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A new study from the journal Pediatrics has created quite a buzz around the internet. Everyone from CNN to Mothering has something to say on the topic, and it even blew up a friend’s blogsite after her response to the study received thousands of visitors.

The shocking news? Breastfeeding saves lives.Well, of course!” you think. “In third world countries, where there isn’t accessible safe drinking water, we must suggest breastfeeding by all means.”
But get this. It’s here, in the United States. According to the study,

If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths.

Wow. That’s here, like in your state. If this many children were dying every year from lead paint on toys, could you imagine the uproar?

But breastfeeding is a prickly topic. We don’t want to create mom guilt. And that’s the thing: we allow the guilt to rest only on moms if they can’t or choose not to or even “run out of milk.”

I speak as a former formula feeder. My older son, Lucian, was supplemented starting at 5 months because as a single mom working full time, I simply wasn’t pumping enough. I didn’t have either the support or the resources at the time, and I couldn’t fathom where to begin looking. So I soothed my mommy guilty feelings by going for organic formula and continuing to breastfeed when we could until he was 10 months old.

Recently, I stopped breastfeeding my younger son, Elijah, at 21 months. What was the main difference in the two? My jobs. The first job, I absolutely couldn’t have Lucian on hand and was stressed enough that eventually only a couple ounces would trickle out when I pumped on premises.

Since Elijah was born, I have worked full-time from home, done freelance writing, and, more recently, brought him to work with me. My two-year-old is no longer breastfeeding during our shifts at On The Turtle’s Back, but I credit this woman- and child-friendly business for part of my breastfeeding success.

Currently, while our society knows that human breastmilk is healthier for our babies than the breastmilk of a distant relative (cows), we have a pretty hard time showing that. We mandate only 6 weeks maternity leave, and for many mothers, that is unpaid leave, so they scurry back to work as quickly as they can after baby arrives so they can make ends meet. We don’t give women the ample opportunity to breast pump in all work environments.

One pediatrician sounded like he agreed when he told the Associated Press,

We’d all love as pediatricians to be able to carry this information into the boardrooms by saying we all gain by small changes at the workplace.

We tell women they can have it all, and then guilt them into corporate society to find success, telling them that one formula is as good as another. But our bodies make this most perfect, natural formula. What could be wrong or inconvenient about that?

As a society of people who were once babies, we need to do better.

You know what we could do to make every breastfeeding relationship a success? Encourage it! We don’t need to say, “Breast is best” ad nauseum, but we could give all of the helpful hints that have helped us on our way.

That in mind, I’m passing along tips from my helpful friend Vijay, who also supplemented her first child with formula, then later became an “extended” breastfeeder (read: “whenever this girl is ready to stop”) with her second. Here are some of the hurdles she faced and how she leaped over them:

  • A baby who wouldn’t nurse right away. I would advise moms not to leave the hospital or birthing center (or not to let midwife leave your house) until baby has latched on and nursed well at least once. We left within hours of when Char was born even though she refused to latch, and thought that we’d all be more relaxed at home. But she still didn’t nurse well from the start and then things just got worse, and having someone on hand to help would have been great.
  • I thought it was just the most natural thing in the world, that you just put the baby to the breast, they suckle peacefully and drift off to sleep. So I resisted getting help, thinking that the strength of my commitment would get me through the soreness, the cranky baby, the sleeplessness, the stress and worry. But if I had started going to LLL while I was still pregnant I would have felt more comfortable going for help after baby came.
  • If you have a slow gaining baby, do not give bottles. There are supplementers that are kind of annoying, but allow you to increase your supply while supplementing, the opposite is true with bottles.
  • Don’t be afraid to NIP (nurse in public). Once Char was introduced to bottles at 8 weeks, it was such a relief to be able to just give her a bottle in public because nursing was such a struggle with her every time trying to get this screaming baby latched on in the middle of NYC with everyone watching. But our nursing relationship ended way too soon because of those bottles.
  • Just because things go a certain way for one mom/baby in one situation doesn’t mean they’ll go the same way for another. My poor nurser was born naturally in a birthing center, my champ nurser was born via c-section in a hospital. So go figure.

Interestingly, the new health care overhaul has a measure which requires large employers to provide a place for pumping mothers. That’s a start, but it companies don’t want to be forced to be family-friendly, they should come up with their own plan of action.

Because when it comes down to it, when we support breastfeeders, we are supporting a happy, healthy society.

At On The Turtle’s Back, we have some babies who were born at home. Not all, mind you. Some of us have had excellent hospital births, myself included. I’m one of the lucky ones. But chances are, you or someone you know and love gave birth at home.

I was a home birth waaayy back in ’78. My mom was asked then, “Are you crazy?!” It seems that the question is still asked of home birthers today.

But perhaps people are catching on.

A CDC study shows that home birth is on the rise. Only about 1 percent of American births take place outside a hospital, but the number increased in recent years, from 46,371 home births in 2003-04 to 49,438 home births in 2005-06.

Okay, so the number is still small. But for me, I think that it’s promising. Because if more of us know people who choose this method, it won’t seem so foreign. (And considering that we’ve been “home birthing” for most of human history, I don’t think it should be “foreign”!)

From ABC News:

The fact that it’s primarily women who had kids before and had birth in hospitals before, certainly suggests it’s a reaction to their prior birth,’ said Eugene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, and a author of the study. ‘It certainly suggests it’s an experience they don’t want to repeat.’

Some women should birth at the hospital, such as those who are high-risk. But for those like me, with wide birthin’ hips and quick labors (I don’t like to brag. Oh–wait–yes I do!), the home experience is a great alternative to a place where medical interventions so routinely slip in.

I concur with the study author’s thoughts. My second pregnancy was full of unnecessary tests. But thankfully, I had a good birth experience. If I should have more children, however, I would choose the home. That and a lovely midwife.

Image: eyeliam via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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I’m personally against circumcision.

There, I said it. (If you’d like to know more about why, click here.)

I have two intact sons (who will someday be delighted that their mama posted this all over the internet), and you know what? I’ve never had to do anything for them that I haven’t done with little girls I babysat.

Step 1: Take off diaper

Step 2: Wipe off the offending substance

Step 3: Put on new diaper

When Little L was 2 years old, his [holistic] pediatrician told me I should be pulling back the foreskin a couple times a day when I changed his diaper. Little L protested. And my compliance with the doctor’s orders lasted all of one day. I just couldn’t handle hearing,

No, Mama! I don’t like that!

A child shouldn’t rule my decisions. But he should rule his own body, his own autonomy. If he said he didn’t like what someone was doing to his most private parts, I want said offender to Stop.Right.Now. I want him to know that his body was his, and no one has a right to force their will on him.

Too strong? Maybe. But that goes to the heart of my feelings about circumcision. Sure, I could give you many reasons not to circumcise your son. But what it comes down to is that you shouldn’t make a lifetime decision on someone else’s body “just in case”.

And Parenting magazine made a big screw-up with this one. Even in trying to be PC, their BabyTalk magazine gave the horrid advice,

If he is uncircumcised, it is important to gently tug back his foreskin and cleanse thoroughly.

Ladies, do we “gently tug back” everything and clean inside the yoni? Under the clit? No? Not so much?

For intact boys, the area is extremely sensitive. We could actually be bringing in more germs with our “cleansing”. What we do with the intact penis is, well, nothing. And then we encourage our friends to leave their sons’ penises alone, both right after birth and for the duration.

Because guess what? We don’t need to worry about the foreskin retracting. It should happen by the time the boy is 18, and will happen with a little manual stimulation.

I think we can all agree that the boys will do that on their own, yes?

If you’d like to comment to Parenting about this blunder, fan them on Facebook and have a go.

Image: Circumcision of Jesus by Ted Drake via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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