Sunday, March 30, 2008

Alcohol to Increase Milk Production?

Since I started breastfeeding, I've become an avid reader of breastfeeding discussion boards, sites like, journal articles, news publications and books like "The Nursing Mother's Companion."

One of the bits of wisdom I've heard imparted to nursing moms from Lactation consultants and these sources are to drink a glass of alcohol (typically beer) to produce and maintain an adequate milk production.

However, a study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (April 2005 publication) found that alcohol consumption did NOT increase milk production.

A summary of the study states:

Oxytocin levels for each woman fell a striking 78 percent during the session where she had the alcohol. The women also reported feeling more tired and less happy on those days. Prolactin levels, on the other hand, surged by 336 percent during the alcohol session. The two hormones that normally move together in the nursing dance, went spinning in opposite directions after a drink. The result? Women produced less milk (volume and calories). But high prolactin levels lead to an increased sensation of breast fullness, so mothers feel like they are making more milk even though they are making less. Babies suck more vigorously at the beginning of nursing after their mother has had a drink, leading many mothers to think that babies are drinking more. Probably they are sucking harder because they are getting less. Breastfed babies drink an average of 20 percent less milk after their mother has had alcohol.

A glass of alcohol does make mom sleepier and make her breasts feel fuller. This could be the explanation for the generations of folk wisdom. Because moms couldn't measure how much milk their babies were drinking, there was nothing to contradict this advice.

The word is still out on non-alcoholic beer and brewer's yeast as many mothers have reported increased milk production after using these products.

I find it interesting that the study showed alcohol's effects to be contradictory: the breasts felt fuller leading mothers to think that more milk was being produced, while in truth the opposite was true.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It is You I Have Loved

You'd think that a love song would be sung to the love of one's life, but in the case of the song below (Dana Glover's It is You I Have Loved from the Shrek Soundtrack), when I sing it, its dedicated to my first child.

I can't say that the lyrics apply to my relationship with my husband, because even after we were married, I knew there was something missing in my life. I felt like I was on earth still searching for my home; the place I belonged and was supposed to be. When Peter and I were married, he didn't complete me. I had made an effort to be a "whole" person when I married so my spouse wasn't missing something from me. I believe that the individuals in a married need to be whole people that are then bound to each other to become a greater whole, rather than the romantic notion that each are incomplete or only half a person until they are married to become one.

There is something that I see
In the way you look at me
There's a smile, there's a truth in your eyes

But an unexpected way
On this unexpected day
Could it mean this is where I belong
It is you I have loved all along

It's no more mystery
It is finally clear to me
You're the home my heart searched for so long
And it is you I have loved all along

There were times I ran to hide
Afraid to show the other side
Alone in the night without you

But now I know just who you are
And I know you hold my heart
Finally this is where I belong
It is you I have loved all along

It's no more mystery
It is finally clear to me
You're the home my heart searched for so long
And it is you I have loved all along

Over and over
I'm filled with emotion
Your love, it rushes through my veins

And I am filled
With the sweetest devotion
As I, I look into your perfect face

It's no more mystery
It is finally clear to me
You're the home my heart searched for so long
And it is you I have loved
It is you I have loved
It is you I have loved all along

So I was suprised when I discovered that becoming a mother meant that I finally found "this is where I belong" and that it was my child that "I have loved all along." As Willem's mother, I am home and I am complete for this stage of my life. I am "filled with the sweetest devotion" when I look into his eyes, hold, cuddle, and nurse him. Even after marriage, my heart was still searching for meaning and the sense that I belonged somewhere doing something important. And Willem, and any other children I bear, is what has given my life new meaning and purpose.

Recognizing Birth Rape

As my readers know, I experienced PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) after the birth of my first child. It was because the process of giving birth was particularly grueling or painful, but it stemmed from feeling like my bodily integrity and autonomy was taken away from my by hospital staff during the vulnerable time when I
was bring my child into the world.

Since his birth, I have learned alot about PTSD after childbirth and found something surprising: the treatment I received can be considered a form of rape. And my considering that term, I can say that exactly what it felt like to have strangers forcing me to do or submit to certain practices.

Amity Reed, blogger of TheFWord describes birth rape in these terms:

A woman who is raped while giving birth does not experience the assault in a way that fits neatly within the typical definitions we hold true in civilised society. A penis is usually nowhere to be found in the story and the perpetrator may not even possess one. But fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors… these are the tools of birth rape and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passer-by off the street and tied her up before having his way with her. Women are slapped, told to shut up, stop making noise and a nuisance of themselves, that they deserve this, that they shouldn’t have opened their legs nine months ago if they didn’t want to open them now. They are threatened, intimidated and bullied into submitting to procedures they do not need and interventions they do not want. Some are physically restrained from moving, their legs held open or their stomachs pushed on.

The writer goes on to describe that many women who experience birth rape also suffer from post traumatic stress disorder like I have and something called tokophobia or fear of childbirth. If, and they often do, women find themselves pregnant and facing the birth of another child, Reed states that their actions include:

Those who experienced trauma or rape in their first births are either electing for planned caesareans (which have their own, very real risks), terrified of going through the pain and degradation again, or forgoing hospitals altogether and birthing their babies at home, sometimes even unassisted by any professionals (called ‘unassisted childbirth’ or UC).

Those who are familiar with my plans for my next birth know that I refuse to experience that type of abuse and degradation again and instead am opting for a homebirth that may or may not be attended by a birth professional. I do not want to be exposed to another person trying to exert their will or exhibit control over my body when I'm working and allowing the process of birth to take place.

I wish that more birth professionals and hospital birth attends will learn that their actions have the same psychological effects as rape on the women they treat in that way. I would like to see trainings and seminars for obstetricians, midwives, nurses, family doctors and pernatoligists that discuss ways to prevent this result from happening to other women. As Danell Swim of TrueBirth states, "these Birth Rapes are perpetrated by an individual, or several individuals. It is not medically necessary, and yet the act is horrific, and leaves emotional and sometimes physical scars." Birth professionals need to be aware of this, in order to prevent it.

And wouldn't it be nice if the individuals who perpetrate these actions are held accountable? Reed states that attempts for complaint or criminal persecution are often "remote and insignificant." I hope that someday a birth rape case will be won on behalf of the victim and that the financial and liability wake-up call will be enough for birth professionals to change their ways.

That's Why?

It is known that anxiety interferes with the hormones of labour - and what perfect sense this makes. In nature if a woman is anxious it may not be safe for her to birth - safety is obviously paramount in birth and this feeling of withdrawing is natural to ensure a woman finds a safe place. We have indoctrinated women that hospital is the place of safety so no wonder this is where most women choose. Also it follows why many women go to hospital very early in labour - they wish to settle into their chosen place of birth.

Excerpt from Anna Berkely's home birth story on Birth International.

The above quote resonated with me because its a thought that I have been unable to put into words previously. When I was in labor with my son, I thought I was doing so well to not go to the hospital early in labor. The labor sensations started at 1 am in the morning, and by 11 am I was still having regularly spaced contractions. I had had an midwife appointment scheduled that day so I had waited for that visit before deciding to go the hospital. At that appointment, the midwife advised me to check into Labor and Delivery because I was already 3 cm dilated and contracting regularly. With that recommendation and the knowledge that labor had started some hours earlier, I figured I wouldn't be checking into the hospital during early labor and that I'd be able to hole up and find my space to birth my baby. I went to check in but L&D was full. They were full for another 5 hours. It was then that my labor seemed to go into a holding pattern, it didn't stop, it didn't slow down, but it also didn't progress or intensify as it should.

So no surprise that at 4 pm, when I was permitted to enter the birthing unit, there had been no further progress (in spite of walking to stimulate contractions and resting to conserve energy). I was very frustrated when after another 4 hours in the hospital filled with constant monitorring, interruptions and conflict with staff, I was told to leave because I was refusing interventions that would artifically stimulate the labor to progress.

I found that the hospital wasn't a safe place for me where I could feel comfortable to birth my baby. After the preceeding anxious hours before going into the hospital, I encountered even more anxiety when being pressured by the attending midwife to interfere with my baby's birth against my wishes. I strongly belief that standard procedures and "admission criteria" are a causative factor to my stress filled early labor which continued on in total for over 30 hours. From that point on, active labor and the birth went smoothly. An easy and straightforward 8 hours later, the sunshine in my life was born.

If I could go back and do it all over again, my birth plan would be much different. I would have chosen a home environment as the birth setting and a supportive, encouraging midwife. I know that I need a emotionally safe and nurturing environment to enable the process of birth to proceed from my body. And a hospital is not where I will find it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sauna: an alternative birthing environment

Today, I visited the Nordic Heritage Museum where I learned that it is the Finnish who are famous for the inventions of the sauna (correctly pronounced SOW-NA) as early as the 5th to 8th centuries, and its also the tradition place where Finnish women would birth their babies. This of course intrigued me so I got online to find out more about this birthing practice. Of course, I have heard of water birth in tubs, and even the ocean, as a comfort measure during childbirth, but a sauna is fundamentally different in that it is dry heat and on land, in place of being submerged in water.

I read on wikipedia that the reason women gave birth in saunas was because of the sterile, warm environment with water readily available. But there must be more than just sterility and warmth that made this such a common practice in the Finnish culture.

The article goes on to state:
In Finland and Estonia, the sauna is an ancient custom. It used to be a holy place, a place where women gave birth, and where the bodies of the dead were washed.

Additionally, the sauna provides the following benefits that lend directly to easing the effort of childbirth:
The temperature changes of therapeutic sauna can help and this has other benefits as well. When first used gradual increases in heating and cooling are recommended. Therapeutic sauna reduces stress hormones and the cardiac workload is considered about half that of a walk, so initial exposure time is important also. The hypothalamus in our brain controls the balance homeostasis of the autonomic nervous system between the ACTION sympathetic and the RELAXATION parasympathetic nervous tone. The well known ‘fight or flight’ stress response produces hormones intended to be burnt off by action, but in a modern lifestyle such hormones may remain in the system. Chronic illness can be associated with altered sympathetic nervous function. Continual stress may alter the balance point of homeostasis, as can some persistent viruses. Allostatic load measurement is an emerging science of measuring with physiological tests the accumulated effect of all types of stress, over time, on the body. Four different patterns of dysfunctional allostasis have been identified, each associated with certain chronic conditions. When allostasis (the process of maintenance of homeostasis, adaptation, and survival) is dysfunctional the balance point is shifted and persistent symptoms may result. In one form of dysfunction the hypothalamus and HPA axis responsible for producing hormones is found to be hypo functioning with effects on the sympathetic system and the immune system. In particular production of hypothalamus controlled HPA axis hormones such as ACTH and cortisol; as well other hormones are affected. Other patterns of dysfunctional allostasis involve conditions where there is failure to habituate or adapt to stress and another pattern with high levels of stress hormones, causes conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure. Therapeutic sauna has been shown to aid adaptation, reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular conditions.

For more information about the effects of saunas as a health practice, see the above cited link. I recommend the article there as it is heavily cited with biomedical research. Unfortunately, I am unable to located any research directly connecting pain relief and comfort during birth to the use of saunas.

The truth about epidurals?

This article was passed on to me by Carla Hartley, founder of the Trust Birth Initiative.
A new book says that women should routinely have epidurals in labour. Experts on both sides of the ‘pain is gain' divide give their views
Anyone who has had a baby knows that childbirth as a competitive sport puts the Olympics in the shade. I'll never forget the “post-match analysis” at my antenatal class, where intelligent, educated women offered grovelling apologies to our childbirth instructor for their “second rate” (i.e, anaesthetised) births. I couldn't help feeling that two thirds of the class had forked out £150 to be made to feel like bad mothers before their babies had taken their first breath.

So it was a relief to come across the book, Enjoy your labor: A new approach to pain relief for childbirth, by Dr Gilbert Grant, director of obstetric anaesthesia at New York University Medical Center. He says that the biblical edict to women to “bring forth children in sorrow” is simply no longer applicable.

So which theory is right? I decided to ask experts on both sides to share their views on the “best” way to give birth.

Dr Grant believes that women should get an epidural, even before pain starts. According to him, much of the information that women receive is incomplete or inaccurate, and that the lucrative “natural childbirth industry” creates fear and guilt about epidurals. He believes that opposition to anaesthesia during childbirth is the result of a deep-seated misogyny: “There is no other situation in medicine in which pain relief is routinely withheld. No man would be asked to undergo an appendectomy, which lasts about 24 minutes, without pain relief, yet the pain of labour, which can last for more than 24 hours, is viewed as something women have to endure.

“Natural childbirth has become a multimillion-dollar industry. The fear of epidurals is promoted by those who discourage their use - and who have a vested interest in doing so.

“Childbirth instructors describe epidurals as unnecessary, or even harmful, interventions and make women feel that requesting one is a sign of weakness that may harm their baby. Labour is seen as an extreme sport - ‘no pain, no gain' - and yet this quasi-religious fervour is based on myth and misconception. The founders of natural childbirth movements NCT and Lamaze, both men, incidentally, claimed that women in primitive cultures experienced no pain in labour. Pain in childbirth, they claimed, is a product of Western civilised society - a learned phenomenon. The implication was that if women breathed ‘properly' or assumed the ‘correct' positions, the labour would be pain-free. Women were made to feel they had failed if they asked for pain relief. There is evidence that in all cultures giving birth has been a painful experience,” says Grant.

“Opponents of the epidural also claim that it may impact negatively on breast-feeding, but there is little data to prove this. On the other hand, there is evidence that unrelieved pain is one of the risk factors for post-natal depression.

“Modern low-dose ‘walking epidurals' allow women to remain active while retaining the muscle strength to push out the baby. Technological advances mean that women are able to administer their own dosage and this makes them feel more in control. Furthermore, studies show that babies born to women who have had epidurals come out in better shape than those from ‘natural' childbirth.

“Women should be allowed to choose if they want pain relief, but should have access to accurate information. It is barbaric that pain should still be viewed as an integral, even desirable, element of childbirth.”

I'd love to hear some responses to these words. I'm not an expert when it comes to the birth research, although I do what I can to weed out the truth from the myths about treatment for pregnancy and birth.

I just find it fallacious that a doctor would compare the sensations of childbirth to an apendectomy which is an invasive surgery where flesh and muscles are being manually cut through. It takes me back to a previous argument: the female body is biologically manufactured for a baby to pass through it, but it is not a natural process for body parts to be cut out. If we wanted to compare apples to apples in this situation, we'd say of course, pain relief is neccessary for a Cesarean birth because its surgery where the baby is being artifically removed from the mothers body.

Also, I believe the author undermines his own argument by stating that the orginators of the natural childbirth techniques are men, as the author of the above article is also a man. If he's going to pull out the gender card, he can also recognize the fact that he himself would not understand or truly be able to appreciate what childbirth feels like from a woman's perspective.

And to address the above mentioned studies, I'd like to see where epidural and analgesia use in childbirth do not contribute to breastfeeding difficulties, or that epidural babies are in "better shape" than those babies who were not exposed to drugs in the mother's system.

Evidently, the obstetrician quoted in the above article is not familiar with the biomedical research done by Dr. Michel Odent and Dr. Sarah J. Buckley(see article the real risks of epidurals are discussed for both mom and babies) who eloquently describe the importance of an undisturbed, psyiological birth where drugs are not being used.

To conclude, I will also point out that, it may be true that "natural childbirth" is a multi-million dollar industry each year, but let's also remember that medicalized childbirth is a multi-billion dollare industry each year, where the belief that women's bodies were evolutionarily made to give birth is ignored and belittled with every procedure and intervention. And let's not forget, the revenue generated from epidurals: over $1000 for each one, and that's not including the incidentals to it: the electronic fetal monitoring, the cathedar, and the prerequisite IV. And this OB is saying that $150 for a childbirth education class is money gouging.

I'm sure that others could address the fallacies in logic and fact in this article better than I. I mentioned some of the points that I felt I could discuss with some intelligence. I'm open to hearing the thoughts and birth truth that others are knowledgeable of.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Barter- Trading Skills and Goods

As a mama, I'm just discovering the beauty of bartering; trading skill for skill, or skill for goods, etc. Now that I have discovered it, I'm constantly trying to think of new and creative ways to do it.

So far, I've bartered my graphic design skills and software to make a book cover for a local mama in return for date nights. Those are so rare at this point, I'm very excited that the prospect of having some time just me and my husband.

The other trade I've made is embroidering my Irish dance school's logo on to school's capes worn during performances in return for a Irish dancer wig. Its a dream come true! I've always wanted curly hair, as well as auburn hair and now I can have it whenever I want, without spending hours dying and curling.*FYI* Irish dancers typically wear large curly wigs when performing.

Then of course, there is babysitting for babysitting--the good old "you take care of my kids and then I'll take care of yours."

I've heard of bartering for doula and midwifery services and am interested in being in contact with birth providers in my area to find out what type of services they accept for trade. I'm all about affordable and anything that engenders a stronger sense of community, interdependence and cooperation in our society!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Accomplice to My Shame

I realize now.
I live in a climate of willfull ignorance, refusing to be aware.
Instead, hiding behind my excuses.
"I didn't know."
"I was just doing what I was told."
But now I know.
I will not do what I'm told.
Because what I was told is not right.
The abuses against the vulnerable,
the women heavy with new life,
ought to be called crimes against humanity.
But now I know,
I'm not the victim.
I am an accomplice.
With that knowledge, a bitter, revolted wave washes over me.
I cannot have peace knowing this is what I did to myself.
My own refusal to be more aware, to find what I needed to know--
Its out there, because I've found it now--
has made me the unknowing partner in the abuse
that left me damaged and weak.
After the hurt, I had a choice.
I could have desired to not know.
Never to acknowledge my part in it.
I could have blamed everyone else besides me and say,
"I was victim to my circumstance. They were wrong and I couldn't have known."
And then become a self-indulgent coward.
Participating in the type of cowardice that makes it possible for people to allow and participate in all the injustices and crimes of the world.
Perpetuating abuse by turning a blind eye.
But I learned.
Choosing to be unaware of another's suffering,
even my own, is no excuse for inaction.
I cannot chose willful ignores that exonerates me from culpability,
releasing me into a stupor of cowardice and irresponsibility.
I am facing the part of my blame.
Taking responsibility for my ignorance and inaction.
With this insight, I can choose to not be a victim again.
I will not let that abuse happen to me
And will work so that it does not happen to others.
I am aware. Now I know.
I will no longer be an accomplice to my shame.

This is another poem inspired by the text of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the commentary of it written by Jean-Yves LeLoup. The text of the gospel is as follows:
Then it entered into the third climate
known as Ignorance.
Ingornance inquired of the soul:
'Where are you going?
You are dominated by wicked inclinations.
Indeed, you lack discrimination, and you are enslaved.'

I feel that consquence of PTSD after childbirth, was in large part caused by my wicked inclination to avoid responsibility for the birth my child and hand it over to those who would take the responsibility upon themselves who for fear of culpability and litigation would act conservatively and agressively when treating my pregnancy and child. I did not have or did not seek out the discrimination (another word being discernment)to learn what my responsibility and role in birthing my child would be. I had false assumptions of my responsibility, my provider's responsibility and the roles we could play respectively. Because I did not take the time to make myself aware of the realities of birthing in a hospital environment, I became enslaved to their policies, their time schedule, their need to clear beds out quickly. And because of my ignorance, which is some ways could be labeled willful, I became one of the causes to my hurt. In the end, I was an accomplise because I did not seek out the information to make more appropriate decisions.

After my child's birth, I turned to research and publications about appropriate labor support and found that the information was out there that would have told me to avoid the controlling, rigid hospital environment for the birth of my child. I found that information after the fact and realized I hadn't educated myself and take the responsibility I needed to in order to prevent the abuse that was perpetuated against me. Of course, I know better now, so I can make different choices in subsequent pregnancies. I also have a level of empathy for other women who may have experienced similar feelings of rape, and control over their bodies in a sensitive and vulnerable time.

The experience also gave me an understanding of the power of God to create and bring forth life, the love he has for his children, and the awesomeness of life and existence. I have increased faith in God's processes of how babies are born, and the inate ability of the women of God to birth babies in love, gentleness and joy, all the while, experience the stuggle and labor of childbirth. The act of birthing a child is so very awe inspiring with the contradiction of love and joy in the midst of pain, and struggle. It is a real world example of the principle of the gospel states that we must know pain and suffering to understand happiness and joy, or else remain in total innocence knowing neither.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Breast Crawl

I have been wanting to see video of the breast crawl (the newborn's ability to latch on to mother's nipple without assistance). There are places on the web that sells DVD of this natural phenomenon for $40 a copy and I haven't felt compelled to put that much money down, for something that I could be patient and experience myself with the birth of my next baby.

Tonight I came across this video produced by a province in India in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO. I am pleased to view this video and then share it with others.

The website also shares the science and studies that have observed and described this phenomenon. Its truly amazing! I wish more people knew about this so they could experience the reverence and respect for new life and a baby's inate abilities.

The Fruit of the Tree of Life

I walked through wide open fields, mists of fog, along a flowing river,
until I came to a path that ran straight and true.
Culminating in a hill topped with a tree,
laden with heavy fruit.
It was pure and ripe, full of sweetness in its plump rosy flesh.
Delicious to the taste, desirable above all other fruits.
The fruit therof promised new life, full of wonder.
Ripe for the picking.

As I looked across the expanse of the hilltop,
I saw families gathering.
Fathers supporting mothers who like the tree were heavy laden and round.
Children watched as the process of new life unfolded before them.
Mothers leaned into their husbands,
and clinging, found support from a rod of iron leading to the tree.
A few looked distracted, their attention pulled from their task.

I followed their gaze to a large building off in the distance.
From the windows of the building, women leaned jeering with IVs in their arms.
Others, bedridden, looked from their beds to the women under the shade of the tree and scoffed.
Orderlies and attendants in white and shades of blue, hands covered in latex, mouths obscured by masks, too assumed the manner of mocking those beneath the tree.

The ashamed left their pleasant spot and found the path to the spacious building
where they joined the ranks of IV inserted, bed ridden, hermetically garbed.
There they were cut open, blood pouring from their wound. The pure fruit of their womb stained and bloodied.
Once sutured, they were expelled from the building in shame and hurt.
Then drowned in the depths of their sorrow.

While those undeterred by the jeers and mockery, birthed their babies in bliss and security.
And truly came to know the deliciousness of the fruit of love.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Letter to the AAP to Align Breastfeeding Reccomendations with WHO

Dear American Academy of Pediatrics,
I am writing to urge you to update your breastfeeding recommendations.

In 1997, the AAP made an effort to clarify the policy statement, to help the public understand your position that breastfeeding ought to continue for at least the first year, and as long as mutually desired after that, not to stop at 6 months or 12 months as many people were misinterpreting the recommendation. Two of your members (Lawrence and Gartner) speaking on this topic stated that they wished in retrospect that they had made the recommendation for a minimum of two years. In 2005, an update to the policy statement was made, including new research on the "benefits" of breastfeeding. However, the breastfeeding rates in the U.S. are dismal. The AAP should take all possible action within its power order to encourage breastfeeding and discourage substandard feeding practices.

Many other countries follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) lead in recommending a minimum of two years of breastfeeding. The "Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding", by the World Health Organization in collaboration with UNICEF, states:

"As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. There after, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond."

Furthermore, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states:

"Breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is currently not the cultural norm and requires ongoing support and encouragement. Breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual. If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the woman's personal decision. If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned. Breastfeeding the nursing child after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help to provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child."

The AAFP also emphasizes:

"Because breastfeeding is the physiologic norm, we will refer to the risks of not breastfeeding for infants, children, and mothers."

Perhaps if more mothers could receive information about the risks they take by not breastfeeding or by weaning too soon, the societal barriers and lack of support for breastfeeding would vanish. The AAP should reword its literature in terms of the risks of not breastfeeding, rather than leaving it in terms of the "benefits" of mother's milk.

The U.S. has high rates of infant mortality and incredibly low breastfeeding duration and exclusivity rates. Childhood diseases, including obesity, which is becoming an epidemic, have the potential for much better management or prevention if simple improvements in recommendations about breastfeeding are made.

In my opinion, the fact that the AAP recommends the minimum duration of breastfeeding to be only one year means that many women will:

1) shoot for one year and fall short, or 2) breastfeed for one year and then wean for no other reason than that they have met the minimum AAP recommendation for duration of breastfeeding.

Perhaps if a two year minimum or ideal recommendation were set, more women would seek help in proper breastfeeding management in order to meet the new recommendation. If women were making efforts to protect their supply early on in order to make it to two years, more women would reach the current one year recommendation even if they could not make it to two years of breastfeeding ultimately.

Furthermore, bringing your recommendations in line with the rest of the world may help curb some of the inappropriate discrimination against nursing mothers who nurse 1, 2, and 3-year-olds or even older children. Tennessee recently passed a breastfeeding in public protection that only applies if the baby is 12 months of age or younger. I feel that this is because of the misunderstanding of the AAP recommendations, or an assumption that the AAP recommendation implies that there is little to no benefit to the child of breastfeeding past 12 months of age.

The Healthy People 2010 goals are in serious danger of not being met. The AAP is a respected organization with the tremendous responsibility of establishing policies that protect children's health. This role isn't a popularity contest- it's a serious matter than can even mean life or death for some. Unfortunately it has been about ten years since anything truly groundbreaking has been addressed on this subject, despite a tremendous amount of new research. It is time to update, publicize, and promote new recommendations that will ultimately encourage physicians and parents to nurture a healthier nation.

To send a letter to the AAP asking them to revise their breastfeeding recommendations, go to: Action Letter to AAP on It only takes a minute and you can change the letter to reflect your personal views and experiences. The website also gives address to the current AAP president and executive director.

Finding my Niche: Volunteering with CIMS

Since my initiation to birth activism after the traumatic birth of my son, I started searching for my niche in the birth community. The order of activities I considered was midwife, then doula, then Trust Birth facilitator, researcher, blogger, donor to birth advocacy organizations, Birth Network facilitator, website administrator for a maternity care rating system, and support group leader for women with PTSD after childbirth. One by one, I evaluated the resources and ability I had to do those activities; knowing I couldn't do all of them and be a mom, and a wife and a graduate student. I chose to do what I could in the meantime and that's when I started this blog. Someday, I may pursue more specialized training in the area but I'm aware that this is not the right time in life for me to do so. Then I discovered the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) and decided to work as a volunteer with them.

CIMS is currently working on the Transparency in Maternity Care Project, also known as the Birth Survey. This is what the website says about the purpose of the project:

We believe that women of childbearing age must have access to information that will help them choose maternity care providers and institutions that are most compatible with their own philosophies and needs. We hope that the Transparency in Maternity Care Project will provide information that will help women make fully informed maternity care decisions.

At the heart of the project is an on-going, online consumer survey, The Birth Survey, that asks women to provide feedback about their birth experience with a particular doctor or midwife and within a specific birth environment. Responses will be made available online to other women in their community who are deciding where and with whom to birth. Paired with this experiential data will be official statistics from state departments of health listing obstetrical intervention rates at the facility level.

A few days before I discovered this project, I had thought to myself that expecting families needed to have a consumer feedback system in place for maternity care providers in the US, so families could have experiential information and recommendations from other mothers who received care from maternity care providers in their community. So I started searching the web to see if anything like I was envisioning already existed (I'm good at coming up with ideas that are already in the works, and there's no point in reinventing the wheel to find out someone has a better model than me). I was pleased to learn that CIMS has had this project going for the last two years.

They are currently running a pilot of the survey in New York City and plan to make the survey available in August of this year to every women in the US who has given birth in the last 3 years. Women looking for maternity care will be able to view customizable reports once others have completed the survey.

I am pleased to be able to put my interest and skills to work on this project. CIMS is also looking for volunteers across the country who are interested in publicizing the project and its importance for childbearing families. Bloggers, community and online forum participants are encouraged to get the word out to women.

To become a volunteer contact:

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Harmony and Healing

Be in harmony;
a musical resonance in tune with all that is.
No willing or desiring of particulars
fixated on illusions separate from the flow of life.
Finding this resonance in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.
Tuning to our adversary,
in accord with those who offend
Not to simply give in and let them have their way.
Confronting the adversary without adding to and provoking new violence.
Skillfully allowing their violence to pass through us.
Without allowing the poison of their intent to contaminate.
To awaken a consciousness within them of their own trouble.
Turning the other cheek to those who strike.
The other cheek
To offer the same would be masochism, weak acquiescence.
Instead, offering new and unexpected oppostion,
standing our ground,
refusing to be a preditable object;
one that is acted upon.
Willing to face the unavoidable friction and conflict.

Where is the harmony? Is it possible when each attempt end in conflict?
First, we must be in harmony with ourselves.
The first possibility to be in harmony with others is to be in harmony with all aspects of ourselves.
No aspect claiming superiority over another,
integrating instead of dominating.
When finding ourselves out of balance within ourselves,
not seeking indulgence, justification or self-blame.
Acknowledging inner discord: fear, panic and hurt,
then finding inspiration
through the manifestations of peace that in within ourselves;
given by the Spirit of love ebbing throughout the universe
Seeking that integration of all part of our whole, leaving nothing out.

Then once again, turning to attune the vibrations of our souls with the souls of those around us.
Finding the strength to balance and be reconciled.
To be in harmony with ourselves before trying to harmonize with the world.

This poem was insprired by a commentary written by Jean-Yves LeLoup, translator of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene into French and then English. His insights into the text of this gnostic gospel turned my thoughts to the discordant environment I found myself in when I was pregnant with my child. My prenatal care, labor support and birth experience created an adversarial environment between my health and my baby's well-being, where I sought to do what the gospels say: "Be in harmony;" "Be reconciled to thy brother;" "And unto him that smiteth thee on one cheek, offer also the other." I struggle to apply these concepts to my birthing experience, feeling that doing any other that fighting would have further traumatized and damaged me. But then to realize that through standing my ground and not being "an object to be acted upon," that I was turning the other cheek as instructed by the Savior.

At the same time I realized that I was not fully in harmony with myself going into birthing my child. I failed to integrate two important aspects of my being: intellectual preparation and spiritual reliance. Why was I shocked at the care I received at the hospital? I did not take the time to read what the maternity care system is like in the US. Knowing what I know now from my crusade as a birth activist could have prevented the heartache I experienced because I probably would have made different choices regarding the care providers I worked with. Also, I went into labor trusting my body and surrenduring to the natural process of birth. I only acknowledged the aspect of will and body in my being, but left out the spirit. Once again I didn't take the time to do what was necessary: to turn to my God who gave me life, the life that is my own and the life of my unborn child. I failed to "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." If I had done so, I would have been more prepared and stronger in facing the birthing environment and care providers there.

The section of the Gospel of Mary Magadelene that inspired these thoughts ends with the words,
Those who have ears,
let them hear.

I have heard and understood with my whole being and in turn, give thanks to the Being who created me.

Friday, March 7, 2008

28 in tall woman births baby

Tiny woman gives birth to big baby
Tiny woman gives birth to big baby

In everything I've read about this, I haven't been able to find the answer to this question: How was the baby born?

Did providers allow labor to start on its own? Was it a scheduled C-section?

I'm guessing that it was a scheduled C-section after 37 weeks. But I'd love to hear differently. It would be REALLY amazing if the mom had been able to vaginally birth her babies! The news articles about this already state how amazing it was that she survived the pregnancies.

MomsRising to Enact Paid Family Leave

I just took a minute to contact the leading candidates for President using the link below and I hope you will too. Breastfeeding takes eight to ten hours per day, and mothers need paid family leave in order to give their babies a healthy start. Join me in telling the candidates for President to support and prioritize paid family leave.

To send a quick and easy email to the candidates, just go to: Email the candidates

Thank you!

For more information read this message from Nannette of MomsRising below:

Dear MomsRising member,

Did you know it takes eight to ten hours per day to breastfeed a newborn?[1]

As a mother of four, I can attest that I spent many long hours breastfeeding, especially in my children's first weeks of life. So, the question of paid family leave is personal for me. How can a mother be successful in those early make-or-break days if she's working long hours, feeling pressured to get back to work quickly, or wondering how to make ends meet if she doesn't return fast because she has no paid time off?

The Presidential candidates talk about bringing new ideas and leadership to this country. Some of them even have plans in place to enact paid family leave, but none of those promises will become policy unless the candidates know that moms are paying attention -- and what we want is action.

Tell the leading Presidential candidates that moms in America need paid family leave.

Email the Candidates

According to a new study just released by the U.S. Census Bureau [2], 49% of American mothers cobble together some sort of paid leave following childbirth by using a combination of sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and employer-provided maternity leave. A full 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave-so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.

Tomorrow, Saturday, March 8, is International Women's Day. A joint Harvard and McGill University study of over 170 countries found that the U.S. is one of only four countries that doesn't have any paid leave for new mothers.[3] This is a national disgrace.

The next president has a chance to right this wrong. But we need to get on their radar now, while they are courting the "mom" vote. Send an email to the leading Presidential candidates asking them, upon taking office, to make it a priority to pass national paid family leave.

Please pass along this email to other moms, dads, and grandparents who want to see a more family-friendly America. We appreciate it and so do our babies!

[1] The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by the La Leche League, contains a treasure trove of advice for new moms.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961-2003 Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns

[3] For example, mothers in France get 10 weeks and mothers in Germany get 14 weeks of fully paid leave. See: Paid Leave in 5 countries. See also: "The Work, Family, and Equity Index: How Does the U.S. Measure Up," by Jody Heyman, Allison Earle, and Jeffrey Hayes. How the US Measures Up; and "More Moms Take Paid Leave," by Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, February 26, 2008. Moms Take Paid Leave