Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks + Giving: Holiday Thoughts From A Future IBCLC

I try to avert celebrating Thanksgiving! I have trouble with a tradition that paved the way for the horrendous acts against cultures -- something that still happens today with people whose voices are continuously silenced. A story that has been pitched as a peaceful conjoining of groups, when usurpation, genocide, and colonialism is the backdrop. And let's not forget the white savior image -- something no one ever questions.

But sometimes when I oppose these things it leaves me feeling isolated from my friends and family by not "just joining in". This is also why I emphasized the word try because it usually winds up that I find myself sitting around the table -- because I just want to be with my family. But is it really just a time to spend time with family? Enjoying good food and company? A friend suggested I try and 'redefine' this day and give thanks for the reasons I am thankful. Well, I don't know how well redefinition can work, but I have no problem stating what I'm thankful for, and have decided to do this -- in the future IBCLC sort of way.

Today (and everyday), I am thankful I was drawn to the area of infant feeding. Despite the fact that I have no children and have never breastfed, the need for more proponents of mother's milk humbled me by choosing me as a representative, and everyday I am made more aware of why. I am thankful I followed my heart.

I am thankful I am working towards becoming an International Board of Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)!! IBCLC services are priceless in their ability to provide information and help women increase their milk supply, learn proper breastfeeding techniques, answer questions, diagnose ailments, and a lengthy list of benefits for infant feeding and care -- especially assisting women who may become discouraged.

I am thankful I have a pool of resources at my fingertips and there are countless women on twitter and facebook who are constantly posting breastfeeding information and articles, facts, myths and stories that I continuously soak up! I am thankful I can make comments, joke, and even scratch my head and ask questions at some things, too! I am thankful they are always willing to share their personal journeys with me.

I am thankful that earlier this year I became a member of the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition -- something I never imagined. The coalition's focus is to "Encourage the African American community to support women in their breastfeeding choice and efforts," and I am overjoyed to be a part of such an organization. I am thankful that the founder, who is an IBCLC, is always willing to 'check in' on me and share information to help in my endeavor.

I am thankful I am beginning to work with other state and local coalitions.

I am thankful I grew up in a family where nursing a child is the cultural norm, and that my grandmother, my mother, and all of my sisters breastfed  -- which in itself is powerful and set the foundation for my personal understanding of its importance.

I am thankful for YouTube, and its millions of educational and instructional videos -- many on breast care and infant feeding.

I am thankful I am a Black woman venturing into a field where the need for more racial diversity is dire, and my presence alone can encourage and increase breastfeeding rates among other members of my community!

I am thankful I am making an effort to look at the whole woman, and not simply her infant-feeding techniques, trying my best to not contribute to "Excuse-Like" excuses.

I am also thankful that I have an outlet to express all of this information and document my journey, which provides an avenue for critique and the gathering of different perspectives.

Finally, I am thankful I studied Cultural Anthropology!! While I believe there are many ways to positively impact this area and different angles are helpful and appreciated, I am thankful that my understanding of anthropology allows me to add another dimension to my outlook and complicates the way I practice and produce information in this area.

So I give thanks, myself, and my best -- to raise awareness, to represent those who are underrepresented, and to help end the long list of social and health disparities that exist -- especially in communities Of Color. Breastfeeding helps save lives!

Yes, I am very happy to be part of this!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Would You Nurse A Baby Cow? (Videos)

What about a puppy, kid (baby goat), pig, monkey, or a baby tiger?

How many times has your grocery list looked something like this:

milk, eggs, cheese, bread, chicken, jello, bacon, donuts?
    Humans have depended on animal products for various reasons since the beginning of time. There are some civilizations who would not have survived without the use of animal skins as protection from extreme climates, while others have used them for labor (horses, for example), or for plowing, and others utilize their companionship.

    Billions of people use animal products as part of their daily subsistence. We use milk for cereal, eggs for baking cakes, cheese for sandwiches, butter on bread, yogurt for snacks, sour cream on nachos, whipped cream on pies, and cream cheese on bagels. We make burgers for lunch, marinate chicken for dinner, fry bacon for breakfast, eat turkey at Thanksgiving, ham on Easter, and more turkey on Christmas. We use cats to releive stress and dogs for loyalty, while wild cats and monkeys are usually peered at through bars at the zoo (something I do not support, btw). Some use cow dung for fuel, and insulation for homes, while others use goats as celestial sacrifices to their creator before blessing and consuming the flesh at festivals, family functions and rights of passages. We wear leather jackets made by big names like Louis Vutton and Coco Chanel -- brag about our new shoes, designer handbags and wallets to match, and of course, for furniture. And this is just the beginning. So the question is, would you breastfeed an animal?

    For those who do not consume or wear animal products, perhaps the indirect link comes from an animal as a companion to the worker whose production is used to make man-made materials. The question is: would you feed one of these animals? Not just feed, would you lift your shirt and give it milk from your body, allowing it to suck on your breasts just the same as a human baby to show your thankfulness and respect for non-human animals?

    I don't know how nourishing it would be for a goat, calf, puppy, or cat to drink human milk. But I do know that we take so much from our animal kingdom, that while watching these videos they made me wonder if we could, would we would return the favor should we ever have the chance and the situation call for it?

    People making comments on these had some very interesting things to say, and of course there were those with blatant disregard for others and their living patterns, especially from the "Indian woman breastfeeding a calf" video. Read them for yourself. But this one stood out to me, not just because I have come to gain a more thorough understanding of the relationship between Hindus and the Sacred Cow tradition, but because ironically one of its comments is one that also made the most sense; "Do humans not drink cow's milk ALL the time?"

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    Why Didn't YOU Breastfeed?: Getting Past 'Excuse-Like' Excuses

    I recently realized something. More often than not when I find myself in conversations with women about feeding their children -- mostly on how they fed, I get very different reactions. Now it is normal to receive different reactions since everyone's story is different, but what I've noticed is when a woman says she has breastfed, it is usually followed by a long and sentimental story they are willing to share. The mother's look of pride is written all over her face as she boasts of the amount of time she nursed, how she did it, whether she pumped on occasion, and this is usually followed by a story of her nursing history -- hers, or her family's. I've also noticed when I talk to women who did not breastfeed the conversation is usually much shorter, somewhere in that time, she'll give her reasons, but often in an almost excuse-like excuse.

    I want to explain what I mean by the phrase 'excuse-like' excuse, and I had to refer to my dictionary for the definition of 'Excuse' so I could give you a clear explanation of what I believe to be an "Excuse-like' excuse.

    According to the dictionary on my Macbook, when the word 'Excuse' is used as a verb it denotes:

      1 attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek todefend or justify • forgive (someonefor a fault or offense you must excuse my sister hecould be excused for feeling that he was born at the wrong time.• overlook or forgive (a fault or offense) • (of a fact or circumstance) serve in mitigation of (a person or act) :his ability excuses most of his faults.When 'Excuse' is used as a noun it denotes: a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault oroffense there can be no possible excuse for any further delay • reason put forward to conceal the real reason for an action; apretext they use their hunting as an excuse to get away from the womenfolk.

    As you can see, "excuse" is used to try and cover something, get out of, or to defend or justify. To explain the reasons for not doing something -- with an embedded notion that something should have been done.

    Unlike excuses, 'excuse-like' excuses need a more holistic look. Unlike direct ways to avert something "I should have but didn't", 'Excuse-like' excuses are often non-verbal cues -- body language, lack of eye contact, overall facial demeanor, or when your instincts tell you a woman does not want to continue or to take part in the conversation about why she didn't nurse. If you know a woman who has children and did not breastfeed, it is easy to tell when she uses an 'Excuse-like' excuse, when the subject comes us, she mostly maintains her silence. This is your ability to recognize an 'Excuse-like' excuse. 'Excuse-like' excuses are reactions and non-reactions to actions, or you can say an action to a reaction. Let me make myself a bit clearer.

    If I went up to someone, and said "What an adorable little baby! Did you breastfeed?" That automatically suggests she should have breastfed her baby, not giving any thought to her situation, or her breastfeeding culture.

    If the mother said "No, I didn't breastfeed because -- my job, my spouse, my lack of understanding, etc., many would quickly jump to the conclusion that these were excuses, and offered their suggestions:
    "You could have pumped, it's not your spouses decision, there are books available, etc." However the mother's (reaction) is not an excuse-like' excuse. An 'excuse-like' excuse is being silenced (non-reaction) through these types of conversations (actions), where a mother is not allowed to state her reasons for fear of backlash (again, non reaction). Does this make sense?

    No one wants to face this type of opposition in a time where breastfeeding fundamentalism is all around. Though I can't say I blame people for advocating breastfeeding, however, extreme breastfeeding needs to be placed in its proper context. As I've said before: I support breastfeeding as part of the natural reproductive cycle directly after birth, and would like it if every baby received mother's milk. But I also recognize that that thought is idealistic at best. Different people have different stories. I recognize that above and below the surface are various reasons a mother has not, cannot, or will not breastfeed her child, which is why I believe a holistic approach is not only beneficial but necessary in understanding infant feeding, and viewing this area through the mother's lens -- what she faces on a daily basis, and what has shaped this outlook. This is also why I have decided to make more of an effort to listen and learn from mothers, and let them explain to me what infant feeding means to them. This is also why I am wanting to know from a group who is often pushed into the margins and who are often met with breastfeeding fundamentalism and silenced.

    I am an proponent of mother's milk. But I am not in favor of arbitrary judgement or, like I said before, an extreme breastfeeding advocate! I don't advocate excuse-like excuses, nor do I believe those who do not nurse do not want the best for their babies. Not at all. I am coming from a place of sincere curiosity and from wanting to learn from you and your breastfeeding culture -- those things that have shaped your outlook and views, and how you daily put this into practice. This will only work effectively to increase my level of understanding as well as fortify the level of understanding we have of each other as a group. 

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    The ILCA's Annual Conference 2012 = Update

    Well, I won't be speaking at the International Lactation Consultant's Association's Annual Meeting next year. I got that email -- the one that starts out very friendly but inevitably ends with "Thanks, but no thanks"! It's OK. I can live with it. I'm sure they had a very large pool of great choices. I have to admit that just a very small part of me is very slightly relieved for the reasons that my nervousness may have taken over. But I'd rather be nervous and speak to mass audiences on things that are important, than to be nervous and not speak to mass audiences on things that are important.

    I'm still giving a bit of thought on presenting on Breastfeeding and Feminism at the University of North Carolina, even though time is dwindling to get in an abstract. Maybe I'll find something more local. Either way, I'm not deterred in my mission.

    Should Lactation Consultant Services Be An Essential Component of Healthcare?

    If you believe in the benefits of Lactation Consultants, and think these services should be a part of a healthcare package, and have ever wanted a opportunity to rub elbows with representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, here is your chance. Part of me wonders why DHHS need to speak to IBCLCs and advocates given the overwhelming amount of information on breastfeeding benefits, and knowing the objective of Lactation Consultants will help in obtaining those benefits, so having these kinds of specialists in healthcare would only make sense. . . but that's just me.

    I still believe working towards getting to a place where breastfeeding is seen as the cultural norm, pushing towards goals where we as a society will arrive at a place where everyday people can pitch in everyday, calling on specialists only in special circumstances, should be our greatest goal. And while we work towards that, here is an opportunity to advocate, since the DHHS just may be in your area and will be listening to you. 

    Here is an excerpt from the International Lactation Consultants of America's website, but you can read the full text as well as get additional information here. Below are the meeting places, dates, times, and email addresses to RSVP. RSVPs are required! Send an email with your name, organization, title, email address and phone number to the designated RSVP by the RSVP Due Date listed! You DO NOT have to be an IBCLC, or any other type of breastfeeding counselor to attend!
    Lactation consultants make a difference every day in diverse settings and with a variety of people. You may think that you are too small to make a difference in the scheme of things. However, advocating a point of view is engaged in by almost all special interest groups in the United States. As individuals and/or groups, we have the right to lobby policy makers which insures that our interests and concerns are heard, as well as competing interests and views, so that legislators and policy makers have a broad base of information on which to base their decisions. Lobbying attempts to persuade an individual, agency, institution, or organization to support an idea, an issue, a certain course of action, etc. You lobby whenever you work to encourage someone to agree to your way of thinking or to embark on a new project or program. We call ourselves “advocates” because we speak for those whose voices are often silent – breastfeeding mothers and babies. 
    USLCA works to fulfill its vision and mission to see that IBCLCs are valued members of the health care team and that as an association it advocates for its members. However because USLCA is YOU, we are all needed to engage in advocacy activities. The power of “one” is strong and when one determined individual networks with others championing similar agendas, change happens. 

    Chicago    4-Nov     9:30 AM- noon                                              
    233 N Michigan Ave, 13th floor (Room 1329)  

    Boston 8-Nov 1-3 PM                                                                           
    John F. Kennedy Federal Building. 15 New Sudbury St., Conference Room 2075 (20th floor)

    New York    14-Nov    10 AM - noon                                             
    26 Federal Plaza, Suite 3835 New York, New York 

    Kansas City
       15-Nov    10 AM - noon                                           
    Bolling Federal Office Building 8th Floor SSA Conference Room  

    601 E. 12th Street  

    Atlanta     16-Nov    10 AM - noon                                                  
    61 Forsyth St. SW, Suite 5B95, Atlanta  

    Seattle     17-Nov     2 - 5 PM                                             
    Jackson Federal Building, 915 2nd Ave, South Auditorium

    Denver     18-Nov  9 AM - noon                                                      
    999 18th St. South Terrace, Suite 400

    San Francisco  21-Nov  3 - 5 PM                                                         
    90 Seventh Street, Suite 5-100

    Philadelphia     8-Nov    10 AM -noon                       
    Public Ledger Building, 150 S. Independence Mall West, Conference Rm 419

    Dallas     9-Nov    10 AM - noon                                              shelby.gooden@hhs.
    r for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak Street

    Go and be heard. Or at least go and listen in -- show your interest and support.

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    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Silence Is Golden: Closing My Mouth On The Breastfeeding Thing

    I'm not usually an advocate of silence. In fact, the opposite is true, and I'm most often hell-bent on speaking up. Talking about it. Speaking for it. Or against it -- whatever it is. Injustice. Inequality. Racism. Homophobia. White supremacy. These are just a few subjects that are always rolling from my mouth and in my writing. I don't regret speaking on those things, and especially how they intersect the realm of breastfeeding.

    What I've noticed since I've been in conversations with women who have breastfed is they seem to share similarities in their breastfeeding stories. Mainly, that it really hurts at some point -- usually in the beginning. I'm recalling the conversation with the sistah from Chuck E. Cheese -- the one who asked about Black women as breastfeeding advocates in Washington State. When she, the other lady and I first began talking about nursing, she said she tried to feed her first child but it just hurt too much and couldn't continue. I'm almost embarrassed that I chimed in when I told her breastfeeding usually only hurts if a baby is not properly latched. Hey, that's what all the books I read said. Babies are usually not latched properly if they don't have as much areola inside of its mouth as possible (and not just the nipple), have nipple confusion from exposure to bottles and pacifiers, are stressed out from mother's stress, ill, and countless other reasons. Maybe I was just paranoid, but felt like she gave me a wtf look, or could it have been a look that I provided information she never heard of before? Well, whether this was new information or she thought I was crazy, this highlights the issue I have with books. Now, I know plenty of women who have nursed children. My sister, for example, nursed seven boys, and I saw how it hurt -- at least in the beginning. And I have talked to others who have said the same thing. Could they all be attaching the baby incorrectly? It's possible. But even after several successful breastfeeding scenarios?

    Needless to say that was a moment of awakening for me for a few reasons, but instead of harping on myself and feeling like a complete ignoramus, wondering how I could have possibly even gone there -- telling her about her experience and breastfeeding endeavor, I've decided to allow that incident to teach me a lesson in listening and learning. And instead of offering my armchair advice, I'm going to sit back and keep my mouth shut -- on praxis, that is. I will continue to be an advocate, but I'm going to take in information and ask more questions. Learn from them. At least for now -- until I get more formal training under my belt. I do believe sometimes silence can be golden, and in these opportunities with mothers, can provide a source to learn what has shaped their experiences, what obstacles they faced, why they didn't nurse, stopped or continued, and how this information can assist others. If someone happens to ask me a question or two, I'll happily speak up, but for now I'm going to sit in the area of silence and use that as a space to progress.

    How To Get A Good Breastfeeding Latch

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    101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child

    1. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it

    "Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns... It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least the first 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired."

    (See A.A.P. Breastfeeding Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk (RE9729))

    2. Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby

    Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother's body. "It is now well established that oxytocin, as well as stimulating uterine contractions and milk ejection, promotes the development of maternal behavior and also bonding between mother and offspring."Uvnas-Moberg, Eriksson: Breastfeeding: physiological, endocrine and behavioral adaptations caused by oxytocin and local neurogenic activity in the nipple and mammary gland.: Acta Paediatrica, 1996 May, 85(5):525-30

    3. Breastfeeding satisfies baby's emotional needs

    All babies need to be held. Studies have shown that premature babies are more likely to die if they are not held or stroked. There is no more comforting feeling for an infant of any age than being held close and cuddled while breastfeeding. While many bottle-feeding parents are aware of the importance of cradling their babies while offering the bottle, some are not. Even for parents with good intentions, there is always the temptation to prop up a bottle next to the child, or, when the baby is a little older, to let the child hold his/her own bottle and sit alone. This is emotionally unsatisfying to baby, and can be dangerous physically. An unsupervised child can choke. Also, propping up bottles over night leads to tooth decay.

    4. Breast milk provides perfect infant nutrition

    "Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding and is species-specific; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it. The breastfed infant is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short and long-term benefits."

    (See A.A.P. Breastfeeding Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk (RE9729))

    5. Not breastfeeding increases mother's risk of breast cancer

    "If all women who do not breastfeed or who breastfeed for less than 3 months were to do so for 4 to 12 months, breast cancer among parous premenopausal women could be reduced by 11 percent, judging from current rates. If all women with children lactated for 24 months or longer, however, then the incidence might be reduced by nearly 25 percent. This reduction would be even greater among women who first lactate at an early age."

    Newcomb PA, Storer BE, Longnecker MP, et al. Lactation and a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer.

    N Engl J Med. 1994;330:81-87

    6. Formula feeding increases baby girls' risk of developing breast cancer in later life

    Women who were formula-fed as infants have higher rates of breast cancer as adults. For both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer, women who were breastfed as children, even if only for a short time, had a 25% lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who were bottle-fed as infants.

    Freudenheim, J. et al. 1994 "Exposure to breast milk in infancy and the risk of breast cancer". Epidemiology 5:324-331

    7. Formula Feeding is associated with lower I.Q.

    The latest study to support this statement was done in New Zealand. Here an 18 year longitudinal study of over 1,000 children found that those who were breastfed as infants had both better intelligence and greater academic achievement than children who were infant-formula fed. Horwood and Fergusson, "Breastfeeding and Later Cognitive and Academic Outcomes", Jan 1998 Pediatrics Vol. 101, No. 1

    Morrow-Tlucak M, Haude RH, Ernhart CB. Breastfeeding and cognitive development in the first 2 years of life. Soc Sci Med. 1988:26;635-639

    Lucas A., "Breast Milk and Subsequent Intelligence Quotient in Children Born Preterm".Lancet 1992;339:261-62

    Wang YS, Wu SY. The effect of exclusive breastfeeding on development and incidence of infection in infants. J Hum Lactation. 1996; 12:27-30

    8. Breast milk is always ready and comes in a nicer package than formula does

    Need we say more?

    9. Breast milk helps pass meconium

    Babies are born with a sticky tar-like substance called meconium in their intestines. Colostrum, or early milk, is uniquely designed to help move this substance through the infant's body.

    10. Breast milk contains immunities to diseases and aids in the development of baby's immune system.

    Formula provides neither of these benefits

    Koutras, A.K., "Fecal Secretory Immunoglobulin A in Breast Milk vs. Formula Feeding in Early Infancy". J. Ped Gastro Nutr 1989.