Another reason to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup – mercury!

In case you needed another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup, here’s a new one – it may contain mercury. According to a Washington Post article, “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.”

Janelle Sorensen (of Healthy Child, Healthy World) co-authored the studies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade report along with Dr. David Wallinga, mentioned in the Washington Post article.

According to Sorensen (who spoke with me via email), at this time it is unknown what species of mercury this is. Personally I don’t know that it matters too much, because mercury is just plain bad for our health.

  • The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.
  • The EPA has determined that mercuric chloride and methylmercury are possible human carcinogens.
  • Very young children are more sensitive to mercury than adults.

You may recall that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings regarding the consumption of certain types of fish containing mercury for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children.

Should there be warnings against consumption of mercury-laced HFCS too? When you consider HFCS is found in so many food and drink products these days, it may seem hard to avoid. Cereal? Yes. Bread? Yes. Soup? Yes. Lunch meat? Yes. Yogurt? Yes. Condiments? Yes. Soda? YES! Even infant formula can contain corn syrup! If you shop at a conventional grocery store (not a health foods store), check out the ingredients listed on just about anything you buy. You’ll be surprised (and maybe even a little freaked out) how many items contain HFCS. According to the Washington Post, “On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.”

That’s why the HFCS commercials by the Corn Refiners Association are so laughable. They say HFCS is fine in moderation (though they never quantify what that amount is), but how do you consume it in moderation when it’s infiltrated a large percentage of the products in the grocery store?

What really freaks me out though is to know that corn syrup is in infant formula. It might not be high fructose corn syrup, but still. Does a baby need artificial sweeteners? What about genetically modified (GMO corn) sweeteners as most corn is? And more importantly, how can a baby, who’s diet consists solely of formula, possibly consume it in moderation? Or is moderation only necessary for HFCS, but not corn syrup? I tried to find the ingredients in formula listed online and was able to find a few brands – two listed the first ingredient as water, followed by corn syrup. That’s alarming to me.

Increased corn allergies
Could this prevalence of corn in the diets of the youngest of our species, as well as being the number one thing Americans eat (because it’s in nearly everything), be contributing to the rise in corn allergies in this country? My guess is yes.

Returning to the study…
Sorensen shared with me some of her thoughts after doing months of research about HFCS and mercury:

In essence, we rely on a vastly complicated global food system that has many opportunities to go awry. And, not only is the chain of ingredients and manufacturing very complex, the foods we are eating are very complex and unlike anything people ate even two generations ago. HFCS is one story in this grand theater of food production. And, even though the studies are small, it’s clearly an actor that deserves more attention as a potential instigator in the public health drama we are currently witnessing. First of all, HFCS is an unnecessary part of the human diet. We thrived for millennia without it. Second, the caustic soda used to manufacture it can be made using mercury-free technologies. Safer alternatives exist and are used widely at this very moment. Third, even though the exposure is minute, it’s a repeat offender in the average US diet and should also be addressed in the context of combined daily exposures of modern day society.

The authors of both of the studies recognize the limitations of their findings. There is clearly much more research to be done in order to be able to understand what the true health implications may be. Maybe the impacts end up being nominal, but who wants to risk their child’s health and development waiting to find out when it’s such an unnecessary exposure?

Human development is a miracle. The journey from egg and sperm to adult (and even beyond) is a tumultuous and risky endeavor. Research is increasingly showing how very vulnerable the developing fetus is – susceptible to exquisitely small environmental exposures – so, why take an unnecessary chance? Why even allow antiquated technologies that are extremely pollutive; that have safer, economically feasible alternatives; that are completely unnecessary in food production? There is not a single piece of this story that makes sense.

What is the FDA’s response to the request for “immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply?”

Sorensen says:

The FDA and industry are quickly trying to assuage the concerns spread by these reports, calling us irresponsible for setting false alarms. But, the FDA and industry are notorious at this point for coercing people into taking risks their instincts tell them not to. I’m not anti-FDA nor anti-industry; I simply believe in transparency of information. If you decide this risk is nominal, that’s your decision. For me, and my family, it’s not okay. And, it’s extremely simple to avoid.

How do you avoid HFCS?
You buy whole foods, not processed foods. You prepare meals from scratch. You grow your own vegetables and buy from local farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSAs. You look for certified organic foods. You read the labels and find alternatives to the products containing HFCS. It might seem like it’s in everything, but it’s not. There are brands of bread that don’t contain it (even at Costco), just as there are brands of soda, yogurt, and infant formula, but you have to read the labels to find out. Become a wise consumer and vote with your dollars.

Finding balance
It might seem like the best bet it to avoid HFCS at all costs, but even Sorensen admits that she lets her kids consume it once every now and then. “It’s a very small amount and I know I’m very careful about other exposures. Life is all about balance.” Yes, yes it is.

Lastly, if you are looking to reduce the HFCS in your or your family’s life, you might want to check out the blog A Life Less Sweet One family, no high fructose corn syrup, eating healthier. And here are a few more related posts: from Nature’s Child – HFCS, fortified with mercury, from Ask Moxie – Whoa: Mercury in HFCS, and (a really good one) from AngieMedia – High Fructose Corn Syrup is Dangerous for Many Reasons. A couple more: from Mom-101 – High fructose corn syrup contains mercury and other reasons I think we’re going to start feeding our kids air and from Her Bad MotherPoison In The Ketchup: This HFCS Scare Might Actually Make Me Start, You Know, Cooking From Scratch Or Something.

Laughter prevails – WW

I’ve been going through some crazy health stuff over the past week (I’m OK, but more on that later). There have been many times I’ve wanted to cry and sometimes I did, but whenever I need a smile or a laugh, I can always look to these two. They never let me down.

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Getting kids on the bottle – water bottle, that is

Just as it is important that we as adults drink our water from refillable, reusable water bottles, it is equally important that our children do as well. The habits and values we instill in them when they are young are the habits and values they are likely to carry with them throughout their lives and eventually pass on to their children.

If you are already drinking from a reusable water bottle yourself, you are on the right track towards teaching your children good habits by leading by example. Educating your kids about why you’ve chosen the reusable route is important too. I think children as young as 3 or 4 are already receptive to having simple conversations about why living green is a good choice for their family and the earth. Getting the kids involved and excited about using a reusable water bottle can be as easy as letting them help pick one out and giving them the “job” of remembering it (and reminding all other family members to bring theirs) whenever you go somewhere.

Just as there is a wide variety of water bottles on the market for adults, there are just as many water bottles and sippy cups marketed to children. What appeals to one child, may not appeal to the next (or to the parent), so it can be a wise and money-saving decision to research your bottles and cups before you buy.

An important thing to remember when looking for a water bottle for your child is that you want it to be BPA-free. Go Green Design writes about Bisphenol A in The Problem with Plastic.

During the first few years of life, when babies’ cells continue to undergo “programming,” exposure to certain toxic chemicals can disrupt the delicate process. Bisphenol A, a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics that mimics the effects of estrogen, has raised particular concern because it interferes with hormone levels and cell signaling systems. Several dozen scientists issued a review of 700 studies on BPA warning that the levels most people are exposed to put them at elevated risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, breast cancer, decreased sperm counts, and prostate cancer. Infants, the report said, are most vulnerable to BPA.

While the above is specifically with regard to baby bottles, it certainly applies to toddlers and children as well.

Now onto a few different water bottle types.

Thermos makes both a straw bottle and sippy cup. Victoria from Vdog and Little Man commented to me that the “sippy has a lot of parts for the spout – membranes, etc., but it is LOVED by every kid I know.” And the straw cup “leaks horribly when turned on it’s side or upside down, so parental monitoring with that one is required (once ended up at home with a soaked tush and carseat!).”

Psychmamma also wrote about her experiences with the Thermos Foogo and the 16 oz. BPA-free Camelbak bottle.

Victoria also commented that she personally likes “the playtex straw cups because they have few parts, and the straw is covered when closed, and they are made out of polypropylene #5 (not #7 the ‘bad’ plastic).” However, she notes that the water can take on a plastic-y taste when left in the bottle overnight and says she changes the water very frequently in the #5 cups “to be on the safe side.”

A Little Greener Everyday wrote a review of the CynerGreen CGKidz 350ml Bottles.

Other popular children’s water bottles include the SIGG and KleanKanteen.

Beyond using your refillable water bottle at home and on outings, don’t forget about school lunches. For school-aged children, you can incorporate having a reusable water bottle with having an entire reusable lunch system. There are a lot of fun lunch kits available. Non-toxic Kids writes about the Kids Konserve waste-free lunch kits that includes a stainless steel water bottle. Really Natural writes about the BPA-free Laptop Lunch System that includes a BPA-free water bottle. There are many other waste-free lunch systems on the market as well.

Do your kids use reusable water bottles and/or sippy cups? What are their favorites?

Related links:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food Giveaway

UPDATE: This giveaway is now over and closed to new entries. I was recently contacted by Earth’s Best Organic about the opportunity to offer one of my readers a wonderful organic baby food gift pack. While I tried to make most of my kids’ baby food myself, there were occasions that I needed the convenience of jarred baby food, and Earth’s Best Organic infant foods never let me (or my kiddos) down.

In addition to this giveaway, Earth’s Best also currently has a “Celebrate the Firsts,” a receipt redemption promotion, going on where parents can earn coupons for Earth’s Best products, as well as earn goodies like Jason Organic baby body care and Fisher Price Tubtime Friends. And there is a sweepstakes component giving parents the chance to win free Earth’s Best products and Fisher Price toys.

The First Foods Gift Pack Giveaway includes:

  • 4 jars each of organic First Foods Apples, Pears, Peas, Bananas, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
  • 4 jars each of 4 oz Apple Juice & Pear Juice
  • a delightful Earth’s Best Cereal Bowl and Bib
  • and a copy of the book, “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram

WIN IT!

To win the First Foods Gift Pack, simply leave me a comment. For additional entries, you can Tweet this giveaway on Twitter (include a link to this post) and/or post this link on your blog, message boards, or forums. Please leave an additional comment here for each entry.

The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The winner will be selected using Random.org on Thursday, Jan. 29, and notified by email (so please be sure I have a way to get in touch with you). Thank you and good luck! 🙂

The World chimes in about Barack Obama

Today is the day Barack Obama becomes president of the United States of America. There is no doubt that there is a huge number of Americans who are overjoyed that today is finally here, but what about the rest of the world – are they excited too? Immediately after Obama was elected, I asked for feedback from my blogger and Twitter friends from around the world. I specifically wanted to know what their reaction was to the news that Obama would be president and what the overall reaction in their country was as well.

I intended to blog about those reactions back in November, but time got away from me (as it often does). Still, I wanted to share these sentiments and figured today, Inauguration Day, was the perfect time to do so.

Kellie (an American living abroad) said:

We are of course American, but living overseas in England right now. We also traveled to France a few days after the election, and let me say that the Brits and Europeans are THRILLED! It is all over the news here … TV, print news, billboard signs. I love it! We are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to the next four years! We hope he makes some great changes, especially within the military!!!

Naomi (who was living in Canada at the time of the election, but is now in the UK) said:

Hubby and I watched all night and literally wept with joy. Cannot be happier. Not religious, but PRAISE GOD. Thinking of tattoos. “There is nothing false about hope” and “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. No joke.

Penny (from New Zealand) said:

Over the past few weeks our newspaper has been full of election news both from our local politicians (we go to the polls on Saturday to vote), and from the US. The US campaign has gone on for so long that I was getting tired of the hype! But I must say that the last two days I couldn’t help but turn my eyes to your country. I’ve been looking at a few blogs, Youtube vids of the candidates and listening to some commentators from our country and their view on the situation. I think (from my perspective) that it was time for change, but I don’t pretend to fully understand the issues that are at stake there.

Perhaps it is hard for US citizens to understand how the rest of the world views America. We see you as a nation of great strength and leadership, but also one whose citizens can be naively insular about the rest of the world. Because you have that position of strength, there is a need for strong, charismatic but uniting leadership. I don’t think the US has had that sort of leadership for a while. (When George Bush was re-elected almost everyone I had contact with here felt disbelief and amazement that he had got back in. Many people here did not agree with the way things panned out in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continued presence of troops there.) Now with the world economy in a recession and the heightened awareness of peak oil/global warming there is a feeling that things need to change both here and globally.

I couldn’t help but be excited by the historic nature of this election. It’s a great moment for America and even for the rest of the world, to have a multi-racial person elected to Commander in chief. It gives hope that America is moving on from it’s past, and that anyone with guts/determination/leadership can be the head of the land regardless of their ethnicity.

But beyond that I do hope that Obama and his party will be able to take the US forward and serve his people so that even those who didn’t vote for him will be able to say it has been a change for good. I would also like to see some leadership and responsibility in areas such as reducing carbon emissions etc. I feel that the Bush administration has had their heads in the sand about this and I know that many people here think the war in Iraq has a lot to do with the US obsession with oil reserves there and less to do with the terror aspect…

I know that some of my American friends are disappointed and even frightened. I know they have been disturbed by publicity about soul-searching topics like abortion and terrorism but I have the sense that these have been scare mongering strategies. Again, I don’t pretend to fully understand the issues as they apply to the US but I would like to say that any leader or group of leaders needs the support of the people and the feedback from the people to be able to lead effectively. Just because Obama may not have been your choice, don’t give up on him but rather voice your concerns, make submissions. Given the diversity of the US it’s unlikely he will be able to satisfy everyone’s wants, but “needs” are more important anyway.

He (and his party) have a big job ahead. I doubt you will see results immediately but I wish you all the best.

And I don’t intend to sound offensive to individuals when I talk about the US as a whole. I know many of my US friends don’t have naively insular views about the world etc! But it’s a widely held perception here. We are a small country with little clout in comparison to yours and we like to think we are important too – and when many of your citizens think we’re part of Australia it gets just a tad annoying. At least LOTR has put us on the map! LOL!

Megan (also from New Zealand) said:

I am so happy for you. I sat with Ara in my arms trying to keep her calm enough so I could hear what was being said. I had tears in my eye…and still have.

I have been talking to Dave (my husband) via email and both he and I are very disappointed that we do not have an Obama in our country…our candidates are like squabbling little toddlers in the sand pit….and we have our elections on Saturday and I still don’t know who to vote for.

We need an inspiring person like Obama…we need a leader to pull us out and give us a slap (not that I believe in hitting ;-)) …we need direction too…I can only hope that your Obama can pull our little country up as well.

I think the world has hopes and dreams and your poor Obama is going to be run haggard with all the cleanup. He has my support and my excitement even though I’m half a world away.

Juliet (from the UK) said:

Hi, I’m from Brighton, UK and have followed the excitement both on the news and from the Twitter feeds I subscribe too.

This must be such an amazing time for you guys at the moment, Obama brings strength, positive change and finally gravitas to the White House. It feels like you have only just started opening the gift he is giving you.

Although it has been great watching it on the news, you could feel what was happening much more from your conversations on Twitter. It was great hearing about all of the personal stories across the US as the evening unfolded.

All we need in the UK now is someone as cool as Obama! I’m quite jealous – ours certainly doesn’t match up!

Planning Queen (from Australia) said:

I am from Melbourne, Australia and also had tears in my eyes when Barack and his family got up on stage. Luckily my children were home from school and I could emphasise the importance of this moment in time to them.

Australia is a small country (by population) and the influence that we have on the wider world is very small. America however is the complete opposite and has the opportunity to lead the rest of the world with the decisions it makes. To me the last 7 or so years has seen this leadership going in the wrong direction, with countries like Australia and the UK following.

My hope is that with Obama, this truly will be a change in leadership that will help guide others in the right direction. The direction that cares about the environment, prefers diplomacy over aggression and looks after the disadvantaged.

Congratulations to Americans for making the brave choice of change.

I had several Canadians weigh in too.

MomOnTheGo (of Canada) said:

I’m a Canadian and have to say that there was a lot of Obama-fever up here, too. He is an amazing speaker who spoke of change and his beliefs with passion. His openness to the world and international issues and, honestly, his intelligent approach to any issue that I heard him address brings hope for the world. I think Planning Queen summed up the role the US plays in the world very well. We sometimes talk about “sleeping next to the elephant” means you have to be vigilant when the elephant rolls over. There are many Canadians who are sleeping easier with the knowledge that Barack Obama will be in charge of the elephant.

I find it interesting to hear Obama referred to as a socialist since, for the most part, his policies are still more conservative than those of our Conservative Party. We’ve had a state medical system for decades and waiting lines at emergency rooms are no different than in the US and I have never needed to decide whether I could afford to take my child if she was sick, I paid nothing when I left the hospital after giving birth and never thought twice about attending each and every pre-natal appointment because they were all paid for. American men, women and children deserve these things. There are waits for some surgeries but we’re working on those.

If nothing else, Obama brought passion for the democratic process to millions who were feeling estranged from it, even people in other countries. That is an entirely good thing.

Leanne (from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) said:

What happens in U.S. politics definitely affects the economic and political climates in Canada. So, it is with intense interest that I followed the returns on November 4. I stayed up late to catch the incredibly classy and inspiring acceptance speech. I’m just so giggly-thrilled that Barack Obama was elected to be the next President of the United States of America. I am floored that a man so controlled, intelligent, sincere, charismatic, young, black, liberal, inspiring, even-tempered and dignified could have been elected to that position. I honestly did not think that nearly 30 years of Republican grotesqueries would allow it. What has especially made me hopeful for the future was his acceptance speech, which was not gleeful, not self-congratulatory, nor particularly celebratory. He seemed to be telling his supporters, the U.S. as a whole and the rest of the world: you have done an important thing but it is not going to be the most important thing you do, that will be the hard work of making our world and country better. And, gosh darn, I believed him. It seemed to me that Obama set the entire tone of his administration in that speech: It’s not “my” government, he see to be saying, it’s your government, and he’s just there to guide the rebuilding, to be the lightning rod for the energies of the people of the U.S. It is the morning of a beautiful day in the U.S. and as a Canadian, I’m lucky to get to share the weather.

Shawna (of Ontario, Canada) said:

I read your blog about Obama’s win and thought I would share some thoughts on how it looked from my corner of the world in Ontario Canada. Many of my friends, family and neighbours were actively engaged in this election. For a long time we have admittedly looked to our Southern friends and family and shaken our heads in disbelief at the administration of your Country. When George Bush was elected 4 years ago we were very saddened that the American people voted once again for a man who spoke so often of hate, terror and fear. That individualism and power seemed more important than community and peace.

But all that changed with this election. I loved watching the excitement and energy of the American People in the lead up to the election. There was so much passion, energy and hope. Last night we spoke to our children at the dinner table about the election and explained how millions were going to vote that day just as we had over a month ago in our own Country. We told them that we hoped that the people would vote for a man named Obama because he believes in people and cares about the world (my children are 5 and 3 so we were keeping it simple). My daughter Ainsley beamed at me and said that she too hoped they voted for Obama because he seemed like a good man. Later my partner and I sat down and watched the coverage and were ecstatic when Obama was awarded victory. It was a proud day for Americans and we were and are so happy that the US voted for change. This seemed to be an election for the people and I think it demonstrated how good democracy can work when citizens are inspired to be engaged. It serves as an example for all of our Countries to expect more from our leaders and contenders for office. That we shouldn’t have to vote for the lesser evil or against someone but instead for someone and for values we believe in.

Everywhere I go today people in my city are talking about the election and the hope that has come with it. What it means for our own Country policy wise is less important to me right now than what it means for us as people who can believe in change. We elected a minority Conservative government here about a month ago who is reminiscent of George Bush and the Republicans. Many of us fear that our Country is headed in the wrong direction and that so many of the values we as Canadians hold dear will be undermined by our leaders. The election in the US reminds me that it is the people of a country who truly make a difference and that when we come together and put our energy into something we can accomplish great things. I carry this with me as I look forward to what our country needs and how I as a citizen can influence that change.

Jennie (from Canada) said:

I’ve spent that last two days watching lots of news about the American election. Canadians in general follow American politics since the actions of one of us influences the other.
I am so proud of the American people. Electing Barack Obama as your president is monumental. I feel lucky to have witnessed such a historic time on earth.
The election of Barack Obama has removed some of the veils of cynicism that I’ve acquired over the years concerning politics and the world’s ability to change. If the United States with all its history can choose an African-American man as their leader, then I believe that women can aspire to the top position of power.
I hope that the momentum of this time does not fade and that the issues that really matter are addressed under the new administration. Despite the troubling times we are living in, we have a small victory in a battle for unity. We are blessed.

Annie (from Canada) said:

We were relieved and excited that Barack Obama was elected president. I’m excited about the message of change that Barack Obama brings. I’m excited about the race barriers that have been broken down. I’m excited to see a Democrat back in the White House (it seems all too long since Clinton left). I was scared every day of what new policies, wars or other ideas George Bush might come up with to hurt his people or other people around the world and was worried that McCain/Palin (especially if McCain died) would be more of the same or worse. I’m glad I don’t need to be scared anymore.

While I’m extremely excited for my American friends about the positive domestic changes that Obama is sure to bring, I am unsure about where he stands on issues that will affect Canadians. I’m a big supporter of free trade and when he suggests it might be renegotiated, that worries me. And when people say it would be renegotiated to include stronger environmental provisions, I say “go ahead!” because the Americans have a worse record when it comes to protecting the environment than we do (but we’re not far behind). But I worry that once the doors are opened at all, that Obama might start applying restrictions to other parts of free trade that are beneficial.

I also wonder what Obama will keep and what he’ll get rid of with regards to greater restrictions that have been placed on foreigners. I used to travel to the US frequently for business, for family vacations, and for day shopping trips. Now I don’t anymore. I’m scared and I’m annoyed. I used to get a smile and a few friendly questions at the border (where are you from, where are you going, how long are you staying, have a great trip!). Now I get grilled to the nth degree by a scowling border guard that seems to assume that each person trying to cross the border wants to do some sort of harm to the United States (no, really, I just want to shop and vacation….don’t you want my dollars…guess not). Also, there is a law/policy brought in under Bush that indicates that foreigners that are pulled over by the police for any reason can get thrown into jail immediately. A Canadian woman that turned right somewhere where it wasn’t allowed ended up spending the night in jail. Even the possibility of that happening, especially as a mom that often travels with my small children and that does not want to be seperated from them under any circumstance, makes me scared enough to not go to the United States. What happens if I miss a sign and make an illegal turn by mistake?

All that said, I’m very excited for Americans. But I’m anxiously and apprehensively waiting to see how Obama’s attitude and policies towards foreigners (especially close allies) will be different than his predecessor. Until then, I’ll be vacationing in Cuba and shopping in Canada.

Rebecca (from Ontario, Canada) said:

Ben (my husband) thinks I’m silly for being so emotional today. I’m overwhelmed with feelings: awe, incredulity, happiness, gratitude, relief…

The success of Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign is monumental in its importance, not just to the United States of America, but to Canada and the world. He represents change, hope, and tolerance. He represents black people and white people. He’s educated, well-spoken, quiet, graceful, charismatic, and inspiring.

Imagine: there are people alive today who, years ago, couldn’t vote because of the colour of their skin. Yesterday, they were allowed to vote – and one of the people they could vote for was BLACK! Not only did a black man RUN for President, he WON! This is huge. Now, every generation that follows will grow up learning about the first black American President and how he changed the world.

Now, Obama has a tough job ahead. He inherits a huge deficit, two wars, and countless other problems. Add to that the promises he has made for change, and you have a potential for heartbreak and disappointment if he fails to do what he has said he will. I do not envy his job at this point, but I hope he realizes the importance of keeping his word and always doing the best he can, to lead the most powerful country in the world with fairness and humility while being decisive, intelligent, and innovative. Major changes to environmental policy are required, immediately, and I think he realizes that. Green collar job creation will be instrumental in taking steps to halt the progression of environmental destruction. Obama, I think, understands that major change must take place, and NOW, in order to avoid going past the point of no return.

His first order of business, I think, will be to try to fix the economy, followed by a decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, deal with Afghanistan, and all the while making policy on environmental decisions. Tough job.

Mr Obama, I wish you the best. Congratulations and good luck!

If after all of that, you still need convincing that the world is excited to see Barack Obama as the new president of the United States, check out this link to World leaders’ quotes on Obama election win. Yes, this is much bigger than the United States. It impacts the entire world.

Today my kids and I will be sporting our Obama t-shirts while we witness history and watch the inauguration on TV with the rest of the world. I can’t help but be filled with pride and gratitude as I think of all of the work so many people did to get us here today and also filled with hope as I look to the future.

National Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.”

Monday, Jan. 19, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and also the National Day of Service.

Michelle Obama has challenged all of us to volunteer on Jan. 19.

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are committing to renew America together, one community at a time.

Whatever service activity you organize or take part in — cleaning up a park, giving blood, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or mentoring an at-risk youth — you can help start this important journey. But this is about more than just a single day of service, it’s the beginning of an ongoing commitment to your community.

To find an event in your area, visit USA Service.org.

As for me and my family, we plan to visit our neighborhood park and walk around our neighborhood picking up trash. With the strong winds we’ve been having the past few weeks, there is a lot of trash scattered about that needs to be cleaned up. I really wish I had a way to get the plastic bags out of my tree, but I think we’ll have to focus on the trash on the ground.

What will you do to help out your community on this National Day of Service?

Update: So the fam and I went out in the crazy, wild wind today (it was a good thing it was warm and sunny out) and picked up trash at our neighborhood park. There was quite a bit to be had and we filled about half of a trash bag. There was everything from beer cans (a lot) to a Starbucks cup to plastic grocery bags, papers, a hanging file folder, and various water and soda bottles.

Here are a few pics (taken with my iPhone) from our excursion:

Jody and Ava get trash out of the bushes. 1/19/09
Jody and Ava get trash out of the bushes. 1/19/09
Jody and the kids look for trash at the park. 1/19/09
Jody and the kids look for trash at the park. 1/19/09
Me and the kids pose with the trash we collected. 1/19/09
The kids and I pose with the trash we collected. 1/19/09

Overcoming jaundice, nipple confusion and other interruptions in early breastfeeding relationships

If you live in the Western world, you’ve no doubt heard the catch phrases “Babies were born to be breastfed” and “Breast is Best.” Many women start out with the best of intentions for breastfeeding their new bundles of joy, but sometimes circumstances beyond their control can cause interruptions in early breastfeeding relationships. Talk of jaundice, biliruben levels and supplementing with formula are not things many parents are prepared to be confronted with just days after their child’s birth. So what should you do if you find yourself suddenly dealing with the unexpected?

After experiencing a labor and birth with my daughter that was unlike anything I had anticipated, breastfeeding seemed to be the one thing that was going in our favor. Ava came into the world as they say, born to breastfeed. Although I had a little trouble with her latch initially, with some help from a nurse we soon seemed to be well on our way. She would eagerly latch on and spend 30 to 45 minutes on each breast, nursing contentedly. Then a pediatrician (not her’s, but one in her pediatrician’s practice) told us that she was jaundice and not only did he recommend that she go under the bilirubin lights (in the form of a bili-blanket, thankfully in my hospital room), he also wanted me to supplement with formula to help flush the jaundice out of her system. Formula? But, but, but, I’m exclusively breastfeeding. We even had a note on her bassinet in the hospital saying, “I’m a breastfed baby. No artificial nipples or bottles please.” I had every intention of breastfeeding her exclusively and now it seemed that even that wouldn’t happen. Not knowing what else to do, I acquiesced and allowed my husband Jody and/or a nurse to feed her formula from a bottle, while I continued to nurse her ’round the clock. I absolutely did not want to give her a bottle myself because I wanted to avoid confusing her. I wanted Ava to know I was the one with the breasts and that those breasts were the only way she was getting nourishment from me. (Kellymom states: “If your baby is less than 3-4 weeks old, it is best to avoid the use of a bottle for a couple of reasons: regular use of a bottle instead of breastfeeding can interfere with mom’s efforts to establish a good milk supply; bottle use also increases baby’s risk of nipple confusion or flow preference.”) Little did I know that I could have given the formula to her myself actually from my breast and avoided a bottle all together had anyone at the hospital told me about something called a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) or lactation aid. “A lactation aid consists of a container for the supplement — usually a feeding bottle with an enlarged nipple hole — and a long, thin tube leading from this container.” The tube is taped onto the woman’s breast, allowing the baby to nurse at the breast and receive expressed breast milk, formula, glucose water, etc. at the same time. So why wasn’t an SNS mentioned to me – a mother who wanted to breastfeed exclusively and obviously wanted to avoid nipple confusion that could come from introducing a bottle so early? Are other hospitals recommending SNS to breastfeeding moms?

Thankfully, Ava did not suffer from nipple confusion and took to the breast well every time (and, if you are familiar with my previous posts you know she ended up breastfeeding for a long time), but that’s not the case for everyone. Many babies who are offered a bottle before they are ready to differentiate between mom’s breast and a rubber nipple have trouble with their latch or will refuse to latch onto the breast at all.

Nell who blogs at Casual Friday Everyday gave birth to her third son Dash just two weeks ago. When her pediatrician (note: not her usual pediatrician) determined that Dash had jaundice – which was not unexpected since her other two sons had it as well – she was told he needed to go to the NICU. That news, however, came out of left field and was completely unexpected. Neither of her other kids received any special treatment for jaundice.

I almost couldn’t process what was being said. Like it wasn’t really sinking in. We walked down to the NICU with our tiny little baby – a place with a few other babies with jaundice also. They removed his clothing and began hooking him up to everything.

We set up a time that I’d be back to nurse him and my husband and I left; left our newborn baby all alone, under lights, with strangers. I cry just writing about this.

I walked back up to our floor empty handed and broken-hearted. My heart felt like it had been shattered. Like part of me was missing – well, because it was. Every single part of me wanted to run back into the NICU, grab him and run out of the hospital.

Dash also received formula from a bottle to help treat the jaundice, and Nell believes, the combination of him being taken to the NICU and use of the bottle contributed to the nipple confusion they are now trying to overcome.

This has been a particularly difficult thing for Nell because she struggled with breastfeeding issues like tongue-tie and thrush with her first two children and was determined that this time, with Dash, the breastfeeding relationship would be different.

This baby was going to be different. I was determined not to introduce a bottle to him. To avoid the nipple confusion. To nurse well into his first year, if not longer. And then unexpectedly he was put into the NICU and supplemented with a bottle. Had I been offered the option of an SNS I would have taken it in a heart beat.

Again, why wasn’t a SNS (lactation aid) offered to this breastfeeding mom? And was it really necessary for them to take a jaundice baby to the NICU?

Since leaving the hospital, Nell and Dash have also developed thrush, but she is determined to make breastfeeding work this time around and is reaching out for help.

I’m not ready to give up even though this has turned into the most difficult experience of all three.

I have reached out to the local LLL gals in my area for help. I’ve explained my problems via email and asked for a phone call. I’m going to attend the meetings for one on one help. And I’m going to try some Thrush remedies that don’t require a doctor to prescribe them.

I think Nell did one of the most important things a woman who find herself in these situations can do – reach out for help. Call another breastfeeding mom, call La Leche League, call a lactation consultant (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). Call or email someone who can point you in the right direction of the resources and support you need to help you succeed.

Carina of Greetings from the Jet Set had a difficult time getting a good breastfeeding relationship started with her son after a fill-in pediatrician, concerned that her two-day-old son was jaundiced, recommended she supplement her nursing with an ounce of formula after each feeding. The supplementation took place via bottle, her son suffered from nipple confusion and her supply dropped a great deal. After her son’s two week appointment, she sought out a lactation consultant and was able to figure out a good latch and taught how to use a SNS. “After a few weeks of that, my supply righted itself and we went on our way.” She told me on Twitter, “I tell everyone that while they are short term WORK, they yield long term results. 1-2 wks of SNS yielded 2.5 years.” That is to say that she used the SNS for one to two weeks and, as a result of the reestablished breastfeeding relationship, she was able to nurse her son for 2 1/2 years.

Carina, a self-described lactivist, also responded to a woman’s question on Yahoo on this very topic. The woman wrote, “Doctor told me that my breast milk is increasing his jaundice level, so I was told to give him formula milk and breast milk alternatively.” She asked, “how long will I be asked to give him formula milk? When will he be switched completely to breast milk?”

Carina replied, “your doctor gave you outdated advice. It is NO LONGER advised for you to stop breastfeeding and give formula.” She then quoted several articles that support her claim. The first is from Dr. Jack Newman.

Breastmilk jaundice peaks at 10-21 days, but may last for two or three months. Breastmilk jaundice is normal. Rarely, if ever, does breastfeeding need to be discontinued even for a short time. Only very occasionally is any treatment, such as phototherapy, necessary. There is not one bit of evidence that this jaundice causes any problem at all for the baby. Breastfeeding should not be discontinued “in order to make a diagnosis”. If the baby is truly doing well on breast only, there is no reason, none, to stop breastfeeding or supplement with a lactation aid, for that matter. The notion that there is something wrong with the baby being jaundiced comes from the assumption that the formula feeding baby is the standard by which we should determine how the breastfed baby should be. This manner of thinking, almost universal amongst health professionals, truly turns logic upside down. Thus, the formula feeding baby is rarely jaundiced after the first week of life, and when he is, there is usually something wrong. Therefore, the baby with so called breastmilk jaundice is a concern and “something must be done”. However, in our experience, most exclusively breastfed babies who are perfectly healthy and gaining weight well are still jaundiced at five to six weeks of life and even later. The question, in fact, should be whether or not it is normal not to be jaundiced and is this absence of jaundice something we should worry about? Do not stop breastfeeding for “breastmilk” jaundice.

According to Breastfeeding Basics:

In most cases, jaundice is a normal, possibly even beneficial process that can be managed without interrupting breastfeeding. The treatment for physiologic jaundice is more breastfeeding rather than less, and sick babies with pathologic jaundice need breastmilk even more than healthy babies. Even in rare cases where the jaundice is caused by the breastfeeding, there is no reason to wean and every reason to continue giving your baby the best possible nourishment – mother’s milk. In most cases, jaundice is a normal, possibly even beneficial process that can be managed without interrupting breastfeeding. The treatment for physiologic jaundice is more breastfeeding rather than less, and sick babies with pathologic jaundice need breastmilk even more than healthy babies. Even in rare cases where the jaundice is caused by the breastfeeding, there is no reason to wean and every reason to continue giving your baby the best possible nourishment – mother’s milk.

According to a La Leche League article:

In an article in the November 1990 issue of BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS, Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, suggests that prolonged hospitalization, phototherapy, and the interruption of breastfeeding may be unnecessary and even harmful for the mother and for the infant with normal neonatal jaundice. She writes, “In the case of healthy term infants who are jaundiced, the treatment could be worse than the disease.”

So what is going on here? Why are hospitals treating jaundice this way if it’s a “normal, possibly even beneficial process?” Is the real problem that pediatricians attitudes about breastfeeding are deteriorating?

I think educating one’s self is always a good thing. Of course, it’s impossible to prepare for every possible scenario, but if a woman knows in advance that breastfeeding jaundice is a normal occurrence and isn’t always a cause for concern, then perhaps she can make better informed choices with regard to her child’s care. If she and her doctor decide that supplementation is necessary, then knowing about a SNS/lactation aid and asking for the help of a lactation consultant could be invaluable. And then, if a woman finds herself in a situation where, for whatever reason, she has trouble with breastfeeding, knowing where to look for help at the first sign of trouble is key. It’s also helpful for family and friends to know what to do (and not to do) to support a breastfeeding mother.

Lastly, there’s an eye-opening article that ties into this topic nicely on Today’s Parent called “Nursing Confidential: Breastfeeding can be one of the biggest challenges of new motherhood. Now 7,000 Today’s Parent readers tell us why.”

What was your early breastfeeding relationship like? Did you have to overcome any obstacles? How did you do it?

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Peanut butter granola squares – recipe

Peanut butter granola squareThanks to tifi who tweeted this peanut butter granola recipe to me the other day. I made a few modifications to it (like cutting the amount of honey and sugar in half because it seemed like a lot, using whole wheat flour, and adding in flaxseed to it). The results were quite delicious. Here’s my version of the recipe:

Peanut Butter Granola Squares

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (or another kind of flour if you prefer)
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional)

1 cup butter*
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter (preferably organic PB with no sugar added)

Directions:
Combine oats through salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Heat butter through peanut butter in a sauce pan until all are melted.  Add melted mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Stir to make sure oats are completely covered.

Spread the mixture into a 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

* Farmer’s Daughter asked about cutting back on some of the butter and suggested applesauce as a replacement. I think this would probably work well and cut down on the fat. I plan to try it out the next time I make them. 🙂

Update 1/30/09: I made this recipe again, but this time used only 1/2 cup of butter and added 3/4 cup of mashed ripe bananas. This worked really well. It cut down the fat and the squares held together a lot better and were a lot less crumbly. And they are delicious!

Fill ‘er up: Reusable water bottles

According to Wikipedia, Americans buy about 28 billion water bottles a year. 28 BILLION WATER BOTTLES! Does that number freak anybody else out just a little? What’s also alarming is that 80 percent of bottles end up in landfills. It all seems like such a waste (literally) when there’s an easy, cost-effective, and eco-friendly alternative available – refillable/reusable water bottles. These days, when living “green” and being “eco-friendly” are all the rage, there is certainly no shortage of refillable water bottles on the market to choose from.

Water bottlesThere are a lot of things to consider when selecting a reusable water bottle. Do you want plastic, aluminum, stainless steel or even glass? If you choose plastic, is it BPA-(Bisphenol A)free? Do you prefer a biter valve or a straw or neither? Is the bottle spill-proof? Does it fit in a cup holder? Is it dishwasher-safe? How much does it cost?

This week I’m going to take a look at a few of the adult water bottles on the market. In a couple weeks, I’ll be tackling water bottles for kids.

Despite that it’s made of plastic, my personal favorite water bottle is the Camelbak BPA-free Better Bottle with a bite valve. My husband, our two kids and I each have one of these bottles (each a different color) and they go with us just about everywhere – out to eat, on walks, anytime we go anywhere in the car, to parties, etc. Seriously, ask my friends, I have it with me everywhere I go. I heart my Camelbak.

Everyone has their thoughts on what makes a water bottle right for them. Melissa at Nature Deva recently wrote about her Quest for the “Perfect” Water Bottle and put together a list of criteria the “perfect” water bottle should meet:

  • BPA-free
  • Double-walled stainless steel
  • Straw top
  • Cover for straw
  • Non-leaking
  • Attractive
  • Fit in my car’s cup holder
  • Hold more than 2 cups of water
  • Reasonably Priced

Melissa was recently able to find a bottle that met everything on her list and has declared the (drum roll please) Intak Steel Hydration Bottle by Thermos to be the “perfect” water bottle.

Tiffany at Nature Moms Blog is also a big fan of Thermos and their the Intak Water Bottle. Tiffany says, “I have always had a favorite water bottle and his name is Mr. Klean Kanteen. But step aside Klean because you may have been replaced. Okay maybe not replaced, but you will now have to share your coveted position in my cupboard. Make room for the sleek and ingenious Intak by Thermos.”

In her post Reusable Bottles: BPA-Free for Everyone, Tiffany reviews bottles by Thermos, Klean Kanteen, SIGG, Camelbak and Nalgene.

Over at Eat Play Love in her post Plastic Water Bottle Alternatives, Denise explains what the different types of plastic are and which to avoid, how to wash your plastic water bottles, and reveals her favorite water bottle – hint, it’s not plastic at all.

Jessica who writes at Shine lists 5 eco-friendly water bottles to reuse, rehydrate, refill. Making the grade are a $22 aluminum Sigg bottle, a $20 Sigg flask, the $10 Camelbak Better Bottle, a $30 Klean Kanteen, and a free (or nearly free depending on where you get it) glass jar with a lid.

Another stainless steel bottle not previously mentioned is the Think Sport water bottle, reviewed over at The Soft Landing.

If you haven’t taken the plunge into using a refillable water bottle yet due to concern about the safety of your tap water, check out the post Green Resolution: Info about Tap Water from the OC Family.

A recent study by the Environmental Working Group found a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every brand of bottled water they tested. Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing. In addition, there is increasing evidence of adverse health effects tied to Bisphenol A, or BPA, a widely used chemical in the manufacturing of plastic polycarbonate bottles, including water bottles.

There you have it. Lots of different water bottles with lots of different options. So tell me, what’s your favorite or if you’re still buying disposable water bottles, are you considering switching to a reusable?

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Cross-posted on BlogHer

Photo credit: Eat Play Love