Friday, April 25, 2014

My Response to "Babies Cry to Prevent Siblings"

When I first read the headline, "Babies cry at night to prevent siblings, scientist suggests," I laughed, somewhat hysterically.  It's an amusing theory - one you could almost believe, given not that a baby's cries may interrupt parents who are getting busy (been there!), but that night nursing prevents ovulation (though not reliably).

Then I saw Dr. James McKenna's name and thought, "Oh, good, actual science."

Then I read the end of the article and thought angrily, "How irresponsible! This man is a scientist?! What a..." Well, I try to be polite here, so I won't finish that sentence.

The article ends,
Although we’ll never know exactly why babies evolved to cry at night, Haig’s idea offers one interesting explanation. Whether he is right or not, there is another message lurking in this study, and it’s a message for modern parents: Babies who don’t breastfeed during the night and babies who take bottles don’t wake up as much during the night — and they don’t seem to be worse off for it, Haig says. That result implies that nursing throughout the night isn’t necessary. So moms shouldn’t beat themselves up if they don’t always heed the nighttime calls to breastfeed, Haig says. 
“There’s a tendency to think of infants as incredibly fragile beings, and if you do just one thing wrong, they’re ruined for life,” Haig says. “That to me doesn’t make any evolutionary sense. They should be fairly robust and handle all sorts of variation in sleeping arrangements and feeding arrangements."
Yes, moms shouldn't beat themselves up for not breastfeeding.

And true, babies won't be ruined for life

But it never fails to tick me off when there is encouragement for babies to sleep longer than is biologically normal at night, because it is dangerous.

Babies' frequent waking helps protect them against SIDS.  A baby sleeping too deeply for too long may have difficulty rousing.

I will never forget the day I came home in third grade to find my mother crying.  My five month old cousin Timmy had died in his sleep.  

I'll never forget meeting family from far away for the first time, at least in my memory.  Never forget that I was all cried out by the day of the funeral, and I felt so guilty not to cry at his graveside.  I'll never forget the little stuffed elephant I was given that had been his - I still have it, mixed in now with the zoo my kids have in the top bunk in their room.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, by 60% for any breastfeeding.  And for exclusive breastfeeding, the risk is reduced by 73%.
(Hauck, Fern, John M. D. Thompson et al. Breastfeeding and Reduced Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: A Meta Analysis Journal of Pediatrics 2010)
I find it incredibly ignorant for a "scientist" to fail to recognize the importance of breastfeeding and night nursing in favor of his asinine sibling rivalry theory, and to tell parents, "You don't need to breastfeed, it's not really important.  Get some sleep!  Ain't no thang."

It's supportive to tell mothers not to beat themselves up.  It's supportive to tell mothers they aren't "ruining" their kids by not providing all that is optimal in life.

It is NOT supportive to represent yourself as a scientist, an educated person, and flat out ignore science - life-saving science - when in a position to raise awareness among parents.


I'm deep in birthday party planning, and am trying to keep this short.  Just to try to be clear without rambling on, I am NOT saying parents are responsible for SIDS or we don't all need SO much more sleep or anything judgmental of anyone but David Haig.  And maybe the author of the article I read, who looked into McKenna but still went with "Ain't no thang."  

What are your thoughts?
Leave a comment or join the conversation on Facebook.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TSA Breastmilk Lawsuit Results in Policy Change and Employee Training

If you're a breastfeeding mother on a flight & you don't have a cutie pie baby like this one with you, you'll need to pump and carry your breastmilk.  Thanks to Stacey Armato, hopefully moms can now do so without worrying that TSA officers will suggest they dump their liquid gold.

I can't tell you how many times I've read the suggestion that a breastfeeding mother who has been discriminated against should sue - or read claims that "I would sue if..."  The fact is, affording a lawyer is not so easy if you don't have several thousand dollars just lying around - and they're not lining up to do pro bono work after every NIP incident in the news, either.

BUT, Stacey Armato did manage to sue, & she won!  Well, settling may not technically be winning, but she got what she wanted out of the lawsuit.  In 2010 she was harassed by TSA agents over bringing her expressed breastmilk through security.  She said,
“We brought this lawsuit for one reason — to bring clarity and policy change for breastfeeding mothers traveling with breast milk. Hopefully what I experienced at the Phoenix Airport in 2010 will never happen to another mother traveling with her breast milk.”

The United States Transportation Security Administration settled, agreeing to clarify procedures, train officers, and to update its website so that pumping moms can know what to expect when traveling with breastmilk.  Oh - and they're making a donation to a breastfeeding advocacy group!

You can read more here.

I want to go off on a tangent here about some legislators worrying that the enforcement provision in HB 1706 would have resulted in a rash of frivolous lawsuits, and about the fact that $500 plus attorney fees - the cap the bill would have placed on the private cause of action it provided for - is hardly frivolous.  And that moms would not suddenly have a surplus of time and money for suing any more than a plethora of lawyers would suddenly want to work pro bono over $500.  I won't get into the fact that the enforcement provision would have served more as a warning than it would have been needed as a punishment.  But I'll just leave it at saying I'd be willing to bet you a Starbucks venti caramel frappuccino that TSA paid out more than attorney fees and 500 bucks.  

And yet the thing we're celebrating is the policy change and employee training!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sweet Pea's Birth Story

Five years ago, I was just a few hours from giving birth to one of the 

most amazing people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. 

 In honor of his fifth birthday tomorrow, this is Sweet Pea's birth story. 

With my wonderful doula, Shelley Scotka.

A lifetime ago (my 8.5-year-old son's lifetime, specifically), I taught pre-kindergarten for Austin ISD. I loved it. Mostly. I loved the kids. Four is such a terrific age. It's my favorite.

I always have trouble with the markers that show how quickly my children are growing - moving up a size in clothes, a new grade, birthdays. I don't mind aging myself, because I lost my mother when she was only 43, and I know that aging beats the alternative.

Of course the same is true - much more so, in fact - with children. Yet I always grieve the time that has passed.

Tomorrow my beautiful middle son, my four-year-old Sweet Pea, who is the embodiment of love and light, turns five. And it's frickin' killing me.

Five will be fantastic, I know. He will learn so much, and he will just get more awesome - inconceivable as that may be, given the level of awesome he has already attained.

I can't believe it's already been five years. But then again, as I re-read his birth story, five years seems so very long ago. We were using an old ipod then - this was pre-smart phones for us. We were eating Jack in the Box - what?! Now three of us are vegetarians, and Bellybean and I only eat humanely-raised meat. So long ago, and yet it feels like yesterday at the same time. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.

His birth story is below, but first, a sweet slide show my amazing hubby Adam put together, with one of my favorite songs, the beautiful and poignant "Only Four," by singer-songwriter Laurie McClain.

Well - here it is, as I shared it eleven days after he was born:

Sweet Pea is just beautiful. He's sweet and healthy and cuddly. He has lots of blond hair, dark blue eyes, big hands and crazy-long feet. He nurses well, and so far doesn't cry much and can be easily consoled when he does. He sleeps a lot, which is not to say he doesn't wake up through the night, but I wouldn't expect anything different from a newborn, and he goes back to sleep easily. We were afraid because I was GBS positive and only got one dose of antibiotics instead of the preferred two doses, but he hasn't had any fevers and we should be past the window in which he'd have gotten sick if he was going to.

I am recovering well. In fact, Sunday we went to an Easter egg hunt, less than 3 full days after the birth. I thought I was experiencing typical soreness, but when it continued and even worsened I went in to be evaluated by a midwife. Seems I broke my tailbone again. It was supposed to be out of the way, having broken when I gave birth to Magoo (we heard a pop and I felt like my spine had snapped - because it had), but I guess not. It MAY be just bruised, which I sure hope is the case. (It was the case!  Soreness lasted much less time than when it actually broke ith Magoo!  Thank goodness!)  I felt pretty good when Adam was home because I could sleep in very late and had support all day. But he's back to work as of a few days ago, so I anticipate things getting harder.

Adam is good. Very tired. We all need so much from him and now he has to be back at work, too, and he misses us, needy as we are.

Magoo is an incredible big brother. He is so sweet and loving. He wants to help and hold Sweet Pea and kiss him a million times a day. Fortunately all of the negative behavior associated with this huge life change (anger, melt downs, tantrums, etc.) are directed not at Sweet Pea but at Adam and me. He's had more accidents than not, though he's been pretty completely potty trained for quite some time. Friday when Adam was at work we butted heads all day and were just miserable. But Saturday when Daddy was teaching piano we spent more time out of the house, and I think that may be key, because it was a better day. Sunday, with Daddy home, was the best day we've had since leaving the hospital, so Adam being miraculously given a paid month of paternity leave is what would really be ideal!

Here's Sweet Pea's birth story, if you're interested:

Last Wednesday night I woke several times to pee, as was my habit by then, since I was 41 weeks pregnant. I felt a few mild contractions when I'd wake, but nothing that kept coming, though I had a little insomnia around 1am and 3am, wondering if this was going to be it. At 6am I had some fairly consistent contractions, and I wondered if we'd get stuck in the horrible morning rush hour traffic if we didn't leave soon (if it started to feel like things were speeding up instead of fizzling out), or if I should risk waking Milo to get up and do some cleaning. But I lay in bed til 7 or so until Milo got up.

Then I began to pull together what wasn't already packed, loose items we hadn't wanted bagged up for weeks like the camera and the ipod. Once everything on my To Pack list was next to the front door, I started cleaning. The contractions varied from 4 minutes to maybe 15 minutes apart, and were mild enough that I preferred to be focused outside my body, keeping busy, rather than to rest and think about the discomfort of each one. I had Adam cleaning, too - I wanted to come home to a clean, orderly house. Because of this, poor Milo was feeling neglected, so near lunch time we called his babysitter and asked if Adam could bring him over. While Adam was gone I finished up the cleaning as my contractions began to require that I pause until they passed. Adam brought home Jack in the Box and we ate lunch, loaded the car, and headed to the ob's office around 1:30.

I'd been 4cm the day before when I'd seen one of the midwives for my 41-week appointment. I was 6cm around 2pm when Lisa, the midwife on call, checked again. While I'd have preferred to stay home longer (and maybe even have a home birth), I knew we'd need to head from the ob's to the hospital. I was GBS positive and they wanted me to have two rounds of penicillin four hours apart. We made a quick stop at HEB for fruit, yogurt, and birthday cupcakes, then checked in at the hospital.

It seemed to take forever to do the paperwork, monitor the baby for a bit, take blood and start the antibiotics. I hated being in the bed;, wanted to get up and get settled in the room - put out the pictures of my mother that I'd brought, have my bag open to be able to get to the massagers and rice bags and whatnot. While I lay there, needing to focus in more with the contractions as they came, Adam called our doula Shelley; a doula-in-training, Tiffany, who was going to attend the birth and tend to Magoo when he was in the labor and delivery room; and Magoo's babysitter, who had picked up her husband and taken their children and Magoo to a park near the hospital.

My water broke, and I was a little nervous about how that would affect the frequency and intensity of my contractions. My ob, Dr. Sebestyen, a local hero for having midwives in her practice and convincing St. David's North Austin Medical Center to allow them to deliver, stopped by to say hello, and was joined by Lisa. We chatted a bit and Shelley arrived. Finally the penicillin ran out and I could tell when the cool saline ran through the line that the hep lock had only bothered me because the meds burn a bit. Finally I could get out of the bed (I could have earlier, but by the time the mobile monitor had been brought in, I only had a few minutes left to be monitored. And though I wanted to be up walking around, I didn't really feel like sitting on the bed or birth ball - I guess I'd started to get used to the idea of lying down and resting).

I put out the pictures, and started to pull out some of the comfort things we'd brought - heating pads and such. But I had two contractions close together that took a lot of focus, and I quit caring about getting settled. I needed to use the restroom, and while there I realized I was getting very tense, having difficulty relaxing. I'd had Adam put on music, but it irritated me so I asked him to turn it off.  I got into the shower on my knees and leaned over my birth ball, and told Shelley I felt like I might be in transition. I started to groan through the contractions and Shelley was so soothing. She would make low noises with each contraction, which helped me to keep most of my noises a low release of the pain, instead of a high pitched tense sound that my body tensed with. One of my wonderful nurses, Sarah, tried to check my dilation in the shower. It was not an ideal location, but I didn't want to move. She couldn't tell how dilated I was, but knew I was close to complete, and after a few contractions Sarah, Shelley and Adam convinced me to move to the bed.

There Sarah checked again and I was told I could push. I felt like I'd already been pushing for awhile - not in the involuntary bearing down way I'd experienced with Milo, but the "breathing down" kind of pushing that had been encouraged in the Hypnobirthing class we took before Magoo was born. Since I felt like I had to push with Magoo, I'd thought the whole breathing down thing was a bunch of hooey - until I was doing it. In fact once I was told I could push, I didn't necessarily really want to bear down. With some pushes I did, though, and others I would just feel my breath moving him down.

I wanted to know how much progress I was making, but I couldn't get outside of myself enough to really communicate that or even to look in the mirror at the foot of the bed and see what was going on. So I just trusted my body, and tried to let instinct and the sensations I was having tell me how hard to push or when to just breathe. By this time the room was full of love and anticipation. The two nurses were there, Adam, my midwife, Shelley, Tiffany, the babysitter and her four-year-old daughter, and my beautiful Magoo. I wanted him to have the opportunity to be a part of his brother's birth, and we'd prepared him by showing him a video of his own birth. In the video I had made more noise about the pain than I realized/remembered. Magoo had asked to be able to listen to his toy MP3 player because the noises I'd made during his birth had spooked him a little.  When I heard his voice in the room I managed to tell everyone where his toy was. Adam discovered that it wasn't working and gave him our ipod, but I did my darnedest to be quiet once I knew he was there. 

I lay on my side, eyes closed, my face pressed into the pregnancy pillow I had wrapped around me. The feeling was so much different from Magoo's birth, which was far more "managed." Where his doctor had done perineal massage throughout, which was excruciatingly painful, Lisa was completely hands off, and there was almost no burning sensation whatsoever. Finally I felt that his head had come out maybe halfway and had not slid back in that time. I wasn't sure I should push really hard - I didn't want to tear, but I was ready to meet him! With the next push I gave it all I had, which was more than I thought I could. His head was out! Each of his shoulders took a strong push, too. Then he slipped out into his Daddy's eagerly waiting hands. The midwife caught him with Adam and placed him on my belly. He was a little blue but pinking up, and quiet at first. He was gorgeous, with lots of blond hair. I hadn't really taken in Magoo's umbilical cord because it was cut very quickly so he could be whisked to the side of the room and suctioned of copious amounts of meconium. But with Sweet Pea it was left to finish pulsating, and it was just beautiful - a soft, plump white lifeline to me. It was long enough that I could hold him on my chest. I tried to nurse him, but it didn't take right away (though after he was weighed we tried again and it went great). I started to have some nasty cramps, and eventually the cord was cut and I gave Sweet Pea to Adam. He held him for a bit before the nurse weighed him - 9 pounds 9 ounces, 21 1/2 inches long. And that's right - you read nothing of pain medication because I had none. That was a little harder with Magoo's 11 hour labor (maybe 9 hours of that was pretty intense), but Sweet Pea's was very quick. I'd checked into the hospital around 3 or 3:30 and he was born at 5:55pm on Thursday, 4/9/09.

And life became infinitely better.

Magoo, about three months shy of four, meets his baby brother Sweet Pea.
And we became a family four.
You can read another sweet post about my loving little lactivist here.

I'm a sucker for birth stories - share yours here or on Facebook!

Did you have the birth you wanted?
Was your birth experience one that supported the establishment of breastfeeding?

Have you had trouble dealing with your wee babies growing too dang fast?!