…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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A Breastfeeding Ground Hero

Today is the ninth anniversary of 9-11.   Anyone who was here  in New York City on September 11, 2001 cannot forget the deep blue, cloudless sky and dry warm weather of that fateful day.   My friends and I call Indian Summer days like this “9-11 days”.   In an eerie coincidence, mother nature has served up on the exact date an exquisite carbon copy.   I half expect to hear fighter jets fly over head.  I have a visceral memory of all the sights and sounds of that long day.

As I reflect on 9-11, I remember the mothers who lived downtown.   Many of them hunkered down to avoid the acrid smoke that blew from the pile.   They did their best to shield themselves from the toxic air and the frightened mood of the city.

This little guy was born a few weeks after the Towers came down.  He was son number three born to a family in my lactation practice.   He is enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry which is tracking the long term health of over 70,000 individuals  who were living or working in close proximity to Ground Zero in the fall of 2001.

Breastmilk is often called liquid gold.  Today I’m thinking of it as the milk of human kindness that was intended by nature to nurture us all while we are babies.   May this little  breastfed Ground Hero continue to be healthy.  May he grow up “in the land of the free and home of the brave”… in a world that is at peace.

Heartfelt thanks go out to all the heroes, the first responders and our servicemen, among them my brother Lt. Col Stephen M. Clements USAF, who answered the call to action in the wake of 9-11.

September 11, 2010   1 Comment

Beached Lactation Consultant vs. Baby “Nurse Ratched”

This photo was taken in Ibuski, Japan. I had sought out this detox spa adventure by the sea, but nonetheless felt stressed by the actual feeling of being beached and helpless. The smile on my face belies the sense of entrapment that I felt buried beneath the hot sand. I calmed myself by focusing on the cool breeze and the occasional ships that I could see in the distance.

This image popped into my mind last night while supporting a mom in baby nurse hell. Ironically, she is at the beach this week with her baby, toddler and “nurse” Ratched.

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I felt just about as helpless as I did in my photo listening to her saga of her breastfeeding relationship being continually sabotaged by a superstitious and obstinate baby “nurse”. This mom is being followed around and told her baby is hungry and in need of bottles of breastmilk. Icing on the cake would be comments like, “A two-1/2 month old baby should have formed stools.” In an email where she is sharing her efforts to observe the patterns of her son and focus on direct breastfeeding, the mom writes, “she [the "nurse"] is annoyed and told me she is getting a headache over this-”

I feel a migraine coming on and a panic attack. Is she kidding? How could this mom and baby ever get in synch with one another with this kind of stress and interference. It doesn’t seem to be cost effective on any level to have someone like this around.

I’m about to fly over the cuckoo nest myself if she doesn’t take my advice… LOOSE THE “NURSE”.

Am I crazy?

August 28, 2010   No Comments

Breastfeeding Status Update: It’s Complicated

Breastfeeding is just like most modern relationships, sometimes it is difficult to define.

More often than not, the romantic ideal of a blissful nursing couple is threatened by the addition of pumps and bottles. These artifacts alter the experience greatly for both the mother and her baby. She is likely to feel overwhelmed.

Breastfeeding Status: It’s complicated.

Tongue-in-cheek, my green logo above and query are inspired by Facebook.   The irony is that it has, on several occasions, banned breastfeeding photos.

What is your Breastfeeding Status?

Do you exclusively breastfeed your baby?  Do you breastfeed, then pump, then feed a bottle of your expressed milk?  Do you breastfeed, then offer a formula chaser? Do you pump exclusively?

Ideally breastfeeding should be a relationship with your baby, not the pump.   Couple therapists typically recommend banning the computer and television in the bedroom in order to foster greater intimacy.  In the same vein, focusing on direct breastfeeding will enhance both bonding and the milk supply.

There is a time and place for the gadgets, but in the bloom of new love or breastfeeding it is best that the focus be on the partner.  Being in the moment and keeping things simple can help lay down the most solid foundation for long term success.

It is all about making positive, conscious breastfeeding connections and upgrading your status to: In Relationship with your breastfeeding baby.

August 26, 2010   8 Comments

Got Enough Milk? Part 1: Why Volume does not Correlate with Value

Breast milk is a bioactive fluid that contains so many amazing and dynamic constituents that it is impossible to memorize all of them; it packs food and fluids into small amounts and cannot be exactly duplicated in a lab or from one mother to the next. Formula, although the name sounds scientific, is just a processed food. It is always the same. Whether you give one ounce or 20, the only thing that changes is the calorie count.

Dr. Sears, a renowned Pediatrician and advocate of Breastfeeding, has a very helpful chart on his site comparing some of the key constituents of Breast milk and Formula.

Breastfeeding without any supplements is a very different experience for the baby and its parents than when formula supplements are added. Unfortunately, breastfeeding mothers are often encouraged to add supplements of formula by health care workers and family members. This suggestion is especially common during the early days of breastfeeding when the milk supply is being established.

Although no harm is intended, most parents do not realize that implementing this strategy, without any restrictions, can negatively impact the breastfeeding dynamic of supply and demand.  Supplementation changes the timing and frequency of feedings and can adversely affect the quality of direct breastfeedings.  To further complicate matters, giving different milks and using different delivery systems can skew the perception of what satiety looks like in a baby.

When assessing if a mother has enough breastmilk, these facts need to be considered.

  • Human milk is an energy-rich, bioavailable milk which nourishes and hydrates the baby in smaller volumes.
  • Attempts at pumping human milk, especially in the early days, will yield misleading results. What is pumped does not correlate directly with what the mother is making and what is available to the baby with direct breastfeeding.

Formula, on the other hand,  is a processed food. It is always the same except when the “additives” and “chemical formulations” are periodically changed to generate some kind of brand loyalty among members of the medical establishment and consumers.

  • Breast milk and Formula are very different foods; they each impact digestion, gas formation, appetite and linear growth and weight gain in differing ways.
  • When both milks are mixed together in the same stomach any negative reaction will generally be blamed on the mysterious Breast milk, rather than on the cow or soy based artificial baby milk.

Comparing the two milks is like trying to compare apples and oranges. They are both fruit, but the taste, texture and impact on digestion will vary. You could never tell if you were allergic to apples by eating oranges. However, an analysis of breastfeeding is often based upon how the baby takes formula when offered.

Formula is often added because it so readily available and convenient. Marketing 101.

  • If the baby needs to have its appetite stimulated by giving it supplements, the first milk of choice should always be human milk.
  • Even if only small amounts of extra breast milk are available at first, the biological impact is far more powerful than that of formula.

Technically, whenever formula is added to a breastfeeding relationship, it is the beginning of the weaning process. If more women were truly aware of this fact, I believe the use of formula by breastfeeding mothers would be far more judicious.

Mothers cannot help but question their own milk supply when the analysis is too often based upon adding in a different milk.

In Got Enough Milk? Part 2, we will examine how style of feeding and delivery method of the extra milk provided will further impact the mother’s confidence in her milk supply and breastfeeding success.

June 25, 2010   1 Comment

Starbucks and Breastfeeding Promotion: Building by One “Cup” or Two at a Time

There’s a joke in my family that I should just mainline coffee.  I am surprisingly calm in spite of my allotment of at least two vente coffees per day.  That being said, spending long hours writing in Starbucks has recently made me fantasize about how to make  breastfeeding promotion be as successful as the spread of this ubiquitous brand.

Relationship building is at the heart of the Starbucks Philosophy.   Howard Schultz  was CEO of Starbucks in 1997 when he published his first book ” Pour Your Heart into it:  How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time”.  According to a review of this book  on Amazon.com,  “An exemplary success story, Starbucks is identified with innovative marketing strategies, employee-ownership programs, and a product that’s become a subculture.” 

To paraphrase the famous line from the movie “Harry Met Sally”, I’ll have some of what he, Howard Schultz, aka Starbucks & co. , is having… so that I can use it to successfully promote breastfeeding.   His secret weapon is a communication style where he is clear about what he stands for, the values he promotes and he consistently makes emotional connections with his audience be they employees or consumers.  On a limited advertising budget, he literally built his brand with a heartfelt passion, one cup at a time.

This realization is most encouraging for me. I am reminded of the long standing ILCA campaign, Reach one, Teach one.  One by one, whether at Starbucks, in my prenatal breastfeeding class or anywhere else I reach and teach using the same powerful communication strategies. 

1. Identify what you are passionate about and convey that message to everyone.

I am passionate about breastfeeding.  I use a holistic approach to shift the experience to a uniformly positive one for the mother and by extension her baby or babies.  This means optimizing the latch connection to ensure ample transfer of milk and pain-free feeding.  There is no need to rely so heavily on external measurements and gadgets.  Doing so only moves us further away from the essence of breastfeeding.

2. Inspire everyone with how the service, product , or cause will improve their world. 

Breastfeeding is a human baby’s biological birthright. It is ecological and economical.  Not breastfeeding adds significantly to pollution and is expensive.  Breastmilk is a custom blended, living superfood that cannot be commercially duplicated. It is truly like liquid gold. Priceless!

3. To lead a revolution leaders tap into the emotions not just the minds of colleagues and consumers.

Storytelling is a technique that I use all the time.  It supplements hands-on and teaching by example.  When moms can relate and see themselves in another mothers story they can connect with a positive vision of successful breastfeeding for themselves.

Starbucks paid attention to both its employee/partners and customers. They created a good experience and a reputation that expanded their brand rapidly by word of mouth.  Breastfeeding advocates can learn much from this innovative marketing ploy. 

Focus on the mother, the thinking partner in a breastfeeding relationship and create for her a pain-free, positive breastfeeding experience.

June 20, 2010   1 Comment