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let them eat styrofoam

Not even two weeks in, it might seem a little early to consider the nutritional impacts of the new administration. However, while maybe lost among the more pressing issues, there among the flotsam and jetsam of the post-inaugural news was a story that caught my eye. A story that might begin to inform. But first, let me back up a little.

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Michelle Obama’s White House Organic Garden. Photo by John Shinkle.

My antenna is usually positioned to pick up the bits of information associated with food and nutrition as it relates to the personal or the political–and it beeps especially loudly when there is an atmospheric collision of the two.

As regards presidential matters, examples from prior administrations–beginning with my own nascent awareness of such things–include the following:

  • Ronald Reagan’s affection for Jelly Beans. And, his administration’s declaration of ketchup as vegetable in an attempt to allow flexibility in school lunch planning. This was a nutritionally-depleted response to maintaining nutritional requirements in the face of budget cuts to the Federal School Lunch Program. (It was actually pickle relish that was used as an example in the original regulations.)
  • George H. W. Bush’s anti-broccoli proclamation–and while broccoli took the whipping, apparently his distaste of vegetables was non-discriminatory. It was during his time in office that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid took to the streets, so to speak, a cavalcade of refined carbohydrates–bagels, baguettes, rolls, and pasta–marching in stride.
  • Bill Clinton’s propensity for Big Macs and Philly Cheese Steaks with onions and Cheez Whiz, his post-presidency quadruple heart bypass surgery, and the subsequent radical changes to his lifestyle and diet. In the wake of his own health epiphany, his Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association founded the The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. However, while in office, Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms resulted in deep cuts to the Food Stamp Program, thus limiting the ability for working families to obtain benefits.
  • George W. Bush’s eating habits were healthier than those of his father. Better, after experiencing a pretzel-induced near fatal choking incident in the White House, he acknowledged his mother’s advice to chew one’s food carefully. While he attended to his physical activity by jogging his way through many a national crisis, it was during his years in office that the nation’s health and obesity crisis could no longer be ignored. Bush did support some well-meaning nutrition legislation, but during his second term, the USDA Food Pyramid morphed into the MyPyramid. This chaotic appearing icon further fueled confusion concerning governmental nutritional recommendations, leaving everyone to just throw up their hands to reach for the closest bag of Doritos. Oh, and then there was the recession.
  • Barack Obama’s nutritional legacy is really attributable to First Lady Michelle’s devoted efforts. Along with appointing a White House chef dedicated to healthy menus and growing an organic garden on the South Lawn, she promoted the Let’s Move initiative. Attendant legislation included the signing of the The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Despite this presidency’s strong commitment to our nutritional well being, it faced resistance from its own Congress–which passed a bill allowing pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable in the USDA School Lunch Program. Sound familiar? And, it was downright thwarted by Big Food. Also, while the president’s support for the cause was irrefutable, his own dietary habits were less than aligned, as I previously detailed during his bid for re-election.

And so, that brings us up to the present. I have gleaned a tiny bit about the dietary and culinary inclinations of the new commander-in-chief. For now, let’s just say I am not surprised. I am also remembering the ridiculousness of his pizza parlor outing in NYC with Sarah Palin. And, I have now found this–his alternative facts explanation.

While for now I can ignore the personal, I am still quite worried about the political. I am concerned about the fate of Michelle’s beautiful organic garden at the White House. And, the myriad initiatives that germinated under her tender care, yielding amazing gardening programs and healthier food systems in schools and preschools as well. Not to mention the attention given to facilitate women’s ability to breastfeed their babies, optimizing children’s health from birth. What is going to happen to all of that?

Well, the details are still scant, but here’s what I have so far that may give us a clue. It comes from that one story I mentioned above. It was the story about the Inaugural Cake. Here are the basics of what happened, in case you missed it. The setting was the Inauguration’s Armed Services Ball. The cake was a nine-tiered tower whose design was blatantly plagiarized from one made for Obama’s Commander in Chief Ball in 2013. The baker, merely following orders, was not aware of the plagiarism until after the fact. At the Ball, the cake’s bottom layer was sliced by means of a military saber wielded jointly by Trump and Pence. And the real kicker? Apparently, only that lowly layer was actually real cake–the rest of it was made out of styrofoam. It was a styrofoam cake!?

Oh, dear fellow plebeians–and members of the military–prepare to heed the call of the new administration’s both obesity prevention and anti-hunger programs. It may in fact be, “Let them eat styrofoam!”

Well, that is it for now. Please take care and make sure to eat your greens. Drop in, say hi, and for those of you who have been marching around in the cold of winter, let’s share a virtual cup of tea or some hot Golden Milk to warm us up. Thank you.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku by Gretchen: Smooth peanut butter/Spread on a peeled banana/Snack time perfection.

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My Plate Cup

There are lots of links in this post. Please take a moment to check them out.

By the way, have you heard of the Styrofoam Ban?

Far from Home

Well here I am. Right now I am on retreat in beautiful California, far from home. While my orientation to space is altered due to this coastal exchange from east to west, my orientation to date and time has been altered as well. I have experienced a profound loss.  image

As I search for some renewed serenity and some solid ground-albeit in this land of shaky earth-I do try to stay somewhat aware of the prevailing events of these times that still swirl around me. Likewise, as I reconnect with the calendar structure that patterns the days before me, I turn the page onto August just in time to remember to honor the annual celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.

In that I consider the support of breastfeeding babes, moms and families an essential component of improving the collective health of communities around the globe, I do always try to write something about World Breastfeeding Week and its annually appointed theme.

Forgive me this year, that as my tears still flow more readily than my words, in lieu of my own thoughts I share this interesting article by journalist Ellen Wulfhorst who I am grateful to call my dear friend. Ellen provides a look at the very real consequences of compromised attention to the timely initiation of breastfeeding. This highlights how powerful are the immunoprotective properties of breast milk and how greatly breastfeeding serves as an antidote to infant mortality.

Thank you to all of you who continue to support me, my blog and my work. Gratitude to those who have nourished me so wonderfully on this visit–Julie, Gordon, Debbie, Michael, Ben, Lois and Richard. (Check out Lois and Richard’s creative and funny political satire webisode series Medicare Mermaids at http://www.medicaremermaids.com)

To healthy birth and rebirth, Elyn

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Julie’s MyPlate

MyPlate Food for Thought. Breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development; it is also the foundation of a country’s development. UNICEF and World Health Organization’s World Breastfeeding Week Message

a winning goal

I would feel a little remiss were I to not make mention this year of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). In previous years I have always made a point to do so. But, it is late. I should already be in bed. Besides, I have to get to work early tomorrow in order to partake in a webinar that is celebrating the week and its important mission. So, I will be more brief than usual. wbw2014-logo-hd

Perhaps after tomorrow’s webinar, I will have something more inspiring or informational to offer with a larger perspective. Tonight, I sit quietly with only my personal experience–the one that reminds me that twenty-six years ago at this very time I was deeply in labor, nestled in my midwife’s quiet birthing room in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. On the other side of midnight, in the dark of night of the day of my own birthday, my son would make his way into the world. Our breastfeeding relationship would begin immediately thereafter.

But, during that time, the practice of breastfeeding on a larger global scale was diminishing with serious consequences for maternal and child health, with societal and environmental implications as well. In 1981, the World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, to remediate the malnutrition suffered by infants and young children due to the inappropriate marketing of commercial formula.  And, then in 1990, exactly two years after my own bond was formed in connection with the dying art of breastfeeding, the Innocenti Declaration was signed by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It designated the first week of August as World Breastfeeding Week.

Twenty-four years later, though there have been significant gains made in reversing the declining trend, there is still work to be done. There are also newer nutritional impacts of breastfeeding being investigated as we begin to better understand the myriad functions of the gut microbiome.

This year’s WBW slogan is Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life. I suppose it relates to this year’s Football World Cup. Could that be? That’s a little funny to me because my son has been a soccer player and is a devoted fan of the sport. Though no longer on the field much he is hoping to be working in the field of professional soccer someday. May I also parenthetically add, that throughout and since the World Cup games, I’ve noticed that I have had an almost daily blog reader from Brazil–so apparently not everyone in the country was focused on the sport. A special hello to that reader(s).

The objectives of WBW 2014 are strongly linked to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set by governments and the United Nations to fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015. A description of how breastfeeding is linked to the MDGs can be found here. The connections are quite profound.

I am interested to see what I will learn in the course of tomorrow’s session. I will let you know if there is anything particularly interesting. In the meantime, please take a moment if you will and have a look at these powerful photos. They will say much more than my usual thousand words.

In health, Elyn

P.S. The webinar session was yesterday. It was sponsored by the SUNY School of Public Health and entitled, International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Promoting and Supporting Exclusive Breastfeeding. I applaud the school’s long term commitment to this topic, and recommend the session highly. I believe it will be available soon for viewing online. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, an international breastfeeding authority, and author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, whose pioneering work and advocacy for breastfeeding dates back to the 1950s, is on the panel.

In the session I learned about some examples of successful applications as well as egregious violations of the International Code of Marketing.  I also was informed about some exciting outcomes in regard to increasing initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in some NYC hospitals and in the Vermont WIC Program due to some dedicated efforts. And, I also learned the term commerciogenic malnutrition. In this context it referred to the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and its impacts on babies, but I may ponder some wider implications as well.

As always, send word, share your thoughts, subscribe and pass along. Thanks.

Today’s MyPlate photo is of the beautiful watermelon cake my office “birthday angel”  made for me to celebrate my birthday! Go make one soon. Send me your MyPlate photo.

Related Posts: Blessed Feeding; To She Who Loves Us Before She Meets Us; Breastfeeding Redux; Oh Mother

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Cathy’s Plate

  My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

Are they the same thing?  by Julie

confluence

This is about confluence–where different streams of my life seem to flow together. One stream is that I began to nurse my young exactly 25 years ago today, on the day that my first child was born–on my birthday. That is one of the stories of my life–giving birth to my son on my birthday. That was pretty cool and only imagined at about 7 pm the evening before, after returning home from seeing the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda”.

Another stream is that it is World Breastfeeding Week. As a nutritionist concerned with the feeding of the species and maternal and child health issues, I think a lot about breastfeeding and spend time advocating and educating about it in my work.  I like to honor the annually appointed  World Breastfeeding Week that occurs during the first week in August– as does my  birthday. This year, I am using some of the well-produced materials from the  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health’s It’s Only Natural campaign as part of my activities at the Health Center and am continuing to address it in my writings.

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Today, my birthday and World Breastfeeding Week found my husband Pete and I in Seneca Falls, New York for Empire Farm Days, the largest, agricultural trade show in the Northeast– which for eighty summers has also taken place on this date.   Given the role that food plays in both my personal and professional life,  it was a gift to be in the midst of  the farmers whose business it is to grow and raise the amazing stuff and to be mindful of their concerns. Food off the farm has a very abstract quality, quite remote from its actual origins. But, being at this event, one can see that farming matters such as soil health, pest management, plant hardiness, marketing and the raising of animals are quite real.

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It was no surprise for me to find that my alma mater, Cornell University, had a large presence at Empire Farm Days.  Both reside upon the shores of Cayuga Lake, and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences plays a large role in the state’s agricultural initiatives. My nutrition studies took place inches from what is referred to as the Ag School. I walked miles through its vast acreage, bought college-made ice cream at its Dairy Barn,  spent hours studying in its Mann Library, barely survived its microbiology course– and, it was where I met Pete. That of course contributed to the having of my above mentioned young.

But, then there was this stream too. At the Cornell exhibit, a video was playing called Birth on the Farm. It opened by showing bluebird babies hatching from their eggs, and barn swallows being fed by their parents, but then it moved quickly on to mammals. One after another I watched a sheep, a horse, a dog and a cow give birth, each baby emerging with amniotic sac intact. Once licked clean by their mama–with a little help from the farmer–these newborns quickly found their way  to nipple or utter and began to feed.  Human babies, like their mammalian cohort,  will find their way to the breast as well, when placed on their mama’s tummies.

Witnessing the wildly innate behavior of the mother/infant nursing dyad in the animal world heightened my wonder about how that behavior has become so disrupted among humans. I just finished a big research project on breastfeeding. My research served to scratch my perpetual itch to understand the modern-day hindrances to feeding our infants in the biologically prescribed way that has sustained humanity for millennia. How has something that a still unseeing and non-hearing puppy can figure out within minutes of birth become something that is culturally perceived as more difficult than rocket science and as contentious as climate change?  How has the concept of species-specific milk become so foreign?

I do know a lot of the answers to these questions, and I do appreciate that there are various circumstances where alternative methods of feeding are necessary or that choice is to be respected.  Even at the farming event I met a thirteen day old baby goat, the runt of its litter, that required supported bottle feeding by its human mama–but, still, it was receiving goat’s milk. Nonetheless, clinical outcomes and scientific research has led all of the leading health organizations to strongly recommend that human babies in both the non-industrialized and industrialized world exclusively receive human milk for the first six months of life for maximum immunological protection and neurological development. However, after about seven decades of the promotion of artificial milk substitutes (formula), there is still a collective refrain that formula is as good as breast milk–and that breastfeeding is oft not worth the bother.

The truth is that there are significant health and economic costs associated with not breastfeeding.  There are societal and environmental costs as well. It is just that the consequences are not as directly obvious as not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle; or as prevalent and publicized as the risks of cigarette smoking.  Also, many of the challenges ascribed to breastfeeding, and some of the difficulties that individual women encounter, are really attributable to the lack of proper breastfeeding policies and supports on many levels.

Still in the flow of the day’s happenings, I excitedly headed over by myself to the Women’s Rights National Park and Museum and Women’s Hall of Fame.  This was the icing on my cake. The exhibits were awe inspiring and gave me a really deep appreciation of how arduous the fight for women’s rights was–and is still. Immersed in this incredible history, I mused over the sometimes expressed contention that breastfeeding further chains women to their domestic duties and inhibits their participation in the workplace and in society where they may wish or need to be. Walking in the footsteps of these courageous women, I was bolstered in my feeling that this argument misses the point. It is not breastfeeding, but instead, the lack of mandated maternity leaves, workplace supports and other inequalities in this country that are prohibitive. The exhibits themselves provided some proof.

For example, I learned that Norway, the country with the highest breastfeeding rates in the world, also leads in regard to the number of women in parliamentary positions, and that this year, Ina May Gaskin is being inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. Ina May, is the modern “mother of authentic midwifery”.  Though midwives had assisted with childbirth since ancient times, their role had been essentially obliterated with the professionalization of male-dominated obstetrics in the early twentieth century. Her efforts sparked a revolutionary movement which not only opened the way for the re-emergence and popularization of midwifery-guided and women-empowered birth but also contributed to the re-establishment of some breastfeeding practice in this country. Interestingly, Ina May perfected her motherly arts at a commune community called The Farm, and her grandmother was an avid admirer of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffragettes.

imagejpeg_2 (11)At the end of the afternoon, Pete rejoined me and we went for dinner. As we  sat at the restaurant overlooking the water where the Cayuga-Seneca Canal comes into Seneca Lake, I thought about how the streams of my day all flowed together– birthday,  college, nutritional work, food and farming, women’s rights, birth and breastfeeding. These are all pretty big themes in my life. Considering this confluence, I contemplated its meaning. Could it be, that if when enough babies are born welcomed and sustained by mother’s touch, natural nipple and warm nutritionally complete milk; when women’s capacity to nurture and nourish is deeply valued and protected; and, when our farmers are supported to grow healthy food and to protect the land–that the world may be a  safer, healthier and softer place?

Please, let me know what you think and do send greetings!

In health, Elyn

 

My Plate

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Thanks to our farmer

Blueberries kissed by the sun

So much to enjoy!

by Crystal

oh mother

I was hoping not to have to work today. It is Sunday and I promised myself a little repose. So there I was actually lounging on the couch this morning when the news of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement of the Latch on NYC breastfeeding initiative filtered into my airspace from an NPR podcast.

breastfeeding

breastfeeding (Photo credit: sdminor81)

Clearly, the launch of this voluntary program for New York City’s hospitals was timed to coincide with World Breast Feeding Week. The story started off nicely enough with rational presentation of the benefits of breastfeeding and informed that 27 out of 40 New York City hospitals have already signed on to the recommended policy. But, it then whacked me with a tirade of the backlash to the initiative–bemoaning that women do not want to have their parenting decisions enforced, especially by a man–and specifically not by health policy promoting Bloomberg.

I rolled over and groaned into the cushions. My hopes for a relaxing day were shattered. I intended to glue my attention to the Olympics–one of the rare times I surrender to watching TV– but this report was going to interfere. Having just discussed the topic of breastfeeding a few days ago in Blessed Feeding Summer Rerun, I had no choice but to respond to this in a timely manner. Water polo and volleyball could wait, but this must be addressed before track and field and gymnastics takes to the screen.

In brief, Michael Bloomberg did not make up these policies, and in fact, they are not mandates. These are recommendations consistent with the guidelines of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Other larger jurisdictions have already implemented these policies. The intention is not to take choice away from women or to impound life-giving nourishment. It will not send women back into the kitchen chained to the stove with babes pulling on the teat as some editorials that I read implied. Instead, it is a long overdue remediation of a situation that separated the human species from their species specific milk and compromised in both subtle and profound ways the health of many moms and babes. The superiority of human milk, as compared to artificial milk or formula, for human babies is not disputed and its immuno-protective properties are well established. There are many other benefits as well of mother’s milk as substance and breastfeeding as method.

What is not as well-known is that formula companies have participated in the disruption of this mother and child feeding relationship for many years and that this has promoted a cultural ignorance about the benefits of breast milk and a communal lack of wisdom regarding supporting women in this most natural of human behaviors. Big corporations have been the beneficiaries of immeasurable profits by influencing infant feeding through using extreme measures by literally getting invited right into the hospital.

Pregnant woman are wooed with coupons, samples and free merchandise. New moms are given goodie bags with loyalty promoting formula brands. What formula a baby is started on has nothing to do with the baby or the doctor, but by whatever company got their hands on those tiny sucking lips first. Where else does this marketing intrusion occur so blatantly in matters related to health?

Women’s efforts to nurse have been sabotaged in hospitals for decades by babies being given sugar-water or formula without consent. Birth attendants including doctors and nurses not educated in lactation have also impeded the mother’s success at nursing. The result is a society that for decades has been led to believe that nursing is difficult, inconvenient and an impediment to maternal freedom. What has created barriers for mothers choosing to nurse is not nursing, but a lack of education, limited support, pathetic maternity leave policies, lack of comfortable places for nursing and pumping and a prudish culture that has turned feeding at the breast into a lascvicious act aggravated by laws that even make nursing in public illegal in some places.

If you wish to discuss enslaving factors as regards women’s choices, this is what people should be concerned with–not the new policies. Of course, there will be some situations where babies will require formula; and there will be women who will choose formula feeding for a multitude of reasons. But, I am pretty sure the locked cabinet that the policy suggests will not be in the hospital basement by the janitors’ supplies and that women won’t be found dragging their IV poles down the hall in desperate search of contraband formula to sate their starving babies. And, I strongly doubt that nursing staff will be utilizing methods of intimidation to enforce breastfeeding.

This is just an opportunity to fully educate and inform and to take the profits out of our babies bellies. It is one of a long series of efforts by many health care professionals to enhance the health of women and children in both the short and long-term. This is not rocket science nor is it evidence of a nanny state. If we as mothers have to choose our battles–this is not the one to wage.

Comments?

In health, Elyn

http://www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/  benefits of breastfeeding

http://blogtobabyfriendly.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/bloomberg-under-fire/

http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/eng/docs/2010_Guidelines_Criteria_Rev%2011_28_11.pdf

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/03/158097386/new-york-officials-breast-milk-may-be-best-formula

Related post:  Breastfeeding Redux

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Blueberry bushes

Three children with empty pails

Pluck, pluck, crunch, exhale.

by Michael

blessed feeding summer rerun

 

This week, August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week.  World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.    http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

In celebration, and because I have been busy and have not written recently, I offer a previous post.  I dedicate it to my son, born on my  birthday on August 7th–an incredible gift.    He was a happy nurser, deeply committed to the cause.   I honor that his deliverance occurred during this important week.  To happy births and blessed feedings.

It was one of those mornings.  One minute I am simply getting dressed for work, the next I am hopping around with only one leg in my tights, trying to find pen and paper to grab what I can from another nutrition-related radio story.  On that particular day, it was an NPR story entitled, Some Baby Formulas May Cause Faster Weight Gain.

English: Breastfeeding an infant Português: Um...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story which ran on January 24, 2011, starts out by saying that breastfeeding can be challenging, so most babies are on formula.  It was about a small study comparing cow’s milk formula and predigested protein formulas– which are very expensive and used mainly for babies with significant digestive issues including cow’s milk allergies.  The research suggested that at 7 months of age, the cow’s milk formula babies weighed two pounds more than breastfed and predigested formula babies.  The study only observed that the babies drinking the cow’s milk formula took a longer time to be satiated and therefore drank more. There was no explanation given for this.

Interviewed for the story was a Dr. Nicholas Stettler, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.  He starts out by saying that formulas have been proven safe and effective, and if infants like them and eat them, they’ll maintain their health and weight.  He then goes on to say that babies who gain too much weight in the first weeks and months of life are 5 times more prone to obesity and its inherent health risks by age 20–and that formula babies often gain too much.   He concludes by advising that, “Parents should work closely with their pediatricians to make sure their babies don’t gain too much or too little.  In this case, average is best.”

All in all, it wasn’t worth the hopping.  None of this was exactly news to me and if anything I was surprised at the limited analysis of the results.    However,  it touched on an issue that I feel quite strongly about–the dismal state of affairs regarding breastfeeding in this country and its many implications.

Ironically, on January 20th, just four days before, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced the “Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding“.  Outlined clearly in the announcement and its accompanying report are the many benefits of breastfeeding and the attendant health risks of not doing so.  Clearly known in the medical and nursing community is that there are many physical and emotional benefits for both nursing moms and their babies, and that babies who are not breastfed are at  increased risk for diarrhea, ear infections, more serious lower respiratory infections, SIDS, childhood leukemias, asthma, diabetes and obesity.    Lactation experts and women who do breastfeed understand that human milk is species specific for human babies, and its composition perfectly designed for proper and progressive growth.  Mother’s milk changes composition during each feeding as well due to differences in the foremilk and hindmilk and naturally provides nutritional, immunological and satiety factors.

In the introduction to the report, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes, “For much of the last century, America’s mothers were given poor advice and were discouraged from breastfeeding to the point that breastfeeding became an unusual choice in this country.”  I appreciated the admission.  Tucked in the report amongst the many reasons for our pathetically low breastfeeding rates  was this paragraph:  “A recent survey of pediatricians showed that many believe the benefits of breastfeeding don’t outweigh the challenges that may be associated with it and report various reasons to recommend against it.”

This seems pretty shocking given the following.  Comparing formula fed babies to those who were breastfed exclusively for four months, the rates of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections are 250% greater; for GI infections including diarrhea are 178% greater; and, for necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies 138% greater for the formula fed babies.  The economic impact of just these three illnesses that breastfeeding can prevent, costs this country 3.6 billion dollars per year.   In cultures where babies have unlimited access to the breast and constant maternal contact, the prevalence of psycho and sociopathic behaviors are very low.  What is the economic cost of  those disorders?

Though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, this recommendation does not translate into proper education, promotion and support. Hindering the promotion of breastfeeding in this country is the perpetuation of the idea that the decision to breastfeed is a personal one and we should not make women feel guilty for not breastfeeding.  Also, as a non-breastfeeding society for a few generations now, the cultural belief system is that most babies are raised on formula and they are fine.  Additionally, like nutrition, obstetricians and pediatricians– who are best poised to promote this clearly biologically superior milk–may not receive much training on breastfeeding and there is an awkwardness about women and breasts–even in the medical community.

The moment that baby opens it little mouth and receives an artificial milk, it is unwittingly committed to a different path than its breastfed nursery mate.  Immediately, that baby becomes a consumer of a highly and often deceitfully marketed corporate product; is more vulnerable to various illnesses and diseases with short or long term health implications; compromises its innate ability to self regulate feedings, and now in this weighted world, must work with its pediatrician to strive for average.

The health center where I work serves a large and diverse international clientele.  I feel very fortunate to encounter daily a multi-cultural perspective.  Last week, as I was walking past the main waiting area, two young women were nursing their babies.  One woman was Mexican and the other was Burmese.  This was not shy, covered up nursing.  Both, were one breast exposed unabashedly doing what women have been doing for thousands and thousands of years.  Confidently nourishing their young.  How challenging can it be?

In health, Elyn

Related Post:  Breastfeeding Redux

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/24/133110606/some-baby-formulas-may-cause-faster-weight-gain

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/calltoactiontosupportbreastfeeding.pdf

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Pick your own today

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats

Sweet summertime fruit.

by Nan (my dear friend–whose once happily nursing son is getting married tomorrow.  many blessings.)

 

To she who loves us before she meets us

To she who loves us before she meets us. Inscription on the Monumento a la Madre in Ciudad de Mexico.

The story of how women birth babies in this country has many chapters. In brief, it is a story that begins with essentially all births being attended to by midwives from various traditions in women’s homes and leads to the current paradigm of almost all births being managed according to a pathology-oriented medical model in hospitals.

monumento a la made, villahermosa, tabasco, mexico

The change was affected by the professionalization of obstetrics at the end of the 1800’s; the advent of charity hospitals that lured women with the promise of improved care but essentially were intended as training grounds for a profession that had no actual experience–and that resulted in a significant rise in maternal and infant mortality; and the influence of physicians who changed labor and delivery from a natural process to one that required the routine use of a series of interventions. By the 1940’s, the vast majority of births took place in hospitals. This trajectory was not the same in most other industrialized countries.

The introduction of “twilight sleep” which used morphine and scopolamine defined mid-20th century birth. The combination of these drugs left women powerless, with no memory of their labor or delivery. Problems associated with this cocktail led to its discontinuation, but gave rise to other substituted interventions.

The late 1960’s and 1970’s saw a counter movement with women recreating options for more natural birth. This resuscitated the profession of midwifery and ushered in the establishment of free-standing birth centers, more comfortable birthing rooms in hospitals and even expanded possibilities for women to deliver their babies back in the sanctity of their own homes. However, the persistent culturally held belief system that medically guided births are safer and the seduction of pain-free birth–promised now by the wide-spread use of epidurals–has maintained the predominance of a medical model. A midwifery model of care is still marginalized–though it is quite alive and kicking.

In my post, Attacking the Causes of Obesity, Really?, I discuss how I believe some very powerful influences regarding our current health situation including the weight problem have been seriously overlooked. To me, dismissing the consequences of dissociating women from the birth of their children is a glaring oversight. It seems rather obvious that as women were lulled into surrendering their most primal potent power that there would be other negative sequelae. Try not to interpret this on a personal level but rather on the larger societal level where these insidious changes occur.

Birth is a very divinely tuned natural process where a precise cascade of hormones allows for a woman to orchestrate the birth of her baby. It benefits from attendant security, guidance and support. Right after a normal delivery, a woman is alert and aware, able to hold, bond, nurse and care for her infant. Imagine, coming out of an induced stupor to find yourself alone with no baby to immediately see–let alone to hold. With medications and fear impeding the ability to breastfeed, it is also no coincidence that formula feeding quickly obliterated nursing at the same time that these interventions were implemented. This period of medically controlled birth was also marked by weight gain fear being instilled in women and the withholding of food during labor. Those practices are still the norm today.

Over the course of a few decades in this country, we abruptly dissolved the innate wisdom of women on how to trust their instincts in the care and feeding of their young. Ironically, it happened just as women were gaining other rights. It has now been about seventy years since that big SNAP, CRACKLE  and ultimate POP of male-dominated modern obstetrics felled the tree that rooted women to their maternal wisdom. Our infant and maternal maternity rates are abominably high–along with our C-Section rates, and, our breastfeeding rates are pathetically low. Chronic illnesses are common and increasing in our children.

With a few generations of women now lacking communal wisdom and thereby, confidence in their ability to give birth; and, with doctors who are not trained in nutrition and the motherly art of breastfeeding conducting our obstetric and pediatric care, is it any wonder that we no longer know what to do? That we no longer know how to cook and prepare real food for our children, that drugs are offered like candy, that a huge percentage of our infants and young children have hardly ingested a morsel of non-processed or non-adulterated food and, that we barely know and trust how to nourish our own selves?

In that prior post, I state that I want to be an impressive expert–a paid one. Here, I will boldly lay claim to my area of expertise. I have had the very unique experience of providing nutrition care in clinical and community settings for almost thirty years. In my next post I will share my observations and experiences.

Until then, as always I welcome your thoughts and comments. And, I share my deep gratitude for all the incredible midwives, many of whom I know personally, some whom have birthed my own children, others who are out there fighting for the rights of women and children on a daily basis.

A special thank you to my midwife Helena who brought me boxes of organic vegetables the summer I was pregnant with my daughter.
Please check out http://birthnewyork.org/birthnet/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zDnigbvPvk&feature=share
Also, a mention to the work of the model Christy Turlington who is working actively as a global maternal health advocate. I follow her on my little twitter account, and her work links to an organization at http://www.everymothercounts.org
In health,  Elyn

My Plate Haiku

Craving for pickles

And German chocolate cake

My friend is pregnant.  By Gretchen