Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Generations of Breastfeeding

Welcome to November's Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month we're all writing about the history of breastfeeding in our families. Please be sure to click through to the other posts linked to at the end of mine.

I was raised by my mother as a single mom with help from her mother and aunt. I know very little about my father's side of the family and that includes any breastfeeding history. I can assume that as the descendant of Africans brought to South Carolina during the slave trade that there is probably a rich history of breastfeeding and some very interesting information to be shared. Unfortunately I don't know any of it, but I do think the history on my mother's side is as fascinating.

My maternal grandmother was born and raised in Lithuania. She and my grandfather (who I am named after) were Holocaust survivors, and my aunt was born shortly after the camps were liberated and the war was over, in West Germany. My grandmother breastfed my aunt until about age two, which would have been very typical for Jews at that time and place. My grandmother also probably had very little choice in this matter. My guess is that infant formula probably wasn't available there, and if it was, it would've been too expensive. The only options available to a woman who was unable to breastfeed were either to mix your own concoction of cow's milk and Karo syrup or hope there was another woman around to cross-nurse your baby. Thankfully my grandmother had plenty of milk. In fact, she used to hand express milk for a neighbor who was unable to breastfeed. She would express milk every day and bring it in to the woman to feed to her baby in glass jars. My mother isn't sure how long this arrangement went on, but her guess is that it was for at least 6 months, at which time solid food could have been safely introduced to the baby.

My mother is first generation born in America in my family. When my grandparents and aunt made the trek to America in the 50s, like many Jewish immigrants they ended up in New York, where my mother was born. In the hospital they were able to convince my grandmother that Similac infant formula was better than breastmilk and so she decided to bottle feed my mother. It seems strange in some ways that a new immigrant family would be willing to spend so much money on a product they could barely afford when breastmilk was available for free, but it was a different time, when modern medicine was saving and improving lives, medicine and doctors had become gods, and it was easier to believe that science could produce something better than nature.

When my mother became pregnant with me in the late 70s, she knew she was going to breastfeed from the start. She was reading books and going to Lamaze and wanted a natural birth. She was a hippie so none of this is surprising to me. My mom says she just instinctually knew that the milk her body would made had to be better than cow's milk for her baby. After a fairly quick and easy birth, she nursed me immediately. I was surprised to learn that in those days there was no rooming in at the hospital, so I was brought to her every 4 hours or so, around-the-clock so she could nurse me. This seems like just barely enough to create an adequate milk supply, but my mom says I was greedy and latched on and nursed like a champ. Because I was jaundiced we stayed in the hospital for 5 days. There were no lactation consultants and the nurses had zero knowledge of breastfeeding and no help, information or support was offered. No wonder only about 30% of women were breastfeeding!

Although my mom suffered from some sore nipples, she said after a few weeks everything seemed to have worked itself out and she never had any problems with supply. She says my father had no opinion on whether or not she breastfed but my grandmother thought she was crazy and backwards for wanting to breastfeed. She said bottle-feeding was easier, but my mom said she thought the idea of having to sterilize bottles and nipples, buy milk and mix and prepare it sounded like a lot more work so she continued to nurse. She did get strange looks and cause folks to whisper and point when she nursed in public, even with a blanket. She said it was a very bold thing to do in those days and something people were definitely not accustomed to seeing. She decided to wean me when I was about 18 months because she had returned to school and was working part-time and it became too much work. She weaned me by telling me there was no milk left and I never asked again and she was amazed at how easy it was to stop. By that point, friends and neighbors had been expressing their disgust for months that she was still breastfeeding me, but she said that didn't factor into her decision, she just had a lot on her plate and breastfeeding had become more of a chore.

Interestingly enough, I remember thinking that everyone always seemed very positive about the fact that my mother nursed me into toddlerhood. For me, it was always a source of pride. In fact, when I had my son, my goal was to "beat" my mom's record and nurse him until at least the age of two. Growing up I had heard so many wonderful stories about breastfeeding that I always thought it was normal and natural, even though I never really saw it around me. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed.

I am curious about what breastfeeding will be like in 30 years or so when my generation's kids are having kids. My son is being raised in a bottle-feeding culture and has told me before that babies drink "baby milk" from bottles and that "milkies" are for big boys. When he hears a baby cry in the store he will say, "Mommy, he needs a bottle!" He is in daycare and it's what he sees. I'm hopeful that he will have some memories of our nursing relationship and will remember me breastfeeding any subsequent children we may have. I hope that breastfeeding will be the norm if and when he decides to have children and that he will be supportive of his partner if she decides to do it. It's difficult to think of him having a child and that child not being breastfed but of course that is out of my hands. I do know that my children will grow up knowing about the legacy of breastfeeding in our family and my hope is that it continues on for many generations to come.

Check out the other fantastic posts from this month's Carnival participants.

Christine @ Christine's ContemplationsCarnival of Breastfeeding- My Family History of Nursing 
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Family History of Breastfeeding
Jona @ Breastfeeding Twins: Beer & Bottles (and other motherly advice)
Jake Aryeh Marcus: Breastfeeding? Not in My Family
Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip: How Women in My Family Feed Babies
Alicia @ Lactation Narration: Only the Hippies Were Breastfeeding
Dr. Sarah: Breastfeeding, Circa 1950s
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: An Unbroken Chain

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Essence Magazine, Do Better

When I saw the October issue of Essence magazine at Publix, I about choked and died.

Now, if you know me, you know how much I love Blair Underwood. Like a fine wine, the man just gets better with age. I have watched some really craptastic TV just to stare at Blair. When that whole Chris Brown and Rihanna debacle happened, Blair Underwood was the ONLY black male celebrity to speak out against domestic violence and to condemn Chris Brown's behavior. None of that mealy-mouthed celeb doublespeak from Blair. No sir. Accompanying this gorgeous photo was also an article where Blair was going to talk about loving black women? Well, Essence tempted me for the first time in YEARS to buy a copy.

So as I picked up the magazine to flip through it while in line to check out, I also noticed the cover story, "7 Breast Cancer Tips to Save Your Life." Now I just knew that Essence was hitting it out of the ballpark with this issue because this article was bound to be chock full of information on breastfeeding, right?

But Essence let me down. The article actually doesn't mention really breastfeeding. The "tips" are really 7 mistakes that black women make when faced with a lump that could be breast cancer. They are: Ignoring the signs, Thinking we can't afford reconstruction, Not being strategic about clinical exams, Failing to assemble a team, Letting size get in the way of our health, Automatically opting for mastectomy and Refusing the assistance of loved ones. So the article wasn't about prevention as much as it was about dealing with the reality of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Now while I think these are important things to discuss, particularly the link between obesity and breast cancer, is there really no room for information about breastfeeding in Essence magazine? Strangely they used a stock photo of a woman nursing a baby with the caption, "It's the number of kids you have that can lead to sagging breasts--not breastfeeding" but didn't actually discuss how breastfeeding can lower your risk of getting cancer in the first place.

Essence magazine has been getting a lot of flak lately for not covering issues pertinent to young black women well. And I think that by not covering breastfeeding in their magazine, they are doing their readers a huge disservice. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and I think we should be talking to women about the importance of breastfeeding before they become mothers. Breastfeeding is just as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as eating your fruits and vegetables, exercising and being a non-smoker are. I'm sure Essence has covered these topics in their Body & Soul section.

I did a database search of Essence magazine going back to 1988 and I found two articles about breastfeeding. A paragraph on how breastfeeding benefits moms from 2004 and a piece on breastfeeding after returning to work written in 1993.

And honestly, it's not just that they need to be covering this topic more, but Essence also needs to make sure when they do, they get the information fact-checked by a lactation professional. In March of this year they published a piece online only about the study that suggested that black moms were more comfortable with formula feeding, and that this could explain the disparity in breastfeeding rates. The author (whose name isn't listed) to decides to throw in that while breastmilk is touted as complete nutrition, it is low in Vitamin D. Her solution to this problem is "regimen that combines breastfeeding and formula-feeding with an added vitamin supplement. This could also be the way to go to get mothers who aren't enthusiastic about nursing all the time to incorporate it into their feeding routine."

Now TRUST there was no place to leave a comment on this tripe or I would have. It's completely and totally inaccurate and um, who asked this anonymous blog writer for her opinion on how to get black mothers to breastfeed? Yet and still, this bad information is sitting on Essence's website to this day. That's a problem.

So while I know that Essence magazine probably thinks they have bigger fish to fry at this point (their Editor-In-Chief Angela Burt Murray has just left, after all of the controversy surrounding her hiring of a white woman as Fashion Editor) I do hope they will try to write about breastfeeding more frequently, or at the very least, with accuracy.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest post: Empowering Breasts!

I'm really pleased to share with you an email I received from an anonymous blog reader about how she was able to use breastfeeding to reclaim her breasts and body for herself and her baby after being raped. I understand that this may be triggering for some of you, so please walk away if you cannot or should not read anything related to sexual assault. I think her message is incredibly powerful and may be just what someone else needs to hear: that it is possible to breastfeed successfully after sexual assault. If you know of any resources for women who are rape survivors and are pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding and natural labor, please leave them in the comments. 

Hi Elita,

I am one of your readers - an anonymous reader at this point. I love reading and educating myself about breastfeeding. There's one point I rarely read anything about, but which I am thankful that you in several posts have pointed out: how empowering breastfeeding can be.

About two years ago I was pregnant and scared. Scared about how I was going to be able to deal with a vaginal birth - am I going to feel powerless and violated like I did during the gang rape? Am I going to have flashbacks of the rape during internal examinations, when the birth becomes very painful, if they have to stitch me up? And if so, how am I going to deal with it? Will I be able to bond with my child? So I surfed the internet for information, wanting to read about women like me, rape survivors, who had given birth. In serveral articles, breastfeeding was mentioned too - as a potential problem. I read that survivors of sexual abuse may feel uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding, their bodies belonging to someone else again, their breasts being handled, with the pain that breastfeeding sometimes causes. I hadn't really thought about that before, but reading about it triggered a lot of questions. Maybe that's how I am going to feel? What if the little baby starts searching for my breast and I will feel nothing but disgust? There were only questions and no answers.

And then I gave birth and it was both a smooth birth with effective contractions and no need for pain relief and at the same time a tough birth that required vacuum extraction in the end. But I had been concentrated and calm, there had been no flashbacks and I felt strong and good about myself. The bonding with my baby was immediate. They put him on my chest and I loved him. So simple. He searched for my breast and I gave it to him, lovingly. It took us about six weeks to get the breastfeeding right and those were tough weeks filled with tears, but also with determination. But we got it right and breastfeeding became simple and natural and a pleasure for both of us (and it still is as I decided to let him wean himself when he is ready).

I never felt like the baby was taking over my body in a negative way, the way he sucked never reminded me of the rapists abusing my breasts and the rest of my body. There simply was no connection like that. Instead, I felt myself growing stronger. In fact, it felt like my body belonged to me for the first time since the rape. My body was being used for something positive and normal; I did this, I could make my son thrive and blossom.

I would have loved to read empowering stories when I was pregnant and scared. Instead I got the impression that having been sexually abused is a really legitimate reason to bottlefeed the baby from the start. Of course it is, if the woman just can't deal with breastfeeding. But it shouldn't be presented as the norm, as a logical result of sexual abuse. Breastfeeding has empowered me and I believe it can empower lots of women with lots of different backgrounds and different baggage. And also we must also ask ourselves: is the bottle the solution for a woman who has issues with her breasts? Is the bottle going to solve her problems? Is the bottle going to empower her as breastfeeding could if she gave it a chance?

No, I have not been able to find a support group either. It would be so helpful, though, because one's past affects one's parenting so much. It's not over once you have given birth. When I was pregnant, I wrote a letter to my midwife explaining my fears and she sent me to a hospital psychologist who works with women that are afraid of giving birth. It felt like the psychologist didn't understand me and the issues I have at all and that struck me as very weird - I couldn't possibly have been the first one coming to her with those worries. A c-section was immediately presented as an option and as I said that I want to give birth vaginally, but that I need support, we spoke about what exactly I'm worried about. But she didn't offer any tools on how to handle the situations should they occur. Some psychologists seem to think that you just have to name your fears and they will disappear. One of my greatest fears had been ending up having an instrumental birth - as that has a very specific connection to the rape - and as I mentioned, that's exactly what happened. I think it could have gone either way; I could also easily have experienced the birth as something very traumatic that might have affected the bonding with my child. But I had such a wonderful midwife assissting me, someone who had read my journal and who somehow seemed to know exactly what kind of support I needed. I wish all midwives, obstetricians and lactation counsellors would learn how to deal with the results of sexual abuse and rape, I wish it were part of their training. Of course it can be a relief for someone who has troubles breastfeeding to hear from someone professional that it's ok to give the baby the bottle. But that person is also saying that it's ok for the rapists to still control that woman's body. They should try to fix the underlying problem, try to find out what kind of help the woman would need to overcome her fear/disgust/phobia. It's not fair to tell her to bottlefeed and to allow her to continue to feel that way about her body. She is worth to be healed. And it's certainly not fair towards her baby either.

And returning to the idea of a support group for moms who had been raped or molested - there is no other place where you can feel as comfortable as around people who have experienced the same. I'm pregnant again and I'm wondering how things are going to turn out this time. Will the midwife assissting me at the birth be as understanding as the one I had last time? Will I be able cope with everything without suffering any flashbacks? Will it be an instrumental birth again and what would that feel like? I'm not even sure I will talk about it with someone this time. I have the feeling that they'd think: Hey, you managed well last time, what are you worried about now? Hm, who knows, I might start such a support group if one day I feel strong enough to be more open about it.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weaning Has Me Worried Sick

My son had a bit of the sniffles this entire week. Nothing major, a low grade fever off and on for a day or so, a little bit of a drippy nose, waking up with a crust of boogers all over his face. He was never sick enough to stay home from daycare, although I gave him a dose of medicine once when he woke up in the middle of the night coughing.

Miles has had the occasional cold, starting from when he was a tiny thing, only three weeks old. My husband is a teacher so he brought home a bug, I caught it and passed it on to the baby. Because I was breastfeeding, the baby got the mildest form of the cold of all of us, but it was still hard to see him sick, struggling to nurse and breathe at the same time with a stuffy nose. But honestly, that's been the worst of it. Runny or stuffed noses, fevers, accompanied with clinginess and a desire to nurse non-stop. We've never had a case of diarrhea, no puking, no ear infections. His pediatrician has even remarked that he has the thinnest medical file of a kid in daycare he's ever seen.

I was talking to another mom once about poop (what else?) and she said how the worst poop she's ever smelled is when her kids were on antibiotics. "Am I right?" she asked. "Isn't it awful?" She was totally stunned when I told her that my son has never been on antibiotics so I couldn't say.

Breastfeeding has really been the best thing ever for keeping my son healthy. And though after three years I have HAD.ENOUGH. I'm totally afraid to wean him. Because I know the second we stop nursing, something catastrophic will happen.

I've heard the horror stories from too many moms to not know how this will end. You wean your  kid, then he gets the plague and you no longer even have breastfeeding as a way to comfort him. I know women who have nursed their kids until they self-weaned and wham! next thing you know, the kid ends up in the hospital with something awful.

It makes sense, in a way. The research shows a child's immune system isn't fully formed until about age 5 and most of us don't nurse for that long (and I have NO desire to be nursing a kid who's in kindergarten....NONE). At some point you're probably going to have a child whose immune system isn't yet completely developed, who is covered in a coating of germs from his classmates and playmates and who is no longer breastfeeding. That is a recipe for disaster and I wonder how long we can make it unscathed.

So for now, although I'm ready to be done, I'm sticking it out a little longer, for the health of my son. At least through the end of flu season.  I hope.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Your family history

For the November Carnival of Breastfeeding, we want to hear about the history of breastfeeding over the generations in your family. Did your mother breastfeed you?  Did your grandmother breastfeed?
Do you know why they made the feeding choice they did? Here's your opportunity to ask if you don't know!

Submissions are due by November 15th and the Carnival will be on November 22nd. We're using Google Docs to collect submissions, so please fill out this 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.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Breast Is Best, Where's the Confusion?

I received an email in my inbox today at work, from an industry magazine, linking to some new reviews that were available exclusively online. Since I do all of the collection development for my library, I decided to scroll through and see if there was anything interesting.

Well, hold on to your hats because apparently there are still people out there who are questioning if breast milk is really any better for babies and decided we needed a treatise defending formula feeding. The book is called Is Breast Best?: Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood. The author, Joan Wolf, decided to expound on a 2007 essay she wrote for the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law after the US government's ad campaign from 2006 used risk aversion as a means of promoting breastfeeding ("You'd never take risks before your baby is born. Why start after?" asked the ads, featuring heavily pregnant women log rolling and riding a mechnical bull at a bar).

Now, when a certain journalist tried to parse through the scientific studies and decided they were "flawed," she was criticized by nearly everyone, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Breastfeeding Committee. So I'm sort of surprised that a gender studies professor somehow thinks she is more qualified than say, Dr. Melissa Bartick, to determine whether or not there is strong science to support the case for breastfeeding.

For goodness sakes, even the reviewer, a journalist and freelance writer says, "(Wolf) seems out of her element when describing perceived flaws in medical studies of breast milk and talking about financial issues." Her review also states, "Inexplicably, she fails to discuss the price of formula, which can easily run $1,000 to $2,000 a year. Instead, she talks about what she sees as the 'exorbitant' costs of breastfeeding."

This idea of the high price of breastfeeding gets brought up again and again. Yes, pumps and milk storage bags and nursing clothing can be pricey, but there is also this argument that breastfeeding is only free if a woman's time isn't worth anything. And honestly, I'm not buying it. Do bottles make themselves? Does formula just show up at the door? (wait...don't answer that.) Do parents not have to actually take time to feed the baby once the formula is prepared? And when families are bottle-feeding, is the work always split 50/50?

Are we seriously still asking women to believe that breastfeeding isn't compatible with feminism? Wolf seems to be. In an essay she wrote for the website Opposing Views, she says that breastfeeding promotion   "derive(s) from an ethos which presumes that a moral mother will subjugate herself completely to a culturally defined, all-inclusive notion of the needs of children. When mothers have wants, such as a sense of bodily, emotional, and psychological autonomy, but children have needs... then good mothering requires that mothers repress their own wants.  Each mother is responsible for adopting behavior that reduces even minuscule or poorly understood risks to her children, regardless of the cost to herself." Again, I would argue that the risks of formula feeding are understood and that those risks are not miniscule, but you don't have to be a martyr to breastfeed. Many women come to the conclusion that bottle-feeding was not as freeing as they were led to believe it would be. And isn't the harassment of nursing moms in public that we hear about every day, the judgment of our choices from friends, family and healthcare providers alike, the pushback to any accommodations that are made for us, just as worthy of feminist discourse? Where are the scholars writing about that?

So just be prepared come January, when all of the various media outlets and morning shows trot out this "expert" to tell women around the country that there is no reason to breasteed and sites like Mom Logic and Babble applaud her for her work. You can't say you weren't warned.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baby Baby Oh Baby: Breastfeeding

When my son was a newborn, one of my favorite things to do was to massage him with oil or lotion after his bath, before nursing him off to sleep. Sometimes when he was fussy or overtired, I would strip him down to his diaper and rub him down and instantly he would calm down. I learned about infant massage from Dr. Sears' The Baby Book, where he suggests some specific techniques, like "milking" the baby's legs and the "pit stop" where you rub the lymph nodes under the armpits. I could never remember exactly what I was "supposed" to do and I didn't drag out the book every time. It really didn't matter, though, as my baby enjoyed the massages and so did I. We just sort of played it by ear and it became another way in which I learned about my baby and taught him about the world. Dr. Sears has outlined some of the benefits of massage to babies on his website, but I think it was just as beneficial for me as a new mom and gave me another way in which to bond with my baby.

A few weeks ago on Rixa's blog Stand & Deliver, she mentioned a new DVD that teaches parents about the importance of infant massage called BabyBabyOhBaby: Bonding With Your Brilliant & Beautiful Baby Through Infant Massage. What I loved about her review is how the DVD stresses the relationship between parent and child, not any specific moves or techniques. The DVD's creator, David Spark, has a philosophy very similar to that of Dr. Sears: massage is something you do with your baby, not to him, and is like a beautiful dance between caregivers and babies. I think this DVD would make a great gift for parents-to-be.

And if that wasn't wonderful enough, Spark Productions is also currently filming a DVD on breastfeeding! Check out the beautiful preview below.


How beautiful is that? I love that this also stresses the importance of nurturing with touch and how important breastfeeding is to the relationship between mom and baby. I have to remember to keep this on my radar so I can grab a copy when it comes out!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name......

Quick: what's your definition of breastfeeding? Is it a baby being nourished at the breast, receiving his mother's milk? What if mom is pumping and feeding her milk to her baby via a bottle? Is that child being breastfed? And how much human milk does a baby need to receive in order to be considered a breastfed baby? One feeding a day, which is the definition at WIC? Or at least 50/50? Some other ratio of breast milk to formula? Or only breast milk?

And while we're at it, what about exclusive breastfeeding? If your baby was supplemented in the hospital, can you consider him "exclusively breastfed"? Some moms start solids as early as 4 months but will say they "exclusive breastfed" for the recommended 6 months. This is not to downplay how difficult it is to breastfeed your baby for this long or the kudos that moms deserve. But what of the research? How we can talk about the protection offered by exclusive nursing if we can't study it because no one's really doing it?

And is it breastmilk, breast milk or breast-milk? Breastfeeding, breast-feeding, breast feeding? Why is all of this so convoluted and complicated anyway? And why can't we agree on any of it?

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Healthy Children's Certified Lactation Counselor Course

I spent the week of October 11-15 taking the Certified Lactation Counselor course through Healthy Children's Center for Breastfeeding. I knew that I wanted to take a course in breastfeeding so that I could get some basic credentials, learn more about breastfeeding and maybe begin my journey towards becoming an IBCLC. Since I don't have a healthcare background, I figured a class like this would be a good place to start to see if becoming an IBCLC was even a realistic goal or worthy of further consideration. I chosen Healthy Children's CLC class because it seemed more comprehensive than the other options available, since it was a full 40 hours.

I was lucky that the course was offered in my backyard, but many people had traveled to attend the week-long class from all over Florida and the country. We met in a classroom at a local hospital and were informed by the faculty that they are happy to travel anywhere to teach, as long as someone can offer up a space. So if you've been looking for the class in your area and it hasn't been available, find out if your local hospital is willing to host them and they will come!

The faculty for my course were Dr. Lois Arnold, who is probably best well known for her work in human milk banking, and Sheri Garner, a nurse and lactation consultant who did a lot of work in military facilities. Both women were extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter and were great speakers. There really wasn't ever a dull moment, even when the material being presented wasn't new.

Now, as I said, I don't work in healthcare, but the majority of the women in the class with  me did. I'd say about half of the participants were nurses, mainly in Mother/Baby, but a few who worked in the NICU. The other half seemed to be WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors. I was literally the only person who had no connection to healthcare or working with breastfeeding moms at all (there were two registered dietitians in the class and one speech pathologist and a couple IBCLCs there for continuing education credits.) Still, I'd say that I already knew about 85% of the material that was covered in the class.

There was a lot of discussion about the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding in this country, the WHO Code, infant formula, hospital best practices including Baby Friendly, how to talk to moms to encourage them to breastfeed, etc. All things that we talk about on this blog and my Facebook fan page and Twitter on the daily. So for me, a lot of this was review. Thankfully it's a topic I just can't get enough of, so it didn't bother me, but of course, your mileage may vary.

What was new for me was the science stuff: how milk is made, the hormones involved in lactation, the medical terminology, the diagrams of the various body parts and systems involved. I have never been very good with these sort of left-brained topics so for me, a lot of this felt rushed. I was struggling to remember my 9th grade biology and had a hard time remembering what all of the terms meant.  For everyone else it was probably review. And strangely enough, everyone else seemed to know very little about things like the WHO Code and formula marketing.

So while I enjoyed the course, there are a couple of caveats. I think the course really caters more to folks who are already working with moms and babies, and that makes sense. Nurses, lactation consultants, midwives and RDs are taking the class for continuing education credits. And to that end, Healthy Children recently added a new competency to the class. Before, participants were expected to do a brief homework assignment each night which included role playing with a partner and answering some short essay questions. Now, in order to pass the course and become a Certified Lactation Counselor, you must not only turn in the homework assignments and pass the 100-question exam offered on the final day, you must also pass a LAT competency.

The LAT is the Lactation Assessment Tool, created by Healthy Children, to help with assessing breastfeeding. It is a sheet that a CLC or IBCLC could use while observing a mom nursing her baby and determine whether or not the baby is nursing well. It asks questions about the latch, the way mom is holding the baby, the baby's behavior, etc. For the CLC course, you are shown a short video of a mom breastfeeding a baby and have to fill in the LAT. This portion of the class is pass/fail, meaning if you get anything wrong on the LAT you've failed and will not pass the overall course, even if you ace the multiple choice exam. I don't know how I didn't know this new competency  had been added to the course, but I didn't know. Many of the people in the class with me didn't know and much freaking out ensued. So if NURSES WHO WORK WITH MOMS AND BABIES EVERY DAY were freaking out, you can imagine how yours truly felt. I've never in my life helped a mom to breastfeed. And while I've read a lot of breastfeeding books, I would never say that I feel qualified to do so and I don't think the hour or so we spent on this was sufficient for someone outside of the medical profession to pass this portion. So if I pass, ya'll, it will truly be a miracle.

Overall, I can say that I enjoyed the course and it did help me to solidify what I'd like to do in the future and gave me a better understanding of what working with moms and babies is like. If I pass, it would be really cool to be able to call myself a CLC and  I'd love to start teaching some breastfeeding classes in the community. If I don't pass I'll definitely be disappointed and at this point, I'm not sure if I would bother retaking the LAT competency or just chalk it up to a fun experience and move forward.

Has anyone else taken the CLC or another lactation education class? What are your thoughts?

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association Conference

On October 25th, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Third Annual Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association conference. BMBFA has been on my radar for a few years now, and I've written before about how I think the founder, Kiddada Ramey, is one of the top black movers and shakers in the breastfeeding world.

Now, when Kiddada asked me to speak I was scared out of my mind. I speak all the time in front of groups for my real job, but I've never done a presentation for a breastfeeding conference. I knew that lots of amazing women were going to be presenting (including Bettina Forbes of Best for Babes, Napiera Loveless of MamaTotoMatema and researcher Dr. Paula Meier) and I didn't want to disappoint anyone. But I figured this was a good place to get my feet wet because it was a smaller, more intimate conference and I would be amongst friends. I already knew that some of the moms from BMBFA that I communicate with on Facebook and Twitter would be there. I just couldn't turn down the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in person.

I presented on one of my favorite topics: how I use blogging and other forms of social media to connect with other black breastfeeding moms online. I think the presentation went really well. People asked some great questions afterwards and a couple even come up to me afterwards to tell me how much they liked my presentation. It was so nice to get such positive feedback. I was really feeling the love, ya'll!

Kiddada was so inspiring and I really want to be like her when I grow up! I'd love to start a chapter of BMBFA locally or use the power of social media to raise some funds for the organization because she is doing such amazing things for moms in Detroit. I'm already looking forward to going back next year!

*FYI, I've decided to participate in National Blog Post Month AKA NaBloPoMo. The point is to improve your writing skills by blogging throughout the month of November. I'm going to give it a whirl. I can't promise that all of my posts will be good, but you WILL be hearing from me every day for the next 30 days. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it interesting and fresh.

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