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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not Bottled Up

Cablegirl emailed me yesterday to tell me about a (Breast)feeding carnival that was happening over at Sarcastic Mom. When I checked out the link I realized that this carnival was the exact type of motherhood bonding that I'm always hoping to see: moms who breastfeed and moms who bottlefeed (or did/do both) get to tell their stories. How great is that? Sarcastic Mom gets a bottles up from Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting for that!

The posts were supposed to go up yesterday so excuse my tardiness. I've talked about my huge struggle with breastfeeding more than a few times here. I thought I would offer a different perspective now that my younger son is almost two and I've had some space from it.

I'm really glad that I tried breastfeeding both of my boys. With my older son (OS), it was a dark hole in my life. How then could I be glad that I did it? I'm glad because I know that I tried and that was important to me. Between his inability to latch and my barely existent milk supply from my breast reduction surgery (which I have never regretted) it just wasn't meant to be. That sounds much easier than it actually was. Really it was a long period of time where I just felt terrible about formula feeding.

When my younger son (YS) came along, his latch was beautiful. In fact it was so great, that the lactation consultant brought around a resident to see it. I know that sounds weird, but it was really affirming to me. YS and I had a wonderful breastfeeding experience together. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I cried myself to sleep when I was told that YS had lost significant weight and needed to be supplemented and I would lying if I didn't admit that I went to watch the nurse give him a bottle in the wee hours of the morning. I would also be lying though if I didn't admit how much relief I felt to see him look so content as his sucked on his bottle. When my milk supply cease to basically exist and I felt burdened by the pumping that was in reality giving me less than an ounce a pumping session, I packed it away, had one final nursing session and then that was it. I still struggled emotionally, but it was easier the second time around. When I had OS, bottle feeding was hard for me to talk about. When YS was 3 months old, I started this blog to be able to talk about what it was like.

Looking back, I wish that I could have really gotten it that my number one job was to make sure that my babies were fed. I also wish, particularly with OS, that I could have really gotten it that formula feeding has a beginning, a middle and an end. It goes on for a year more or less and that's it. End of story. Sure I would have preferred not to shell out cash for formula for a whole variety of reasons, but I haven't seen a bank statement yet where I've seen the "savings" from not formula feeding anymore. It's probably been pretty close to two years now since anyone has asked me whether or not my kids were breastfed. When they've been sick, which is rare, they've just been sick kids, not sick kids who were, gasp, formula fed. Again, there was a beginning, a middle and an end.

Looking back, I do feel like I lost those precious first few weeks with each my sons. Instead of feeling overjoyed, I felt sad and guilty. Instead of bonding during feedings, I was stressed out. So here's the controversial part of my post. Because of the way my breast reduction surgery affected my body, and based on my two births I know I'm never going to produce enough milk to sustain a baby past a week. I'm not planning on having any more kids. In fact my husband and I have given away our baby things. However, if I were to have a third, I probably would not attempt to breastfeed. If the mom to be "me" from 5 years ago heard that statement she would probably be horrified, but the mom who is me today looks back at those times and feels that to truly be the best mom she could be to a newborn, she can't engage in what she knows what would be a lost battle before it began. Hey, I even had a lactation consultant flat out tell me that "some women are not meant to breastfeed" and I was one of them. The mom that is me today that I have some distance...finally understands this. More importantly the mom that is me today knows that each mom needs to decide for herself what is right.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 6:08 PM   11 comments
  • At 3/12/2008 7:12 PM, Blogger Jodi said…

    I had a similar experience as you did with breastfeeding. And we are not having another child, but I often wonder if we did if I would try to nurse.

  • At 3/12/2008 7:18 PM, Blogger Wonderful World of Weiners said…

    You HAVEN'T thought about Hostess Snoballs IN YEARS? What the heck have you been thinking about? :)

    Just read your last few them all!

    Hallie :)

  • At 3/12/2008 7:39 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Wanting to nurse and finding that you are unable to nurse your child is a very emotional thing. I felt like a failure to my baby when we were unsuccessful with breastfeeding. In truth, it still kind of hurts that I missed that with my daughter.

    I was luckier with #2 and my son nursed like a champ, which was great, but also highlighted what I missed with my daughter.

    I hope #3 nurses as well as #2 did. If not, I guess we'll all get by anyway. You just do what you have to do, right?

  • At 3/12/2008 8:20 PM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    Sometime soon, I am going to figure out how this all works for myself. I really appreciate reading your perspective.

  • At 3/12/2008 10:22 PM, OpenID cablegirl said…

    This is an enlightening post,Alex. I's comforting to see a perspective of someone who has a little more distance from the period.

    Thank you.

  • At 3/12/2008 10:24 PM, Blogger Kami said…

    This causes so many of us guilt and it's sad but I have to say that I experienced some of it with my first when I was having a lot of trouble breastfeeding. I just wouldn't quit because I knew I would feel it breaks my heart that you didn't have a choice and yet you still felt that guilt. I can understand a bit of what it must feel like. But I think your decision to avoid the whole battle IF you had a third is an excellent one. Why put yourself through that again?

    I never had a drop of formula and I am pretty normal. Well okay so the jury is still out on that but you know what I mean.

    Thanks again for sharing your perspective, I think it is so important for all moms.


  • At 3/13/2008 7:52 AM, Blogger Ladybug's Picnic said…

    I had a very similar breastfeeding experience as you did with my first daughter. My lactation consultant also told me flat out that "some women cannot breastfeed." The whole ordeal was terrible.

    So, now that I'm 31 weeks pregnant with daughter #2, knowing that #2 is probably my last baby, I'm not putting myself through that again. Like you said, my job is to make sure she's fed and happy. I also need to make sure I'm happy and I don't want to miss out on so much the first month like I did last time. Thanks for this post.

  • At 3/13/2008 11:13 AM, Blogger Lizzy in the Burbs said…

    I think it's just such an individual thing and a decision that each woman has to make for herself, and what's best for her and her baby. I think it's terrible when some breast feeding moms make formula feeding moms feel like they've let their children down in some way. It isn't right for everyone, that's all. I was really fortunate, I had plenty of milk and it wasn't difficult for me or painful in any way. My best friend had HUGE difficulties and had to bite on a cloth diaper every time she nursed because it hurt so much, and finally went to the bottle. You just never know until you're in that position. Great post!


  • At 3/13/2008 11:29 AM, Anonymous Suzanne said…

    Excellent post, as usual. I hope that other new moms see this and feel like they are not alone. The guilt is not worth it. Breast is best unless it is causing your baby to starve to death. Formula is way preferable to starvation in my opinion. No need for anyone to feel guilty about that! :)

  • At 3/13/2008 8:59 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    Why do we feel so alone in the beginning? What a great piece.

    Sorry to be gone so long. It's been one of those months...

  • At 6/14/2008 11:03 AM, Anonymous blanka said…

    Thanks! I feel much better having read your blog. I was made to feel very bad by the 'nipple nazis'; I could not breastfeed for a variety of reasons--apparently none too convincing for many people. The guilt is still there after 2 months.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Homeschooling Restrictions in CA and Breastfeeding

I know, what a bizarre title! What does one thing have to do with the other? Well, yesterday I read an article in the Chicago Sun Times about breastfeeding or rather the the big push for people to breastfeed regardless of whether it's the best decision or even feasible for a particular family. It's called Moms Feel Pushed to Breastfeed. It actually was a very interesting article because it talked about the history of La Leche. La Leche was founded to ensure people have the support they need to be able to choose breastfeeding. To some people, it continues to be an invaluable support. Some perceive certain chapters as "pushing for your right to choose, but only if you choose breast-feeding." I empathized with one of the women who felt guilty about not breastfeeding.

Then I read an article about the restrictions on homeschooling in California where a state appellate court ruled that parents must have a teaching certificate in order to be homeschooled.

So what do the two articles have to do with each other? To me they're about choices. Personally, I'm not planning on homeschooling my children. I reserve the right to change my mind, but for a variety of reasons, I don't currently consider it a fit for me. However, I like that I have the choice to be able to do it. I like that I can decide what's best for my children and my family without government interference. I think there are many reasons to homeschool kids. While a teacher's certificate may ensure that parents are qualified to homeschool their children, certification does not guarantee that a parent will do a good job. More importantly, lack of certification does not mean that a parent cannot do a good job of homeschooling.

I am not convinced that homeschooling parents should be accountable to the government. On one hand, I can understand wanting to make sure that children are learning the basic skills they need. On the other hand, once the government is regulating what children learn, I struggle with where the line should be drawn. However, if we assume for the moment that California is right in believing that homeschooling parents are accountable to the government, a more fundamental question is whether requiring teaching certification is the best way to drive such accountability.

I don't think that having a teacher's certificate means that children will necessarily be homeschooled better than children whose parents do not possess the certification. Do I think there's a good chance that those kids will get a good education? Sure. But it's not a guarantee. Nor is it a guarantee that children of a parent without the certification won't have a good education. Personally, if the government should be regulating homeschooling this way, I prefer the approach that I have heard described in Massachusetts, where parents are required to go over their lesson plans with school superintendents. That way there is some sort of check. I've also been told that most MA libraries offer lesson plans that parents can use.

If MA were to try something similar to CA, I would be out picketing with all the homeschoolers. I know not all families homeschool for religious reasons, but it does seem ironic to me that liberal me would be on the same side of the picket line as some people who are very conservative.

Ultimately, parents are the ones who know themselves and their children the best. Whether it's breastfeeding or homeschooling, you're the one raising your child. Neither government experts nor community organizations are around for midnight feedings or when your child doesn't understand fractions. Our kids aren't all the same. We as parents aren't all the same. Our families are not all the same. We don't all learn the same way. We also don't handle social situations the same way. Finally we don't cook the same way. Why would we need to feed our children the same way or educate them the same way?

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Parents should have freedom of choice.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:04 PM   13 comments
  • At 3/08/2008 10:10 PM, OpenID cablegirl said…

    I was outraged when I read the article about the CA decision. First of all, HS parents are accountable. They have to report yearly on the progress of students. There are state requirements that must be met. I'm not exactly sure why the supposition is that forcing parents to get teaching certs will guarantee a better education. Many, many many HSed children far surpass the level of education of their public school classmates.

    yes, if I were in CA I'd be picketing. If this becomes an issue in FL, you know I will be.

    btw, I tried to email you earlier with a response to a question you asked, but for some reason it got bounced back. Shoot me an email and I'll reply to it. :)

  • At 3/08/2008 10:54 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Amen to that!

  • At 3/09/2008 11:18 AM, Blogger Jen of A2eatwrite said…

    CA has tons of crazy education laws for both the regular-schooled, homeschooled, etc.

    The teaching certificate thing is laughable. They already have way too many restrictions in CA.

    What I'm most worried about is its setting a precedent for laws in other states. I'm guessing that one may go all the way to the Supreme Court. It will be a big battle.

  • At 3/09/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    Not to mention that if CA requires teaching certification, the very notion of homeschooling as being a different kind of education from the mainstream gets entirely subverted.

  • At 3/09/2008 4:52 PM, Anonymous Amy said…

    I definitely don't agree that you need a teacher's certification to be a great teacher. I think your stance actually jives well with your liberalness because it's basically just down to individual civil rights - and that's what liberals care about.

    I read about the decision in California, and I don't agree with it. I don't think a teacher's license is the answer. On one hand, I like the idea of being able to raise my kids however I want with no government interference. On the other hand, as a former teacher, I've seen home-schooling go wrong on so many, many levels. I don't think it's wrong to want some kind of system that doesn't let these kids fall through the cracks. I'm just not sure what the answer is.

    And I would never, ever, ever home school in a million years. Never. Ever.

  • At 3/09/2008 11:53 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    I'm going to go out a limb here, in which many of the fine readers of this blog may want to beat me with, and say that I have no problem with expecting home-schooling parents to demonstrate that they have teaching qualifications. As a society, we have a vested interest to make sure that all kids have access to a quality basic education. I don't care if it comes from public school, private school, parochial school, or home school, there are effective methods of learning that teachers should understand. If we expect teachers in non-home schools to meet certain standards, than it short changes home-schooled kids to exempt their teachers from those standards.

    A teaching certified parent may still determine what the child's curriculum is - something I also don't entirely agree with, as it may mean that kids get no exposure to ideas that the parent does not agree with, but that's another story and I don't think most local schools should set their curricula, either because then you wind up with crazy regional selectiveness, like kids in the south not learning about the civil war... now I've really digressed, sorry.

    The point is, we expect teachers to meet minimum requirements that enable learning. A parent's love and best wishes for a child are an excellent start, but not always an effective way to prepare a child for success in this complicated world in which we live.

  • At 3/10/2008 6:40 AM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Thanks Alex---I agree with so many of your points. Let us parents decide what is best for our kids---the VAST majority of us has weighed all the options and come up with the ones the best fit our family and situation.

  • At 3/10/2008 6:43 AM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Thanks for your comment. I'm all for accountability. The CA law does not address this, though. Different states have different ways of measuring this. Some require students to take tests. Others require the parents to meet with the superintendents to go over lesson plans. I'm sure there's others out there too. To me that seems like a way to check and make sure education requirements are being met or at the very least being thought about.

  • At 3/10/2008 8:15 AM, Anonymous Suzanne said…

    The home schooling thing is very hard for me, since I come from a family with so many teachers. It just strikes me as absurd that we acknowledge that teaching is a profession but then say that really, anyone can just do it. To me, it denigrates all the important skills that teachers should master before they are set loose on kids. At the same time, I acknowledge that there are enormous quantities of extremely shitty certified teachers out there, and I'd like to see something done about that. My husband read somewhere that most new teachers come from the bottom 25% of their graduating class, which is really depressing. I guess my main interest is in finding the right balance to ensure that kids get a quality basic education.

    Thanks for providing a format for having such an important discussion!

  • At 3/10/2008 8:22 AM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    Hmm, I was about to softly disagree with you and then I read someone else's comment clarifying the HS parents are actual subject to annual state requirements. It is a complicated issue for me. On one hand, I think families should be given large amounts of freedom with how to raise their kids, but I also think that parents individual rights cannot be allowed to infringe on their children's right to the same basic education that all other children have access to. Not that public schooling is perfect. Far from it. But I don't discount the knowledge and skills that certified teachers acquire in their study and experience. (I say this as a university teacher, who would feel sorely underprepared to teach elementary education.) I guess, I am not necessarily immediately opposed to having HS parents subject to some regulations...although requiring teaching certification sounds a bit extreme, and, as you already stated in the comments section, doesn't actually address the issue of accountability.

  • At 3/10/2008 9:30 AM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Excellent points, Suzanne and Chantelle. That is true. Our teachers work incredibly hard and have to take numerous classes to be qualified. They also need to learn about different learning styles and flags for learning disabilities, not to mention the information that they are teaching. Again, I am also have no plans to homeschool. To me school was a great experience and one that I want my kids to have not to mention it seems like a tremendous of work, but I could be wrong. To me though it's about individual freedom. I think as long as there's accountability, the education is generally speaking still protected. As was pointed out, even in public schools you can't always guarantee that the kids are learning what they are supposed to be learning. Thanks for all your comments!

  • At 3/10/2008 7:53 PM, Blogger skiplovey said…

    Oh this steams me. I'm a California resident and while I don't plan on homeschooling, I don't like that I no longer have the option (unless I get certified which is such hoop jumping if you ask me.)

    Having certified teachers teach your kids in no way guarantees they'll get any kind of a decent education here. People are fleeing to private schools in huge droves because the schools are so bad in areas, my city in particular.

    I'm not faulting the teachers of course, but for the parents who need options, taking this one off the table is poor legislature. They might try fixing the schools rather than trying to force kids back in them.

    My understanding with homeschooling was that there were standardized tests that they had to take to move up, just like in regular school. If the kids are achieving, why insist on certification?

  • At 4/30/2008 1:22 PM, OpenID chinesetakeout said…

    Thank you for being an open minded non-home schooler. As a HSing mom, I am the first to admit that I am not qualified to teach in a large class. The dynamics of the public/private classroom are very different from the dynamics of my 4 student classroom. I can see the areas where they thrive and where they need to improve because I can afford to take the time to see it. I am not held to a bell ring if a math lesson needs some extra time to make sure they understand it today and not wait for the next scheduled class time.

    Also, I make sure my kids take the standardized testing (we have more options than that here) because I want to hold myself accountable to their education.

    Ultimately, you can have good or bad teachers whether at home or in a school setting, and unfortunately it is the bad that make better news stories.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Breastfeeding and Allergies

One of the qualities that I most admire in people is the ability to see both sides of an argument, even when someone supports one side. I try to live by that myself, and I like to know both sides of even the arguments on which I have the strongest views. I feel like I truly can make the best decisions when I know all the facts. Knowing all the facts, doesn't mean that I will align with one side or another, but I like that I can make my own decision.

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to promote the idea that women (and men) can take all the facts out there and make the best decisions for their families regardless of what alternatives may be better for other families. For example, I have always been a strong proponent of breastfeeding, and I found it enormously painful to be unable to breastfeed my boys. After I calmed down and came out of my black hole of gloom for not being able to breastfeed, I realized that formula is an adequate form of nutrition for babies (with adequate meaning sufficient, meaning it gets the job done) and is not rat poison. I remain a proponent of breastfeeding, but I believe (and have lived) the fact that it does not work for all families.

There are still some specific points of argument in the baby feeding debate that I believed only have one side. For example, one of the many reasons that I was upset that I couldn't breastfeed was that I knew that that breastfeeding helps to prevent allergies. With my "zoo", I was concerned for the boys as well as my pets. Then one day I had a realization while I was munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and relishing the fact that I could eat whatever I wanted, unlike a few of my friends who had breastfeeding-related dietary restrictions. No matter how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pieces of broccoli, onions, tomatoes, and chocolate I ate, my diet had no effect on my son's diet. His food was constant. I would still choose breastfeeding over formula, if I could, but since so few things in life are 100% problem-free, I wondered if any bad things do come through breastmilk.

Today I received a call from my friend Suzanne alerting me to an op-ed piece by Nora Ephron in the New York Times called "The Chicken Soup Chronicles". In a paragraph discussing the fervor of some breastfeeding advocates, she poses some interesting questions about allergies.

"...children today are far more allergic than they were when I was growing up, when far fewer women breast-fed their children. I mean, what is it with all these children dropping dead from sniffing a peanut? This is new, friends, it’s brand-new new, and don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. So: is it possible that breast-feeding causes allergies?"

Ms. Ephron doesn't provide any actual evidence that breastfeeding is harmful, and the overall tone of most of the piece is tongue-in-cheek. However, I find it interesting that except for the study in Australia that argues that breastfeeding does not reduce children's allergies in the long-run, this is the first time that I've seen something that questions breastfeeding.

As someone who is very pro-breastfeeding, part of me wonders if we should even bother wasting time, energy, and money studying something that has been found time and time again to be the best way to feed children. Does it really matter if there are some negative aspects to breastfeeding if they are so minor? Certainly there are a lot more important subjects to research. Would further research really change anything? Maybe not. However, it is kind of curious that little media attention has been given to the Australian study, and Ms. Ephron's question does highlight a health trend that does seem inconsistent with current research. Whenever I see a headline around children's health issues, I want to know what that study says. This doesn't cause me to question my belief that breastfeeding is generally better than formula, but it reinforces my belief that different approaches to feeding are better for different families.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Knowledge is power, particularly when that knowledge is about how to best feed your children.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 6:48 PM   14 comments
  • At 1/13/2008 10:40 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Very thoughtful post on a difficult topic, as usual. When I read it, all I could think about was the protests that La Leche League are probably organizing outside Ephron's home at this very instant. Some people hate debate or intellectual curiosity. Usually those people are conservative Republicans or crazy religious fanatics, but not always. :)

  • At 1/14/2008 12:03 AM, Anonymous Erin - ExpectingExecutive said…

    Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you and your blog? No? Well, I do. You are calm, thoughtful, helpful, comforting and encouraging. If Nora Ephron isn't reading your blog already,I am sure would appreciate and support your words.

  • At 1/14/2008 8:12 AM, Blogger Amy said…

    This is funny. I have a friend who pretty much exclusively breastfed her first born. She's not a zealot by any means, but she made it the whole year. Her second child is six months old and still being breastfed, but is getting three bottles of formula a day. We live pretty far apart, but when we visited over New Years I teased her about the "baby poison" she was giving her daughter (she knew how much grief I'd been given about not being able to breastfeed, so she was in on the joke.)

    But her situation does go to show that even in the same family, it doesn't always work out the same for every child.

  • At 1/14/2008 8:43 AM, OpenID cablegirl said…

    What an interesting and thought provoking post.

    I'd think, however, that Ephron is taking her thoughts a little beyond the realm of logic. Why on earth would the natural way to feed a child make him or her allergic to foods. Interesting speculation and yes, it does seem that there are a lot of highly allergic kids out there, but to blame nature? I think not.

  • At 1/14/2008 9:05 AM, Blogger Tracey said…

    Hmmm. I would have to say that the significant rise in childhood allergies(and other diseases/afflictions) is probably related more to other factors than to the moderate rise in breastfeeding in the US. It's not like b.f. is a new thing that just started in these past 15 years. I'd make a wildly uneducated guess that the culprit would be more in the line of antibiotics, antibacterial soaps/etc., and a world that may be trying to heal itself by trying to get rid of some of its inhabitants (morbid thought, I know. Just a wild, esoteric idea of mine.)

  • At 1/14/2008 9:21 AM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Thank you all for your comments. I don't believe that Ms. Ephron argued that anyone is actually allergic to breastmilk. (I certainly don't believe in any breastmilk allergy.) My guess, with the key word being "guess", is that what she is talking about is the argument that increased allergies are caused by our increasingly toxic environment and our increased consumption of processed foods over past generations. With processed foods, there can be a risk of cross-contamination (bread being exposed to nuts for example) so that when a mom consumes, for example a piece of bread, she is also eating traces of nuts at the same time which can then be passed on to her baby. Again, not a reason not to breastfeed. Just food for thought so to speak.

  • At 1/14/2008 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When I breastfed Alex many years ago, we were told that whatever went through our bodies went into our baby. Therefore, we were told to avoid caffeine and certain allergen producing products. Are Moms still being told this today? It seems logical to me that if a mom ate a lot of peanut butter, that her infant just might be exposed to something inside the peanuts that could trigger an allergy later. I don't think Nora Ephron was questioning breast feeding. She was just wondering why so many more children have allergies. I have often wondered the same thing. Rather than shoot the messenger, wouldn't it be better to see what is passing through the breast milk?

  • At 1/14/2008 10:48 AM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Hi Anonymous,
    I absolutely agree. Thanks for commenting.

  • At 1/14/2008 3:25 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    People have always looked at me funny when I've said I can't eat tree nuts when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding. It's really hard when you're craving nuts too.

    I've always wondered why people care so much how I'm feeding my baby. I don't really care how anyone else chooses to feed their children. If I ask if a mom is nursing it is only because I'm making them supper and want to make sure to make something non-spicy, etc.

    I remember feeling like I needed to clarify that is was breastmilk in the bottles I was giving my daughter. I was crushed that she wouldn't nurse. So much so that I pumped my milk for 6 months before I finally gave up.

    Thankfully my second child nursed easily and for more than a year.

    We'll see what #3 wants to do.

  • At 1/14/2008 4:05 PM, Anonymous jennifer said…

    I love this! As Erin said, I love that you can be so coherent and calm on such a hot button topic.

  • At 1/14/2008 4:52 PM, Blogger Jen of A2eatwrite said…

    I wasn't able to breastfeed my son, either, and it was heartbreaking to me at the time. He's grown up strong and healthy, though, and he doesn't have any of the allergies his dad does or that I do.

    I'm not saying this to support Ephron. I do feel that she was being tongue in cheek and was really commenting on all the "special stuff" we do these days as parents, along with the fact that we all survived our less coddled childhoods. For example, my mother was encouraged, by her obstetrician to have a martini a day so that she'd have a relaxed, calm pregnancy. He also didn't think that the fact that she smoked was an issue. Does she wish she hadn't done either of those things? Of course! But I didn't have foetal alcohol syndrome and so far haven't developed lung cancer (knock on wood).

    I really enjoyed your post. While breast is best, aren't we lucky to have some alternatives that our ancestors didn't. Without a wet nurse, your sons and mine wouldn't have survived. Horrible thought, isn't it?

  • At 1/15/2008 6:14 PM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    Another insightful and interesting post on these issues. I am interested in the study. I hadn't heard anything about it.

  • At 1/16/2008 9:00 AM, Blogger Tracee said…

    When I read the title on Blogher (yay Blogher) I hopped on over to talk about MY allergies and breastfeeding.

    My baby had allergies (not food allergies, pollen allergies) from the minute he was born, by the way, and I did breastfeed. He inherited them from me. I never had them as a child, but I have them as an adult.

    My doctor told me to take benadryl for them when I was pregnant because it's safe for the baby in utero.

    But, he did NOT tell me that benadryl would DRY UP my breast milk. So for 3 months I struggled to keep breastfeeding a starving baby.

    First the milk wouldn't come in though I tried everything including beer (advice in a 1970s Le Leche League manual).

    I would sit with the pump on my breasts for the majority of the day trying to revive my milk.

    When the OB/GYN's nurse told me to stop the benadryl I started taking Zertek for allergies and it didn't help. It was spring and I HAD to take something. All the fenigreek in the world wouldn't make my milk come back.

    By 4 months I gave up. The baby has allergies - but he had them when I was breastfeeding. He had them genetically from birth.

    But, I'm still furious at that doctor for robbing me of my year of breast feeding and causing so much stress at the beginning by telling me to keep taking the benedryl.

  • At 1/16/2008 4:42 PM, Blogger Sally HP said…

    J and I were just talking about the allergy issue, and he said that it's also due in large to the fact that parents are so paranoid about their kids' environments and they never get exposed to the good ole days before formula, they didn't have these extreme allergies either, but mom's didn't restrict their diet for breastfeeding then either. It's a tough call, but I'm glad that people are addressing the fact that there are, dare I say positives?! to formula. Good blog!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Breastfeeding, Playdates, and Dating

Yesterday before the snow storm hit, I ventured out to see my friend Martinez. She gave birth to a little boy in October. Martinez and I have been good friends since college. She is one of my older son's (OS) godmothers. I became friends with Martinez because she was constantly inviting me to do things. She would always organize outings, both outings that involved heading out on the town and outings as prosaic as marshaling a group to go to the dinning hall together for meals. Plus she's hilarious.

I asked Martinez the night before I visited her how breastfeeding was going. She said,"Breastfeeding sucks my asshole." (There's an image that would thrill Facebook.) Needless to say, it's been a struggle for her. She also said that given a choice between having to go through labor and delivery without an epidural or going through the first two weeks of having a newborn, she would pick the former. After having a long conversation about breastfeeding and lactation consultants, I decided that I will give a gift certificate for two appointments with a lactation consultant to the next good friend of mine who is pregnant with her first and who plans on breastfeeding. I don't know if any lactation consultants have gift certificates per se, but I can always print up a voucher for one and then pay for the appointment later. I am also going to include a list of phone numbers of breastfeeding resources with it.

This is the second conversation I've had in the past few weeks with a friend who came home from the hospital, was having major breastfeeding issues, and had no idea of a number for a lactation consultant. Since I barely remembered my own name during the first few weeks of new motherhood (and frankly sometimes now), that doesn't surprise me at all. Why not go cheap and stick with one appointment? Well, because I think breastfeeding is kind of like going to see the personal trainer. (That's not what I mean, Big Giraffe.) The personal trainer will show me an exercise, and the next time I'm at the gym and I do it all on my own, I'll get it about 80% right. To get it perfect, I have to have him show me one to two more additional times in separate sessions. That's how I felt with I met with the lactation consultants. That's why two appointments are key.

Martinez and I had a nice time catching up. Her baby is really sweet. We spent time discussing all the important aspects of new motherhood: sleep, food and how to ensure that you always have clean underwear (personally I stocked up before my kids were born). She also brought up playdates. This was kind of ironic seeing as I had just read Mayberry Mom's post on the subject. I had no real advice to give. I really enjoy having playdates, but I have a hard time arranging them, particularly with my older son. I don't understand the etiquette that goes with it since he's 4. Do I invite the parent? Do I pick up the kid and drive him home as has been suggested by some of his classmates (the problem with that one is that I can't fit another kid in my car)? How often am I supposed to schedule them? Really it reminds me a lot of dating. I even remember when I was a new mom reading an article someone wrote making that comparison. And it's not like I was ever uncomfortable initiating new relationships. I was the one who asked both my high school sweetheart and the Big Giraffe out, and I didn't even think twice about it. Yet I find it very stressful. Much better to spend today watching Fa La La Lifetime on TV when the boys were napping (okay and letting them watch the very end of it since they woke up before it was over! I had just spent two hours watching The Village Without Christmas. I wanted to know how it ended!)

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Playdates are like dating, except with more stress and without sex. Breastfeeding is like personal training, and also does not include sex.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 5:47 PM   5 comments
  • At 12/14/2007 6:54 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    {I'm trying to type this while my daughter is removing my socks.}

    I have such mixed feelings about lactation consultants. They rarely seem like reasonable people and only add to the stress and feelings of inadequacy.

    But you are truly one of the kindest friends out there.

  • At 12/14/2007 7:02 PM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Thanks, SMID! You're right about the lactation consultants. The one I had was great and was the person who told me not to breastfeed and that my kids would be fine. However, I've heard from others that not everyone has such a positive experience.

  • At 12/14/2007 8:46 PM, Blogger Mayberry said…

    Yes, playdating is so hard! The ones we've had so far (that would be two) I've taken the kid home from school in my car and the parent picks up later. These kids are 5. I think 4-5 is when drop-off playdates start --maybe? Ugh, who knows!

  • At 12/14/2007 11:57 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    The lactation consultant I had with my daughter was great. My daughter still didn't breastfeed, but the lady was nice. (Didn't need the consultant with #2.)

    As for playdates, we usually drop off and pick up our own kid if we are not staying and having a mommy playdate too. We figure it's the least we can do if we're getting some kid-free time.

  • At 6/03/2008 11:26 AM, Blogger GooberMonkey said…

    I found I had to connect with multiple LCs before I found the one who really worked for me. All gave me some good advice, but not all were the right fit.

    Yes, my first 8 weeks of bf'ing were much harder than my 32 hour labor without pain medication. That I knew had an end in sight. The bf'ing struggles had no guaranteed end in sight. I'm glad I stuck it out, and bf'in did get magically easy after a while, but I have such a different perspective now on the subject. I'll be honest in saying I'm sad when people don't try it or aren't aware of the benefits, but I truly understand when people are not able to make it work.

    And I, too, have made LC references and other bf'ing resources one of my new mom gifts!

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Breastfeeding after Someone Else's Breast Reduction Surgery

A few days ago, I was flipping through a Weight Watchers magazine trying to see if the at least one of the "50+ Holiday Recipes" looked any good. The headline of a letter to the editor caught my eye. It read "All About Breasts". How could I resist reading it? Apparently last month Weight Watchers featured an article on breast reduction surgery called "Bosom Budies." Alas, I could not find it on-line. Fortunately, I did not need to read the article to understand the letter replying to it. The letter was from a pediatric nurse practitioner who stated that women who "may want to breast-feed should not consider breast reduction surgery." She claimed that she saw many mothers who are unable to breastfeed because they've had the surgery and indicated that she personally is devastated by it. Excuse me?

I'm appalled that this woman thinks it is all about her. I'm sorry she feels devastated by this. I notice that she doesn't say that the women who are unable to breastfeed are devastated by this. Not to pick on semantics, but I believe instead of saying that women shouldn't consider the surgery, because considering is not the same thing as doing, she means that women should carefully evaluate whether or not they want to have the surgery, if they plan on breastfeeding.

I believe many people are thinking about breastfeeding after breast reduction, because I have gotten a lot of hits from people using those search words recently. (Perhaps they read "Bosom Buddies" or "All About Breasts.") Despite what this particular woman might believe, the decision to have a breast reduction surgery is not like waking up one day and deciding to get highlights in your hair. I personally had the surgery because I was in extreme discomfort due to the size of my chest. I know many other women who had surgery for similar reasons. In my case, I was a competitive swimmer from childhood through college. I had to stop the running portion of my training halfway through high school because my back hurt so much. My neck hurt when I would bend over a desk or table to do my homework. I was in wonderful shape (I had to get my fat measured frequently while on the swim team) and overall had a small figure, but I had to buy large shirts for them to fit across my chest. I am slightly under 5" 4', but I was spilling out of a DD. Let me just stress again how much my back constantly hurt. Sometimes my shoulders would bleed from my bra straps cutting into them. Just thinking about it now makes my neck hurt.

After the surgery, I was able to run for a half hour every day with the swim team before our two hour swim practice. No matter how much weight I have put on with pregnancies or Thanksgiving festivities, I have never again had problems with bleeding shoulders or neck pain. (I did have back pain, but that's common with pregnant women regardless of whether or not they've previously had a large chest. The pain stopped with each boy's birth and did not come back with any holiday feast.)

When I decided to have the surgery, I was 19. I take that back. I made the decision when I was 13 and became physically and mentally uncomfortable with my size. It was a long 6 years until I actually had the opportunity to go through with the surgery. My parents wanted me to complete a year in college first to make sure that I was confident in my decision to have the surgery. I became confident that I wanted the surgery when I walked through the door of school in 7th grade. That confidence continued until I had the surgery. As upset as I ever got over my inability to breastfeed, I have never regretted my surgery. I'm sorry I couldn't breastfeed, but I'm not sorry I had the surgery. It was better than I had even thought it would be.

There are no guarantees in life. At 19 I couldn't guarantee that I would one day get married or have children. There is no guarantee that I would have been able to breastfeed even had I not had the surgery. Do I think that if it's important to a woman to breastfeed, than she shouldn't have the surgery? Absolutely. It's also solely her decision to make. It doesn't matter what I think. I resent being told what I should do. Breast reduction surgery is serious. In addition to including the common risks of going under anesthesia, the recovery is hard. While I do not know the current risks to having breast reduction surgery, I was warned of the following when I had the surgery:
  • I might have to have my nipples put on ice (this did not happen)
  • I might not be able to breastfeed
  • I might have significant scarring (I was fortunate in this one too. My scars are barely visible).
  • I might lose some feeling
  • I would have to wear a two cup sports bra (not the mono-boob kind) for 24 hours a day for 5 weeks
  • I wouldn't be able to lift anything heavy for a month
As I was telling a friend recently, I wanted this surgery so badly, that these things weren't a huge deal to me. When the surgeon had a cancellation and could perform the surgery a few weeks earlier, I jumped at the slot canceling a previously scheduled visit from my out-of-state boyfriend. (No, Big Giraffe, that doesn't count as a benefit to the surgery.) Obviously anyone considering breast reduction surgery should consult with a doctor regarding the current risks.

Of course I'm sure that there are women out there who regret their surgery. However, I don't regret it, and I know quite a few women who believe that the surgery changed their lives for the better. Empathy for women who are devastated by their inability to breastfeed is one thing. A personal sense of devastation on behalf of even women who are comfortable with the implications of their choice is misplaced. A stance that women should not even consider alternatives to years of physical pain and emotional discomfort is insulting.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are pros and cons that should all be considered carefully by anyone who may want to have breast reduction surgery.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:11 PM   6 comments
  • At 11/23/2007 9:44 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    How odd for the NP to feel devastated by the actions of other people. I think she needs a hobby or something.

    I'm glad to read that you are happy with your decision and had good results.

  • At 11/24/2007 7:20 AM, Anonymous Amy said…

    I was 5'0" tall with size E boobs when I got my reduction. My parents were totally on board. I was 18 and did not want to go through college the same way I went through high school and middle school. The physical discomfort is one thing, but the emotional is quite another. Had I known what sexual harassment was when I was on the receiving end of it, I probably could have made a bundle.

    Either way, I knew when I got it that breastfeeding would not be possible (and my scars are quite visible and probably always will be). At the age of 27 when my first child was born, I might have experienced a bit of wistfulness about not being able to breastfeed, but that was it.

    I've NEVER regretted it. The last 13 years of my life would have been miserable. My kids are happy. THey are healthy.

    It was the right decision for me.

  • At 11/24/2007 11:05 AM, Blogger Kami said…

    Yeah that nurse chose the wrong words...

    I would have done the same thing had I been faced with the need. Nothing that you describe sounds bearable just to have the chance to breastfeed your baby years later.... bloody shoulders - NO WAY!

    I personally have not had a drop of breastmilk in my system and I am perfectly healthy and happy. Proof in point, if you can breastfeed by all means, go ahead, if you can't, formula is perfect.


    We get way too hung up on things being black and white. Nothing in life is black or white expect a zebra. All else is grey.

    Great post Alex and I hope those who have had surgery and have been made to feel guilty about it by misguided nurses find your site and read this!

  • At 11/24/2007 11:06 AM, Blogger Kami said…

    how about except a zebra not expect a zebra... yikes! THAT would hurt... hee hee.

  • At 11/24/2007 6:56 PM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    Very timely, thanks. I'm currently reading "Defining Your Own Success" which is a book dedicated to the idea of breastfeeding after reduction surgery ('cause duh, I had one, too). I'm experiencing just a tiny modicum of guilt, because I knew even when I had the surgery that I would want to breastfeed and that it would probably impair my ability to do so. But reading the book (and the fora at have really hit home. My surgery was in 2000, and reading all the reasons women had the operation reminded me of the reasons I had mine, and those reasons were serious and numerous. I did the right thing for myself, and don't regret it. And I still intend to breastfeed, even if I have to supplement with formula. So PBTHTHTHTH to that nurse.

  • At 11/26/2007 1:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    I feel sorry for that nurse because she is such a clueless fucking bitch.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Let's Talk About Feminism

Today I got to be a guest speaker for a freshmen class at Simmons College. I was pretty excited about it. My friend teaches the class and was looking for someone to speak on the Mommy Wars. Of course I was thrilled when she invited me. She asked me to bring in a copy of the Mike and Juliette show and had her students read a couple of my blog posts on feminism and motherhood. We then discussed different issues and policies that mothers face. In preparation for the class, I asked her if I could have a copy of today's readings. One of the readings was the introduction from the book The Mommy Myth Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined Women by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith Michaels. I haven't enjoyed reading something that much in a long time. I really recommend it. It was thought provoking and at the same time, the authors definitely displayed a sense of humor.

Based on the clips and posts and the article, my friend asked her students what issues they thought moms face today. None of the students were married or had children. It was interesting to hear their responses both to the reading and to the clip. They made a lot of good points. However, as I listened to them and reflected on the reading, I had to wonder what has happened to feminism. Why do we have the Mommy Wars? The article talked about the increased pressure mothers have faced through the years from the media. One quote that seemed to sum it up for many of the students and me was, "You know, when our kids say 'all the other kids get to do it' we laugh in their face. But when the magazines suggest, 'All the other moms are doing this, are you?' we see ourselves being judged by the toughest critics out there: other mothers," (p. 19).

To me, feminism has always been about choice. It's been about believing that women are capable of making the decisions that are best for them and their families. It doesn't mean that we always like the choices of others or think that their choices are the right ones, but that we respect that their decisions are theirs to make. (Of course that openness assumes that these decisions aren't abusive.)

As a women's studies major and a woman who has always been fascinated by the roles of parenting in our society, I am always surprised by how many times smaller issues are part of a much larger problems. Yet they are not as easily seen as being part of a larger problem. Take for example formula feeding. There are many working women who want to breastfeed at work and/or pump at work, but are still often unable to do so because they lack adequate facilities or enough break time in the United States. Never mind women who are unable to fully establish a breastfeeding routine due to inadequate maternity leave.

One of the students offered another example. There is a lot of criticism of working parents whose schedules create latch-key kids. Given the prevalence of homes with two working parents in our society, shouldn't school schedules facilitate flexible parenting? No, the student did not encourage boarding school for preschoolers (although...); rather she suggested that pushing the start (and the end) of each school day back by an hour might make things far easier for both children and working parents.

One student described her negative impressions of mothers whose children have meltdowns in the grocery store. Of course, my children would never do this (I'm kidding.) While she seemed a little surprised when I said that temper tantrums at the grocery store are an undesirable but normal part of parenting. She seemed even more surprised that I said that I would like to see more fathers at the grocery store with their kids. That includes you Big Giraffe! Somehow I suspect that they would be given sympathetic looks. "Oh that poor overwhelmed dad. Isn't it nice that he's pitching in and taking the kids." On the other hand a mom would probably confront one of the following reactions:
  1. An understanding smile from other parents who have been there too
  2. A look of disdain or nasty remark for failing to control her kids
  3. No reaction from oblivious customers do either to preoccupation with their own thoughts or lack of care. (Nothing wrong with this option!)
It definitely was an interesting discussion, and I am honored that I was able to be part of it.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Whether you believe in post-feminism or not, respecting other parents as people is important.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 9:23 PM   5 comments
  • At 11/20/2007 10:28 AM, Blogger Kami said…

    In Canada, we get a whole year of maternity leave... would I have breastfed if I had less.... probably not. It's hard enough nevermind throwing going back to work and pumping into the mix.

    Anyway that was a bit off topic. What an interesting experience, and I have to say that until you have experienced the temper tantrum in the grocery store AS A MOTHER, you have NO idea!

  • At 11/20/2007 10:38 AM, Blogger Heather said…

    Oh yeah. The girl that made the comment about the grocery store is soooo going to be eating her words when she has a kid. Karma.

  • At 11/21/2007 3:47 AM, Anonymous Erin-ExpectingExecutive said…

    Hi Alex! I have been lurking late at night (like tonight) but not commenting much. But, I have to chime in here. I absolutely hate, loathe, despise and reject the term "mommy wars". I honestly believe it was made up to sell some books and television airtime. Anyway, I know she's your friend, but I don't think "mommy wars" is a stellar college subject topic. That being said, it was really cool you were there and could shed some "mommy light" on the real world of motherhood. I blame so much of the misconceptions of motherhood on schmaltzy television advertising. Sorry darlin'. Kids have tantrums and exploding diapers and projectile vomiting at all of the wrong and most inconvenient times.

  • At 11/21/2007 12:14 PM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    This is such a great post, Alex!

  • At 11/21/2007 1:49 PM, Blogger InTheFastLane said…

    I like the comment about schools not thinking about working parents when creating schedules. My husband and I both work in schools so, we will always have this difficulty. But, I often think how blessed I am to have in-laws who can pick up my kids when there is another 1/2 day at school (these happen at least once a month). What about all the kids whose parents' do not have jobs that are that flexible or relatives that are wonderful?

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Feeding Baby in Disney

I know when planning your Disney vacation two questions pop into your mind
  1. How old does my baby need to be before I can ride all the adult rides?
  2. Is there a place to heat up a bottle/nurse?
Fortunately, both questions have simple answers. The first is thirty. The answer to question two is yes.

I was quite intrigued by the Baby Care Centers in Disney World. In fact the Big Giraffe casually inquired whether or not we would be visiting one during our date night so that I could blog about it. Silly, Big Giraffe. Of course not! There's no reason to wait a whole week when we walked past one every time we walked into the Magic Kingdom. And sure enough, I grabbed my 15 month old and checked it out.

So what exactly is in the Baby Care Center? Just like everything else in Disney, it was well thought out and very clean. There were comfy chairs when I walked into the center. There is a separate room with a closed door for nursing moms only. I didn't investigate that since I'm not a nursing mom although according to this review from MousePlanet, it is open to moms who are bottle feeding their babies. However, I'm no longer doing that either. I do love the idea of moms whether they're formula feeding or breastfeeding being able to feed their baby in a clean comfortable environment. There was a kitchen where you could heat bottles and baby food. Forgot formula, baby food, diapers, baby Tylenol, etc.? Not to worry, because you could buy it right there. (A friend of mine who goes to Disney every year told me that all that used to be free.) The Baby Center itself is sponsored by Carnation.

There is a room that is filled with nice high chairs and a few kids tables and chairs. I saw some parents of toddlers feeding their kids there. That makes a lot of sense because it is quiet and air conditioned. I know we found that just going inside a quiet building or other calm place to eat seemed to recharge the boys when they got overwhelmed or overstimulated. Another room was filled with 5 changing tables. I was pretty impressed. I'm assuming that the other centers are similar. In addition to the Magic Kingdom, you can find them at MGM, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. The previously mentioned review MousePlanet for great pictures and more details.

Disney Changing Table

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: In the place where dreams come true, women can breastfeed and formula feed beside each other in peace.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:07 PM   8 comments
  • At 10/15/2007 8:11 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    I just love the lesson learned at the end. Spit out my wine love it!

  • At 10/15/2007 9:12 PM, Blogger super des said…

    wow, I guess sometimes Disney isn't so evil.

  • At 10/16/2007 8:14 AM, Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said…

    That is wonderful! I love when companies/corporations/theme parks actually think abot what their customers want - and make it happen!

    Jane, Pinks & Blues

  • At 10/16/2007 8:49 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    Good news. CableDad is already trying to convince me that MJ doesn't need to ever go to Disney even though we live just a few hours from it. lol

    Btw, how much enjoyment did your 15 month old actually get out of it?

  • At 10/16/2007 3:06 PM, Anonymous FishyGirl said…

    I forgot about the baby care centers! They were absolutely lovely. One of the times I was in there when Sunny was a baby there was a woman in there who was bottle feeding, but I found that most of the times the mothers who were bottle feeding stayed in the room with the high chairs since there was a video screen in there. The nursing room was a very peaceful place, with dimmed lighting and no other source of noise than the people who are in there, with about seven rocking chairs. It was the nicest place for feeding your children in a retail establishment that I have ever seen. Customer service at its finest.

  • At 10/16/2007 4:30 PM, Blogger Jessie said…

    The first aid stations are also fantastic. I went to one at Disneyland with a blister and Mrs Nice Nurse Lady gave me a band aid and a free thing of Tylenol. Disney takes care of their guests pretty well, probably to make up for the price gouging.

  • At 10/19/2007 1:15 PM, Blogger ALM said…

    That sounds great. I remember flying from NY to New Zealand with my 13 month old ( a trip I would only recommend to my worst enemies). THe airport in LA didn't even have a changing table in the ladies room but the airport in Auckland, NZ had a full "Mum's room" with a crib (cot), chair, etc, etc.... It makes all the difference.

  • At 10/19/2007 4:56 PM, Blogger Working Girl said…

    That sounds very nice. It makes me sort of wish that places like that existed out in the world for adults to take a breather -- A place to rest for a minute when I get overstimulated running my errands. With snacks and nice hand creams...

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Breastfeeding Conference Part II: Supplementing

If anyone had told me that when my older son (OS) was just a few days old my husband would be using a syringe to push formula into a catheter taped to my nipple one mL at a time, I would have thought that they were nuts. In fact, I probably would have laughed at the images that this would have conjured up in my mind. When I think about it today, I once again see the humor. When it was happening, it left me in tears.

I had many frustrations about breastfeeding. One of them was the teeny tiny fact that I proved medically and physically unable to breastfeed for longer than five weeks.

A second frustration was that while the hospital dished out diapers, Tylenol, and Motrin as freely as tap water, they hoarded nipple shields because apparently nipple shields alone were responsible for rising health care costs. All I know is that we had to have nurses sneak them into my room, and I have a bizarre memory of a nurse telling me they lose an insane amount of money per week on nipple shields. I have a further memory (no less bizarre) of acting like a lunatic after my younger son's (YS) birth when a nurse discarded my bloody nipple shield out and I felt like I had just witnessed an object with the same value as the Hope Diamond being thrown in the trash. Luckily he got me a new nipple shield, and he did not get me a psych evaluation.

A third frustration was that I had a hard time finding information about supplementing. This frustration grew with the birth of YS since I was aware that I would need to supplement, and I was on the lookout for the information. I was looking forward to seeing how supplementing would be addressed at the conference. Based on my own personal experiences, it seemed like there is quite a difference of opinion out there.

Supplementing was first brought up in a presentation about obesity and breastfeeding. According to the speaker, research shows a woman's milk comes in a half hour later for every 1-unit (1 kg/m2) that she is measured above a normal BMI pre-pregnancy. So a woman whose BMI is 4 units above normal is not likely to be able to breastfeed until 2 hours after a woman with a normal BMI. What should a new mom do in the meantime to feed her baby? The speaker focused on hand expressing colostrum into a teaspoon and feeding that to the baby. My friend Linda, who accompanied me to the conference, was actually the person who added supplementing with formula to the conversation. She raised her hand to discuss her experience using a supplemental nursing system (SNS).

SNS is the official designation for a catheter taped to a nipple. The basic idea behind an SNS device is that it allows the baby to suck at the mom's nipple to stimulate breastfeeding or to supplement the breastmilk while at the same time providing the baby with formula. Using an SNS provided Linda with the comfort of knowing that her baby was being nourished while she was waiting for her milk came in. Once her milk came in, she was able to exclusively breastfeed her son and then, a year later, her daughter. While the speaker acknowledged that an SNS is a legitimate way to handle a delayed milk supply, she was somewhat dismissive of it. She also continuously referred to formula as an "alternate feeding method."

That same speaker also later delivered a presentation answering the question of whether insufficient milk supply is real or myth. Apparently she considered formula to be a mainstream solution when a mom does not have enough milk, because she abandoned the "alternate feeding method" euphemism and called formula..."formula." She also presented SNS as one of the first solutions that a mom could use to handle a low or delayed milk supply. I'm not really sure what made formula and SNS more acceptable in one presentation than another. I suspect it had something to do with the different focus of each session.

There are other ways to supplement. A lactation consultant at the conference said she sometimes advises women who cannot pump in their workplace to nurse in the mornings and the evenings and to have the daycare provider feed the baby formula during the day. Some moms breastfeed first and then provide a baby with a bottle of formula. This way the baby gets the mother's milk, but is able to finish with formula if he's still hungry. Although not mentioned at the conference, I've also heard of women who breastfeed in the morning when their milk production is higher and then formula feed in the evening.

As I wrote yesterday, there is a fine line between having a lot of supportive information and having information that makes breastfeeding overwhelming. When I think back to the images that I conjured in my head when the nurse first described an SNS to me, I wish that I had learned about it ahead of time. I also wish I had known about the hole in our health care system caused by nipple shields being stolen from the hospital and possibly sold on the black market how difficult it would be to obtain nipple shields, so that I could have saved up during my entire pregnancy to purchase my own nipple shields ahead of time; although while I'm not positive, I'm pretty sure I was billed for the ones I got in the hospital and they cost more than they do on-line.

Dr. Stuebe and I had a great conversation about the problem with the all or nothing attitude in the breastfeeding vs. formula debate. Many times a middle ground works best.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Some women can and want to exclusively breastfeed. Some women are unwilling or unable to breastfeed and thus exclusively formula feed. For everyone else, there are a variety of ways to combine both.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 9:21 PM   7 comments
  • At 9/26/2007 12:01 PM, Anonymous Pinks & Blues said…

    AMEN!!!!! Great post Alex!!!!!

    I would still love to do the Zoo with you at some point with my boys. Would you still be up for it??

    - Audrey
    Pinks & BLues

  • At 9/26/2007 1:15 PM, Blogger BOSSY said…

    Super Informative. But is it wrong to say that Bossy is relieved she's facing Menopause?

  • At 9/26/2007 5:39 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    I'm overwhelmed reading this. You are just amazing. I wish pre-kid moms were reading this....

  • At 9/27/2007 12:12 AM, Blogger VDog said…

    Right on, girlfriend! We need to support each other, booby juice or formula don't matter, during the RRRRROUGH post-partum time period.

    Where you needed to be was the NICU, where they handed those nipple shields out like candy. :) LOL

  • At 9/27/2007 1:31 AM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    Hear! Hear!

  • At 9/27/2007 10:00 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    I actually found the SNS made BFing worse for me. When DD discovered that the boob with the SNS gave off milk more easily she stopped sucking as vigorously and made BFing even harder, leading to a further decline in my milk production.

  • At 10/05/2007 3:24 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    As a person raised on the "alternate feeding method" who is married to someone also alternatively fed, I can see why we are so maladjusted in life. Or something. I know this has nothing to do with SNS, but I wanted to use the phrase "alternate feeding method" because it cracks me up, as though my mom came from Uranus and couldn't figure out how normal earthlings feed their kids.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

FF&FP Goes to A Breastfeeding Conference

Shocking isn't it? Yes, I really did go to a breastfeeding conference today put on by the MA Coalition for Breastfeeding. It was open to doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, public health students, and bloggers. Alright, maybe the literature didn't say bloggers, but Dr. Alison Stuebe invited me to attend after we sparred on the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet.

I have to admit that I went back and forth about going a few times. Dr. Stuebe has said that she thought people would be interested in my ideas and observations from blogging and personal experience about supporting all mothers regardless of their choice. That was definitely a plus. On the other hand, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I was nervous about going for two big reasons 1) I was worried about zealots 2) I wasn't sure if I could emotionally handle it. After all, the benefits of breastfeeding were sources of my feelings of guilt when breastfeeding didn't work out. At the same time, while I don't regret having had breast reduction surgery, I do regret that breastfeeding didn't work for me. Given a second chance, I would still have the surgery.

After waking up and finding my milk had expired (no pun intended) and having to put my younger son's (YS) whole milk in my cereal and coffee, I set out for a commute that I had traveled 5 days a week for two years. It usually took me 40 minutes to an hour. Today it took me over 2 hours. I, along with many other people, was late.

There's so much to say about what I learned that I am going to break it up into a series of posts interspersed with my typical content over the next week. However, what I wanted to focus on in tonight's post was how I felt. Ultimately, I left the conference with the same conviction that got me to the conference - parents need to make sure that their babies are fed.

Even though I was late to the keynote speaker, I walked in on a positive note. The keynote speaker was addressing in passing the fact that the evidence from studies can be conflicting in general. One study will show X and then another study will show that X is not true.

My feelings were less positive when I found myself annoyed and frustrated by a woman who talked about bringing your baby to work so that you really could do it all. The logo on her PowerPoint template depicted a woman breastfeeding while on the computer and on the phone. While I'm sure this is very doable and enjoyable for some women, it made me feel sad. It was just one more way of setting an expectation that mothers to be supermoms. Fortunately my attorney and superfriend Linda (who deserves her own post) got up and challenged supermom. She argued that the real solution would be working with lawyers and state legislatures to get better maternity leave. A lot of people kept coming up to her throughout the day to express their support.

Back on the positive side, I really enjoyed learning about the effects of obesity on a mom's ability to breastfeed and on breastfeeding rates, as well as the effects of breastfeeding on a mom's obesity and a child's obesity. The speaker did a good job explaining why breastfeeding is so important. I thought the studies were well explained, although the answers to my questions about how external factors were controlled left me unconvinced that the evidence truly supported the speaker's original claims. However she did acknowledge the elements of the study that were shaky, although she also seemed annoyed that I had asked the question.

Later on I went to a session on whether or not there really is such a thing as insufficient breastmilk. The speaker had a list of factors that could increase a woman's difficulty in having an adequate milk supply. The list included factors like breast reduction surgery, PCOS, being overweight, having a c-section, and experiencing a high degree of stress. I initially believed that it would have been helpful to know this information before attempting to breastfeed. However after talking to another superfriend and lactation consultant Cee this evening, I came around to her perspective that this sort of knowledged would have been scary and overwhelming. However, I think it is really important for health care providers to be familiar with these factors so that they can discuss them with patients as appropriate. There is a fine line between education and demoralization, particularly since stress, attitude, and confidence all play a role in the success or failure of breastfeeding. Of course, I really really wanted to breastfeed and it obviously didn't work, so a positive attitude isn't everything.

I left the conference on a down note. This was after all a continuing education class for health care providers. However, I felt that one important subject was never broached - at what point do you acknowledge that breastfeeding isn't working the way that the mother would like? At what point do you advise a mother to supplement with or even switch to formula? I was fortunate in that my lactation consultant actually told me it was time to switch exclusively to formula. Her words carried even greater weight because I knew that she was a huge breastfeeding advocate. I therefore really believed that it was time to move on, which was a relief and a gift. The lactation consultant encouraged me to cry and reassured me that it is normal for women who want to breastfeed but can't to feel a sense of loss. When I raised my hand to raise this important point, the speaker ended the session without calling on me.

All in all, I'm really glad I went. I really respect people who try to see an argument from another viewpoint, even if it doesn't change their mind. I also found that there was wide variation among those who attended the conference. Most people seemed to be okay supporting those for whom breastfeeding did not work, even though they were strng advocates for breastfeeding. There were a few commenters whose comments bordered on zealotry. It was also good to be able to speak with Dr. Stuebe without the cameras on. Finally, as someone who always advocates provision of better resources for all moms, I was pleased to participate in a meeting that identified those "resources".

I leave you with 2 Lessons Learned:

  1. At 4 months it is normal for your baby to reduce the amount of time spent nursing, often causing your breasts to feel less full and thus making it seem as if your milk supply is insufficient, because you are now more efficient at producing the milk your baby need. That said, if you feel like something may be wrong with your milk supply or your baby, contact your doctor or lactation consultant.

  2. Each mom needs to make the choice that's best for her own baby. Your baby will be fine.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:02 PM   9 comments
  • At 9/25/2007 1:07 AM, Anonymous my minivan is faster than yours said…

    I will never forget my son's neonatologist when he was in the NICU (the same one who had prescribed me Reglan to help my milk come in) turning to be and saying, "You're done."

    I guess it was the permission I needed to just let it go. Seventeen days after he was born, I was thrilled to move on and stop pumping. I've never looked back!

  • At 9/25/2007 2:44 AM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    Your observations about the super mom presentation seem like such an important point to me. There seems to be a belief among some people today that female emancipation = the ability and the necessaity to do it all alone, and with this comes the belief that women who choose to be stay-at-home moms (for however long) are just disorganized or lazy for not balancing that with a career. The solution is definitely reforms on the institutional level - more parental leave - rather than more efficient supermoms. Although for women who can and wish to breastfeed their babies while typing away at work, more power to you.

    I am glad that the conference was overall in many ways a positive experience. I would have been nervous about attending a breastfeeding conference for similar reasons.

  • At 9/25/2007 7:18 AM, Anonymous Amy said…

    I have a friend who has been pumping and bottle feeding for almost six months because she can't get her daughter to latch. I asked her why she didn't talk to a lactation consultant about it, and she said she was afraid she'd encounter one of the nursing zealots that would just make her feel bad.

    How sad is it a woman who needs help won't get it because she fears that she'll be judged or pressured?

    I really don't see why we can't just have supportive helpful people who will support whatever we want and help us if we need it without making us feel like crap if we can't or don't want to nurse. It's ridiculous.

    I always knew I wouldn't be able to breastfeed because of my reduction, but the nurses in the hospital made me feel terrible. It was like, "Congratulations on the birth of your baby! You're a terrible mother!"

  • At 9/25/2007 9:09 AM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    I'm glad the conference went well and that Linda went with you. Can't wait to read your future posts on this.

    As for the woman who insists you can just bring your baby to work with you, I guess she doesn't work in the service industry. Forget being a supermom - I think she's from another planet entirely. Quite likely that planet is Uranus. She suckles beavers. harumph.

  • At 9/25/2007 1:00 PM, Anonymous FishyGirl said…

    What a great opportunity for you, Alex, and how brave of you to attend in the first place. I wish there was some place, like a, um, Baby Feeding Conference? or something where mothers could meet to discuss the different implications of feeding their children however they choose to, without judgment that doing it one way automatically makes the other ways lacking for some reason. We all need to find the solution that works for our and our babies' needs at that time.

    Supermom, I think, is missing some important points there. Feeding time for your child is an important bonding time, so why would you look at that as just another item on your to-do list? Why go through the hassle of having a baby that needs to be taken care of all day long at the office so you can NOT pay a relative amount of undivided attention to him/her when it's feeding time? So not worth it, for mom or baby. I pumped for ages with my first two kids, and pumping's a chore, but I never wished the baby was there with me - I wished I was at home with my baby. Better leave policies and a nationwide "attitude adjustment" in support of parenting initiatives a whole are the better solution.

  • At 9/25/2007 1:09 PM, Anonymous FishyGirl said…

    .."initiatives AS A whole" is what I meant to say - hard to believe I was an editor. :-)

    I also wanted to mention that it would be sooooo worthwhile to all moms to be well educated in a variety of ways to feed your child, because your needs and results may vary at different times. Sometimes you can't breastfeed, sometimes the baby abruptly stops nursing, sometimes your appendix bursts and you need to be hospitalized, sometimes your baby won't take a bottle and you'll need to figure out alternatives if you can't breastfeed then. Our society doesn't do a very good job of educating without judgment.

  • At 9/25/2007 6:10 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    You are much braver than me. I would never, ever walk into a Breastapo conference (and I write this as someone who nursed all three of my kids).

  • At 9/25/2007 7:26 PM, Blogger Nora Bee said…

    Yay! I love that you were willing to put yourself out there and stand up for *real* women! Don't even get me started on "insufficient milk"--I think the LCs didn't believe I was "really" trying, even though I was pumping every 2 hours for weeks. I love the idea of LC's but when only the most zealous get into that profession it can slant things a bit, so go you! Rah rah rah!

  • At 9/25/2007 8:00 PM, Blogger Redsy (formerly CrankMama) said…

    You're my hero... I"m writing this up at Babble / Strollerderby tomorrow if you want to take a look

    I've done it both ways and honestly, let's just feed the kids and be done with it!

    This link will start working tomorrow morning at 10:30 EST

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Weighting" for My Secret Formula Feeding Confession

I meant to write this last night and participate in the Blog Blast, but I fell asleep at an embarrassingly early hour. Yes, I'm a night owl, and I don't tend to sleep a lot. So why did I fall asleep? Because for the last few months I've been meeting with a personal trainer. Yesterday I met with him at 5:30 am.

In my time as a blogger, I've heard a lot of moms talk about mom guilt. I've also "met" moms who couldn't or chose not to breastfeed and who, like me, worried about their child's health. I've never met anyone who didn't breastfeed talk about one teeny tiny, selfish area: struggle with weight loss. Yes, I know it's selfish, but when I couldn't breastfeed I did think about the fact that my breastfeeding friends were automatically burning 500 calories a day.

Somehow in my mind, I came to the conclusion that had I breastfed, I would look like a supermodel. At the very least, had I been able to breastfeed, I would be my ideal weight. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I worried a lot about the impression I created when I went to BlogHer and told people the first two words from the title of my blog Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting.

When I think about this logically, I know that the only thing that breastfeeding would have guaranteed to me is that I would have burned the extra calories. I have friends who struggled (or are struggling) to lose their pregnancy weight despite breastfeeding, and I have friends and family who exclusively formula fed who have the physiques of women who were never pregnant. My primary care physician always says that genetics is a huge factor. The other women in my family breastfed, and they all struggled with losing their pregnancy weight.

A few months ago, I was inspired by two of my friends who were thrilled with the weight they were losing from meeting with personal trainers at our Y. I had been working out on my own regularly since December, but I was a lot less thrilled with my very slow weight loss. Ironically, or maybe more in reality, they had exclusively breastfed, but my mind tends to skip over that fact. Inspiration aligned with opportunity when I found that the Y was having a special on personal training packages. I signed up. Knowing that I was scheduled to meet with the trainer the following week kept me working out in between our sessions; no working out in between would mean a lot of pain.

Yes, it is expensive although personal trainers at the Y cost less than personal trainers at other gyms I've belonged to in the past. Is this really how I want to spend my money? No. However, it's working. I feel great. Don't tell anyone, but I'm actually starting to like going because at the end of every workout I feel like I've accomplished something. I've gone down 3 clothing sizes and have lost quite a bit of weight too. So that's my secret confession. Today I'm going shopping for some new, smaller, clothes.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Sometimes people (meaning me) feel guilty about not breastfeeding for selfish reasons as well.

Labels: , , ,

posted by Alex Elliot @ 9:34 AM   11 comments
  • At 9/15/2007 10:53 AM, Anonymous Erika Jurney, Plain Jane Mom said…

    Good for you -- that's fantastic!

  • At 9/15/2007 12:26 PM, Blogger Amy said…

    Oddly, I've never felt bad about not being able to breast feed. I feel like I've had a lot of people treating me badly because of it, but I haven't felt guilty that I couldn't.

    The way I see it, I HAD to get a breast reduction. I knew when I did it that breast feeding wouldn't be a possibility. I was only 18 years old when I made that decision, but I'd do it again.

    If I hadn't had it, sure I would have breastfed or at least tried. But I did. It was the right decision for me. Those ten years before kids would have been miserable, and who has time for breast reductions when you've got little ones running around?

    As for weight, you've seen my battle. I trained for a half marathon and didn't lose weight! My very thin (anorexic looking) SIL just rolls her eyes when I say that some people (like me) just don't burn calories the same way other people (like her) do.

    There is most certainly a genetic component to it, the only people who say there isn't are naturally skinny!

  • At 9/15/2007 6:35 PM, Anonymous FishyGirl said…

    Alex, hon, I've been either pregnant or breastfeeding for most of the last 8 years, and I've gained weight, not lost, for all of the last 8 years. I have been struggling with eating right and trying to get down to at least where I was when I got pregnant with the last baby, but in reality I have at least 30 pounds beyond that to get to a healthy weight for my height. It is most definitely genetics. That, and when you are breastfeeding, you can't take in those extra calories in Little Debbies (ahem).

    How fantastic for you that you took the initiative to do something about it, that you are feeling good, and succeeding. I hope you enjoy your new clothes as much as the feeling good.

  • At 9/15/2007 7:12 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    Kudos to you. People even make me feel bad sometimes that I didn't try to breast feed, even though PunditGirl is adopted.

    But you could do it, they said. There are ways ko do it, they said. But you know what -- we're both totally fine not taking the path so many said we should.

  • At 9/15/2007 8:06 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Congrats on the weight loss and the initiative and discipline it took to do it. Congrats on the new clothes too!

    I bf my son and gained a bunch of weight once he weaned because I was used to eating a bunch to keep up with his demand. Sadly, once he didn't nurse anymore I forgot to quit eating like that.

  • At 9/15/2007 11:27 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    A healthy mom helps make a healthy family. Congrats for taking care of yourself.

  • At 9/16/2007 8:28 AM, Blogger Sally HP said…

    I thought you looked awesome when I saw you, but didn't want to say time, I'll say it loudly! Congratulations! FYI, I breastfed for 9 months, and gained a bunch of weight when I was do you like them apples?

  • At 9/16/2007 10:42 AM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    Good for you! I'm not awake at 5:30, let alone dressed and somewhere else already, so I admire the hell out of your determination. Yay, you!

  • At 9/16/2007 6:24 PM, Anonymous Skiplovey said…

    That's great that you have a personal trainer. Even if someone does lose weight from BF doesn't mean their body will be in good shape, losing weight exercising and a good diet is the best way to go for permanent success. Good for you!

  • At 9/18/2007 12:44 PM, Anonymous Major Bedhead said…

    Good grief. I don't know that I could get up at 5:30 even if the house was on fire.

    Good for you! I just started back on Weight Watchers because, even after breastfeeding for a year, I can't lose an ounce.

  • At 9/18/2007 4:40 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Congrats on feeling good about what you are doing! I think that's as important as the weight loss, although it's nice that your hard work is paying off. I can guarantee that my ass is not going anywhere at 5:30 AM, let alone the gym.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Just When I Thought It Was Enough: More Attacks on Breastfeeding

Just when I thought I had heard it all, Self-made Mom sent me an article in the New York Times by Elizabeth Olson about a Harvard med student who is breastfeeding her 4 month-old and has been denied adequate break time to pump during her medical boards. Apparently the denial is "justified" because breastfeeding accommodations are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (I was glad to see a quote from Dr. Alison Stuebe, who was on a panel with me on the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet.)

Let me get this straight because I think I am understandably confused about what the heck is going on here in our country. Last week we bash formula feeding moms for making the choices that work for them, subjecting them to the same scare tactics that we use to prevent people from smoking cigarettes and doing drugs. Furthermore, we lump all of them together and assume that all moms who formula feed do so for exactly the same reason.

This week we're bashing breastfeeding women. We're saying that breastfeeding is obscene and should not be supported in public, on the internet or when taking tests. The student in this case will lose her fellowship if she does not pass the boards, and lack of adequate pumping time may cause engorgement and mastitis, neither of which are likely to improve her test performance. The ultimate irony? A woman may be unable to become a practicing doctor because she is following medical advice for how best to raise her children!

Really, I shouldn't be so surprised by the irony. We are constantly sending mixed messages.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Feeding babies is apparently socially unacceptable.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alex Elliot @ 10:38 AM   16 comments
  • At 9/11/2007 10:22 AM, Blogger MomSmoo said…

    I know -- assinine, right??!! That is why I don't understand why it is so much FF vs. BFing because we really should all just say -- Hey, she made her choice and it works for her, so lets all jump up and down on these examiners because they are being idiots.

  • At 9/11/2007 10:37 AM, Blogger VDog said…

    Seriously! GAH!! This stuff makes me so angry!!

    (Thanks for stopping by yesterday!)

  • At 9/11/2007 10:52 AM, Anonymous Pinks & Blues Girls said…

    Lactation 101: Secretion of milk from the mammary glands. The process occurs in all female mammals.

    Why is NORMALCY getting all mixed up with DISABILITY in the first freakin' place?

    What a tragic societal problem. Just let the mama pump.

    Sharon - Pinks & Blues Girls

  • At 9/11/2007 11:05 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    This is absolutely infuriating. And hear hear to Pinks & Blues! Why should lactation be considered a disability anyway?

    Man this really burns my ass... and not at all in a good way.

    Alex, any ideas on how to get in touch with the people who may matter? e.g is there an existing petition?

  • At 9/11/2007 1:03 PM, Blogger My name is Rima. said…

    The hypocricy of the medical community never ceases to amaze me. They also expect residents to be able to provide quality health care on no sleep.

  • At 9/11/2007 2:30 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    The media are good that way -- plenty of bashing to go around about all women.

  • At 9/11/2007 3:53 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    I look once again to the wisdom of Rabbi Boteach:

    "The science section of The New York Times recently featured a lengthy study on breast-feeding and its benefits. Breast-feeding, the study found, helps reduce the chances of infection, cold, diarrhea, illness, and even later childhood obesity. No one argues with any of these benefits, but what the report neglects to mention, and what I have personally witnessed when counseling couples, is how breast-feeding can come between a husband and wife."

    I guess it can come between a woman and her medical degree as well. She shouldn't fling such "scintillating pieces of flesh "around during tests, anyway. Ha ha ha. OK, I swear I will stop quoting him once I stop laughing.

  • At 9/11/2007 5:04 PM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    I emailed Dr. Stuebe and it's

  • At 9/11/2007 6:50 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Wow. Just Wow.

  • At 9/11/2007 9:53 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    Someone asked if there is a "petition" to sign. Petititions do nothing. Change laws. Find out what La Leche League is promoting for legislation in your state. See what the American Academy of Pediatrics is promoting for legislative action.

    But make a phone call in support of something that will help mothers (and fathers) raise their children as they see fit.

  • At 9/11/2007 11:10 PM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    Well, clearly what people want is for mothers not to feed children, or possibly not to leave the house with them. Fucking asinine.

  • At 9/12/2007 7:37 AM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    I second what momsmoo said. We should stop pitting moms against each other and all just fight this kind of blatant discrimination against mothers in general. How ridiculous.

  • At 9/12/2007 9:30 AM, Blogger Gunfighter said…

    (resisting the urge to swear)

    I really wish this foolishness would go away.

    Babies must be fed.

    Babies are either fed from bottles or breasts in their early months or years.

    Breasts are not obscene... whether a child is feeding from them or not.


  • At 9/12/2007 10:50 PM, Anonymous my minivan is faster than yours said…

    I went through four lactation specialists and prescription drugs to try and breastfeed my preemie, but it was eventually determined after 17 days of pumping HELL that I'm in that 1% whose milk is just not going to come in.

    Eleven months later my daughter was born and I told my husband I was selling my soul to Similac, because I needed HELP, not breastfeeding. So glad I found you!

  • At 9/14/2007 11:26 AM, Blogger shauna said…

    Crazy! I had the same problem while working at a university. There was no private place for me to pump or even plug in my pump in a semi-private location(I tried pumping in my cubicle by closing my door and posting a "Do Not Enter" sign--until one of my coworkers walked in on me). When I called the administration building they said they don't "support" breatfeeding moms. They told me to pump in the bathroom lobby (where all the young, hip college students were studying). And I did because I had no other option. *sigh* We live in a world of mixed-messages. Why don't we let moms make the best choice for them and then let them do their thing?

  • At 9/16/2007 1:53 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    This stuff makes me crazy. So glad you are helping to bring awareness to these issues!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Facebook and Breastfeeding

Jodifur emailed me a link to a Washington Post article by Stacey Garfinkle entitled "Breastfeeding is Obscene." To summarize, Facebook has removed all photos of breastfeeding moms from their network because they claim such photos violates the terms of Facebook by showing exposed breasts.

Are you kidding me? Seriously women just can't win. Breasts are either objectified or sexualized. This a bad message at any time, but it is particularly ridiculous and offensive to be telling women that breastfeeding is gross during National Breastfeeding Awareness month. No wonder we have problems with the breastfeeding movement here in the United States. Since Facebook has international presence, I guess this is a globalization of the attack on breastfeeding and women's choice. Instead of viewing breastfeeding as something beautiful between a mother and a baby, we're putting it on the same level as porn. There's something seriously wrong with that.

While I don't think the answer should matter, I would be interested in Facebook's answer to Ms. Garfinkle's question as to what part of the breast creates a problem for them. When a baby latches on you can't see anything anyhow!

Happy National Breastfeeding Awareness month!

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There is a lot of work to be done to help our society understand that breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural choice.

Labels: ,

posted by Alex Elliot @ 8:03 AM   20 comments
  • At 9/10/2007 9:22 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    This is absolutely absurd! I'm so furious about this that I can't even come up with a coherent response. I'll be back.

  • At 9/10/2007 11:18 AM, Blogger Jodi said…

    As soon as I saw this I knew I had to email it to you. It is so absurd.

  • At 9/10/2007 11:54 AM, Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said…

    Put the breasts away! The children will see them! Oh wait - that's the point of breastfeeding.

    Women can't catch a break with this issue, can they?

    Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

  • At 9/10/2007 2:13 PM, Blogger Worker Mommy said…

    *sigh* how very sad. I just would have hoped we'd have come further by now.
    Obscene! Give me a break... what's obscene is that someone views breastfeeding as sexual and thus seeks to banish it in public/on public sites.


  • At 9/10/2007 4:04 PM, Anonymous my minivan is faster than yours said…

    I hadn't yet heard about this. Oy oy oy! I wonder sometimes if people just can't find anything to complain about so they go back to the beginning and start from there again.

    Why anyone cares the choices other people make I will never understand.

  • At 9/10/2007 4:10 PM, Anonymous Christina said…

    I wrote about this same topic today. It amazes me that pictures of women showing even more breast in a bikini are OK, but breastfeeding is obscene. Crazy.

  • At 9/10/2007 4:38 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Not long ago, I read some absurd website by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author of the bestselling book "Kosher Sex." (I know this sounds like I am setting up a joke, but I swear this is real.) Anyway, Boteach advised women that they should not breastfeed for more than 3 months or their husbands will be jealous that the baby gets to touch her breasts more than he does. Seriously, how FUCKED UP is that? In this case, boobs are for breastfeeding and men's pleasure, but not any part of a woman's body that she controls. Sick.

    (He also, by the way, advises not having husbands in delivery rooms because they will be so traumatized that the baby comes out of the same hole they fuck that they will never have sex with you again or some insanity like that.)

  • At 9/10/2007 7:06 PM, Blogger BOSSY said…

    Oyvey - that's us, an "Advanced Species."

  • At 9/10/2007 7:35 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    First of all I can't stop laughing over Suzanne's comment. Of course, it sounds like the Rabbi was serious so really I should be outraged.

    So I wonder what Facebook would do if I posted photos of me breastfeeding my then infant twins? Nothing subtle about that one.

  • At 9/10/2007 8:06 PM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    The same thing happened on MySpace about a year ago (maybe less). As a protest, tons of women (including me) put up pictures of breastfeeding as their avatars. I'm not on Facebook, so I can't do anything there. People are stupid.

  • At 9/10/2007 8:39 PM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    So, so stupid. And then some.

  • At 9/10/2007 9:29 PM, Anonymous Suzanne said…

    For more on the wit and wisdom of Rabbi Schmuly Boteach, see my post from last year at:

  • At 9/10/2007 9:31 PM, Anonymous Suzanne said…

    Try Not to Choke from Laughter is the link to Boteach's teachings.

  • At 9/10/2007 9:35 PM, Anonymous Suzanne said…

    Now I'm addicted to writing more about Boteach on Alex's blog. (Sorry Alex!) Here's what the nut said about breastfeeding:

    Furthermore, I said, her obsession had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh...

    Obviously, breast-feeding is not the same as carrying on an extramarital affair. But when a mother gives her breasts to her son and takes them away from her husband, the effect on the marriage can feel the same.

  • At 9/10/2007 10:01 PM, Anonymous Pinks & Blues said…

    Holy crap! That is freaking ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous! I hadn't heard about that article. Am about to go check it out!
    Thanks for sharing!
    - Audrey

  • At 9/11/2007 12:43 AM, Blogger Lady M said…

    I can't believe these issues are still going on. Do you remember a couple of years ago when some ISP banned a breast cancer support group in a sweeping "no breasts" ban? This is ridiculous.

    Congrats on your blogoversary!

  • At 9/18/2007 2:48 PM, Anonymous Jenny from Chicago said…

    Great post. I posted on the same issue today. Thanks for making your readers aware of this wildly weird societal quirk.

  • At 9/18/2007 3:12 PM, Blogger Amanda said…

    I can't tell up from down and boob from clown anymore. My daughter's afternoon snack is offensive and FOX show promos border on NC17 but are embraced...WTF?

  • At 9/22/2007 12:28 AM, Blogger VDog said…

    I love your lesson, Alex. Right on.

  • At 6/25/2008 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A couple of months ago my 2 very modest breast feeding pictures were taken down from Facebook. I received an e-mail from them stating it was considered obscene material. I was warned not to reupload the photos or my account would be shut down. I was furious but had no outlet, so I just dealt with it. Today I come home to an e-mail from, where I have been an active for several years. They too have removed the photos. The reason they give: "the photos are not family friendly". I am so frustrated and angry! I don't understand how people can view breastfeeding as obscene.... I need a larger outlet to voice this issue and I just don't know where or what that is. All I know is that I am sick and tired of being told to put "them" away. I wonder why I wasted all this time, effort and painstaking frustration to be able to breast feed. I could have taken the easy way out but I worked my butt off to be able to breast feed. Myjourney started with weekly appts with a lactation consultant, drinking teas and other concoctions and taking medication to increase my milk. Not to mention the hours of painful pumping in order to boost my milk supply. All this and what for? To be constantly made to feel like it's shameful and dirty...To be looked at with disdain and horror when I discretely feed my child in hidden away corners and bathrooms? Would these people want to eat THEIR meal in a bathroom? What do we need to do to get back to basics. You know, the days when formula was suplemented to help out in desperate situation where NOTHING worked/breastfeeding was imposible and children were going to starve without it? Too many people have taken the easy/lazy way out over the years and those of us still trying to do what doctors say is best, are suffering.

    I AM SO SICK OF IT!!!!!

    The problem I have is that I have this huge opinion and a loud voice, but no clue what to do with it.

    here is my photo:

    Is it really that horrible?

    Thanks for reading!


Post a Comment
Saturday, September 08, 2007

Happy Anniversary to My Blog!

Between my older son's 4th birthday, 4th birthday party, and preschool open house, my dog's 6th birthday, and whatever else was going on this week that has left me feeling wiped out, I missed my blog's anniversary on September 4th. I can't believe I've been blogging for a whole year. In honor of that milestone, I am republishing my first blog post below:

A smidge over 3 years ago as the nurse handed over my first child to me to breastfeed for the very first time, I really thought that breastfeeding would work. After all I was the knowledgeable, well informed mom who had gone to the breastfeeding classes when I was pregnant. If I wanted to breastfeed than I would be able to breastfeed.

I had had a breast reduction 6 years prior, but my surgeon had many patients who were able to successfully breastfeed, and even the lactation consultant said it was possible. In fact the woman in the room next to me at the hospital was a fellow veteran of surgery, and after exclusively breastfeeding her first two children, her third had latched right on. I also attended the required breastfeeding class at the hospital when I gave birth and I met with the lactation consultant 4 times including one time at my home. It was a huge shock to me when my 8 day old baby ended up in the ER for dramatic weight loss, and I was devastated when the same lactation consultant told me "some women aren't meant to breastfeed and you're one of them". You know it's got to be pretty bad when the representative of the forces of breastfeeding tells you to throw in the nursing bra.

I grappled with thoughts like "how could this have happened when my son's weight was being closely monitored" and "I'm a horrible mother" and did I mention that it was September and September is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month? I then realized that while I had learned all this stuff about breastfeeding, I had no idea how to bottle feed a baby. Case in point: when I was in the ER, I let him drink the whole bottle of formula the resident had handed me. I let him try to get out every last drop. The resident then yelled at me to take the bottle away because apparently I was supposed to make sure there was a little bit of formula left over so he wouldn't suck in air and then get gas. (He gets enough without my help.) Gee, I sure wish someone had told me that BEFORE I had a baby.

Then there were all the issues of what formula to use, what bottles, why were the bottles leaking, what do you mean there's different nipple sizes, to heat or not to heat, etc. Never mind the pressure from some people not to use a bottle at all. Such a big deal was being made of this big move to breastfeed that those of us who couldn't were and have been left to fend for ourselves (the bottle feeding info was no better with my second child). I also learned that a lot of parenting in general involves trying to figure it out as you go. When my first child was born I started keeping a list of things I wish people had told me about parenting. This blog will contain the stories of my experiences and those of many friends through which we learned these lessons (and any other anecdotes I randomly feel like sharing).

A. Elliot's first lesson: Leave some formula in the bottle so you don't give your baby (extra) gas.

Labels: , , ,

posted by Alex Elliot @ 8:51 PM   9 comments
  • At 9/08/2007 11:17 PM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    Happy blog-a-versary! You know this means I'm coming to you for advice if I have to formula feed, right?

  • At 9/09/2007 9:43 AM, Blogger super des said…

    I can't read (apparently) so I first took this to mean your blog was 4 years old and I was like Holy Cow!
    But 1 year is still pretty good, so happy blogiversary nonetheless!

  • At 9/09/2007 11:39 AM, Blogger Jodi said…

    Happy Anniversary to your blog!

  • At 9/09/2007 8:32 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    Happy Blogday!! Wow, lot's going on this week.

    I'm so glad you are "out there". You really are one of those folks that makes this whole parenting thing a little less lonely.

  • At 9/09/2007 9:19 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Happy Blog-o-versary!

    That must've been soooo scary to be at the hospital with an 8-day old! Poor thing! (both of you!)

  • At 9/10/2007 3:47 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    Yeah Alex! Happy Blog-a-versary! Thank you for being a realistic and supportive voice to the parenting community.

  • At 9/10/2007 4:41 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    I'm shocked that your kids are normal and healthy since you selfishly chose to deny them of your precious breast milk. At one point, I considered calling child welfare and turning you in for abuse, you bad woman!

    Seriously, I am happy that you are filling an important void out there. I adore your blog and always look forward to reading it. I admire you very much.

    Happy blog-a-versary!

  • At 9/13/2007 5:12 PM, Blogger karrie said…

    What is the traditional gift for a 1st blogaversary?


  • At 9/14/2007 6:03 AM, Blogger Alex Elliot said…

    Karrie, it's a million dollars of course :)

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Dept. of Health and Human Services and Toned Down Breastfeeding Ads

Jodifur (as well as my friend Linda and my mom (thanks!!!)) sent me a link to an interesting article by Marc Kaufman and Christopher Lee today in The Washington Post. The article described the way heavy lobbying by formula companies may have played a significant role in persuading the Department of Health and Human Services to tone down a pro-breastfeeding ad campaign that would have employed scare tactics to persuade women of the evils of formula.

I have to admit that I struggled with mixed feelings as I read the article. On one hand, as a mother who couldn't breastfeed, I think the ads are terrible. They show syringes and inhalers with bottle nipples on them to make the point that your baby is at greater risk for asthma and diabetes if you formula feed. As I've said too many times to count, I think as a society we place an enormous guilt trip on women. It also seems like we are hypocrites. While we're trying to increase awareness and support for new moms suffering from depression, we consider this sort of scare tactic campaign to get moms to breastfeed. My friend's MIL who's a nurse told me this past weekend that she feels like we're telling women they have to nurse or they're bad moms, in a society that makes them nurse in dirty public bathrooms. At the same time, we're taking away formula samples. She felt that we're backing them into a corner. I still maintain that these actions each say that women aren't smart enough to be able to make their own decisions, particularly if people may not like those decisions.

On the other hand, hearing paid lobbyists for the formula industry express their gratitude to the Department of Health and Human Services for not "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," makes me feel a little bit used. And, they pulled the ads because of concerns about lawsuits, which came down to money. It sure wasn't concern for the feelings of moms who can't breastfeed. There seems to be an awful lot of money that was thrown around to squash those ads. I find that disturbing. That's about personal gain, not about helping out new moms.

Before you think I'm jumping on the bandwagon to save the ads, let me assure you that I'm not. As disappointed as I am with the self-serving motivations of the politicians and the formula companies, I still find the ads offensive, and I am glad that they didn't air. I am concerned about The Washington Post reference to research that found that this sort of scare tactic to be effective, and that described its similarity to the scare tactics that the anti-cigarette and anti-drunk driving groups use. I find it to be appalling. Formula is a sometimes needed form of nutrition for babies. Putting it on the same level as cigarettes or drunk driving would be like arresting someone for breastfeeding in public as though they had committed a crime like murder. Oh wait, that can happen in our society. Using formula is not driving drunk, and treating them similarly sends a horrible message. Talk about spiraling guilt for new moms!

I don't understand why this is seen as the only way to encourage breastfeeding. If the government is willing to invest this amount of money into supporting breastfeeding, they need to stop ignoring the root cause. Ads and formula bans don't address the real issue that there just isn't good breastfeeding support out there. In a country where maternity leaves are 4-6 weeks, where there aren't protections for working nursing moms to have adequate breaks and clean sanitary places to breastfeed, where for the one millionth time it is still illegal to breastfeed in public in some states, and where even in the states where it is legal women are often made to feel as uncomfortable as if it were illegal, it's not surprising that the breastfeeding rates are lower. There are so many smart intelligent people working behind these campaigns. Surely they can come up with a better way to encourage breastfeeding than employing scare tactics. Surely there is a way to encourage breastfeeding in a way that doesn't promote parental guilt and depression but does promote general respect for the individual decisions that parents make for their kids.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: A society that considers public breastfeeding a crime while treating those who formula feed like drunk drivers should not have trouble explaining why new moms struggle with guilt and depression.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 7:23 PM   9 comments
  • At 8/31/2007 9:44 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Yet another wonderful, thoughtful piece of commentary on the insanity of our world. Today I spoke to my friend Mara who lives in London. She said that one of the moms in her playgroup complained a lot because her solely breastfed baby was not gaining weight, consistently over many weeks, and was in the 4th percentile for weight. Mara suggested that she supplement with formula, and the woman acted like she suggested blowing marijuana smoke into the baby's face. Mara told her that if she couldn't be rational, she didn't want to hear her complain again.

  • At 8/31/2007 9:44 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    But these types of ads make that woman's response seem rational. So it's totally screwed up.

  • At 9/01/2007 6:49 AM, Anonymous Amy said…

    Women are just too stupid to make these decisions on our own. It's a wonder we're allowed to drive a car and get a checking account.

  • At 9/01/2007 7:29 AM, Blogger Jodi said…

    I also had mixed feelings about the article, which is why I sent it to you. I agree completely with your thoughts.

  • At 9/01/2007 8:36 AM, Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said…

    It really does always come down to money and politics, doesn't it?

    My mom formula-fed my sister and she breastfed me. I developed asthma, my sister didn't.

    My sister has formula-fed all three of her boys. And guess what? She is a wonderful mother! How can that be!?

    Jane, P&B Girls

  • At 9/01/2007 9:23 AM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Clap, clap, clap (standing ovation).

    I totally agree with you. I breastfed all three kids, but only the last one was exclusive. I was sooooo thankful that I had the option of using formula when I needed it (and, yes, I needed it).

    At the same time, it bums me out when I hear a mom say she doesn't even want to try breastfeeding; that it is 'gross' (I've heard this). I do think there are benefits to doing it, but, really, am I supposed to believe that formula feeding is akin to abuse? Those ads went too far.

    Finally, the lobbying by formula companies sickens me. They are much more concerned with the bottom line, with pleasing stockholders, than they are with anyone's health.

    BTW, the best way to make breastfeeding in public more acceptable is to do it. By #3, I could walk through Target with him attached to my boob while I pushed the other two kids in the shopping cart. Don't like it, look away.

  • At 9/01/2007 12:23 PM, Blogger Jessie said…

    I bottle fed both of my kids, and at the hospital there wasnt a problem, in fact they hooked me up with extra supplies. But then I had the first few checkups at the pediatrician, and it was there that I was made to feel like a complete idiot. There was a package for breastfeeding moms full of t-shirts, wipe samples, free cereal, etc. There were posters everywhere practically condemning me for bottle feeding, and if I werent a stronger person Im sure Id of taken it pretty seriously at the time and questioned my own parenting skills.

    I agree about the way that breastfeeding is said to be best, but that it has to be done in the bathroom because its obscene or whatever.

  • At 9/01/2007 1:03 PM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    I agree wholeheartedly. The benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented enough that there is no reason to use such cheap scare tactics. But I too felt a bit dirty being on the same "side" as the formula lobbyists in this one.
    I also hear too many mothers use this same sort of rhetoric about formula. What people who want to promote breastfeeding need to get angry about is the lack of support in the US for new mothers who do want to breastfeed.

  • At 9/02/2007 11:23 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    I'm not sure if I have a "side". My brother and I were both formula-fed and we are pretty much okay. (My mom says it was just not "done" at the time to breastfeed.)

    My daughter would not nurse (a whole 'nother post as I say) so I ended up pumping for 6 months and feeling enormously guilty for my inadequacy as a new mom.

    Two years later my son was born who nursed immediately and for 13 months. It took me some time to feel 'okay' to nurse in front of family and friends. I never felt comfortable in 'public' but I did nurse at friends and families' houses.

    There is much pressure on moms, no matter their 'choice' or what they eventually 'have' to do to feed their babies.

    My daughter, who never nursed, has had ONE ear infection at 15 months...she's 5 now. My son, who nursed 13 months had so many ear infections that he had to have ear tubes surgically inplanted.

    So, really, whatever works for baby. Right?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Transitioning from Formula to Food

A couple weeks ago, my blogging friend Hedda Dabbler, asked me if my younger son (YS) was finding it difficult to transition from formula to table food. She specifically wondered if I was concerned that he was getting enough to eat. I was not concerned for two reasons. First, I had already gone through the stress of watching my older son (OS) transition to solids at what I thought was an extremely leisurely pace. Second, YS actually transitioned to solids quickly and easily.

When OS was first introduced to solid foods, he wasn't that interested in them. He liked his cereal and his baby food fruit and vegetables, but that was about it. No Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, meat, or any food that wasn't pureed. Well, almost no food that wasn't pureed. He actually loved string cheese, and in fact "cheese" was his first word. However, he was very particular in his cheese taste. For example, cheddar cheese made him cry after he took a bite.

Initially (and initially lasted for a long time) I was concerned. Every time he had a pediatrician's appointment I would bring it up. "My son likes formula better than anything except cheese, and there is a limit to how much cheese I will let him eat. What do I do?" The pediatrician kept telling me not to worry about it (which I carefully filed under easier said than done). She said that kids all learn to eat at different rates. When I rationalized that perhaps he was slow to eat solids because he only had two teeth, she burst that bubble by telling me that teeth have nothing to do with it. (Those of you who know my husband, the Big Giraffe, casually can probably imagine this news cutting off his longwinded toothbrushing lecture to the boys listing all of the reasons why teeth are valuable mid-syllable. Those of you who know him well probably realize nothing can cut off that lecture. He simply didn't buy the pediatrician's claim that babies can consume solids without teeth, and I admit that I was skeptical too.)

Right before OS turned a year, he ate non-babyfood chicken for the first time. It was the first non-cheese, non-pureed food he was ever willing to swallow. After that chicken, it was like the barn door had been left open, and his tastebuds were on the loose. In a few short weeks, he was eating exactly what we ate. As importantly, he was eating more solid foods and decreasing his formula intake. (Our pediatrician insisted that OS continue to take in at least 18 ounces of formula a day.) By the time I switched him over to milk at 13 months, he was doing great with table food. Of course, the big giraffe and I were able to count several teeth in OS's mouth at that point, so we felt vindicated.

When it came to YS, however, things went differently. My toothless wonder was able and more than willing to eat pretty much any table food I set in front of him starting at 7 months (leaving the big giraffe and me eating our words). With OS, each food was introduced with great care over several days. It seemed like we were giving him new foods for ages. With YS it seemed to just fly by. I can't even remember when he first started eating what we ate, but he's only 13 months and we've been eating the same meals for a while now. In addition to YS's greater comfort with table food, he wants to do whatever his big brother does, so he was never happy with baby food. We also were far more laidback in introducing foods to YS because neither OS, the big giraffe, any of our extended family, nor I have any food allergies. That said, we are still waiting a while before we let YS try nuts or shellfish.

My biggest advice would be to talk to your pediatrician. That way you can get
  1. Advice specific to your child
  2. Instructions on how to assess whether your baby is properly chewing and swallowing food
  3. Up-to-date information on how often and how much the baby should be getting from the bottle or the breast
Feeding babies table food is definitely something that I've found to be easier the second time around (although I know that's not true for everyone.)

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Different babies transition to solid food at different speeds, with different levels of enthusiasm, and showing different food preferences.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alex Elliot @ 8:58 PM   6 comments
  • At 8/09/2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous Amy said…

    My son gave up baby food before he gave up the bottle, and I took away the bottle the week after his first birthday. He then went on what I like to call the "Cheerio Diet (tm)." He alternated between eating mass quantities of red grapes, Cheerios by the bucket, and yogurt.

    And that was it.

    At nearly four years old, my son will now eat nearly anything. He even eats asparagus. I don't know why I was so worried!

    My daughter was toothless until the week before her birthday, and she was able to gum anything with ease.

  • At 8/09/2007 10:05 AM, Blogger Amy Jo said…

    That's good to know. My son is 18 months and only now just settling in with real people food. I was worried about the teeth thing, too, because he didn't have any molars until about a month ago. With my second due any day now, I was anxious about have to puree and spoon feed him all the while caring for a newborn.

    Hopefully his little sister will follow in YS' footsteps and transition earlier.

  • At 8/09/2007 12:09 PM, Blogger Jodi said…

    at 7 months old my son rejected baby food outright. I called the ped. and they said "give him table food." I was shocked. But, he ate it right up and never looked back.
    I think if I ever had a 2nd one I would skip baby food. It's really an american invention. In other countries, babies get what the parents are eating, and none of this, start with cereal,then vegetables, then fruit, then meats nonsense.

  • At 8/09/2007 2:24 PM, Blogger M said…

    Thanks for the post Alex!

    At the moment Signal is eating breakfast (usually avocado mixed with some other fruit and cereal) and supper (a veggie or two, some fruit and a few rice puffs), but he seems more like OS in his relaxed approach to it all.

    He's currently still taking in about 32 ounces of formula a day, so I'm not exactly worried about that. I'm just not sure that I can see a total cut off of formula at a year. Only time will tell!

  • At 8/10/2007 11:23 AM, Blogger megymelly said…

    Oh good, somebody else obsesses about what their kids eat. To hear the women in my family talk, "kids will eat what they'll eat" and you are NOT to concern yourself with it or you'll end up one of those calorie-counting freaks who steers her kids into anorexia or obesity. Mine is NOT into table food.

    With the severe reflux and the constant feeding problems, I'm always noting every bite/drop that goes in my kid's mouth. Mine's 8 1/2 months, and has shunned table chicken (and jarred meat of any kind, for that matter). She will, however, eat little pieces of pasta from your soup, and BOY howdy, you'd better hand over that orzo the minute the waitress drops the bowl on the table.

    Glad my kid isn't the only one who will definitely be a late bloomer, table food-wise.

  • At 8/14/2007 8:58 AM, Anonymous karrie said…

    I was paranoid enough about nutrition to continue offering a cup of formula until my son was 15 months or so. (Forget the exact age.) It is more nutritious than cow's/soy milk, thanks to the addition iron.

    Now that he is 3, unless he is sick, I figure my job is to serve a healthy variety of food, and let him eat it.

    I think with formula in particular, it is easy for FTMs to become obsessed with measuring, and the switch from 32 ounces of formula a day to none can be rough ground because who really knows what actually ends up in their mouths? :)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Blog Round-Up on the Morning Show and Breastfeeding Ban

Because the segment on Fox TV was so short, none of the panelists got to fully express our points of view. I wanted to do one final post to reinforce a couple of the arguments that I consider to be most critical, and to link to all of the posts that I have seen that have further discussed and debated what happened on that show. Several of them include vigorous comment exchanges representing both sides of the issue. I would recommend that anyone who is interested in either side of the argument take a scan.

  • An actual clip showing a small part of the segment may be found on the show's website.

  • I wrote 4 posts related to the show: The Latest Formula Ban which was the original explanation of my opposition to banning formula samples for new moms, Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting will be on Fox TV Tomorrow!!!! which announced the show, Thank You and "Got Clip" which includes my effort to thank so many of you for your outpouring of supportive comments, email, and link love, and So What was It Like in which I shared what it was like for me to be on the show.

  • Suzanne also wrote several posts about the show on CUSS and Other Rants including This Just In which was a shout-out announcing it in which expressed her support. "I am excited to sit in the audience and give her a big thumbs up as she talks. I think it is no one's business to question why a woman uses formula." Suzanne also wrote Formula Feeding and Beaver Suckling which described her experience backstage before the show, and More Beaver Suckling which included some further reflections on the show.

  • Mrs. Chicky wrote Let's Hear it for Alex on New England Mamas providing a succint summary of what actually transpired on the air and sharing her personal support.

  • Amy spawned an extremely vigorous debate on formula feeding and the ban with her post on Club Mom entitled Blogger Takes on the Ban. Her words spoke directly to the issue of social pressure and guilt in saying "My first lactation consultant -- the one who admitted I needed to supplement, and supplement NOW -- described the formula in hospital bags like "sending someone home from rehab with crack in their suitcase."" She also clearly argued that just because breast milk may be best, does not make formula a bad choice when it is appropriate. "Breast milk is amazing. It's wonderful, almost miraculous stuff. But like Alex said, formula is not rat poison either...We moms have enough pressure and choices to obsess and worry about already. Give us our choices, give us support and information, give us encouragement. Not a stupid "I Eat At Mom's" onesie.""

  • Jodi also shared her personal experiences in Yeah for Alex stating "I tried, I failed, I moved on. But not without a substantial amount of guilt. Look, we all know breast milk is better. There is no debate on that. But not all of us can, or, want to nurse. For me it was an impossibility." Jodi also challenged why a formula ban should even be a priority of our government. "I also think our Government has more important things to worry about. Aren't we in a war? Doesn't NYC have crime, poverty, school funding issues?"

  • Kristen earns two distinctions. First, she is responsible for announcing my appearance on Fox from the most places, including from Motherhood Uncensored, the Blog Exchange with Blog Exchange Participant Alex Elliot on Mike and Juliet Today, and, with Julie, posting Parent Bloggers in the News on the Parent Bloggers Network. Second, her link from Motherhood Uncensored is one of the few things that I have ever seen leave my husband, The Big Giraffe, at a loss for words. Since he is Jewish, we both got a few chuckles from this blog getting a link from a post entitled A Woody with a Hoody Can be Sort of Goody.

With all that said, I want to share five key points that I consider most critical in this debate.

  • As I said in my original post, "As women, I think we are able to make our own decisions. I think as parents we do the best that we can, and we make the decisions that we feel are in the best interests of our own children."

  • Banning formula samples has the biggest impact on people who want to breastfeed and plan to breastfeed but can't. When my older son (OS), the Big Giraffe, and I got back from the emergency room at 3am when he was a week old, we knew that he had not been getting enough to eat. We were told to give him as much formula as he would drink. The hospital formula samples saved the Big Giraffe from having to choose between taking a dehydrated newborn out to a pharmacy in the middle of the night or leaving a dehydrated newborn in my care one week after I underwent 40 hours of labor followed by a c-section. Both of those choices were unpalletable. Not every community has a nearby 24 hour pharmacy. I know several other people who had almost identical experiences. It is great in the abstract to say that mothers can still request formula samples, but the people who most want to breastfeed are least likely to request those samples. The ban is potentially harmful to those families.

  • Using formula samples in time of need does not preclude women from going back to breastfeeding if they can do so and want to do so. I continued trying to breastfeed OS for several weeks (with heavy supplementing) until my lactation consultant told me that we could not make it work, and I tried again with my younger son (YS). Several commenters shared similar experiences, and I know many women personally who used formula for support, not as a crutch.

  • Even if some women abandon breastfeeding when the going gets touch if formula samples are available, Christina provided a comment sharing eyewitness accounts of mothers who fed their newborns regular cow milk if they were unable to breastfeed, which is far worse than any formula.

  • While breastfeeding is better than formula feeding, when it works, formula feeding is better than starving a child when breastfeeding does not work.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are a lot of strong feelings around how best to nurture children.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alex Elliot @ 4:04 PM   11 comments
  • At 8/06/2007 6:20 PM, Blogger Worker Mommy said…

    I agree with you 100%

    And I'm so glad you're speaking out! Without action there can't be change so kudos to you!!!

  • At 8/06/2007 6:44 PM, Blogger Jodi said…

    is nothing to say but HOORAY!!!!!!!!!

    And thanks for the link!

  • At 8/07/2007 3:10 AM, Blogger Chantelle said…

    I just wanted to say that your take on this discussion really hit home for me. I was one of the women who ended up never really having milk come in and ended up rushing to the emergency pharmacy for bottles, formula, and a sterilizer. More than 4 months later we are still successfully combo-feeding a very happy, healthy baby and I get tired of justifying this decision to every other mother that I meet.

    Thanks for inciting the debate!

  • At 8/07/2007 10:30 AM, Blogger Lisa said…

    I am so bummed that I missed meeting you at Blogher. SO bummed.

    And good for you in speaking out. YEAY!

  • At 8/07/2007 6:16 PM, Blogger Redsy (formerly CrankMama) said…

    We're also having an interesting conversation over at Babble on the topic

    Good for you!!

    Sorry I didn't get to meet you at BlogHer


  • At 8/07/2007 7:13 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    I read the posts at CUSS (read it while at work - shhhhh) and I cannot believe in inane things you dealt with.

    You have gone past rock star to diva in my opinion.

  • At 8/07/2007 8:38 PM, Anonymous Reeba said…

    Bravo Alex! I love your summary points! I think you are right on, and they are right on!

  • At 8/07/2007 9:02 PM, Blogger megymelly said…

    Well said, well argued, and thank you. We were sent home from the hospital failing at breastfeeding - daughter was a very poor latch, and a quickly frustrated screamer. We tried though the night to breastfeed her, and Thanksgiving morning at 6 AM we were desperate. I sincerely doubt we'd have found formula at that hour on that holiday. Thankfully, we got the small can of Similac and a sample bottle, and for the first time since I delivered her, my daughter stopped screaming and actually looked me in the eye.

    What I want to know is why hospitals boot you out when you are clearly failing at breastfeeding but wanting to so badly. It's like they expect you to quit (or never get started, in my case) anyway!

    PS - can't watch the clip from the show, there's a picture of a coffee carafe instead...???

  • At 8/08/2007 9:29 PM, Blogger Veronica Mitchell said…

    You write so sensibly on this topic. I wish I saw more of that around the blogosphere.

  • At 8/10/2007 12:28 AM, Blogger Lady M said…

    I used that sample container of formula when I was told I couldn't breastfeed for a week due to medications I needed for complications. I breastfed afterwards, and having the sample made no difference in my choice, but it was sure nice to have - like you described, one less thing for a late night run to a pharmacy.

  • At 8/10/2007 1:15 AM, Blogger Banal Drivel said…

    I think that pulling formula samples is a ridiculous move and purely economic in nature-not for the formula companies but for public assistance. As county hospitals are located in poorer sections of the city and their patients usually rely on Medicaid and WIC for themselves and their children, the government doesn't want to pay for formula if it doesn't have to--thus the push for breastfeeding and pulling samples.

    For the record, my 2 daughters were given pumped breastmilk until 6 weeks and 3 weeks, respectively. I had to stop for various reasons. I had to find the right kind of formula for each of them, samples came in handy (also having an aunt working at an OBG office and a very giving pediatrician) but now I take any samples and formula coupons for the ones we don't use and donate them to a women's home.

    What is next, pulling the disposable diaper samples? That is another debate...

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Thank You and "Got Clip?"

I just wanted to put up a quick post to thank so many old friends, people I just met at BlogHer, and new visitors to this site for linking, commenting, and sending emails offering so much support.

For those of you who did not catch the show on TV, there is a clip on-line. There was more to the discussion, particularly where we got into discussing the actual New York City policy banning city-run hospitals from including formula samples in diaper bags gifted to new moms and how formula is an acceptable alternative for women who can't or choose not to breastfeed. This video will at least give you a "swallow from the bottle," as it were.

You can go down two posts by scrolling or clicking to see more of my argument against The Latest Formula Ban, or check back over the next few days as I share more on the subject.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: I always believed that we bloggers are a community. Now I know it.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 4:11 PM   1 comments
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Latest Formula Ban

Last year Massachusetts almost banned the inclusion of free formula samples in hospital gift bags for new moms. New York City has now instituted such a ban. So what did I think of the action in MA? My opinion hasn't changed much since then. I still don't understand why it's an either/or situation. Yes, I've heard the arguments. A good friend of mine is a lactation consultant. She believes that if there is formula in the house, then a frustrated, tired new mom will reach for it instead of trying to continue breastfeeding. That may very well be true or it may very well not.

As women, I think we are able to make our own decisions. I think as parents we do the best that we can, and we make the decisions that we feel are in the best interests of our own children. (Note that I decided not to say your children.) We know ourselves best, and we know our babies best. New moms already feel shaky enough about parenting a newborn baby (if you didn't then you have my sincere admiration and congratulations); we don't need the guilt trip on top of it. We already do that to ourselves. As such I find it offensive that lawmakers don't feel that we're capable of saying that we don't want the formula. Certainly when I was at the BlogHer conference this weekend, I purposely did not take swag that I didn't want including the free Curves bars (don't even get me started on Curves) because I knew if I had them I would eat them, and that's not what I want to spend calories on.

Of course, I should clarify that moms in NYC will still get formula if they ask for it. Likewise, many places have 24 hour pharmacies or grocery stores where formula can be bought. However, to me the point is not quibbling over $5 worth of formula, but the principle of it: we should be able to decide for ourselves. I know many mothers who chose not to take the formula. Then there are other moms like me who needed it (and realized that we needed it at 3 am when we were home, unable to breastfeed with a crying newborn). We got to choose. What is that saying about us as adults and particularly as women when we need to have a decision like that regulated by law? I am not arguing that formula is better than breastmilk. However, it's not as if we're feeding our babies rat poison. The government does not need to protect adult women from the choice to give their babies formula.

I have heard people argue that formula should be banned from gift bags because it allows a commercial venture to place their product samples with new moms in a form of shameless self-promotion. I have yet to hear that argument applied to the sample magazines, sample medicines, or other product samples that are often given for free by hospitals, sometimes in the same gift bags. This is about delegitimizing a women's choice to feed her child formula. It is not about striking down the excesses of capitalism.

We should not be attempting to hide formula. We should be promoting breastfeeding. There is still a terrible lack of support for breastfeeding moms. It is still illegal for moms to breastfeed in public in MA. Here's what I think would be a great gift inside the free diaper bag in NYC: a certificate for a free lactation consultant session. That may be asking for too much. On the other hand, it ought to be possible to give new moms a refrigerator magnet with phone numbers of lactation consultants and resources for breastfeeding. For example, my insurance company has a nurse hotline 24 hours a day. Presumably that hotline offers some breastfeeding advice, but it would be nice for new moms to have absolute confidence that they know where they can find help. If I were committed to breastfeeding and frustrated in the middle of the night, my first instinct would be to call a hotline for help. If that weren't possible, then my next instinct would be to call first thing in the morning. Yes, my hospital provided lactation consultants, but I know from my own experiences and from friends, the consultants were overworked and that they did not always have the time to give a really great breastfeeding session.

My final complaint is about the t-shirt. It says "I Eat At Mom's". I'll give you that it's clever. However, I view breastfeeding as a beautiful and natural occurrence; a special bond that can be formed (don't be so surprised, this is one of the reasons I was so devastated that I couldn't breastfeed although I did treasure my bottle feeding experience.) To me, it's the equivalent of eating at a 5 star restaurant. I wouldn't cheapen it by putting a t-shirt on your kid that basically says "I Eat at Ed's" (Ed Debevics anyone?) when your child has just eaten at the Rainbow Room. Ultimately though, it's your decision because just like everything else in parenting, we get to make our own decisions.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: It is possible and desirable to promote breastfeeding without limiting any woman's choice for whatever reason to feed her child formula.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 9:50 PM   32 comments
  • At 8/02/2007 4:02 AM, Blogger Jenn in Holland said…

    I absolutely agree Alex. Having the choice to do what is best for you and your own baby is what matters.
    For my part, I had initial trouble breastfeeding my oldest child, and had formula nearby in case things didn't take off. Knowing that I had an option didn't make me cave on TRYING breastfeeding, it was simply reassuringly sitting there assuring that my baby would be fed, even if we couldn't get the hang of the breastfeeding thing.
    With each of the others I was grateful to have that supply on hand as well. I think to take it away is akin to telling a new momma what she has to do. And that is not what we want to do!

  • At 8/02/2007 6:47 AM, Blogger Jodi said…

    I whole heartedly agree! I also think that our country has much more important things to be worrying about and legislation.

  • At 8/02/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    I really see your point. Admittedly when MJ was first born it was my intention to not formula feed and although I could have had free samples of formulas did I desire them (I gave birth at a midwife center which did not give out samples unless you specifically asked) I chose not to take them. I was idealistic and thought we would never have BF problems.

    I agree that BFing needs support and it is absolutely absurd that women can not legally BF in public in any place. My argument to people who claim that it is inappropriate or disgusting somehow is that I find overweight people snarfing down McD's cheeseburgers disgusting, but I don't insist that THEY eat in a public restroom.

    I also don't think that women who have tried to BF and have failed (for whatever reason) get enough support. My experience with places like LLL is that they are mean and judgmental women who have no sympathy for honest to god problems. (I'm not making this as a blanket statement because that would be ignorant. I'm only commenting on my own experiences.)

    I never really gave two thoughts about the inclusion or exclusion of sample packets from hospital take home bags but you have given me something to think about. I never wanted them, but then again I always hate those stupid sample perfumes etc that fall out of magazines when I'm trying to read them. However, not that I think about it, I do think you're right. Why refuse samples? Why not include certificates towards LC sessions?

    BFing does need to be promoted and supported, there is no doubt about that in my mind, but I don't think it should be at the morale expense of formula feeding mothers.

    Thanks for this post, Alex. It is quite thought provoking.

  • At 8/02/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    wow. I didn't realize how long winded and rambling I was being. Sorry. lol

  • At 8/02/2007 9:23 AM, Anonymous Amy said…

    This kind of stuff pisses me off. Of course we need to legislate whether hospitals can give out formula, because women are too freaking stupid to make their own decision about it.

    "Oh, I was planning to breastfeed, but I got this free sample, so I guess I need to bottle feed instead."

    Absolutely ludicrous. One of the most insulting things I've ever seen.

    And, if the argument is that "product placement" shouldn't be in the hospital, then they need to stop giving you diapers too. Let's make all pregnant women bring their own diapers, or else hand out cloth diapers. That'll learn 'em!

    I get kind of fired up about this because of how I was treated when my son was born. I cannot breastfeed. I will never be able to breastfeed. I've know this since I was 18 and had the massive breast reduction that rendered my nipples useless and ugly. My surgeon told me this. When I was pregnant, my OB/GYN confirmed it. So of course, every nurse in the hospital had to make me feel like crap.

    I was barely out of recovery when a nurse came in and said, "You're breastfeeding right!" I responded with a polite, "No, I can't..." Before I could finish, she started up, "Oh yes, you can!"

    Thanks lady. I already feel great about my inability to have a vaginal birth after 3 days of labor, maybe we could just top it with a nice dose of guilt over my non-functional boobs.

    Here is my opinion. Women aren't stupid. It's your body. It's your baby. It's your decision. It doesn't matter why. You have the choice to feed your child however you want, and the message shouldn't be, "Congratulations on the birth of your new baby! You're a terrible mother!"

    I'll get off my soapbox now.

  • At 8/02/2007 2:32 PM, Blogger Hilary said…

    I think breastfeeding needs all the help it can get. We can fan the flames of the mommy wars, or talk about the real issue at hand. Most moms don't even initiate breastfeeding. I am terribly sorry for all the moms who couldn't due to surgery or other problems, but, the underdog is still the breastfeeders, as far as I am concerned. I think lactation consultants should be paid for by insurance or available free, and I don't see what this has to do with formula samples.

    Having formula coming from the hospital makes it seem endorsed by the hospital, IMO. No one pretends that most moms shouldn't use disposable diapers or children's Tylenol, so those samples are irrelevant. There is no Healthy People 2010 national goal for cloth diapering or abstaining from Tylenol that our country is failing miserably at.

    If a mother CHOOSES to feed formula, she can ask for the samples. In fact, she can ask for enough formula to feed her baby the entire time she is there. How is choice being impeded here by NOT sending it home with everybody, regardless of their feeding choice?

  • At 8/02/2007 2:53 PM, Blogger Worker Mommy said…

    Choice is key. I did both. I simply couldn't keep up with the demand of two babies. So I breastfed and formula fed.
    There is nothing wrong with either. I really wish the government/state would step out of this particular issue.

  • At 8/02/2007 3:52 PM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    Hilary - so are you honestly saying that you think this is an issue that *should* be legislated? That's just absurd. No matter if BFing is underdog or not. How is it appropriate to legislate this issue at all?

  • At 8/02/2007 4:02 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Way to go Alex. I think it is insane to say that hospitals endorse formula over bottle feeding because they give out a few samples. Do they then endorse one parenting magazine over another? Or one disposable diapers over another?

    It sounds to me like there is PLENTY of encouragement at the hospital for women to breastfeed and just throwing some free swag in a bag is not going to damage that. People need to get off their high horses about breastfeeding and mind their own business.

  • At 8/02/2007 4:31 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Well said. I found your take on this topic extremely interesting. As a mother who breastfed but who also received the free formula I never saw the big deal fuss for either argument: for or against. But I did have a problem with the perceived monopoly of one certain maker of formula. You comparison to the magazines in particular made me think.

  • At 8/02/2007 4:48 PM, Anonymous mothergoosemouse said…

    Speaking as a mother who breastfed - and whose children both self-weaned at five months - I was glad to have a few samples of formula sitting around. That shit is expensive.

    Having it in my cupboard didn't make me want to give up breastfeeding. Cracked and bloody nipples did that.

    I find it highly entertaining that many people who are pro-choice can also be so militant about breastfeeding. Inconsistent much?

  • At 8/02/2007 7:02 PM, Blogger Working Girl said…

    I don't know what I think about legislation on this issue. I am a labor and delivery nurse who believes strongly in the benefits of breastfeeding.


    My nursing philosophy is that we, as nurses, give patients information. Our patients are always free to make their own choices. If the patient makes a choice that I don't agree with, I still have a professional responsibility to support that patient and to continue to do my best to maintain a therapeutic relationship.

    This is a really difficult balance to maintain in obstetrics -- because, so often, the decisions being made are benefiting or harming a fetus or newborn -- not just the mom. I still firmly believe that those choices are the mom's to make. But, Alex, I wish that you could see some of my patients. The ones who come in to L&D with a cigarette hanging out of the side of their mouths, or the ones who try to feed their 45 minute old baby a french fry. Or the ones who have to have a police escort because they "went into labor" as they were being arrested. Or the ones (so many of these) who don't get any prenatal care and just show up at our door when their water breaks. I guess I hope that somebody holds my hospital accountable -- so that these women, with whatever hardships they have endured that have led them to be under informed about the childbirth process -- so that my hospital will only be allowed by law to give them the most beneficial gifts to take home.

    But, I totally see your argument and respect it. And I really don't know what the answer is. But I am awfully fond of typing.

  • At 8/02/2007 7:54 PM, Anonymous Amy said…

    Can I also take a minute here and ask if I'm the only person that feels like breastfeeding IS promoted? Every mom I know breastfeed. I felt like a complete outsider when I'd whip out a bottle of formula.

    Sometimes bottle feeding moms need support too.

  • At 8/02/2007 9:10 PM, Blogger Ladybug's Picnic said…

    Amy - you're not the only one. I formula fed (long story), I did try to breastfeed and could not - despite my best efforts, three weeks of trips to a lactation consultant, herbs, teas, fenugreek, you name it, I tried it - and I felt like virtually everyone else was breastfeeding. I caught many the hairy eyeball when out in public with my infant as I whipped out a can of enfamil.

  • At 8/03/2007 9:12 AM, Blogger Miguelina. said…

    I breastfeed and supplement with formula once a day.

    I get judgmental looks when I whip out a bottle of formula AND when I breastfeed.

    Point is, people will criticize any choice a mother makes. Why?

  • At 8/03/2007 9:38 AM, Anonymous dana said…

    Thank you for writing this post. I managed to breastfeed for four months and pumped for one addditional month after my son just stopped wanting to nurse. What did I do? I reached for that free sample of formula. I was glad to have that on stand-by for the moment nursing didn't carry on.

  • At 8/03/2007 9:55 AM, Anonymous Angela said…

    I came to this post via Motherhood Uncensored and can I say thank you so much. I was a mom who had always thought I would breastfeed (my mom was very pro-BF, and it was what I knew). It never occurred to me that it might not work for me. But after dangerous blood pressure, a very hungry baby and very stressed husband and me in tears, we decided it was going to be the bottle. We never regretted it. My mom was there when we made the decision and she was so supportive. I have been made to feel like less of a mom because I used formula. But my take is that there have always been bottle babies, we just have much better formula these days than straight milk from the cow, goat or water buffalo. I also have fairly big boobs that look like I should have breast feed for sure.

  • At 8/03/2007 11:07 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    The part that kills me about this is that it seems that many people are incapable to discussing it rationally. Why read this post as anti-BFing (I'm speaking of a conversation I had with someone else). I think it is CLEARLY not.

    Why is it that it is so difficult for people to have discussions about BFing and FFing without it turning into personal attacks?

    I don't see why this is a discussion about feeding anyway. In my mind this is a discussion about legislation getting involved where it shouldn't. Why focus on samples? Because it is an easy thing to do and it makes people *feel* like something is being done.

    The suggestions Alex made in her post would be MUCH more effective that banning samples.

  • At 8/03/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger Tere said…

    Very interesting discussion going on here. I have to say, at least in South Florida, breastfeeding is MOST DEFINITELY the underdog! Between my relatives who work in labor and delivery and my friends' and relatives' first-person accounts, newborns are routinely given formula in hospitals, and mothers aren't even asked if they plan to breastfeed. If you don't state it and are firm about it, staff moves forward with formula. (Just another reason why I chose not to give birth in a hospital).

    At least in these parts, BF is rare and it's hard for nursing moms to find support outside LLL. I mean, I personally have heard it referred to as "that thing" that is "gross".

    The assumption here is that moms will not BF, and hospitals generally do NOT offer information/support in the same way they hand out formula cans. There's a big discrepancy, and that's my main problem with the practice.

  • At 8/03/2007 12:21 PM, Blogger nyjlm said…

    I don't believe that removing an promotional item (formula gift bags) from the hospitals deprives anyone of the choice of formula feeding. The aim of removing the advertising samples of formula is to stop letting formula companies have free access to mothers in the hospital under the guise of a gift. Nurses should not be shilling for the companies.

    In addition, most formula bags include powdered formula, which can put some infants at risk to severe illness and possibly death from bacteria (like e.sakazaki).

    That being said, I do not deny that support after mothers get home is one of the biggest changes our society needs in order to help mothers breastfeed.

  • At 8/03/2007 12:39 PM, Blogger Karianna said…

    I was glad to have some formula samples lying around. It helped introduce the bottle when I didn't have much breastmilk pumped.

    The pressure to breastfeed was stifling, and yet the nurse fed my son formula while he was in the "continuing care nursery" without consulting me first.

    I had lactation consultants screaming at me for "letting" him have formula, and I had nurses screaming at me that clearly he wasn't "getting enough" from me, so they would have to supplement.

    In the end, the way I was able to successfully breastfeed was to also offer a bottle of formula once a day. Less stress for me meant a greater milk production, so eventually I was able to feed exclusively breast for several days in a stretch, BUT, I could also have my husband feed formula if I needed a nap.

    (Yes, I pumped, so sometimes those Daddy-fed bottles were of breastmilk.)

    Our hospital dispatched lactation consultants to all new mothers: it was a demeaning and frustrating experience. I wish they could have helped instead of lecture - encourage instead of guilt-trip. If they want more moms to (at least try to) breastfeed, they should be supportive rather than condescending.

    I get really fired up about this because new moms face so many pressures to do things a "certain way" and it is not worth the stress. Newborns need moms who can feel secure in their choices. Newborns need moms who won't be resentful. Newborns need moms who can heal from the delivery rather than staying up pumping and being criticized by nurses and lactation consultants.

    (PS: My son has been diagnosed with autism. Some of the sensory situations that affect him no doubt impacted his ability to breastfeed. Over and over again, the "right" way to do things isn't correct for his particular situation. Like you say in your blog title, we need to be FLEXIBLE!)

    Thank you Alex for your activism on this issue.

  • At 8/03/2007 1:50 PM, Blogger Christina said…

    Absolutely. That little can of free formula saved my ass with my first daughter. She hated breastfeeding from the start, and fought it every chance she could. When you have a baby screaming in the middle of the night because she's hungry and won't latch on, I'd rather give her formula than let her starve because I have a point to prove that breastfeeding is better.

    My first was partially formula fed until she was four months, and then completely formula fed after that. My second is so far completely breastfed and hates bottles. I'm glad I finally get the chance to breastfeed with her, but I still have my free can of formula sitting in the kitchen in case I need it.

    And sadly, I think the free formula is needed for another reason. There are some less-caring or less-educated mothers out there who would wake in the middle of the night, be unable to breastfeed, and either let the child scream himself to sleep in hunger or give him a bottle of cow's milk or something else unhealthy. My mother sees it all the time at the hospital where she works. Better to have the formula there than risk hurting a newborn's delicate digestive system and malnourishing them just because we want to push breastfeeding.

  • At 8/03/2007 3:04 PM, Blogger karrie said…

    Right on, Alex!

    I feel there is a class issue at play here as well. Afterall, formula feeding moms with discretionary income can just pack their own Enfamil in their hospital bag.

    Banning free formula samples, as others have mentioned, has the potential to hurt infants, and disproportionately to harm lower income infants. Might formula samples sabotage a breastfeeding relationship? Sure, but of the number of mothers I know of who successfully breastfed--many extended bf-ers--almost all of them used some formula, whether it was in those first rough days, or shortly after when they needed to leave a bottle and did not feel like pumping, or were unable to do so.

    If we want to promote higher breastfeeding rates, we need to first make real maternity leave available for *all* mothers, AND throw in your idea of free consultations with LCs.

    Until we have the structural support in play within our society to really make breastfeeding a workable majority goal, I simply cannot get behind banning formula samples.

    Can you imagine the flak those moms who ask for formula will get? I have a few friends who were unable to breastfeed the first time around, and decided not to even go there with future kids, who were harassed when they made the choice to use formula from the start with kid #2 or 3.

  • At 8/03/2007 3:05 PM, Blogger karrie said…

    Right on, Alex!

    I feel there is a class issue at play here as well. Afterall, formula feeding moms with discretionary income can just pack their own Enfamil in their hospital bag.

    Banning free formula samples, as others have mentioned, has the potential to hurt infants, and disproportionately to harm lower income infants. Might formula samples sabotage a breastfeeding relationship? Sure, but of the number of mothers I know of who successfully breastfed--many extended bf-ers--almost all of them used some formula, whether it was in those first rough days, or shortly after when they needed to leave a bottle and did not feel like pumping, or were unable to do so.

    If we want to promote higher breastfeeding rates, we need to first make real maternity leave available for *all* mothers, AND throw in your idea of free consultations with LCs.

    Until we have the structural support in play within our society to really make breastfeeding a workable majority goal, I simply cannot get behind banning formula samples.

    Can you imagine the flak those moms who ask for formula will get? I have a few friends who were unable to breastfeed the first time around, and decided not to even go there with future kids, who were harassed when they made the choice to use formula from the start with kid #2 or 3.

  • At 8/04/2007 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm wicked late, so I doubt anyone is checking this, but to Hilary:

    Three-quarters of all women attempt breastfeeding. It's hardly the underdog. Maybe back in the 60s, it was (in fact, it most definitely was), but it's back in vogue with a vengeance, and for good reason.

    However, whether it's formula or breastfeeding that's the underdog, that is no reason to judge anyone for their choices. As Alex said, it's YOUR baby, and mothers do what's best for them.

  • At 8/04/2007 6:50 PM, Anonymous Jenn said…

    Coming from a culture that has the alarming and outdated belief that nursing is something only poor uncivilised people do (I am a Malaysian Chinese and my MIL was the one who told me that - the rich, apparently, hire wet nurses when formula had not been invented), Malaysian nursing moms are, sad to say, a dying breed.

    Formula/bottle-feeding is the preferred mode of nutrition today because of a custom we call 'confinement' where a mother is supposed to turn into a vegetable and remain horizontal for four weeks or risk having her uterus fall out in old age.

    As a mom who formula-fed her first daughter and breastfed her second, I don't feel as much guilt as I do regret for not having persevered with my first child because once I'd gotten the hang of it, it was the most natural thing to do in the world. And therein lies the difference - I never felt guilty for not having nursed my first child BECAUSE other moms did it. What other moms did/didn't do have no bearing on my ability to be a good mother.

    Still, I cannot tell you how many times I've wanted to slap a new Malaysian mom on her head when asked why she decided not to bf and her answer is, "My husband says my breast milk smells!" or "Oh, my mom says breastfeeding will make my boobs sag/shrink/implode". I must confess to having wished that my government would erect laws against formula-feeding, just for the first few months you know, to see how these women will react.

    Just an experiment. For a while.

    As for laws against free formula, don't the govt know better than to ban swags?!

  • At 8/06/2007 11:59 AM, Blogger MomSmoo said…

    Just one comment that I believe needs to be said to your otherwise very intelligent and articulate post...

    NYC has banned smoking in public places, trans fats from all restuarants and now formula freebies. The first two didn't raise an eyebrow. I do NOT understand why people get all upset about the government saying that breastfeeding IS best. It is no different from saying trans fats are no good and therefore, even though you are a competant adult and able to make your own decisions, we are making this one in the interest of public health.

    As you stated, if you want to formula feed, then all you have to do it ask for it, just like if you are having trouble with breastfeeding and feel the desire to continue then you just need to ask for the help. Our society has become so self-entitled that they get their panties in a wad because it isn't just handed to them? Absurd in my mind.

    Although the fact that MY tax dollars are actually going to this crap, does bother me, but I feel as though we have let the horse out of the gate already on whether we are going to allow the government to make these health choices for us.

  • At 8/06/2007 10:33 PM, Blogger mama k said…

    I don't get how this is a woman's rights thing.

    We are talking about asking for formula samples vs. being given them under the guise of a "breast feeding support kit"
    No one is taking away the samples. They are just *trying* to promote the healthiest option.

    This so not about breast vs. bottle. It's about giving women the correct information... and the formula companies are not going to give you anything to help you breastfeed in their "support kit" They kind have a vested interest in you buying formula.

    I do not understand why this has to be a "law" per say but as the previous comment said the government in NY has been banning things and putting policies into place long before now. Why is this one such an issue? I suspect it's due to the tired ol' breast vs. bottle mommy wars.

    Just my 2 cents.

    (found you via motherhood uncensored)

  • At 8/07/2007 9:58 AM, Anonymous Kendra said…

    I think they should allow women to make their own choices. Perhaps there is a better solution than just saying either everyone gets them (unless they specifically ask for them not to be put in) or no one gets them. Perhaps they could make a bag for exclusively breastfeeding women, one for bottle-feeding women and one for women who do both or are unsure. Or perhaps instead of putting the sample itself in the bag, they could put a coupon for a free can, then it's a 2 step process. You're frustrated with breastfeeding but you have to go to the store to get your free formula.

    I do have to admit that they accommodate people who breastfeed in the hospital by having lactation consultants available why wouldn't they accommodate people who going to bottle-feed.

    I do think it's a waste of our tax dollars for them to be passing legislation on it. It seems like sometimes they just don't think they have anything important to pass legislation on so they think up stupid stuff. How about trying to get us out of Iraq?

  • At 8/09/2007 12:25 PM, Blogger Whirlwind said…

    Alex - the magnet with lactation consultant info on it would be fantastic! With my first (who also came one month early) I felt like I had no one to turn to. My doctor supported our decision but didn't offer us help when really needed. Since it was my first, I didn't have any friends to turn to. All that has changed and my breastfeeding attempts went much easier with the other two (although number two still had failures, I wasn't as upset/second guessing my decision as much). By the time #3 came, I tried again. And she's the one I nursed the longest (10 months). However, I still supplemented when I needed to because I knew it wouldn't harm her.

    Also it's surprising that it is illegal to nurse i npublic in MA. In CT it's illegal to stop someone from nursing. I believe I probably nursed daughter in public in MA without knowing. I know I did in VT and RI....

  • At 8/10/2007 1:07 AM, Blogger Nora H. said…

    Imagine going to jail for breastfeeding in public! ha! I love that this blog exists, having had mucho breastfeeding problems and experienced much guilt about having to bottlefeed. Thank you!

  • At 12/21/2008 8:29 AM, Blogger mother in israel said…

    I know that this is a very old post, but since I found it presumably others will as well.
    First of all, let's keep in mind the the issue is not only whether mothers breastfeed their babies or not. The mother's (or the parents') decision relates to the most vulnerable members of our society, newborn babies. So we must make doubly sure that their interests are not compromised.
    Banning formula samples does not limit a mother's choices. All mothers know that formula is an option. But countless studies have shown that formula samples DO impact mother's choices. In fact it limits them, because once a mother has switched to formula returning to breastfeeding is harder. AS long as she is still nursing she can always wean. And what if she can't afford the formula?
    It's naive to assume that mothers--or anyone--are immune to marketing. Especially mothers of newborns, who are in hormonal flux and naturally concerned about health of their babies. They are especially vulnerable to sophisticated marketing techniques. And even one bottle can increase a baby's risk of allergy and illness.
    I know many experienced breastfeeding mothers who were persuaded to offer formula to their babies by hospital staff.
    If we can limit cigarette and alcohol advertising to teens, surely we can ban free samples of an unnecessary and risky product for our youngest citizens. Formula marketing has no place in hospitals.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

A Farewell to Formula

So this post has been coming for a while. Almost exactly a month ago, my younger son (YS) finished his last can of formula. Since we're not currently planning on having more children, my run with formula is over (this is not to say that I won't still be posting about formula and formula related topics.)

It probably seems a little weird to have a post reflecting on my second one-year stint with formula. It's over! Let's celebrate! After all, I never found the prospect of formula exciting. Both times that I was unable to breastfeed, I was concerned that a whole year of formula loomed ahead of me. A whole year of extra expenses, carting around bottles, washing bottles and let's not forget about a whole year where I felt like the odd woman out every time I pulled out a bottle in public.

When I was told by the lactation consultant to throw in the nursing bra so to speak with my older son (OS) I was at really freaked out by the health and emotional concerns of not breastfeeding. This was quickly followed by the financial aspects of formula feeding. A friend pointed out that formula feeding has a beginning, a middle and most importantly an end. It's not something that goes on forever. Barring any problems, it's 12 months from start to finish. During both of my years with formula, I looked forward to the days when I wouldn't have to drop $31 at BJs for each can of formula. I thought of all the money I could have been saving and what I would do with all the money I would be saving when my kids switched to whole milk.

Here's what I've found now that I've gone through this twice. Yes, formula feeding is expensive. However, once solids are introduced the amount of formula that is consumed is less. So really you're not paying the same amount for formula each month for all 12 months.

Kids are expensive. More importantly as they get older, they want and need different things. Yes, this month we didn't have to pay for YS to drink formula. However, we have paid for him to eat lunch and dinner when we go out because not only is he old enough to really enjoy going on family outings, but he now eats what we eat. We also will be paying for him to do swimming lessons because he is old enough. I also have paid for a family membership at the Y because he's both old enough both to enjoy some of the tumbling classes and to participate in my favorite service: the childwatch.

Yes, these are isolated events and of course are choices not necessities, but my point is that I wish I could go back in time to visit myself during the first few days of being a new and terrified mom and point out that the formula cost is relative. We've got a nice preschool tuition bill due for OS soon!

As for the emotional and health aspects? Well, I can honestly say as the mother of an almost 4 year old, I can't think of the last time someone asked me if OS was breastfed. As quickly as I was thrust into the world of breastfeeding (or lack of breastfeeding) it ended. Now when OS is sick, I'm just the mom of a sick four year old. Never mind when I was last asked about OS; I can't even think of the last time I was asked about breastfeeding YS! Now that we're entirely responsible for making sure that he gets all the vitamins and minerals he needs, I sometimes miss that fortified bottle of formula. Thankfully Enfamil makes daily infant and toddler vitamins!

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: The cost and inconvenience of infant formula may pale in comparison to the cost and inconvenience of keeping older children fed.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 9:36 PM   6 comments
  • At 7/24/2007 12:49 AM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Congratulations! This post made me a bit misty eyed, as I can't believe how big YS is getting.

  • At 7/24/2007 8:40 AM, Blogger CableGirl said…

    You really do have a wonderful blog. I only wish I had found you in the first few months of MJ's life. We struggled so hard for so long with BFing and it just didn't work... she kept losing weight and I kept feeling inadequate. Unfortunately every blog I read and everyone I talked to kept telling me that I had to keep at it no matter what. I finally gave up when I realized that her health was MUCH more important than a stupid battle with my boobs. I still have moments of feeling embarrassed when I whip out a bottle in a public place, but that's my issue, not hers.

    Congrats on having raised two such healthy boys to this ripe old age. ;)

  • At 7/24/2007 12:40 PM, Anonymous Expecting Executive said…

    I completely relate to your post! Who knew that when you thought you were done being judged for formula feeding here comes the next round of debate...homemade organic food versus "Lunchables"...sigh! Ah, but it makes for good blog content.

    Thank you for your blog and the support you offer to mothers. No mother should have to justify or apologize for formula feeding her children! Keep up the great writing!

  • At 7/24/2007 5:30 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    You do such a good job acknowledging transitions. I feel like I don't notice or reflect until months after the fact.

  • At 7/24/2007 7:38 PM, Blogger megymelly said…

    I thought the same, when I got the "Your daughter should really be balancing out formula with three meals of healthy solids a day, and you have to make sure each food group is represented in such-and-such a way, and..."

    ... I mourned the introduction of formula almost 8 months ago, and now I'm just thinking, "I miss the days when I could just give her formula and know she was squared away." the kid who would eat anything as long as it was on a spoon has decided she's not particularly cool with that anymore.

    Enjoy your writings, thank you for sharing. Breath of fresh air for a mamma with a bottle.

  • At 7/26/2007 1:49 PM, Blogger M said…

    Out of curiosity, do you find it difficult to get enough food into YS to make up for the fact that he's not on formula anymore? Signal will soon be 8 months old, and he's eating about 4-5 tablespoons of food on a good day. I'm having a hard time imagining getting him to the point where I could wean him off formula in 4 short months!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

"There are Babies Who Don't Nurse"

The title of this post is a direct quote from Jodi. One of the things that was the hardest for me when I realized I needed to formula feed my older son (OS) was that I felt completely alone. As I've said before, I didn't really know anyone who was exclusively formula feeding. A cousin of the Big Giraffe was, but she lived over an hour away from me. I also couldn't learn about formula feeding from bloggers. Blogging wasn't as big then, and even if it had been, as valuable as it may as reading about other people's experiences, the written word doesn't have the same nuances or tone as real speech. When Jodi told me she was going to describe her experiences with formula on Motherhood Uncensored Blogtalk Radio, on the show entitled "Mommy Guilt: Don't Let it Eat You Alive," I was really looking forward to hearing her. First of all, I really enjoy her blog, but second of all, I wanted to hear what she said about formula feeding.

In the show Jodi describes her inability to breastfeed despite trying everything the lactation consultant suggested. Her son would not latch on. She also described about how embarrassing it was for her to pull out a bottle in public. I could empathize with what she said. My first experience in the world of moms friends was through a community new moms group. I was the only one in the group who didn't breastfeed. Two of the women in the group were very vocal about the benefits of breastfeeding to the extent that I began to doubt the science I had studied for my post-BA certificate, not to mention my parenting. My cell biology professor set me back on track by describing the different types of antibodies that are in the human body and how each are transferred, but the guilt that I was a terrible mom still remained. Jodi is right; when you're not comfortable with bottle feeding, pulling out a bottle in public is very embarrassing. Sara has a story on her blog about someone she knows who had a double mastectomy and got a hard time from someone when formula feeding her baby in public.

The second thing I wanted to address about Jodi's talk show was that no one ever told her that some babies don't ever breastfeed. I was fortunate that my lactation consultant gave me "permission" to throw in the nursing bra so to speak and assured me that my baby would be just fine. However, this was after OS was 8 days old and had been in the ER for dramatic weight loss. I needed someone to tell me it was okay. My husband and I were both breastfed. I come from a medical family. I had taken all these science classes and learned about breastmilk and antibodies. I needed someone with a medical background to support me and tell me that my baby would be fine. With my second child, I had to come to the place when I was pregnant where I could give myself permission to stop. There is a reason that my kids are 34 months apart. Before I walked into the hospital to give birth, I decided to take breastfeeding from moment to moment. At any point if I felt that I was seeping back into the black hole I had been in with OS, I would stop, even if that meant I never even tried to breastfeed. For me, my descent occurred after I came home from the hospital when YS was about 1 week old. By that point he was so frustrated with my poor milk production that he wouldn't latch. I continued to pump for 4 more weeks until my milk was basically gone, and that was that. Unlike OS who couldn't latch, YS did latch onto me. I am glad that I got to experience those moments on breastfeeding with YS. It leaves me with a happy feeling towards my breastfeeding experiences.

I thought I would share a bit about my kids health experiences. Again, this blog is pro-breastfeeding, but this post in particular is about what happens if breastfeeding just doesn't work for whatever reason. My kids are both very healthy. We're the ones who are always at playgroup. My older son has missed preschool (aka germ city) a few times because of vacation and because I've been sick, but only once because he's been sick. I'm pretty strict about taking a sick day if there's any question. My older son had ear tubes, but I have been reassured many times by his ENT that it's because his Eustachian tube is abnormally shaped, and that it has nothing to do with formula feeding. So where did this Eustachian tube come from? From my genes, not from my bottles. I have a long list of ailments that I have suffered, despite being solely breastfed. That is not to say by any means that breastfeeding isn't good, but simply to show that it's not a guarantee of good health:
  1. 10% hearing loss due to silent ear infections
  2. Scarlet Fever in kindergarten
  3. Pneumonia twice in kindergarten
  4. Horrible case of the chicken pox in second grade
  5. Viral meningitis
  6. weird long lasting high fever for a week and terrible sweats not to mention a strange rash that has left minor scars on my arms when I lived in NYC right after college
  7. My parents call my Typhoid Alex because I had so many weird virus growing up
  8. Thankfully no allergies

One of YS's pediatricians said that she personally thought poor health and allergies have more to do with genetics and what kids are exposed to. I know that YS got his first cold much earlier than OS did, but then again YS also had an older brother who was in preschool bringing home germs. As Jodi said "you parent the child you have". My kids are formula eaters.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: There are Babies Who Don't Nurse; It's Okay.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 10:10 PM   7 comments
  • At 5/19/2007 9:21 AM, Blogger Jodi said…

    I am so glad you enjoyed the show, and you wrote something this powerful and important from it. I do think we as moms tend to be too hard on each other, we need to trust we know how to do what is right for our kids.

    Thanks for the links!

  • At 5/19/2007 12:47 PM, Blogger Jessie said…

    I didnt even try with my two boys, because it was my choice not to, and I am still proud of it. I was never embarrassed by using a bottle in public, the one and only time someone ever said anything to me about "how could you just do that right here in the store," I laughed at them. Parents make their own decisions on whats best for their children, or what works, there is nothing to be ashamed of, be it bottle or boob in public.

  • At 5/19/2007 1:36 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    I find it absolutely freaking incredible that anyone would give a stranger a hard time about how they are feeding their kid. It just seems...wrong.

  • At 5/21/2007 7:03 PM, Blogger Devra said…

    I'm glad you listened too, and it is absolutely true that some kids just dont' latch on. I actually did mention some point in the show that my own son was diagnosed with an "ineffective suck" something that isn't often discussed by MD's but certainly is known to occur in infants. If I didn't expand that to specifically saying to Jodi that some babies don't nurse, I was remiss.

    It is absolutely true that there are babies who don't breastfeed and it's not about the mother at all, it's about the baby's make-up and just nature being nature.
    Finally, let me add in my experiences as a social worker, not being breastfed isn't a typical precurser to why someone would come in to my office to meet me and address their mental health issues. Breast feeding seems like a big deal because the issue comes up right away, but in the big picture, it's not the be all and end all of their entire future successes. It's not a failure on anyone's part if breastfeeding doesn't happen, for whatever reason.

    It's okay not to breastfeed, it's okay if your baby doesn't breastfeed. What we need to develop is a society that realizes it.
    Now, let's all nurse a few drinks at BlogHer, shall we?

  • At 5/21/2007 7:08 PM, Blogger Devra said…

    oops, maybe you meant that no one ever told Jodi when she was struggling with the nursing that some babies don't nurse? I thought you meant that no one on the show told her this and I wanted to make sure you knew Jodi had gotten some reassurance and support later on in the show if you had not listened to the full program.

  • At 5/21/2007 11:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Husband and I were both bottle fed. He came out very well. I'm sure that my nuttiness has to do with other factors. :)

    I read a great book by Dr. Jennifer Shu on newborns and she repeatedly stresses that the most important thing for babies is having non-stressed mothers. The judgments that parents must deal with are more harmful than formula feeding by far.

  • At 6/13/2007 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I stumbled accross this blog, and I must say it's awesome!!!!!!!! It's about time that someone took a balanced approach to these issues. I spent too many wasted hours feeling guilty that I couldn't make breastfeeding work, instead of enjoying my first baby. Alas, I was about to do the same thing again with my second. Thank you for the reality check!


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's No Party for Those Who Breastfeed at iParty

After a very busy day yesterday, I decided to crash on the couch and watch the news. That's when I learned about a new very sanitary place to have a picnic when I run errands with my boys. I have to admit a lot of times when I'm out and about and the kids need a snack, I do worry that perhaps the store we're at or the grocery cart they're sitting in really isn't clean enough for them to be eating. Alright I confess that I really don't worry about that nor do I even normally carry snacks when I run errands with the boys, BUT if I did thanks to the news I know the perfect place for them to eat: in a public bathroom! Pretty amazing, huh? So how did I find out about this brilliant place to eat? In a news segment of course! I know you just can't wait to see the link so here it is: "Mother upset after being kicked out of store for breast-feeding her baby." Got to love the wordy title.

To sum it up, this mom was shopping at iParty with her husband and 8 week baby when the baby got hungry. She sat down in the aisle to breastfeed and was asked to leave. I still can't believe that it's illegal to breastfeed in public in MA. Anyhow, I was already pretty annoyed when I was in the midst of hearing what had happened because I think breastfeeding in public should be legal. However, to top it off, they interviewed 4 random iParty customers who were not even there when this happened, not that it matters but it just shows how insane this was, to show that the opinion on breastfeeding at iParty is split. There's a helpful survey right there! Anyhow, this one woman said that if the mom really needed to breastfeed her baby, she should have gone into the bathroom. She said it like she had come up with a brilliant solution. (I'm disappointed that her comment isn't in the story on-line.) I'm sure that bathroom there is real clean! I immediately had two thoughts when I heard her say that.
  1. When I've had to sit on a floor of a store to bottle feed my babies, I've been pretty desperate and there hasn't been time and/or a better place to go much less a chair. I doubt she was sitting there because she felt like it.
  2. Do you know how much my boys would love to eat in a public bathroom! All the gross disgusting things in there that they could get into and touch? OS has always been very intrigued by the sanitary napkin bins. YS is really into floor drains these days and both of them like to lick floors. I imagined if someone told me I had feed my 10 month old in a public bathroom. It would take 5 times as long and he, OS and I would need to be sterilized afterwards. OS would probably want to start eating all his meals in a bathroom.
  3. Who shops at iParty? I'm sure a good percent of their customers are mothers throwing birthday parties.

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: It's better to unwind with a book instead of the news.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 5:54 PM   2 comments
  • At 4/25/2007 10:21 PM, Blogger super des said…

    That's why I don't watch the news.

    Someone else mentioned this topic (were you guys watching the same story?) and I said I'd rather see a flash of tit then hear a hungry baby crying forever. Sometimes a baby's just gotta eat.

  • At 4/30/2007 8:09 AM, Blogger Nancy said…

    I will never understand people who are "uncomforable" or even "repulsed" by seeing a mother breastfeed her child. I guess we're all just so hung up about sex that we can't get past what a woman's breasts were really intended for.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Answering the Question: What's So Wrong With Formula?

Yesterday Jodifur emailed me an article by Stacey Garfinkle from The Washington Post called What's So Wrong With Formula?.

Well, it probably won't surprise you to hear that I agree with what she wrote. I don't understand why there are so many judgments out there. I agree with making breastfeeding education available to pregnant women and offering good access to lactation consultants to new parents. It makes me mad that it is illegal in some states to breastfeed in public. I do think breastfeeding is best if it works. I've had a few interesting conversations with people both in person and over email about how I feel about breastfeeding. I absolutely support it. If any of my friends were to get pregnant and wanted my advice, I would absolutely encourage them to try breastfeeding.

On the other hand, I would never question anyone who decided that breastfeeding was not for them. There are a whole bunch of reasons why breastfeeding might not be best for a particular family, ranging from physical inability to emotional reasons to impracticality because of work schedules. And, as several people commented on the article, I think it is more important that the baby is fed than how the baby is fed.

I have heard some breastfeeding advocates make an absolute argument that because breastfeeding is natural it is somehow guaranteed to work. After all, in the good old days, there was no formula, and every baby was breastfed. I think these advocates have forgotten that society wasn't Utopian. A lot of women depended on wet nurses to feed their babies, if they were unable to breastfeed. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time I looked in the jobs section of the newspaper and saw an ad for "wet nurse for hire." And while I can't give you a specific link (you can do a google search on your own) I also remember learning that back in the olden days where multigenerational families always lived together and other relatives lived right by you, if you couldn't breastfeed your baby, then maybe your sister or sister-in-law could. Either way, there was a much higher infant mortality rate; I am not claiming that is linked to breastfeeding, but it does show that breastfeeding alone is not a panacea for all childhood health issues.

The two best two classes that I took in my life were college statistics and research methods. (I'm a graduate of Wellesley College, and if you're a woman, taking those classes at a women's college is pretty cool. Most of what we analyzed were studies done on women.) Every time I see a study, regardless of the subject - even if it is on gardening, I am grateful that I took those two classes. They taught me how to assess the validity of a study, based on its parameters and how to read and interpret the results.

If someone asked me what they should do to prepare for parenthood, I would encourage them to study statistics and research methods. After all, you can get knowledge from any number of sources on any parenting subject, without needing to take a class. One of the keys to parenting is knowing what information you should believe. My classes have given me substantial cause to question many of the studies that claim to prove the inferiority of formula feeding. Please read the next statement carefully: It is not that I believe that they are necessarily wrong; it is just that I believe that there is a common societal belief that the studies have made a far stronger case than I many times believe the data warrants. Along those lines, the largest problem with these studies in my opinion, is the a failure on the part of the public to differentiate between a correlation and causation.

There are often outside variables that you can't separate or in other words "are the other reasons why this could have happened." For example, many studies have shown that breastfed babies tend to have be smarter than formula-fed babies. Does that mean that breastmilk makes babies smarter? Not necessarily. The correlation could be the result of other factors. One argument that I've read in numerous sources is that more educated parents tend to be more likely to emphasize the value of education and ensure that their children are better educated (not something that was accounted for in the study.) More educated parents also tend to breastfeed their children. Thus the correlation between children being breastfed and children being more educated could plausibly be explained by the educational level of their parents.

My older son(OS) required ear tubes due to fluid in his ears from multiple ear infections. My younger son (YS) is being watched to see if he needs the same. Aha! They both were formula-fed. Could that be the cause? Well...maybe there are other factors. I was exclusively breastfed, but I lost 10% of my hearing from childhood ear infections. My exclusively breastfed husband had so many childhood ear infections that he was one ear infection away from tubes. When I asked my ENT if only breastfeeding for 5 weeks could have caused OS's ear problems, he looked at me like I was crazy and said it was because OS's Eustachian tubes were abnormally shaped and that it would have been a medical miracle if OS hadn't had problems with ear infections.

For the record, OS has never once had diarrhea either. So am I saying that you should go formula feed your babies to avoid diarrhea? That my mom should have formula-fed because, hey, I lost 10% of my hearing anyhow, so she might as well have thrown in the towel? No, I am simply pointing out once again that just because something might happen doesn't mean that it will, and even if it does, you don't necessarily know what the cause may be. (Again, I wish I had been able to breastfeed my kids.) OS might just have a great digestive tract. Maybe it's because since he was an only child I didn't take him to parks and indoor playgrounds until he was older, as opposed to my younger son who's already been to parks numerous times because OS wants to go. Maybe it's because I make him use soap and water to wash his hands before meal times (I'm not a big fan of those hand sanitizer gels but that's another post). Maybe as an only child he didn't have anyone bringing in germs from preschool...See how great a stats and research methods class can be?

A. Elliot's Lesson Learned: Understand the research before you believe it.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 9:52 PM   4 comments
  • At 3/31/2007 10:41 PM, Blogger Jessie said…

    Thank you.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • At 4/03/2007 9:13 PM, Blogger M said…

    Yes, thank you.
    Despite the fact that I was unable to breastfeed due to a breast reduction, I still feel very self-conscious every time I have to give Signal a bottle. Thanks for pointing out to me that there is more to the breast-bottle debate than meets the eye.

  • At 4/04/2007 7:37 AM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    Rock it, girl! I love this post. You are the best.

    I'd also point out that many babies starved to death before formula was available.

  • At 4/04/2007 4:47 PM, Blogger Jodi said…

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the article, and I so agree with you. I attempted to and could not breastfeed, and it's nice to here people discuss that it is not the end of the world. While my ped. was quite supportive b/c of the problems we had, others were not.

    Here is my blog post about it-

    Anyway, you rock Alex!!!!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Breast Feeding after Reduction

One of the many things that I was surprised by when I was pregnant with my older son (OS) was how little my ob/gyn and the nurses seem to know about breastfeeding after a breast reduction (BFAR). While I do not have any current stats on how common breast reductions are or how common it is to have them before having kids, I know that it is not an unusual procedure. However, the reality was there wasn't a lot of information out there. I did speak with a lactation consultant when I was pregnant who not only told me that a good electric breast pump would be helpful, but that my insurance company would probably pay for it. She was right. She recommended one other thing: a book called Defining Your Success by Diane West which is about breastfeeding after a breast reduction surgery. People swear by it (at least in the reviews I read from I tried to order it on-line, but at the time it was out of print. I eventually did get a copy of it before I had my second son. I was glad that I looked at it, and I'm glad that there's a book about BFAR out there. I think it's important to know that this book exists, but I personally didn't like it. More on that in a different post.

Shortly after this conversation, a La Leche leader who is a friend of my mom told me about a support group called BFAR. This group stands for breastfeeding after breast reduction. Despite my personal discomfort with this web site, there are testimonials from women in the group about how valuable it has been to them. That is why I'm posting about it. On the positive side, I like the fact that they provide an opportunity to discuss breastfeeding with someone who had also had a breast reduction. It would have been nice to know someone who's in the same boat. More importantly, they do have a lot of resources which, as I said above, is unusual. They also give information on what you can do to increase your chances of breastfeeding while you're pregnant.

What I didn't like about the site was the emphasis on regret. It appeared that it was more of an "I'm sorry I had a breast reduction" group. I am not sorry that I had breast reduction surgery. I also felt the site could seriously undermine any pregnant woman or new mom's confidence in her ability to breastfeed. Since to me confidence is an important component of being able to successfully breastfeed, I didn't think this group was a good match for me.

I recently checked out the website again, since it's been a few years, and I struggled most with a section about breast reduction surgery called "Should you have it?" I didn't like the way the site put all of the testimonials from women who were sorry that they had breast reductions at the top. The ones who weren't sorry were more hidden at the end. I feel that there is enough guilt that goes along with just being a parent. I don't need to start questioning a decision that I have always felt was best for me. I viewed it as medically necessary (hey, my insurance company certainly agreed) end of story. I also think discussing breastfeeding in a group that is at least as focused on regret as on supporting breastfeeding when I was having difficulty breastfeeding would have really put me in a black hole.

My efforts to breastfeed made me miserable, and, like I've posted before, the lactation consultant who visited me 4 times was the one who told me it was time to move on. Having her "blessing" made it a lot easier for me to let go. I know that if I had been around people who were telling me to keep trying, it would have been much harder. Ultimately, I was much happier being a mother when I switched over to formula. Ever since I became pregnant, I asked myself this particular question when I'm in a tough situation: "Will _ make me a better mother?" For me, breastfeeding, or more correctly my lack of ability to breastfeed, not only resulted in my son having a trip to the ER for severe weight loss, but it made me not enjoy being a mom because I was depressed, oversensitive and very irritable (not to mention consumed with guilt). That's not to say that I didn't have guilt when I started to formula feed (and quite frankly for a long time after) but at least I was happy and also equally importantly my baby was happy.

I emailed Suzanne today about a recollection that had made me feel better about formula feeding: When OS was a newborn my mom came out to help, and she bottle fed his supplements to him for me to give me a break. It helped me feel removed from the situation and made me able to see it through "new eyes," so to speak. When I saw how happy and content he was after eating, I felt better. My breastfeeding with my younger son (YS) had all the early hallmarks of success. However, he also started to lose a lot of weight. When I was told he needed to have a bottle in the hospital, I cried. At 3 in the morning my very supportive husband and I went to the nursery to "spy" on the nurse who was feeding YS. YS just looked so peaceful that I immediately felt better. Just like with OS, I gave him breastmilk and formula for 5 weeks until my milk dried up. With YS I was then able to move on to just formula leaving the guilt behind this time. Everyone around me was very supportive.

The part of the web site most evocative of guilt was the section where they talk about whether future moms should hold off on surgery until after they are done having babies, saying

"As mothers, we have to make hard choices and we often have to make some sacrifices to give the best for our children. This is one area that you can make a personal sacrifice that will have HUGE rewards. You can put off this surgery for a few years and give your children the incredible benefit of exclusive nursing (meaning without supplementation)."

At no time during my breastfeeding hell did it ever occur to me that I should have waited until after I had kids to have the surgery. Nor did anyone even suggest this to me directly. To ask women to live through years of pain, potential long-term physical harm, low self-esteem, and sexual harassment does not seem like a fair sacrifice to request. It also presupposes that a woman's complete control over her ability to have a child and over her physical ability to breastfeed absent breast surgery. Neither of these are guarantees, and it also begs the question, how long should a nineteen-year-old woman who is unsure about her childbearing plans wait? Is ten years of sacrifice long enough if she has not had a child by the age of 29? How about twenty years, if she has not had a child by 39? What if a woman subjects herself to twenty years of discomfort and then cannot get pregnant or has a baby but cannot breastfeed for other reasons. Talk about regret!

I was genuinely taken aback when I read the testimonials from women regretting their decision. This simply was not my experience. That is why I did not feel that this group was a good fit for me.

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posted by Alex Elliot @ 10:30 PM   5 comments
  • At 2/16/2007 6:12 PM, Blogger ru said…

    m here.

    i too read the diane west book and visited the BFAR site before signal was born. and i completely agree with you. nearly everything i read was from women who said they regretted their reductions. and i do not.

    even after the reduction (which i had 10 years ago when i was 17), i am a DD. and while pregnant with signal, my chest grew to an F cup. my back used to hurt all the time. and although at 17 they told my i might not be able to breastfeed, i gladly went ahead with the surgery.

    signal was never able to latch properly, so i pumped with a hospital grade pump for 4 weeks and supplemented what i pumped with formula. after 4 weeks, my supply completely dried up.

    i have to say that i am still a bit sad about it all. for me the idea of breastfeeding was more about bonding than nutrition. i think that if signal had latched, i would have felt better. if ru and i have a second, i'll try again. but i am realistic.

    so know that you are definitely not alone. there are BFAR moms out there that don't regret their reductions. far more than you or i know about, i suspect.

  • At 2/21/2007 12:38 AM, Blogger Suzanne said…

    To make women second guess themselves is outrageous, offensive, and ridiculous. It is true that parents (not just moms) need to make sacrifices for their kids, but to insist that living with excrutiating back pain is beyond anti-woman. (I'd also point out that such pain may prevent women from holding their babies, which hardly seems in the child's best interest.)

    I will never regret having breast reduction surgery. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, period. And I resent the implication that my mother, who formula fed me, did not have my best interesets at heart. I seem to have come out just fine, as has my husband who was also formula fed.

  • At 5/24/2007 12:20 AM, Blogger Count Mockula said…

    Sorry I'm three months late to this. I had a breast reduction several years ago, knowing it might be years before I had kids, and knowing too that it might interfere with my ability to breastfeed. I want to breastfeed and I think it's valuable, but I also knew then and still believe now that the surgery was the right decision for so many reasons. I don't imagine I won't suffer ANY guilt (I hear guilt comes with the pareneting territory), but I also know I am going to be a good parent, boobie milk or no. I'm willing to take a breath and say "This is a thing I can't do. I'm okay. Baby will be okay."
    Thanks for writing about this. Fascinating topic. I'll have to chat with you from the doll bed about it... I hear I'm sleeping in it.

  • At 8/03/2007 10:05 AM, Anonymous qwyneth said…

    This post made me tear up a little bit. (Er, sorry I'm so late! I just found your blog.) I had a reduction a little under six years ago, when I was not quite 19. It was covered by my insurance company and one of the best decisions I've ever made. I never even considered regretting the surgery until I found the BFAR site, several years after my surgery.

    That site scared me so badly. I have always wanted to breastfeed, and my surgeon reassured me before the surgery that I would be able to. When I think about my reduction now I get all twisted up inside, grateful that I have moderately smaller breasts (though! They're gone up a size and a half since the surgery and not due to excessive weight gain! wtf!) and terrified that I made the wrong choice based on information I simply didn't have.

    Thank you for writing about this.

  • At 8/27/2007 3:12 PM, Blogger Dave Stringham said…

    When planning your plastic surgery in Oakland, make sure that your surgeon is board certified... It shows that they are talented and dedicated to their craft, and less likely that you will have plastic surgery you will regret.

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Name:Alex Elliot
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About Me:Professional Mom of two cats, a dog, an ant farm, and oh yeah...two boys: a 6 year old and a 3 year old. Also found in my house is my husband who is known on this blog as The Big Giraffe.
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