More Mothers Helping Mothers

If you agree that more U.S. mothers need access to free, ongoing breastfeeding support, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that with mother-to-mother support, more mothers breastfeed longer, and more exclusively and fewer have postpartum depression. Unfortunately, most breastfeeding mothers do not get the help and support they need. At birth, 75% of American women breastfeed, but by 6 months only 44% breastfeed at all, and this is down to only 24% at the recommended one year.

Enter Breastfeeding USA, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to provide free, evidence-based help and support through its national network of volunteer accredited Breastfeeding Counselors. I joined its Board of Directors last October because I feel strongly that more mother-to-mother support is needed to help women meet their breastfeeding goals. Although Breastfeeding USA currently has Breastfeeding Counselors in only 20 states, it is the fastest growing breastfeeding organization in America, and my hope is that by this time next year, it will be active in all 50 states. As it grows, more mothers will find the ongoing breastfeeding support they need. 

If—like me—you want to help expand this free network of mother-to-mother support, just click here. You’ll find a 3-minute video I created, which explains why breastfeeding is a key women’s health issue. If you decide to support this cause, U.S. donors can receive many cool perks, such as autographed books, 1-hour Skype sessions with me and—if you have twins, triplets, or more—Karen Gromada, lactation’s resident expert on breastfeeding multiples. For large donors, I’ve even offered two all-day conferences. 

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Why did I decide to help Breastfeeding USA grow? One reason is its online centralized education system, which ensures its Breastfeeding Counselors are well educated in best breastfeeding practices and counseling skills. With this preparation, they can provide consistent, evidence-based breastfeeding help that respects individual differences. And Breastfeeding USA uses only the most up-to-date resources.

I was also impressed by its flexibility. Breastfeeding USA gives its Breastfeeding Counselors the freedom to choose many ways of helping and supporting women locally, making support more accessible to more mothers. Based on the best fit for their community, they can offer breastfeeding drop-in centers, breastfeeding cafes, classes, regular meetings, online or phone help, home visits, and more.

And I appreciated its focus on breastfeeding alone, independent of parenting philosophy. Breastfeeding USA Counselors must be comfortable promoting evidence-based information (which means it may not be a good fit for those who strictly follow parenting programs based on the latest trend or one person’s opinion), but mothers of all persuasions can learn to help other mothers breastfeed, making it inclusive rather than exclusive.  (For more on the philosophy of Breastfeeding USA, see its remarkable Statement on Breastfeeding.)

Appropriately, Breastfeeding USA has chosen as its theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2012: “Planning the Future of Mother-to-Mother Support.” I believe Breastfeeding USA will be an integral part of mother-to-mother support in the years to come. Please join me in supporting this campaign, which runs through August 16.

To Pump More Milk, Use Hands-On Pumping

Would you like an effective method for pumping more milk? Until 2009, most of us assumed that when a mother used a breast pump, the pump should do all of the milk-removal work. But this changed when Jane Morton and her colleagues published a ground-breaking study in the Journal of Perinatology.The mothers in this study were pumping exclusively for premature babies in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

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For premature babies, mother’s milk is like a medicine. Any infant formula these babies receive increases their risk of serious illness, so these mothers were under a lot of pressure to pump enough milk to meet their babies’ needs.

Amazingly, when these mothers used their hands as well as their pump to express milk, they pumped an average of 48 percent more milk than the pump alone could remove. According to another study, this milk also contained twice as much fat as when mothers used only the pump. According to previous research, in most mothers exclusively pumping for premature babies, milk production falters after three to four weeks. But the mothers using this “hands-on” technique continued to increase their milk production throughout their babies’ entire first eight weeks, the entire length of the study. 

Hands-on pumping is not just for mothers with babies in special care. Any mother who pumps can benefit from it. How does it work? For a demonstration of this technique, watch the online video “How to Use Your Hands When You Pump” HERE. As a summary, follow these steps:

1. Massage both breasts.

2. Double pump, compressing your breasts as much as you can while pumping.  (Search "hands free pumping" online for devices that fit any brand of pump and allow you to double pump with both hands free.) Continue until milk flow slows to a trickle.

3. Massage your breasts again, concentrating on areas that feel full.

4. Finish by either hand expressing your milk into the pump's nipple tunnel or single pumping, whichever yields the most milk. Either way, during this step, do intensive breast compression on each breast, moving back and forth from breast to breast several times until you've drained both breasts as fully as possible.

This entire routine took the mothers in the study an average of about 25 minutes. 

These two online videos demonstrate two different hand-expression techniques that can be used as part of hands-on pumping HERE and http://ammehjelpen.no/handmelking?id=907 (scroll down for the English version).

Hands-on pumping can be used by any mother who wants to improve her pumping milk yield or boost her milk production. Drained breasts make milk faster, and hands-on pumping helps drains your breasts more fully with each pumping.

Public Breastfeeding Now a Civil Right in Seattle

My guest blogger today is Angelita Williams, who specializes in online education and offers life long learning tips in her articles on college education, lifestyle, and wellness management.  You can contact Angelita at angelita.williams7@gmail.com.

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If you read Nancy Mohrbacher's blog often, then you probably already know about the health risks of not breastfeeding. The sad part about it is, at least in terms of breastfeeding in public, it's hard to convince others of these facts. So much so, in fact, that especially in the United States, federal and state legislation has been slow to openly accept public breastfeeding as a part of life.

Huge strides were made when the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended to make it a requirement that all employers provide breastfeeding employees time and space (other than a public bathroom) to breastfeed their young children.  Forty-seven states have likewise enacted laws that either allow women to breastfeed in public or at the very least exempt them from being charged with public indecency.

While of course, these measures demonstrate that, as time goes on, our cultural values have changed to recognize the importance of breastfeeding to the health of mothers and children and to the mother-child bond. The City of Seattle, however, has taken public breastfeeding one step further—they've made it a civil right.

According to a Huffington Post article, the City of Seattle has made it specifically illegal for any individual, business, or place open to the public to tell nursing mother's to stop breastfeeding. Although the Seattle had previously had laws permitting public breastfeeding, many nursing mothers reported being harassed and told to stop.

Now the difference between making breastfeeding in public a civil right, versus merely permitting public breastfeeding is a small but groundbreaking one. When public breastfeeding is a civil right, this move specifically acknowledges that preventing or otherwise making nursing mothers feel uncomfortable is discrimination on par with discrimination based on race, age, sex, etc.

After making nursing in public a civil right, the City of Seattle can even hold persons and businesses accountable that violate this right. Of course, punishment won't necessarily mean fines or imprisonment, but after a violation offenders may need to undergo civil rights training.

Still, laws don't necessarily change people's minds, and it's a fact that some people still believe that nursing in public is indecent or inappropriate.  Many nursing mothers choose not to nurse in public  because they worry they may be discriminated against or criticized. 

What do you think should be done, beyond laws and education, to change social mores?

Introducing the BAMS Pocket Guide

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I’m delighted to announce the debut of my latest book for lactation professionals, Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple:  A Pocket Guide for Helping Mothers,or BAMS Pocket Guide for short.  Now at the printer, this new book is expected to be ready for shipment at the end of May.

How does this book differ from its larger cousin BAMS?  Both books contain the most current information and strategies you need to help mothers with a vast array of common and unusual breastfeeding challenges.  But to make this companion volume portable enough to fit easily into your pocket or tote, I’ve removed the thousands of research citations and often lengthy explanations for these strategies. Its main purpose is to provide quick and portable answers to the questions: “What do I need to remember in this situation?” and “What should I try next?”

Its retail price is $37.95, and bulk discounts are available.  You can see its quantity prices and place orders at Hale Publishing’s website:  http://www.ibreastfeeding.com/catalog/p302/BAMS:-A-Pocket-Guide-for-Helping-Mothers/product_info.html

My hope is that this up-to-date resource will provide the information you need to more effectively help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals.

Breastfeeding Made Simple Goes Hollywood

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On April 14, Breastfeeding Made Simple was featured at the star-studded celebrity event held at the home of actress Jenna Elfman, star of TV's Dharma & Greg.  Actress Kelly Preston, married to A-lister John Travolta, and Laila Ali, former boxer and daughter of Muhammad Ali, partnered with Elfman to host this event.  Its purpose was to raise awareness for the not-for-profit organizations Best for Babes and (L to R) Bettina Forbes (Best for Babes), Jenna Elfman, Kelly Preston, Danielle Rigg (Best for Babes), Laila Ali. Photo courtesy of Best for Babes.Healthy Child Healthy World.  Best for Babes’ purpose is to "give breastfeeding a makeover" and inspire and educate millions of moms on how to navigate the “booby traps” so rampant in our culture, so they can achieve their personal breastfeeding goals.

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Jenna Elfman hand-selected Breastfeeding Made Simple as one of her favorite products.  In an earlier interview with Best for Babes, Elfman shared that Breastfeeding Made Simple was instrumental helping her meet her breastfeeding goals with her second child, Easton.  She spent ten-and-a-half months pumping and bottle-feeding her first child, Story, who never made the transition to the breast.  Elfman recommended Breastfeeding Made Simple as one of her top three Photo courtesy of Jessica Pettyjohnbreastfeeding preparation tips.  The stack of Breastfeeding Made Simples in the photo on the right was taken in the "nursing lounge" in Elfman's master bedroom.

At the celebrity event, Kelly Preston spoke about her passion for helping families across the world teach their children about toxin-free living, before confessing to being late because she was nursing her 16-month-old son, Benjamin, with enough milk to “feed a small country.”

Preston revealed in her earlier interview with Best for Babes:

“I am still breastfeeding Benjamin and it has been incredibly rewarding and healing.  It gives me so much joy to breastfeed him and I am so grateful that I am able to do it. He loves it too!  Mother’s milk is loaded with so much vital protection that your child will never get anywhere else.   I know that not all moms can breastfeed but anyone who wants to do it should get educated, be able to make an informed decision about what is best for themselves and their babies, and get all the support they need.

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"I’ve been learning from Best for Babes that too many moms are not getting the right help from their hospitals and doctors, and are having to fight for their right to pump at work or be able to nurse on the go.  I’m also sad to hear that so many moms are being discouraged from breastfeeding past a few months when there are clear benefits to nursing much longer.  I’m proud to stand up for the rights of moms and babies to have the best start in life, through breastfeeding and toxin-free living!” 

Laila Ali admitted that although she was normally a very private person, when it came to breastfeeding, she didn’t care what anyone thought—if her baby was hungry she was going to nurse.

Celebrity guests included a pregnant Vanessa Lachey (married to Nick Lachey) who was reported to be Photo courtesy of Jessica Pettyjohn“glowing.”  Bettina Forbes, one of Best for Babes' founders, told me she personally made sure Vanessa received a copy of Breastfeeding Made Simple at the event.  The photo on the left shows well-known environmental expert Danny Seo holding the book aloft.

I’m thrilled that Best for Babes so successfully used the “celebrity card” to highlight the importance of breastfeeding.  This event was publicized on Time.com, FitPregnancy.com, and many other high-traffic websites.  When Best for Babes encourages trend-setting celebrities to speak openly about breastfeeding, this sends the message to mainstream America that breastfeeding is cool, hip, and acceptable.  As Elfman said, “Education and awareness are the first steps.  No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and every action counts.”

Protesting One of Breastfeeding's 'Booby Traps'

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself face-to-face with a common breastfeeding "booby trap," unnecessary formula supplementation in the hospital.  What was different this time was that I was not the lactation consultant but a family member of the newborn, which gave me more leverage than the lactation   professionals who work there.  For this reason, I felt obligated to write to the hospital's director of mother-infant services, and, yes, even the CEO.  When parents and other family members speak up, this is taken seriously because hospital administrators consider "patient satisfaction" high on their priority lists.  The letter below describes what happened.  Please feel free to borrow from it if you need to send a similar letter to your own hospital.  --Nancy

I’m writing to make you aware of an incident that occurred on March 6 in your newborn nursery after the birth of one of my family members, Baby LR, and to ask for your response. 

I was asked to come to the hospital as a support person when Baby LR was born because of my training as a lactation consultant.  When I arrived outside the newborn nursery where Baby LR had been brought after her birth by cesarean, the first thing I saw was the Patient Care Technician (PCT) explaining to Baby LR’s father, RR, that she would be feeding Baby LR a bottle of formula.  I saw RR tell the PCT that they were planning to breastfeed and ask her not to give the formula.  According to him, her response was “We know what we’re doing,” which was patronizing at best, followed by her assertion that she was following hospital policy.  She told him that because Baby LR was large-for-gestational age (9lb 6oz), she was required to be fed within one hour after birth and since her mother was not yet in her room and ready to breastfeed, Baby LR would be fed formula.

I saw no clinical justification for this practice.  Baby LR was full term, healthy, and completely asymptomatic.  No blood sugar test had been done, and she was at her mother’s breast within two hours after birth.  Because there was no obvious medical reason for this supplementation with formula, I went to the lactation consultant office for clarification.  The LC called the nurse in charge and was told that indeed this baby’s blood sugar had never been tested and that it was “policy” to give formula at one hour if she had not gone to breast.

Are you aware that two years ago The Joint Commission released a Perinatal Care Core Measure on exclusive breastmilk feeding?  Both The Joint Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider this best practice during the hospital stay and consider unnecessary supplementation with formula problematic because it leads to more negative health outcomes.  Hospitals are judged and rated by these organizations on how well their policies support exclusive breastmilk feeding.  If this is indeed a policy in your hospital, please explain its rationale.  Also, if you consider it vital for a baby to receive her first feeding no later than exactly one hour after birth, why did no one help put baby to breast right after delivery?

Even one bottle of formula changes a newborn’s gut flora, and it takes two to four weeks of exclusive breastfeeding to return it to normal.  During the most vulnerable period of life, this puts the infant at increased risk of gastrointestinal infection.  It also interferes with the immune system priming that occurs during the early weeks and exposes a newborn to the most common allergen (cow’s milk protein) while her intestinal walls are at their most permeable and she is at greatest risk of allergy sensitization.  This is a far-from-harmless practice, and if this baby suffers from any of these health problems, I will consider your hospital legally responsible.

I was told that your hospital’s goal is to become Baby Friendly.  If you are indeed considering applying for this important designation, please know that your worthiness for certification as Baby Friendly will depend on your staff giving formula supplementation only “if a medical indication exists.”  It appears to me there was no medical indication in this case.

I would appreciate receiving a response from you about this incident.  Obviously, it is too late for Baby LR to have the normal early feeding experience her parents had planned, but my hope is that you will reconsider this practice.  At the very least, I'm hoping that by speaking up I can help prevent this from happening to other families.

As a Board member of the Chicago Area Breastfeeding Coalition, I am often asked by parents for hospital recommendations.  Until this practice is changed, I will be unable to recommend St. Alexius Medical Center to parents seeking a breastfeeding-supportive hospital.

Sincerely yours,

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA

 

A Shout-Out to the World

Today I received a communique to La Leche League (LLL) Leaders from the La Leche League International’s (LLLI) Board of Directors and Executive Management regarding The Breastfeeding Answer Book, which I co-authored.  It said:

 "The Breastfeeding Answer Book continues to be the recommended and dependable resource for LLLI Leaders who need to address more complicated questions regarding breastfeeding…Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, while an additional excellent resource for PL Administrators, should not replace The Breastfeeding Answer Book for Leaders….The Breastfeeding Answer Book is slated for revision and Executive Management is working to identify authors or persons who can coordinate the new edition….In the meantime, LLLI is preparing an update sheet which will provide references to the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and online resources to address the most important changes in breastfeeding information since The Breastfeeding Answer Book was published. We expect this Breastfeeding Answer Book supplement to be ready in early 2012 and it will be available on the LLLI website."

As author of both The Breastfeeding Answer Book (BAB) and Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (BAMS), I'd like to weigh in on this issue.

Although BAB’s copyright is dated 2003, I finished writing its third edition—the book  recommended in this communique--in 2002, exactly 10 years ago.  My co-author Julie Stock and I revised only about one-third of this book at that time.  The same process occurred with the second edition (finished in 1995), which was a revision of the first edition (finished in 1990), which we also wrote.  In other words, much of the information in BAB’s third edition is as old as 1990.

No matter who published the next version of this book, it needed to be entirely rewritten to bring it up to date.  Also, significant information was missing from BAB.  For example, it has no chapter on milk production, which I added to BAMS.  Plus, in the eight years between BAB and BAMS, even the most basic breastfeeding information such as latch and positioning had undergone a huge paradigm shift.  I believed that revising BAB piecemeal, as I had done twice before, would not do it justice.  BAB needed to be completely rewritten, which is how I created BAMS.

It saddens me greatly that LLLI, which was founded to support breastfeeding mothers, seems to care more about money than about its reason for being.  Granted, I am not entirely unbiased, as I do not receive royalties from BAB sales.  As should be true for any author, I do receive the usual royalties for BAMS.  However, my motivation for rewriting this book was not entirely financial.  I spent two years laboring on BAMS primarily because I am committed to giving all breastfeeding supporters access to the latest information.  This passion of mine has not changed.  If anything, it's grown stronger.

The underlying message of today’s statement from LLLI seems to be that the money it earns from sales of BAB, an outdated resource, is more important to its decision-makers than keeping its Leaders current.  LLLI, please be reasonable here.  Note that I said it took me two years to rewrite BAB as BAMSAnd I had written this book three times before.  The soonest you could hope to have a rewrite ready—assuming you can find someone to take on that gargantuan task—is several years.  Do you really expect your Leaders to continue to use such an out-of-date reference in the meantime?

Please rethink this decision!  By announcing publicly that your Leaders are expected to use a decades-old book to help mothers undermines their effectiveness and in the process breastfeeding itself.  It may also make those outside the organization think twice about referring mothers to LLL Leaders.  And some Leaders may reconsider their commitment to an organization that would make such a questionable decision.  This announcement is like a shout-out to the world that LLL has lost sight of its fundamental purpose.

Electronic BAMS Now Available

Good news comes with the New Year for those who have asked for my large and heavy book, Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (BAMS) in an electronic format.  Your wish has finally come true. 

Available in two formats, one for the Amazon Kindle and one for all other electronic devices, BAMS can now be ordered directly from my website store HERE. If you have questions, about my books for breastfeeding professionals, please email us at Info@nancymohrbacher.com

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Newborn Weight Loss and IV Fluids in Labor

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Until now, weight loss during the first 3 to 4 days after birth has been considered one indicator of how early breastfeeding is going.  If on Day 4 a newborn’s weight loss is in the average range of 5% to 7%, this usually means breastfeeding is going well.   Nearly all babies lose some weight after birth.  Normal weight loss comes from the shedding of primarily body fat, which leaves babies well hydrated as they adjust to life on the drier outside. 

But when babies lose more than 7% of birth weight during these early days, does this automatically mean they are not getting enough milk?  No, according to a recent study

A greater weight loss may be completely unrelated to breastfeeding and due instead to excess IV fluids mothers receive within the final 2 hours before delivery.  According to this STUDY, these excess IV fluids inflate babies’ birth weight in utero and act as a diuretic after birth.  Babies whose mothers received more IV fluids before birth urinated more during their first 24 hours and as a result lost more weight.  Number of wet diapers during the first 24 hours predicted infant weight loss.  This was true whether the babies were born vaginally or by c-section.  Another study published earlier this year had similar findings.

This weight loss has nothing whatsoever to do with breastfeeding and milk intake.  In fact, the authors suggest that if clinicians want to use weight loss as a gauge of milk intake, they calculate baby’s weight loss not from birth weight, but from their weight at 24 hours.  According to their findings, this could neutralize the effect of the mother’s IV fluids on newborn weight loss.

This is one more reason weight loss alone should not be used to determine when newborns need formula supplements.   The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine put this well in one of its 2017 PROTOCOLS: “Weight loss in the range of 8-10% may be within normal limits….If all else is going well and the physical exam is normal, it is an indication for careful assessment and possible breastfeeding assistance.”

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Not long ago I was contacted by an Associated Press reporter who asked for my help with an article she was writing on formula marketing by U.S. hospitals.  She asked me to provide contact information for women whose babies had either been given formula in the hospital or who were given formula marketing bags on discharge.  This was not hard to do, as according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of breastfed babies receive unnecessary formula supplementation during their hospital stay.  And a recent article in Pediatrics estimates that 72% of U.S. hospitals distribute industry-sponsored formula sample packs to new parents  

Thanks to my online contacts, within 2 hours 12 local mothers had volunteered to talk to this reporter. I had high hopes, but the article was a disappointment.  Formula company spokespeople were given the last word, noting that “it’s good to have a back-up” and characterizing it as “irresponsible” not to give new mothers free formula in the hospital.   

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What was not reported was the true cost of this “free” formula to parents and the impact of hospital formula marketing on breastfeeding.  The most recent study on the effect of hospital distribution of infant formula  found that the mothers who received formula samples at discharge were less likely to be exclusively breastfeeding during each of their baby’s first 10 weeks as compared with women who did not receive them.  For a summary of decades of research on this issue, click here.

What’s most important for parents to know, though, is that this is not just about breastfeeding.  The reason formula companies work so hard to establish these unholy alliances with hospitals is that they know from their own research that due to fear of adverse reactions, most parents will continue to buy the formula their baby is given first. 

The “free” formula included in those stylish marketing bags is each brand’s most expensive type.  A cost analysis done by the outstanding nonprofit organization Ban the Bags found that formula-feeding families who use the high-priced formula in these marketing bags will spend $700 more during their baby’s first year than if they bought the generic store brand.  This is the true cost of these bags to families.  No wonder formula companies are so anxious to get this product into their hands! 

What’s in it for hospitals?  In many cases, in exchange for acting as formula marketing agents (and therefore endorsers of infant formula) hospitals receive unlimited free formula for their use.  And when formula flows like water on maternity floors it’s more likely to be fed to newborns unnecessarily to the detriment of breastfeeding: a double benefit for the formula industry. 

How can we convince hospitals that it is inappropriate and unethical to give formula samples to new parents?  In many ways, as Ban the Bags points out, this practice is like giving out free Big Macs on the cardiac floor.  Babies who receive infant formula have poorer health outcomes and higher health-care costs than exclusively breastfed babies.  It makes far more sense for hospitals to focus their energies on marketing health, not commercial products.  Click here for some ideas from Ban the Bags on how to sell this idea to your local hospital.

One last thing.  If you received a formula marketing bag from your local hospital, don’t forget to write a letter of complaint to the hospital's administration.  Patient satisfaction has a huge effect on hospital policy decisions.  Use your influence for the benefit of all new parents.

Settling in to My New LLL Home

In a previous post, I described being booted from La Leche League (LLL) of IL, where I had worked as a Leader since 1982, for the crime of working as both a LLL Leader and a Breastfeeding USA (BFUSA) Breastfeeding Counselor.  My accreditation with another organization was not surprising.  Those who know me can testify that if breastfeeding is involved, you can count me in!

When I published my post, I was flooded with invitations from LLL Leaders and Area administrators who warmly welcomed me and extended their unconditional support.  So many people wrote that it was impossible for me to respond personally to them all.  If you were one, please accept my deepest thanks! 

Although I had many LLL Areas to choose from, I decided what was most important to me was not the quality of its beaches (as one Florida Leader offered as an incentive) but whether my presence was likely to bring the LLL International (LLLI) hammer down on my new Area.  I did not want to join a new team only to make their lives miserable by becoming a liability. 

So when I received an invitation from LLL of Connecticut, I knew that this was a match made in heaven.  These amazing ladies have become known for standing their ground against unreasonable LLLI policies and directives.  Of course, disagreeing with LLLI’s administration these days is almost guaranteed to result in sanctions and threats, so when the LLL of CT Area team made its concerns known publicly, LLLI wrote them a letter accepting their resignations, which they had not offered.  But LLL of CT has long been registered as its own nonprofit organization with the team as its legal representatives.  This allowed them to thumb their noses and continue their work.  They also bought their own liability insurance, so that could not be used as a weapon against them.  When LLLI tried to convince other CT Leaders to take their places, these Leaders made it clear that this team had their full support.

I have a feeling I’ll fit right in with LLL of CT, which just yesterday became my official LLL Area.  After all, as the saying goes, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”  As you might expect, my opinion on the issue that led to my actions has not changed.  If anything, I am more convinced than ever that LLLI’s directive that Leaders must choose between LLL and BFUSA is divisive and therefore destructive to breastfeeding. 

In recent weeks, people on the inside have confirmed that the goal of this directive is to undermine BFUSA, which includes ex-LLL Leaders among its founders.  LLLI is headed down a slippery slope.  In Illinois, nearly half of its Leaders have resigned in the last two years.  It’s clearly time for it to look in the mirror and reevaluate its Leadership and its strategies.

I heard that one aspect of my actions was particularly upsetting to LLLI: my announcement on Facebook about my new BFUSA Breastfeeding Counselor status.  Should I take this to mean that it’s all right for LLL Leaders to be involved with both organizations as long as they don’t say so publicly?  Can we expect this to become LLLI’s version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” 

If LLLI wants to grow and thrive, booting out those who question it is exactly the wrong approach.  LLL Leaders have never been easily cowed.  Those who breastfeed long term are clearly comfortable following a different drummer.  They are not women who can be bullied into following directives that are obviously wrong.  Take it from one who knows… or ask the Leaders in my new LLL Area.

 

The Swaddling Controversy Continues

You may have read my two previous posts in this blog's "Swaddling" section, which sparked a huge controvery among my readers.  My original post was an abridged version of the lead article I wrote for the September 2010 issue of the International Journal of Childbirth Education

After my article appeared, the editor received a letter from Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the popular book The Happiest Baby on the Block and its companion DVDNot surprisingly, Karp disagreed with many of my conclusions, as swaddling is the first "S" in his "5 S's" approach to calming fussy babies.  The journal editor kindly asked me if I would like to respond to Karp's letter, which I did.  You can read both Karp's letter and my response on page 26 of the Summer 2011 issue of the International Journal of Childbirth Education.

Feeling Supported

Thanks to everyone who has written me in support and sympathy as a result of my removal as an LLL leader from LLL of IL.  Your kind words have made a difficult situation more tolerable.

I’ve been thrilled to receive many offers from other Areas, both within the U.S. and internationally, to join their ranks and affiliate with them.  I’ve been assured that I would be welcome to serve in these Areas and that they have no intention of forcing their leaders to choose one breastfeeding organization over another.  It’s going to take me a little time to sort out the details, but I’ll make it public when I determine which will be my new Area.

In the meantime, I’m hoping we can right this wrong.  I encourage every La Leche League member and leader who agrees with me that a new liability insurance policy is in order to contact LLLI’s Board of Directors and make your opinion known.  Hopefully we can convince them of the destructiveness of making us choose one organization over another.  With enough support, we may be able to make La Leche League International once again an organization that supports all those who help breastfeeding mothers.   

Goodbye, LLL of IL

My crash-and-burn summer continues with the news tonight, delivered in person by my brand-new La Leche League Area Coordinator of Leaders (ACL), that despite my intention to continue as an Illinois LLL leader after almost 29 years, she is removing me from her roster.  Why did she take this action against my wishes?  Here’s the reason she gave:  I made it known that I recently became an accredited breastfeeding counselor with the new mother-to-mother support group Breastfeeding USA and I wanted to represent both organizations. 

You’d think that the loss of nearly half of Illinois’ leaders in the last 2 years would give her pause about eliminating leaders who are willing to serve.  I guess not.  She referenced La Leche League International’s announcement last spring that any LLL leaders who were affiliated with both LLL and Breastfeeding USA would have to choose one, because representing both would put its leader liability insurance at risk.  Yet oddly, the liability insurance through Breastfeeding USA does not carry this same prohibition.  It assumes the covered individual knows which organization she is representing.

Is LLLI looking into finding alternative liability insurance?  Word has it that earlier this week those at La Leche League International were given the opportunity to switch to another policy that does not require its leaders to make this choice and they opted not to do so.  It appears those in charge would rather kick out those who step over this line. 

My ACL had some choice words for me.  She told me that I clearly thought I was more important than other people. (Because I want to help breastfeeding mothers in more than one capacity?)  As she was leaving, she told me that although I am no longer an LLL leader in IL, I have the option of affiliating with another Area if any would have me, a possibility she seemed to think remote.

I told her that I consider this policy short-sighted and destructive of the greater good.  Until now, La Leche League International has always cultivated cooperative relationships with other breastfeeding organizations.  This is the first time it has created a policy that was openly antagonistic. 

To me, this is a serious problem.  The slogan of the Chicago Area Breastfeeding Coalition, which I helped to found, is “Strength in Numbers: Creating One Breastfeeding Community” and it exists to unite IBCLCs, LLL leaders, BFUSA breastfeeding counselors, peer counselors, doulas, physicians, midwives, everyone who comes in contact with breastfeeding mothers.  When we speak with one voice, we promote our cause more effectively.  When we undermine each other, we also undermine breastfeeding. 

I told my ACL that if my example will help to right this wrong and shine a light on this destructive policy, then I am willing to be the sacrifice.   We need to stand together and support one another, not tear each other down. 

La Leche League International, hear my words, you cannot afford to alienate more dedicated women!  And if you continue to implement and defend policies that undermine breastfeeding, you are not long for this world.

On Baby Time

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As World Breastfeeding Week begins, I arrive home after almost 2 weeks in Atlanta spent helping my son Peter and his wife Ania as they cared for their new baby.  My grandson Jakub, their first child, is now 6 weeks old and doing beautifully.  We learned at Jakub’s 1-month pediatric visit that he had gained 2 lbs. in 2Peter & Jakub weeks, so there are no worries about breastfeeding.  Ania has become a real pro. 

After giving countless talks and writing many pages on the importance of having help during the first 40 days after birth, I was delighted to help my own family during this vulnerable time.  As the mother of 3 sons, I will always be the mother-in-law and never the mother, so being welcomed into their home after Ania’s mother left felt like a real blessing.

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Being on baby time again brought back so many memories as I played, rocked, patted, walked, and talked to Jakub during his fussy times and while Peter and Ania got some extra sleep or ate a meal. Peter smiled as he watched me pour warm rinse water over Jakub’s head during his bath.  He shared that this evoked memories of having his own soapy head rinsed as a baby.  It was immensely satisfying to see my son take on the mantle of fatherhood with such confidence and ease.  It felt completely right to pass on this torch to the next generation. 

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Now as I contemplate World Breastfeeding Week, my senses still tingle from the simple pleasures babies bring to our lives.  The soft skin, the sweet smell, the warm cuddles, and the miraculous way their simple existence triggers waves of love that radiate throughout a family.  TheA wonderful memory three of us could hardly take our eyes off Jakub.  Every movement and expression was endlessly fascinating. 

So for me, this week’s celebration is about the intimacy breastfeeding fosters.  This is what drew me to this profession and where—I believe-- breastfeeding’s true power lies.  So this week I again offer my thanks to everyone around the world who helps new parents birth and breastfeed their babies.   The future of our world depends on these newborns.  Let’s never forget that their birth and breastfeeding experiences will influence the kind of world they build.

My New Industry-Free Life

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Last Friday my life changed drastically.  For the previous 8.5 years I worked full time at my day job as a lactation consultant for Ameda Breastfeeding Products.  In that role, I spent many hours on the phone talking to mothers about pumping and breastfeeding.

In 2008, I thought I might have to leave when Ameda was bought by Evenflo, a U.S. juvenile products manufacturer whose marketing practices at that time were in violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, also known as the WHO or International Code.  This Code was created by the World Health Organization to protect breastfeeding from commercial influences by restricting the marketing of infant formula and feeding bottles.  In the U.S. adhering to this Code is strictly voluntary and baby bottles were the founding product in Evenflo’s line.

Abiding by the International Code is part of my profession’s Code of Professional Conduct, which I take very seriously.  I was shocked (in a good way!) when Evenflo's then-CEO told me of his intentions to bring the company into compliance with the Code.  So I decided to stay on and help.  Some of you may have heard me speak about our efforts—with the help of many Code experts from around the world—to change everything from Evenflo’s website content to packaging until Evenflo met its obligations under the International Code.  This historic effort helped raise awareness of the Code in the U.S. among both clinicians and industry.  It even caused the International Lactation Consultant Association, my professional organization, to change its advertising and exhibit hall practices.  As ILCA’s then-President told me, “What you did made us realize that the Code is meant to be a change agent.”

However, nothing stays the same.  CEOs came and went and sales of Evenflo’s infant feeding bottles declined.  It’s tough to compete when none of the other U.S. baby bottle manufacturers adhere to this Code and continue marketing their products.

A week ago Monday the word came down that Evenflo was changing its stance and would begin marketing its newly released baby bottles to parents on its website, through its social media channels, and in print ads.  Although Ameda—my own little division of the company—did not even make products covered by the Code, my paycheck came from Evenflo.  My choice was clear, but that did not make it easy.

Leaving Ameda is a major life event for me.  But as many have told me, when one door closes, another opens.   My first love is speaking at conferences and to groups, and now I have more time for that.  If you are looking for a speaker for your breastfeeding event, please keep me in mind.

Our Amazing Network

Yesterday morning my new grandson, Jakub Carl Mohrbacher, entered the world at 7.5 lbs.  After 24 hours of labor with her first baby, my daughter-in-law Ania realized her dream of a natural, unmedicated water birth.  One my gifts to her was the services of a labor doula, Ayla, who was iMy son Peter on Father's Daynvaluable to Ania in managing her contractions.

I feel grateful today to Ayla, Ania's nurse-midwife Margaret, and my entire birth and breastfeeding network.  I live in the Chicago area and my son Peter and Ania live in Atlanta.  Ania’s mother will be the first to arrive at in Atlanta on Thursday to provide round-the-clock help to the new family.  When she leaves, I’ll fly there to spend two weeks as their helper at the end of July.

In other words my connection to them in the last two days was strictly by phone, e-mail, Skype, and text.  But I played an active role.  When Peter told me Ania was initially having trouble getting little Jakub latched on well, I made a phone call to the lactation department of her hospital and asked them to please look in on her, leaving her room number on the message.  With their permission, Ruby, the hospital LC, was kind enough to call me and report back after she saw them.  Fortunately, Ania needed just a little tweaking to get Jakub nursing well.  When a resident walked into their room and mentioned the possibility of separating mother and baby, I began calling all the lactation consultants and mother-to-mother breastfeeding support people I knew in Atlanta to get a recommendation for a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician they could request in the hospital.  That situation turned around quickly and now no separation is planned. 

I offered to schedule a home visit on Tuesday after hospital discharge with Claire, a private practice lactation consultant.  Peter gladly accepted this offer as a way to set their minds at ease. 

Today I extend my gratitude to Ayla, Margaret, Ruby, and Claire, to all I spoke to who gave me help and encouragement, as well as everyone else who touched the lives of my family.  I also give thanks for everyone everywhere who helps birthing and breastfeeding mothers. 

As I did my best to help Peter and Ania navigate these hurdles and to smooth their way, I couldn’t help but also think of  the many new mothers who are not connected to this amazing network and who struggle alone and unaided.  My fondest hope is that someday every new mother will get the help and support she needs.

Formula Supplements Put Mothers at Risk

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We know that anything less than exclusive breastfeeding increases health risks for babies.  But what about mothers?  I often talk to breastfeeding mothers who decide to supplement their babies with formula because they assume they will get more sleep and that sharing feedings will reduce the stress of the early postpartum.  Most don’t realize this strategy actually has the opposite effect. 

In an earlier post, I reported on research that found exclusively breastfeeding mothers get more sleep at night than mothers who also feed formula, even when others handled some night feedings.  Now a new study1 takes this insight one step further by examining how formula supplementation affects the amount of sleep new mothers get, their risk of depression, their overall health, and their feeling of well-being.  During the early postpartum all of these measures profoundly affect a new mother’s enjoyment of her baby and her ability to cope. 

This study, which will appear in the June issue of the journal Clinical Lactation,surveyed 6410 mothers during the first year after birth.  Although all new mothers experience fatigue, it found thatexclusively breastfeeding mothers not only slept significantly more hours during the night than other mothers but also reported significantly more energy during the day, a better mood, better overall health, and a greater sense of well-being.  Another surprising finding was that there was no statistically significant difference in any of these areas between the mixed-feed and the exclusively formula-feeding groups. 

This means that rather than making a new mother’s life easier—which is often her goal—feeding her baby formula supplements can significantly decrease her quality of life.  The authors note that some popular books on postpartum depression recommend that after birth at-risk mothers sleep apart from their babies and let others handle night feedings.2  Some hospitals have even begun implementing this strategy among at-risk mothers before discharge.  Even more extreme, others recommend at-risk mothers avoid breastfeeding altogether as a way to prevent postpartum depression, despite the substantial evidence that breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of postpartum depression.3

This new study indicates that although trying to help at-risk mothers get more rest after birth may seem to make logical sense, strategies that separate and supplement newborns are misguided.  They actually put mothers at greater risk of sleep disruption, depression, and poorer health.

References

1Kendall-Tackett, K., Cong, Z., & Hale, T.W.  The effect of feeding method on sleep duration, maternal well-being, and postpartum depression.  Clinical Lactation 2011; 2(2): 22-26.

2Bennett, S.  Postpartum depression for dummies. Hoboken NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2007.

3Dennis, C.-L., & McQueen, K.  The relationship between infant-feeding outcomes and postpartum depression: A qualitative systematic review. Pediatrics 2009; 123(3):e736-e751.

What's In the Bottle?

Scientists found that babies who are not breastfed have a 30% to 40% increased risk of childhood obesity.1 Milk intake and weight gain vary greatly among formula-fed and breastfed babies.  (For more, see my earlier POST.) Formula-fed babies consume 49% more milk at 1 month, 57% more at 3 months, and 71% more at 5 months.2 This significant difference in milk intake is due in part to how milk flows from breast and bottle.  Recent studies have examined these feeding differences in more detail to help answer the question “How is obesity risk affected when the feeding bottle contains mother’s milk?”  

The study mentioned above provides a partial answer.  Caregivers’ behaviors during bottle-feeding—which are independent of what kind of milk is in the bottle—influence babies’ intake.  For example, when bottles contain more than 6 oz. (177 mL), babies consume more milk.  Also, babies whose caregivers encourage them to finish the bottle are heavier than other babies. 

An important part of obesity prevention is the ability to self-regulate what we eat to match our energy needs.  Breastfeeding naturally teaches babies this self-regulation by giving them more control over feedings.  While breastfeeding, baby must actively draw milk from the breast.  He learns to take milk when hungry and stop when full.  This helps baby become attuned to his body’s hunger and satisfaction cues.  During bottle-feeding, baby’s role is more passive.  Fast, consistent flow and regular coaxing to take more milk, even when full, can lead to a habit of overfeeding and poor self-regulation. That's why if your baby will be bottle-fed often, rather than just laying baby back and tilting the bottle up, use the pacing techniques described HERE.

In one study of 1250 U.S. babies, researchers used bottle-emptying as a measure of poor infant self-regulation.3 (An earlier study verified this link.4) It didn’t matter whether expressed milk or formula was in the bottle.  The more often the babies were fed by bottle during their first 6 months, the more likely they were to empty the bottle during their second 6 months.  Only 27% of the babies who were exclusively breastfed during their first 6 months emptied the bottle during their second 6 months.  Of those fed at first by both breast and bottle, 54% later emptied the bottle.  Of those fed at first only by bottle, 68% later emptied it.

Mother’s milk plays a vital role in a healthy beginning.  But as these studies demonstrate, there is more to breastfeeding than the milk.  Even when mother’s milk is in the bottle, regular bottle-feeding can increase a baby’s risk of childhood obesity. One way we can offset this effect is to make bottle-feeding more like breastfeeding using pacing techniques, which hopefully will decrease the risk of overfeeding.

References

1 Dewey, K.G., Infant feeding and growth.  In G. Goldberg, A. Prentice, P.A. Filtreau, S., & Simondon, K. (Eds.)  Breastfeeding : Early influences on later health (pp. 57-66).  New York, NY: Springer.

2 Kramer, M. S., Guo, T., Platt, R. W., Vanilovich, I., Sevkovskaya, Z., Dzikovich, I., et al. Feeding effects on growth during infancy. Journal of Pediatrics 2004; 145(5): 600-605.

3 Li, R., Fein, S.B., & Grummer-Strawn, L.  Do infant fed from bottles lack self-regulation of milk intake compared with directly breastfed infants?  Pediatrics 2010; 125(6): e1386-e1393.

4 Li, R., Fein, S.B., & Grummer-Strawn, L.M.  Association of breastfeeding intensity and bottle-emptying behaviors at early infancy with infants’ risk for excess weight at late infancy.  Pediatrics 2008; 122 Suppl 2: S77-S84.