Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Can You Believe THIS... Offensive Photo Caption in Life & Style Magazine (regarding Milk Sharing)

(For those who haven't read my blog before, here is some backstory on my struggles to breastfeed which may be relevant to understanding my fury.)

Dear Life & Style Magazine,

Never can I remember seeing something so offensive in a magazine as this image caption: "Can You Believe This??!!  Alicia Silverstone's breast milk-sharing program is not new - slaves used to be wet nurses.  Bur you know something's a bad idea when the last time it was popular was during the Civil War.  It's 2013."  Not only is it offensive on several levels, but it's also incorrect.  Someone should have done some research on the subject first.

Her "program" as you call it is not new, nor is it the first.  Groups like Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets have been connecting milk donor moms and milk recipient mom/babies for years.  In my personal experience, milk posted for sharing is claimed almost immediately.  There is a great need and desire for this donor milk, and to claim it's "unpopular" just shows your ignorance on the subject.  I suspect that the author of this uneducated caption is not a mother, and certainly not a mother who has ever struggled to breastfeed or suffered with low milk supply.  But there are Facebook groups with thousands of mothers who struggle on a daily basis with these issues, and thousands of generous moms willing to donate their surplus milk and thousands of moms hoping to give their babies exclusively breast milk diets.

As far as comparing donors to slaves, well, that's just in poor taste.  Donors have all sorts of reasons why they donate their milk including oversupply, their babies won't drink frozen/thawed milk (some babies will, some won't, pumping to relieve pressure, pumping after a baby has passed away, babies reacting to something in their milk, pumping extra to help a low supply mom just out of the goodness of their heart, etc.  But I doubt that there is a donor mom out there who feels like a slave.  Most mothers feel really good to be able to provide for their little ones with their own bodies and seeing their babies thrive on their own milk.  And to see another baby thrive as well is an extra blessing to them.  Do we mock and belittle blood donors?  How about egg and sperm donors?  Organ donors that save lives?   But for some reason, milk donation is like slavery to you?  This makes no sense and is highly offensive to the moms who donate their precious milk and to slaves who actually suffered, to compare donation to the inhumanities that they endured.  It is seriously tacky that you'd even suggest that.

Both of my babies are/were what a pediatrician has called "combo babies", as in they eat both breastmilk and formula (almost 50/50.)  And I spent many hours crying over my failed attempts at breastfeeding and how my body was failing me.  I have felt less than whole, broken, and less than a woman.  And here, your photo caption mocks everything I worked for.   I'm so glad that trying to give our babies the best start in life and the healthiest option is a JOKE for you.

I'm a member of several message boards/forums/groups for parenting - and I've witnessed and participated in many debates about parenting: circumcision vs. intact, formula vs. breastfeeding, homeschool vs. public school, etc.  As a parent, we have a LOT of important decisions to make for our children.  And I can say from experience, that as a parent, I just do the best I can.  I follow my instincts and try to give my kids the best of everything, whatever that is to me.  And we don't and can't all agree all the time.  But most parents make their decisions out of love.  And you, a style magazine, is not one to judge what is best for our kids.  If you don't like the idea of feeding your baby donor milk, well, simply don't!  But there is no need to judge or mock the parents that do, and especially not the generous donors that help us to do so.

I have accepted approximately 125 ounces of donor milk for my baby (with my first baby, I didn't know that these sharing groups existed) and I am both proud that I can offer her the best there is and am grateful to the donor mom (and her baby too) for sharing that gift with us.  I know the time and effort it takes me to pump each and every ounce, and so I am grateful to donors everywhere for sharing that with those who can't provide.

When you drink some cow's milk, or eat your pizza, or chomp down your cheeseburger (or feed your baby formula made from dehydrated cow's milk), have you met the individual cow from which YOUR milk came from?  Well, I can say that I HAVE met the human woman from which my baby's milk came from.  And she gave it up voluntarily - SHE wasn't held captive and milked against her will like a typical dairy cow.  Maybe we should be pointing at dairy cows and calling them the true slaves.  Think of that next time you consume your ice cream this summer.  How is feeding my baby milk from an anonymous cow (or twelve) any more natural?

Life & Style - I am sure you are receiving tons of feedback from this photo.  I hope your editing staff is embarrassed and I hope whoever decided to make a mockery out of milk-sharing is held responsible.  I hope you print a retraction and an apology to both Alicia Silverstone and to all of the moms who try to do best by their children, whatever WE think best is.  Shame on you.

A Seriously Offended Mom (Dana)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Eureka Moments (Another Blog about Breastfeeding-Failures)

"Time to pump, Mom!  I'm hungry!"  -- Coraline

Today I bottle fed my baby in the middle of a La Leche League meeting - something I never would have believed I'd do... and it was... OK!

This is yet another blog post about breastfeeding (or not), my eureka moments surrounding it, and overcoming social anxiety to reach out for help.

In order for it to make sense, you can read my backstory in these few blog posts:

Before Coraline was born:
Two week update:
*Accepting that I can't breastfeed:
6 month update:

* (This one is the most important one to read.)

So, I've been "exclusively pumping" for Coraline for almost 7 months now.  It is time-consuming and it hurts, a lot.  My nipples still feel like they were punched with sandpaper fists.  I promised myself I wouldn't get emotional about it this time around, and I haven't, but that doesn't mean that I don't still think my situation sucks, nor have I accepted that it can't get any better.  I still read blogs, articles, and forums about breastfeeding, IGT, pumping, and parenting in general and I'm still always looking for ways to make things better for us.

For starters, I'm pretty positive that Coraline has a tongue-tie and an upper-lip tie.  My wife, Missy, actually noticed her lip-tie as soon as she was born, and I showed it to her pediatrician when she was a few weeks old (and I was still trying to latch her) and he dismissed it.  I believed him at the time, but I've come to realize that pediatricians aren't always right (and that's putting it lightly.)

And secondly, I am pretty positive that I've had thrush for 6 months straight now.  I've tried every home remedy except genetian violet (which may be the next course of action, but I'm dreading it based on the mess factor) and several medications both rx and OTC.  And nothing works.  It sometimes gets less painful, but it hasn't gone away.

And lastly, I'm sure I have IGT in one breast (that makes only a few ml's at a time), but I'm able to get 2-5 ounces out of the good breast at a time, which is a relatively normal "half" supply (since it's coming from one side), but I'm wondering if I can get more - can I get a 3/4 or whole supply out of it?  I've tried all the food supplements (oatmeal, beer, Gatorade, cookies, etc) and several of the herbs (I haven't tried them all just because of financial constraints), and I'm currently taking domperidone and have been for months (I did while BF for Lily too, 4 years ago).   But as long as I'm spending 3-4 hours a day pumping (and losing sleep), I can't help but wonder if I can get MORE and make it more worth all the time, effort, and pain.

So, to answer all of these questions, I have been wanting to go to a La Leche League meeting for months.  They are only once a month (and about 40 minutes away from my house), and for the past few months I've been making excuses about going.  (Too tired and needed a nap, too far away, sick, etc.)  When truthfully, I was just to anxious to go - I am shy and have social anxiety, so going to a public meeting (alone) was a totally daunting idea.  And add on to that that I feel like a total impostor, going to a breastfeeding society meeting, when I don't/can't breastfeed my kids.  (I also feared the "BF nazis" telling me to "try harder" or "just take some herbs", or "have a beer and you'll make all the milk you need".)  But due to my increasing pain and my need for answers, I finally worked up the nerve to go today.

Most of the moms were sitting in a circle, but there were a few stragglers along the walls and it was all pretty informal (I guess as it has to be, with 20+ babies crawling and running around the room).  But at the far end of the room, I saw a familiar face!  A mom whose son went to school with Lily last year (but not this year) and we went to his birthday party.  I always liked her and so I went over and said hi, we caught up (I went from having one kid to TWO since the last time we'd seen each other), and since she's a doula and in the "in crowd" of these meetings, she told me she'd introduce me to the leader privately after the meeting - so I didn't have to shout out my questions in front of everybody - this was a major relief for my anxiety.

So, I sat through the end of the meeting. Coraline got a big kick out of watching all the other babies, she's only met one other baby before, and suddenly she was in a room full of them.  I won't lie, it hurt my heart to hear people talking about their oversupply, joking about shooting milk across the room, and other breastfeeding "problems" that I wish I had.  The breastfeeding-me of 4 years ago (with Lily) would have run from the meeting halfway, crying all the way to the car.  But I've come to terms with my low-supply, and though I'd like to "fight" it (a.k.a. build it up more), I'm not going to run from it anymore.

After the meeting, the leader came to speak with me and I gave her my brief history, told her why i EP, about my low supply, and about Coraline's ties.  She told me that she could tell right off the bat that I most likely have tongue-tie (who knew?) and she could see without even poking around in C's mouth that she had tight restrictions.  She also was super enthusiastic about my 12 ounces a day (the average I can pump) and said that 50% breastmilk was a huge accomplishment (whereas I always saw it as a "breast half empty" type situation.)  But because I've been able to maintain the supply for all this time, she said there would be a slight possibility of getting Coraline to breastfeed, but an even greater possibility of growing my supply to get closer to the 100% mark.  She was so positive, and warm and friendly, she really gave me hope that it CAN get better.  She gave me her business card, and I almost cried when I saw it - there is a Breastfeeding Medical Practice (a pediatrician's office that specializes in breastfeeding issues) right near where I live (by "right', I mean within an hour's drive, but most everything is 45+ minutes away anyway) that I never knew about.  Imagine if I had known when I was struggling with Lily, and crying for months on end?  Well, they take Coraline's health insurance, and they can evaluate her tongue/lip-ties and they can evaluate my breasts and come up with a game plan.   I had already seen THREE doctors about my breast woes, and none of them knew anything about BF or even knew what thrush was.  So this was my EUREKA moment of today - there is a place and a person who can HELP me!!!

During our conversation, Coraline was fussing (and was obviously hungry) and I was ignoring it because I planned on leaving soon, and I just didn't have it in me to bottle-feed her in a room of breastfeeding enthusiasts.  I mean, I felt like an impostor already, but no one else knew it.  But gently, the leader/IBCLC called me out on it, she said "you can feed your baby, it's alright, no one will say anything."  She knew I was ignoring the hunger signs out of embarrassment.  And so, I put on my big girl panties, walked over and got my bottle (of breastmilk) from my bag and fed her.  All around me, women had one breast out feeding their babies, and still it was ME who felt totally humiliated and like everyone was staring at me.  But I did it, we finished our conversation, and I packed up and left.  (And no one really seemed to care that I was bottle-feeding my baby in the middle of a LLL meeting, it was all in my head of course.)  But this was another huge moment for me in overcoming fears and "putting myself out there."

So I have an appointment to go see that IBCLC and the pediatrician (who is also an IBCLC) this week, and I couldn't be more excited to show someone my boobs and my baby's tongue.  I just need some answers, some validation, and some guidance.

In the past months, while struggling, I also considered getting donor milk for Coraline (from moms who have oversupply or more pumped than they actually need).  I never knew this was an option with Lily and so it was something new for me to consider.  I was (still am) on the fence about how I felt feeding my baby milk from a stranger though (even with blood work, etc), but I decided to think about it, and so I joined the network that connects donor moms with in-need moms.  I live in a pretty remote area, so I figured if any became available in my area, it was something to consider.  (I didn't intend on driving 100-300 miles to get it, like many moms do.)  Well, within a week, a post came up in my area for 50 ounces, and when I clicked on it, the donor was someone I knew!!!  (a friend who I had lost contact with, but reconnected with via Facebook a few months ago).   We have 4 daughters (2 each) that are the same age, which is super fun and convenient!  Well, I took it as a sign that it was meant to be, and so I went to pick up the milk and we had a playdate with the kids.  The big girls hadn't seen each other in 4 years, and really hit it off, and I enjoyed rekindling our friendship and catching up.  And now we are on Day 5 formula-free!  (Coraline is getting exclusively breastmilk, plus some fruit/veggie purees).  I know the 50 ounces won't last too long, but stretching it out is also encouraging me to pump more to try to get more - so we can have as many formula-free days as possible.  Getting this amazing gift has inspired me to work EVEN harder to make as much milk as possible.  I still don't know if I'd take milk from a stranger, but I feel like the donor-milk experience we've had has made my struggles with pumping seem a little more worth it.  So, I guess inspiration comes in weird places, but this has been my other EUREKA moment of the week.
(And if you are reading this, J, thank you SO much for your donation, we really appreciate it.)

I haven't let milk (and everything associated with it) become an obsession; I am working hard to keep all of the elements in my life in balance.  And I know many people can't understand WHY I still struggle the way I do (my mom tells me I've done enough, to just switch to all formula), but it's not something I'm ready to give up on yet.  When I stopped pumping with Lily, I didn't feel regret, I felt relief.  And I know that time will come again, I'll be ready, but that time isn't yet.  I'm one month away from my 8-month goal (since that's how long I gave breastmilk to Lily), but now I'm thinking about one year as my new goal.  We'll take it day by day...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Interview with a 4-Year-Old

Lilian, 6/27/13, 4 years + 10 months old
Today, Lily "interviewed" me - she asked me a million questions, then wrote down all the answers on sticky notes (by "wrote" i mean, drew pictures or wrote the first letter of my answers).  Then she wanted me to interview her.
And since it was so cute, I decided to share all her answers.  I mean, unicorns won't ALWAYS be the center of her world... (I hope.)

Q = Question, L = Lily's answer

Q: How many vacations have you been on?
L: 10

Q: What is your favorite thing to do on vacation?
L: swim

Q: What is your favorite thing to do?
L: When new friends get invited to my house to play.  Also, playing with Ruby and her toy pig.

Q: What is your favorite food?
L: Apples

Q: What is your favorite drink?
L: apple juice

Q: How old are you?
L: 4

Q: What is your favorite color?
L: yellow and orange

Q: What is your favorite game?
L: Checkers.  I've never played Checkers.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy Dana?
L: Play board games

Q: What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy Missy?
L: Watch movies

Q: What is your favorite thing to do with your baby sister Coraline?
L: Watch her play in her Exersaucer

Q: Who is your best friend?
L: My cousin Violet

Q: What is your favorite book?
L: My Dora book

Q: What is your favorite TV show?
L: Special Agent Oso

Q: What is your favorite movie?
L: Frankenweenie

Q: Where is your favorite place to go with your mommies?
L: Violet's house

Q: Where is your favorite place to go out to dinner?
L: Restaurant

Q: Where is your favorite place to go shopping?
L: grocery store

Q: What is your favorite song?
L: Moves Like Jagger

Q: What is your favorite toy?
L: my horses

Q: What is your favorite animal?
L: Horses and Unicorns

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
L: a traffic cop

Q: Where is the best place your mommies took you?
L: the carnival

Q: What is your favorite game? (oops, I asked this twice)
L: Madagascar Spuzzle

Q: What color car will you have when your grown up?
L: blue

Q: Do you think you'll be a mommy when you're grown up?
L: yep
Q: How many kids will you have?
L: 2, Like me and Coraline

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?
L: go to the beach

Q: Where will you live when you grow up?
L: Loyi
Q: Where is that?
L: I have no idea.

Q: What will you study when you go to college?
L: Unicorns

Q: If you had one wish, what would it be?
L: That I had a horn.

Q: What is one thing you'd like to do this summer?
L: Play in the grass.

[End of interview]

I have a couple of disclaimers to make.  First of all, not all of these answers are true.  It's what she said without really thinking, but she has never before today told me she wanted to be a traffic cop!  In the past she has said she wanted to be an animal doctor and a farmer.  Also, those aren't really her favorite TV show and movies, they are just ones she's watched in the past 24 hours.  And the best place we took her?  Well... the carnival was last night and she LOVED it, so it's fresh in her mind.  But we took her on a 10 day vacation to Disney World once!!!  I'd hope that trumps the carnival one day!  And, about "I'd like to play in the grass this summer"... i take her to the park ALL the time.  She sounds like a city kid, LOL.
Still, cute answers.  I definitely have to do more interviews.

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