Ran across an article today that talked about a popular breastfeeding pillow that is being pulled from the market by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Boston Billow breastfeeding cushion has not been linked to any deaths or injuries, but the CPSC claims that it too closely resembles an infant pillow that was pulled from the market more than a decade ago after being linked to some infant deaths.
The Boston Billow company is petitioning the government to allow the pillow to be sold again and both lactation consultants and parents are squaring off against safety advocates in a tug-of-war over whether or not the breastfeeding aid can be sold under certain circumstances.
What distinguished the Boston Billow, a niche product sold mostly in birthing centers and specialty shops, is that it is soft and filled with beads, like a bean bag, that allow it to be molded to fit moms and kids of all sizes.
Because of those features, the hospitals that carried them often recommended the Boston Billow to moms who can't tolerate a firm pillow because they have had Caesarean sections.
The pillows also are used by women who have carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy or rheumatoid arthritis, said Karin Cadwell, executive director and lead faculty member at the Healthy Children Project in Massachusetts, which runs a breastfeeding center that trains health care providers.
The article went on to explain that the reason for the ban was more because of potential risk than actual risk...
It shares some indisputable characteristics with banned "infant pillows" - it has a flexible fabric covering and is loosely filled with beads and can easily be flattened.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission also said the Boston Billow meets the two other criteria that make it synonymous with an infant pillow from a regulatory standpoint - it is capable of conforming to the body or face of an infant, and "intended for use by infants under 1 year old."
S. Erik Skoug, the president of Boston Pillows explained to the media that there was little chance that the nursing pillow could be confused with the banned pillow from the 80's, explaining that the banned pillow was designed for sleeping infants while his product is made for use by a mother as she nurses her child.
On the other hand, safety advocates claim that since the product is designed for use with infants, that there's a chance that it will be used improperly and that "the risk of suffocation outweighs any convenience factor that the cushion might bring to a nursing mother."
Infant pillows and cushions are banned under federal law. Infant pillows have a flexible fabric covering, are loosely filled with plastic beads, easily flattened, intended for use by infants under 1 year old, and capable of conforming to the body or face of an infant.
While I fully understand the concerns that some people have over these types of products, I can't help but think that we're taking away a potentially good thing because of the risk that a few people might misuse them. It's like the argument that many make over co-sleeping or swimming pools or trampolines. Yes, accidents can happen with misuse, but that doesn't mean that they should be banned completely.
The period for public comment closed on December 12th, but individuals that are interested in supporting Boston Billows can do so by visiting the company at their web site: http://www.bostonbillows.com/.
According to several British tabloids and newspapers, Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly plans to make use of cosmetic surgery to help shift her figure back to the look of her pre-breastfeeding days. Paltrow who has long extolled the virtues of a natural lifestyle including macrobiotic diets, yoga and alternative therapies has apparently made room in her belief system for cosmetic surgery, if it helps return her breasts to their previous state.
"I think women who have breastfed understand what I'm saying - that if you get a boob job it's more reconstructive surgery, actually, than cosmetic surgery,' Paltrow told the U.S.magazine Allure. "Everybody should do what makes them feel good and happy as long as they are not starving themselves to death. But if you can eat in a healthy way and keep exercising and get a little something done here and there, why not? I'm sure when the time comes, I'll be in there doing something," Paltrow said.
Paltrow has a nineteen month old daughter named Apple and is reportedly expecting another baby in the late spring.
On a more serious note, while I understand that women like Paltrow rely on their figures to earn their living, I also worry about what this release says on several levels.
First, it does nothing to promote breastfeeding as a positive experience to young women looking for role models. Instead, it acts as a "warning" that breastfeeding will destroy their figures so fully that they only way they'll ever recover is by going under the knife. After all, if a health-conscious woman like Paltrow has to resort to plastic surgery, how do the rest of us have a chance?
Second, it supports the unattainable myth of the perfect body. It puts more mothers out there that have been nipped and tucked into perfection to hide the physical signs of motherhood and keeps real women out of the public eye.
On second thought...maybe I should send her a "nip/suck" shirt?
[edited to add]
I've been thinking more about this since I made this post...and I'm trying to figure out where I really stand on this issue.
On the positive side of things...she breastfed and that's great. She's right that no woman is going to argue that breastfeeding changes your body...it's just the question of whether that bothers you or not. She's also right in that the way her body looks plays a major role in her career.
But people always told Barbara Strisand that she needed a nose job if she ever wanted to make it in Hollywood...
I guess I'm torn. (as much as I can be torn for not really caring about celebrities)
What I'd really like to hear is whether or not she plans on breastfeeding her next child. If she does, then I think I'd think more highly of her...sort of a "yes, breastfeeding was hard on me, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat." Right now the article sort of implies "Man, I wish I'd never done THAT!." Knowing which version of that is true would put a different spin on this...
I probably should have made this post a few days back, but since I haven't left for our Christmas travel yet, I figure a few other folks might not have either.
With national debate going on in the UK after British police ordered a young mother to stop breastfeeding while sitting on a public park bench in Wooton last month, it's once again come into the spotlight that not all areas of the world are comfortable with the idea of babies eating when and where they please. That means that it's likely a good idea to check things out before you head off into uncharted territories so that you'll know what your rights are.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a great "trip tip" this week for nursing mothers headed out to visit family and friends over the holidays: Call up the La Leche League at 1-800-525-3243 and find out the status of breastfeeding protection in the area you are headed to.
You can also check out a post I made to the Lactivist earlier this month that outlines the current breastfeeding laws in all 50 U.S. States. The best bet of all from the Tribune article? Find a federal building. Federal law protects a mother's right to nurse her child on any property owned by the federal government, superseding the laws of any particular state.
Author: Jennifer Laycock » Comments:
Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.
Lactivists everywhere should jump up and down rejoicing at a recent move that will see Massachusetts hospitals no longer giving away the "free diaper bags" that happened to be stuffed with formula samples. Apparently state health officials have realized that sending a new breastfeeding mom home with tins of tempting formula might not be the best way to encourage them to tough out those first few days and weeks of breastfeeding.
When I had Elnora last year at Riverside Methodist in Columbus I was astonished at how well the L&D nurses fought for me when it came to my wishes for a natural birth. I literally could have kissed one of them when she kept "forgetting" to call the OB with a progress update when it took me ages to dialate. My love of the Riverside nurses came to an end once I was shacked up in a post-partum room though. Not only did their lack of knowledge when it came to breastfeeding contribute to the problems I had nursing Elnora, but their solution to the problem was to send me home with a literal garbage bag full of ready-to-feed Enfamil.
Yeah thanks...that's helpful.
Let's send buckets of formula home with a new mom whose baby screams in panic anytime she gets close to a nipple, tell the same mom that the baby is now so jaundiced that she may need light therapy and threaten to keep the baby if she doesn't agree to supplement with said formula. THAT will help her build a successful breastfeeding relationship.
(Moms...this is why you need to know about a little thing called signing AMA and when to threaten to do it...)
Thankfully, when I demanded to see a Lactation Consultant they actually had a good one that helped me figure out an alternate plan (pump and supplement with my milk to ensure my supply came in) and basically told the on-call Ped to shove off.
Oh...wait...I'm ranting...(Lactivists do that you know...)
The new Massachusetts ban doesn't prohibit hospitals from giving out free formula, it simply means that hospitals cannot, by default, give out those tempting formula packs to every single mother that passes through their doors. (Formula will still be available for any mother that requests it.)
"There's no free lunch and there's no free gift," said Beth Sargent, an independent lactation consultant from Needham in an article published at Forbes.com. "A gift is something given freely without the anticipation of a return. There is absolutely an anticipation of return."
Department of Public Health spokeswoman Donna Rheaume says that she believes this is the first time that any state has written such a ban into their hospital regulations.
The move isn't sitting so well with formula companies...(imagine that!)
Formula companies say their top priority is healthy mothers and babies, regardless of whether they breast-feed or use formula.
Gail Wood, a spokeswoman for Mead Johnson & Co., which makes Enfamil, called the ban "over the top," intruding on the private choice about feeding a baby, which is made between mothers and their doctors
"I don't think they're respecting the decisions of women and the decisions of health care professionals," she said. "I think it's not respectful of their privacy."
Is anyone out there surprised to hear the formula manufacturers reaction? Anyone? Is that crickets I hear?
5.2 Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this code.
5.3 In conformity with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, there should be no point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples, or any other promotion device to induce sales directly to the consumer at the retail level, such as special displays, discount coupons, premiums, special sales, loss-leaders and tie-in sales for products within the scope of this Code. This provision should not restrict the establishment of pricing policies and practices intended to provide products at lower prices on a long-term basis.
5.4 Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to pregnant women or mothers or infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breast-milk substitutes or bottle-feeding.
...So why should we be surprised at their upset?
By the way, if you are a breastfeeding mom and you happen to get that pack from the hospital the next time you have a baby (you know you can avoid getting that pack by having your baby at home, but that's another post...) you can always tote it down to your local food bank or crisis pregnancy center. They can always use it. That's what we did with ours.
According to the Making it Up Blog, there's a plan underway in the UK to introduce new legislation early next year that would protect a mother's right to breastfeed her child in a public place. There's been some resistance from Public Health Minister, Caroline Flint because Flint feels that not enough moms have run into problems breastfeeding in public to warrant support for such a bill.
David Kidney, Labour MP for Stafford has asked that UK mothers write to Flint with their own stories to help drum up more support for the cause.
Caroline Flint MP Minister for Public Health Department of Health Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS
I'll also note that if there are any rallies planned and anyone is interested in "My baby doesn't like to eat in the bathroom...do you" buttons to drop me an email. I'll sell them at cost if they're going toward a rally or support function. I'd also be happy to put together and sell at cost buttons or stickers with any other slogans for a purpose like that.
There's a fascinating story in BBC News today about human breast milk donation in South Africa. Apparently, women in Durban are now offering up their excess milk to help provide immunity boosts to abandoned children in a country with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. (The article mentions that in one South African province, the infection rate among mothers at pre-natal clinics is more than 40%)
The story focuses on a transit shelter for abandoned children called Ithemba Lethu which is Zulu for "I have a destiny." The shelter provides abandoned children with food, care and in some cases, donated breast milk.
There have been some concerns about breastfeeding in some developing countries with high HIV rates. Partly due to concerns about transfer of the virus via breastfeeding but compounded by the high death rates for formula fed infants in countries that struggle with clean water supplies. A WHO study shows that non-breastfed infants are six times more likely to die from diarrhea or pneumonia and that babies who are exclusively breastfed (nothing but breastmilk) for six months have a very low chance of contracting HIV.
An article in the Yemen Times earlier this month stated that an infant that is not exclusively breastfed for the first two months of life is 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea or pneumonia.)
From the article:
Penny Reimers says volunteer mothers are rigorously screened before contributing the milk, to avoid HIV from being transmitted through the milk.
"In donor banks internationally they do blood tests on the mothers - we don't have the funding to do that so we screen by lifestyle," she says.
"Then we pasteurize the breast milk to kill off any HIV, hepatitis virus or bacteria that might be in the milk."
The breast milk project is the brain child of pediatrician Professor Anna Coustodis, who with her friends wanted to lend a hand in the fight against Aids.
The project has grown through word of mouth, over the last four years, and more than 100 mothers have become a part of it.
For about three months now, I've been eyeing a book on Amazon called Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts. I stumbled across it one day while searching for information on breast milk banks and it intrigued me. Part of me wonders if it might to breasts what Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions was to birth.
The other part thinks that it might just tick me off by going further down the road of simply sexualizing breasts and overshadowing their utilitarian purpose.
This line from Amazon's editorial review is what scares me:
Giles impressively argues that our culture's mixed message to women-breastfeed for the health of the child, but don't practice that disgusting act in public-reveals a squeamishness about the pure animality of breastfeeding, as well as an unwillingness to come to terms with its inherent sexuality.
The information on milk banks, on the success of a mother who tandem nursed twins and issues facing mothers that want to breastfeeding in public makes me want to order it, but the stories about the adult film producer that filmed "The Battle of the Ultra Milkmaids and Lactation Nation" makes me cringe a bit.
The reviews on Amazon are mixed and as I read through them I go back and forth from "I should get this" to "Umm...no thanks" and I end up still being undecided.
Anyone out there read it? Thoughts? Is it worth order? I'm planning on ordering Dr. Hale's Medications and Mother's Milk as a reference guide for writing content for The Lactivist, so it would be easy enough to add this one to the order...
It's no secret that The Lactivist is all about having a sense of humor about things like breastfeeding in public, that's why I love it when I run across another company that shares that sense of humor. Today I stumbled across Bebe au Lait, a site that sells the aptly named Hooter Hiders breastfeeding cover.
I had to laugh at the product name as Hooter Hiders sounds like the type of thing I would have called a nursing cover, but once I spent a little time on the site I was impressed with how practical they were. While many moms feel perfectly comfortable breastfeeding their children in public, some moms, especially first-timers, often have a hard time getting used to the idea of nursing their child with other people around. For new moms still getting the hang of things, or experienced moms that are simply more comfortable with a cover, Hooter Hiders looks to offer the perfect solution.
The patterns are hip and stylish and the covers fold down to a nice, compact package that slips into a diaper bag or purse. The site also claims that the fabric is extremely light weight, which means babies that throw off heavy blankets or towels will likely be fine with their mommies using Hooter Hiders to nurse them. The nicest feature that I saw was the fact that Hooter Hiders are designed with a rigid neckline that allows moms to see their babies while they are nursing, a feature that most breastfeeding covers are lacking. This is a great selling point in my book because many moms have a hard enough time getting their babies to latch when they can see them, let alone when they're hidden under a blanket or shirt.
Hooter Hiders breastfeeding covers are either 100% cotton or a Cotton/Poly blend, are hand-made in the USA and are machine washable. They also start at just $26 with a volume discount if you can talk your friends into getting one as well.
With millions of Americans now being prescribed Zoloft, I'm starting to see questions pop up in forums and discussion groups about whether or not it is safe to take Zoloft while breastfeeding. Since Zoloft is the number one prescribed brand in its market and is being used to treat Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), this is probably an issue worth looking into for many moms that plan to nurse.
Since formula is a readily available alternative, many doctors will encourage moms to simply bypass breastfeeding if they are taking a prescription like Zoloft to treat things like postpartum depression or PMDD. Here at The Lactivist blog, we're trying to help moms make better decisions and get the information that they need, so I decided to do some looking into the Zoloft and breastfeeding issue to see what I could make of it.
(NOTE: I'm not a doctor - always talk to your doctor about drugs like Zoloft and their impact on breastfeeding. I'm just trying to share some resources. EDITED TO ADD: Dr. Thomas Hale has a great reference book that goes pretty in-depth on different drugs and breastfeeding: Medications and Mother's Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology)
According to research, very small amounts of Zoloft are found in the human breast milk of a nursing mother taking Zoloft. Studies show that about 1-2% of norsertraline, the breakdown product of Zoloft, are found in breast milk. It is generally agreed that taking Zoloft while breastfeeding does not have an adverse effect on nursing infants, but there haven't yet been any long-term studies, so the issue is still up for some debate.
Right now, many pediatricians will suggest that a mother take Zoloft right after breastfeeding, or when they know that their baby will be sleeping for a long period. Based on that, I can't help but wonder if it might also be worth considering exclusively pumping rather than nursing. I know that I was able to pump just three times a day while still keeping up with Elnora's needs and could often time my medications to just after I pumped to minimize the amount that would be left in my system the next time I pumped.
A study cited at iVillage says that tests on nursing mothers found that Zoloft was found at about the same rate in breast milk as it was in mother's blood stream. Zoloft levels in breastfed infants were too low to be detected. In fact, the iVillage article goes on to quote Dr. Jack Newman as stating "it is rare for the risk of breastfeeding (with added sertraline...) to outweigh the risk of formula." On the other hand, some doctors feel that since the full effects of Zoloft in breastfeeding infants are not yet known, it is best to avoid breastfeeding while taking Zoloft.
The choice really needs to be made by each mom and a doctor that she trusts, but there is support within the medical community that means that there are more options that simply forgoing Zoloft treatment or forgoing breastfeeding.
This is exactly the type of information that needs to continue to make its way into the mainstream so that more breastfeeding mothers have access to relevant information about how their medical choices impact their children.
Additional References if you are considering taking Zoloft while Breastfeeding:
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs: The transfer of drugs and other chemicals into human milk. Pediatrics 108(3):776-789, 2001.
Epperson, C.N., Anderson, G.M., and McDougle C.J. Sertraline and breast-feeding (letter). N Engl J Med 336:1189-90, 1997.
Hendrick, V., et al. Use of sertraline, paroxetine and fluvoxamine by nursing women. British Journal of Psychiatry. 179:163-166, 2001.
Kristensen, J.H., et al. Distribution and excretion of sertraline and N-desmethylsertraline in human milk. Br J Clin Pharmacol 45:453-7, 1998.
Mammen, O.K, et al. Sertraline and norsertraline levels in three breastfed infants. J Clin Psychiatry 58:100-3, 1997.
Stowe Z.N., et al. Sertraline and desmethylsertraline in human breast milk and nursing infants. Am J Psychiatry 154:1255-60, 1997.
Wisner K.L., Perel J.M., and Blumer J. Serum sertraline and N-desmethylsertraline levels in breastfeeding mother-infant pairs. Am J Psychiatry 155:690-2, 1998.
Well, we didn't get the name of the site in there, but they had a great bit about Search Engine Guide and the project itself, so I'm hoping I'll see some traffic funnel over from there. Great write up for Search Engine Guide though! :)
Hey guys! Still sitting in a unpacked room directly connected to my DSL long enough to download email and skim a few sites. Likely won't be fully back online until tomorrow...
One blogger, Jennifer Laycock of Sunbury, Ohio, recently set out to demonstrate how just about anyone can start with nothing and turn a profit within 30 days, using a fulfillment company. Laycock, who works as the editor of Web site Search Engine Guide, decided to open a blog and Cafe Press shop selling shirts that promote breastfeeding and breast milk banking. She'd been pumping and donating some of her milk to a bank for babies in need since her daughter was born last year.
Now, several weeks into the experiment, Laycock has earned $200, which she will donate to her local milk bank. She's chronicling her efforts at www.searchengineguide.com/laycock/.
Pretty much any mom that breastfeeds for more than a couple of weeks gets to deal with at least one really bad bought of mastitis. As an exclusive pumper, I got to deal with it three times. (One time so bad that I spiked a fever of almost 103 and spent a day or so hallucinating...)
About the only thing that really helped was to stand under a hot shower, or to heat up some ziplock bags full of rice and use them as a heat compress before I pumped.
Now, flash forward to the week that I thought it'd be a good idea to quit pumping cold turkey rather than slowly easing off over the course of a few weeks. (what was I THINKING?) Engorgement...not fun! Not fun at all! Cold compresses that time, lots and lots of cold compresses (and a few shots of whisky probably wouldn't have hurt either...)
If I'd been thinking, I would have ordered myself a set of "booby tubes" early on in the game and made good use of them to help prevent the joy of mastitis and engorgement.
So what are booby tubes? Basically, they are hot/cold packs that can either be frozen or microwaved and are then placed inside of your bra to act as hot or warm compresses. Nuke them to create a nice hot moist compress when you're dealing with mastitis or pop them in the freezer to help you get some relief from engorgement.
You can get them online from Noss Galen Baby, a great company worth checking out. (The founder left the rat race of a corporate job at PayPal to start the company so that he could spend more time with his wife and kids...yay for him!) They also sell the one baby sling that I like enough to consider buying the next time I have a baby...
Anyway, check out the booby tubes. If for no other reason than because you can tell people that you saw booby tubes. :)
Planning on buying one of our snazzy breastfeeding tee shirts for a friend, family member or yourself? (come on, you know you wanna! ;) You've got just three days left to shop CafePress and get your products before Christmas without paying for overnight delivery.
In fact, CafePress is running a special right now that let's you get 2-day shipping for the cost of ground shipping. So, you can not only sneak in that last minute gift, but you can sneak it in cheap. (we all love cheap right? that means you have more money to buy shirts! and you know who REALLY loves cheap? Mothers-in-law...though...I'm not sure how many mothers-in-law want to buy shirts that say "fresh milk served here" for their daughters-in-law...mine would though, she's awesome!...but, I digress...)
Ok, this one does NOT fall into the "well duh!" category of research!
According to The Detroit News, some scientists at the National Institutes for Health and Justus-Liebig University in Germany have been conducting research about the effect of the hormone oxytocin on people's reaction to fearful situations. They conducted the study by spraying either oxytocin or a placebo into the nostrils of participants and then recording their fear levels in response to "frightening images." Apparently, the volunteers that had received oxytocin doses registered less fear than the volunteers that received the placebo.
Why does this matter to breastfeeding moms? Because oxytocin is released into the bloodstream when a mother nurses her child. (or pumps...us pumping moms are brave too, honest!) To note, oxytocin is also released into the bloodstream of a laboring mom...which is what helps us survive that process as well.
Now, it's not so much a "duh factor" that breastfeeding makes moms more brave, in fact, I was pretty amazed to read this study. But then I got to thinking about God's amazing design and how well nature takes care of what needs taken care of. That made me realize that breastfeeding moms NEED to be more brave. Here's why:
1.) Breastfeeding is a HUGE commitment, absolutely huge. It takes a shot of courage to commit to breastfeeding your child.
2.) Breastfeeding around anyone other than yourself and your baby can be terrifying. Even with husbands or close family around, many women have a hard time getting past the fear of flashing some nipple around. (On the other hand, some women apparently keep a stash of tassels sitting around for twirlies sake...)
3.) Breastfeeding moms have no way of knowing exactly how much milk their child is getting, so they have to live with the nagging of doctors and well-meaning friends and family that continually ask "are you sure s/he is getting enough to eat?
4.) Breastfeeding moms that dare to venture out in public have to be brave enough to feed their child when their child needs fed, even if that means on a city bus, in the check-out line at Starbucks or while shopping for groceries.
5.) Babies get teeth. 'nuff said.
6.) Many breastfeeding moms have to get up some courage to go out in public wearing a shirt that says "milk jugs" in bold letters across the chest. ;)
A new study has been released that shows the use of pacifiers can make it more difficult for mothers to establish successful breastfeeding relationships with their babies. The study was put together by researchers from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in conjunction with the Western Australian Centre for Evidence Based Nursing and Midwifery and Curtin University of Technology.
"Given the overwhelming evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding, it is generally advisable that mothers avoid the use of dummies [pacifiers] in order to increase the likelihood that their babies will breastfeed more effectively and for a longer period," said report co-author, Dr Garth Kendall from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
All I have to say is:
Any mother that has experienced the frustration of trying to nurse after their child has been given an artificial nipple could have saved these researches the time and money spent proving this "scientifically."
Breastfeeding isn't easy for mothers OR for babies. It takes work. Pacifiers and the nipples on baby bottles are incredibly easy for babies to latch on to. That means that quite often, once a baby has had a taste of the "easy" nipple, they're not so keen on doing the work anymore to latch on to the real thing. (Even if it has yummy mommy milk in it...) That's why breastfeeding friendly hospitals put signs in baby bassinets that notify hospital staff that a baby is being breastfed. That way the baby doesn't accidentally get slipped a pacifier or a bottle if they end up in the nursery or with nursing staff.
In fact, many pediatrians suggest that a baby not be given a pacifier or a bottle until a breastfeeding relationship has been firmly established.
We avoided pacifiers all together with Elnora, mostly because I didn't want to have to deal with breaking her from them but also because she was always a pretty content baby. When she was very young, I'd give her my pinkie finger to suck on if she was fussy. Always worked just fine for her. By the time she was a few months old, she'd outgrown it. Didn't make a difference for us with breastfeeding though as once we did our first supplementing by bottle (with pumped breast milk) she never would latch again.
The goal of the Lactivist is to spread awareness of both breastfeeding and the need for human breast milk donors. Hopefully that's inspired some Lactivist readers to get interested in the possibility of becoming a milk donor. So, what exactly do you need to do to become a milk donor?
1.) Be in general good health - Human milk donors must be in good health and have their personal physician sign off on on their ability to donate milk.
2.) Be able to pump extra milk each day - Milk banks require a minimum donation of 100 ounces. That's because the cost of medical screenings is high enough that the bank must receive at least 100 ounces to be able to afford to process the paperwork. Obviously the more milk a mother can donate, the better, but most milk banks are willing to take as much as a donor is able to give.
Some moms donate extra milk over time, but mother's that find that they have extra milk stockpiled in their freezers are also able to donate that milk as well.
3.) Be willing to undergo a medical screening - Potential donors are prescreened and excluded from being potential donors if they:
receipt of a blood transfusion or blood products within the last 12 months.
receipt of an organ or tissue transplant within the last 12 months.
regular use of more than two ounces of hard liquor or its equivalent in a 24-hour period.
regular use of over-the-counter medications or systemic prescriptions (insulin or thyroid replacement hormones and progestin-only birth control products are acceptable).
use of megadose vitamins and/or pharmacologically active herbal preparations,
total vegetarians (vegans) who do not supplement their diet with B-12 vitamins.
use of illegal drugs.
use of tobacco products.
a history of hepatitis, systemic disorder of any kind, or chronic infections (eg., HIV, HTLV, tuberculosis).
had a sexual partner in the last 12 months who is at risk for HIV, HTLV, or hepatitis (including anyone with hemophilia, or who has ever used a needle for prescription or non-prescription drugs, or who has taken money or drugs or for sexual favors).
Potential donors also need to undergo blood tests to check for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis among other things. Donors are required to have new blood tests run every six months and with every new pregnancy and are only able to donate for one year after the birth of their own baby.
4.) Be willing to abide by the required guidelines for donors - Donors commit to avoiding any types of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, certain types of diet, travel to certain countries and quite a few medications. In fact, donors are given a sheet that lists medications and how many hours donors must wait after taking them before they can donate.
For instance, if I took a Tylenol, I could not donate any milk that I pumped in the next 24 hours, but if I took an Advil, I could donate after just 8 hours. I also could not donate any milk pumped 24 hours before or after anyone in my household was ill. Donors also agree to wash their pump parts a certain way and even to storing and collecting milk a certain way.
Don't let all that scare you away though. It's such a worthwhile process and it's amazing to be part of something that can impact so many babies lives.
Even beyond that, it was fascinating to get information about my own milk. When my daughter continually drank far less milk than was recommended for her age, the staff at the milk bank was able to tell me that my milk contained more than 25 calories an ounce, a full 25% more than "average." That meant that Elnora needed to drink about 25% less than average to get all the calories she needed.
To find out more about becoming a donor, contact the milk bank nearest you:
One of the most intriguing experiments has been CafePress, a company that has been around since 1999 and allows anyone with rudimentary command of a computer the opportunity to, as the site says, "make your own stuff." That is, you can place your own designs or slogans or whatever onto a variety of commodities provided by CafePress: T-shirts, hats, teddy bears, coffee mugs, pillows, clocks, mouse pads and so on. According to the company, more than two million people or companies have used its services to create more than 18 million "unique items." CafePress has shipped 2.6 million orders (taking a cut, of course). Here is individuality on a mass scale.
The variety of products offered is sprawling, and aside from serving as a way for the consumer to make things, CafePress is often used is as a virtual gift shop for other Web sites. One top CafePress "shop" is connected to "This Old House," the television show. But most are not so well known. Another top shop is the Lactivist, a pro-breastfeeding Web site.
The findings have prompted ministry officials to initiate a programme next year to encourage young Thai mothers to breastfeed their babies, he said. The campaign aims to raise the number of breastfeeding women to at least 40 per cent of new mothers, he said.
The doctor said the alarmingly low rate of breastfeeding among Thai mothers might partly explain the low average Intelligence Quotient among Thai children. International studies conducted in the past five years have found that children who were breastfed for longer periods had a higher IQ than those who were not, Pratch said.
He cited the results of an international survey that compared the IQ levels of 3,800 children, half of whom were breastfed for six months and the rest for only a single month. Children who were breastfed for at least six months had an average IQ of 104, whereas those in the other group had only 99.4, Pratch said.
While the article gave no speculation on why breastfeeding rates are so low, the Thai results are on par with countries like The UK but fall below the rates of countries like Australia, Canada and India. In fact, according to UNICEF, the exclusively breastfed rates for South Asia as a whole were 46% in 2000. Rates for East Asia were at 57%.
If the keyword research that I've done is any indicator, there's an awful lot of interest online in more information about tandem nursing and breastfeeding on demand. Since there seems to be interest, I spent a little time this past week working up some new slogans so that I could add "tandem nursing" and "breastfeeding on demand" categories to The Lactivist Store.
31 States Protect the Right to Nurse in Public California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Texas, Vermont and Virginia
15 States Exempt Breastfeeding from Indecency Laws Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin
10 States Have Laws Related to Nursing and Jobs California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington
9 States Provide Exemptions from Jury Duty for Nursing Moms California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma Oregon and Virginia
4 States are Working on Breastfeeding Awareness Campaigns California, Illinois, Missouri, and Vermont
A recent study published in The American Journal of Public Health cited new research that suggests that in some areas of Africa, extended breastfeeding is a life saver. The study followed more than 12,000 children born in rural Senegal between 1988 and 1997.
Among the children studied, less than 1 percent were weaned before turning 15 months old. (Most were weaned either because their mother died, or became pregnant.) Of the children that were weaned prior to 15 months, 25% died before their second birthday. The finding support other recent studies that show breastfeeding to be essential to the health of children living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Commentary on the study points out that non-breastfed infants are extremely rare in sub-Saharan Africa and that milk donated from other mothers (usually via a wet nurse) was a life-sustaining force that needed further research and promotion.
From the study:
"Given the rarity of non- or only briefly breastfed infants in sub-Saharan Africa, prospective studies of infants of HIV-1 positive mothers are needed to provide reliable estimates of the effects of early weaning and type of replacement feeding on infant morbidity and mortality in various African contexts," the study's authors said. "Re-lactation by wet-nurses tended to be associated with lower child mortality, so despite its multiple constraints this strategy deserves further investigation in settings where it is culturally acceptable."
This is interesting in light of the resurgence of human breast milk banks in the United States. Due to fears of disease and cultural problems with the idea of one woman nursing another woman's child, wet nurses have fallen almost into extinction in the United States.
Even my grandmother remembers a woman in her neighborhood that served as a wet nurse when she was growing up. She said that there was another mother in the area that had been unable to nurse her own children and formula was pretty much non-existent in their area at the time. The mother would carry her baby down to the wet nurse several times a day and would sit and chat with the woman while she nursed her child.
I highly doubt that you'd see that happening these days.
Thanks to the funding that's starting to pop up for human breast milk banks however, mothers with an abundant supply now have the chance to become a modern day wet nurse. Now we just have to figure out how to get that message spread.
A new study appearing in Pediatrics suggests that if American women received more support during the days and weeks after giving birth, they would be more likely to establish successful breastfeeding relationships with their babies. While that may be a surprise to researchers, it's nothing new to moms.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement on breastfeeding this past February. It reads:
"Although economic, cultural, and political pressures often confound decisions about infant feeding, the AAP firmly adheres to the position that breastfeeding ensures the best possible health as well as the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant."
The new study, written by the CDC's Indu Ahluwalia, included more than 32,000 U.S. mothers that gave birth in 2000 or 2001. The study found that half of the mothers in the study breastfed for longer than four weeks, 13 percent breastfed for up to four weeks, 4 percent gave up breastfeeding after less than one week and a third of mothers did not attempt to breast feed at all.
The thing that upset me about the study was the reasons given for quitting:
1.) Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples 2.) Not producing enough milk 3.) Baby had difficulty breastfeeding 4.) Baby "not satisfied" with breastmilk
1.) Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are the result of a baby with an improper latch. That tells me that women are heading home from the hospital without having had proper help from a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding, while natural, doesn't always come naturally to a mother and baby. It takes hard work and the help of a skilled lactation consultant to make sure that a mother and baby have established a good latch. It's that lack of support and education that often leads to problems of sore and bleeding nipples and to mothers that understandably give up in frustration from the pain.
2.) and 4.) Not producing enough milk is rarely a "real" issue. While it happens, nine times out of ten a perceived lack of milk is either the result of supplementing with formula (which causes the baby to want to nurse less which keeps milk from coming in properly to meet demand) or is simply a problem of a Dr. that doesn't understand that breastfed babies often gain weight less quickly than their formula fed counterparts.
3.) Babies DO have difficulty breastfeeding. So do mom's. It's hard, hard work. That's why it's essential that moms leave the hospital with easy access to help from someone skilled in the art of nursing. Whether it's with a phone number for a La Leche League representative or with the number of a lactation consultant, new moms need to be prepared mentally and physically for the challenges of establishing a nursing relationship with their child.
Having gone through these issues myself when I tried to nurse Nora, I completely understand why women give up. Bottles of formula sitting on the shelf and repeated "encouragement" from well-meaning friends and family make it all too easy to give up and switch to formula. In other words, exactly when women should be encouraged to stick with it and should be getting industrial strength emotional support, they are instead bombarded with messages of failure disguised as "understanding." That's not to say that people don't have the best of intentions and it is of course essential for moms to keep their sanity if they are going to be good parents, but it is to say that the United States has a long way to go before every mother is given the support and encouragement she needs to breastfeed if she wants to.
". . .the Lord does not in vain prepare nutriment for children in their mothers' bosoms, before they are born. But those on whom he confers the honor of mothers, he, in this way, constitutes nurses; and they who deem it a hardship to nourish their own offspring, break, as far as they are able, the sacred bond of nature. If disease, or anything of that kind, is the hindrance, they have a just excuse; but for mothers voluntarily, and for their own pleasure, to avoid the trouble of nursing, and thus to make themselves only half-mothers, is a shameful corruption."
The above is a comment from John Calvin's writings about Genesis 21:7, which reads:
7 And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."
Interesting. I never would have guessed that during Calvin's time, there would be a lot of mother's that didn't wish to breastfeed. Then again, I'm still learning quite a bit about the history of breastfeeding and the rise and fall of breastfeeding rates during different time periods.
On an aside, I hadn't run into the TulipGirl blog before, but it's excellent reading. Conservative Christian, homeschooling, lactivist kinda gal. I like it. :)
When I first became a milk donor, I didn't really know much about why it was so important for some babies to have donor milk instead of formula. As a breastfeeding mother, I knew that breastmilk was the best nutrition, but I was also confident that formula was a perfectly fine alternative. It wasn't until I started doing some research and talking to the ladies that work at the milk bank that I learned just how vital breast milk is for extremely premature babies that must spend time in the NICU.
One of the primary reasons that human donor milk is preferred over formula is because it has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC). In fact, babies that receive breast milk instead of formula during their NICU stays are three to four times less likely to develop NEC than their formula fed counterparts.
What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)?
The easiest way to understand it is to break the words down. Entero and Colo refer to the small and large intestine and "itis" implies inflammation. Necrotizing is the death of tissue. Thus, NEC is a disease that kills off an infants ability to digest via the large and small intestine. NEC is the most common gastrointestinal issue faced by extremely premature infants.
About 10% of babies that are born weighing less than three and a half pounds (1500 grams) will experience a bout of NEC. This happens because their bowels are usually underdeveloped and they are at a high risk of infection. The mortality rate for infants that contract NEC is about 25%.
NEC affects about 25,000 babies each year. Many within the medical profession believe that NEC is on the rise because modern technology has allowed us move back the birth date at which a baby has a chance of survival. Because we are now able to treat lung and nutritional needs of extremely premature infants, we have more surviving, thus giving the a chance to live long enough to contract the disease. In times past, the babies that are most susceptible to NEC would likely not have survived for very long past birth.
While breast milk has not been shown to cure NEC, it is known to help prevent it, which is why it's essential that we find a way to make sure each and every baby born at such a young age has a way to receive human milk. Many mothers have difficulty getting their milk to come in after such an early delivery which leaves donor milk or formula as the only option for many of these babies.
Spreading the Word
I've been amazed to find out how few people know that donor milk is an option. Just in the past week, I've heard of two women that are friends of friends that delivered their babies at extreme premature dates. (24 weeks and 28 weeks) In one case, the mother was encouraged to begin pumping immediately in order to provide her own milk for her baby during its stay in the NICU. In the other case, the mother was unable to express any milk and my friend didn't know if she was aware that donor milk was an option.
Just how many funny things are there to say about breastfeeding? Apparently, there's quite a few. I was just getting ready to throw up a few new slogans myself when some suggestions came in from folks that have visited the site.
Last week, one of my readers wrote in to ask if I could try to come up with a shirt designed for moms that pump, but not exclusively. At the time, the best I could come up with was the "pumped" shirt. Since then, I managed to find an appropriate font to set up a nice place on pimp juice. Thus, we now offer the "pump juice" shirt.
Earlier this week I added a little more attitude to the site with the "that's my baby's lunch you're staring at" shirt, and today saw me playing off my own personal joke with another variation on milk shake.
Finally, my friend Danny wrote to point out that in the UK, there is a very popular television series called "Little Britain." One of the sketches on the first season of Little Britain revolved around a man and his girlfriend and his relationship with his mother. (Seems like this son is the nightmare of every mom that believes in child-led weaning as adult.) Anyway, Harvey and Jane head off to visit Harvey's mum and dad and Harvey starts demanding "bitty." He keeps it up until his mum gives in and nurses him.
Thus, in honor of Harvey and to keep all our breastfeeding friends across the pond in stiches, I've added adult shirts that read "Get your bitty!" and children's clothes that say "Not bitty later, bitty now."
As much as breastfeeding advocacy is an important issue, we were at The Lactivist (and by we I mean me and Nora) strongly feel that without some humor in your life, it's all for naught.
That's why I occasionally get my kicks and giggles catching up on the latest posts over at the Mama C-Ta blog. If you've got a sense of humor that finds shirts like "nip/suck" and "Nipple Nazi" amusing, then you'll probably think that Mama C-Ta is worth a read as well.
A recent gem:
You can stay, but I'm taking the boob with me I’ve actually been thinking about going down to only 1 boob. I mean I would keep both of them but only nurse him from my left and let my right side do it’s own thing. I never liked nursing from the right. Ever. I’m just afraid I’d look all uneven. They aren’t in the best shape now so I don’t want to add to their flaws. And I’m a little too old to be stuffing my bra to even them out.
Check it out...some funny stuff going on over there...
I can't even think of an intro to this, so I'm just going to say that this is the story of one of the donors to the Mother's Milk Bank:
On December 8th, 2004, my son, Aiden, was 5 days overdue when the doctor decided to induce labor. After an uncomplicated pregnancy, my husband and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our firstborn. As Aiden grew inside of me, we marveled at his energy and affectionately referred to him as "our wild child." I knew he was going to be just like his dad.
After an unremarkable course of labor, Aiden had not fully turned in the birth canal and was not advancing well. What my husband and I thought was to be a routing c-section ended with tragic results as Aiden was pulled from within me, unexplainably limp and without a pulse.
The hospital staff were able to resuscitate Aiden, however we were informed several hours after his birth that he had suffered severe brain injury and that his prognosis was very poor. By the next morning, there was evidence that Aiden had incurred damage to all of his major organs because of the lack of oxygen at birth. His body systems began shutting down and early the following morning, 35 hours after his birth, Aiden died as my husband and I held him in our arms.
At some point during that ordeal, my sister and aunt suggested that I might consider donating my breast milk. I recalled reading about plans for the opening of Mothers' Milk Bank of Ohio in Columbus earlier that year. It is a service of Grant Medical Center that collects, pasteurizes and distributes breast milk to ill and/or premature babies, greatly increasing those babies' chances for survival and good health. Before I left the hospital after Aiden's birth, I had decided that donating our milk was definitely something that I wanted to do. I say "our milk" because it would not have been produced had it not been for Aiden.
Early on, many people expressed disbelief about my decision to donate our milk, concerned that pumping would be incredibly emotionally painful for me. They wondered aloud about whether they would be able to do the same thing if they found themselves in my shoes, as if I were somehow making a huge sacrifice.
Going into it from my perspective though, which I was acutely aware of Aiden's absence each time I pumped, I yearned for him every other minute of the day too. All activities seemed to lead to thoughts of him, so I didn't find pumping significantly more painful than other tasks I did throughout the day.
Pumping our breast milk for donations actually ended up being very emotionally healing for me. It allowed Aiden to give something to the world and it gave his brief life more meaning and purpose. It was a way to validate his life so that others would know and understand that our Aiden was a person who had something to offer, not just an infant who died before he had the chance to live. Aiden did live! He was full of life inside of me for 9 precious months and he will always be very much alive in my heart.
Donating our milk helped me to prove that Aiden was not an accident, that it wasn't a mistake that he was conceived and born. My donating the milk that was intended for Aiden allowed him to live on and help so many other babies who were fortunate enough to survive, but were in need of our help. Without my son, it would not have been possible to offer that help.
The hardest part emotionally of the whole experience of donating my breast milk turned out to be stopping pumping. As the weeks went by, I had come to see that pumping was the only remaining physical connection I had to Aiden. It was the only tangible part of him that I had left. Pumping our breast milk for donation was the last direct link to my pregnancy experience, and in fact, I saw it somehow as an extension of my son. As long as I was still pumping, then Aiden was in some way still living on.
As I weaned myself from pumping, I felt like I was losing Aiden all over again. It seemed that I was moving farther away from him when all I wanted was to be close to him. Stopping pumping was a gut-wrenching experience, as it seemed to make Aiden's death that much more real and final. In spite of that painful time however, I do feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in the Mothers' Milk bank program and I hope that word continues to spread about this wonderful resource. Although I wish that my son would have had the opportunity to thrive on the milk that was meant for him, I am so glad that we had the chance to share Aiden's gift of health and perhaps life, with so many babies in need. I take comfort in the fact that Aiden's life served to help so many ailing babies and I hope that other moms in my position have the chance to experience some healing by donating their milk as well.
Participating in the breast milk donation program helped to acknowledge the importance of Aiden's life and it helped to assuage my worst fears as a grieving mom - that Aiden will be forgotten by others.
Here's to Aiden...may his brief life be an inspiration to many.
Please, help spread the word about human milk bank donations.