Friday, October 29, 2010

The Landscape of Breastfeeding Support

I'm not sure how I missed this one, but I just stumbled upon the fact that the Centers for Disease Control contracted the United States Breastfeeding Committee to create a library of images of how communities across the country support breastfeeding.

The project is titled "The Landscape of Breastfeeding Support,"and called for breastfeeding coalitions to submit proposals illustrating how they are supporting breastfeeding in their community. Only eight states were selected for inclusion, with my state of Florida choosing to focus on how businesses support their employees who are nursing moms. The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition's photo campaign is called "Get Pumped" and features women who are pumping at work.

The Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition was also chosen and their local news covered the story and included some of the fantastic photos they took for the archive. You can see a clip from the news story here.

The projects all had to be completed by the end of September so I'm guessing (hoping!) we'll get a glimpse of the full collection soon. I also hope there will be a lot of diversity in this campaign and that moms from all races, ethnicities and walks of life will be represented. The images will be part of the national archive and I'm guessing available for use in breastfeeding promotion by WIC, authors of breastfeeding books, La Leche League and bloggers alike.

Had you heard about this project? And are you as excited about it as I am?

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Little Known Black History Fact: The Fultz Quads

During the opening plenary at the Black Mother's Breastfeeding Association's third annual conference, I learned about the Fultz Quads, quadruplet girls born to a tenant farmer named Pete and his deaf, mute wife Annie Mae on May 23, 1946. I'm not sure how I'd never learned about this important piece of African-American history, but I'm happy to be able to share it with you, in case you've never heard of them either.

You can imagine the chances of a couple conceiving quadruplets in the 40s, decades before the availability of fertility treatments, and the fact that the family was poor and black made this a sensational story that garnered nation-wide media attention. The Fultz's already had six children at home when Annie Mae headed to the hospital to give birth to her babies.

The white doctor who delivered the quads, Fred Klenner, gained world renown for attending the birth of the first recorded set of black quadruplets. Dr. Klenner decided to name the girls himself, calling them Mary Ann, Mary Louise, Mary Alice and Mary Catherine. All of the names were for women in his family. The black delivery nurse was quoted in a newspaper article as saying, "At that time, you know, it was before integration. They did us how they wanted. And these were very poor people. He was a sharecropper, Pete was, and she couldn't read or write."

As much of a media circus as the girls' birth was, it seems no one wanted in on the action more than the infant formula companies, whose business was exploding due to the post-war baby boom. In addition to making the girls guinea pigs for his "Vitamin C therapy," Dr. Klenner also negotiated a deal with the PET milk company, which agreed to provide the girls with formula, food, medical care, a private nurse and a farm when they reached adulthood, in exchange for using their image in promotional materials.

This is the beginning of the aggressive marketing of infant formula to African-Americans in this country. Surely the wife of a poor sharecropper would have breastfed her children had PET not come into the picture. And of course black women were breastfeeding their children at this time because they really had no choice. Formula would not have been an affordable or viable option for most people. So although white women were turning to formula in droves, the formula companies were missing a huge portion of the market because black women were still breastfeeding. So how do you change their minds? The image of four beautiful black baby girls "growing up strong" on formula was probably pretty convincing.

The images of the girls as they grew up could be found in ads in black interest publications like Ebony. They even made the cover when they turned one.

They got to meet Presidents Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Althea Gibson, appeared on television shows, and in hundreds of ads for PET milk.

You probably won't be surprised to find out that things didn't work out so well for the Fultz Quads. They were eventually adopted by the baby nurse provided to the family by PET. The farm they were promised turned out to be in the middle of nowhere on land that couldn't grow weeds. They grew up embittered over the way PET profited from their image while they remained poor. The public eventually forgot about them and they lived quiet lives.

But what were the consequences of being fed "baby milk" in infancy? Well, the three eldest of the Fultz quads were all dead of breast cancer before they reached age 55. The youngest sister, Mary Catherine, also has breast cancer. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

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Sponsor Spotlight: Undercover Mama

I'm very excited to introduce you all to a new product from one of my sponsors, Undercover Mama! The Undercover Mama is a strapless undershirt that allows a Mama to wear her favorite nursing bra, which gives shape and support to the "girls," while also keeping the "muffin top" area covered. It offers moms lots of versatility because it turns any bra into a nursing tank! It's perfect for layering or can be worn on its own.

Yes, the Undercover Mama works with ALL bras, not just nursing bras. When moms are done nursing, they can (and do!) still wear their Undercover Mama as a layering top. At $20, it's both stylish and affordable. It's especially great for busty moms who don't get enough support from a built in "shelf" bra.

Undercover Mama is also generously offering a 15% coupon for Blacktating readers. Simply enter code 15OFF at checkout. This offer can be combined with the promotion for free shipping when you purchase more than one shirt.

Curious how the Undercover Mama works? Check out this video for a demo.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Did my birth experience set me up to fail at breastfeeding?

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! This month's theme is the birth-breastfeeding continuum. 

I knew exactly what I wanted the birth of my baby to be like. Before I even became pregnant, before I even had any business worrying about babies and childbirth, I had a picture in my head of how it would go. Of course I would have an all-natural delivery, I would labor in a tub and give birth in whatever position felt the best, most likely on all fours or squatting. I read every book on natural childbirth that you can imagine and as the months went by, I became more and more worried about getting what I wanted at a hospital with a birth attended by an obstetrician. But I liked my OB and we seemed to be on the same page throughout my pregnancy and I regularly reminded him of how this birth was going to go. I thought about switching to a midwife and even took a childbirth and breastfeeding class at the Miami Maternity Center, which was featured in a show on Discovery Health called House of Babies.

I loved the birth center and the way the midwives there described how empowering birth could be. I wanted that experience, to know that everyone in the room was supporting me and that any interventions would only occur if absolutely medically necessary. But inexplicably, I kept going back to my OB's office for check-ups. When I hit the 42 week mark, I finally agreed to come in the next day to be induced, but thankfully I went into labor on my own. And for the most part, I got the birth I wanted. I didn't get an epidural, but I did have to push while lying on my back. My son was whisked away to be cleaned and measured and weighed, but he was returned to me quickly and I was able to breastfeed him for about 30 minutes in the delivery room. I felt pretty good about the way that things had turned out, figuring that for a hospital birth, I'd gotten pretty lucky.

But a recent podcast with Linda Smith on the Motherwear Blog nearly brought me to tears, as Linda discussed all of the ways in which typical hospital practices can cause breastfeeding problems. My son and I had such a rough start to breastfeeding but I blamed that on me being a first-time mom and never having seen anyone breastfeed. But was it my birth that impacted the nursing relationship between me and my son?

I had read how important it was for a mom to nurse her baby within the first hour of birth and I was able to do that. But my son was washed clean first and we were never skin-to-skin. If the importance if skin-to-skin was stressed in the pregnancy and breastfeeding books that I read, I don't remember it. And no one in the hospital ever suggested it. In fact, they yelled at me for unraveling him from his swaddle and holding him in bed with me, saying his temp would drop and if it did, he'd have to go under a warmer in the nursery and I wouldn't be able to keep him in the room with me. After that threat, I was sure to keep him swaddled tight at all times.

And what about my IV? I was only in labor at the hospital for about 3 hours, but I had IV fluids the entire time. Could that have inflated my son's birth weight, making it seem like he lost more weight than he really did? My son also had a lot of trouble latching and my milk came in two days later than is normal. Was edema caused by the IV to blame?

They also did a heelstick on my son, said his blood sugar was low and gave him formula in a bottle. I tried to argue with the nurse, saying I had asked for no bottles or formula, but she said they HAD to give it to him because it was medically necessary so I said OK. When I looked at our discharge papers, I saw he had been given formula every time he left the room for some other test! I was so mad, but at that point, what could I do? And to be honest, I probably would have consented then, too, because I didn't want to harm my baby.

And what of the stuff that seemed totally innocuous at the time, like bulb suctioning, or the nurses taking the baby to the nursery, just once for an hour, so I could sleep? I know there's nothing I can do about it at this point, but thinking about it has been bothering me a lot lately. I thought I'd had just about the best experience you could have in a hospital, but now I'm not so sure. If my son had been born at the birth center, would he have taken to breastfeeding quicker? Could I have avoided the sore nipples and weeks of nervewracking weight checks for a baby who wasn't gaining quick enough?

Did my birth set me up to fail at breastfeeding? And if it did, did I make it by luck or sheer determination? How many other women are throwing in the towel before they meet their nursing goals because of routine hospital practices?

Please be sure to check out the other Carnival participants' posts!

Crib Keeper @ Tales from the Crib: On Not Being Discouraged
Suchada @ Mama Eve: Birth and Breastfeeding
Christina @ Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Early Intervention Lactation Help
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing mom: Birth Experiences and Its Effect on Breastfeeding
Michelle @ Mama Bear: Long, wide shadow of bad births
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Fighting for Breastfeeding
Tanya @ Motherwear Blog: The Birth/Breastfeeding Continuum
Kate @ Tumbling Boobs: Nursing After Surrogacy or Adoption

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Theeeeeeeeyyyyy're Baaaaaacccccck!

For more on Nestle/Gerber's House Parties, see this post from May,  New Nestle WHO Code Violation.

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Busy Pandas: What are they doing?

My son is a huge fan of the Busy books series. They all feature animals like horses, chickens and bunnies doing what animals do best: being super cute. The board books have simple text to illustrate the pictures of the animals who are busy doing things that toddlers do, too, like sharing, clapping, eating, playing, etc. One of our favorite books in the series is Busy Pandas (A Busy Book). Is there anything cuter than a panda? Seriously. The books all start off the same, "Busy, busy pandas. What are they doing?" You know what busy pandas are doing?

That looks familiar, huh?

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Black women have no desire to breastfeed?

The American Academy of Pediatrics held their annual conference recently and information about the conference is now beginning to slowly emerge in the blogosphere. One of the things I've heard is that Nestle Nutrition, the largest sponsor of the conference, has now partnered with the AAP on a Healthy Active Living Initiative which you can read more about on PhD in Parenting.

Apparently some new information on black breastfeeding was also presented, based on a recent study conducted at a hospital in Camden, NJ. I initially wasn't going to write about the study because only the abstract is available online and I didn't think it was a great study or really told us anything useful. But since everyone is posting links to it on Facebook now I figured I should probably tackle it.

So this study looked at the barriers to breastfeeding as reported by exclusively formula feeding mothers. A whopping 62 black women were queried with the open-ended question, "Is there any particular reason why you chose not to breastfeed?" I can't tell from the abstract whether or not these women ever attempted or initiated breastfeeding, but my guess from the conclusion drawn from the study that the answer is "no." See, 55% of the respondents said they chose not to breastfeed because they simply had no desire to do so.

Now, I may never understand why women choose not to breastfeed. But is it really a revelation that a large percentage of women who never even tried to breastfeed just didn't want to? And why are the headlines screaming "Black women have no desire to breastfeed"? Because there are plenty of women of every race who have no desire to breastfeed. In fact, about 25% of women of other races never initiate breastfeeding. So while it would appear that a much greater percentage of black women don't want to breastfeed, there are often a lot of other factors at play, which even this study based on a handful of women living in one of the most blighted urban cities in America illustrates.

The answers respondents gave were coded into two categories: easily modifiable barriers and not easily modifiable barriers. The easy barriers were things like, fear of pain, worry about supply and misinformation. Twenty-three percent of the black women offered these easily modifiable barriers. But 89% gave reasons that were NOT easily modifiable, including having to return to work or school. So of the women who had a not easily modifiable reason to not breastfeed, half simply didn't want to, but half had a barrier outside of their own personal belief system preventing them from breastfeeding. Yet the headlines are just screaming, "Black women don't want to breastfeed!" with all of the value judgments about black women that a statement like that implies.

There are a lot of things that make this a complicated issue, but I'm not ready to say, based on this study, that the reason black breastfeeding rates are low is simply that black women don't want to do it. I'm also guessing that if you took any group of women, regardless of race and class, who never breastfed and asked them why not, that their answers would look the same. We have a lot of work to do, but I'm not sure that oversimplifying complex issues that involve race, class and culture, is the best way to go about it.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

October Carnival of Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding & Birth

The Carnival of Breastfeeding is back! We took a short break to rejuvenate and work on other projects (and one of us even birthed a baby!) but we're ready to get the Carnival ball rolling again.  Our theme for October is the birth and breastfeeding continuum. Inspired by this wonderful podcast with Linda Smith on how the most common birth practices can affect breastfeeding, we wanted to explore if you felt your breastfeeding relationship was impacted by your birth. Did an epidural leave you with a baby who seemed too sleepy to nurse? Did your midwife make sure your baby was kept skin-to-skin and he nursed like a champ? Share your experiences with us for the October Carnival!

Submissions are due by October 18th and the Carnival will go live on October 25th. We're doing things slightly different this time, so please fill out our spreadsheet in order to submit your post. As always, we're looking for posts that are:

- Well-written and grammatically correct

- Thoughtful and directly on point for the carnival subject

- Submitted by blogs that pertain to subjects of interest to our readers (breastfeeding, parenting, etc.)

If your post is selected for inclusion, you will be asked on the day of the carnival to edit your post to link back to each of the other participants in the carnival. Examples of past carnivals can be found here.

If you are participating, you may also want to add our Carnival of Breastfeeding button to your sidebar!


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