The Compleat Mother Newsletter June 2004
// Watch your TV tonight: Breastfeeding Controversy on 20/20 //
// LOVING MAMA: Essays on Natural Parenting and Motherhood //
// GREAT QUOTE //
"But carrying on your back, well, that is just a wonderful custom that keeps the baby emotionally stable and lets the mother feel bonded. We can't stop being African women just because we are suddenly thrust into the modern world. What next? They will tell us to stop breast feeding in public? No way." Carol Mandi, managing editor of EVE, an East African women's magazine.
// Watch your TV tonight: Breastfeeding Controversy on 20/20 //
ABC's 20/20 will cover the adverse impact the artificial baby milk industry's has had on the Ad Council's " National Breastfeeding Ad Campaign." The 20/20 program will televise their report tonight, June 4, 2002 at 10:00 pm, ET, 9:00 Central, 8:00 Mountain , 7:00 Pacific.
June 4, 2004 The U.S. government will unveil a new dvertising campaign to promote breast-feeding today, after months of fierce lobbying to change its approach.
The campaign that will be announced today in Washington, D.C., is much different than what was first produced.
In what has been called a battle between mother's milk and corporate power, the companies that make infant formula put intense pressure on the government to change its approach.
ABC News has obtained the ads that were produced but never aired. One of the ads showed pregnant women at a roller derby violently competing and then the message: "You wouldn't risk your baby's health before it's born. Why start after?"
The other spots obtained by ABC News include pregnant women at a log-rolling contest and riding a mechanical bull. They ended with a list of diseases that the ads said were more common among babies not breast-fed, including diabetes, leukemia and ear infections.
The ads were set to be released last December, but some formula companies complained after getting an earlier sneak preview of the ads before they hit the airwaves.
A spokesperson for the International Formula Council, the trade group for the formula industry, said they support breast-feeding and only objected to the commercials because they felt they were too negative in tone and inaccurate.
"When you say 'not breast-feeding is risky,' what you're saying is 'using infant formula is risky,' and that is true and they know it," said Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatrician in Santa Monica, Calif., and a member of the breast-feeding committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Gordon added that there is no substitute for human milk, with all of its immune system benefits for newborns.
The decision to put the campaign on hold was made in Washington at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Officials confirm to ABC News that HHS' Secretary Tommy Thompson met privately with formula industry officials. He turned down meeting requests from breast-feeding advocates.
But the assistant secretary for HHS, Christine Beato, said she was "not aware of that," and said the ads were pulled because a review found them scientifically inaccurate.
When asked what role the infant formula industry played in putting a hold on this campaign, she answered, "to my knowledge, none."
But breast-feeding advocates say the science and the figures used in the commercials were valid.
"The ad campaign is backed by scientific research, by good research," said Dr. Larry Gartner, the former chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago and the head of the breast-feeding committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Watered Down Ads
Some of the modified ads are being released later today, but the spot with the roller derby scenes will not air. HHS also left out all references to leukemia and diabetes in babies not breast-fed.
Many pediatricians and breast-feeding advocates welcome any campaign to promote breast-feeding, but the staunchest advocates see a sellout.
"The fact that they managed to get this campaign watered down is evidence that money can influence good medicine, and that large amounts of money can influence even good doctors," said Gordon.
The campaign also killed a series of print ads that claimed, in stark terms, that babies not breast-fed were at greater risk of certain diseases.
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LOVING MAMA: Essays on Natural Parenting and Motherhood introduction by Tiffany Palisi, Boomton, New Jersey
I never expected to be an attached mama. My pre-baby preparations consisted of getting ready for the birth and setting up the nursery. I had taken Bradley classes to prepare for a drug-free delivery with a wonderful instructor named Laura and decided on a local midwife named Tina. Both women helped prepare me for the many hours of labor and pushing that I was destined to endure. To learn about breastfeeding and find a support group before I needed one, I attended a local La Leche League meeting (at the urging of my mother, a LLL alumnus). I had visited a baby store to pick out a crib, bassinet, changing table, and stroller. I had also gone to the bookstore and found countless books on pregnancy, birth, and postpartum issues. I thought I was prepared.
Then, just two months prior to my son’s birth, I went to a store called the Lactation Resource Center in nearby Chatham, New Jersey to ‘get fitted’ for a nursing bra. The Lactation Resource Center is a one-stop shop for primiparas and nursing moms. They sell all sorts of nursing apparel, pregnancy wear, breastfeeding pillows, and informative books. They have a staff of Certified Lactation Consultants on hand for breastfeeding help, and they even make house calls to desperate moms who need a little help getting started with nursing.
As expected, I was easily fitted for a bra and was also given answers to questions I had been mulling over (and over, and over). But I was a bit surprised when lactation consultant Carol Smith suggested that I buy and read a book called The Vital Touch by Sharon Heller, Ph. D. She put it in my hands and said, “You have to read this book. It’s really an amazing book.” She explained that it was similar to the famous book Touching by Ashley Montague. My mother, who was with me and had read (and loved) Touching back in the seventies said that, if I’d read it, she’d happily buy it for me. Although I was not particularly interested (I was very into fiction that particular month), I thought that since the lactation consultant highly recommended it, it couldn’t hurt to give it a look.
That book changed everything. I read all about the importance of holding my baby. I read about women who went into the woods alone and came out with a baby they had delivered themselves. I read about how these women wore their babies all day in a makeshift sling, allowing the baby to nurse at will and ride skin-to-skin all day long. Conversely, I had been exposed to the very bad habit many Western mothers have of keeping their babies in plastic crates all day – from the car seat to the swing to the bassinet, rarely being held – and how babies really need to be close to their mamas, at their breasts and in their arms, for optimum development and growth.
All of a sudden, the beautiful cherry-wood crib that was sitting in the freshly painted, vast nursery seemed pointless, isolating even. My future baby’s room seemed so far away from the one I shared with my husband. All the ‘necessary’ baby stuff — the crib, the bassinet, the stroller — it all seemed so meaningless. And so, I went out and got a front carrier so that I’d be able to wear my baby around the house all day. I got a co-sleeper to attach to the side of our bed. I felt I’d redeemed myself and found the better path to motherhood.
But when labor hit at 6 a.m. on a cold Wednesday morning, all I could think about was myself. I babied myself all day, eating and rocking in my new glider, a gift from my parents. And I walked and walked and walked. Finally, I got to the point where my contractions were so painful that I thought I was in transition (little did I know). So my husband called our Bradley instructor and then our midwife and said, “We’re going to have the baby now.” And off to the hospital we went.
I can still feel the bite in the January air as I walked from my car, which we parked in the parking deck across from the hospital, to the front door. With each contraction, coming about every four minutes, I’d stop and fold in half, grab onto the back of my husband’s coat, and cry. People kept offering to help by getting a wheelchair or a hospital employee. I grunted no and through tear-stained lips thanked them for their concern. I knew that walking would move labor along and believed that crunching into a wheelchair would make me feel, well, unhealthy.
I arrived in Labor and Delivery about twenty minutes later, desperately grasping my husband’s arm. It seems it was a slow night at the hospital because I was quickly brought into a room where my midwife was waiting, smiling. She was excited that it was time to meet our little one; I was wishing she could labor for me. She sat with me while I labored, rubbing my back as I sat backwards on a chair and looked out the hospital window. I watched the sky darken and wondered if my baby would be born in the shadow of dusk or by moonlight. I distinctly remember telling her that the labor was painful but not so painful that it warranted an epidural. Later, I’d eat those words.
After some unrecognizable amount of extremely painful time, I began to feel as though I would vomit. I wanted to just go home and forget the whole birthing thing. These are telltale signs of transition, so I told my midwife I thought it was time. She said she’d check me to see how far along I was and we’d go from there. Writhing in pain through every contraction and making deals with God in between, I reluctantly agreed. For those of you who haven’t been checked for dilation during labor, be thankful. It is the worst pain you can imagine. It’s as if you need to defecate but someone has got his or her fist in your rectum while the... well, you get the picture. It’s awful. I expected her to remove her hand and exclaim, “You’re in transition,” but instead I heard, “Well, you’re five centimeters.”
My heart dropped. This couldn’t be. The pain was awful, unbearable even. My Bradley instructor had drilled into me the importance of resting between contractions. She advised against thinking about the last or coming contractions and told us to take them one at a time. I remembered, but my body completely ignored her wise words. With each contraction, I pleaded for lots of drugs. I asked for a c-section, the removal of an arm, anything to make the pain go away.
Somewhere around this time, my midwife came in to tell me my mother was on the phone. It seemed she wanted to talk to me. I remember thinking that the whole idea was crazy. Here I was in nauseating pain doing the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life and my mom wanted me to hang onto a receiver and chat. At that time, I couldn’t begin to fathom the extreme worry she harbored as I, her baby, howled in a hospital room ten miles away from her. She wanted to be there to support me and, since she couldn’t, she wanted an update. She didn’t want to make small talk; she wanted to know I was okay. Poor Mom, she called so many times that as soon as I returned to reality, my midwife said, “Please call your mom.”
Finally, my midwife conceded and offered me drugs. Actually, it was not so much my badgering as much as it was her concern that I was fighting the contractions, thus preventing them from doing their work. She suggested a mild painkiller to help me sleep before continuing to birth. She assured me that it would not be transmitted to the baby. It lulled me into a drug-induced sleep, and I hazily told the attending nurse that I loved her before passing out.
Hours later, I awoke to bold, ripping contractions. It felt as though my body was being torn in two, the uterus pulling towards my toes and my upper body resisting. I really believed that I would die. Truly. I was certain something was gravely wrong. If not, I must be in transition, I thought. I asked for my midwife and when she came in, she happily informed me that my Bradley classmate, Anna, had just given birth to a healthy little girl named Mira. No stitches, no drugs. Now it was my turn.
Motivated by Anna’s bravery and skill, I was checked again and found I was still at five centimeters. This news was enough to dash my spirits to dust. While I knew that a laboring woman could jump from five centimeters to nine in no time, I was worn out and tired. I’d labored over seventeen hours and I was only five centimeters. Dear Anna had been admitted to Labor and Delivery hours after I had and there she was, holding her baby.
Without rehashing the messy remaining ten hours of my labor, I somehow gave birth, vaginally and without an epidural (all was not lost), to my eight pounds, nine ounces love baby named John Henry. He slithered out and was plopped onto my belly. I looked at him and then he was quickly whisked to the NICU in the room (he’d had meconium in his nose). While we waited the endless forty-five minutes for my placenta to deliver itself, I remember thinking that I was in no way equipped to be a mother. I kept wondering what I’d do with this poor little boy. So when I put him to my breast and he began crying because he couldn’t latch on, I called an experienced nurse for help. She looked at the two of us, declared, “You can’t nurse, you have flat nipples,” and walked out of the room.
I was devastated. I’d watched my mother nurse my brother for over three years. How was it that I couldn’t nurse? I immediately called my La Leche League leader for help. She gave me lots of information - hold the baby skin to skin, put him to my breast every X amount of minutes, relax - but nothing seemed to help. I requested from my nurse that the hospital’s lactation consultant pay me a visit, but she was booked solid with moms who needed her before they went home with their new, nursing bundles of joy. So I tried to nurse and I cried. My midwife was able to get the baby latched on, but only when she was there. Without her help, I was lost.
During those two days and nights in the hospital, I was desperate for sleep. My son kept crying; he was hungry, cold, and clearly wanting to nurse. The fact that I was insecure and unsure of myself probably only made things more difficult. (It took my husband and I, working together, at least 15 minutes to change a diaper.) Time and again, well-meaning nurses would come into my room and offer to watch my son for me while I slept. I never understood how any mother could sleep knowing that her child, especially as a newborn, was in the care of a stranger.
A nurse once said that a mother should rest as much as possible during the days after delivery, especially while in the hospital. She further stated that the only way to do that would be to put the needy, newborn baby in the nursery, citing, “You have the rest of your life to be a mother.” All I can say is that the minute that child is born, so is its mother. After carrying a child in your body for nearly forty weeks, how could you not want to be glued to that child? You cannot put off motherhood by a few days. You can only put off the responsibility and caring that should accompany the awesome position that has been bestowed upon you by the sheer miracle of life. I was not about to do that with my precious child unless one of our lives depended on it, in which case, I’d do whatever was required to keep us both alive and well. My son and I slept (he, on my chest) on a cot on the floor – perhaps I was unable to nurse him all the time but I could always be his mother.
We limited our visitors to immediate family members. My mother-in-law, mom, and dad were the first to visit. My mom, God bless her soul, brought flowers and a giant box of chocolates, rich with fresh fruit fillings and creamy caramels. Everyone was in awe of John Henry. He was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. However, when my brother came, he was more grounded and full of humor. He looked at the baby and said, “Oh, he’s got eleven toes.” I looked down and began to count. Before I finished, he asked, “Didn’t you count his fingers and toes?”
I hadn’t. I just stared into his precious little face, completely in love and even more terrified. He was in my care and, so far, I felt I was failing him.
I pumped and syringe-fed my baby, while supplementing with formula. I hated every minute of it. I’d been leaking milk since my seventh month of pregnancy, but now I was unable to nurse. I couldn’t accept that lot without a fight. The minute I got home from the hospital, I paged Maria, owner of the Lactation Resource Center and a Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC), whom I’d never met. Panic stricken, I told her that I couldn’t get my son latched on, that I was afraid he was starving, and that I was in dire need of her services. She told me to relax and pump, to keep trying to nurse but to bottle feed if necessary, and made an appointment to visit me the next day at my home.
When she arrived, I burst into tears. I was so relieved to get help. She was a kind, maternal woman, very professional and self-assured. She took a look at my breasts and agreed that I had flat nipples (which surprised me because, when I’m cold, they pop, so I hadn’t been prepared for this), but she believed I could nurse. She gave me nipple shields to use for a few weeks and left a big breast pump for me. My son, after being directed to my nipple by Maria, nursed for over 20 minutes on the left side and nearly as long on the other. She weighed him naked both before and after each nursing episode, and he’d gained ounces, a shockingly positive amount. This meant that he was getting milk... from my breasts!
Maria taught me all about relieving engorgement, avoiding mastitis, and listed foods, herbs, and vitamins I should stay away from during the first crucial months. She also gave me tons of handouts. For the first time, I started to believe that the whole nursing thing might actually happen for us.
It was a long few weeks. Nursing worked some of the time but didn’t others. In the wee hours of the morning, my screaming and starving child ended up with a bottle of pumped breast milk in his mouth. I would be holding it in my hand while trying not to fall asleep. I’d actually stare at the digital clock – bad idea – to see how long we’d been up. My saving grace was something called My Breast Friend, a boppy type of pillow, flat on top and bottom, that Velcros around the breastfeeding mom’s waist. I wore it 24 hours a day for the first six weeks, and used it for close to six months when nursing at home. My son would fall asleep at my breast and I’d leave him there, sleeping on the pillow, my breast in his mouth and my arms around him.
I never put him down. I held him while he slept and when he was awake. When I showered, my mother or my husband held him. His body never hit the bassinet to sleep - only for diaper changes. At night, he slept face down on my chest. I was so overwhelmed by the love and protection I felt for him that the mere thought of putting him down was unthinkable. I’d just stare at him and cry, thankful for the miraculous child I was holding, asleep in my arms.
Visitors who saw us told me I would spoil him, that I should put him down, and that by holding him around the clock I was doing him a disservice. They said I needed a night out with my husband without our baby. They got me to question everything I was doing. Although I read and believed in every ounce of the information in The Vital Touch, I still felt that I needed to do more extensive research.
With John Henry in my arms (this was before I discovered the Maya Wrap sling), I went online in search of books on parenting. One that sounded interesting but had a bizarre name was called Attachment Parenting by Katie Alison Granju. After reading the blurb about it online, I ordered a copy. I knew nothing of attachment parenting or of the great Dr. William Sears, known to many as the father of attachment parenting, or Dr. Jay Gordon, the guru of a good night’s sleep in the family bed.
When the book arrived in the mail, I began reading. I read while my son nursed in my arms and slept on my chest. Within days, I’d completed the book. I remember whispering to my mom over my angel’s lush mop of dark brown hair, “Mom, what I’m doing has a name. It’s called attachment parenting’ It sounds kind of clingy, right?” She looked at me funny and said, “Yeah. Can you call it something else?”
Call it what you will. I hung onto the phrase because it is accurate and actually quite welcoming. It took me a while to view being “attached” as a positive thing, mostly because our society prizes independence. To be truly independent, however, one must first be dependent.
I searched everywhere for solid facts about the positive aspects of attachment. I learned that in many societies, co-sleeping is the norm, extended breastfeeding is common, and slings and dashikis are so expected that people actually make them out of scarves and the like. I reread The Vital Touch and learned that Balinese babies do not touch their feet to the ground before they are six months old; in fact, they are usually only put down to be bathed and to sleep.
My son has never slept alone. He slept with me on a cot on the floor while in the maternity ward. For the next six months he slept face down on my chest (it finally got too hot in the summer - he’d slowly slide off me, covered in sweat, and fall into the crook of my arm then roll onto the bed). Since then, he’s slept between my husband and me, and when he naps, I’m beside him, reading.
Knowing that most of the world’s mothers were parenting their babies as I was gave me strength. I was able to ignore the criticism being whipped at me by others, and I was able to educate those who were concerned because they didn’t quite understand. I was displaying a new model of motherhood to those whose generation believed that children were seen and not heard, and only loved when they were sleeping.
Don’t get me wrong. I still had (and have) my share of discussions with people who think “Ferberizing” and other sleep training methods are the way to go. I am approached by mothers who warn me that my son might get too attached, to which I reply, “Exactly how attached is too attached?” The best, though, are from people who seriously ask, when hearing that I rarely leave my son – and when I do, it’s for a maximum of 20 minute –“How will you handle kindergarten?” My son is two.
The whole subject of breastfeeding was, and still is, rarely broached in mixed company. It’s funny that people think breastfeeding is a sexual subject because it has the word “breast” in it. When I first had my son, everyone tried to get me to put him on a feeding schedule. Even a well-respected pediatrician told me that he was “gaining too much weight” (he was 14 pounds at six weeks) and that I should “skip night feedings.” I told her I was feeding him “on-demand” (should have said “on-cue”), and she told me that if I always responded appropriately to his cries he’d quickly learn to manipulate me. Needless to say, I ignored her and found myself a new pediatrician. People couldn’t understand why I breastfed in public, and asked to please pump and bottle feed instead. When I didn’t, they’d look away with pink cheeks and find any reason they could to disappear. Now, when my son asserts, “Mama, I wanna nuss!” the strangers who catch what he’s saying usually drop their jaws. Once, though, a woman heard and said, “Oh, when my son was little, I nursed him, too. Isn’t it great?”
I rarely need to discuss the fact that my son is intact, however, as that fact would only be known to people who watch me change his diaper. The exception is family and friends, all of whom know me so well that, if they ask any questions regarding circumcision, they know that they should get some water and take a seat because they’ll be listening a long, long time. (I’ve written more on this subject in “Taking the Whole Baby Home” in this book.)
When my son was about a year old, my friend Kathy and I began discussing the possibility of opening a drop-in center for mothers, all mothers, to offer support and friendship as they enter motherhood. We’d answer questions, offer connections, and have an extensive lending library with back issues of Mothering magazine, Welcome Home, Compleat Mother and other child-friendly volumes. We’d be sure to keep out books that supported cry-it-out tactics, baby training, and physical and emotional abuse. Clearly, for two mothers with toddlers and no money, this was a pipe dream. But it did evolve into a quarterly newsletter called The Wise Mom. Written by mothers, for mothers, this newsletter gave a voice to our local North Jersey group of conscious mothers. Moms wrote about everything from breastfeeding to co-sleeping, choices in vaccinations and circumcision, cloth diapers, soft-sole shoes, and slings.
Since then, we’ve put out eight issues (as of August 2003) and they have gotten more and more wonderful. I still read back issues to remind myself what a great group of mothers surround and support me with their spirit and trust in Mother Nature.
All these great essays got me thinking. What if I contacted some of the women who’ve written for The Wise Mom and other “awake” moms (like La Leche League leaders) and asked them to write essays for a book? I decided I could sell it through attachment parenting-friendly catalogs and specialty stores, so that moms who live across the country, or who feel isolated in their conscious parenting choices, would see that they are in good company. Sometimes, the road less traveled is the high road, and I believe that the mothers who have contributed to this volume have chosen it.
You will read their stories in their words. Some are professional writers and poets, some are Ph.D.s, and many are stay-at-home moms. All tell their stories in ways that will touch your heart and profoundly change your mothering experience for the better. I have chosen not to edit the content of these stories. I believe that it is crucial to leave their final essays they way they sent them to me. They are their own creations, wonderful and whole and representative of who these women are and how they have experienced conscious parenting.
LOVING MAMA: Essays on Natural Parenting and Motherhood (Hats Off Books, ISBN: 1-58736-277-5) is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or by special order through your local bookstore. This book includes essays written by forty mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, general attachment parenting and keeping our sons intact. Tiffany welcomes your comments and questions at [email protected] or by mail at The Wise Mom, PO Box 606, Boonton, NJ 07005.
(Folks, this is a great site worthy of your viewing. Greg Cryns)
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