Saturday, March 28, 2009

DHA in Infant Formula

A report released last year by the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin based group devoted to fighting for the family-based farm, raises some very serious questions about the safety of the DHA and ARA that are added to many infant formulas. Much of the concern comes from the way in which these additives are produced in the laboratory setting.

What Is DHA and Why Is it Important?

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It is a long chain Omega 3 fatty acid which occurs naturally in breastmilk, in many cold water fish, in eggs, and in some algae and fungi. It can be synthesized in the liver, from another Omega 3 fatty acid that is found in foods like walnuts and canola oil. It is also found in the grey matter of the brain. Many researchers believe that the presence of DHA in the infant diet optimizes brain development.

What is ARA and Why Is it Important?

ARA stands for arachidonic acid. It is a long chain Omega 6 fatty acid which also occurs naturally in breastmilk as well as in some meats and in eggs. Like DHA, it is also found in the brain, and is considered to be a key component for optimal brain development. If DHA is added to infant formula without ARA, the aomount of ARA inthe infant's tissues actually decreases. For that reason, these two fatty acids are always added together.

How Are These Acids Created in the Lab?

Martek Biosciences Corporation has patented a process to create both DHA and ARA in the laboratory setting. The problem is that the laboratory products are not the same as the naturally occurring products in human milk. In fact, the DHA that is added to formula is actually DHASCO (docosahexaenoic acid single cell oil), and the ARA is actually ARASCO (arachidonic acid single cell oil). They are strudctually different from the DHA and ARA that a breastfeeding infant receives.

DHASCO is created from algae grown in tightly controlled fermentation conditions in a solution of glucose and yeast. Then the oil is extracted using hexame, a toxic petroleum by-product that has been associated with disorders of the central nervous system. The hexane is then removed. What remains is only about 40-50% DHA in a dilution of sunflower oil.

ARASCO is extracted from soil fungus using a similar process. According the Martek documents hexane is used in the processing of ARASCO as well.

Do These Additives Improve Formula?

The makers of infant formulas like Lipil and Good Start are quick to say they do. In fact, they claim that formula is now more like breastmilk than ever before. Nevertheless, ongoing research fails to show a significant beneficial effect. In early documents marketing their DHASCO and ARASCO to the formula companies, they claimed that even if these additives didn't make a difference, they could be "widely incorporated into infant formulas, as a marketing tool...." (Quoted in International Baby Food Action Network (2004) Breaking the rules, stretching the rules 2004: evidence of violations of the international code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes and subsequent resolutions.” , edited by Yeong Joo Kean and Annelies Allain. Available online at Last accessed on July 17, 2007. Source of the quote: Martek Biosciences Corporation, Investment Thesis 1996.)

Do They Cause Any Harm?

According the the Cornucopia report, the FDA has received 98 reports of adverse effects in infants that have been attributed to the use of DHASCO and ARASCO fortified formulas. One of the most common complaints is intestinal problems characterized by diarrhea. Some babies have even suffered dehydration and been admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Units as a result of their inability to tolerate this formula.

What Should the Consumer Do?

Ideally, every mother would breastfeed her baby. However, some mothers face real struggles with nursing or find themselves in a situation where they must use formula. It is wonderful to live in a country where safe infant formula is readliy available. Nevertheless, mothers must recognize that no formula will ever replicate all the qualities of breastmilk. A mother should talk with her pediatrician about any concerns she has. If she is using a DHASCO/ARASCO enhanced formula and notices any gastro-intestinal symptoms, she should immediately contact her doctor and change to a formula without these addititives.

Mothers must always remember that they are the first and most important advocate their children will ever have. When it comes to feeding time, a mother must be sure she is truly giving her baby the best possible nutrition. Perhaps the Cornucopia report will help mothers do just that!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I'm Homeschooling One Child

We've always believed that each child is unique and has his or her own special set of needs. Over the years we've experienced a wide variety of school settings. About 17 years ago when my first baby was a preschooler, we decided we would definitely homeschool. We joined a wonderful local group designed for parents with young children who were planning to homeschool. I was a former high school English teacher, so when Daughter 1 began kindergarten, I expected her to sit still and complete the wonderful learning tasks I had designed. Unfortunately, she was the child who liked to do flips around the living room as she practiced her spelling words. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't understand very much about teaching young children, and it was frustrating for both of us.

We homeschooled through second grade, then we headed to Costa Rica for language school prior to going to Peru as missionaries.In Costa Rica Daughter 1 entered a very small Christian school which was part of the large missionary language school there. Son 1 began kindergarten there, and Daughter 2 was in their outstanding preschool program.

Exactly one year later we arrived in Lima, Peru, where our kids entered an even smaller school for missionary kids. Daughter 1 and Son 1 were both there. Daughter 2 attended a local preschool part time to improve Spanish acquisition. Then she went to a Peruvian/American Christian school for kindergarten. When we came home for furlough, all 3 were homeschooled; although at times it seemed more like "van-schooling" as we traveled all over the southeast.

Upon our return to Lima, Daughters 1 & 2 and Son 1 all returned to the MK school located near our house. We had a very close-knit school family, and the classes all had 2 grade-levels. By the time Daughter 1 hit high school, we felt she needed something different, so much to the chagrin of our co-workers, we placed her in a British/Peruvian school for girls which was quite challenging academically.

That decision didn't go over too well with our mission team, so we ended up back in the states where all 4 of our children entered a Christian school, and I began teaching again. Several years ago Daughter 1 graduated, and Son 1 graduates in May. However, I realized that Daughter 2 was miserably unhappy there. Despite being involved in cheerleading and making good grades, she was caught in that awful phase that all middle schoolers face. She begged me for over a year to homeschool her, and after much prayer, I realized that was exactly what she needed. So at Christmas break, we made the change.

Her whole outlook on life has changed. We have a great math teacher who comes once a week and a local meteorologist who teaches her science. A couple of days a week she brings her books into work with me and "store-schools." After completing her assignments, she learns skills that most 14 year olds won't learn any time soon. She is great at receiving merchandise and has amazing business computer skills. She knows how to answer a business phone properly and is a fantastic cashier. She loves babysitting, so she gets a lot of job offers. Tonight at Son 1's soccer game, another parent asked her how she likes homeschooling; she replied with an effusive, "I love it!"

Recently I re-enrolled Son 2 for next year. He asked, "Mom, I don't have to homeschool, do I?" He loves his Christian school situation. He has wonderful friends and has never had any teacher who wasn't outstanding. At this point in his life, he needs to be right where he is.

I am so thankful that I have the freedom to educate each child the way he or she needs to be educated. The bottom line for me is that I am in control of their education. I know my boys are getting a solid education at their Christian school. Son 1 is part of a terrific class and has friends who encourage him spiritually. Athletics has been an important key to his character development, and I will always praise God for the wonderful coaches he has had at his school. On the other hand, Daughter 2 wasn't thriving in that environment. Now I see her thriving and making plans for high school that include taking dual enrollment classes by the time she's a junior.

If you're looking at the education decision, bear in mind that each child is an individual. Take it one year at a time, one child at a time. Most of all, find an option that you and your children enjoy. Learning really can be fun! If it isn't, then maybe you need to find a new education option.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The ABC's of Babywearing

My first daughter was about 6 weeks old the first time I tried to wear her. That was over 20 years ago! I had a Graco frontpack and snuggled all 8 pounds of her into it. Her little head sort of wobbled over to the side, but she was so happy to be next to me. She was a very high need baby, so wearing her allowed me to get some housework done. Unfortunately, the frontpack really hurt my back, so I didn’t use it very much. When she was 6 months old we discovered Dr. Sears and the world of comfortable babywearing. I promptly bought a ring sling (sling EZ) from Parenting Concepts. It felt so good to be able to wear her without killing my back. It would not be an understatement to say that the sling revolutionized the way I parented. Eventually I actually began to sell the Sling EZ because everywhere I went people asked me about it.

Over the next 12 years I went through several slings as we traveled around the country and to Costa Rica and Peru. In airports, on busses, in restaurants, at tourist destinations…everywhere we went, my sling would go with me – I felt lost without it! Whether I had a baby or a toddler, the sling was an indispensable accessory.

Today’s mothers have a dizzying array of options when it comes to babywearing. The is a great resource for moms who are new to babywearing. You can choose from a pouch sling like the Peanut Shell, a wrap sling like the Mei Tai, a ring sling like the Maya Wrap, a two shoulder pouch sling like the Baby K’Tan, and the list goes on and on. At A Nurturing Moment we have chosen to carry both pouch slings and two shoulder slings. We are looking at other options because our moms have asked for more variety. Nevertheless, our most popular sling is the Baby K’Tan. This incredibly versatile carrier can hold a newborn snugly and securely. It can even hold twins because the pouches are each so deep. But it can also securely support a 42 pound toddler! They even have a position in which your baby can be worn on your back in your Baby K’Tan.

When Should You Buy Your Sling?

You will want to begin wearing your baby in the first weeks of his life because it will make him feel secure, and he will get used to being worn. However, I have found that it is much easier to fit a mom with the proper sling after her baby has been born. Often we’ll have new parents come in with their 4 or 5 day old baby to get fit for a sling. That really is the ideal! You can see how your baby does in different carriers and figure out which is most comfortable for you. Will you want to nurse in your carrier? If so, you want to make sure you find a carrier that makes nursing easy and discreet.

Getting Used to Slinging Your Baby

Once you get home with your carrier, practice with it in front of a mirror until you are comfortable getting baby in and out. As soon as you get baby positioned in the sling, begin moving with him in a sort of ‘Mommy Dance” where you gently sway back and forth. Being in the sling where he can feel your heartbeat again may remind him of the comfort of the womb! However, some babies do fuss at first, so moving gently with your baby in the carrier will help calm him. Practice nursing in it at home so that when you’re out, you can nurse without giving it a second thought. Go to the manufacturer’s website and watch any videos they may have posted there. Remember, the more you use your carrier, the better you’ll get at it, and the more you’ll enjoy it. Happy Babywearing!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Atlantic Magazine Meets Scientific Research...and Comes Up Short!

In the recently released Atlantic Monthly, writer Hannah Rosin, who is herself a breastfeeding mother, makes the case that the healthy benefits of breastfeeding are way overstated. In her article entitled "The Case Against Breastfeeding" she questions whether breastfeeding might be "this generation's vacuum cleaner -- an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down." Although she acknowledges that breastfed babies do have fewer gastrointestinal infections, she discounts much of the effect of IgA, an antibody in mother's milk which confers protection on her infant.

Rosin's epiphany began, interestingly enough, in her pediatrician's office where she discovered an article in a 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association which dealt with the relationship between breastfeeding and childhood obesity. The researchers concluded that breastfeeding didn't make as much of a difference as family history did. This discovery led Rosin to embark on her own study of the medical literature about breastfeeding. Her conclusion: "Breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence that (Dr. William) Sears describes. More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with much meandering and bumping into walls."

What about all that medical literature? Is it really that ambiguous? In a fascinating juxtapostion of timing, researchers at the Australian Center for Economic Research on Health just published a working paper in December, 2008, a version of which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Human Lactation. This paper is entitled "'Voldemort' and Health Professional Knowledge of Breastfeeding - Do Journal Titles and Abstracts Accurately Convey Findings on Differential Health Outcomes for Formula Fed Infants?" According to authors Julie P Smith, Mark D Dunstone and Megan E Elliott-Rudder, "This study aimed to assess whether health professionals have access to unbiased information on the health implications of formula feeding through perusing the titles and abstracts of a sample of published scientific studies of health impacts of breastfeeding versus formula feeding."

For their review they chose the 78 articles used by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the formulation of their 2005 Policy Statement on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Each of these articles showed clear, measurable advantages for babies who were breastfed or received breastmilk. The concern was that many studies which demonstrate a clear difference in outcome between breastfed and formula-fed infants fail to cast formula feeding in a negative light in the title or abstract. In fact, the authors compare infant formula to Voldemort of Harry Potter fame as "He who must not be named." Their methodology was fairly simple, but quite comprehensive. Each of the 3 researchers reviewed all 78 articles and placed the title in one of these 3 categories:
  • Misleading - Title associates breastmilk or breastfeeding with an illness (ex: "Breastfeeding and Childhood Obesity")
  • Neutral or Silent - Title is neutral or silent on results (ex: "Brainstem Malnutrition in Premature Infants") or the title includes positive statement about breastmilk or breastfeeding but does not mention infant formula (ex: "Longer breastfeeding and protection against childhood leukemia and lymphomas")
  • Names Voldemort - Title includes a reference to artificial infant feeding or formula (ex: "Cow's milk exposure and type I diabetes mellitus")
They then divided the abstracts into the following 3 categories:
  • No mention of formula - No mention of formula or does not compare formula feeding to
    breastfeeding except in describing method
  • Neutral/Breastfeeding Better than Formula - Breastfeeding better compared to formula feeding: This category comprises those studies that compared breastfeeding to formula feeding. Mostly conclusions couched in terms of breastfeeding advantages/or benefits over formula, not elevated risks from formula feeding.
  • Increased risk of ill health associated with formula feeding 'Names Voldemort' - Formula feeding associated with increased risk of ill health: This category comprises those abstracts that conveyed that formula fed infants had higher risks of ill health, or it was clear the formula feeding was not the norm or control
The researchers found that about 1/3 of the titles were misleading, associating breastfeeding with illness, and only 4-6% actually referred to infant formula. They also discovered that 72-74% of the abstracts made no mention of infant formula and "would not challenge a reader’s erroneous belief or assumption that artificial feeding carries no increased health risks for infants." Only 6-15% of the abstracts actually communicated an elevated risk to the infant with formula feeding.

Why is this significant? If the very researchers who are evaluating the beneficial effects of breastmilk - and by default the negative effects of formula - don't make that distinction clear in the abstract and/or title, how can a journalist like Ms. Rosen who conducts a serious review of the literature be expected to come to any conclusion but the one at which she arrived? The authors of the Australian study are quick to point out that mothers should NOT be put on a guilt trip for not breastfeeding. Rather, researchers must be more forthright in accurately stating their conclusions when titling their studies and writing abstracts. They do a real disservice to both medical professionals and mothers alike when they fail to highlight the increased risks to infants who receive formula.

Another glaring omission in the Atlantic Monthly article is the complete lack of any reference to the many proven health benefits the breastfeeding mother receives. To her credit, however, Ms. Rosen continues to nurse her third child. She concludes her article with the following statement which highlights yet another incredible benefit of breastfeeding: "Breast-feeding does not belong in the realm of facts and hard numbers; it is much too intimate and elemental. It contains all of my awe about motherhood, and also my ambivalence. Right now, even part-time, it’s a strain. But I also know that this is probably my last chance to feel warm baby skin up against mine, and one day I will miss it."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Breastfeeding and Post-Partum Depression

Becoming a mother is a joyful, incredible experience. However, for some mothers, the early days of motherhood are anything but blissful. Between 50 and 80% of all women have several days of "baby blues" during the first couple of weeks postpartum. Nevertheless, for at least 10% of those mothers, the "blues" become something much darker: a full-fledged deep, black hole of postpartum depression.

Breastfeeding May Help
Some research does indicate that when a mother breastfeeds her infant, the hormones oxytocin and prolactin provide a decreased neuroendocrine response to stressors. In other words, little things don't produce as much stress reaction. Furthermore, the higher levels of prolactin produced by breastfeeding also serve to enhance a mother's sense of well-being. Therefore, in addition to the many other benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers may also have a decreased incidence of severe postpartum depression.

Nursing Mothers Do Get Depressed
Nevertheless, breastfeeding mothers can and do become clinically depressed. Suzie was overjoyed at the birth of Adam. But she had a very hard time breastfeeding. Adam didn't latch on well, and Suzie grew increasingly frustrated and despondent. Soon she quit breastfeeding altogether and entered into a six-month long struggle with depression. Slowly she began to pull out of it, but she continued to struggle for several more months. Suzie missed many of the delightful firsts that thrill most mothers because she was dealing with a problem that was more than just psychological. In fact, postpartum depression has a physiological basis.
Suzie shouldn't have had to deal with six months of misery. Mothers who face PPD have many resources available to them.

The Medication Solution
Many drugs are available to treat depression. Some doctors, however, still tell breastfeeding mothers that they can't continue to breastfeed when they take certain types of medication. A common class of drugs known as SSRIs are frequently used to treat depression. Dr. Thomas Hale, Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University School of Medicine, has found that Zoloft is an ideal choice for breastfeeding mothers. Another good option in Paxil. Prozac is a less favored option for the nursing mother.

The Psychotherapy Solution
Interpersonal psychotherapy can be another solution for major depression. A 2004 study showed that interpersonal psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for postpartum depression. The decision to follow this course of treatment needs to be made in careful collaboration with the mother's health care provider. Close follow-up is critical to insure that the she is making progress.

When a new mother can't stop crying or finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into despair, she needs to talk with her Ob/Gyn, family practitioner or nurse midwife immediately. If her six-week check up is still several weeks away, she needs to make an appointment as soon as possible. Untreated depression can have serious consequences for both mother and baby. No mother should have to suffer the devastating effects of postpartum depression.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cue the music!

The past couple of weeks have been hectic for my family. We had a family vacation in Nashville with my husband's parents, his brother, and his brother's family. Four kids 4 years old and under, with another on the way! That family is expanding rapidly. We got back on Monday, then I had to turn around immediately on Wednesday and leave for Savannah to be Matron of Honor at a friend's wedding.

That means I was gone for 5 days. By myself.

I haven't been anywhere by myself for five days in over 4.5 years. I'm sure all of you know just how much of a luxury it was to be able to travel in a car by myself, to stay in a hotel by myself, to eat by myself, to sleep by myself, to do all the necessary MoH functions by myself, to hang out with friends by myself.

I almost didn't know what to do with myself!

As nice as it was, though, there was a little bit of nervousness tucked into the back of my mind. My daughter has always been an independent little thing, so I had no qualms about her. My son, at just over 2.5 years old, is a somewhat different story. He's still pretty independent; he's not a clingy child. However, he's also still nursing.

So this trip was a jaunt into the unknown. I've been away from him for 2 nights before, but I've never been away from him for 4 nights. I don't own a breast pump and knew I would have no real time to pump while I was gone anyway, nor any real way to store any pumped breast milk. I had no idea if he would fully wean himself while I was gone, or if he'd go back to nursing when I got back. He's been fine on the couple of trips I've taken previously, but this was double the amount of time, and I had no real way of knowing how he'd hold up emotionally.

Despite these worries ruminating in the back of my head, I decided to take the perspective of "what will be, will be." After all, we're rapidly approaching 3 years of nursing. It's not like he's been deprived of my milk. It's not like it'd be an early weaning if he did wean. And it was entirely probable that he'd go back to nursing when I came back, and all would be well.

So I resolved not to think about it while I was gone. I think my son took the same attitude as well. Every time I called and his father asked if he wanted to talk to me, he'd laugh and say no. Apparently the first night I was gone, he asked for me and said he wanted to nurse, but he wasn't upset when Daddy told him that I was gone and he couldn't nurse. He was very happy while I was gone and didn't throw any tantrums or get upset. He went to sleep easily, woke up easily, and was just the happy-go-lucky little guy that I've come to know and love.

I got back early evening on Sunday and was exhausted. Late nights, early mornings, and an 8 hour drive were not sitting well with me. My son ran up to me and hugged me and started talking my ear off about everything he could think of, but he didn't ask to nurse. We wandered into the backyard so that he and my daughter could show me the greenhouse Daddy had built while I was gone. We played with the soccer balls. We discussed what they had done while I was gone.

An hour passed, and I started thinking, "Well, maybe he really has weaned." Then he asked me to pick him up. I hiked him up and snuggled him, then he looked down with a grin on his face and said, "I want to nurse!"

And so here we are, back where we started. We're nursing like we were previously. He seems quite content with how things are, and my absence seems to have had no ill effects. At one point when we first started nursing again, he incredulously said, "Mommy, all gone!", but he hasn't let that deter him from nursing. My supply seems to be back up to what it was.

And so we continue on in our nursing journey. Now that I know I can leave him and come back, I'm much more settled about extended nursing. I value my physical independence, and it's been a struggle off and on to keep nursing for long periods of time. Now, however, I'm pretty content with how things are, with the fact that it's our special bonding time but it's not something that he absolutely has to have. I don't feel the need to push weaning, like I did before (with frustrating results). I'm content to let him have more of a say in when this part of our lives is over.

Life is good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You're the EXPERT!

When it comes to your child, YOU are the real expert. You know your child better than anybody else, so always trust your instincts. Unfortunately, this message is sometimes obscured by authors who offer a "formula" for parenting. I remember the first time I read the Preparation for Parenthood material by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo about 15 years ago. In that early edition they made the outrageous statement (one of many) that mothers don't have instincts like animals do. They told mothers not to be misguided into thinking their maternal instincts would guide them in their parenting. On the opposite side of this debate, Dr. William Sears (my hero), urges mothers to trust their gut instincts when it comes to their babies. He wisely recognizes that a mother really is the expert on her child.

So what difference does this make in your parenting style? If you really believe that you are the expert on your child, you will be willing to do whatever it takes to get the answers you think your child needs. If that means changing pediatricians, you will do it. If that means changing schools, you'll do it. If that means pulling your child out of school to homeschool, you'll even do that.

Parenting is not a "one size fits all" easy formula. Each child is unique, and nobody understands that better than a mother! My fourteen year old daughter had been increasingly miserable in her Christian school. I love her school and think it's wonderful. But her class just wasn't a good fit for her. As I looked at the major personality changes I was seeing because she was so unhappy, I knew that we had to make a change. Homeschooling is the right solution for her. If I tried to pull my 10 year old out of that same Christian school, however, he would be distraught. He absolutely loves everything about his school!

If you are just starting the parenting journey, or you're expecting your first baby, the most important advice I can give you is to trust yourself! If God chose you to be the mother of this precious child, He will give you the wisdom you need to understand the nuances of your baby's personality. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. Remember, YOU'RE THE EXPERT!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Study Shows Breastfeeding Reduces SIDS Risk

In the March 3, 2009, edition of Pediatrics, a groundbreaking study from Germany demonstrates a dramatic reduction of SIDS for breastfed babies. According to the authors of the study, "the aim of the German Study of Sudden Infant Death (GeSID) was to identify risk factors for SIDS in a population where only few infants sleep prone."

In this study, which was conducted between 1998 and 2001, the researchers examined the cases of 333 infants who died of SIDS and 998 control infants who were matched for age and region. In the data analysis, the following variables were controlled: maternal smoking in pregnancy, maternal family status, maternal age at delivery, socioeconomic status of the family, previous live births, birth weight of the infant, bed sharing in the last night, pillow in the infant's bed, additional heating during the last sleep (a hot water bottle in the infant's bed or the bed in front of a heater), position placed to sleep, and pacifier use during the last sleep.
The key variable factor was breastfeeding. The researchers examined exclusive breastfeeding as well as partial breastfeeding and exclusive formula feeding. They found that fewer than 50% of the SIDS cases were breastfed at the age of 2 weeks, and 83% of the controls were breastfed. Fewer than 40% of the SIDS cases were exclusively breastfed at the age of 1 month compared with 72% of the controls. The researchers found that full or even partial breastfeeding provided a 50% reduction in the incidence of SIDS.

Why does breastfeeding protect infants from SIDS? The researchers offered two possible explanations.
  • The first is that breastmilk contains immunoglobulin G. The predominance of SIDS deaths occur between 2 and 5 months, the period in which the immunoglobulin G from the mother has worn off, but the infant isn't yet producing a sufficient quantity to be effective. Therefore, the breastfed infant has the advantage of still receiving this very important factor during a time when he is most vulnerable.
  • The second theory has to do with the sleep patterns of the breastfed infant versus the formula fed infant. Breastfed infants are more easily aroused.
The authors of this study recommend that the key protective role of breastfeeding be included in materials designed to educate parents about SIDS prevention. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, official SIDS prevention materials have not included the recommendation to breastfeed. Hopefully, the publication of this study in the prestigious journal, Pediatrics, will change that!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don't be afraid to change positions!

Sometimes, when I read breastfeeding tips and advice, I feel like it's all aimed at a more "normal-sized" woman. Hold the baby in close to nurse, make sure baby's body is flush with yours. Bah. That may work for a woman with a C cup, but that never worked for me. It took me a while to become comfortable enough with nursing to play around with positioning, but once I did, it made all the difference!

If you're a larger woman like me (with my first, I was an I cup; I'm currently an H-I, depending on band size), the angle that our nipples go into the baby's mouth is different than the angle a smaller woman's nipple goes into her baby's mouth. And angles can mean all the difference between having discomfort/pain and not. If you are larger and find that you're having pain but the baby seems to be latching on correctly, and there's no sign of the baby being tongue-tied, start playing around with positions! Make sure you have lots of pillows around to support your baby, and start shifting the baby around. It doesn't have to be a lot; even just a centimeter can change the angle enough to give you relief. Move the baby's body away from yours, or into yours, or change the plane that the baby is nursing on by adding pillows or taking away pillows from underneath baby.

Breastfeeding should be comfortable for both you and your baby. If the way that is normally described works for you, then great! However, if you're experiencing discomfort, and everything else seems normal, then don't be afraid to shift baby around a bit and try to find something else that works for you. You may feel like you're starting nursing gymnastics, but the end results (no pain!) are well worth it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Life is full of "weanings"

We had a terrific group of moms at A Nurturing Moment today for our Mommy Milk Meet-up. One mom was a little concerned because her one year old seemed to be loosing interest in day time nursings. This mom really hoped to nurse for a couple of years before allowing her baby to self-wean. Of course, bedtime nursings are a different story! Baby is still eager for that before bed cuddle time with Mom!
Usually a baby won't self-wean this early as long as Mom is still offering nursing opportunities. But every baby is different! One mom in the group explained how her very strong-willed little girl just decided she didn't want to have anything to do with nursing right around her first birthday. Mom kept trying, but baby wanted no part of it! This was more than just a nursing was an emerging toddler eager to get on with the next stage of life, much to her mom's dismay!

If we can view the weaning process as a continuum that begins with breastfeeding and lasts for the next 18 years or so, it might help lend perspective. Weaning, in this paradigm, doesn't simply refer to the separation of the baby from the breast. That is merely the first weaning. Other weanings will occur throughout childhood. Parents who co-sleep will eventually wean their child from their bed. Those who send their children to school will wean their children from the nest that is home. As children grow and become involved in scouts, sports, music lessons, ballet, horseback riding, church youth group and a myriad of other activities, the weaning process will continue.
Weaning, in its simplest form, is simply the process of your child becoming less dependent upon you. As moms, our most important job is to raise our children to become self-sufficient, confident, well-balanced adults. I suspect that most readers of this blog would agree that attachment parenting is the best way to accomplish this goal. After all, research clearly demonstrates that children who are attachment-parented demonstrate greater independence and self-assured confidence as they grow older. They also tend to be more responsive to their parents' correction and discipline.

Last night at 11:30 I had the bittersweet privilege of taking my 17 year old son to school where he and his classmates boarded a bus headed for Jacksonville, Florida, and their senior trip - a cruise to the Bahamas. As I write this, I know the ship has sailed. Although he texted me to let me know they were about to board, I know I won't hear from him again until next Saturday. The same tears that sprang to the eyes of the mom who thought her baby might be weaning are hiding just behind my eyelids now. But my son has grown up to be a remarkable young man, the product of attachment parenting. All too soon I'll take him to Tuscaloosa and leave him there...the weaning will continue! Aftre all, that's why I became a mom - to work myself out of a job!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nursing in Public

Many states have passed laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers to feed their babies in any location they choose. It's great to know that whenever your baby gets hungry, you can feed him or her without worrying about negative consequences. Nevertheless, some people -either through ignorance or just because of plain meanness - still make it very uncomfortable for nursing mothers. You might be the kind of mom who doesn't care what other people think. If so, more power to you!

However, if you do worry about other people, or you want to be discreet when you nurse, that's fine, too. I've nursed in airports, restaurants, malls, Wal-Mart, church services, school name it, I've probably nursed somebody there! Most of the time nobody had any idea that I was nursing.

Moms today have so many options for discreet nursing. The easiest for many moms is a baby sling. You might like a ring sling like the Maya Wrap or Over-the Shoulder Baby Holder. One advantage to a ring sling is that once baby is done nursing and has fallen asleep, you can easily slip baby and sling off together. When I was nursing a decade ago, I used a ring sling made by Parenting Concepts. I loved everything about it! But today there are lots of other sling options. Pouch slings like the Peanut Shell, the Hotsling and the Dittany Baby sling are great, but you have to make sure they fit c0rrectly. Another carrier option is a tie-on wrap. This versatile carrier offers a wide variety of positions, but some styles work better for nursing than others. My new favorite carrier is a two-shoulder carrier called Baby K'Tan. It is the only carrier I've ever seen that actually works for twins! It makes nursing discreetly both comfortable and easy. is a great site for moms who are new to babywearing.

An alternative to the sling is a nursing cover. Two companies make very similar nursing covers, Bebe au lait and Peanut Shell. Both provide nice coverage and allow Mom to easily see her nursing baby. Another interesting cover is made by a mom working from her home. She calls it the Privacy Breastfeeding Coverup. It is larger than some of the other covers on the market, thus providing more complete coverage. Poncho or cape covers are another option. Baby Boo offers an attractive cape option. The big drawback is that it doesn't allow mom to see her nursing baby as easily. A new poncho option that we've just discovered is made by Moody Mamas. This roomy grey poncho allows you to see your baby as you nurse. It also doubles as a soft baby blanket. You'll find this great poncho at A Nurturing Moment. (It will available in the online store within the week).

Regardless of how you choose to nurse your baby in public, remember that you are making a statement every time you feed him or her. You are telling people that you want the very best for your baby. You are also saying that your baby's health and well-being is more important to you than public opinion. Finally, you're letting the whole world know what an incredible mom you are!