Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Imagine Living in this Building

Breastfeeding Mural, Denmark

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stephen Colbert Breastfeeds His Grammy

Stephen Colbert must know a lot of about breastfeeding. First, he discussed pumping at work with Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Now, he talks about breastfeeding his Grammy.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Apologizes for Feeding His Grammy Baby Food
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

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Action Against Hunger & UNICEF's Breastfeeding Initiative in Haiti

The organization Action Against Hunger has created an initiative in Haiti, supported by UNICEF,  to protect breastfeeding in Haiti. Since the earthquake, lots of mothers have stopped breastfeeding under the mistaken belief that stress and lack of adequate food would make their breast milk go bad. With the influx of formula donations, a lot of women began to formula feed, despite the lack of access to clean drinking water.

After the earthquake, AAH set up tents in Port-au-Prince to provide mothers a safe place to breastfeed their babies. The women in the tents also provide mothers with medical, nutritional and emotional support. Here is a short video about the initiative and how AAH is working to protect breastfeeding in Haiti.

Meeting Urgent Needs of Women with Young Children in Haiti from Action Against Hunger USA on Vimeo.

You can read more about these "Baby Tents" on UNICEF's site. Also, American Idol star Kris Allen recently visited Haiti and performed "Amazing Grace" for the women and children in one of the Baby Tents.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lawmaker Calls for Ban on Selling Breast Milk

Last fall, Channel 3 News out of Memphis, TN ran an investigative journalism piece on women who buy and sell breast milk online. Their "investigation" uncovered what most of us already knew exists: a marketplace online, on various forums, where women post about their need to purchase breast milk and moms with a healthy supply offer up their extra for sale. It's been going on for quite a while, and will continue to go on because there are a lot of women who don't believe formula is a safe alternative to breast milk who either can't breastfeed or don't make enough to meet their baby's needs.

A local Memphis lawmaker named Joe Towns, Jr. got wind of the story and has proposed a ban on selling breast milk online. In one of the most ironic statements ever, he declared selling breast milk to be "purely profit driven," and that "we should never place profit over the health concerns of infants." Maybe he should spend a while reading about the marketing tactics the formula companies use if he wants to talk about placing profit over the health concerns of infants.


Despite how you may feel about buying and selling breast milk online (I personally wouldn't do it, and this practice is discouraged by La Leche League), I don't think it's "purely profit driven" for the women involved. I think moms who sell their breast milk online feel a kinship with other women who want to breastfeed and for whatever reason can't supply their babies with all of the milk they need. The sense I've always gotten is that these women feel they are doing a favor for a friend, not creating a business enterprise. Besides, no one online is selling her breast milk at the same cost as the for-profit companies like Prolacta, who charge $3 per ounce for breast milk.

I think Rep. Towns could better use his muscle to help create milk banks in Tennessee, so that women whose babies need breast milk have a safe way to obtain it. If there were more human milk banks that were fully stocked with screened milk, moms wouldn't have to risk their baby's health by buying it online from virtual strangers. He, like many people, seems to be bothered by the "ick" factor of sharing human milk, rather than considering how breast milk is the normal food for infants and is life-saving in many cases. Women who can't breastfeed should have real options and be able to make an informed choice on whether or not they want to use formula. Right now, the only thing women who've educated themselves about the potential dangers of formula can do is buy breast milk online from women they don't know. And that is a problem.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Other Uses for Breast Pumps

Have you ever stopped to consider any other uses for your breast pump? I mean, after you fork over hundreds of dollars for a quality pump, you may feel like you got your money’s worth if you were able to provide that liquid gold for your baby for a full year (or more!) But perhaps you ladies who are more, um, frugal, wish that you could’ve found yet another use for your pump. If you’re both cheap and lazy, you’ll love what the guys at Evil Mad Scientist came up with…..a cocktail robot that makes mixed drinks. Hot!

Apparently there are people all over this great country of ours who spend lots of time creating Barbots, AKA robot bartenders. There was even a festival celebrating these cocktail robots in San Francisco last night.

This beauty was created using an Evenflo double electric pump and is capable of making cocktails with up to three ingredients. According to its inventor, it was tricky finding a pump that could quickly move liquids, but was also safe to use with food. Enter the breast pump! He says:
"If there's one consumer group that I can expect to be more picky than me when it comes to food safety it's new mothers, so these pumps-- designed to move food grade fluids without contamination-- aren't actually a crazy thing to consider. They are cleanable, don't use much power, and are inexpensive. Amazon sells a pair of these "Evenflo Comfort Select Performance" units for $45. (Try as I might, I could not find a three-pack anywhere.)"

And for those of you intellectuals who are into science and engineering, here’s what your breast pump looks like on the inside.

By the way, the guy behind Evil Mad Scientist used this baby to create a White Russian. I won’t ask where he got the milk.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The CinnaMom: Jerilyn Brusseau

I recently went on a trip to Seattle sponsored by Cinnabon. If you care to read the details of that trip and enter a giveaway for a $20 gift certificate to Cinnabon, please see this post.

On my trip, I got to meet the woman who created the Cinnabon back in 1985, Jerilyn Brusseau. All of the bloggers on the trip took a moment to introduce ourselves to Jerilyn and talk about our blogs. After the introductions, Jerilyn came over to talk to me and tell me how wonderful she thought it was that I write a breastfeeding blog. She told me how when she was pregnant with her first child at age 21, she wanted to breastfeed, but everyone around her kept telling her she should be a modern woman, there was Gerber now, so you don't have to "do that."

"Well, I've always been a bit of a renegade," she told me, "and I knew I was going to breastfeed that baby!" And she did. She connected with a local woman in her community who just happened to be a member of La Leche League and gave her a book called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. "All I had was that book, and it taught me how to nurse," she said.

Not only did Jerilyn go on to nurse her children, she and some other ladies from her local chapter of La Leche League actually started their own milk bank in the 60s for a baby that wasn't thriving on formula at a local Seattle hospital. They got a van and a fridge and would drive around collecting the milk and bringing it to the hospital and saved that baby's life. Jerilyn's daughter even works as a lactation consultant today!

Isn't that amazing? One woman was able to help Jerilyn and it changed her life and affected not only her family, but the people around her. Now her daughter is on a mission to help moms and babies, too. It gave me goosebumps to hear her story and I am so glad she shared it with me and that I am able to share it with you. Jerilyn is an inspiration, but so are all of you. You help women to breastfeed, to meet their nursing goals, you give them a sense of community. You can never know how many people's lives you change with your passion for and advocacy of breastfeeding. So if no one has told you yet today or recently, thank you. Thank you for your commitment to this cause, for all you do to help women and babies.

And an extra shout out to Alice of Sweet Savory Life and Shara of Mommy Perks, who have nursed three kids each! And to Cathy of Gastronomy Blog, who doesn't yet have kids, but bragged about the superiority of her mother's breast milk and plans to breastfeed her future babies.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Black Women Breastfeeding: A Multigenerational Story

Here is a beautiful video featuring one family's story of breastfeeding.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Come Out of the Closet, Michelle!

Remember during the election when I wondered if the Obama kids were breastfed? Apparently, they were! Yes, Michelle Obama has always been on SuperMom status: gorgeous, smart, an attorney, and a breastfeeding mom! I don't know how anyone knows for sure that Michelle breastfed, but apparently it's a known fact that Michelle nursed both of her daughters and pumped for them at work.

You may have read that Michelle will be unveiling a new anti-obesity campaign, the details of which will be announced on Tuesday. So far Michelle has declined to speak about breastfeeding, but advocates are hoping she will change her mind, since we know that breastfeeding is part of a healthy lifestyle that does prevent obesity in children and helps moms lose the pregnancy weight easier.

"We have a dynamic role model in the White House, a black woman who gets the idea that she can go to work, be a lawyer and still provide milk for her baby," said Napiera Loveless, co-founder of MamaTotoMatema, a Cincinnati-based organization committed to educating and encouraging leaders and health care professionals to adopt different approaches to promoting breastfeeding in African American families. "She takes away the excuse."

Michelle is also such a beloved figure for African-American women, who knows how much influence she would have if she talked about the wonders of breastfeeding!  I'm constantly bemoaning the lack of breastfeeding role models in the black community, and I've been holding out hope for Beyonce to get pregnant and breastfeed. But if Michelle Obama has already breastfed, has pumped at work, understands the commitment it takes and can speak to the benefits of breastfeeding and how worth it it is to make some sacrifices for your baby, well, I think that would be a huge boon to the cause.

So come on, Michelle! Come out of the closet! Talk about breastfeeding! You have the power to make a difference in the number of our women who choose to nurse. We're counting on you. I'm counting on you!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Scientists link serotonin deficit to SIDS

Despite the "back to sleep" campaign and increased awareness on how to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, it's still the number one cause of death of babies in the US during their first year of life. A recent study may shed some light on why certain babies may be more susceptible to dying of SIDS.

According to Dr. Hannah Kinney, who conducted the research on the brain stems of 41 babies who had died of SIDS, serotonin levels in 35 of the SIDS babies were 26% lower than in all babies who had not died of SIDS. The article states:

Kinney had previously found differences related to serotonin receptors in SIDS babies' brain stems, but it was not clear whether there was too much or too little of the neurotransmitter that sends signals between nerve cells. An unanswered question was whether the serotonin was there and the babies' brains were unable to use it.

Marian Willinger, who is responsible for the SIDS research program at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, called Kinney's results on a serotonin deficit important.

"I think this is an important advance in our understanding of what's wrong with the brain stem of many babies who die from SIDS," she said in an interview. "It helps us ... to understand the pathophysiology, how the baby dies, because we don't really know."

Kinney said the goal is to identify the infants who have this problem.

"We are closer than we have been, but we still have quite a journey to go, to test and then identify it in the living infant and then to have a treatment for it," she said. "Those are long-term goals and we know we are years away from them."
So what does this have to do with breastfeeding? In a 1997 article, Dr. James Prescott talks about the role of breastfeeding and breast milk in brain development. He states:
"There is another neurobiological mechanism involved in the development of brain serotonin–tryptophan–a precursor amino acid essential for the development of brain serotonin which is richly present in colostrum and breastmilk but absent in formula milk. Thus, two distinct and different neurophysiological mechanisms have been identified that contributes to deficits in brain serotonin: a) failed physical affectional bonding in the maternal-infant/child relationship (sensory processes); and b) the amino acid tryptophan present in colostrum and breast milk but absent in formula milk (neurochemical processes)."

It's interesting stuff and definitely worth reading. I am always surprised that there are very few mentions of breastfeeding as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS, yet there seems to be a lot of research to suggest that breastfed babies die of SIDS at a much lower rate. I think this serotonin finding is just another example of that. I'd be curious to know how many of the 35 babies whose serotonin levels were much lower than normal were also being breastfed.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Should You Buy Generic Formula?

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I and other lactivists have a huge problem with the aggressive marketing employed by the formula companies. The three biggest brand names, Enfamil, Similac and Nestle, spend big bucks every year to get moms to choose and stick with their particular brand of formula. This includes, but is not limited to, advertising in parenting magazines as well as mainstream magazines like People, giving out freebies to pediatrician's offices and hospitals, sending samples to the homes of moms-to-be, sponsoring studies to tout the benefits of formula, and making shady if not outright outrageously false claims about how closely they approximate breast milk.

A few months ago, Enfamil lost a court case brought by PBM, the makers of the store-brand or "generic" formulas you'll find at drug stores and warehouse stores like Target and Sam's Club. A district court in Virginia ruled that Mead Johnson, makers of Enfamil, had mislead the public in its advertising that suggested that store brand formula was not as nutritious as their own. The text of one of their ads read, "It may be tempting to try a less expensive store brand, but only Enfamil LIPIL is clinically proven to improve brain and eye development," and "there are plenty of other ways to save on baby expenses without cutting back on nutrition" (like say, breastfeeding....heh). Anyway, Enfamil was ordered to pay PBN $13 million and is barred from making these types of claims again.

Of course there is not really any difference nutritionally between the expensive name-brand formulas and their store-brand counterparts. All of this is regulated by the FDA and all infant formula has to meet the same standards. You may find some variation in things like color or consistency, but nutritionally, it's the same.  In the past when I had friends who were weaning or needed to supplement with formula, I'd tell them to just buy the store brand. After all, it is the exact same ingredients and you'll save yourself a ton of money that could be better spent elsewhere. But I've begun to notice that PBM is working on several social media campaigns using mom bloggers to advertise its products and the fact that they will save you money over the name brands, and their marketing is beginning to make me uncomfortable.

I first noticed sponsored tweets that were linking to this YouTube video, where moms and dads on the street are asked to compare the ingredients on a can of Enfamil to those in PBM's formula. The tweets from people read "Save money, buy store brand formula." Then I noticed bloggers being paid or otherwise compensated to blog about how much money using store-brand formula saved them. Even breastfeeding moms have gotten in on the act, tweeting and blogging PMBs press releases for pay.  It has gotten so insidious that I see one of these tweets almost every single day in my Twitter stream and a simple Google search will lead you to a ton of blog posts sponsored by PBM.

Of course this is a WHO Code violation, and although PBM would like you to think they are more ethical than the brand name formula companies, they're not (in fact, PBM has paid for celebrity endorsements from Brooke Shields and Tori Spelling for their Bright Beginnings formula). They also recently announced they've hired a new Executive VP of Marketing to help them increase their sales and market share.

So what is next for PBM? Will they, too, begin mailing out freebies to new moms and creating "breastfeeding support bags" for moms to take home with them from the hospital? Will they expand their social media campaign?

What do you all think of these marketing tactics? Is PBM going too far or is this just a smart business move in this economy? And what of the bloggers being paid to advertise store brand formula? Do they need an education on all of the problems aggressive formula marketing can cause?

What do you think? Has PBM gone too far?

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Use of soy formula increases risk of fibroids

A new study shows that there may be another danger to artificial feeding your infant, particularly if you have a daughter and are giving her soy formula. A recent study of 20,000 white women found that those who had been fed soy formula rather than breastfed or given cow's milk based formula were 25% more likely to be diagnosed with early-onset fibroids. Although this is the first study of its kind and relies on women (and perhaps their mothers) to remember how they were fed as infants, I think the findings are interesting. We already know that soy can affect the reproductive system because of the level of estrogen found in soy products, so it makes sense that early introduction of soy might cause these benign uterine tumors.

So does this mean soy products are unsafe? Actually, no. Soy is a huge part of Asian diets, which are generally considered to be very healthy. However, as the study notes, in Asian countries, exposure to soy happens in the oppposite way as it does here in the US. Most babies in Asia are breastfed and then go on to consume tofu, soy sauce and other soy products throughout their lifetime. American babies are more likely to be fed soy formula during their first year of life, and only eat small quantities of soy products thereafter.

So why are soy formulas so popular in the US? Some people think soy formula is healthier for babies than milk-based formula, but that's actually untrue. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends soy formula for a small percentage of babies, including those whose parents are strict vegans, those with a rare disease called congenital galactosemia and another small group with a true lactose intolerance. Many parents switch their baby to soy formula if they appear colicky or gassy, when in reality, many babies who react poorly to cow's milk formula will also have trouble with soy protein. In those cases, a hypoallergenic formula is called for, not soy milk.

The truth of the matter is,  African-American women have higher rates of uterine fibroids than any other ethnic group. This study didn't look at the connection between black women and soy formula, but if you're a black woman and considering using soy formula, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for further studies.

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See's Candies Giveaway

I have a sweet giveaway, just in time for Valentine's Day over on Blacktating Reviews: a two-pound box of See's Candies chocolates. Enter now, the contest ends on Friday!

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