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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Milk Bank...

This is a wonderful article, written by an amazing woman whom I'm lucky to call "friend".


A funny thing happened on the way to the milk bank...

By Jodine Chase
Six months ago today on October 27, 2010, a Facebook status update flashed across my computer screen, burning just a little brighter than most. I must see hundreds of Facebook status updates and Twitter messages and email subject lines over the course of a day.

This one, I remembered.

"Human milk sharing, woman-to-woman, goes global" was the title, from Emma Kwasnica's Informed Choice: Birth and Beyond Facebook group. I remember a mental "hmmm" as it slipped on past.

I remember thinking, "it's about time somebody took charge of this and put access to mother's milk in the hands of  the mothers!"

The notion of re-establishing the mother's milk bank in my city was starting to feel very remote after years of effort with little result. It's been 25 years since we had a milk bank here in Edmonton. This Facebook milk sharing page idea seemed so simple, so easy. Just let mothers connect with each other. Let them decide how to screen and whether or not to pasteurize. To heck with jumping through hoops and getting the doctors and the medical professionals on side - just let the moms do it.

Within hours I noticed it had increased from one message to a buzz on my Facebook - people were talking about this, sharing news of the birth of this global milk-sharing network.  Every few hours I'd see another message, status update, post talking about Emma's global milk sharing network idea. It was starting to have a "tipping point" feel about it.

A few days later I met a longtime breastfeeding advocate at a coffee shop - and there she was, talking about this milk sharing idea on Facebook. It had moved from Facebook to face-to-face. Within a few days a local community page was set up, the sure enough, there they were, all the usual suspects, people who have been passionate about the need for a milk bank here, active on the page, offering their time as admins. 

It's six months later. I've seen many matches happen. We've had people post about life and death, "I-have-no-milk-and-this-baby-won't-tolerate-anything-else" needs, and ordinary, "I-just-need-milk-for-a-few-days-until-I-get-over-the-flu-and-rebuild-my-supply" needs. Mothers of preemies with overflowing freezers have donated. Matches have been made where women ship milk via Greyhound and Purolator. We've also had women who have received milk from their next-door-neighbours. Literally, their next-door neighbours.

There's been local news coverage and global media attention. Our federal health department issued a precautionary statement. A paediatrician working to establish a milk bank in Toronto was called upon to explain this upstart global Facebook milk sharing phenomena at the US FDA's day-long milk bank meeting in Washington, D.C. 

Hollywood movie stars talked about donating extra milk stored in their freezers for babies in need, and stars with adopted babies like Neil Patrick Harris and Elton John talked about sourcing human milk on talk shows and in magazine interviews.

I'm not going to pretend it's mainstream. But in the last few months friends and acquaintances and relatives have come up to me in person, or engaged me in chat on FB and shared with me their own stories of wet-nursing, milk sharing, tribe nursing. Stories I'd never heard before. About the time they were sick and a neighbour brought over breastmilk. About the day they had to go to the hospital and a friend wet-nursed their baby. About their own freezer stashes and how they came forward to help women and babies in need. Women younger than me have spoken about doctors asking them to bring milk into hospitals for babies who aren't thriving. Women have said, matter-of-fact, "oh, my sister and I nursed each other's babies all the time.

These women are talking about it now because it feels safe  to talk about it. It doesn't feel icky or taboo anymore. It doesn't feel as if no-one else will understand - now when there's people talking about this global milk sharing network right on your Facebook. Your sister is doing it, your daughter is doing it, and you find out about it because she talks about it on Facebook. It MUST be "normal." That's the real power, I think, of this global milk sharing network on Facebook - the power to bring all these stories out of the closet.

Emma Kwasnica, six months ago today you put out your call. You asked mothers to organize themselves on Facebook to create a women-to-women milk sharing network. And they have. Today Human Milk 4 Human Babies is a global milk sharing network with almost 300 administrators, 125 community pages in almost 50 countries around the world.

There has been a seismic shift in attitudes about human milk and there is no going back from that. Authorities are concerned about safety and are scrambling for alternatives including improving access to human milk through "official channels."

Will there be more milk banks because of this global milk sharing movement?

I hope so.

But with mothers sharing milk openly and freely, connecting via Facebook and using other social media tools, will milk banks even be needed? I almost hope...not.

Front page of the Toronto Star this morning, "Donor Breast Milk is Greatest Gift for Sick Babies"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tree Climbing & Puddle Jumping- every child's Right.

Do you remember your childhood? Do you remember climbing trees?  Skipping stones across the creek? Riding your bike over to your friends house?  Do you remember playing pirates in the back yard and having swashbuckling sword fights? Or building forts out of your blankets and the broom and a chair?  Do you remember that? 

I remember growing up on Cape Briton Island in Nova Scotia, being 5 years old and running around the neighborhood with a pack of other 4, 5, & 6 year olds. We built tree forts (albeit not very good ones), we played Peter Pan & Captain Hook and swung out of old Hangmans tree looking for pirates.  We ran through the fields behind our houses and ate wild blueberries and raspberries till we were stuffed.  We caught tad poles in jars down at the creek.  We ate lunch at whom ever's house we ended up at when we got hungry.

I loved my childhood!!!! 

Of course now younger parents are shocked.  "Your mother let a 5 year old run around by her self with out an adult there?!" .... Oh yes, she did!!!  

Now days we live in a society that seems to think that children are incapable of doing anything for or by themselves. Parents of my childrens friends talk about soccer on Mondays, swimming on Wednesdays, play dates on Fridays, library on Saturdays and Ballet on Sundays.  And when their children aren't involved in some organized educational or physical activity, they continue to hover:  "Don't touch that, it might be dirty!"  "Don't climb that tree! You'll fall down and break your arm",  "Don't jump in that puddle! You'll get mud on your (designer) jeans!"  These are the same parents that seem to never go anywhere without a bottle of hand sanitizer and a pack of wet wipes. For so long I have stared around me at all these hovering parents, wondering if there was something I was missing.  Was I a neglectful parent?

What happened to encouraging a childs imagination?  What happened to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fun?

I know it's been a long time since I've really written any new articles here on Informed Parenting- I"ve been pretty over whelmed with a thousand and one things this winter and my blog has sort of been gathering dust. Then this evening I read an article that demanded my response and I instantly began typing here to share my enthusiasm with all of you.

The article, entitled "The Over Parenting Crisis" is written by Attachment Parenting author Katie Allison Granju.  Katie opens the article by talking about steriotypical mothers of the 50's, the June Cleavers, in their pressed aprons and perfectly coiffed hair and their picture perfect homes with their perfect cassaroles, and questions if we've broken away from the "Homemaker" mold to become free women or if in fact we've taken on another set of shackles to bind us.  Todays Helicopter parents take parenting to the limit.

As I read the article I couldn't help cheering and reading excerpts out loud to my husband (who also grew up as a free spirit, climbing mountains behind his house when he was 8 and riding his bike two kilometers to school with his 6 year old brother in tow).  Finally!!!  Someone who understood! 

Last week, I was eating a meal with the parents of a lovely one-year-old child, their first. As the very cute baby played with her food, I noticed she was managing to get quite a bit of her mashed peas into her rosebud mouth with her small spoon."Wow, she's really getting the hang of that spoon," I commented with a smile.
"Yes," her mother replied, "I've been working really hard with her on it all week. It's kept me pretty busy."
Working really hard on teaching her to use a spoon? All week? Kept her pretty busy?
I shouldn't have been surprised. Hearing this intelligent, accomplished woman with a master's degree in biology tell me how consuming she's found teaching her toddler to use a spoon is just one more example of our current culture of hysterical parenting. I mean, really, when did parenting become this difficult? When did the admirable quality of involved parenting become this?While it's one thing to be pleased — even proud — over baby's ability to connect spoon with mouth, it's quite another for her mother to become that invested in it, logistically or emotionally.
Wait, wait, you may be asking. Aren't you that same Katie Allison Granju who wrote a parenting book telling people to give their children more attention? Well, yes, and no. I did write the book Attachment Parenting (for which Dr. William Sears wrote the introduction), and I do believe strongly that infants and very young children thrive best with a high-touch, responsive style of parenting, but I'm also that mom who encouraged her two-year-old to play in the mud — some of which he certainly ate — and her five-year-old to climb trees. Yes, my kids slept with me as infants — because I found we all got the most sleep that way — but the kids were enjoying sleepovers with family and friends by kindergarten.
These days, I let my youngest kid enjoy his growing collection of pocket knives, and I expect my children toIn the past decade and a half, the parenting zeitgeist has shifted . . . into overdrive. ride their scooters out of my eyesight in our urban neighborhood. And I frequently tell my children that since I already completed elementary school, and have no intention of repeating the work, they will need to do their homework without me hovering nearby.
I have often described my parenting philosophy as "benign neglect." Responsive parenting means just that: we respond to children's needs. It's not the same as over-parenting, in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our children's needs and developmental tasks.

"Benign Neglect".... not only did she understand, she even had a name for my style of parenting!!!! 

Parents have a huge impact on how their children turn out, and that's precisely why we need to take a hard look at the obsessive, controlling, perfectionistic parenting culture we're living in. In fact, facilitating children's ability to function independently, to figure things out, and to grow into themselves without excessive interference is in itself an essential task of parenting.

Parents' increasing obsession with creating a totally germ-free environment for children offers an instructive example of the way over-parenting is counterproductive. Fifteen years ago, when I brought my first baby home from the hospital, his father and I were instructed to keep him away from obviously sick people during the newborn period. After that, our pediatrician told us that exposure during infancy and childhood to household and environmental germs was part of building a healthy immune system.

Fast forward to 2007, as parents now attempt to create an artificially germ-free childhood. Not only do they avoid exposing their kids to sick people, they surround their children with antibacterial soaps and washes. They buy toys and baby gear coated in space-age, microbe-resistant surfaces, and trips to the grocery store require a specially made "shopping cart cover" meant to prevent little Liam or Ava from encountering anyone else's bacteria.

But medical experts are pleading with parents to stop with the anti-germ hysteria because rather than preventing illness in children, it's actually causing it, encouraging the growth of treatment-resistant strains of bacteria, and preventing kids' exposure in the healthy doses required to grow a strong immune system.
Yep, that's right, it turns out that regular, old, everyday germs are good for kids. So is regular,

When parents micromanage children's lives, everyone loses.

HERE to read the entire article

Yes.  GERMS. and DIRT.

So please, the next time you feel the urge to tell your child "Don't do that, You'll break your leg!" .... sit back. Let them have fun.  Let them eat dirt and jump in puddles.  Yea, you'll have extra laundry to do, but does it really matter?  

As for me, well, this article kinda reaffirmed for me that I'm on the right path.  My 8 year old took her 6 and almost 4 year old siblings to the park today.  And yes I worried for a moment or two, but the look of pride on her face was enough for me to realize that I really don't need to be a hover craft.  At least not all the time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

AIM submission to Health Canada on Infant Nutrition

A group of mothers on Facebook have formed the Association of Informed Mothers - AIM. This group was initially created to write a submission to Health Canada in response to their draft document "Nutrition for Healty Term Infants: birth to 6 months". This document will replace the current Canadian Guidelines that are in place, and while they have made some excelent changes, some areas of the draft document were very poorly worded, or incorrect. The following is AIM's submission to Health Canada and we would like to invite everyone who agrees with our document to sign your name to the bottom of it as an interested member of the public. If you wish to have your name added to the submission please  go to the facebook note HERE  and comment with your name, city and province. this document will only be open for signatures till 9pm this evening. so please feel free to share it out on your groups etc to spread the word!

A huge thank you to all the moms who poured their heart and soul into this document!


The Association of Informed Mothers (hereafter called AIM) is a stakeholder group of mothers who support and advocate for mothers' rights to make fully informed choices for the health and well-being of both themselves and their families. To do this, mothers need access to information that is in the spirit of full disclosure and is provided free of influence by organizations, third parties, or persons that hold a conflict of interest. It is AIM's belief that Health Canada is responsible to provide information to the citizens of Canada that comply with these points.

AIM fully supports INFACT Canada's submission to Health Canada's Committee reviewing the guidelines for "Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants". AIM strongly believes that INFACT Canada's submission is of great value to the Health Canada Committee, as the information it provides is accurate, does not create a conflict of interest and is well researched. (A copy of INFACT Canada's submission is included at the end of this document).

AIM also fully supports UNICEF's submission to the Health Canada Committee. Health Canada has agreed to follow the World Health Organization's (WHO) infant feeding recommendations, and therefore any statement made by Health Canada should be aligned with UNICEF's submission (A copy of UNICEF's submission is included at the end of this document).

The following is a list of AIM's key concerns with Health Canada's draft document "Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants - birth to six months". AIM has specified a list of changes to be made to the document. These changes are required for the draft document, in order to provide the information parents need to make fully informed decisions for their family.

1. The language of the Health Canada draft document needs to be changed to reflect the normalcy of breastfeeding. Statements such as "the benefits of breastfeeding" should be changed to "risks of artificial feeding methods" or "the importance of breastfeeding". Breastfeeding is the biological norm for all human children, referring to its outcome as "benefits" implies it is outside and/or above the norm. For further information of the use of language and its effects on normalizing breastfeeding, please refer to the article "Watch your Language", written by Diane Weissinger, Journal of Human Lactation, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1996.

2. It is legally and ethically advisable for Health Canada to omit statement #5: "Commercial infant formulas are the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk." from these guidelines. To make such statements is unethical, inadvisable, and untrue. The inclusion of statement 5 directly contradicts Health Canada's acknowledgement and public acceptance of the WHO Infant feeding guidelines, which state that "For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup,which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depending on individual circumstances."

Statement #5 is also contrary to UNICEF's recommendations for infant feeding, and undermines the use of donated and banked breastmilk. 

Currently, several provinces are researching the creation of milk banks, and the Canadian Paediatric Society is calling for the development of milk banks across Canada. The use of donor milk, whether through formal or informal channels, is vitally important to the health of infants whose mothers are not able to exclusively breastfeed, and is fully supported by WHO. It is the recommendation of AIM that Health Canada develop guidelines to address the use of donor milk, outlining the risks and benefits of using donor milk vs infant formula, and provide the information necessary for parents to make fully informed decisions about feeding their infants.

3. Health Canada should remove all sections in the draft document that discuss the use of artificial breastmilk substitutes. Those sections addressing commercial infant formulas should be made into a separate document or included in an appendix on the use of artificial feeding methods and products. Full disclosure of information about the risks of using commercial infant formulas and safe feeding methods is imperative in order for parents to be fully informed when making infant feeding decisions. By placing nutritional information about infant formulas side by side with breastfeeding, Health Canada is creating the false impression that they are equal and interchangeable methods for feeding infants. This is untrue, misleading, and does not meet the principle of full disclosure, nor does it give parents the proper information upon which to base their decisions. 

4. We submit that Health Canada should make its stance clear by making an official statement affirming that Canada is both a signatory to, and is compliant with, the World Health Organization International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions. 

The Government of Canada is a signatory to the International Code for the Marketing of Artificial Breastmilk Substitutes and as such is required to pass legislation which provides for the enforcement of all provisions of the Code. Health Canada not only has a responsibility to remind all levels of government of this requirement, but also to ensure that all health care and related facilities within Canada are compliant with the Code. To ensure this compliance, Health Canada must immediately inform all physicians, nurses and health care facility administrators of the full range of provisions of the Code. Upon completion of dissemination of this information Health Canada must ensure that all professionals and facilities in Canada meet the requirements of the Code. INFACT can assist in this matter through the provision of information and resources.

On May 21st, 2011 it will be 30 years since Canada and 118 other countries signed the WHO Code, yet the Canadian government continues to refuse to pass legislation to protect and enforce the Code. 

5. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is integral to ensuring mothers and babies are provided with the minimal support and information needed to begin their breastfeeding relationship at birth. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) should be fully endorsed by Health Canada. All Canadian hospitals should be informed of all BFHI recommendations and should be striving to attain BFHI status by a set date. BFHI should be recognized by Health Canada as the minimum requirement, not a luxury.

6. The Health Canada draft document should focus on the need for better breastfeeding and lactation education for all medical professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives etc.), and any personnel that come into regular contact with new mothers (social workers, etc). Health Canada should also advise provincial and territorial health policy makers that breastfeeding support and education at these levels are seriously lacking, and that this lack of education negatively impacts the ability of medical professionals to support mother and baby dyads. Health professionals who are unable to provide educated lactation support should be advised that mothers must be referred to professionals that are fully trained, rather than giving misleading and/or inaccurate advice that is detrimental to breastfeeding success.

7. The statement made in the draft document: "4. In Canada, all infants need supplemental vitamin D. " is incorrect and misleading. Health Canada cannot accurately state that ALL infants need to be supplemented with Vitamin D. Instead, AIM recommends that Health Canada set up prenatal maternal testing for Vitamin D levels. If mothers are shown to be deficient in Vitamin D, prenatal supplementation has been shown to optimize vitamin D levels in infants. Canadian mothers are at higher risk of being Vitamin D deficient due to northern latitude and long winters with little sun exposure. Therefore, it is the recommendation of AIM that Canadian mothers be advised by Health Canada to take a Vitamin D supplement along with folic acid to ensure infant health after birth.

8. AIM does not agree with the current American Academy of Paediatrics recommendation that breastfed infants should be supplemented with iron. Breastmilk has been proven to contain adequate iron to support infant health, except in cases of severe maternal anemia. It is AIM's recommendation that Health Canada encourage prenatal testing to address maternal anemia before birth. 

9. The statement by Health Canada in section 2.7: "The impact of cesarean birth on breastfeeding appears to have changed over time. In most cases today, cesarean birth does not impede breastfeeding" is incorrect and needs to be removed. There is no evidence to support this statement, and strong evidence to contradict it. Health Canada needs to set up separate guidelines that examine and make recommendations about medical interventions during pregnancy and childbirth such as chemical inductions, the routine use of IVs, epidurals, invasive testing and pain medications during labour, the use of surgical interventions, such as forceps/vacuum extractions and cesarean sections, and early cord clamping and their effect on maternal and fetal outcomes, with special attention given to breastfeeding initiation and longevity . Perinatal practices are one of the most powerful indicators of long term breastfeeding success and are therefore vitally important considerations.

10. In section 9 the Draft Document states that "9. At six months, infants need complementary foods along with continued breastfeeding to meet their nutrient needs". This statement gives the impression that breastmilk is no longer adequate after 6 months and that it suddenly loses it's ability to nourish an infant at this time. This is inaccurate. It should also be noted that not all infants are ready for or require complementary foods at a set age, i.e. 6 months. A statement that "Infants should not be given complementary foods before 6 months, but after that time introduction solids may begin" would be preferable.

It is the opinion of AIM that the committee responsible for these guidelines is lacking oversight by the public and should include members that are involved in stakeholder groups or members of the general public who are interested in the outcomes of the draft document and Health Canada's new guidelines. 

Currently breastfeeding initiation rates in Canada are excellent. However, by 3-6 months the percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their babies drops radically. This extreme drop in breastfeeding rates directly affects the health and wellbeing of mother-baby dyads and is an accurate indicator of the lack of information and lactation support currently available to families across Canada. It should be noted that the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding to six months is often undermined or outright ignored by health care professionals who encourage or recommend or demand supplementation with infant formula before the baby has even been released from hospital. Evidence-based information and education provided to parents and health-care professionals is integral to the increase of long-term breastfeeding rates in Canada. As members of AIM, and as mothers, we have a vested interest in increasing breastfeeding information and education available to healthcare providers and families across Canada. We therefore respectfully request that Health Canada review our submission and make the changes necessary to bring Canada in line with the World Health Organization, and to maintain its place as a key player in the forefront of worldwide health.

We thank you for the opportunity to provide our recommendations. We would like to be included as a stakeholder in any future consultation on these or similar guidelines. 

Association of Informed Mothers

Danielle Arnold
Brantford ON

Monday, April 11, 2011

Will your baby's formula be deficient in a few years?

A good friend of mine posted this small commentary on Facebook.  Though it's just a few sentences, it's far to important a question to be lost or brushed aside.

Will your baby's formula be deficient in a few years?

Formula companies periodically revamp the ingredients in their powder to make it more nutritional. They add another vitamin, or ingredient which improves their current artificial powder. Formula companies go to great lengths to advertise and celebrate their new and improved powder. Why? Because they realized that their “old” powder was deficient and needed to be fixed. In a few years time, I foresee formula companies improving the current powder as they realize that today's new and improved powder is missing a vital ingredient. Consider this: will you feed your newborn, infant, or toddler a powder that will be considered deficient in a few years? 
author: Marivette Torres CLD(CBI)