It has been quite awhile since I breastfed my little ones but even so it is one of those subjects that I am still deeply passionate and opinionated about. From the time my youngest was born I knew I would breastfeed and mostly that was because my own mother had. I recall her breastfeeding my younger brother well into his toddler years and she talked about the joy of breastfeeding so enthusiastically that I knew I had do the same when I became a mother. This made me the odd one out among my friends and peers but I also found that I truly enjoyed the whole breastfeeding experience and I fed my oldest child this way until I had to return to work, about four months after his birth.
Weaning him so early became a big regret for me when he developed health problems a short time later. His health problems were so severe that that I waited three years to have another child and I was determined from the get go that this child would be breastfed exclusively and for an extended period of time. I had plenty of time to research all the reasons why breast is best and I wasn’t going to let modern life get in the way of of feeding my child the absolute best food. Not this time, no way. I quit my job and really never looked back. That was nine years ago this week. I breastfed my daughter for 2.5 years with the last 6 months of that being done in tandem with her little brother. Every moment breastfeeding her was special and joyous just as my mother described. I like to think that all the time she spent at the breast gave her a great start in life. It makes me so sad that many mothers and babies do not experience this and that so so many cultures are not supportive of this all important aspect of raising children.
BREAST IS BEST. By now this should be a widely known fact and all women should be be educated about why breastfeeding is not only 100% normal and natural but also extremely important for the health of their children. I will be honest that I get more than a little peeved by prevailing attitudes about breastfeeding in the US but I just have to hope that most of it is lack of education and that it can someday be remedied.
This is why a new report from Save the Children was of great interest to me and I want to share it here. Quite simply it highlights the fact that breastmilk is superfood for babies and that it saves lives. The report talks about the ‘power of the first hour’ and they estimate that 830,000 infant deaths could be avoided if every baby were breastfed within the first hour of life. Much of this has to do with colostrum, which is the first milk. It is the most potent natural immune system booster known to science.
Other stats from the report:
* An infant given breast milk within an hour of birth is up to three times more likely to survive than one breastfed a day later.
* Infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea than those who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
*An estimated 1.4 million child deaths in 2008 were as a result of ‘sub-optimal’ breastfeeding, where babies were not exclusively breastfed and where breastfeeding did not continue into the second year.
* The baby milk formula business is worth $25 billion (or £16 billion).
* Breastfeeding rates have actually stagnated around the world over the last 20 years – and remain below 40% globally.
* Four major barriers to breastfeeding around the world: 1) cultural and community pressures 2) the health worker shortage 3) lack of maternity legislation, and 4) aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes – or formula.
* Only 6.7% of U.S. births occur in designated 154 “Baby-Friendly” facilities that meet international recommendations for supporting breastfeeding, and the U.S. has the weakest levels of maternity legislation in the industrialized world.
This shows without a doubt how powerful the act of breastfeeding can be and how it impacts the health of our children. It also shows why we must get better about educating women about what it actually means when they choose NOT to breastfeed and how the formula industry is working against their interests and against the health of their children. Here in the US part of that education process needs to be about making breastfeeding culturally normal. When you live in a society where restaurant or store employees ask breastfeeding mothers to leave these places of business and imply they are doing something gross or socially unacceptable by feeding their children, then we have HUGE problems. We must also make the work environment more family friendly so that working moms do not have to choose between being able to work or being able to feed their infant the best food available.
Other cultures have other issues. In India they believe that colostrum should be expressed before any breastfeeding can occur. This is a cultural practice that goes against science and best practices for health. It needs to be addressed. Other areas are affected by a health worker shortage. Even if you believe in home birthing and few, if any interventions, you are still likely to have a midwife and/or doula. Having health and birth workers around is so beneficial and often times they help young moms get established with breastfeeding because it can be a bit tricky sometimes. In developing countries this is even more important.
On addition to distributing this wonderful report, Save the Children is calling on Secretary of State Kerry to recommit to the 1,000 Days Partnership that expires in June. Since 2010, this international partnership has already helped countries such as Indonesia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Tanzania develop strategies around fighting childhood malnutrition through supporting breastfeeding and other important steps. It is set to expire unless we speak out and demand that the breastfeeding support and education continue. I signed the petition and I hope you will to.
I would also love to hear form you. What do you think we need to do to increase breastfeeding rates worldwide? Comment below if you want to share. Also be sure to check out the video below of how Brazil has had tremendous success with a breastfeeding initiative. It is such a powerful message and brought to us by actress Isla Fisher. I knew I really liked her!!
I was completely shocked to read yesterday that a company actually plans to make perfumes for babies. WTH??? Babies already have such a sweet and unique smell. Why on earth would you want to cover up that deliciousness with an artificial scent that comes from a bottle? Why would you want your child to smell like the noxious perfume isle of a department store?
Well, I guess this is a case of “to each their own right”? Well, no it shouldn’t be in this case because perfumes are notorious for their nasty chemical ingredients and a company has no business IMO marketing something like this to be used on babies and small children. Perfumes have toxic chemicals that mimic hormones and chemicals that can cause allergic reactions (asthma, wheezing, headaches, and dermatitis). They are not a good idea for adults let alone developing children.
This is why Dolce and Gabbana (who plans to sell baby perfume soon) needs to be told that US parents won’t allow this tomfoolery. Their idea stinks! Please sign this petition from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and send them a message loud and clear. Our babies will be exposed to numerous toxins all around them, we don’t need to add to that chemical burden with silly perfumes.
By now you have probably heard about The Honest Company. It has certainly gotten a good deal of mainstream press because of it ownership by actress Jessica Alba. Though if you stay up to date on the latest in safe and sustainable products for the home then this gem of a company probably would have passed by your radar anyway. With so many unsavory products on the market it is a great satisfaction to us parents when a more ethical company with safe products not only arrives, but also thrives.
The company’s great products and its fun and upbeat packaging and presentation can hopefully sway more moms to healthier home products and products for their babies. Moms really are stepping up to the task of making our home cleaning products and care products healthier and safer and I give mad props to Jessica Alba for using her superstar for such an important task.
Using eco friendly products within the home is so important to me and my family because we feel it is not fair to make other people or the planet pay for our lifestyle choices. My cleaning products should not pollute the air or water we all drink. My diaper product of choice should not be entombed in a landfill 500 years from now for someone else to have to deal with. My choices have consequences so I need to make better choices…period.
What is better for our planet is often times what is better for human health too. I need to be concerned about the cleaning products I am rinsing down the drain but I also need to be concerned about the diaper rash cream or baby wipes I am slathering on my babies. My choice in these matters effects their health! Yet so many moms choose products without thinking of any of the consequences to health and planet. Companies like The Honest Company are rising to the task and trying to change that. Honest is a Certified B Corporation which is like earning a LEED or Fair Trade certification, but for a business. It shows that they are in this to make a social difference and change the world.
They also donate to charity when you support them. With every purchase you make, The Honest Company donates time, money, and product to their current charitable partner Baby2Baby.org. This organization supplies families in need with essential baby gear and clothing for children up to age 12.
The company sent me a package of their diapers to review. As you know my kids are not wearing diapers anymore but these will make an adorable donation to a women’s shelter local to me. I know they will make some mom smile (because they are freakin adorable!) and I will smile knowing a few babies out there are wearing healthier diapers for a short time.
I also look forward to trying some of their other products that are more relevant to me like their household cleaners.
The Honest Company was started by a mom and a dad (Christopher Gavigan) who, like many modern parents, were increasingly worried about products made with questionable chemical ingredients. But the alternatives they found were often expensive, inaccessible, bland, or ineffective. In response to this clear need for something better, they created The Honest Company to ensure that parents (or anyone for that matter!) could easily find natural and non-toxic eco-friendly products that are beautiful, effective, and affordable. From customized product bundles to diapers and wipes to an ever-expanding line of cleaning and personal care products, you can find everything you need at Honest.com and have it delivered directly to your front door.
I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with Sara Chana, IBCLC. She is a a New York based, international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), classical homeopath, herbalist, lecturer, author, wife and mother of seven children. She is a wealth of helpful information and advice. Enjoy!
1. What are some of the most prominent breastfeeding myths that you encounter?
It is amazing how many myths seem to circulate among new moms. One of the most common is that moms need to “drain” their breasts. It is true that some women will feel very full, nurse their babies, and then feel “empty” afterwards, but that is not necessarily true for most women. Some women never feel full, and never feel “drained”, yet their babies are satisfied after they have been fed. The truth is that a breast is never really “drained” because when milk is drawn out of a breast the brain receives the message to refill the breast again with milk. Therefore, rather than worrying about feeling empty or drained, a woman should give her baby the amount of milk the baby needs to feel satisfied and to produce six to eight wet diapers within a twenty-four hour period. If this basic guideline is followed, then the healthy mother’s breast and brain will learn how to adjust to the baby’s needs, regardless of the mother’s own sensations.
2. What tips do you think will help women overcome most breastfeeding obstacles they come across?
Some women give birth, plop their baby on the breast, and the mom and baby breastfeed happily for years without any problems. Unfortunately, that is not the typical scenario and most women and babies take a while to learn the art of breastfeeding. There are women who get sore nipples, while others have babies who do not seem satisfied, and some moms get engorged breasts. In general, the remedy to most of these problems is twofold. First, make sure that the baby has a good deep latch onto the breast, and then see to it that the baby is swallowing milk and not just hanging out. If this simple but essential advice does not produce the desired results, the good news is that most breastfeeding problems can be overcome with a competent lactation consultant, patience, and a good sense of humor.
3. Can childbirth affect the breastfeeding experience?
After twenty years of working with mothers and babies I can safely say that the birth experience does have an impact on the breastfeeding experience. Medication used during labor does seem to affect most babies, often making it more difficult for them to coordinate the suck-swallow-breath pattern that is necessary for a baby to master breastfeeding. This is not to say that some women who have fabulous labors and deliveries won’t have babies that don’t nurse well, or in the reverse, that women who have horrible labors and deliveries can have the best nursing babies. However, a woman should know that a baby usually needs to be very alert in order to learn how the breast works, and that both the medications given during labor, as well as the position of the woman during childbirth can impact upon that learning process, making it easier or more difficult for the newborn to breastfeed.
4. Does diet have an effect on breastfeeding?
It is fascinating to know that breast milk stays consistent in its vitamin and mineral content across the world, no matter what a woman eats. This means that if you were to test the breast milk of two moms whose babies are the same age, the vitamin and mineral content of their breast milk will be practically the same, even when the mothers’ diets are completely different. This is true because the body produces breast milk to match the needs of the growing child. Therefore, it is safe to say that it doesn’t really matter what the mother eats because the breast milk will be consistent and healthy according to the developmental needs of the infant. That said, many babies are, nevertheless, affected by what their mothers eat due to individual health issues. Some babies will get blood in their stools if the mother consumes dairy, while others will cry horribly if their mother drinks orange juice. Although each mother-baby dyad is different, as a general rule-of-thumb, it is best for moms to stick to a high protein and vegetable diet, with fruits and whole grains mixed in. (And please try to limit the dairy products. You don’t need to consume milk in order to produce milk.)
5. What advice would you offer to busy moms you have to juggle breastfeeding and an outside job?
Juggling breastfeeding and an outside job is definitely challenging. Some women are advised to rent a hospital-grade pump to leave at their work place, in order to pump while being away from the baby. This may work for some women, but not for most. Although there are women who are fabulous pumpers and can mechanically express ounces of milk while at work, there are others who cannot manage to pump at all, which leaves them majorly depressed. However, it should be known that the success of pumping depends on several factors. One of the factors has to do with the location of the milk producing ducts which are within the breast. Some women’s ducts are so far back into the breast that they are never properly compressed while pumping. Another factor to consider is how well the flange of the pump part fits the particular woman. The majority of flanges available fit only a very small percentage of the population, resulting in only a small number of woman who can properly pump. Finally, one must take into consideration the power of the pump itself. And there’s no way around this one, it’s just that same old story, the more expensive pumps do work better. So, my general advice to women is this: if you pump well, then pump when you are at work, but if you do not pump well, then just give your baby formula while you are at work and don’t stress yourself over it. But, still the most important advice is breastfeed and talk with your precious baby as much as you can when you are not working.
Many thanks to Sara Chana for taking the time to answer some questions!
October is attachment parenting (AP) month. You may or may not be familiar with this style of parenting but many green, natural, crunchy, granola parenting types are. It seems to mesh really well with lots of the other things we hold dear. A group of green/natural mom bloggers have recently gotten together to form a weekly column called Green Moms Weekly and the first question that was posed to the group honors attachment parenting month. The question is “How do you balance your busy lifestyle and manage to keep a focus on attachment parenting?”
For me, AP it is about letting my mommy instincts direct my actions. As a younger mom I loved to hold my babes close to me and breastfeed. I let them do this until they were ready to stop, to honor their need for this closeness and because I knew that breastmilk was the best nourishment for them. My mommy instincts also told me to go to my babies when they cried and that is what I did, ALWAYS. I never listened to mainstream advice that babies need to be on schedules and that letting them cry alone will teach them independence. I let them sleep with me as long as they wanted because it was easier on both of us. Mainstream advice that declares you will never get kids out of your bed once you let them in is just a bunch of hogwash. When my kidlets cried and wanted to be held when I needed to make dinner of do some other chore, wearing them on my back allowed me to meet their need for attention AND get my work done. When they misbehaved I knew that deciding I didn’t want to strike them wasn’t going to result in a brat… despite what all the “spare the rod, spoil the child” folks had to say. For me AP is all about listening to my instincts and my heart.
So why the question about how to balance a busy lifestyle and still be an attachment parent? Well, AP is “get off your butt parenting” in my mind. The contrary advice to let kids cry it out, stick them in bouncing seat when you need to do dishes, spank them when they run into the street, and give them a more convenient bottle is all a way to make parenting easier for us, but not necessarily better or easier for the child. An attached parent will likely create a family bed so that everyone can sleep together. They will wear their babies in a wrap or hold them instead of delegating that duty to a swing or bouncy seat. They breastfeed and/or pump well into the toddler years because it is important to their child and it is the best source of nutrition. They will be supervising their child closely so that the running into the street moment can be used to gently teach and coach. In fact they anticipated that moment because they have gotten good at reading their child. Because they always use their words instead of their hands… their kids respond well to reasoning. Hitting becomes a senseless and irrational choice.
Attachment parenting is very involved parenting, and for that reason it can sometimes conflict with the more hurried pace of lives today. I don’t know that what works for us will work or other attached parents but I know we have made many very conscious decisions to slow our pace of life and give our kids the attention they need and desire. Being too busy for attachment parenting isn’t an issue when you simply make sure you are never too busy. We wanted to stay attached at the heart AND live our best lives. I became a stay at home mom so that I could be the primiary caregiver for our kids. This allowed me to breastfeed exclusively and for extended periods of time. I chose natural childbirth for my last two births and we kept interventions to a minimum so that bonding and breastfeeding could happen immediately after birth. I wore two of my babies in slings and wraps and all of them slept in bed with me. My 5 year still does quite often. We decided early on to always try and use positive discipline methods and to respect our kids. We tried to find ways to meet everyone’s needs simultaneously and sometimes that was a lot of work.
Balance was much harder when our kids were young because very often we had to compromise and make sure their needs were met first and foremost. Their need to co-sleep trumped my need for not getting kicked in the stomach at night. Their inability to handle the excitement of traveling meant we had a staycation instead of a vacation. My husband’s need for a sane, well rested wife was trumped by the needs of a small infant who who used me as an all day milk buffet, which meant I was often hormonal and tired. I guess I feel that when our children are young they should be the priority. Aka breast feeding even if your dog tired or co-sleeping even when you’d rather have your husband all to yourself. As my kids get older I think they benefit more from seeing parents who love themselves, take care of themselves, and have varied interests that they actively pursue. I also think it is important for them to see that their parents prioritize each other too. As they get older they benefit less from having a shadow to meet their every need and more from seeing good examples of others doing and living for themselves. We don’t tell them how to live, we just live, and we let them watch. So in terms of priority for the first five or so years of their lives it was all about them. Now the priority list looks somewhat different but it works well because the foundation was so well laid, they are happy independent kids that are accepting of that much needed shift.
To keep things balanced and attached now, we mostly just have to listen. We listen to them daily, carving out certain times that are distraction free, and we stay attached by staying in the loop. We help with homework and we stay connected to teachers. We homeschool when or if we need to. We put our family before “things” and “stuff” so this means we work as little as we can and make do with less. Our kids may have fewer toys and electronic gadgets than the kids next door but we have more time to spend with them. We have a neighbor child who is always bragging about her toys and video games, trying to goad my children but then every weekend this same child looks at us longingly as we pull out of the drive to go apple picking, to a Pumpkin Festival, to a movie, or to some other local event that her own parents don’t have time for. I know how lucky we are and I think our kids do to. Balance is about spending time doing activities with them and yet allowing them to pursue their own independent activities when they need and want to. For us it is also about knowing which child needs a bit more attention and giving it to them. Since we have two a-typical kids… one with some severe developmental and speech delays and one with high functioning autism, it is helps greatly to be flexible and unhurried in our daily lives.
For us, life during these years of their development is less about balance and more about figuring out how to stay tuned in to them as we ALL become more independent and find new priorities and interests. I am sure it will be no less exciting than the baby and toddler years. In fact I am sure it will be even more so because with older kids it really does feel like we are all in this together… this wild and crazy journey called life.
Leave a comment to tell me how you stay connected to your kids in this fast paced life and be sure to visit the other Green Moms Weekly to read about how they answered this question. Enjoy!