, not any specific moves or techniques. The DVD's creator, David Spark, has a philosophy very similar to that of Dr. Sears: massage is something you do with your baby, not to him, and is like a beautiful dance between caregivers and babies. I think this DVD would make a great gift for parents-to-be.

And if that wasn't wonderful enough, Spark Productions is also currently filming a DVD on breastfeeding! Check out the beautiful preview below.


How beautiful is that? I love that this also stresses the importance of nurturing with touch and how important breastfeeding is to the relationship between mom and baby. I have to remember to keep this on my radar so I can grab a copy when it comes out!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name......

Quick: what's your definition of breastfeeding? Is it a baby being nourished at the breast, receiving his mother's milk? What if mom is pumping and feeding her milk to her baby via a bottle? Is that child being breastfed? And how much human milk does a baby need to receive in order to be considered a breastfed baby? One feeding a day, which is the definition at WIC? Or at least 50/50? Some other ratio of breast milk to formula? Or only breast milk?

And while we're at it, what about exclusive breastfeeding? If your baby was supplemented in the hospital, can you consider him "exclusively breastfed"? Some moms start solids as early as 4 months but will say they "exclusive breastfed" for the recommended 6 months. This is not to downplay how difficult it is to breastfeed your baby for this long or the kudos that moms deserve. But what of the research? How we can talk about the protection offered by exclusive nursing if we can't study it because no one's really doing it?

And is it breastmilk, breast milk or breast-milk? Breastfeeding, breast-feeding, breast feeding? Why is all of this so convoluted and complicated anyway? And why can't we agree on any of it?

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Healthy Children's Certified Lactation Counselor Course

I spent the week of October 11-15 taking the Certified Lactation Counselor course through Healthy Children's Center for Breastfeeding. I knew that I wanted to take a course in breastfeeding so that I could get some basic credentials, learn more about breastfeeding and maybe begin my journey towards becoming an IBCLC. Since I don't have a healthcare background, I figured a class like this would be a good place to start to see if becoming an IBCLC was even a realistic goal or worthy of further consideration. I chosen Healthy Children's CLC class because it seemed more comprehensive than the other options available, since it was a full 40 hours.

I was lucky that the course was offered in my backyard, but many people had traveled to attend the week-long class from all over Florida and the country. We met in a classroom at a local hospital and were informed by the faculty that they are happy to travel anywhere to teach, as long as someone can offer up a space. So if you've been looking for the class in your area and it hasn't been available, find out if your local hospital is willing to host them and they will come!

The faculty for my course were Dr. Lois Arnold, who is probably best well known for her work in human milk banking, and Sheri Garner, a nurse and lactation consultant who did a lot of work in military facilities. Both women were extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter and were great speakers. There really wasn't ever a dull moment, even when the material being presented wasn't new.

Now, as I said, I don't work in healthcare, but the majority of the women in the class with  me did. I'd say about half of the participants were nurses, mainly in Mother/Baby, but a few who worked in the NICU. The other half seemed to be WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors. I was literally the only person who had no connection to healthcare or working with breastfeeding moms at all (there were two registered dietitians in the class and one speech pathologist and a couple IBCLCs there for continuing education credits.) Still, I'd say that I already knew about 85% of the material that was covered in the class.

There was a lot of discussion about the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding in this country, the WHO Code, infant formula, hospital best practices including Baby Friendly, how to talk to moms to encourage them to breastfeed, etc. All things that we talk about on this blog and my Facebook fan page and Twitter on the daily. So for me, a lot of this was review. Thankfully it's a topic I just can't get enough of, so it didn't bother me, but of course, your mileage may vary.

What was new for me was the science stuff: how milk is made, the hormones involved in lactation, the medical terminology, the diagrams of the various body parts and systems involved. I have never been very good with these sort of left-brained topics so for me, a lot of this felt rushed. I was struggling to remember my 9th grade biology and had a hard time remembering what all of the terms meant.  For everyone else it was probably review. And strangely enough, everyone else seemed to know very little about things like the WHO Code and formula marketing.

So while I enjoyed the course, there are a couple of caveats. I think the course really caters more to folks who are already working with moms and babies, and that makes sense. Nurses, lactation consultants, midwives and RDs are taking the class for continuing education credits. And to that end, Healthy Children recently added a new competency to the class. Before, participants were expected to do a brief homework assignment each night which included role playing with a partner and answering some short essay questions. Now, in order to pass the course and become a Certified Lactation Counselor, you must not only turn in the homework assignments and pass the 100-question exam offered on the final day, you must also pass a LAT competency.

The LAT is the Lactation Assessment Tool, created by Healthy Children, to help with assessing breastfeeding. It is a sheet that a CLC or IBCLC could use while observing a mom nursing her baby and determine whether or not the baby is nursing well. It asks questions about the latch, the way mom is holding the baby, the baby's behavior, etc. For the CLC course, you are shown a short video of a mom breastfeeding a baby and have to fill in the LAT. This portion of the class is pass/fail, meaning if you get anything wrong on the LAT you've failed and will not pass the overall course, even if you ace the multiple choice exam. I don't know how I didn't know this new competency  had been added to the course, but I didn't know. Many of the people in the class with me didn't know and much freaking out ensued. So if NURSES WHO WORK WITH MOMS AND BABIES EVERY DAY were freaking out, you can imagine how yours truly felt. I've never in my life helped a mom to breastfeed. And while I've read a lot of breastfeeding books, I would never say that I feel qualified to do so and I don't think the hour or so we spent on this was sufficient for someone outside of the medical profession to pass this portion. So if I pass, ya'll, it will truly be a miracle.

Overall, I can say that I enjoyed the course and it did help me to solidify what I'd like to do in the future and gave me a better understanding of what working with moms and babies is like. If I pass, it would be really cool to be able to call myself a CLC and  I'd love to start teaching some breastfeeding classes in the community. If I don't pass I'll definitely be disappointed and at this point, I'm not sure if I would bother retaking the LAT competency or just chalk it up to a fun experience and move forward.

Has anyone else taken the CLC or another lactation education class? What are your thoughts?

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association Conference

On October 25th, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Third Annual Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association conference. BMBFA has been on my radar for a few years now, and I've written before about how I think the founder, Kiddada Ramey, is one of the top black movers and shakers in the breastfeeding world.

Now, when Kiddada asked me to speak I was scared out of my mind. I speak all the time in front of groups for my real job, but I've never done a presentation for a breastfeeding conference. I knew that lots of amazing women were going to be presenting (including Bettina Forbes of Best for Babes, Napiera Loveless of MamaTotoMatema and researcher Dr. Paula Meier) and I didn't want to disappoint anyone. But I figured this was a good place to get my feet wet because it was a smaller, more intimate conference and I would be amongst friends. I already knew that some of the moms from BMBFA that I communicate with on Facebook and Twitter would be there. I just couldn't turn down the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in person.

I presented on one of my favorite topics: how I use blogging and other forms of social media to connect with other black breastfeeding moms online. I think the presentation went really well. People asked some great questions afterwards and a couple even come up to me afterwards to tell me how much they liked my presentation. It was so nice to get such positive feedback. I was really feeling the love, ya'll!

Kiddada was so inspiring and I really want to be like her when I grow up! I'd love to start a chapter of BMBFA locally or use the power of social media to raise some funds for the organization because she is doing such amazing things for moms in Detroit. I'm already looking forward to going back next year!

*FYI, I've decided to participate in National Blog Post Month AKA NaBloPoMo. The point is to improve your writing skills by blogging every.single.day. throughout the month of November. I'm going to give it a whirl. I can't promise that all of my posts will be good, but you WILL be hearing from me every day for the next 30 days. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it interesting and fresh.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Landscape of Breastfeeding Support

I'm not sure how I missed this one, but I just stumbled upon the fact that the Centers for Disease Control contracted the United States Breastfeeding Committee to create a library of images of how communities across the country support breastfeeding.

The project is titled "The Landscape of Breastfeeding Support,"and called for breastfeeding coalitions to submit proposals illustrating how they are supporting breastfeeding in their community. Only eight states were selected for inclusion, with my state of Florida choosing to focus on how businesses support their employees who are nursing moms. The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition's photo campaign is called "Get Pumped" and features women who are pumping at work.

The Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition was also chosen and their local news covered the story and included some of the fantastic photos they took for the archive. You can see a clip from the news story here.

The projects all had to be completed by the end of September so I'm guessing (hoping!) we'll get a glimpse of the full collection soon. I also hope there will be a lot of diversity in this campaign and that moms from all races, ethnicities and walks of life will be represented. The images will be part of the national archive and I'm guessing available for use in breastfeeding promotion by WIC, authors of breastfeeding books, La Leche League and bloggers alike.

Had you heard about this project? And are you as excited about it as I am?

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Little Known Black History Fact: The Fultz Quads

During the opening plenary at the Black Mother's Breastfeeding Association's third annual conference, I learned about the Fultz Quads, quadruplet girls born to a tenant farmer named Pete and his deaf, mute wife Annie Mae on May 23, 1946. I'm not sure how I'd never learned about this important piece of African-American history, but I'm happy to be able to share it with you, in case you've never heard of them either.

You can imagine the chances of a couple conceiving quadruplets in the 40s, decades before the availability of fertility treatments, and the fact that the family was poor and black made this a sensational story that garnered nation-wide media attention. The Fultz's already had six children at home when Annie Mae headed to the hospital to give birth to her babies.

The white doctor who delivered the quads, Fred Klenner, gained world renown for attending the birth of the first recorded set of black quadruplets. Dr. Klenner decided to name the girls himself, calling them Mary Ann, Mary Louise, Mary Alice and Mary Catherine. All of the names were for women in his family. The black delivery nurse was quoted in a newspaper article as saying, "At that time, you know, it was before integration. They did us how they wanted. And these were very poor people. He was a sharecropper, Pete was, and she couldn't read or write."

As much of a media circus as the girls' birth was, it seems no one wanted in on the action more than the infant formula companies, whose business was exploding due to the post-war baby boom. In addition to making the girls guinea pigs for his "Vitamin C therapy," Dr. Klenner also negotiated a deal with the PET milk company, which agreed to provide the girls with formula, food, medical care, a private nurse and a farm when they reached adulthood, in exchange for using their image in promotional materials.

This is the beginning of the aggressive marketing of infant formula to African-Americans in this country. Surely the wife of a poor sharecropper would have breastfed her children had PET not come into the picture. And of course black women were breastfeeding their children at this time because they really had no choice. Formula would not have been an affordable or viable option for most people. So although white women were turning to formula in droves, the formula companies were missing a huge portion of the market because black women were still breastfeeding. So how do you change their minds? The image of four beautiful black baby girls "growing up strong" on formula was probably pretty convincing.

The images of the girls as they grew up could be found in ads in black interest publications like Ebony. They even made the cover when they turned one.

They got to meet Presidents Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Althea Gibson, appeared on television shows, and in hundreds of ads for PET milk.

You probably won't be surprised to find out that things didn't work out so well for the Fultz Quads. They were eventually adopted by the baby nurse provided to the family by PET. The farm they were promised turned out to be in the middle of nowhere on land that couldn't grow weeds. They grew up embittered over the way PET profited from their image while they remained poor. The public eventually forgot about them and they lived quiet lives.

But what were the consequences of being fed "baby milk" in infancy? Well, the three eldest of the Fultz quads were all dead of breast cancer before they reached age 55. The youngest sister, Mary Catherine, also has breast cancer. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

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Sponsor Spotlight: Undercover Mama

I'm very excited to introduce you all to a new product from one of my sponsors, Undercover Mama! The Undercover Mama is a strapless undershirt that allows a Mama to wear her favorite nursing bra, which gives shape and support to the "girls," while also keeping the "muffin top" area covered. It offers moms lots of versatility because it turns any bra into a nursing tank! It's perfect for layering or can be worn on its own.

Yes, the Undercover Mama works with ALL bras, not just nursing bras. When moms are done nursing, they can (and do!) still wear their Undercover Mama as a layering top. At $20, it's both stylish and affordable. It's especially great for busty moms who don't get enough support from a built in "shelf" bra.

Undercover Mama is also generously offering a 15% coupon for Blacktating readers. Simply enter code 15OFF at checkout. This offer can be combined with the promotion for free shipping when you purchase more than one shirt.

Curious how the Undercover Mama works? Check out this video for a demo.

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