…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding Postcard Speaks Volumes

I received this postcard as a holiday thank you note from a family that I had helped in the early years of my private lactation consulting practice.  It has hung in my office for two decades.

Sergei Vassilev’s 1988 photograph “In the Maternity Home” captures the stages of profound connection that develop between mothers and their breastfeeding babies.  This group bonding moment is understated, yet quite powerful.

In recent years, there have been many nurse-in’s staged to make political statements.  Mothers have descended upon stores and businesses to protest unfriendly policies toward breastfeeding.   During World Breastfeeding Week celebrations each year there are often large groups that assemble in public places to breastfeed in numbers.  One of my favorites was the group nurse done on the A train in NYC.

Whenever mothers breastfeed it touches my heart.  I believe you cannot help but be inspired by the wonder of breastfeeding when you get an opportunity to witness the kind of very positive and primal energy that flows from my treasured breastfeeding postcard.  It speaks volumes.

What do you think?

August 8, 2010   5 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2010: Health Care Worker Call To Action

This is the 19′th annual celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.  The Theme of 2010 is commemorating the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

In the past 20 years there has been some progress in the rates of  initiation of breastfeeding.  Yet, only 28% of Maternity facilities world-wide have fully implemented the Ten Steps and have been certified by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.  Were this an analysis of anything else, this would not be a passing grade.

 I’ve been in the trenches throughout this period and beyond.  At first glance, it appears as though we have made great strides.   According to the NYC Dept. of  Health and Mental Hygiene report put out in April 2009,  an impressive 85%  of women initiate breastfeeding.  However, after 2 months the number falls to 32% who are still exclusively breastfeeding their babies.  Surveys reveal that the top two reasons for stopping were related to concerns about the milk supply either having enough (39%) or that it was adequately satisfying their babies (39%).

The fall off rate here in NYC is quite dramatic, but not surprising to me.  Despite health code regulations that prohibit formula discharge packs, many families will leave the hospital with generous samples of formula in tow.  Mothers who have had cesarean sections report that their babies were given at least one bottle, if not more, of formula during the first few days after delivery.  

Many of the New York hospitals have lactation consultants on staff or nurses “trained” to support breastfeeding.  Nonetheless, their focus seems to increasingly be on feeding a measurable amount of fluid to the newborns.  They get  moms to sit on the pump getting drops of colostrum and encourage them to give their babies formula until the “milk comes in”. 

 Using the pump as a  first line of breastfeeding support relegates direct breastfeeding to the back seat.  New mothers leave the hospital knowing how to pump rather than how to achieve a deep, pain-free latch.

New parents are set up to believe that artificial baby milk or formula and human milk can be exchanged ounce for ounce in bottles without consequence .  Unwittingly they are weaning from the beginning or setting themselves up to experience the top two reasons many of them will choose not to breastfeed beyond two months.

Without a doubt, the Ten Steps are a helpful tool to focus our attention on the importance of consistent breastfeeding education and support.

To pack a punch and ensure successful breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks, the Ten Steps must be embraced by unequivocal  and truly breastfeeding-friendly health care workers:  nurses, doctors and lactation consultants. 

To be continued…

August 2, 2010   2 Comments

Breastfeeding and Inception: My Dream Within A Dream

Inception” (2010) is a must-see movie, completely original and thought provoking.


It captured my imagination when I saw it this week. I found myself having lucid dreams about the potential of inception.  I was mulling over in my head the fact that subliminal messages enter our minds on a daily basis. Advertising campaigns deliberately harness the power of suggestion to drive our product allegience. Ideas that have found their way into our subconscious are digested and interpreted during our dream life.

Although  it is not yet possible to share actual dreams in the fashion of the movie “Inception”, we often speak of having a shared dream in our conscious life. 

I started to think how marvelous it would be if inception were possible.  World Breastfeeding Week begins today.  It would be awesome if a universal subconscious brand loyalty for breastfeeding would have a viral inception.  To create a model where the dream of all human babies being breastfed, as nature intended, was indeed the reality. 

Edgar Allen Poe

‘All that you see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.’

Sometimes, I feel caught in a dream within a dream.  A place where there is a lack of belief  in a woman’s body being able to nurture her baby after birth and a need to continually prove that human milk is superior to artificial baby milk. I feel like Cobb in the movie trying to instill an idea that breastfeeding is the biologic norm against these objections implanted by the marketing geniuses of Big Pharma.

Inspired by ”Inception” the movie, and the definition of the word according to the World English Dictionary:  the beginning, as of a project or undertaking…

During this month of August, I will be participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  On a daily basis, in my waking life, I will promote conscious breastfeeding and plant the seeds to share the dream of living in a breastfeeding world.   

Won’t you join me and share the ride?

August 1, 2010   No Comments

The Breastfeeding Rebellion: A Step Back For Womankind

It never fails. Every year as we near World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August, articles come out on the subject of breastfeeding intended to stir up emotions and debate among mothers.  True to form, The Guardian has just published  an article by Viv Groskop, “Let the Breastfeeding Rebellion Begin“.  It catalogs, yet again, the controversy that surrounds breastfeeding in the 21’st Century.

Although at first glance it appears to be an even handed examination of the issues, the overall tone leans toward the negative.  As local and national health groups gear up to promote breastfeeding, this article calls into question whether these efforts may be foolhardy and be putting too much pressure on mothers.

I have been in the trenches throughout the period in question and have observed the same issues raised in this article.   I will outline what Ms. Groskop deems to be the “Breastfeeding Rebellion”.   In a followup post, I will take these points and put them into a more positive light, calling for a “Breastfeeding Revolution.”

Mothers are struggling with breastfeeding and abandoning it.

The article starts with the story of a mother, Sarah Butters who apparently admitted to the author that she hates breastfeeding. “As a mother you feel you should be able to feed your child and I just couldn’t do it.” 

Ms. Groskop, tells us how this mother Sarah, after 6 days of trying and failing, went to bottle-feeding and five years on, still harbors resentment about having to make that choice.  She adds that there is an increasing chorous of mothers in the blogosphere who share similar feelings of guilt and/or resentment about their breastfeeding experiences.  So it is not surprising that “Despite concerted efforts, only one in 5 mothers in the UK are breastfeeding at 6 months.” 

Breastfeeding promotion puts too much pressure on women and may be counterproductive

It is obvious from the statistics that breastfeeding promotion efforts haven’t made much of a dent in the numbers.  She cites a few examples of academics looking at this issue in the UK and the States.  

-Dr. Michele Crossly, a psychologist from the University of Manchester apparently found “far from being an ‘empowering’ act, breastfeeding may have become more of a ‘normalised’ moral imperative that many women experience as anything but liberational”. 

-Sue Attersby, a researcher and lecturer in Midwifery at Aston Uiversity says, “We need to support women who use formula.  Mothers who formula-feed are treated like second class citizens.” 

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Ms. Groskop adds, that “even breastfeeding promoters are concerned about the guilt and bad feelings being reported by increasing numbers of moms about their breastfeeding experiences”. 

-Pam Lacey, chair of The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, said …”It’s the system that has failed them by failing to support them.”

Breastfeeding has become a war and is tied to what it means to be a good mother.

Lumped in this section are several snippets that speak to the notion of maternal identity, feminism and polarization of women around their experiences of breastfeeding.

-A British academic researching breastfeeding and maternal identity feared a backlash from those in the pro-breastfeeding lobby and anonymously commented, “Breastfeeding has become so strongly tied to what it means to be a good mother. There is no space to say, ‘It didn’t work for me’.”

-Hannah Rosin’s inflammatory article, “The Case Against Breastfeeding” is held up as an example of a huge backlash in the US against the breastfeeding lobby.  Ms. Groskop tells us, “this debate is polarizing into the “lactofanatics” vs. the “formula apologists.” 

Stigma and guilt can be common for women whether they breastfeed or not .   

According to Ms. Groskop,  ”Both here and in the US very few mothers are entirely comfortable about their breastfeeding decisions and many admit they wish they didn’t have to do it.  Some see the promotion of breastfeeding as part of the problem.”

She elaborates on this theme by sharing her thoughts on the recently released 20′th Anniversary edition of the book by Gabrielle Palmer, “The Politics of Breastfeeding”.  It is hard to miss her bias when she writes about this book that examines breastfeeding in a bottle-feeding world:

“Dubbed “the Freakonomics of motherhood”, the book demands that the advertising of formula milk be banned, calls for breast milk to be given an award for the fewest food miles, and praises women for producing “the most ecological food product in the world”. So now not only is breastfeeding nutritionally correct, it’s also environmentally ethical.” 

Ms. Groskop does acknowledge that breastfeeding advocates are adamant that promotion is needed ” because the rates are poor.” 

-Mary Renfrew, professor of mother and infant health at the University of York, describes the health benefits of breastfeeding as being equivalent to “a very powerful broad-spectrum drug”. 

Lest that engender guilt, we are yet again treated to more from Ms. Rosin’s article: 

“The difficulty with the health argument, though, is that it lays women open to the charge of selfishness if they don’t breastfeed. Which, argues Rosin, is demeaning. “In Betty Friedan’s day, feminists felt shackled to domesticity by the unreasonably high bar for housework.” In the 21st century, it is not the vacuum cleaner keeping us down, Rosin adds, “but another sucking sound”. 

It is very telling that this article closed with this quote from of a report on mothers who use formula by Dr Ellie Lee, a sociologist at Kent University:

“There is no one who would not concede that breast milk is good for babies. But the body that provides the milk is connected to a whole set of social relationships.”

“When it doesn’t work, women take it so personally. They will say, ‘My baby hates me’. It’s such a destructive thing to do to mothers. And I think the pressure is getting worse.”

Houston, we have a problem. We have just celebrated the 40′th Anniversary of  the first walk on the moon, “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.”  Yet,  in 50+ years, we have not been able to figure out how to help women breastfeed without angst.  

To be continued…


July 21, 2009   1 Comment