Sunday, January 28, 2007

Addendum to Sexy Nursing Bra post

The head hot mama at Condessa let me know that their current collection of bras DOES NOT have underwire. That makes me feel better about mamas wearing them in the immediate postpartum. The new collection does have underwire - so you now have a choice.

I will be trying them out so I will be sure to report on fit, function and of course what my baby daddy had to say.....

Celebrities a breastfeeding mama can relate to....sorta

Celebrities...they have trainers to help them loose the postpartum baby fat, nannies that hold their baby behind stage or on set while they work and top line baby clothes free from the hottest "kiddie designers". Not to mention help at home, glamorous jobs and a cook - Dear Lord Jesus, what I wouldn't give for a cook!

But I digress...we spend too much time pointing out the differences between us as mothers, so let's look at some breastfeeding celebrity moms.
Now, Jada Pinkett-Smith sounds like a woman I could hang out with. She said that Jaden (who is 9 years old this year), breastfed around 18 months and "never saw a bottle". Apparently she took her baby everywhere. In this Fit Pregnancy article she was pregnant with Willow, her almost 7 year old daughter. I don't know how long Willow breastfed, but she openly talks with Justin Timberlake (of all people) for an MTV interview about breastfeeding Willow while training for the Matrix Reloaded and her husband Will Smith (you know, of "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" and Men in Black fame) spoke of getting her more work now that she is no longer breastfeeding. Apparently he said that sometime in 2005 or 2006! Way to take care of those babies, girl!

Nelly Furtado (singer of hit song "Permiscuous" with Timbaland) speaks openly about breastfeeding for two years in article after article like she's just talking about putting on lipstick in the morning. This is my favorite quote of Furtado's:

"I'm a lot more comfortable with myself now," she says. "I was pregnant for nine months and breast-feeding for two years. My body was completely hijacked; for all the best reasons, but for that time it wasn't mine. So once that was all over," she sighs, reliving the relief, "I got to rediscover my body. I had all these new curves and I loved them!"

Finally, a celebrity, a mom talking about how, yes, your body is completely taken over by this little person - you give of your very self while pregnant and breastfeeding. But it is for such a wonderful reason and it is only for a season. And when that season is over, you have this wonderful, new body that you know is functional and miraculous, full of curves and can be SEXY again. I should point out too, that you can be sexy and loose weight during breastfeeding too. I personally have been my smallest size after about a year of breastfeeding but it doesn't work like that for everyone. Apparently Nelly's body hung onto some extra weight until she stopped.

Gwen Stefani (lead singer of No Doubt; has current hit "Wind it Up"). Has joined the rank of motherhood. She has been photographed with baby in a Rocking baby sling and claims that breastfeeding gives you "superhuman powers". Gwen, I would agree! Her baby has to be at least 6 months, but may be closer to 8 months, so she is making it longer than most American mamas while releasing and promoting a new album.

Others who have been reported as breastfeeding mamas include: Holly Robinson Pete (twins), Anita Baker, Cheryl Swoopes (WNBA player), Micheal Jordan's mama breastfed him for 3 years and credits it for making him the athlete he is, Ruth Pointer (of the Pointer Sisters breastfed premature twins), Sherri Sheperd (Less Than Perfect) and Erykah Badu. Check out a nice but surely not complete list at the bottom of the page here.

I will leave you with this quote from Erykah Badu.

No matter who you are, all mothers have the same concerns, same insecurities, same decisions and same struggle to trust themselves and their baby. When it boils down to it, we are all just human mamas trying to do right by our babies.

"When I first had the baby, I was breastfeeding for two years straight, so we were together for two years of his life - every day, all hours of the day. So I was two people, and I eventually morphed back into one. Now he's part of me. He's very independent as a result of it. I thought it was going to be the opposite," she added. "I was very worried that he was going to be attached since we were together every day, but I guess it made him feel comfortable: 'I know she's around. She'll be there.' It made me feel like a very responsible person and tidy, and my health was better because I'm now responsible for someone's whole reason for being."
- Erykah Badu

*Stay tuned next week for my take on Fit Pregnancy's Top Cities to have a Baby in America 2007 report.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bringing Sexy Back to the Nursing Bra

Okay, maybe bringing sexy for the first time to nursing bras, but I digress. I have met many women over the years in desperate search of at best a comfortable nursing bra, forget beauty or God forbid, something sexy. Many mothers struggle with balancing motherhood and sexuality. A common barrier to breastfeeding in the African-American community is that the man doesn't want to share his woman's breasts who have belonged to him in love making until now.

Well, boys, it looks like the lovely ladies at Condessa are interested in providing functional, supportive breastfeeding lingerie so that even a frazzled mother of three like me can get her groove on when daddy comes home from work. Personally, I am a fan of Bravado Bras. They are comfortable, cute and even come in cute patterns like floral and animal print. I have not tried their tank tops but they look nice. They even hosted a booth with a dressing room at the LLLI Conference and had special deals which is where I got hooked. Many moms, nursing and otherwise (they have non-nursing bras too) love Bravado for it's function and form.

Back to the sexy stuff....
The Condessa lingerie actually LOOKS like the stuff at Vicki's hush-hush (you know what store I am talking about, right?) and has the same price point but is designed for ease of nursing too. It's nice that a company is actually thinking of the "other" needs of a breastfeeding woman (and her husband/partner)! And with color names like "seductive sunset", "tempting rose" and my favorite of course, "captivating mocha" maybe breastfeeding mothers with "low desire" (let's face it, breastfeeding and mothering sometimes lowers desire and availability) will feel sexy and want to show it off and daddies will have more than a white, stained nursing bra to look forward to.

According to this story, the bras do have underwire in them which I do NOT recommend in the first six months of nursing, but some mothers use them from the beginning with no problem. If you notice plugged ducts (lumps) at any time, discontinue use or change sizes to avoid mastitis (breast infection).

My ten year anniversary and Valentine's Day is coming up and if the good people at Condessa wants to send me a set to try I would be happy to post results....well, not detailed results....

Feel free to leave a comment with ideas on how to feel, look and be sexy as a breastfeeding mother. Keeping your legs shaved? Using a special body wash or sparkly lotion? What do you do? We could all use a little more's only three weeks until Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Depo Provera and breastfeeding

Recently a prolific colleague, Kimberly Durdin-James,IBCLC brought up the epidemic of mothers, particularly low-income, minority mothers being given Depo provera in the hospital before lactation is established and before discharge. Women who have received breastfeeding information, been encouraged to breastfeed and have DECIDED to breastfeed who are now, unable to breastfeed. Lactation consultants will tell you story after story of mothers who struggle to bring in any milk supply at all after receiving an injection of Depo Provera. Even worse, how many mothers now think this is one more way that their body doesn't work; they could not produce milk for their baby. Yet, it didn't have to be that way.

Do doctors know they are sabotaging their patients? Do they care? What information is out there?

I decided to do some of my own research. Information online varies from site to site. The actual Depro Provera site says that women can use the medication after the birth of a baby. It does not specifically mention any affect on milk production.

Various sites say it is compatible with breastfeeding or safe for the breastfeeding mother and baby.

Other sites offer more specific guidelines. The general consensus is to administer at 3 to 5 days if NOT breastfeeding and after 6-8 weeks (or after breastfeeding is well established) if breastfeeding. However, it is not listed as a "con" or reason not to choose Depo Provera.

Depo Provera has a dark side, excluding its affect on lactation. Sara Littlecrow-Russell shares her experience with this form of birth control, doctor coercion and finding out about the potential side effects here. According to her article, Depro appears to be the contraceptive of choice for many government clinics and agencies and is growing in popularity in those settings. Interestingly, black teens are more than twice as likely as white teens to use it (19% compared to 8%). I have heard time and time again of it being given with and without consent to black mothers (some young, some low income, some not) in the hospital. Apparently some doctors are so concerned that these potentially "non-compliant" patients will either skip the 6 weeks appointment or come back pregnant that they are willing to trample on their right to make an informed decision (especially one they may not agree with). Why not teach these women how very important it is that they exclusively breastfeed to prevent the return of fertility until the 6 weeks postpartum check-up where they can discuss other options?

Even if given "with consent", there are some valid concerns. Twelve years ago, four consumer groups including the National Black Women's Health Project banned together to ask for a moratorium on Depo Provera. The FDA promised to "monitor any adverse health effects" and the groups asked for healthcare professionals to use a standard informed-consent form. Twelve years later, and as they say, "ain't nothin' changed". Women are still reporting negative side effects and have their stories online including a general Petition against Depo provera and and a Men's Petition. The Philadelphia Black Woman's Health Project states on it's web site:

"While Depo is viewed as a drug of convenience, we maintain that it exacerbates pre-existing disease conditions. Depo has been linked with long-term irreversible effects such as breast cancer and cervical cancer, both of which disproportionately affect Black women. Depo is also associated with a thinning of the bones. This places young women who use Depo at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Other risks include increased depression, excessive weight gain, excessive bleeding, and loss of sex drive."

Again, no mention of negative affect on milk supply, but honestly that may be the least of your problems with this contraceptive. What is scary, is that it not only takes away your ability to produce milk, but also takes away your ability to reap the protective nature breastfeeding offers against breast and cervical cancer. It is a "double whammy". But it prevents more "ghetto babies" right? Apparently that is the most important objective.

Depo Provera may be a solution for some mothers in some situations. It is important that we give mothers the information, counseling and opportunity to make the best choice. For breastfeeding mothers, especially mothers who already have social barriers against breastfeeding, we should do everything we can to eliminate barriers where we can. For more information on breastfeeding and fertility click here and for more information on breastfeeding and hormonal contraceptives and options click here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I have a dream....

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even the most white-bread public school history class includes a brief history of the speeches and non-violent protest work of Dr. King. If you need an overview of Dr. King and his work, check here.

So in honor of Dr. King, I have decided to make my own "I have a Dream Speech". Thank you to Martin Luther King Jr. for Kids for the link to this idea. This is a great idea to try with your children too.

"I Have a Dream Too!"

I have a dream that one day this nation will value and support breastfeeding mothers and babies.

I have a dream that one day America will be a place that breastfeeding is the norm. After all, it is their birth right. (Thanks, Kimberly!)

I have a dream that one day African-American babies will no longer have a greater risk of SIDS, morbidity, mortality, ear infections, obesity....the list of diseases that are more prevalent in the African-American children and adults is too long. One is too long.

I have a dream that the womanly art of breastfeeding will be reclaimed and respected.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day Black moms, White moms, Native moms, African moms, British moms, Christian moms, Jewish moms, Muslim moms, stay-at-home moms and working moms will all be able to breastfeed their babies/provide human milk so their children can get the start in life they deserve.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day LLLI philosophy will be the predominant parenting philosophy.

This is my hope and faith. With this faith we will be able to help mothers gain confidence, trust and pride in themselves as they realize they are the experts in their own babies.

This will be the day when breastfeeding is not "the best". It is normal, it is common, it is just what mothers and babies do.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Friday, January 12, 2007

What's the public attitude towards breastfeeding?

I often say that until breastfeeding is valued and normalized in our culture, breastfeeding rates will continue to be low and have sharp drop off rates. Let's face it, breastfeeding is expendable. Child is gaining too slow - stop breastfeeding. Baby is fussy, must be your milk - stop breastfeeding. Child won't eat many solids - stop breastfeeding. It's raining today - stop breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is often easily dismissed when developing care plans for children and their mothers. In American culture the thought of a baby who doesn't take bottles or receive some formula is foreign to most people.

After all, formula is just as good. Especially the new formulas that are "patterned after breastmilk" (Bright Beginnings Formulas) or have "special nutrients found in breastmilk" (Similac Formulas) and "provide nutrients found naturally in mother's milk" (Parent's Choice Formulas), RIGHT? How could they make these claims if they aren't true? The truth is, the formula companies aka pharmaceutical companies are excellent at marketing. The have convinced many, like a mother who once called me asking which formula had the "breastmilk ingredients in it" in case she needed to supplement her baby. The marketing had gotten to her. Has it gotten to you or those you know too?

I am glad that formulas are now being made with organic ingredients and EFAs - they should have been from the start. They also still contain corn syrup and synthetic ingredients and things with names normal people can't pronounce. It is not a living fluid, it is not custom made for each baby and subject to human error in mixing and water contaminates among other issues. I do not desire to see infant formula disappear, for it serves a medical purpose. I just want to see it put in its place.

I say all this to bring your attention to a recent article int the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. A study found that attitudes toward breastfeeding and formula are changing and not for the better. More people in 2003 (25.7%) agree that "infant formula is just as good as breastmilk" than did in 1999 (14.3%). The study found the biggest gain (or loss from my perspective) in those believing the lie were of low socioeconomic status. (Which by the way are the people the government should be reaching through public health messages, right? What messages are really being sent and received?) More people are uncomfortable with a breastfeeding woman sitting next to them as well. Is it any wonder this is the case when infant formula companies have raised marketing funding from $29 million in 1999 to $46 million in 2004. Many now have celebrity endorsers as well.

The lesson here is simple. Formula company marketing is working. It is powerful and effective. The half-hearted U.S. National Breastfeeding Campaign DID NOT WORK. The WHO International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes needs to be adopted and enforced in America to show a serious commitment to the health of our youngest most vulnerable citizens and the women who care for them. Public health departments need to make a real commitment to breastfeeding instead of firing lactation consultants (like in my area)and giving lip service to breastfeeding support. Doctors should receive breastfeeding education and hands on support training in medical school and residency. This is a wake up call, ladies and gentlemen. We have miles to go before we sleep.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Splish, Splash...

Tanya, over at the Motherwear Blog, asked "How much water do you need?" I get that question a lot when I teach breastfeeding classes, lead support groups or just answer mother's questions. Many mothers are told that if the don't drink gallons upon gallons of water their milk supply will get low. So far, medical science has found no benefit to drinking your weight in water every day during lactation.

Drink water preferably, and drink it often. It is a good rule of thumb to always have a glass of water nearby when you sit down to nurse. In the early weeks, you tend to get thirsty during each feeding (burning all those extra calories, I guess). It can be very irritating to have just gotten junior latched on and realize your throat is on fire! Just start a water cup in the morning and fill it up right before you sit down to nurse. It is a good habit to keep up as the months go by as well. Most importantly, follow your body. If you are thirsty, drink. Drink before you get really thirsty and use it as a reminder to take care of your needs too.

Here is my favorite glass to drink out of. I don't know why but I love it. It is the only one we have like it and drinking out of it always makes me happy. My preferred beverage on the daily is water, no ice, lemon if I am feeling fancy. Everyone says they don't drink enough water, but I actually think I do pretty good. The only other drink we have in the house is apple juice so I usually drink water or tea. It's pure vanity. I can't afford to waste calories on drinks. I'd rather eat chocolate.

I will pass the challenge on to Jennifer at The Lactivist. What's in your cup, Lactivist?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

La Leche League Conference Registration Open!

Imagine a world of fathers with babies in slings and backpacks while mom hangs out with friends, stay-at-home mothers from Alabama in conversation with doctor-moms from somewhere in Australia.

A mother nursing her child while taking notes in a professional education session and a highly educated researcher stopping to play peek-a-boo with a toddler.

Close friends, new and old who admire and respect your parenting choices. Older, wiser women and younger, "smarter" teenagers that both offer to help you with your packages so you can go ahead and nurse your baby.

Not to mention people from all over the world, gathered together to improve the health of mothers, babies, children, families, even nations through education, discussion and planning. Hearing many many languages everywhere you turn - yet everyone working toward the same goals.

Now imagine having someone else make up your bed and room service.

That that reality exists every two years at the La Leche League International Conference.

Please consider attending this year and being a part this conference, that is much more than a conference. It is a gathering of friends and family. And even though LLLI is often thought of a "white woman's group" it is trying to change and while I can't speak for every leader, I can say that there is a true effort and desire within LLLI to reach out to the African-American mother and women of color around the globe. La Leche has a long way to go in that goal and instead of just complaining about the organization, I am trying to be a part of the change I want to see. Come to Chicago and be a part of change with me. Help make LLLI a rainbow of sisterhood.

To register online click here.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Just because it's free, doesn't mean it's good!

If there is one thing I learned from a grandmother who grew up during The Great Depression and a mother who had to make it on her own with no child support for the better part of my growing up years, it was to be frugal,, however you'd like to put it. Coupon clipping, sales and if you could get it for free, even better.

So when I was pregnant with my first baby almost seven years ago (Good Lord, could it really be that long ago?), I dutifully took my "free formula gift bag" coupon to the hospital with me. I was determined to breastfeed for at least six months, but I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to get something free. Just imagine how thrilled I was when I didn't even have to present the coupon! A nurse just brought the bag with our check out materials. Lovely! Since then, I have learned that these bags are not just a "gift" from the hospital or formula/pharmaceutical company. The bags are slick, well-designed marketing tools designed to sabotage breastfeeding and ensure that mothers use their products.

The truth is these bags, whether they contain formula or not are very effective marketing tools. Breastfeeding mothers who get the bags are more likely to start using formula. And the "gift" doesn't save you any money - it is less than one week's worth and it is the most expensive kind. It's like a drug dealer "The first hit's always free." And ironically, these are drug companies we're talking about.

If you have your baby in the hospital (my last two were born at home, on purpose). Don't ask for the "gift bag". Don't accept the gift bag(even if you take out the formula). Don't participate in sabotaging your own effort to breastfeed. Give your friends a cute diaper bag like Tutti Bella Bags or at Belly Dance Maternity or if you are more in my price range, you can get a pretty cute bag at Target these days.

Don't sell out. Don't take the free "diaper bag crack".

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Breastfeeding around the world

Apparently in Malaysia, too many women want to breastfeed. Women are adopting babies and taking pills to be able to produce milk and breastfeed them. The government is trying to encourage them to get married first and have babies second. Three observations from me. First, it is interesting that they are not having biological babies, but adopting. Second, they consider breastfeeding the way to feed even adopted babies (no mention of bottle feeding as an option in society or bottle feeding as the other option for these women or babies). Third, the government is saying that the social structure of mother-father = baby is important. I am sure there are many differences between Malaysian culture and American culture, but these three areas show pretty striking differences. Valuing adoption, breastfeeding and family.

In the Philippines pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are at risk of malnutrition. This article addresses the concerns. According to the article their diet consists mostly of a fish-vegetable combination. The article continually restated the need for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive adequate information and education regarding proper nutrition. A good, holistic, thorough health care provider (midwife or doctor) will include nutritional education and counseling in prenatal and well-baby care.

The article also said "it is important that pregnant and breastfeeding women get full support from loved ones to relieve them of some discomforts related to pregnancy and breastfeeding". I think we all could agree with that.

Happy New Year, Mocha Milk fans!