Repeat after me... Breastfeeding is not OBSCENE!!

...and yet, the breastfeeding witch hunt rages on... And very strongly on Facebook again!

More breastfeeding pictures have been removed, people's accounts have been blocked or suspended and there is much confusion about what Facebook's actual policy on breastfeeding photos is or if they even have one.

You would think that they do have one based on this response from Facebook's own Help Centre.

But in an article published in the Vancouver Sun yesterday, Facebook's Canadian publicist said that,

"...although Facebook does not have a specific policy regarding breastfeeding images but given that Facebook’s policy is no nudity it would be best not to post (breastfeeding images),.."

The mixed messages from Facebook are enough to make my head spin!

For the whole back story and media updates I will direct you to my friend Jodine Chase's blog. She has been chronicling this most recent battle daily since it all started on Sunday when Emma Kwasnica, founder of the Human Milk 4 Human Babies milk-sharing network (which ironically started on Facebook), had her breastfeeding pictures flagged, removed and her Facebook account suspended for 24 hours and then another 72 hours after that.

In a show of solidarity with Emma and ALL breastfeeding mamas and their rights to post these photos on Facebook and as a kind of virtual nurse-in (and yes, I will re-address my stance on nurse-ins in general in another post), I asked my fellow mamas and followers on the Natural Urban Mamas Facebook page to post their breastfeeding photos.

And the response was amazing...

All night long and well into Monday mamas posted amazing, beautiful, funny, newborn, toddler and everything in between BREASTFEEDING photos all over the Natural Urban Mamas wall!

But I wanted to do more.

And so I made this.

I hope you like it.

I hope you will share it.

And I hope that not one of you backs down or ever feels like you need to cover up or "do that somewhere else" while breastfeeding, whether in real life or virtually by not posting or removing your nursing photos from social media sites like Facebook.

This is for you Emma and for all of the breastfeeding mamas out there fighting this battle and working tirelessly every day  to make the sight of a breastfeeding mother the normal, commonplace, not-really-a-big-deal, just-a-baby-eating, thing that it really is!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdvVVAtTo4Y[/youtube]

Give those babies some Booby Snacks Mamas!

Natasha~

Video music credit goes to:
The Star Wars Theme by John Williams
Booby Snacks by Moorea Mallat, www.songsforbreastfeeding.com
Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine, www.florenceandthemachine.net

 

 

All tied up.

The topic of tongue and lip-tie has come up quite a few times lately in regards to it's effect on the breastfeeding relationship and the health and well-being of both mama and baby. I asked my friend Joanna to share her breastfeeding journey from this past year. This is her story.

A year ago my husband and I welcomed our beautiful son into the world. Nursing my baby was something I was passionate about and was so looking forward to creating that special bond with my new baby.

I started breastfeeding him a few hours after his birth and it hurt. I remember my doula saying to me a million times “If it hurts, you’re not doing it right.”  So I continued to try to improve his latch. Several hours after he was born the pediatrician came to check him out.  The first thing he said was “Your son is tongue-tied (ankyloglossia – medical term), he needs his tongue snipped or you won’t continue nursing.  Make an appointment with my office.”

I had never heard of this before.  Our Lactation Consultant (LC) confirmed his tongue-tie and at a week old we had our son’s tongue-tie snipped (frenectomy).  The procedure didn’t seem to bother him at all.  The anterior tongue-tie was easy to diagnose once you knew what you were looking for: our son’s tongue was heart-shaped at the tip, he couldn’t poke his tongue out, and he had very restricted movement with his tongue.  Basically the frenum (the skin under the tongue) was tight and short.  Straight away I could feel a difference nursing, but it still wasn’t painless.

By 7 weeks of age our son was gaining weight beautifully, but I was still having issues with nursing. We’d been battling thrush for 5 weeks due to the nipple damage my son was causing while nursing and he made a clicking noise with his tongue.  He would also lose his latch frequently, and he was always full of gas which made him very cranky.  After nursing my nipples were always flat and the tips of them blanched.  When he wasn’t nursing and wasn’t asleep he was unhappy – despite being held in arms constantly. My LC came back at my request and her conclusion was that his latch was still poor, he couldn’t get his tongue forward enough to get the nipple into the back of his throat and that’s why we were still having these issues – his tongue was still restricted.  She advised us to continue to work on the latch.

When our son was 9 weeks old he commenced a breast refusal that lasted 10 days.  He would only nurse at night when he was asleep.  I was expressing milk and we were syringe feeding him during the day.  When he finally started to take the breast again during the day, he then became a very fussy nurser.

At three months of age, the thrush had gone but we had been dealing with severe gas issues in our baby for two months and I had no fuel left in my tank.  Every night he had wakeful periods on and off from 2am until mid-morning – he was writhing around in pain and passing gas.  We’d seen a chiropractor and a craniosacral therapist, tried Chinese herbs, and colic remedies, but no one could solve the gas issues.  The paediatrician labelled it colic and also said reflux medication might help.  The doctor requested x-rays and ultrasounds of his abdomen just to make sure nothing serious was wrong.  The results were all negative. We were frustrated and burning out.

I then went to Australia with our son to get some much-needed support from my family.  We came back to Canada when our son was 5 months old and was still very gassy but the nipple pain had reduced considerably and he was nursing much better. However a few weeks later he went on another breast refusal.  It was much the same as last time and I was very frustrated.  Nobody could suggest anything that I hadn’t already tried, such as nursing in the bath, wearing him, staying at home in bed etc.  I finally managed to get him nursing during the day again by nursing him to sleep for his naps while standing up, and rocking him in our ring sling.

Nursing in one of our carriers at the Edmonton Heritage Festival – 6 months old

When our son was 6 months old I felt pretty good about our nursing relationship, everything was going well and he was taking in lots of milk.  Then at 7 months of age I started to get regular pain while nursing again.  I wondered what had changed and why it had to put a damper on my one month of nursing bliss!  I got talking to a new friend who is a lactation educator and she asked if he was lip-tied (maxillary fraenum).  I remembered my LC had checked for that when I’d had her back to my house when our baby was 7 weeks old and she had said no.  So I told my friend that he wasn’t.  She insisted on taking a look and her reaction was pretty obvious – he was severely lip-tied.  She explained that his lip-tie was preventing him from flanging out his top lip to create a good seal and take in enough breast tissue.  He had been using his gums to hold the latch.  The reason why I was experiencing more pain now was that he had cut his top teeth he had to use his teeth to maintain the latch rather than his gums. She told me that if we didn’t get the lip-tie fixed he would most likely prematurely wean.

So I began a search. Who could fix his lip-tie?  No one seemed to know.  While I had this fantastic network of LCs, lactation educators, nursing moms, and IBCLCs, no one could suggest anyone to take my son to.  Finally after 2 months of searching on the internet I found a pediatric dentist in Albany, New York, one Dr. Lawrence A. Kotlow. At the same time my friend, Natasha, from Natural Urban Mamas, posted a link to a blog from a mom who had flown halfway across the States to take her daughter to this dentist.  As I did more research I discovered that mothers were flying from all over the USA and the world to take their infants to see Dr. Kotlow for tongue-tie and lip-tie revisions.  Dr. Kotlow has easy-to-understand instructions on how to diagnose tongue-ties and lip-ties in your own child, and low and behold, I came to the conclusion that our son had a Class IV lip-tie (the most severe – the lip-tie goes in between the two front teeth, causing a gap, and is connected into the hard palate) and a posterior tongue-tie (where the tongue is thickly and tightly tied at the base of the tongue).   Not only that, I also came to the conclusion that all of our son’s gas issues, colic behaviour, breastfeeding refusals, fussiness nursing in public (and in general), plugged ducts, thrush, and my nipple pain was because of both of these ties. Dr. Kotlow has written a publication linking colic/reflux issues with tongue-tie and lip-ties.  Reading this article was like reading a story about my child.  The marvellous thing about Dr. Kotlow, is that he uses a laser to revise the tissue in the mouth.  Laser is fast, pain-free, and creates an anaesthetic effect.  It takes a very short period of time to heal, involves no sedation, and can be done in the dentist's office.

By this time our son was 10 months old and he was also having issues with speech and with eating solid foods.  His speech was impeded because his tongue couldn’t move to the roof of his mouth, and this same tongue restriction was not allowing him to chew food properly.  Food mostly got spat out half-chewed or he gagged on it.  His nursing was also getting worse with my nipples getting more and more damaged and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could deal with the constant pain.  He was pulling off the breast constantly, gagging while nursing, and was also leaving teeth indentations in my areolae as he attempted to maintain a latch.  We made the decision that we were going to travel to the other side of the continent to see Dr. Kotlow!

At the same time I met a local mother whose past year roughly reflected what I’d been going through, except that her 10 month old had struggled to maintain weight due to frequent and lengthy breast refusals. They were scheduled to visit Dr. Kotlow a week after we met, but before she left for Albany we decided to make one last-ditch effort to get the revisions done locally. We both called dozens of dentists in our town and couldn’t find anyone that would use laser to revise tongue-ties and/or lip-ties on infants under two years of age.  She had even seen a pediatric plastic surgeon who said he would do the revision using a scalpel under general anaesthetic, but not just so she could continue to breastfeed her son.  I’d have to wait nearly a year to get the surgery done. This was not a viable option for me on many levels.

My new friend made the trip with her son to New York State to see Dr. Kotlow and we went a month later. Both of us are amazed at the profound difference it has made in our sons! Dr. Kotlow is committed to helping mothers have pain-free nursing and his office staff are just as supportive. The procedure took 10 minutes. My son came back to me drenched in his own sweat, red-faced, and crying, more from being away from me than any pain and an hour later he was eating, playing, nursing and then sleeping!

Nursing was unbelievably different.  The first thing I noticed was how wide he could now open his mouth.  Dr. Kotlow said the lip-tie was so tight that it prevented him from having full range of movement in his jaw.  I also noticed how much more breast tissue he had in his mouth and that his top lip was flanged outwards!  But the best thing I noticed was that it was pain-free! Yay! Dr. Kotlow checked him out the next day and showed me the stretching exercises we were to do four times a day for 14 days.  These exercises are critical post-procedure as they stretch the revised area to ensure the tissue does not heal back together.

Since the procedure was done we have noticed big differences in our boy.  Not only has his nursing improved but so has his speech and eating.  He is pronouncing sounds much more clearly. You can now see him use his tongue with a much wider range of movement to chew food.  He is no longer gagging on food and his smile is different too! He is also able to suck out more milk with each nursing session and sleep more soundly.  He isn’t losing his latch anymore and he isn’t fussing at the breast while nursing. He has even started to ask me for milk by signing ‘milk’ – this is a totally new experience for me and something that melts my heart. And I am still pain-free!

It has been a frustrating journey and definitely not the nursing journey I envisioned having when our baby was born.  It is amazing how many people I have met and am continuing to meet who are also having nursing issues due to tongue-ties and/or lip-ties.  While anterior (the tip of the tongue) tongue-ties are easily diagnosed by pediatricians and LCs, posterior tongue-ties and lip-ties remain poorly diagnosed.  Lip-ties are much easier to diagnose once the top front teeth have erupted through the gum.  However, once diagnosed, the real problem is finding someone to do the revisions locally.  Just recently, a local dentist, Dr. H. Sekhon from Lewis Estates Dental Centre, performed three lip-tie revisions using laser.  I am grateful that there is now a local dentist performing lip-tie revisions and would love to see him pursue further training with Dr. Kotlow.

Throughout our nursing relationship, many people have questioned why I have decided to continue nursing.  I guess stubbornness and determination on my part comes into play here, but I also believe that my son has a right to nurse for as long as he chooses to. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the love and support of my husband and family in Australia, and the wonderful network of babywearing and breastfeeding mamas I have found in my local area. I feel nursing strengthens our bond and our relationship. I am so grateful that we now have the opportunity to continue our nursing relationship into my son’s toddler years.

 

Joanna is a mother of a one year old boy, Xavier, and a 18 month old puppy, Bailey.  Her and her husband came to Canada from Australia almost three years ago for an adventure and to further their careers in environmental management with the public service.  Both are passionate about sustainable development and love the natural environment.  Joanna has studied journalism, international relations, biological sciences and environmental management and has graduate and post-graduate degrees in these fields.  She is a straight talking Aussie who loves to be around people and animals.  She likes to stay fit by playing many different sports, wearing her baby on her back, and hiking in the Rockies. Joanna is now pursuing her passions for babywearing, breastfeeding and birth support in between and while caring for her family.

This is so NOT about your boobs!!

Never in the history of the world has the simple act of how we feed our babies caused so much strife and controversy!

If you have been anywhere on Facebook or Twitter in the past 72 hours you will have a good idea of what I am talking about.

If not, well here is the scoop.

Babble is running a contest right now for the Top 100 Moms who are Changing the World. Moms from all walks of life are being 'Mominated' for the top 10 prizes of $5000.00 for the charity of their choice. Voting is by public ballot. You can get all the details of the contest by clicking on the link above.

Emma Kwasnica, known breastfeeding activist and the founder of Human Milk 4 Human Babies, the global milk-sharing network created on Facebook was nominated by fellow mom and activist Jodine Chase to be one of these amazing Moms. Right away Emma started raking in some pretty sweet votes and was in the Top Ten list within days of her nomination! This is really not surprising, because she IS a mom changing the world, one breastmilk-fed baby at a time. I have seen the results of milk-sharing through her network right here in my own proverbial backyard and very much up close and personal.

Next, Emma and Jodine realized that one of the major advertisers on the Babble.com site is Similac, a formula manufacturer that has its ads (side banners and top banners) posted all over the newborn and pregnancy pages on the Babble site. (Apparently, these ads were removed from the breastfeeding support pages on Babble a year ago after many a blogger called them out for it then!). After much deliberation, Emma asked Babble to remove her from the list of nominees and has said that the only way she would again participate is if Babble where to remove ALL formula marketing from its site and comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

Annie from PhD in Parenting wrote this very excellent post, explaining what happened and applauding the stance that Emma and Jodine took in not accepting what Emma considers "blood money" from Babble.

Catherine Connor of Her Bad Mother, and also a Babble Voices writer, responded with this post. In it she is quite upset and insulted by the use of the term "blood money" and that no one is willing to sit down and be on a board of breastfeeding advocate advisors for Babble to discuss what the best options are for everyone involved. She also feels that they whole argument against formula marketing and advertising, shames mothers who can not for whatever reason breastfeed their babies.

And then Jodine wrote this post  discussing this new tactic of "shaming mothers" when we start discussing formula marketing and the very subtle, yet, oh so underhanded tactics that are employed by these billion dollar companies to undermine breastfeeding moms every step of the way.

So.

Now that you are up to speed, I have a few things to add.

First of all, let me make myself very clear. I have breastfeed both my kids for three years each. I believe it is the biologically normal thing to do. My boobs make milk, my babies need that milk, and the closeness and all the other great things that go along with our nursing relationship. I am a breastfeeder. It was not always easy, I needed help, but I was determined that this was the way I wanted to feed my babies. Breastfeeding was and is my choice.

Some women choose not to breastfeed,  some women truly can not breastfeed, some women have serious medical conditions that prevent them from breastfeeding. Whatever the case may be, if the choice for these women is to feed their babies formula or  feed them nothing, then you have to know that NO ONE IS TRYING TO MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY OR SHAMEFUL ABOUT FEEDING YOUR CHILD.

Here is why I have a problem with Ms. Connor's arguments about this issue. She writes in her post that,

The push for a complete ban on formula advertising rests upon the assumption that mothers are not capable of understanding formula advertising as advertising – it assumes that they will be confused by it, those poor, silly mothers, and mistake it for unbiased, non-commercial speech – and that they are therefore vulnerable to being ‘duped’ by formula advertisers in a way that they are not from, say, Budweiser or McDonalds or General Electric. I’m a grown-up, you guys. I know what commercial speech is. I am capable of parsing information from advertisers. I am not stupid. I can make up my own mind.

No one is saying that mothers are silly or stupid or can't figure out when they are being duped. What is being said is that formula company advertising is subtle. It feeds on our weaknesses and insecurities as a new parent, and I am sorry, but as new moms dealing with all the demands that this new little life has on us and usually working on very little sleep, we ARE vulnerable to these ads and their ubiquitous "we are here to help you" messages.

Really. Now how exactly is a formula company supposed to help a breastfeeding mom? Guess who is formula's main competition? That's right. It's breastmilk. So if we take a look at this from a different angle, it is kind of like saying Ford is going to help me choose what kind of GM vehicle to buy. Not likely...

Are you getting this so far?

Fleur Bickford, of Nurtured Child, wrote this post earlier this year discussing why formula companies like the phrase "breast is best". In it she breaks down one of the online ads for Nestle's new Baby Nes instant formula machines  (think Tassimo for babies). At first glance the ad itself seems pretty benign. But Fleur notes that,

 

Great that they’re showing breastfeeding right? Well, if we look closer at it, the breastfeeding mom is sitting on the floor, is barefoot, is half undressed and her dark roots are showing through her blond hair colouring (compare that to the beautifully highlighted hair of the formula feeding mom).  All of this is subtle, but it creates an emotional reaction (which is exactly what it was designed to do). The reaction may not even be a conscious one for many people, but it plays on the stereotype of women who breastfeed being barefoot “hippies” who just “whip it out”. It also plays into the fear of having a baby who ties you down and nurses so often that you can’t even get your hair coloured. Even the graph behind the mom with the downward slope to it produces a negative feeling about breastfeeding.

Subtle right? I think down right sneaky, and probably from an ad campaign perspective rather brilliant. And this is only one example.

Here is one right off of the Babble.com (I found it on the Pregnancy page on their site).

I am assuming that by fed, they mean nursed and the implication is that, she is still crying because she is still hungry....so go ahead, give her some formula to "top her up".

THIS is where and when the formula companies GET you! And they know it and count on it. They know that a mom starting to supplement just a little bit is a damn slippery slope and that is the way they like it, and most likely they count on it!

Here is the scenario: new mama starts supplementing with a little bit of formula and it seems to work. Baby is now 'full' and not crying anymore, so all is good. And mama's thoughts process becomes, "SEE, obviously I am not making enough milk for him." But what is really happening is that rather than getting the help needed to correct a nursing issue (and the lack of proper breastfeeding support for a lot of mothers is a LONG topic for another post), the simplest thing seems to be to supplement with the 'just as good as breastmilk' formula. Mom is happy, baby is happy, or at least they sure do seem to be in this Nestle Good Start commercial and she can just go back to breastfeeding again once they get over this bump in the road/phase/growth spurt/etc....

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Jo1hQN9X7c[/youtube]

(Did you catch the teeny tiny print and  2 seconds of 'Breastfeeding is best for your baby." in that one?)

Or can they....

Unfortunately for a lot of mothers, no, they can not.

And therein lies the bigger issue with this kind of marketing. Formula marketing and advertisements don't target already happily, by choice or by circumstance, formula-feeding moms. They don't have to. There is no need to preach to the choir. They target NEW moms, moms who have every intention of breastfeeding (our provincial breastfeeding rates in Alberta, Canada upon discharge from hospital are 92.4%, 2009 statistics), but who run into issues at home and decide to call the 1-800 number that they find attached to the can of formula that they were sent home with in hopes of getting support, encouragement and advice on how to continue to breastfeed. Do they get decent advice from these "feeding experts"? Perhaps, I have not called them myself. But to honestly say that these formula-company-sponsored or funded call centres have the best interests of your successful breastfeeding relationship at heart is rather ludicrous.

So what do we do now?

Well for one thing, we need to stop using words like 'guilt' and 'shame' when discussing how we feed out babies. You make your choice and you deal with it. Do what is right for you, do what is right for your baby, and yes, do what is right for your mental and physical health. If that is breastfeeding, good for you. If that is formula-feeding, good for you. DONE, no more discussion.

The only people who need to feel ashamed right now are the formula companies. They are the ones who are shamelessly promoting and dare I say pushing their product (doctor's offices, hospital maternity wards, even family trade shows) on new and yes, vulnerable moms who are just trying to figure out how this whole 'feeding, nurturing and not completely wrecking the new baby' gig works!

In the end, I applaud all of the incredible bloggers and activists for all their work for breastfeeding moms and moms in general. Emma, Jodine, Annie and Catherine are all moms that I have the utmost respect for and they all make excellent points in their posts. I highly encourage you to read them all.

My final point {that does need to be said again} is that this issue is not a breastfed versus formula fed one. I DON'T CARE HOW YOU FEED YOUR BABY! It is a question of ethical marketing and advertising practices by formula companies and that is the point so many seem to keep missing. We all need to get over our own vulnerable feelings of guilt or shame, accept the choices that we made as the best ones that we could make given the information that we had or the situation we were in and see this for what it really is.

Formula companies have millions of dollars to spend on ad campaigns and government lobbyists and they make a lot of money selling their wares to families worldwide, with what seems little or no regard for whatever harm or disservice their practices do to moms and babies.

Breastfeeding? Well, that is just biology.

Natasha~