The Importance of Breastfeeding in Natural Disasters: a recycled post

This post originally appeared on my blog on May 28, 2008. I am reposting it here today as a reminder of the important role breastfeeding plays in the event of a natural disaster. Whether it’s Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Chinese earthquake in 2008, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Japan tsunami in 2011, etc., breastfeeding during a disaster can save lives.

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May 28, 2008

By now many of you have probably read about police officer Jiang Xiaojuan of China who became a national, and then international, hero practically over night. After the devastating Chinese earthquake on May 12, the 29 year-old mother of a 6-month-old son, was called to duty. What she encountered when she reported for duty was babies crying in hunger and that’s when her maternal instincts kicked in. Jiang breast-fed the infants separated from their mothers or orphaned from the earthquake, at one point breast-feeding nine babies.

Jiang Xiaojuan“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn’t think of it much,” she said. “It is a mother’s reaction and a basic duty as a police officer to help.”

Jiang doesn’t believe what she did was noteworthy. “I think what I did was normal,” she said. “In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning.” The local media, however, named her “China’s Mother No. 1” and there are many others around the world praising her efforts as well.

On MOMformation at BabyCenter, Betsy Shaw wrote:

It’s stories like these, stories of ordinary people performing extraordinary, selfless acts in times of tragedy, that make all this bad news just a little bit easier to digest. They also make me proud to be a mom.

Would you do, could you, do the same if you were in a similar situation: lactating in the presence of many hungry babies?

Of the 73 responses there, the vast majority said they would do the same and breastfeed another woman’s baby, though interestingly enough, many also said they would not want a woman they did not know breastfeeding their own child.

A few of the people who commented at BabyCenter, as well as one at Milliner’s Dream expressed their concern about the possible transmission of HIV/AIDS through breast milk. There is conflicting information on what the risk of infection is if the woman is HIV positive, but, as another commenter at Milliner’s Dream noted, Jiang would have likely known her HIV status having just recently given birth 6 month ago.

Over on Broadsheet on Salon.com Jiang was named “Hero of the Day.” Sarah Hepola says:

As the death toll soars past 50,000, it’s nice to have a little good news to celebrate. You can remember Jiang next time someone complains about the evils of women popping out their boobs in public.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes at The Moderate Voice found the story to be “beautiful” and said:

Most every night, I stay up late-late, long after everyone else is sleeping. I fly over the internet, looking, looking, trying to find something beautiful or restorative to share with you here at TMV, so either you go to sleep with a beautiful idea or image, or wake up with one.

Tonight, finding something beautiful in this wide and groaning world, was easy. Because there is Jiang Xiaojuan, a young provincial policewoman.

She went on to add:

As a mother who nursed til her offspring was practically old enough to go to school, and as the mother of a grown daughter who while nursing her own child also gave her nourishing milk to my ailing elderly father (expressed, not nursed), I feel certain we stand with many mothers worldwide who salute Jiang Xiaojuan profoundly.

It’s a mystery women don’t often speak of publicly, what it’s like to nourish another human being or many from one’s own blood and bones. It is, one of the greatest honors in the world.

I think, despite the restrictive and suspicious regime of China, it’s people like Jiang who really represent the true spirit of modern China, the compassionate soul.

Tonight, it was easy to find a beautiful story to tell you. I would that it were as easy on all other nights too.

It is stories like these of this selfless mother that remind us not only of the power of human kindness, but also how important breastfeeding can be in an emergency or natural disaster.

Melissa Kotlen Nagin notes on the Breastfeeding Blog on About.com:

Unfortunately, natural disasters are out of our control, but women like Officer Xiaojuan remind us about yet another important benefit of breastfeeding. We’re typically so focused on the health benefits and lose sight of the bigger picture. Here is the International Lactation Consultant Association’s position paper on Infant Feeding in Emergencies, which is a wonderful resource.

Tanya at The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog recently wrote a post dispelling some myths about breastfeeding in emergencies. She also shares:

In a disaster such as the one in Burma, breastfeeding can be a life-saving act. Why? In emergencies f*rmula is often not available. If it is available, water supplies are often compromised. F*rmula mixed with contaminated water can cause diarrhea and dehydration, which can quickly become life-threatening to infants. Power to sterilize and refrigerate f*rmula is also often not available.

Sometimes, well meaning humanitarian efforts result in such an influx of f*rmula that efforts to protect and support breastfeeding are disrupted. This is such a concern that in 1994 the World Health Organization adopted the following policy, urging member states to “exercise extreme caution when planning, implementing, or supporting emergency relief operations, by protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding for infants,” and to ensure that f*rmula is distributed only under specific conditions.

We often like to think of ourselves as untouchable here in the United States, but Hurricane Katrina was just three short years ago and was another instance where breastfeeding saved lives. From an open letter to health care providers attending to families affected by Hurricane Katrina: The Role of Human Milk and Breastfeeding:

Human milk is a valuable resource that can not only protect the vulnerable infant from disease, but can also promote psychological health and comfort during stressful times. Human milk reduces pain and promotes more rapid healing after injuries and infections. While maternal health is of great importance, it should be recognized that even the malnourished mother will produce milk of good quality for her infant.

To learn more about the important role breastfeeding plays in emergencies, please visit the links below.

I will close by adding that I think what Jiang did was amazing and I’m so glad to see breastfeeding receiving such positive attention. I hope she has already been reunited with her son (that relatives were caring for) or will be soon and that her breastfeeding relationship with him can continue to thrive.

And lastly, just a friendly reminder that BlogHers Act/Global Giving is continuing to accept donations for the Chinese earthquake victims as well as other maternal health causes.

More information:
Keep Abreast – Breastfeeding ensures survival in a disaster
Black Breastfeeding Blog – Breastfeeding Saves Babies During Natural Disasters
La Leche League International – Keep Breastfeeding: Supporting Mothers After Natural Disasters
KellyMom – Infant Feeding In Emergencies

One more important breastfeeding note – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned women not to use or purchase Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream, marketed by MOM Enterprises Inc. of San Rafael, California.

The cream, promoted to nursing mothers to help soothe dry or cracked nipples, contains ingredients that may cause respiratory distress, vomiting and diarrhea in infants, the agency said.

Mothers whose children may have suffered adverse effects because of this product should contact the FDA’s MedWatch at 800-332-1088. – CNN report

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Baby-led Weaning with Real Food: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post comes from Abbie who blogs at Farmer’s Daughter.

Baby-led Weaning with Real Food

As an advocate for real, healthy, local foods, I was dreading introducing solids to my son.  I just couldn’t imagine having his first food be processed cereal.  I’d also seen jarred baby food and was completely grossed out by it.  Nobody could tell me that those were the best choice for my son’s health; my instincts said we needed to take a different route.  After discussing the topic of introducing solids with some twitter friends, I got recommendations for two books that I love and recommend to all parents:

What I learned was basic — to allow Joshua to choose what he would eat and what he didn’t want to eat; to allow him to feed himself; to offer him plenty of healthy foods to choose from; to put away the food mill and spoon; most importantly, to relax!

Instead of giving bland cereal as a first food, I looked to the season.  Joshua turned six months in September: apple season.  It has always felt appropriate to me that Joshua was a spring baby, and it seemed fitting that Joshua’s first food was applesauce.  Homemade, chunky applesauce made from apples grown on the farm where I grew up, that I picked as I walked through the orchard with my mother and carried Joshua on my back.  While processed cereal didn’t feel right, applesauce sure did.  I spooned a small bit of applesauce into a bowl for Joshua and allowed him to squish it between his fingers to his heart’s content.  He wiped it in his hair and it got on his bib and on the floor.  Not much made it into his mouth, but that didn’t matter.  Breast milk supplies all of the nutrition he needs, and solids at six months are about learning: taste, texture, aroma and hand-eye coordination.

Cold apple slices quickly became a favorite for my teething baby.

Now nine months old, Joshua has sampled all of the following (in no particular order):

  • Fruits: apples, applesauce, banana, avocado, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry-applesauce, dried papaya
  • Veggies: butternut squash, potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, snap peas, green beans, corn, green squash, cucumber, vegetable broth, salsa, tomato sauce, (sometimes veggies were topped with olive oil or butter)
  • Meats: beef (steak, ground beef), pork (pork chop/roast, sausage), turkey (roasted and ground), chicken, salmon, haddock, scrambeled eggs
  • Dairy: cream-top yogurt (banana, blueberry and peach flavored), sour cream, cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, American cheese, cream cheese, butter
  • Bread/grains: toast, pizza crust, whole wheat tortilla, bagel, pasta with and without tomato sauce, Italian bread, pancakes, stuffing, organic puffs and teether biscuits

And most certainly other foods that I’ve forgotten to mention.  At his nine-month check-up, his doctor was impressed that we don’t buy baby food and told me to continue to introduce foods using the baby-led approach.  The doctor said most advice about solids including which foods to offer in which order are based on old wive’s tales and not on sound science, and that holding off on introducing foods such as meats can deprive babies of essential nutrients (like iron, which is more easily absorbed from breastmilk and meats than from fortified cereals).  The only foods he said to wait on are peanuts and peanut butter, honey and cow’s milk.  (For safety information on introducing solids, see the books listed above.)

Joshua loves to feed himself and while this approach is messy, it has been a perfect fit for our family.

Abbie is a wife, mother to one-year-old Joshua, environmentalist and teacher who believes in following her maternal instincts and being a steward to the Earth. She blogs about simple living, sustainability, gardening, cooking and mothering at Farmer’s Daughter.

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The Last Time I Breastfed: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post comes from Amber who blogs at Strocel.com.

The Last Time I Breastfed

Every morning, now, I look at the calendar and take note of the date. Because every day could be the last day I ever breastfeed my son Jacob. And maybe the last day that I ever breastfeed for the rest of my life. My second-born is weaning, and while I have pangs, there aren’t any more babies on the horizon for me right now.

I breastfed Jacob’s big sister, Hannah, until she was almost three years old. A whole lot of factors led to her weaning, including my desire to conceive again (I wasn’t having much luck), my increasing physical discomfort as my milk supply dwindled, and my belief that Hannah was ready to move on. I took a fairly active role in the process, which happened over a number of months.

I still remember the last time that I nursed Hannah. It was December 22, 2007. Some part of me likes that I know that date, and remember the occasion. Breastfeeding played a big part in my relationship with my daughter in her early years, and it feels fitting that I marked its conclusion, as well as its beginning. I want to do the same thing with my son. I don’t want breastfeeding to pass away without notice, even though that’s exactly what seems to be happening.

Having a snack at the midwives picnic
Breastfeeding my daughter Hannah at a picnic

Jacob is 31 months old, right now – three full months younger than Hannah was the last time that she breastfed. I didn’t expect I would be here so soon with my son, to be honest. Most of my friends and acquaintances nursed their second babies as long or longer than their first. I’m not trying to get pregnant right now, and I have less angst in general over the state of my breastfeeding relationship with Jacob. I thought I would nurse him until his third birthday, at least.

But Jacob, as it turns out, is a different person altogether than Hannah. He’s gradually decreased his nursing all on his own. When he asks to nurse and it’s not a good time, he’s much faster to accept an alternative like a drink of water or a cuddle. There are no tears when I decline his request, no existential anguish bubbling to the surface. He’s a pretty easygoing kid, and he’s moving on to the next phase of his life without a lot of fuss.

I’ve breastfed for the past 6 years, with a break of a little under eight months during my second pregnancy. As I contemplate the potential conclusion of my nursing career, I feel a little wistful. Can it really be possible that I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding? That I am no longer the mother of a nursling? Is this the last gasp of babyhood leaving my family? I’m not sure I’m ready to close this chapter in my life.

Jacob nursing
Nursing Jacob as a baby

And yet, when I consider Jacob’s imminent weaning, I don’t feel sad. I feel remarkably content. For him and for me, this feels like a fitting end to our breastfeeding relationship. We’re both moving towards it in our own way, and at our own pace. He’s ready, and I’m ready. I’m ready to have my body entirely to myself for the first time since I conceived my daughter almost seven years ago. I’m confident that I have given my son the best start I could, and that he has gotten what he needed out of breastfeeding. I don’t feel a need to encourage him back to the breast or prolong our time as a nursing pair.

And so, again today, I looked at the calendar. He nursed once, and I tried to remember the details. Where were we? What was it like? Will this be the last time? I memorize as much as I can, in case Jacob doesn’t breastfeed tomorrow, or the next day, or ever again. If this is the last time, I don’t want to forget it.

I’d love to hear about your own weaning experience. What was it like for you? Do you remember the last time you nursed, or not? Were you happy with how things ended? Please share!

Amber is a crunchy granola mama who lives in suburban Vancouver with her husband and two children. She blogs at Strocel.com, and she runs an online course for moms about living with intention and passion at Crafting my Life.

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Booby Traps Set Up Breastfeeding Moms for Failure

Many mothers start out with the best of intentions when it comes to breastfeeding. Health experts agree that “breast is best” and the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother are numerous. Yet while a lot of people give lip service to the importance of breastfeeding, there isn’t a lot of support for women once they make the decision to breastfeed. In fact, our society offers very little support to breastfeeding moms and often sabotages breastfeeding altogether.

How many times have you heard about a mom being told to cover up her nursing child on an airplane or at an amusement park or at a store or at a restaurant or even asked to leave or had the police called on her? How many times have you seen formula ads in parenting magazines and on television? How many times have you read a magazine article giving incorrect breastfeeding advice (or should I say formula advice) or heard of a well-intentioned pediatrician giving parenting advice that compromises the breastfeeding relationship? Has a can of unwanted infant formula ever mysteriously appeared at your doorstep?

The examples above all have one thing in common – they are Breastfeeding Booby Traps. Best For Babes (a non-profit that believes “ALL moms deserve to make an informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months 2 years, or not at all”) describes Breastfeeding Booby Traps asthe cultural and institutional barriers that prevent moms from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.”

Some Booby Traps include:

  • sending moms home from the hospital with a “gift bag” of formula,
  • having family and/or friends who are uncomfortable with you nursing and ask when you are going to give the baby a bottle,
  • or having a pediatrician who is unable to answer your questions about breastfeeding.

This post is not to debate breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding. Parents have the right to decide how to feed their baby. But they also have the right to be presented with factual information and the right to not have their feeding decisions undermined. Best For Babes is working to help accomplish that.

Here are some more Booby Traps that have set the blogosphere abuzz.

Amber from Speak Her Truth wrote Marketing and Breastfeeding, Who Hasn’t Been Duped? and said she is not going “to join in on this back and forth bashing of breastfeeding vs formula feeding mothers.”

As long as we fight amongst ourselves on this one symptom we cannot unite against the disease. The disease of markets that profit solely on the belief that our bodies are not good enough, not good enough to be sexually attractive, not good enough to give birth and not good enough to nourish our babies afterwards. A simple statement that could bring down this entire empire of insecurity: “Not only are we good enough, we are better just the way we are.”

Maya from Musings of a Marfan Mom wrote about Babble’s partnership with Similac – in which Similac sponsors Babble’s Breastfeeding Guide – after first reading about it on PhD in Parenting. Maya said:

You might ask why I care whether a formula company sponsors a breastfeeding portion of a website. I care, because I want women to have a choice in how they feed their children. I care, because women aren’t being given proper information on nursing, which sabotages the attempts of women who want to breastfeed. I care because, believe it or not, formula advertising has been shown over and over again to have a negative effect on breastfeeding relationships. Formula advertising not only affects women’s choices in how to feed their children, whether they are conscious of it or not, but it results in drastically higher costs for families who choose to feed their children formula (who do you think ends up paying for the “free” samples given at the hospital and sent in the mail, as well as all those commercials and Internet ads?). That affects their choice as well.

Tumbling Boobs pointed out its not just parenting websites promoting Similac’s latest marketing ploy and included screen captures of a few medical providers that are actively promoting Similac’s feeding hotline to moms seeking breastfeeding help.

Annie from PhD in Parenting also pointed out that even WebMD’s breastfeeding guide is sponsored by Gerber (which is owned by Nestle). There are six Gerber ads on the page that is supposed to help mothers with breastfeeding! Annie, who said, “There has to be a way to stop this incredibly unethical and predatory infant formula marketing on websites pretending to offer breastfeeding support,” urges her readers to take action and lists a few ways to get involved.

Jem wrote a review of the book The Politics of Breastfeeding (which I will be adding to my must read list). She believes the book should be read not only by nursing moms, but by all women.

Reading the book frustrated me on so many levels. I’ve talked before about Nestle’s marketing practices before, but it goes beyond that. The origins of formula; unnecessary death of babies in both developed and ‘third world’ countries; the undermining of women because we’re “not good enough”/”not reliable enough” to maintain life; the supplementing with formula without permission from mums; the strange habit of separating babies from their mums in hospital, etc.

This book has changed the way I look at so many aspects of birth and infant care.

Taking a more light-hearted approach to the subject is Dou-la-la who’s humorous, but also disturbing post Breast is Best, Sponsored by Simfamil: Don Draper Explains It All For Us is sure to be enjoyed by many a Mad Men fan. Heck, I thought it was awesome and I’ve only watched about 15 minutes of Mad Men.

What is the solution? How do we stop undermining breastfeeding moms?
I think the best start is if formula companies would start following the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes. We all know formula exists. We all know where we can get some (even for free), if we so desire. The marketing and the deceit need to stop. If you are upset about the Babble/Similac partnership or the WebMD/Gerber/Nestle partnership, follow Annie’s lead and take action. Let the companies know you disagree with their choices and why and then spread the word.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

More Breastfeeding Booby Trap Posts:

Photo by benklocek via Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Mom follows her instincts, revives ‘dead’ preemie with Kangaroo Care

After Australian mom Kate Ogg gave birth to premature twins at 27 weeks gestation, her doctor gave her the news no mother wants to hear. One of the twins – a boy – didn’t make it, but that’s just the beginning of this heartwarming story. The doctor – who struggled for 20 minutes to save the infant before declaring him dead – gave the 2-pound lifeless baby to Kate and her husband David to say their goodbyes. Kate instinctively placed her naked newborn son, named Jamie, on her bare chest.

As the grieving parents embraced and talked to Jamie for two hours, he began gasping for air. At first the doctors dismissed it as a reflex. However, the gasps continued more frequently and he began showing other signs of life. Kate gave Jamie some breastmilk on her finger. Amazingly, he took it and began to breathe normally. Kate recalled, “A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle. Then he held out his hand and grabbed my finger. He opened his eyes and moved his head from side to side. The doctor kept shaking his head saying, ‘I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.'”

The technique which Kate Ogg used to revive her baby – placing the infant skin-to-skin with the mother or father – is known as Kangaroo Care or Kangaroo Mother Care, a practice endorsed by the World Health Organization for use with premature infants. Pre-term and low birth-weight babies treated with the skin-to-skin method have been shown to have lower infection rates, less severe illness, improved sleep patterns and are at reduced risk of hypothermia.

The March of Dimes has a section on their web site called Parenting in the NICU: Holding Your Baby Close: Kangaroo Care, which describes the benefits of the practice.

Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your diapered baby on your bare chest (if you’re the father) or between your breasts (if you’re the mother), with a blanket draped over your baby’s back. This skin-to-skin contact benefits both you and your baby.

Kangaroo care can help your baby:

  • Maintain his body warmth
  • Regulate his heart and breathing rates
  • Gain weight
  • Spend more time in deep sleep
  • Spend more time being quiet and alert and less time crying
  • Have a better chance of successful breastfeeding (kangaroo care can improve the mother’s breastmilk production)

Dr. Jack Newman believes Kangaroo care benefits all babies and believes the “vast majority of babies” should have skin-to-skin contact with the mother “immediately after birth for at least an hour. Hospital routines, such as weighing the baby, should not take precedence.” In his article The Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact, Dr. Newman states:

There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin (baby naked, not wrapped in a blanket) immediately after birth, as well as later. The baby is happier, the baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal, the baby’s heart and breathing rates are more stable and more normal, and the baby’s blood sugar is more elevated. Not only that, skin to skin contact immediately after birth allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. This, plus breastfeeding, are thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases. When a baby is put into an incubator, his skin and gut are often colonized by bacteria different from his mother’s.

On About.com, Pamela Prindle Fierro shared that her doctor prescribed Kangaroo care for one of her twins born at 36 weeks when the infant was having trouble regulating her body temperature. She mentions that, “Doctors seem a little bit leery of confirming that kangaroo care is a miraculous cure, but the [Jamie Ogg] story is bringing attention to the practice of kangaroo care. It’s one of those rare medical treatments that has no drawbacks or side-effects and is actually pleasurable.”

On the Informed Parenting blog, Danielle Arnold-McKenny said, “The mind boggles when you read stories like this. A mother instinctively caring for her baby by keeping him skin to skin, even when all hope is lost… and a baby responding to his mothers warmth and touch and voice.”

Danielle mentions that she’s read several stories over the years like this one and linked to a similar story from December 2007, Parents ‘Last Good Bye’ Saved Their Baby’s LifeCarolyn Isbister was given her tiny 20 oz. dying baby to say good-bye. Carolyn instinctively put her baby girl to her chest to warm her up and again, using the Kangaroo Care method, ended up saving her life. “I’m just so glad I trusted my instinct and picked her up when I did. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here today.”

David Ogg said something very similar of his wife Kate’s response to baby Jamie. “Luckily I’ve got a very strong, very smart wife. She instinctively did what she did. If she hadn’t done that, Jamie probably wouldn’t be here.”

Little Jamie and his twin sister Emily are 5 months old now and doing well.

Related Links:

Photo by [lauren nelson] via Flickr.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

Edited to add: After posting this, I learned that the Oggs, with babies Jamie and Emily in tow, were on the TODAY show this morning telling their story. I chose not to post about it here, but Kate and David spoke on the TODAY show about the trouble they had getting the doctor to come back and check on Jamie after they were fairly sure he was not dead or dying. They eventually had to lie to get the doctor to return. You can read or hear more about that on the TODAY article and video.

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Child-led Weaning: They Aren’t Going to Nurse Forever

A little more than two years ago, I wrote about my experiences nursing a preschooler. At the time I discussed the fact that my nearly 4-year-old daughter was still nursing and how I never planned or expected to be nursing a 4-year-old, yet it just happened.

“I didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.”

As I suspected, it didn’t “go on forever.” I never blogged about it when Ava weaned, but that milestone occurred almost four months after my post. She was 4 1/4 years old. At that time I was also nursing my son – her younger brother. From what I can remember, she and I had talked about weaning and being done with mama milk for a while. I felt like after a long, mostly* wonderful nursing relationship with Ava, I was comfortable with the idea of her weaning. Although she wasn’t excited to wean, I felt like Ava was pretty ready too.

I remember one night she went to bed without nursing (which is the only time she would nurse at that point and had been since she was 2 1/2). After all of the discussions we’d had about weaning, it seemed to me like the perfect stopping point. The next night as we cuddled to go to sleep, she asked for “na-na” and I explained to her that she was done having na-na. She cried a few tears that night, but we cuddled and she went to sleep without na-na. The next couple days she continued to ask for it before bed and sometimes cried a bit or was sad, but I never felt like it was unbearable for her. If I had felt it was absolutely unbearable for her, I would have put off weaning longer, but I never got that impression. Yes, she briefly mourned the loss, but the transition went well.

After several weeks had passed and I felt fairly confident that she had lost the knack of suckling, she would – once in a while – still ask for na-na and at that point I would let her try. As I’d suspected, she couldn’t figure out how to get milk out any longer. It was a little frustrating for her, but I think it was comforting that I let her try rather than just tell her “no, you don’t have na-na anymore.” Letting her try seemed like a gentle way for her to discover on her own that she had, in fact, weaned.

While I wouldn’t call what I did with Ava exactly “child-led weaning,” it felt like a pretty gentle transition and was what I deemed best for our family at that time. After nursing two kids (although usually not at the same time) for a year and a half, I was ready to go back to nursing just one child.

And that brings us to the present, when my now 3 3/4-year-old son is still nursing. 😉 This time around, however, it didn’t come as any surprise to me that I’m nursing a preschooler. He seems like he might wean before Ava did, but I’m not holding my breath. Lately, he will go a few days at a time without asking for it so I think we are heading in that direction. He went five nights without nursing while I was at BlogHer this year, but when I got home – sure enough – he wanted to nurse before bed. Most recently he went about four or five nights without asking to nurse while I’ve been home. I thought he might be done altogether, but then asked to nurse again. I talked to him about possibly being done and he insisted that he was NOT, so he nursed before bed. But then the past two nights, he did not.

I’m not in a big hurry for Julian to be done. I know it will be bittersweet just like it was when Ava weaned and perhaps a bit moreso since I’m fairly certain I’m not going to have any more children. However, I also see this as a milestone and a door opening to the next chapter in our relationship. Yes, we’ve had several years of a great nursing relationship, but I also look forward to what lies ahead.

I’ll repeat what I said before, but this time for Julian. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when he’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young man he’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

Related posts I’ve written:

Related posts from other bloggers:

  • From Lactation NarrationChild Led Weaning
    “Munchkin is 4 today. If you had told me when she was born that she would still be nursing now, I wouldn’t have believed it. My original goal with her was to nurse for 6 months, yet here we are. My goal now is for child led weaning.”
  • From Not a DIY LifeTransitions
    “At 31 months old, Ladybug weaned herself. It didn’t happen quickly. It was very gradual. But accompanied with all the other big girl things that she’s doing, it does seem sudden. … I am so thankful that we were able to wean this way. It was gradual. There were no tears on her part or on mine. We were both ready.”
  • From Raising My BoychickA Day Without Nursing
    “I likely won’t know the last time, won’t pause and study him and strain to memorize the moment like I did that morning. It will just not-happen one day, and then another, and then I will realize it is has been days, weeks, and the moment I’ll want to remember forever I will already have forgotten.”
  • From AnktangleChild Led Weaning
    “I plan to practice child-led weaning, not just because breastfeeding is a public health issue, but because intuitively, it seems like the gentlest way for me to parent my child through this early part of his life. But more than that, I plan to do whatever works best for us as a family in each moment.”
  • From Code Name MamaThe Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler
    A collection of stories from moms nursing their children past infancy

Learn more about Child-Led Weaning:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Raising Awareness about Nestle’s Unethical Business Practices

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about Nestle and is likely not going to be the last. I wrote about the company when I first learned about the Nestle boycott. And again when the Nestle Family Twitter-storm took place in 2009. I wrote about Nestle when I compiled an updated list of all of the many, many brands Nestle owns (for people who choose to boycott them). And most recently, I wrote about Nestle when I discovered that they (well, two of their brands – Stouffer’s and Butterfinger) would be one of about 80 sponsors at this year’s BlogHer Conference in New York City.

My goal – throughout all of this – has never been to tell people what they should or should not do. That’s not my place. My goal has always simply been to raise awareness. There will be people who hear about the Nestle boycott and their unethical business practices and they won’t care one way or the other. Or perhaps they just won’t have time to look into it further. I know that and that’s fine. However, there will also be people who haven’t heard about what Nestle is doing and will want to learn more and find out what they can do and that’s where I like to think I can help. I’m a big fan of providing people with information and arming them with knowledge and letting them make their own choices.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

First thing’s first. Yes, I am going to BlogHer this year even though it is, in part, being sponsored by Nestle. I struggled with my decision for days and days, but in the end I decided to use this as another opportunity to raise awareness by blogging about Nestle, talk with people at BlogHer (who express an interest) about Nestle, and encourage BlogHer to adopt ethical sponsorship guidelines for future conferences. I also didn’t feel like letting Nestle control my life. I’m not saying that the people who choose to boycott BlogHer because of Nestle are doing that (one of my best friends is boycotting the conference though will still be in NYC and rooming with me – yay!)  – I wholeheartedly support the women who are boycotting – but it didn’t feel like the right choice for me. I’ve also made a donation to Best for Babes and will make another one after BlogHer. Best for Babes is a non-profit who’s mission is to help moms beat the Booby Traps–the cultural & institutional barriers that prevent moms from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals, and to give breastfeeding a makeover so it is accepted and embraced by the general public. Best for Babes’ Credo is that ALL moms deserve to make an informed feeding decision, & to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months 2 years, or not at all.  ALL breastfeeding moms deserve to succeed & have a positive breastfeeding experience without being “booby trapped!”

Now onto Nestle and just what it is that makes them so unethical. The following two sections are from a post by Annie of PhD in Parenting.

Overview of Nestlé’s Unethical Business Practices

Nestlé is accused by experts of unethical business practices such as:

Nestlé defends its unethical business practices and uses doublespeak, denials and deception in an attempt to cover up or justify those practices. When laws don’t exist or fail to hold Nestlé to account, it takes public action to force Nestlé to change. Public action can take on many forms, including boycotting Nestlé brands, helping to spread the word about Nestlé’s unethical business practices, and putting pressure on the government to pass legislation that would prevent Nestlé from doing things that put people, animals and the environment at risk.

Want to boycott Nestle?

The Nestlé boycott has been going on for more than 30 years and Nestlé is still one of the three most boycotted companies in Britain. Although Nestlé officials would like to claim that the boycott has ended, it is still very much alive. But it needs to get bigger in order to have a greater impact. Nestlé owns a lot of brands and is the biggest food company in the world, so people wishing to boycott their brands need to do a bit of homework first to familiarize themselves with the brand names to avoid in the stores.

If you disagree with Nestle’s business practices, I hope you will join Annie, me and others in raising awareness by Tweeting with the hashtag #noNestle. Let people know that you do not support Nestlé’s unethical business practices. Tweet your message to Nestlé and to others using the hashtag #noNestle. Spread the word.

If you feel so inclined, you might also want to make a donation to an organization that supports breastfeeding, such as La Leche League or Best for Babes.

Tweet your support! Blog your message! Share on facebook!

#noNestle

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FOX News says Infant Co-sleeping Deaths Linked to Formula Feeding

The internet has been abuzz lately about a recent FOX News report that has linked co-sleeping deaths to formula feeding. The report, which I found to be quite balanced (though somewhat sensational), is based on a number of co-sleeping or bed sharing deaths in the city of Milwaukee and the city’s message that there is no such thing as safe bed sharing.

I first read about the report from a Tweet by Allie from No Time for Flash Cards. Annie from PhDinParenting quickly posted the FOX News video for all to view and discuss.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department is currently running this ad – with a headstone in place of a headboard – to discourage ALL parents from co-sleeping with their babies. “For too many babies last year, this was their final resting place.” I guess they figure fear mongering is better than educating. As a mother who made an educated decision to co-sleep with my children, I find it quite offensive.

Then there is a TV ad that the state of Indiana is running (more fear mongering) to convince parents that they only place a baby should sleep is in a crib which is plain disturbing.

The FOX News report does a good job of representing both sides of the co-sleeping debate and even interviewed Dr. James McKenna, who literally wrote the book on safe co-sleeping.

The report revealed (although not until the very end of the video) a surprising finding, that in all of the Milwaukee co-sleeping cases they reviewed for 2009 and so far in 2010, 100% of the babies were formula fed. McKenna predicted the outcome and even goes so far as to state, “I really actually think that breastfeeding is a prerequisite for bed sharing.”

The blogger at The Babydust Diaries qualifies the formula finding:

This isn’t to say that the formula caused the death or that formula fed parents don’t care but there are some specific circumstances that can make these kids more prone to bed-related deaths2. The video mentions positioning and waking of the mother but also the frequent wakings of the child. Formula takes longer to digest and thus those children sleep for longer stretches than breastfed babies and often sleep deeper – causing an increase in SIDS deaths as well.

The Fearless Formula Feeder wrote about her thoughts on the Fox report in Cosleeping and formula feeding: a tale of two scapegoats. She particularly took offense at “the immediate and inaccurate battle cry against formula and formula feeding” on Twitter. She suggests rephrasing Tweets from things like:
“FORMULA FEEDING, not alcohol or soft bedding, at root of bed-sharing baby deaths!”
and
“Formula feeding was the common factor in these poor babies’ deaths!”
to:
“Breastfeeding could protect against cosleeping deaths”
or
“Formula feeding parents should be alerted to cosleeping risks”

The Fearless Formula Feeder adds:

If you watch the video, it is clear that bottle feeding was indeed associated with 100% of the cosleeping death cases in Milwaukee. …

However, the sensationalist news report also mentioned, in passing, some other important factors. Like that the majority of the babies lived in low-income, black families. And that 75% lived in households where smoking was a factor, and many had parents who engaged in drug use or drank frequently. Or that a number of the cases, though originally classified as cosleeping deaths, were later ruled as other causes of death, like SIDS.

Although the City of Milwaukee Health Department would like it to be a black and white issue, there are clearly shades of gray. The medical examiner reports in Milwaukee County showed that the vast majority of co-sleeping deaths were African-American babies living in what the Black Health Coalition calls “chaotic homes.” McKenna agrees that there is an “overwhelming predominance of deaths in the lower socioeconomic environment.” Yet the city refuses to acknowledge and address the complexities.

The Baby Dust Diaries blogger commented on this as well:

The other issue brought up in the piece is about socioeconomic status. Statistically, more bed-related deaths occur in poorer and often unstable homes. Once again this is a correlation not a causal relationship. I was flabbergasted at the health department woman’s assertion that she shouldn’t even have to think about different types of people. Seriously? How do you serve a population and remain blind to the demographics? I really liked the woman from the community program [Black Health Coalition]. She, correctly, points out that ignoring the reality of the situations at home only drives these already under-served people further away from the services that can help them.

She also points out that there’s a difference between a mom who brings her baby into bed as a last resort and falls asleep and a mom who has done her research and knows how to safely bed share – like she did, as did I. “It isn’t a last resort of the exhausted, but a well-thought out, planned, and safe situation.”

So is it fair, as the city of Milwaukee and the state of Indiana suggest, to say nobody should ever co-sleep? Or how about what James McKenna said, that only breastfeeding moms should be allowed to co-sleep? Or should we instead try to raise awareness about the risks AND benefits of co-sleeping for both breastfed and formula-fed babies and the increased risk for formula-fed babies so that parents can make decisions based on research rather than on fear?

For more information about safe bed sharing, visit:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Chocolate Toddler Formula – What’s Wrong With This Picture?

When I first saw a link to Food Politics’ blog about chocolate toddler formula I thought it was a joke. Yes, I’d heard that formula companies make formula for toddlers as well as infants, but chocolate-flavored?? Seriously?! Yes, seriously. Mead-Johnson’s new Enfagrow Premium Chocolate Toddler Formula with “natural and artificial flavors” is on the market for toddlers age 12 to 36 months. Apparently it’s not enough that we load our elementary school-aged kids full of sugar in the form of chocolate milk. What we really need to do is get them hooked on sugar while they’re young – really young – like 12 months old. I wonder what Jamie Oliver would have to say about this?

Enfamil describes the NEW Enfagrow™ PREMIUM™ Chocolate as follows:

A delicious new flavor for toddlers 12 months and older – with prebiotics for digestive health!

As your child grows from an infant to a toddler, he’s probably becoming pickier about what he eats. Now more than ever, ensuring that he gets complete nutrition can be a challenge.

That’s why we created new Enfagrow PREMIUM Chocolate with Triple Health Guard™. With more nutrition than milk, Omega-3 DHA, prebiotics, and a great tasting chocolate flavor he’ll love, you can help be sure he’s getting the nutrition he still needs even after he outgrows infant formula.

The chocolate formula sells for $19.99 (for 18 servings) at Safeway in Colorado, but is currently on sale for $16.99. (What a steal!) Yes, I went into the store to check it out for myself (and snap some pictures of the nutrition information). I was tempted to buy a can for the sake of research, but I just couldn’t justify giving Enfamil my money, not even in the name of investigative journalism. For the record, they also make a vanilla flavored formula in case your toddler isn’t into chocolate.

Marion Nestle lists the main ingredients in her post Chocolate toddler formula?

Here’s the list of ingredients for everything present at a level of 2% or more:

  • Whole milk
  • Nonfat milk
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa
  • Galactooligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber)
  • High oleic sunflower oil
  • Maltodextrin

Nestle also states that, “Mead-Johnson representatives explained that Enfagrow is not meant as an infant formula. It is meant as a dietary supplement for toddlers aged 12 to 36 months.” Yet, as she points out, it’s called “FORMULA” and it has a Nutrition Facts label, not a Supplement Facts label. Hmmm.

Green Mom in the Burbs had this to say: “Gross. I mean, this is just…gross. No, not the KFC Double Down, though that’s pretty disgusting too… I’m talking about this: Chocolate formula for toddlers. Gross. And I thought trying to get chocolate and strawberry flavored milk out of school cafeterias was important. This is just…wow. I’m not sure even Jamie Oliver can save us.”

Cate Nelson from Eco Childs Play calls Enfagrow Chocolate Toddler Formula the “Gag Me Product of the Week” and said, “There are serious problems with this product. First off, why do toddlers, even those who are no longer breastfed, need an infant formula? Is “baby” not getting proper nutrition? And if so, how in the world is a chocolate-flavored formula going to solve this problem?”

Kiera Butler who writes at Mother Jones explains a bit about toddler formula. “So what is toddler formula, anyway? Nutritionally, the unflavored version is pretty similar to whole milk, except with more calcium and phosphorous. There seems to be a consensus that after age one, kids don’t really need formula at all, as long as they have a healthy solid-foods diet and are getting plenty of calcium.”

Danielle, who blogs at Momotics said she was shocked by some of the comments she read on CafeMom about the chocolate toddler formula. One comment read, “What’s the big deal? Kids extended breastfeed.” Danielle responded, “AHHH! There is NO comparison between a chocolate formula for toddlers and a mothers breast milk. They aren’t even on the same page, or in the same book!”

She also wants to know “why are we going to encourage our children into unhealthy eating habits by providing them with a tasty chocolatey treat? In a country with obesity rates in our children growing, it seems like simple and unknowing choices like this as children could lead our kids into serious risky eating habits as adults.”

Danielle adds, “I think the biggest realization this all brought me to today is that Jamie Oliver is right, there is such a huge issue with food, eating, nutrition, and our parents today that we need to seriously take a look at in our country. There is a problem, and the comments that the parents on CafeMom brought to the table did nothing but prove that parents are grossly un- and undereducated on what we should and should not be giving our children.”

Annie from PhD in Parenting points out that because of breastfeeding, her babies got all sorts of great flavors through her breastmilk without having to actually eat artificial flavoring.

JennyLou is concerned about the potential health problems as well. “Our obesity rates continue to climb. More kids are now obese than ever before. Kids don’t know what vegetables are. Kids won’t eat vegetables. Kids are drinking juice, soda, etc. out of baby bottles and then sippy cups. And now, enter chocolate formula. What a recipe for disaster.”

Christina who blogs at A Mommy Story wonders about the possible caffeine levels in the cocoa used in the formula.

All in all, I have to say this product scares the heck out of me. I understand that some children need extra calories and may even live on a entirely liquid diet and there could potentially be a need for this (though I’m guessing there are healthier alternatives), but having a product like this available to the masses seems like a bad, bad idea. Our kids already have the deck stacked against them when it comes to nutrition in this country, why make it any worse?

Nestle ended her post saying, “Next: let’s genetically modify moms to produce chocolate breast milk!” And Abbie, who blogs at Farmer’s Daughter responded, “I’m snacking on some chocolate right now and nursing my son. Funny coincidence. That’s as close as he’s going to get to chocolate milk for a long time.” Rightfully so.

Edited on 6/9/10 to add: FOX News reports Controversial Chocolate-Flavored Baby Formula Ends Production

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Health Care Reform Lends Support to Breastfeeding Moms, But Is It Enough?

If we’ve heard “breast is best” once, we’ve heard it a thousand times. Health experts agree the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother are numerous. A study published earlier this week by the journal Pediatrics points out just how valuable breastfeeding can be. “If 90 percent of new moms in the United States breastfed their babies exclusively for the first six months, researchers estimate that as many as 900 more infants would survive each year, and the country would save about $13 billion in health care costs annually.”

It seems that while everyone gives lip service to the importance of breastfeeding, there isn’t a lot of support for women once they make the decision to breastfeed. Women have been asked to cover up or leave restaurants, water parks, airplanes, and stores when they try to give their baby what’s “best.” Maternity leave in the United States is, at best, 12 weeks. Women who work outside the home have often been forced to pump their breast milk in bathroom stalls, hide under a desk, or sit in their car just to get a little bit of privacy because rooms for nursing/pumping mothers just don’t exist. So yes, breast might be best for baby, but until there are more regulations in place that allow moms to breastfeed without so many roadblocks, how can breast be “best” for moms?

There is, however, a bit of good news on the horizon. Health Care Reform is lending some support to breastfeeding moms with the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.

  • Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Health Care Reform), states that employers shall provide breastfeeding employees with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child’s first birthday.
  • Employers are not required to pay for time spent expressing milk, and employers of less than 50 employees shall not be required to provide the breaks if doing so would cause “undue hardship” to their business.

Tanya from The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog thinks this is a step in the right direction. “I’m not thrilled that it extends the right for only up to 1 year (I pumped longer for my son), but what a huge difference this would make for mothers in the many states, mine included, that do not extend this right under state law!”

Currently, only 24 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have legislation related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Yet women now comprise half the U.S. workforce, and are the primary breadwinner in nearly 4 out of 10 American families. The fastest growing segment of the workforce is women with children under age three.

Doula-ing is excited about the new law and calls it “a giant leap forward for mother’s who want to continue to breastfeed their babies once they return to work.”

Kim Hoppes, who doesn’t appear to be a fan of Health Care Reform is, however, pleased with this change. “Well, something good came out of the health care reform nightmare. Places now have to give breaks to nursing moms so they can pump.”

Lylah from Boston.com Moms seems to think the new law is not enough and asks, “How can we expect 90 percent of new moms to breastfeed without support in the workplace?”

One thing seems pretty clear: If it’s in the country’s best interests to have new moms nurse their infants exclusively for at least six months — and the billions of dollars in health care savings indicates that it may be — then new moms should get at least six months of paid leave in which they can do so. The United States and Australia are the only two industrialized countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. And moms in the Outback have a sweeter deal than we do: In Australia, your job is protected for a year, but in the United States new working moms only get that guarantee for 12 weeks.

What do you think about the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers law? Is it too much? Not enough? Just right? None of the government’s business?

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tundakov/2550864384/

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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