Ask President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a priority

This morning President-elect Barack Obama reaffirmed his strong commitment to health care reform. The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) believes that breastfeeding is an “essential public health issue” and should be a high priority for the incoming administration. In light of this, the USBC has created a petition urging President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a high priority. The petition is up to more than 6400 signatures and growing.

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USBC points out that beyond the numerous health benefits to both mother and child, breastfeeding also provides “significant economic and environmental benefits for families, employers, and society.” According to the USBC (definitions in parentheses are mine):

Excess health care costs totaling more than $4 billion must be paid by the U.S. health care system each year to treat otitis media (middle ear infection), gastroenteritis (infection or irritation of the stomach and intestines), and necrotizing enterocolitis (an acute inflammatory disease occurring in the intestines of premature infants) – childhood diseases and conditions preventable or reduced by breastfeeding. When prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions is factored in, the potential economic benefits of breastfeeding are significantly greater.

The petition calls for President-elect Obama to:

1. Instruct the Surgeon General to issue a statement in support of breastfeeding urging all sectors (governmental and non-governmental) involved in supporting women, children, and families to improve their breastfeeding policies.

2. Enact a national paid family leave policy.

3. Endorse the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as well as the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding.

4. Ask the Federal Trade Commission to monitor infant formula marketing.

5. Ask the Food and Drug Administration to include labeling on powdered infant formula warning that it is not sterile and providing instructions on how to properly reconstitute it.

6. Highlight the benefits for employers of workplace breastfeeding support programs as part of your program to promote flexible work arrangements.

7. Urge all insurers to cover lactation care and support services.

8. Approve an increase in breastfeeding support funds for the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), especially to support the peer counseling program.

9. Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to recommend that all hospitals achieve the Baby-Friendly designation.

10. Ensure that emergency management agencies are trained in breastfeeding support and have breastfeeding supply kits available for distribution in emergencies.

If you agree, I hope you will sign the petition too.

Also this morning President-elect Obama appointed former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Director of the new White House Office on Health Reform.

In his remarks, Secretary-designate Daschle appealed to Americans to play an active role in health reform by signing up to lead a health care discussion — a series of meetings everyday people are hosting, in which they’ll gather ideas and report back to the Transition’s Health Policy Team. The team will then incorporate the results into its recommendations for the Obama-Biden administration. He said it’s up ordinary Americans to “share their ideas about what’s broken and how to fix it” by leading a health care discussion.

This looks like another great opportunity to impress upon the incoming administration the need to make breastfeeding a priority.

Angela White at Breastfeeding 123 remarks, “What if politicians learned of something they could do to lower health care costs yet improve infant and maternal health at the same time? Doesn’t that sound like something everyone could and should get behind?”

Marijke from Womb Within says:

Although we know about the benefits of breastfeeding and that it helps lower healthcare costs in so many ways, encouraging and offering much needed assistance to new mothers who encounter problems is still not a priority in the United States.

The government had produced a plan and came up with realistic targets, Healthy People 2010 Breastfeeding Targets, that were only met by a few states. (If you click on the Healthy People link, that gives you a pdf document report card.)

2010 is just one year away (wow, that snuck up on me!) and, according to the “breastfeeding report card,” there is still a lot of work to be done to meet the breastfeeding targets.

API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International, and Tanya at Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog are also encouraging people to sign the petition.

Heather at A Mama’s Blog recently wrote a post about melamine found in United States infant formula and then a follow-up post about the FDA’s “irresponsible” response to the melamine where they state that trace amounts of melamine are safe. She points out that beyond the health benefits, there is the added peace of mind that comes from breastfeeding because you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals, like trace amounts of melamine, showing up in formula, as has been the case first (in larger amounts) in China and now in the United States.

It is my hope that President-elect Obama will take the petition seriously and, with the help of Tom Daschle, make the positive changes needed to create an environment where not only can we achieve our national breastfeeding targets, but women and their families can be successful in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Orgasmic birth on 20/20 this Friday

Update: The show has been pushed back. The new tentative air date is Jan. 2 now.

Just a quick note to let you all (but especially the birth junkies) know that ABC’s 20/20 is doing a segment on Orgasmic Birth this Friday, Dec. 12.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? OB-GYN Dr. Christiane Northrup, midwife Ina May Gaskin, and childbirth educator Debra Pascali-Bonaro all agree that under the right circumstances, i.e. when a woman is relaxed (and in my opinion very comfortable with her body), and due to the huge hormonal changes that occur in the body during labor, a kind of birth ecstasy is possible.

To learn more about the 20/20’s Orgasmic Birth, check out Labor Orgasms called ‘Best-Kept Secret’ – Moms, Experts Say Relaxation is Key to Pleasurable Childbirth. Then be sure to tune into 20/20 on Friday. I’ve already got my DVR set to record it.

What do you think? Is a segment on ecstatic birth “a bit too much information” as one woman on Twitter called it or, in a largely-medicalized, fear-based birthing society, just the kind of information women need?

Additional resources:
Orgasmic Birth, the film
Orgasmic Childbirth: The Fun Doesn’t End at Conception! by Laura Shanley
Pioneering midwife touts ‘orgasmic birth’ on MSNBC

Edited to add: I want to point out that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.

For women who hope to create a similarly happy ending for their labor, Pascali-Bonaro hopes they realize that it’s possible, but the goal is not necessarily an actual orgasm.

“I hope women watching and men watching don’t feel that what we’re saying is, every woman should have an orgasmic birth,” she said. “Our message is that women can journey through labor and birth in all different ways. And there are a lot more options out there, to make this a positive and pleasurable experience.”

Cool and (mostly) eco-friendly holiday crafts

When I was asked to write a post about cool holiday crafts, I thought, “Oh, this could be fun!” I’ve been getting a little more crafty myself lately and have been really digging the craft blogs. However, in light of my No Plastic Holiday Challenge (also on BlogHer) and my propensity to be a greenie, it didn’t feel right to me to showcase anything other than eco-friendly holiday crafts. I began my search and was pleasantly pleased with what I found. Let the reusing, recycling and recrafting begin!

Crafts, especially during the holiday season, are a great way to bring families and/or friends together. Depending on the craft, kids of all ages can get involved, making it a wonderful bonding activity. Rachael Page from EcoFactory points out, “Crafts can be even more rewarding if they utilize items that would otherwise be discarded into our landfills.” Her top 10 list of Eco-Friendly Ways to Trim Your Tree includes things like paper chains made from wrapping paper scraps, bottle cap ornaments and tin lid ornaments.

grinchlightbulb.jpgWhile we’re on the subject of recycled ornaments, check out these cool ornaments made from light bulbs and baby food jars from The Wicked Stepmom and these glittered recycled bulb ornaments from Craft Chi. Over at Cordite County, there are tutorials to make three light bulb ornaments – a Santa, snowman and a reindeer. Photo credit: The Wicked Stepmom

Here’s a homemade ornament idea from Simply Thrifty that the kids can be a part of – painted pinecones!

Alpha Mom has the blueprints for a super cute life-sized gingerbread house (for the kids). Wow! My kids would eat that up (pun intended).

At Creatively Green, Wenona used decorated toilet paper rolls to make gift card holders and turned paint chip samples into cute gift tags.

Grandma Shelley at Grandma’s Modern Day Trunk of Treasures has an easy Christmas picture frame craft for kids that involves macaroni.

Sommer at Green & Clean Mom has tips for Eco-Friendly Gifts and Giving for Kids this Holiday Season and All Year Round. She suggests using pressed seasonal holiday flowers to decorate beeswax or soy candles, making decorative paperweights out of rocks, and making a picture frame decorated with puzzle pieces (from puzzles that are missing pieces). And what does she suggest to wrap these kid-friendly crafty gifts? Your child’s own artwork, of course!

Derek wrote a post with five simple holiday crafts to decorate and celebrate, including things like popcorn garland, salt dough ornaments, and a clove pomander made by sticking whole cloves into an orange – festive, pretty and smells great.

grinchfeet.jpgHere’s a craft that could double as a gift, Grinch feet slippers! Em from Modern Cottage simply washed some thrift store wool sweater on hot to make felt, then used this pattern and stitched them up into cute and warm pointy-toed slippers. Photo credit: Modern Cottage

If your holiday crafts require felt, like this Mini Santa Claus, Sleigh and Two Reindeer and you don’t feel like making your own, check out this cool recycled plastic felt made from recycled bottles that Summer of Wired for Noise recently wrote about.

Here’s a crafty project from Junk Creation that transforms old cereal boxes into gift boxes. Brandie, from A Journey of 1000 Stitches begins with just one…, also posted a craft project using cereal boxes and made them into magazine holders which could easily be decorated festively for the holidays.

Zen Crochet by Akua has a round up of several mini Christmas trees made both by knitting and crocheting and at All Free Crafts Blog there are some cute knit or crochet Christmas bells and wreaths.

tissuepaperwreaths.jpgHere’s an example of a craft that’s not necessarily green, but could easily be made more eco-friendly by using recycled or reusable materials. These tissue paper wreaths from There Is No Place Like Home aren’t specifically green in nature, but they look like a fun craft that the kiddos could get involved in and if you used old magazines instead of tissue paper, they become a little more eco-friendly. It might be fun for the kids especially to search through the magazine for the colors you need for the wreath. I think you could easily find reusable items around the house to use for decorating the wreath too. Photo credit: There Is No Place Like Home

Although many crafts you come across may not be eco-friendly, there are likely ways of greening them up a bit. Get creative, get crafty and don’t forget to get out your reusable and recycled materials whenever possible.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Snowy day

Today was our first official snowy day of the season (with more than a dusting of snow I mean) and since the kids finally have new boots (that fit!), they were able to go out and play in it. I don’t mind the snow much myself (I rather enjoy shoveling. Shhh. Don’t tell Jody that.), but the 23 degrees for a high is a little too cold for my comfort. Not theirs though. They didn’t mind at all. 🙂

Ava and Julian out in the snow 12/4/08 Peek-a-boo, Julian 12/4/08

FYI: my blog was down for several hours last night and into the morning and, as a result of several restores, there may be some “Hello, World!” posts showing up in your feed reader today.  Please disregard them. I’m going to be switching hosts in the near future (bye-bye BlueHost). Don’t want to have to deal with what I went through this morning ever again. 

Guest post: Diane Wiessinger in Israel on Breastfeeding Language

Hi, readers of Crunchy Domestic Goddess. My name is Hannah and I blog at A Mother in Israel about life with my six kids, parenting, and homemaking, along with social commentary about life in Israel. I also volunteer as a breastfeeding counselor. Last week I attended a conference with breastfeeding expert Diane Wiessinger. You can read my introductory post here.

Israel, aside from being a center of international conflict, is a developed country of seven million with a high birth rate. A lactation consultant told me that in her town of 30,000, enough children are born to fill six kindergarten classes every month.

In Israel breastfeeding is the default option, at least in theory. You don’t hear much about the choice to breast or bottlefeed, and mothers are expected to nurse in the hospital. But hospital routines are rigid, and in some cases babies still sleep in the nursery at night–with the mother needing to request a wake-up call that may or may not happen. Babies often get one or more bottles in the hospital. Outside of hospitals formula companies promote their products freely, even though Israel is a signatory to the WHO Code of Marketing Substitutes.

Israeli mothers receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, up from 12 thanks to a recent law. Fathers can replace mothers at home after the first six weeks. Mothers also get a “nursing hour,” working one hour less daily, for an additional four months and in some cases up to a year of age. (Bottle-feeding mothers get it too.) La Leche League and other volunteer organizations are active, and the number of IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) has grown exponentially, but medical professionals lack knowledge and most mothers don’t make it past a few weeks or months.

A few years ago, several babies died because one type of imported soy formula lacked Vitamin B1. This caused a temporary upswing in breastfeeding rates. Unlike in the US, nursing in public is barely an issue.

One of Wiessinger’s talks is called, “Watch Your Language.” When discussing the talk with friends, I found that moms get defensive when they hear about the risks of bottle-feeding. But by exploring the connection between language and breastfeeding, we don’t mean to chastise mothers for giving formula. Mothers are subject to many pressures and make decisions that work for their families. Mothers who wean early are the last ones we should blame.

We need to change the way our culture looks at breastfeeding. The breastfeeding rates of the United States and Israel are behind those of other western countries. Since babies and mothers are fundamentally the same, the problem must lie in the culture.

In her talk Wiessinger showed how the language used to talk about breastfeeding ultimately harms mothers and babies. We use imprecise language because we are afraid: Afraid of making Continue reading Guest post: Diane Wiessinger in Israel on Breastfeeding Language

Crafting pizza, mail, and sachets out of felt!

I’m not usually a very crafty person. I would like to be, but I just haven’t gone there yet and figure I have enough things to occupy my time without adding crafts to the mix too. 😉

However, in the spirit of the No Plastic Holiday Challenge (which means no gifts with plastic, not refraining from buying using plastic i.e. your credit cards, although that’s a good idea too), I’m forcing myself to get crafty. I’ve come across more cute homemade kid present ideas on blogs lately than I can recall, but I’ve settled on a few that I want to give a try.

felt play pizzaThe first is this homemade play pizza set made out of felt. No sewing involved, which is a definite plus in my book. Even though I have my mom’s old sewing machine, I have no idea how to thread it. I want to make two of these – one for each kid.

Photo courtesy of: Pink and Green Mama

mail setThe next thing that I want to try making is this Jolly Little Postal Worker set. This one requires some sewing, but I think I could do it by hand pretty easily. Ava loves to play “mail,” so I think she’d get a kick out of this and I’m sure Julian would be happy to join in on the fun. It’s not made out of felt in the instructions, but I’m enjoying working with felt and think that’s probably what I will use. Photo courtesy of: Craft Pad

That’s all I have planned so far for the kids, but I’m extending my craftiness to include some family member gifts too. I got the idea to make sachets from my friend Julie (who has yet to blog about it or I’d link to her post *nudge, nudge*). Basically, I’m sewing (by hand) the homemade felt sachetperson’s first initial on one of two small pieces of felt, then taking two small squares of felt and sewing them together with yarn and putting a loop of ribbon at the top (in case the recipient wants to hang it instead of put it in a drawer). Then the sachets will be stuffed with wool (if I can find a local place to buy some) that is scented with essential oils. I chose to use lavender and sweet orange.

Ava is really big on sewing these days (thank you, Waldorf preschool) and will be able to do a little of the stitching (we use thicker needles so she’s less apt to poke herself), and I think Julian will get in on the stuffing part. I like that they can get involved in the gift making this way. I made a test sachet tonight for Ava – pictured at left – and stuffed it with cotton balls, because I was desperate and do not yet have any wool. It’s not perfect, but I thought it turned out pretty cute. The nice thing is it was quick and easy to make and if I can get the kids involved in the process, it will make the little gifts that much more meaningful to the recipient. And now as I sit here looking at this sachet, I’m thinking we might make some felt ornaments too. Same process, but we won’t have to scent the wool. Cool! 🙂

So those are my upcoming craft projects. Between the crafts and the leadership role I’ve taken on (with a few others) for the urban hen movement (we’re working on a petition and will be hosting a public educational urban hen meeting in a couple weeks), I’m going to have a very busy December.

How about you? Do you have any craft projects you are currently working on? Care to share links? I’m always amazed at the things other people come up with and I could seriously read craft blogs all day. Ya know, in my spare time. 😉