And here I thought I was already spilling my guts about things to my Lactivist readers... Apparently, it's just not enough for Tiffany over at Nature Moms Blog... "More!" she says..."More! More!" (Ok, not really, but she did ask me to share 8 things about me.) You guys know all the basic stuff about me, so I'm aiming for things you might not already know.
So, here we go!
1.) I have read the book "A Girl of the Limberlost" at least once a year since I was 11 years old. In fact, there have been a few times that I've finished the book and then immediately turned to page one to start all over again. I own three copies of the book (one to lend, one to read and one first edition that I'm saving for Elnora since she is named after the main character.) Some day when Elnora is older, we'll drive over to Indiana to visit the Limberlost swamp.
2.) Though it's still three and a half years away, Greg and I are making plans to drive Route 66 across the country and back for our ten year anniversary. I figure the kids will both be old enough to hang with the grandparents for a few weeks by then and we'll have our first really great, "we're-in-no-hurry" vacation.
3.) When I was 16, I competed in the Junior Olympics at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I was also an NCAA athlete at Ohio State University. My sport? 22 caliber rifle and air rifle. (Want to see what my rifle looked like? It was wicked cool!) I haven't shot in years but I am an NRA certified coach and have worked at the National Jr. Smallbore Camp every year for more than a decade.
4.) My favorite show is Lost. In fact, it's the only show that I make a point to watch each week (though I like to catch The Office if the kids are in bed in time.) If you're a fan of the show, I'm convinced that Desmond resuscitates Charlie, Locke and the remaining Others will team up with the Losties to battle whoever is on that ship, Sayid will continue to be the coolest man on television and Jack will continue to be an idiot.
5.) My favorite meal is insalata caprese. If you want to win me over, simply serve me up a platter of fresh mozzarella, red ripe heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil topped with EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Want to REALLY win me over? Add some rosemary and roasted garlic foccacia to the side.
6.) I once weighed 234 pounds. Yep, you read that right. Back when I first started dating Greg, that's what I tipped the scales at. In fact, I have not topped that weight during either of my two pregnancies. Currently, I'm more than 50 pounds down from that weight, but it's taken me a good five years of slow, steady work (and a few ups and downs) to get there. I've got about 20 pounds more to go and I'll be quite happy with myself.
7.) I have never left the continent. Twice I've had speaking gigs booked in the UK and once I was in the planning stages of a trip to Russia, but I've never made it off of North America. (Heck, I've never even been to Mexico.) That said, I've been to 26 states and a few Canadian provinces. Also, I'll take the mountains over the beach ANY day.
8.) I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school. Funny really, since at the time, my friends would make fun of me for going home and getting on "that stupid Internet thing." Because really...why would ANYONE want to use the Internet? LOL...oh...silly, silly high school kids. ;) Incidentally, I was also voted (in the fun list) Most Likely to be President, Most Likely to be a Superintendent and was runner up in Most Likely to Make the First Million and Most Likely to Wear a Wig. (WTH?)
So, it's time for me to do a little tagging of my own. I'll tag...Tanya (because she needs to get more personal), Wendy, Ahmie and Debra.
Apparently, the United States isn't the only place this happens...
I had an email this morning about the case of Janipher Maseko, a woman living in the UK after immigrating there at age 14 from Uganda that has been detained by the government, separated from her children and was refused access to a breast pump or lactation consultant to help her maintain her milk supply.
Oh yeah, it happened early enough that she was still bleeding lochia from the birth.
After a bit of a search, I was able to turn up an article on the Guardian that confirms the story (though not all of the details.) In fact, it explains that policies have been put in place to keep this very thing from happening after some widely publicized cases in the last few years. And yet...it's happened again.
Ms Maskeo has been kept away from her children for almost two weeks, despite concerns about her health and that of her children. It is also claimed that, at Yarl's Wood she has been denied access to a breast pump to relieve her pain and allow her to continue to lactate.
Ms Maseko has now been told she will be reunited with her children, but only after a concerted campaign by experts, charities, MPs and the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury.
Lesley Page is a professor in midwifery at King's College London and one of many who took up the case, raising concerns with the immigration minister Liam Byrne, who last year accepted the need to end the practice of separating breastfeeding mothers from their children.
In a letter to Mr Byrne on Sunday, Prof Page said: "Ms Maseko is extremely distraught and desperate to see her children. Her breasts are full of milk and she is in constant pain. Her children need to be urgently reunited with their mother.
"The forcible separation of the mother from her very young children and our failure to provide her and her family with essential health care and support is an act that is so inhumane its difficult to believed that it would happen."
The UK listserv Mumsnet has more details:
Ms Janipher Maseko, aged 18, who had fled rape and violence in Uganda and sought asylum in the UK four years ago as an unaccompanied minor, contacted BWRAP on 18 May from Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre through a fax written with the assistance of other detained women whom BWRAP is helping. Ms Maseko was terrified that she would be deported without her newborn son and one-year-old daughter from whom she had been separated for about 10 days.
Through daily phone calls and co-ordinating with others at the detention centre who have helped, we have put together the basic facts of Ms Maseko's ordeal. Ms Maseko's asylum claim had been closed in March 2007 when she was heavily pregnant. Hillingdon Social Services, responsible for her at the time, immediately stopped all support and evicted her and her baby daughter.
Staff at Hillingdon Hospital had to press Social Services to rehouse her. But at the end of April, a week after her son was born, Social Services evicted her again and threw away all her belongings. Ms Maseko tried to reach a friend in Brighton and was sleeping rough in Crawley when passers-by found her and called the police. Sussex Social Services put her babies into foster care even though she was breastfeeding her infant son and there was no cause to doubt her fitness and eagerness to care for her children – Ms Maseko needed shelter, money and healthcare. No arrangements were made to help her keep in touch with her children. Still bleeding after childbirth and with engorged breasts, Ms Maseko was held in a cell for four days without a shower or change of clothes.
Ms Maseko was taken to Yarl's Wood. She was still given no change of clothes or toiletries. In great pain in her breasts and groin, and unable to sleep, she received no healthcare from SERCO, the multinational company running Yarl's Wood. She wanted to breastfeed when her son was returned, but SERCO offered her no help to express her milk and maintain her milk production. This is not an isolated example of mistreatment – many other women are suffering under SERCO's regime.
I'm still trying to get confirmation of what I'm reading online, but it looks like things are *starting* to look up...
We were greatly encouraged by the immediate and practical response of the breastfeeding sisterhood beginning with Sheila Kitzinger, whose compassion and dedication we have always been able to count on, Lesley Page, former Joint Head of Midwifery at St Thomas Hospital, and Morgan Gallagher, who started Nursing Matters to support breastfeeding mothers caught up in the asylum system, as well as Lord Avebury. This response included contacting the press, MPs and relevant officials, organising local breastfeeding support, writing letters, providing expert and background information, and sending Ms Maseko money to keep open her life line to BWRAP – her mobile phone. Condemnation of Ms Maseko's treatment forced the authorities to reunite Ms Maseko and her traumatised children two weeks after they were taken.
IWCN asked Alistair Burt MP, whose constituency includes Yarl's Wood, to arrange for Ms Maseko to have the expert help she needed to resume breastfeeding. As a result Yarl's Wood management agreed to allow one local designated person with relevant expertise to see her as needed. At the last minute the immigration authorities and SERCO reneged, asserting that SERCO would only provide "appropriate" support.
Their contract is worth £87 million but they did nothing – one visitor was told "breastfeeding can wait". Despite this, due to Ms Maseko's determination and some timely advice before her children were returned, Ms Maseko's breast milk is returning. She is, however, worried about her children‘s health and how they were cared for by Sussex Social Services – the daughter lost weight; the son didn't grow – as well as the long-term effect of their traumatic forced parting from her.
Right now, here's what the groups working with Ms. Maseko have asked us to do:
1. Urge that Ms Maseko and her children be immediately released, housed, supported and granted asylum, and that there be a prompt independent investigation into her treatment by SERCO and all those in authority who were responsible for her care.
I've got an email in to Morgan Gallagher to see if I can get confirmation and some additional information for you. Until then, she does have updates posted on her blog...the latest as of this writing is that Ms. Maseko has been reunited with her children but will be deported to Uganda on June 1st. The children have received deportation/removal orders too, but there is not yet confirmation that they will be placed on the same plane.
While you can read her entire post, here's one little bit that I want to especially highlight:
Despite official neglect, Ms Maseko has managed to return Colin to her breast and is hoping to dispense with Powdered Infant Formula as quickly as she can. Thre is real pressure on this now, as if she is returned to Africa before this occurs, the health risks to Colin are immense - especially as she will have no support in whatever country she is returned to.
Keep in mind that this isn't JUST about deporting a family...it's about first putting the long-term health of this baby at risk by a forced separation that could have led to the end of breastfeeding prior to sending the mother and child back to a country lacking in clean water supply and in ready/affodable access to formula. In other words, even if you don't have a problem with the deportation, it's hard to argue that this treatment can be in any way excused or justified.
Whew! It was a long holiday weekend and I enjoyed some much needed time offline (two whole days, can you even imagine?!) That said, it also means that I missed out on posting a TON of Lactivist related news, so here we go with a rapid fire approach to the latest and greatest breastfeeding news...
There is a second probable contributor to the problem and that's the increased rate of nursing and increased rate of duration of nursing in American populations. So over the past 30 years for very good reasons, for the health of infants, more and more mothers are nursing their babies. We have gone from a nursing rate of about 25 percent roughly a quarter of babies being nursed by their mothers to about 75 percent. The average duration that mothers nurse their infants now is about twice as great as it was 30 years ago. This is a positive and good and healthy thing. The problem is that these chemicals are concentrated in breast milk at a level of about six fold as they are in regular body tissues. Because they are concentrated in fat, in a sense the mother is concentrating these poisons and delivering them in relatively high dose levels to infants.
What I'll find interesting is to see how it will get spun if it makes the mainstream news... Will it be that women should avoid breastfeeding because of this, or that the risks of formula still outweigh the risks of these chemicals, or that we need to clear these chemicals from the environment? (Thanks to Aruni for this one.)
Researchers have found that an effective vaccine, provided shortly after birth, would not only protect an infant from contracting HIV while breast-feeding but also could offer long-term or even life-long immunity from the virus, according to the Glaser Foundation. The protective vaccine then would allow HIV-positive mothers to safely breast-feed for an extended period of time, providing infants in resource-poor settings with nutritional and basic health benefits.
Wow! Absolutely outstanding! While here in the United States, passing up breastfeeding for the relative safety of formula isn't always a tough call for HIV positive mothers, it's a life or death choice in third world nations that lack clean water supplies. The idea that medical advances are being made that would allow mothers to breastfeed without fear of passing HIV is just wonderful. Kudos to Bill Gates for funding this type of research!
The Food and Drug Administration backed continuous use of the pill, Lybrel, which is manufactured by Wyeth. Taken daily it can halt a woman's menstrual periods indefinitely, as well as prevent pregnancies. But it may be difficult for the women to recognise if they have become pregnant because Lybrel users will not have regular periods.
Not being a fan of hormonal birth control, (I still blame it for sending my body into anti-ovulation insanity which necessitated fertility drugs for me to get pregnant with Elnora) I wouldn't be tempted by this...but if I was, the section that notes that HALF of the women in the drug trials dropped out "citing irregular and unscheduled bleeding" would have been enough to make me think twice. (Thanks Melissa!)
A simple method of flash-heating breast milk infected with HIV successfully inactivated the free-floating virus, according to a new study led by researchers at the Berkeley and Davis campuses of the University of California. Notably, the technique - heating a glass jar of expressed breast milk in a pan of water over a flame or single burner - can be easily applied in the homes of mothers in resource-poor communities.
Wow, more great news on the breastfeeding and HIV front. It is estimated that more than 40% of the 700K children who get infected with HIV each year have contracted it from extended breastfeeding. As I mentioned above, breast or formula is not an easy choice in countries where children die from simple cases of diarrhea. This simple method could mean a huge life and death difference in the developing world. (Thanks Julia!)
Ten midwives might bring in a caseload equal to that of two obstetricians. But their patient-centered personal care, including 45-minute appointments and continuous emotional support, also means clients tend to leave hospital more quickly, require fewer medical interventions, and receive attentive prenatal and postnatal care. All of which translate to lower costs for the health care system. They are also the only regulated professionals to accommodate home births.
The article states that 40% of women who wish to use midwives are unable to due to lack of availability. Ahh...how I dream of the day that I read an article and see attitudes about midwifery like that here in Ohio! In fact, there's a movement afoot right now in the Ohio legislature to make home birth midwifery illegal, but I'll cover more of that in an upcoming post. (Thanks for sending this Judy!)
For those of you who are just crazy impatient, yes, the sets are now for sale. You can run straight over to Bento Yum to see them (there are four) and buy them, or you can first read through a fun little primer on Bento sets.
So, I bring you...the Top Ten Reasons to Bento!
1.) Automatic Portion Control
The great thing about Bento boxes is that they force you into proper portion control. Bento boxes are all labeled in ml to let you know how much food they will hold. In fact, you might be surprised at just how tiny some of these boxes really are! 600ml, the recommended size for a woman in her 30's is about 2.5 cups. Doesn't sound like much, does it? Well, more on that in reason #3.
That said, there's no reason that you have to go with the exact suggested size. I usually end up around 650 or 700ml because I have some smaller boxes and I combine them. I do have one 600ml box and if I pack it properly, I never cease to be amazed at how satisfied I am when I'm done eating. If you'd like to get some guidance on what size box you should be selecting, the Lunch in a Box blog has a great guide to choosing the right size bento box.
2.) Makes Packing Lunches Fun
What's more tedious than getting up in the morning to spread yet another sandwich with peanut butter and jelly before tossing that, an apple and a bag of chips into a paper bag?
How bout doing it every single day?
The great thing about packing bentos is that they are far from boring. Tiny little sandwiches cut into fun shapes? Skewers of grape tomatoes, mozzarella balls and leaves of basil? Tiny little empanadas? How could little food in creative packaging be boring? I've found that packing Greg's lunch at the end of the day is actually pretty darn fun. I send him and the kids out of the kitchen and get 20 minutes to myself while I pack lunch, put away leftovers from dinner and load the dishwasher.
3.) Promotes Healthy Eating
Not only does bento packing limit your meal size, it also comes with guidance on what to put in it. Typically a bento holds 3 parts grain, 1 part protein and 2 parts fruits of veggies. Since you're packing food into a small space and you don't want to be starving after your meal, there's incentive to pack filling healthy food and to leave the empty calorie junk behind. Think of the amount of space a Twinkies takes up. Now picture having the same amount of rice. Which one is going to be more filling and healthier for you?
Another goal of Bento is color. Not Red Dye #4 color, but God's colors! A great bento takes advantage of the natural variety of colors that appear in our food and encourages bright colors and healthy food. Think of all the colors you see in fruits and vegetables and how beautiful a great arrangement of them looks. Now think about the fact that if you steam a veggie, it keeps it's color (and is healthy) whereas if you boil it, it loses both color and those essential nutrients.
As you start to look at various bento sites (and the Bento Yum blog) for examples of great bentos, you'll notice the common theme of "Wow does that look tasty...and healthy too!"
That's not to say that you can't pack treats, but consider shoving a few Hershey Kisses into any little spaces left as you're packing rather than trying to cram an entire Suzy Q in there. Dolly Parton always said that she ate anything her heart desired, but on the "bad stuff" she stopped at one bite.
4.) Makes Eating Lunches Fun (even for picky kids!)
You wouldn't believe how much more food Elnora will eat if it's packing into a teeny tiny Elnora sized bento box. Or if it's cut into fun shapes. In fact, a few days ago I made her a teeny tiny bear shaped cheese sandwich using some of my new cutters. She picked it up and hugged it, then carried it around the kitchen for about 15 minutes before she ate it.
Even Greg (an adult in his 30's) finds them wonderfully entertaining. After a few days of bento he confessed that every day he's excited to see what's in his lunch. Not to sound too "little woman" style hokey, but the man loves his bento lunches and calls nearly every day to say how great it was and to say "thanks." It's one of those little things that I can do as a way to say "hey, I love you!" even if everything else in life is so crazy that it doesn't get said that day with words.
5.) Uses Up Leftovers
This is one of the absolute best things about bento in my mind. You see, with the goal being to build a "small bite" meal...a wide variety of small potions of food, you never have to worry about what to do with the two spoonfuls of leftovers. How many times have you thrown three spoonfuls of corn in the compost pile because you didn't want to pack it up for the fridge? How bout the single meatball that you pop in your mouth while cleaning up even though you aren't hungry?
Imagine a world where all of those little scraps can come together into a great little smorgasbord of lunch. That's bento my friends!
6.) Impresses Your Friends
Ok, I'm not one to promote the "keep up with the Jones" attitude, but if you can BE the Jones...well...LOL Seriously though, people are fascinated with these boxes. Just look at the reaction we've had here on the Lactivist. So, you get the fun of being the first of your friends (or your kid being the first of theirs) to show up with the fantastic new bento box packed with yumminess.
Greg said that the first day or two, the guys at work teased him about his "fancy" lunches. They still do sometimes, but now he can see that there's some serious jealousy going on there too. Because again, would you rather eat one of those awesome, healthy, tasty bento lunches...or a Big Mac and Fries?
7.) Supports a Work at Home Mom
Ok, so this isn't so much about bento as it is about supporting Abigail. As you know, I'm a work at home mom myself and my "real job" is helping people market their small businesses online. Abigail falls into this category and is really taking on the entrepreneurial spirit. Let's support her in that! So go buy bentos from Bento Yum and then tell your friends to do the same!
I have no idea why it works this way but bento has totally driven my need to find new foods to eat. I went hunting for kumquats because they are the size of grape tomatoes and work well for holding things in place. (When you pack your bento, you shouldn't be able to see the bottom of it...use small, bite size things like grape tomatoes, blackberries, kumquats, etc... to "anchor" things in place by shoving them into any cracks.) I also realize that I don't want to pack the same grain every day (rice or pasta) so I've hunted down couscous, quinoa and a few other things just to try.
10.) Gives You a Creative Outlet
This was the biggie for me. I'm a creative type but sometimes I get bogged down in the day to day. With bento, I often find myself day dreaming about how to place food into the box to give it a natural design. Whether it's fruit in rows, slices of zucchini overlapping each other in a perfect circle around some rice or even just the idea of putting egg salad sandwich on a chick shaped piece of bread...creativity rules the day with bentos.
So without further rambling...here are pics of the first four sets up for sale at Bento Yum. (There's more than one of each set, but when they sell out, we'll have to wait for Abigail to go gather more.)
Banana Putifresh Bento Set for Sale This fruits-luscious banana bento set, full of yellowy brightness, is sure to get some smiles of happiness! The top reads "putifresh lube sheep. Happy fruits is very delicious. I will eat this and will become fortunate all together!"
This matching set of bento boxes and accessories contains everything you need to start packing and toting your first bentos to work, school, or anyplace else that you need a fun, healthy lunch!(More details and pictures at the Bento Yum blog.)
$26.00 ($18.00 for the set + $8.00 for 2-week shipping)
This matching set of bento boxes and accessories contains everything you need to start packing and toting your first bentos to work, school, or anyplace else that you need a fun, healthy lunch!(More details and pictures at the Bento Yum blog.)
$30.00 ($22.00 for the set + $8.00 for 2-week shipping)
Blue Rinda Rabbit Bento Set for Sale A bright and quirky complete lunchbox set with these words: "Clickety Click. My name is Rinda. Favorite food is the white cake and the sweet cherrys. Verry nice." Sounds yummy to me!
This matching set of bento boxes and accessories contains everything you need to start packing and toting your first bentos to work, school, or anyplace else that you need a fun, healthy lunch! (More details and pictures at the Bento Yum blog.)
$28.00 ($20.00 for the set + $8.00 for 2-week shipping)
Blue Mink Monkey Bento Set for Sale Wild and adventurous orange, yellow, green, and red monkey bento set with these words: "Clickety Click. My name is Mink. It likes reading the book of an adventure. It is excited very good."
This matching set of bento boxes and accessories contains everything you need to start packing and toting your first bentos to work, school, or anyplace else that you need a fun, healthy lunch! (More details and pictures at the Bento Yum blog.)
$28.00 ($20.00 for the set + $8.00 for 2-week shipping)
Abigail is accepting PayPal and all sets have "Buy it Now" buttons on their full description pages.
DEAR ABBY: A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I visited a family friend's niece who had recently had a baby girl. While we were visiting, we noticed that the baby was hungry.
Being a good mom, the new mother unbuttoned her shirt, took off her bra, and breast-fed the baby right in front of us. Abby, was it right or wrong of her to expose her breasts in front of visitors when breast-feeding the child? -- RACHEL IN PHILADELPHIA
You'll have to click through to read Dear Abby's response...but here's a copy of what I just sent in.
I'm writing in response to your letter about the mother who breastfed her new baby in front of her guests.
I'm not sure if you've ever been a new breastfeeding mother, but as someone who spends my days cover this topic, I wanted to point out that while nursing is natural and normal, it's also a learned process. New mothers often need all the "view" they can get to make sure baby is properly positioned and latched on. The first few days after a mother's milk come in can also include painful engorgement of the breasts making even nursing bras highly uncomfortable while nursing.
Finally, I'd note that newborns can sometimes eat as often as every hour. If you match that feeding schedule to the number of guests that tend to parade through to see a new baby, you can imagine how many times a new mom is faced with the task of feeding her child with guests around or of retreating someplace more private. In just the second day of my own child's life I found myself with a hungry baby and a porch full of guests. After a moments hesitation I lifted my shirt and nursed my son. No one minded at all.
I want to commend you for promoting breastfeeding as normal and natural and for pointing out that the mother was in the privacy of her own home, but wanted to offer up an explanation for why some new moms may show a little more skin than even they would like to in those early days. While we all love to curl up with our new babies and just love them, an every hour or two feeding schedule and our own need for adult interaction means that some day, some one is going to see you breastfeeding. The more often it happens, the sooner our country will recognize how much of a difference a supportive attitude can make for new mothers.
Jennifer Laycock The Lactivist Blog http://thelactivist.blogspot.com
If you haven't gone to check yet, I thought I'd let you know that Bento Yum is up and running. We hope to have the first sets for sale some time this week (Abigail sent me pics, they are so cute!) but they aren't quite ready yet. When they are, I'll make a post here to share a little info about the idea of packing bentos and to share some pics of the sets.
With that out of the way, I've found myself having some fun with a little personal food challenge that I've created for myself and thought I'd see if anyone else wanted to join me.
It's a simple one really.
Buy at least one brand new food every time I go grocery shopping.
See, the thing about eating healthy (or even eating unhealthy) is that it can get monotonous. It's so easy to fall into a pattern...you know...grilled chicken on Monday, soup and sandwich on Tuesday, meatloaf on Wednesday and so on.
Since bento packing is partly about fun, creative, colorful and healthy food, I've found myself hunting down some new things to pack. It's been about a month since I decided that we needed to expand our food horizons and that I'd start buying at least one brand new item every time I went shopping.
So far, here's what we've tried:
Kumquats (I LOVE these, Greg hates them) Asian Pears (just bought it this week, haven't tasted yet) Fresh Apricots (Perfect snack size to pack in Bento, Greg likes 'em) Japanese Sushi Rice (haven't tried it yet) Mahi Mahi (mmmmmmmmmm....) Soy Vay Teriyaki Sauce (haven't tried it yet) Sweet Potatoes (I know, can you believe I'd never bought them? Greg likes 'em) CousCous (Think I'm going to make this tomorrow) Asparagus (Nope, didn't like it) Butternut Squash (Emmitt is all over this stuff)
There are quite a few veggies that I think we're going to try as well. I've never had eggplant, several types of greens, edameme, and a wide variety of mushrooms. I figure they're all worth trying at least once. I'd also like to try quite a few fruits that I've always skipped over. Those tend to be the more expensive ones though, so part of me hopes I won't like them.
How about you? How often do you challenge yourself to try a new food? Find anything amazing that you really like? Are you up for a once a month thread that talks about the new foods we've found and tried? Might be a nice way to change up the same boring meals.
Man do I hate asking questions like that. I mean who wants to be the jerk that questions the intentions of a group that aims to provide breast milk to AIDS orphans in a third world country?
I've been sitting on this post for awhile now trying to decide if I should publish it, or simply keep responding to the emails that I receive almost weekly from moms looking to donate to this organization. Then I saw that Mothering.com had decided to promote the International Breast Milk Project as their "activism alert" in their newsletter, and I realized that the time had come to speak up and say something.
Now, let me say that I have a great deal of respect for Jill Youse and her idea of setting up this organization. I think it's a beautiful idea and brings much needed attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis and the problems with formula use in third-world countries. In fact, I wrote about this project back when I first heard about it.
From the IBMP site:
The International Breast Milk Project is the first organization in the world to provide donor breast milk from the United States to babies orphaned by disease and poverty. The first batch of donor milk arrived to the iThemba Lethu orphan home in April 2006. The organization was founded by Jill Youse and her brother Will Harlan. Over 800 moms have applied to donate to the Breast Milk Project.
Now I understand that shipping milk to Africa is AMAZINGLY expensive. The cost of keeping that milk frozen and of safely transporting it is extremely high. Thus, it only makes sense that Youse needed to partner with a company to take care of the cost of processing and transporting the milk.
I just wish she'd chosen someone other than Prolacta.
I've got two primary issues with this arrangement and I think that any mom preparing to donate to the International Breast Milk Project needs to be aware of them and needs to consider them before making her choice of where to donate.
1.) Money. Apart from the very high cost of processing and shipping all that milk, there's the cost in screening donors, shipping them free hospital grade pumps, sending them free storage bottles and covering the full cost of shipping and materials to safely get the milk from donor mom to the Prolacta processing center.
Now, if all of the money put toward that was simply sent to Africa to allow them to work on setting up their own system of screening mothers and collecting local milk, I have to believe that it would go MUCH further than it will with the current setup.
In fact, this quote is from the IBMP web site:
We funded our first two banks in October 2006 established by Dr. Peter McCormick. Setting up small banks in rural Africa to benefit fragile, sick, preterm babies is neither expensive nor complicated: Dr. McCormick's milk banks cost less than $1000. Our goal is to continue to support this effort by implementing 4 hospital based banks in 2007-2008.
If that's the case...why collect milk here at all? Why not use all those collection funds to start new banks in Africa? Quite honestly, there's just something that feels condescending to me about shipping over our American milk to "save" their babies rather than helping them make use of their own resources to save even MORE babies.
2.) Lack of Disclosure. Quite honestly, this is the biggie. I've had a LOT of email in the last six months from mothers that had/have signed on to donate to this organization. Every last one of them went through the screening process and went so far as to receive their donor kit before finding out that everything was being run through Prolacta. Most of them emailed me when they could not get a straight answer from Prolacta about whether or not the milk they donated would be going to Africa or into Prolacta's American milk bank. (Which charges hospitals roughly 10x more than HMBANA banks.)
I did some digging around and turned up a few things that simply don't add up.
Over 800 moms have applied to donate to the Breast Milk Project. (from the IBMP site.)
Some of your milk goes to babies in Africa and some of your milk stays here for critically ill babies in hospitals. Exactly how depends on how much you send and how much room is left in our shipment. (from the IBMP site)
"The average donor is probably pumping 800 to 1,000 ounces for a shipment, but it really varies. It could be 100 ounces; it could be 2,000." (from Foreign Policy)
"All milk from qualified donors is pooled together in large batches when production begins, starting with the oldest milk in the freezers. This varies as milk from different donors becomes available. So percentages may vary from batch to batch. I can tell you that we have made the commitment to send 5,000 ounces twice a year to Africa and that the milk that comes into this bank is given priority to that commitment. Any amount of milk that is received beyond that will go to premature infants in the United States to enable additional donations to Africa. " (from an email sent from "Robin" at Prolacta to one of my readers)
So let's do the potential math there...
800 moms times an average of 500 ounces each. (Let's cut the above quoted average of 1000 ounces in half) = 400,000 ounces per year
Prolacta's commitment to Africa = 10,000 ounces per year (for those not so great at math, that's enough to feed two children 32 ounces a day for 5 months.)
Even if the IBMP is only bringing in half of my already halved estimate...that's 200,000 ounces a year of which 5% is being shipped to Africa and the rest is being used by Prolacta state side.
Does that seem wrong to anyone else?
Now, for full on accuracy, the Prolacta site says that all money "earned" from the breast milk donated to this project goes back into funding the project.
Well, let's see. If they have 390K ounces of excess per year that they are selling at $35 an ounce. That's umm...$13.6 million.
Again, I ask...does anyone else feel like something a little strange is going on here?
I emailed Prolacta myself to try and get some answers from them on exactly how much of the milk that's donated to the IBMP will end up in Africa. I emailed three people. Twice. I could not get a response.
I'd love for them to respond now.
I want to believe that while I disagree with a lot of things about the way Prolacta is run and the way that they represent themselves, that they really are supporting this project with 100% openness and honesty.
Based on what I can find on the Prolacta and IBMP sites and in the news, what I'm hearing from donor moms and the lack of response to any questions I put forth to their staff, I'm left with the cynical thought that Prolacta has found a wonderful tear-jerker cause upon which to build a for-profit milk banking business.
Thinking about donating to the International Breast Milk Project?
I'll bet you fifty cents that you read that post title and guessed that I was going to write about some mother of triplets or quads that successfully nursed her kids.
Well, you would be wrong!
What I'm actually going to write about is the mama sow that we saw last Friday on our trip to Slate Run historical farm on the south side of Columbus. Lactivist reader (and long time friend) Judy and her baby Catie went with Elnora, Emmitt and I as we joined a mom's group from church for a field trip.
Of course after two years of adoring all things farm related and all animals, Elnora decided that anything beyond chickens was just too much. Our day went something like this...
Me: Elnora, do you want to go see the oxen? Elnora: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Me: Nora, how about the piglets, would you like to get out of the stroller and go see them? Elnora: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Me: Look Nora! A Lamb! Do you want to go see the lamb? Elnora: Nooooooooooooooooooooo!
So she watched it all "safe" within the confines of her seat in the stroller. Made me feel a little silly since I had Emmitt in the Ergo so that I could quickly abandon the stroller to chase her through the farm. Instead, I wore one kid while pushing the other in a double stroller. LOL. She got out once for the chickens, and then again at the farm house, but if there was anything larger than a chicken around, she was NOT coming out of that stroller.
I did get a good shot of her signing though. Thanks to the delay of digital cameras this was about .25 seconds too late, but what you're seeing is the end of "girl" in response to me asking her if she was a boy.
"No!" (I'M GIRL) while saying "Geeeee!"
LOL. She LOVES to tell you that someone is a boy or a girl.
We wrapped the day up with a picnic lunch at the park's entrance. I'd packed Bentos for Elnora, Judy and myself. (Click on those links to see the lunches featured over at Bento Yum.
One sad thing I noticed though is that the group leader, who has a four month old, vanished with a comment about the baby needing to eat. It appeared that she went to nurse in her car. Made me a little sad since it was a mom's group and I was already sitting there on my blanket feeding Emmitt, but I figure if that's how she's comfortable, that's her choice.
Unfortunately, I've just heard the following from Jake Marcus, Legal Director of Birth Without Boundaries and things are not going well.
In a move that surprised her supporters, Senator Connie Williams gutted her own public breastfeeding bill in the Pennsylvania Senate on today by introducing an amendment which strikes the language "protecting the right [to breastfeed]" and replaces it with "permitting a mother the freedom." In all other places in the bill where the word "right" was used, Williams had it struck and replaced it with the word "freedom."
Williams also amended her own bill to strike the entire section which would have forbidden local governments from passing ordinances prohibiting breastfeeding thus leaving all Pennsylvania women vulnerable to the whim of local governments and allowing local governments to make public breastfeeding illegal.
Jake goes on to comment:
"No law is better than a bad law. We will work tirelessly in the Pennsylvania House to get a public breastfeeding bill that will truly protect the rights of breastfeeding women and their children, and search for a Pennsylvania state senator to introduce it in the senate."
I couldn't agree more.
Right now, states that have no legislation are simply left with a situation of breastfeeding being legal, but there being no existing protection for mother's. That leaves decisions about any incidents that happen up to judges and local law enforcement. A poorly written law like this one can actually DIMINISH protection by putting very low standards in place that people can live "down to" when it comes to enforcement.
I'd encourage all Pennsylvania moms to contact their representatives to urge them to reject this legislation. A lot of work went into it, but the mothers and babies of PA will be better served by a new bill being introduced to the next session.
There was a story that ran on CBS 5 in San Jose earlier this month that talked about Howard Cohen and his breast milk smoothies. Cohen drinks a fruit, yogurt and breast milk smoothie each day after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
He read about a study that showed that breast milk kills cancer cells. He started off drinking the breast milk of a friend, but soon turned to the Mother's Milk Bank of San Jose with a prescription from a doctor in hand.
He's not the first to try it. The San Jose Milk bank has shipped breast milk to dozens of adult cancer patients. Our milk bank here in Columbus has done the same.
Not everyone is a fan of the idea though.
Dr. David Newberg, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, put is this way: "I do think that it's premature for adults to be drinking breast milk. It hasn't been fully tested yet and we like to be very careful not to use things in humans that we don't understand."
Umm...ok. Does anyone else think it's funny that Dr. Newberg speaks like breast milk is this mysterious unknown force that might hurt you if you drink it? I mean who knows for certain if it kills cancer, but I don't think anyone can argue that at worst, it will simply have no impact. Breast milk from a screened donor is not going to HARM anyone, no matter what the age. It just might not help them.
On the other hand, one of the other doctors interviewed makes a very good point.
Dr. Pamela Berens with the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine ... worries adults using donor milk will deplete the already limited supply, commenting that "right now we don't have enough breast milk for our donor milk banks for the premature infants who we have such wonderful data about the benefits."
Honestly? That's my primary concern.
We don't have enough breast milk now for the babies in the NICUs across the country that desperately need it. Babies for whom breast milk means the difference between life and death.
While I'm fascinated with the idea that breast milk could help fight, or even cure cancer, I have a hard time justifying using up the very limited supply when there are lots of other treatments available for adult cancer patients.
That's not to say that I wouldn't pump for an adult friend with cancer if they asked me to. I'm just not keep on using our limited screened donor milk for that purpose.
But the thing that I find strangest about the story?
Mr. Cohen's quote that says:
"It doesn't taste all that pleasant. It's a bit oily and there's an after-taste."
I thought breast milk tasted like cantaloupe. (Anyone else remember that Friend's episode?)
Seriously though, I've tasted it...licking it off a finger, but I've never actually taken a gulp, so I have no idea what it tastes like. I just have a hard time believing that it's "oily."
It is pretty darn high in fat content though, so I suppose someone used to skim milk might find it to be a bit more fatty and could refer to that as oily...
That quote just really rubs me the wrong way though.
So how about you guys? Would you drink breast milk from a friend or milk bank if you were diagnosed with cancer? How far would you go to get it? Would you pump for a friend or family member? Do you support milk banks shipping breast milk to adults?
Just sat down to catch up on some and to try and get a few blog posts ready and was surprised to find the breastfeeding episode of Two and a Half Men on CBS.
If you haven't seen the episode (this was a rerun), Alan dates Berta's daughter Naomi who has a young baby. In one of the scenes, they're out in a restaurant having lunch and Naomi pulls her shirt down from the top, unhooks her nursing bra and nurses her baby throughout the conversation.
It's done very matter of factly with no attempt to hide what's being done and with no negative reactions from anyone around them. In fact, there's even some playful banter about their romantic life and the fact that she's breastfeeding. (Some comment about him not knowing that nursing bras had flaps...)
There's a LOT of buzz running right now in the lactivist world about an op-ed piece in the New York Times. The editorial talks about the recent New York City decision to go "baby-friendly" and to keep hospitals from sending ALL moms home with the obligatory black bag from Similac of Enfamil. It's no surprise to hear that not everyone supports the decision, but the post gets an absolute BASIC fact completely and utterly wrong.
(Now, I want to preface this by reminding new readers that The Lactivist is NOT about formula bashing. In fact, if you want to bash formula or moms that use it, I suggest you go elsewhere. This site supports breastfeeding by uplifting nursing moms, not by tearing down formula feeding ones. So let's address this issue with that in mind please and avoid any comments about the author's choice to formula feed.)
Take this quote from the story:
By Day 4 in the hospital, I was a wreck from the pain of the C-section and from trying to nurse with cracked, bleeding nipples that weren't producing milk. The nurses were encouraging and patient with my attempts to breast-feed, but I ultimately decided to bottle-feed my daughter.
The formula samples were a godsend. As a first-time mom who was intending to breast-feed, I had not thought to have formula waiting at home. The perfectly measured samples got us through the first sleepless days until we could get our acts together to buy formula.
Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but even in the "first sleepless days" of motherhood, I could have found a way to run to CVS to buy formula if I'd needed it. (And I live in a village of 3500 people...not in "the city that never sleeps.")
With Caesarean rates skyrocketing in New York City (some hospitals have a nearly 40 percent rate of Caesarean delivery), formula often becomes a necessary part of the equation.
It bothers me that she seems to assume that c-sections and formula must go hand in hand. Granted, there are much higher formula feeding rates for moms that have c-section for a wide variety of reasons...but a c-section in no way makes formula NECESSARY.
Whether bottle-feeding is voluntary or has been dictated by circumstance, neither the government nor the medical establishment should try to manipulate a woman's decision by withholding samples that formula manufacturers are more than happy to provide.
Umm... I agree. The medical establishment should not try to manipulate a woman's decision. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens when doctors and nurses hand mom a bag of formula and says "Brand X is the best formula" all while watching mom sit there with baby happily nursing away.
Hospitals and government alike should support a mother’s right to decide what is best for her and her child, be it breast-feeding or bottle-feeding. So go ahead, give out the free formula samples: it’s a nice gift, especially on Mother’s Day.
Just. Doesn't. Get. It.
So with that, let me clarify one very important point.
Mothers that give birth in New York City hospitals can still go home with free formula. They simply have to request it now. (There's also no shortage of free formula to be had from OBs, Peds and company web sites.) It annoys me to continue to read about opposition to the "ban the bags" campaigns that focus on the NEED for free formula. Great, take your free formula, but don't send it home with the moms that don't ask for it.
On the heels of a rally featuring more than 100 moms and their families, the call is out to gather additional support for Rep. Maloney's Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
Here's the information:
The Breastfeeding Promotion Act, H.R. 2236, was reintroduced in the House of Representatives on May 10th with Reps. Maloney(NY), Shays(CT) and Elison(freshman from MN) attending the press conference. Now it needs two things to move it along.
*1)It needs /_more cosponsors_/! At present only 28 representatives have cosigned. Bills generate more interest and get hearings faster when they have many, many cosponsors. If your representative is not a cosponsor, you need to ask him or her to do so. Gather up a bunch of your fellow mothers in your district and have them all call and write to the representative and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor. I went to my representative's office and got into an interesting dialogue with two of his aides about why he has not signed on and asked them to bring it to his attention. Here is a link to the list of current cosponsors:*
If your representative is not a cosponsor, then go to the House of Representatives website and find out who your rep is with the Find your Rep link and get his or her contact phone number and email. Send them an email from his or her webpage telling them this is important to you. Ask your rep to cosponsor ASAP. Get your friends and neighbors to do so as well. Call back a couple weeks later and ask them if they have done so. If they have not write and mail and actual letter to your rep. Tell him or her exactly why the BPA is important. Here are some talking points you can adapt for your communications:
Women are quitting breastfeeding far earlier than the Surgeon General and all medical authorities say is best for babies.
There are no federal workplace protections for breastfeeding mothers in American and patchwork state laws are not proving strong enough.
Women are being told they can't pump, are not being given breaks to do so, are having to pump in bathrooms, are getting charged extra fees for breastmilk at some daycare chains all around the country, are getting fired for trying to be both good mothers and good workers.
Having a civil right to breastfeed in the law will reach and teach American workers where they spend most of their days and more quickly create a breastfeeding friendly culture that will help meet the Surgeon General's Healthy People 2010 goals for improving breastfeeding rates.
There is no downside to improving the health of babies and mothers!
Creating support for long term breastfeeding will eventually lower healthcare costs for infants and children across the board.
If your representative is a cosponsor send an email to thank them and ask them to talk and encourage their colleagues to sign on as well.
*2) Rep. Lynn Woolsey is now the chairperson of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections that must have a hearing on the bill before it can be voted out of the committee and have a chance for a full vote of the House. She is a cosponsor and favorable to the bill, but we need you all to send her emails, call and fax/write letters asking her to hold a hearing on the bill sooner than later! We especially need her to hear from a lot of her constituents in the Marin and Sonoma California areas to get in touch with her. Use the above talking points along with the fact that we have waited seven years to pass the Breastfeeding Promotion Act and in that time millions of mothers have not had adequate legislative support, which would make the choice to breastfeed/pump simple and easy to do. Ask her/her aides to tell us when we will get the hearing we need. Do this before the end of May. Make it a priority to make these contacts with her and with your own representative. Often the Representatives webpage won't allow those who do not live in the zip codes in her district send an email. If are not one of her constituents you can use the following contact info to call, fax or mail a letter.
Washington DC Office: 2263 Rayburn Building Washington, DC 20515 Ph.: 202-225-5161 Fax: 202-225-5163
We have a really strong chance at passage with this 110th Congress if we can make a strong showing by communicating to all the representatives that we want this bill to be heard and voted upon this year. Half the country are women and most are mothers. Surely we can muster enough of our communities so that every one of the 535 representatives can hear from more than one constituent on behalf of this bill, HR 2122 The Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
So now that I've unloaded on you with my sob story about occasionally feeling crushed by the responsibility of breastfeeding, it's time for a little bit of fun. (NOTE: this post is just full of pics. Click on any of them to go to the Flickr image with full descriptions.)
As you know, we've really been working toward healthier eating here. We're at about 50% organics these days and almost no "packaged" foods. I cook about six nights a week now plus a big lunch on Sunday so we've also got plenty of good, healthy leftovers to snack on or make lunch from.
That said, two challenges remained.
1.) Portion control. For me, that means eating smaller amounts at each sitting. For Greg, it means getting enough food into him during the day so that he doesn't scarf his weight in food at an 8pm dinner.
2.) Getting up the gumption to start packing healthy lunches for Greg again. He was up to eating out 2, sometimes 3 times a week if he couldn't find some box of leftovers sitting in the fridge.
That's when I spotted a post at Tiffany's blog about "laptop lunches." (Oh Tiffany, if only you knew what you'd started over here...)
Thus started me on my journey to reading about bento boxes and bento lunches. Journey? Maybe more like an obsession. (If you haven't guess, I don't really manage to do things on a small level...) So I began reading. I began browsing Flickr groups. I began drooling over eBay auctions. I marveled at the creative food presentation and the adorable containers. Then I bought a Mr. Bento.
For about a week, Mr. Bento was enough to satisfy me. Preparing lunch for Greg was fun. Plus, I was getting all sorts of healthy foods in him and packing quantities that gave him a nice sized lunch and then an afternoon snack. He wasn't coming home starving any more and I was throwing away less leftovers.
You know, Japan? Home of bento boxes and Japanese dollar stores?
So what did I do? I begged her to go shopping for me.
In the past week, three giant boxes have arrived. They've all been STUFFED with supplies. There were 8, yes EIGHT bento boxes. (Including an adorable Hello Kitty box for Elnora!) There were sauce containers, mini forks and spoons, side dish containers, bread and cheese cutters, food dividers, basically, boxes of bento-y goodness!
As such, I found myself spending about 20 minutes each night packing bento while cleaning up dinner. 20 minutes of creativity and peace while Greg watched the kids leaving me with not only a fully packed lunch for Greg, but also a clean kitchen. It's given me reason to experiment with new foods and to find new ways to pack healthy food for Greg. We've discovered that after years of hating salads, he absolutely LOVES salads made with baby spinach instead of lettuce. I discovered kumquats and Greg discovered fresh apricots.
Even Elnora is getting in on the action, enjoying sandwiches (the kid loves bread) cut into a variety of shapes. In fact, yesterday she ate her lunch out of a bento box that I'd packed for a play group that we didn't make it to.
This stuff is fun!
Well, if you hadn't guessed...I can never just stop at "fun."
So this week, I'll be building my new site...www.bentoyum.com. (It's not live yet, so don't bother checking it, I'll let you know when it's up.) My original thought was to simply put up a bento blog with pictures of each bento and the occasional recipe or packing tip. Then I thought about how neat it would be if I could convince Abigail to open shop and sell bento supplies. Oddly enough, as I was thinking that, an email showed up from her with the same idea.
So Abigail and I are going to be partnering on a new business. I'll do the blogging and will help her learn about marketing and she's going to be putting together bento kits, selling bento supplies and putting together some ebooks on the subject. Should be fun, especially for those of you looking for a way to inspire some healthy lunches for yourself, your spouse or even your kid.
Which leaves me with my question... Would you like the very occasional bento post here if I come up with something really cute or interesting? Should I ditch the MyBlogLog widget for a Flickr widget that rotates through pictures of the bentos? Or should I leave everything as is and just let you know when Bentoyum.com is up and running?
Last week I found myself in a debate with a fellow Lactivist about what exactly it is that we should be fighting for. The conversation was about pump at work bills and whether or not companies should be required to give PAID breaks to pumping moms. I argue that they should have to give breaks, but that they shouldn't have to give paid breaks. (I'll save my reasoning for another post.)
That led us into a conversation about just how far the lactivist battle should go in terms of securing "rights" for breastfeeding moms.
I've long felt convicted that the lactivist battle is one of "equal rights" not one of "special rights."
For example, long-time readers might recall my writing about the Kelly Fuks YMCA incident back in early 2006. In that case, a mom was told that she could not nurse her baby in the pool area. The reason given? Because they had a strict "no food or drink" policy. At the time, I explained my stance that if bottle feeding isn't allowed, then I don't care if breastfeeding isn't allowed.
Again, equal rights, not SPECIAL rights.
The argument that the other woman came back at me with was that we had to make breastfeeding "as easy as bottle feeding" for women to want to do it.
I argued that it would/could never be as "easy" in terms of "freedom" and that breastfeeding moms had to recognize that there were going to be things about breastfeeding that are simply harder than bottle feeding.
In fact, I stated that while we could make breastfeeding "easier" we were never, EVER going to make it "easy" and that moms simply had to accept that breastfeeding, like anything else, has its downsides.
Eek. That opened up a bit of a debate.
So with that little bit of background, you'll have to understand what my brain has been pondering the last few days. I've sat down to write this post a couple of times, but the thoughts just weren't...developed enough yet.
One of the themes that I hear again and again from the lactivist community and from breastfeeding professionals is how much "easier" breastfeeding is than bottle feeding. In fact, some go so far as to say that if it's difficult, you must be doing something wrong.
That bothers me.
Don't get me wrong, there are so many things about breastfeeding that are easier than bottle feeding. On a day to day basis, I'd obviously prefer to simply lift my shirt than to have to go and get a bottle ready. The portability, the ready availability, and of course the wonderful physical closeness is something to be cherished.
But there are some days...days where breastfeeding is...well, when it is a crushing load that can be shouldered by no one but me.
...and that's difficult. Mentally and physically.
Now I know that good moms are supposed to love their children all the time. To revel in the closeness of nursing a child and to get their relaxation through the occasional bubble bath while dad plays with the kids, but I think we do an enormous disservice to breastfeeding moms to not acknowledge how hard it can be.
How hard it is to be on call 24/7 with zero breaks.
When I pumped for Elnora, I sometimes felt like a slave to the pump. It went with me everywhere and I was always keeping an eye on the clock to know when my next pumping session was. That was rough. Pumping when I had the flu, pumping when I was traveling, pumping when I wanted to throw the pump out the window.
But ultimately, when I needed a break...when I needed that moment of sanity that can only come from sitting by yourself in a location free of small children...I could get it. I might have the whir of the pump playing as my background music, but solitude was within reach.
Now however, I find myself with a child that will not take a bottle. That does not sleep through the night. That still nurses roughly every three hours day and night.
In seven months I have had two four hour breaks from my child. Once was late at night after he'd gone to bed when he was ten weeks old. I went out with some friends with cell phone in tow ready to head home the moment it buzzed. The second time was just last week while giving a presentation at Ohio State while my mother-in-law watched the kids.
Both times I spent the entire time worrying that I'd have to make a frantic dash home at any second. I knew that if he got hungry, if he got upset, there was no one that could take care of him but me.
Apart from that, I've been gone for around 2 hours less than 10 times.
Now I love Emmitt. I love Elnora. I adore my children and I know how very blessed I am to be able to work from my home so that I get to spend time with them.
But there are days where I feel trapped. Not because I'm a mom, but because I'm a breastfeeding mom.
Yep, I said it.
As wonderful, as important, as gratifying as breastfeeding is, it's far from easy. Not for the mom that lacks the option of ever leaving a bottle of expressed milk for her child. Not for the mom that hasn't slept more than 4.5 hours straight in over a year.
There are no breaks.
I had the flu last month. The type of flu where you have to sit on the toilet while puking because the force of the puke sends some other ... stuff ... flying out as well. I was at my moms. When Emmitt was hungry, she would come and lay him in my arms. When he was finished, she'd take him and settle him back to sleep. Nursing him was literally all I could do and sometimes she'd have to "catch" him as I jumped up to race to the bathroom.
There are no breaks.
I know that this time period will be brief when compared to my entire life. I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that some day, maybe soon, Emmitt will get the hang of a sippy cup and I'll be able to take a much needed afternoon of rest.
But right now, I can't see the light.
And I wonder, are we fooling ourselves, are we harming our cause, are we setting moms up for failure when we try to convince them that breastfeeding is "easy?"
There are days where I look at Emmitt as he nurses and I want to cry with joy because of how beautiful, how precious the moment is. There are other days where I look at him and I want to run away from this never ending cycle.
That doesn't make me a bad mom. And if you're reading this, and you can relate, it doesn't make you a bad mom either. It makes you a real person.
When we become mothers, we do so knowing that we have to give up a little piece of ourselves. We do it because we know that the piece we've given up will be filled to the point of overflowing by the presence of that little person. We do it because we know that most of the things worth doing in life...are difficult.
I call it the "dark side of breastfeeding" because no one seems to want to talk about it. At least not anyone that breastfeeds.
There's this underlying fear that if you talk about it you'll either show yourself to be a bad mother or you'll convince some other woman that she shouldn't breastfeed her child.
I'm a darn fine mother. I have my faults, but I have few regrets. As for other women and the impact this line of thinking could have on them? They deserve to know both the good and the bad. They deserve the right to make informed choices. They deserve the right to know that breastfeeding may mean, quite literally, being "joined at the nip."
Being a mom is hard. Every choice we make has pros and cons and if you're out there, looking at some other mom and thinking how easy she has it then I suggest you realize that some other mom is looking at YOU thinking the same thing.
There's a dark side to everything. Talking about it? Well that's what brings it into the light.
Mercedes Lackey said: "If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world."
My new "bff" Wendy Piersall over at eMoms at Home has tagged me in the "What do we wish we had been more serious about in life?" meme that's floating around.
While she did come up with a few things, Wendy's first thoughts are a reflection of my own:
Quite honestly, it's hard to regret any of my mistakes anymore - because I'm pretty dang happy with where I am today.
I'm not a terribly serious person. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms that people sometimes have of me is how rarely I take things seriously. (I mean come on, I'm the person that delivered a marketing speech to a room of several hundred people while wearing a "Milk Jugs" shirt.) I tend to float around from idea to idea and my friends often roll their eyes when I stumble into my latest obsession.
On the other hand, the things that I do take seriously stick and stick HARD. My faith, my family, my friends...I take those things very seriously.
So Wendy's question sparked a bit of thought and I wondered what it was that I should be taking more seriously because hey, life isn't over yet. Why "wish" when I can change?
If you've followed any of my projects online, you know that I'm a bit...umm...type A? I'm not really a sit around and let stuff happen kind of person, I'm a run into the room with both arms in the air screaming kind of person. The funny thing is that for the last decade, all of my energy has been exercised mentally.
That means I've not done so much exercising with my body. In fact, during my four years of college I gained about 60 pounds. Poor eating, lots of late nights working on the computer and a total lack of exercise left me with an energetic mind trapped in a sluggish body. It's been a constant battle, but in the six years since I've gotten married, I've managed to shed forty pounds. (Leaving just 20 more to go.)
Since Emmitt has been born I've done a lot of work to move back toward more healthy eating. We eat about 50% organics now and I'd guesstimate that less than 15% of our food is "packaged." In fact, most of the packaged food is cereal or crackers. In other words, I do a lot more cooking these days. Add in a renewed commitment to getting my 30 minutes of exercise each day and I hope to have this last twenty pounds off by the end of the year.
It's no secret that I'm a conservative Christian and that my faith guides my daily activities. I've been a Christian since I was in junior high and have always been active in my church, in local missions work and in Bible studies. My goal is to live my life as an example of what Christianity is all about rather than running around telling everyone why they need to "get saved."
I figure if I'm living my faith the way that I should, people will notice that something is different about me and that if I'm open and approachable, they'll ask if they have questions.
Unfortunately, since having children, my walk with Christ has been complicated. Finding time alone to pray, read devotions and meditate is difficult. (I mean geeze, I can't even go to the bathroom without at least one child or dog following me, how am I supposed to sit down and pray.) I also have a policy of not leaving my children in the church nursery until they're mobile which means that this past weekend was the second time I'd sat through a full church service in nearly eight months. (The other time mom held him and he fell asleep.)
Finding time to reconnect with a Bible study group and to work daily devotions back into my day would go a long way toward helping me put that regret behind me.
Quite honestly, those were the only two things I could think of. That's not to say that I've made perfect decisions through my entire life, but I can't really think of any that I actually regret.
Sure, I could say that I regret not trying harder when nursing Elnora, but if I hadn't ended up pumping I never would have found the milk bank, started this blog or gotten involved in lactivism.
I could say that I regret not working harder in college but I've built my career based on experience, so who really cares?
Things all seem to work themselves out in the end.
I've had heartbreaking ends to relationships, but have then ended up blessed with even better ones down the road.
I've lost jobs, quit jobs and even been fired from jobs, but I've always ended up liking the next one even better.
I've always made sure that my friends and family know how much I love and appreciate them. In fact, losing my grandmother a few months back was made so much easier by knowing that I'd taken the time to write her a heartfelt letter several years ago to tell her what an impact she'd had on my life.
I don't think I have any "if only" moments...
...unless you count "if only that lotto ticket had been a winner" but even then...I have everything I need. Being rich would only complicate things. :)
I've been writing this blog for about 18 months now. I've met quite a few of my readers either at nurse-ins or at the Lactivist Bash and I've carried on email conversation with probably about 100 of you.
But yesterday...yesterday was surreal.
Let's back up a bit...
I really needed a break from every day life, so yesterday I packed the kidlets up in the car and headed down to Columbus to meet up with my sister-in-law for lunch. Plans were to stop by an Asian market to pick up some bento supplies (more on this in another post) and then to have lunch at a new organic/all natural restaurant that had opened up.
Unfortunately, the Asian market had closed down. On the bright side, the food at the Northstar Cafe was excellent. (Organic Meatloaf sandwich with peanut slaw and the best locally made ginger ale I've ever tasted.) When we were done, I dropped her off and headed over to Trader Joe's to pick up a few things.
That's where it happened.
I was walking through the frozen food section and there was a mom there wearing her son in an Ergo. I commented on it and how much I loved mine and we struck up a conversation. Turns out she'd moved here from California and is a bit on the crunchy side and was looking to connect with some moms. I told her about the Columbus AP Village forums and suggested she check it out, mentioning that they had several play groups. It was a nice little talk and then we headed on our way.
Until we ran into each other again in the checkout line.
It dawned on me that I'd only caught her first name (Hi Julie!) and I wanted to make sure that we connected on the forums if she joined up. So I leaned over and said "hey, if you sign on to that forum, look me up, my screen name is thelactivist."
She looked at me.
"You're the lactivist?!"
I about died. (in a good way!) I said "yeah! have you read my blog?"
Turns out, she ran across my blog a ways back while searching for a topic that I covered and really liked it.
I mean how cool is that? Granted, Trader Joe's is probably more likely to have lactivist readers lurking around it than say...Giant Eagle, but still!
Totally made my day. ;)
On the other hand, Elnora picked the checkout line to have a ROYAL meltdown (an hour past nap time...) so she may have left going "wow, that woman's kids are nuts!"
So Julie, if you're here...it was nice meeting you. :) Drop me an email some time!
Emmitt has started crawling and pulling to a stand and wandering along the side of the couch in a matter of days and with it has come the "up a million times a night" fiasco.
Elnora has taken to waking between 6:30 and 6:45am and coming in to get us up because she wants breakfast.
I had two seminars this week and a project deadline.
Basically, I've been a walking zombie.
So last night I actually made it to bed at 10:30. That's the earliest in three weeks or so as I usually get to bed closer to midnight. Emmitt did still get up three times (11:30, 2:30 and 5:30) but he didn't wake up for the day until 7. What's better is that I got up and got a few toys and put them in his pack-n-play with him and he sat and played until 7:45! Woot!
What's even better is that Elnora slept until 7:45 as well! Thus, I did not get out of bed today until nearly 8am.
Oh Heaven of Heavens! I'm tired, but my brain is actually functioning.
So, later today or over the weekend, I'll catch-up with a slew of posts. I've got about five product reviews to get online, some food stuffs to post, updates on the kids and more breastfeeding talk.
First, I've got to get the kids cleaned up and head out to meet up with my sister-in-law for lunch at an Organic Cafe we've been wanting to try.
Not much time for blogging the next few days. I'm guest lecturing at Ohio State today and doing an all day seminar downtown on Wednesday. Since I also have to find time to go pick-up my mother-in-law (lives an hour away) so that she can watch the kids, AND do work for my real job, posting may be sparse.
So, here's a quick round-up of a variety of breastfeeding related news that I want to cover, but just don't have time for...
Who is that hiding behind my knee? (Didn't realize my knee was in the way, by the time I did, he was off playing somewhere.)
Yep, Emmitt is standing. Pulling himself right up via anything he can grab hold of. (unless it's the toy box in which case he's laying on his back buried in toys.) He'd been pulling up to his knees for about a week, but yesterday, he made it the whole way up.
That means that now when I work on the computer, this is what I see...
(Am I the only one that remembers those cheesy 80's videos and work-out equipment for young girls?)
Anyway, if you're anything like me, you sometimes walk past the mirror and think "gee...having x number of kids sure makes your body different." In fact, one of the many things I looked forward to about not being pregnant again (no more babies for us) is that after having two kids in two years, I can finally start working my way back to a decent weight.
I've been plugging along on my own, eating healthier, exercising when I can and the weight is slowly coming off. (I've lost enough weight that even my jeans from before Elnora was born are too big. Finally went and bought a new pair last week and they're already sagging again. Good thing mom has a sewing machine!)
One of the things that I've been trying to do is get out and walk more. Finding time to exercise is tough between two jobs, nursing, nap times, potty training and life in general...but I know it's something that I HAVE to do.
Thankfully, there are some good excuses to walk around the village. We've got a butcher shop on the other end of town and we buy our meat there. (Mmm...good quality all natural Amish stuff...not the industrial processing plant meat of grocery stores.) I've mapped it out and it's about 3 miles round trip if I put the kids in the stroller and we take off. My goal is to walk there twice a week for fresh meat. (mmmm....fresh meat.)
I'm also aiming to get Elnora to the playground twice a week. (About 2 miles round trip) If I can add a good hour of cleaning to the schedule twice a week that will give me good exercise 6 days out of 7. (Even God rests one day a week, I should be allowed to!)
So, instead of having a blog carnival this month, I'm teaming up with my fellow breastfeeding bloggers (Tanya, Andi, Sinead, Angela and Micky) to create a team in the WOMAN Challenge. Tanya from the Motherwear blog and I are co-leading a team in the challenge. The idea is that beginning on Mother's Day (May 13th) and running for 8 weeks, you vow to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
That might mean walking, swimming, cleaning, chasing your kids...anything you want. As long as you're moving. If you register at the site, join our team and upload your progress everyone will get tracked together and we can watch our progress on a route from San Francisco to Washington D.C.
Our team, The Breastfeeding Babes, is open to anyone. You don't have to have a blog, be breastfeeding, or even be a woman!
If you're up to the challenge, here's what to do:
1. Sign up here. If you choose to count your activity in steps, you may get a free pedometer (while supplies last). 2. Follow the directions for joining a team, and join the "Breastfeeding Babes." Note: You may have to search for teams in Massachusetts to find it. 3. Starting on Mother's Day, track your progress on the WOMAN Challenge website. 4. Tell your friends and encourage them to sign up!
Do you remember a month or so ago when I wrote about the raid of the factory in New Bedford and the illegal immigrants that were arrested and shipped off to Texas to await hearings, many being forced to leave young children behind without having any idea who was going to care for them?
There's a new clip that's been released to YouTube by the New Bedford Relief that you need to take ten minutes out of your life to watch. (Hat tip to Vox at the Women of Color Blog.)
The clip features a compelling interview of one of the women that was arrested during the raid and parts of it will just turn your stomach.
The woman talks about the raid and all of them being swept up and carted off. She explains that she told them that she had a six year old daughter with health problems and no one to watch her. She was told that she'd be given the chance to talk to a lawyer, but when the lawyers came, she wasn't allowed to see them. In fact, as she asked repeatedly, the people watching her became more and more agitated and yelled at her that if she REALLY had a need to see a lawyer, she already would have seen one.
While she did eventually get to speak with someone (though it never notes what ended up happening) it's some of the other parts of the story, specifically the treatment of the breastfeeding moms that's going to get your tail in a knot.
Here's a quote from the clip...
The truth is, they did treat us badly...because some of the women who had young children, who breastfed, I saw because I was near them, they even made them take the milk from their breasts to see if it was true that they had young children. They had almost all of them take milk from their breasts. They even made fun of them. They said - one of them told another to pass an oreo cookie to eat with milk, that they were milking the cows. We were in the next room listening, and the women were crying.
Did you catch that?
The moms that claimed to be nursing mothers had to express milk to prove it.
In front of the workers.
While being made fun of. (And not your garden variety, oh, milk is funny, I'm a jerk, but degrading, humiliating treatment.)
Besides, does a test like this mean that moms of young children or babies that don't breastfeed don't get to be reunited with them? So what if you don't have milk, that doesn't mean you don't have a baby and that that baby doesn't have every bit as much of a right to be with it's mother as the breastfed one does.
So having watched the full video, here are my reactions. (And you'll note that in my first post on the subject I said I was going to stay out of the politics on it, but having now seen this I really do feel a need to delve a little deeper.)
First, let me expand a little on my own thoughts on immigration. (To note, yes, I am a registered Republican, though I lean more toward being a Libertarian...but this is an issue where my views differ from my political party.)
I think our national policies suck. In fact, I think they are abhorrent. I think that the government has put in place a system of travesty that says one thing while doing another. The government says that they need to tighten the borders, control immigration levels and keep all these illegal immigrants out of the country. That's fine and dandy, if they were actually DOING it, but instead, little is done to stop the flow of people into this country. Why?
Because both the government and businesses benefit from these resources. Businesses get cheap labor and the government gets low-priced goods and more tax dollars. (Don't kid yourself, a LOT of illegal immigrants pay taxes, they just don't/can't file for returns.)
If I were in control? We'd have an absolute border lock-down until we got things under control and got a system in place that would integrate these people (and future immigrants) into society. Get them in the system, get them paying taxes and let the country grow. Immigration is what made this country what it is. The attitude of "well, we've got all the folks we need/want, you can't come in" just ticks me off.
(And I was astounded during my trip to Ellis Island last month to see that the political cartoons and editorials of the 30's and 40's when there was a movement to halt immigration could be printed today without any editing at all. It's the exact same argument and the exact same sentiment. Only the skin color and country of origin are different.)
Anyway, there are lots of other details on how I would want to see things change to account for issues like taxing the public aid system, health care, etc... but this is not a political blog, so let's just leave it at "I firmly believe that we should have Fort Knox borders with a system that allows for easy, legal entry."
So with all of that said, what's my reaction to this piece?
I find it appalling. Absolutely appalling.
Now let's be clear, I don't have a problem with people that are currently here illegally being "rounded up" (I hate that phrase) and deported back to their own country. We DO have laws in place and even if we don't like them, we have to work with them while changing them. (Just like how you can't be arrested for nursing in public but in most states you can be arrested for trespassing if they ask you to leave and you refuse.)
But even if you are going to arrest and deport these immigrants there is not a single excuse in the entire WORLD to treat them so poorly.
I was talking to my husband about it this morning and he pointed out that as illegal immigrants, they have no legal recourse when their rights are violated. Thus, those who seek power and control over others have "free reign" to get their jollies.
He's right. It takes a VERY small person to decide that a human being does not deserve respect.
Yes, these people are breaking the law and yes, there are consequences for that (until policy changes) but these are not criminals that have hurt anyone. They're not rapists, murderers or even thieves. They're people trying to better their life and hoping that they can blend in without being noticed.
They're mothers and and sisters and daughters and their primary goal is to provide for their family.
It's a shame that in this country, that's a crime.
After all, how many of us would be here if Ms. Liberty's sign read "Give us your western European, highly educated, motivated masses..." instead of "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free..."
I wouldn't. Granted, my family has been here since the late 1700s, but they came over on ships hoping for a new life in a new land that offered opportunity to those who were willing to work.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 'Cept there was no "border patrol" when my family arrived.
So to reiterate, I have no problem with these women being detained and extradited...but ONLY if their children are kept with them. There's also ZERO excuse for them being treated this way. It's further proof that our government needs to be massively overhauled. That people in power (I'm not talking about Democrats or Republicans, quite frankly, I think they're all rotten) need to be tossed out on their rears and new people brought in.
That's a lot to take in...what do we do with it?
Well, I don't know about you, but I say we react. I say that we make sure that this video gets out and that people hear about how these people were treated. Abu Ghraib made national news because we were treating terrorists (and suspected terrorists) abhorrently.
This time the receiving end's only crime is wanting to live in a country that doesn't want them. Illegal? Yes. Is that an excuse for their treatment? NO!
Write your senators, your congressmen...write to Ellen, Oprah, the Today Show, Fox News, ABC News, 20/20, Glenn Beck, NPR, Good Morning America, John Stossle, anyone you can think of. Forward this video to your friends, put it on your blog, send it as a MySpace Bulletin.
Spread the word.
It doesn't matter if you believe in amnesty for all illegal aliens or if you think they should all be shipped home, it only matters that no human should be treated this way and that no child should be forcibly separated from their mother simply because a government official won't wait a stinkin' day or two to figure out the situation.
I'll be sending this out on the lactivist email lists that I belong to and will be spreading the word on message boards and a few other places.
Watch the full video for yourself.
Make sure that you watch all the way to the end. Note that they'd taken all of their belongings (leaving them with no way to buy phone cards to contact family and even let them know where they were) and then asked if any of the women would like to work to earn some money while they were being detained.
Seven of them raised their hands and then spent two hours scrubbing, mopping, washing windows and cleaning the bathroom. They were paid a dollar.
A dollar. For two hours work.
Nothing like adding insult to injury, eh?
If we get enough views of this video on YouTube, it will push it to the front page and it will stand a much better chance of garnering some national media attention. So send it to breastfeeding groups, but also send it to mothering groups, parenting groups, political groups...anyone that agrees that humans have basic human right that should be respected.