Saturday, November 10, 2018


"The expansion of Palm Oil plantations are the primary reason for the destruction of the rain forests of Indonesia.  The expansion of GMO soya plantations is a major reason for the destruction of the Amazon rain forests and cerrado, in Brazil and Argentina." --Vandana Shiva, "Gandhi's Ghani," 2/16/16

When I was 5 or 6 years old I had vivid dreams of walking down a path in a jungle.  The dreams were colorful:  bright greens, deep reds and yellows.  I walked a path in which the vegetation was over-run by heart-shaped vines.  Born in Northern Ontario, Canada in the fifties, my family did not have a TV until we moved to the US, when I was 6 years old.  It was a black and white small screened TV. Color TV did not exist; or if it did, my family could not afford to buy one.  My father took my brother, me, and quite a few neighborhood children to the store to buy the TV.  What an adventure, riding in the car that was packed with excited kids and a TV.  I am not sure how my Dad survived that adventure.  I think he bought all us kids ice cream cones to shut us up!

When I moved to Florida in my adulthood, I noticed this particular heart-shaped plant that is considered an invasive plant in our landscape.  It's called an air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) and snakes counter-clockwise around plants, shrubs, and trees producing various sized brown potato-like seeds that drop to the ground that reseeds into more air potato vines. According to some experts air potato plants grow 8 inches a day!  I have spent hours pulling out the vines because it grows and reproduces exponentially like in some horror flick.  Yet I do not hate this invasive heart-shaped plant but am fascinated by the patterns it makes upon the landscape.  The curious thing is that those bright green heart-shaped leaves are the very same leaves I saw as a child in my dreams.  Now I am living in a landscape that I dreamed about in my childhood. 

Living in Florida I have gotten an appreciation for plant life in a sub-tropical climate.  Rain forests fascinate me, although I have never actually stepped foot in a rain forest.  I can imagine it because I have watched you tube videos on  rain forests. But I don't know the rain forest like indigenous tribes know their forest.  I don't live in it.  Yet having lived in Florida for 40 years, I have seen the destruction of our subtropical forests.  A company had bought land near my town and basically cut down almost all the trees.  Burnt the trees which started a huge fire that the firefighters had to get under control.  I passed by the area and watched a gopher turtle (endangered species) hurrying across the scarred and burnt landscape.  How many gopher turtles made it out of there safely?  What was the reason for destroying all the trees?  Months later, the property sits there bare, life interrupted.  Not a rain forest, just another section of Florida environment destroyed to make room for more stores or car dealerships.  The heavy rainfalls we have had this summer and fall have made the property into mini-lakes.  Paving it over and building on it will surely cause flooding? Flooding will have an economic impact to the area.  The loss of trees will increase warming trends.  The loss of habit for various animals, many already endangered, increases the risk of extinction. 

The inter-connections between human economic activities, the environment, and the future of life on this planet need to be considered.  If one lives indoors all the time, then the outdoor environment is often not even considered. Eating manufactured, "convenience" foods without understanding how it is produced and the real costs of factory farming to the land and to human health is creating death and destruction to many plant and animal species.  Eventually if we continue unconscious thinking, humanity will also disappear from this planet.  The suffering this causes is not yet fully acknowledged.


                              Iceland's banned TV commercial

Our food choices impact not only the economics of nations but also the environment of nations. The choice to not breastfeed and use infant formula is also a choice that impacts the environment.  Palm oil is one of the fats used to make infant formula more like human milk.  A 1980's infant formula patent owned by the Bristol-Myers Company (which owned Mead Johnson at that time, now owned by Reckitt Benckiser) stated,

"Vegetable oil mixtures are prepared containing from 20-50% by weight of palm oil and quantities of lauric acid oils, oleic acid oils, and linoleic acid oils needed to provide proportions of oleic, palmitic, and linoleic triglycerides similar to proportions in human milk." 
US patent #4282265, entitled, "Fat Compositions for infant formulas." 1980.

Thirty-five years later a Mead Johnson patent states,

"In some embodiments, the fat or lipid source comprises from about 10% to about 35% palm oil per the total amount of fat or lipid."
US Patent #10,034,937 entitled, "Synergistic nutritional compositions and uses thereof," 2015.

There is about 200 US patents that discuss palm oil use in baby formulas or list it as an ingredient.  The following US patent filed in 2006 by a company called, Enzymotec Ltd. of Israel (manufactures Infat for use in baby formulas, "a SN2  palmitate ingredient that mimics the fat structure and properties of human milk fat.")

Their 2006 US Patent states,

"Thus in accordance with this aspect of the invention there are provided a process and triglyceride compositions employed therein, wherein the triglycerides are blends of palm stearin interesterified with palm oil, palm stearin interesterified with rapeseed oil, and the like."
US Patent #9332771 entitled, "Human milk fat substitutes," 2006.

In 38 years the infant formula industry is still using palm oils in their baby formulas.  And they still seem to think that palm oils can imitate human milk fats.  New and improved?  Not sure that we can call their technology new or improved, when they are still stuck on thinking a palm tree equals a human mammary gland.

The choice to use infant formula is due primarily because the infant formula industry and its suppliers influence governments and medical educational institutions and their facilities  Most of the obstacles women see regarding breastfeeding has a lot to do with pressures that women have little control over:  corporations that refuse to give women maternity leave or family leave after the birth of their babies.  Advertisements influence families and women to believe that the choice to use infant formula is a choice that has no health ramifications to mothers and babies.  And the environmental cost is never ever mentioned.  Many women make a choice to formula feed because of personal circumstances never realizing that their choice was not a personal choice but a choice orchestrated by mighty big corporations who prefer their profits over the safety of mothers and babies and ultimately prefer to degrade environments rather than take responsibility for destroying our mother earth, the only planet that supports human life.  Most of us will not be able to financially take the space ship to Mars or wherever. And most of us would not want to live on another planet unless...we have no other option in order to survive. 
Copyright 2018 Valerie W. McClain

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


"In the time of the sacred sites and the crashing of ecosytems and worlds, it may be worth not making a commodity out of all that is revered."
                                                            --Winona LaDuke

"I saw some women had written that the cloning of Dolly* was wonderful since it showed that women could have children without men.  They didn't even understand that this was the ultimate ownership of women, of embryos, of eggs, of bodies by a few men with capital and control techniques; that it wasn't freedom from men but control by men."--Vandana Shiva

The Earth, Mother of us all, sends her message in hurricanes of wind and rain, flooding and devastation.  We are just like the ants floating in the flood waters, surviving by sheer will power or dying from exhaustion.  We are circling the storm drains of life, believing that somehow we will be rescued.  Passive to the storms created by mankind, we believe that someone or some government will rescue us.  But it appears that we are just ants to a government of ghosts from the past.  Their incompetence and ignorance means that the life boats are reserved for them and you are on your own.  

Survival?  How does one survive when the life boat you are on is filled with a flickering screen of constant entertainment.  The struggles in life muted or distorted by a Hollywood version of life or a social media version of community.  And then there is the constant background drone of trump, trump, trump.  A day without Trump and his trumpets would be heaven on earth.  Every day becomes a schizophrenic nightmare of media messages of idiocy.  At what point will the people say let's get off this train of incompetence, nastiness, and lunacy?  

I went to a library, to sooth my soul.  Escaping into the stacks of books, of quiet reflection and peace.  I found a book I wanted to read, Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and a Potawatomi woman.  And I lost myself in reading about the sacred and medicinal plants, indigenous knowledge of life on earth, and the principle of reciprocity in nature.

She writes in the chapter called, The Consolation of Water Lilies:

"I remember my babies at the breast, the first feeding, the long deep suck that drew up from my innermost well, which was filled and filled again, by the look that passed between us, the reciprocity of mother and child."


"We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep.  Their life is in their movement, the inhale and the exhale of our shared breath.  Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back."

Kimmerer's book, her observations danced around in my head and reminded me of my own observations of breastfeeding mothers and babies. Seeing the struggles of mothers to breastfeed in our society, reminded me of how isolated women are from nature and how artificial our world has become.  

Human being learn by imitation, what we see and hear becomes our reality
Modern observations of life are in many cases governed by the media.  In TV and Movie lands, life is seen through a mostly white male-dominated, corporate viewpoint. Solutions to problems involve buying certain products.  Breastfeeding problems?  Buy this or that breast pump, infant formula, pacifiers, bottles that mimic breastfeeding.  Solutions in our fast-paced world must be resolved quickly or else we go onto a newer better product to resolve a problem.  Having a baby in our consumer-driven world, means buying lots of things.  The problem with all these things is that these things don't necessarily make breastfeeding easier and often make things worse.  

Time spent using and/or cleaning breast pumps, bottles, and pacifiers is time and attention given to things.  Time taken away from the baby.  Time taken away from breastfeeding.  How did we learn to walk, when we were babies?  Babies are totally focused on learning that skill, so simple once you learn it but an investment in time measured in days and hours.  The baby never gives up, that drive and intensity is amazing to watch.  Babies are fearless in learning to get up, balance their body, push off, and reach out into space.  They watch you do it and they absolutely know they can do it, too.  As they wobble and fall down numerous times, they are comforted by their families, cheered on to continue to learn to do what comes so natural to all of us.  Many of us have forgotten that energy, that drive, that runs through our bodies as we learn a new physical skill.  Breastfeeding often requires that intensity of physical learning.  But moms often trade that learning time with baby for taking care of things.

What causes some adults to feel defeated quickly and others to continue forward despite the obstacles?  What is the reason why some women do not believe in themselves and their ability to breastfeed?  What is the thought process of mothers who seem helpless, when faced with breastfeeding difficulties?  As a lactation consultant, I met some mothers who were defeated, depressed by life and learning to breastfeed was just one more impossible task.  I also met some mothers who overcame difficulties that would defeat most people.  And some mothers who breastfed with ease.

Babies learn to walk at various ages, some are early and some are late bloomers.  But the interest and intensity in learning to walk is very much present.  They don't harbor doubt or helplessness but neither do babies have years of so-called experts telling them what and how to think.  They just see what they want to do because everyone around them is doing it.  And they don't depend on the Baby Walking Consultant or their doctor for a diagram of how their legs work, parts and function of legs, and crutches to rent to help them walk.  Babies usually have their families, who cheer-lead their efforts to walk, who pick them up when they fall. The breastfeeding mother may have few people or family members who delight in her learning to breastfeed. 

Breastfeeding is natural.  But we don't live in the natural world.  Most of us live in buildings that are temperature controlled.  We have cool air when its hot outside and warm air when its cold outside.  If we go outside, we must adjust to a vastly different temperature than our indoor temperature.  We wear clothes on our bodies, babies have to adjust to having diapers and clothes.  The skin is our largest sense organ.  In artificial environments such as ours, we have comfort without the challenge and sensation of temperature, wind, rain, and snow.  Women cover their breasts with bras and shirts, and men can go bare-chested at the beach or outdoors.  But women rarely do so without public complaint.  Breastfeeding in public, where skin-to-skin contact is required, creates unease among many people.  That discomfort at the idea or actual breastfeeding by mothers in public, creates an obstacle for some mothers that they cannot overcome.

It is no surprise that our society is becoming more and more trapped by its artificial facade.  If one is born into a world of artificial things that never challenge our bodies or our thinking, then breastfeeding appears to be this rather antiquated and unnecessary behavior.  Some women and men believe that female liberation is to have women behave more like men.  Therefore breastfeeding is unnecessary because anyone can feed a baby--even men.  Chestfeeding is the newest lingo.  Tinker with a few hormones and men can now breastfeed.  I read that the only problem is that men's boobs may get larger. 

Nature and nurture is being challenged by scientific-industrial interests.  Human milk is being standardized to fit a male-dominated society in which the belief is that some women can't or won't breastfeed.  No one questions why some women won't breastfeed.  Yet some men seem to be eager to take over that female biology by chestfeeding.  No one asks how many women can't breastfeed.  

Instead of considering breastfeeding to be a sacred gift of mothers to their children, social marketing is telling us to embrace the idea that anyone can be a mother.  Is this really what feminism is all about?  Isn't this rejection of the female and a furthering of human survival based on corporate science?  Standardize how humans are fed, instead of embracing the diversity of the gift of breastfeeding by a mother to her child serves what purpose?  The purpose appears to be so that people have to buy more products.   Will buying more products satisfy people emotionally and spiritually?  Or is this just another form of enslavement to a corporate world that uses science to hold on to their power?

*Dolly, the sheep, was cloned  using electrical pulses fusing a mammary gland cell and an unfertilized egg cell.  She was born in 1996. The mammary cell's ability to act like male sperm in fertilizing the egg is rather astounding.
Although we shouldn't be surprised by how mammary tissue (breastfeeding) is amazingly unique and life-promoting.  We now know that human mammary cells have stem cells that have great potential to treat disease.

Copyright 2018  Valerie W. McClain

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Contempt of Women: The Other Side of Violence

"The rise of reductionist science was linked with the commercialization of science, and resulted in the domination of women and non-Western peoples.  Their diverse knowledge systems were not treated as legitimate ways of knowing." --Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy:  The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

This week has been quite awful and I guess it has been quite awful for most US women.  I believe that Judge Kavanaugh and the Republicans have really misjudged how their performance theater came across to most women.  I can't look at all those Republican men without feeling upset, pissed off, and angry.  And I don't care what the FBI turns up because this whole circus performance by the Republican Party reflects on how white entitled males view women.  So we basically know what will happen, if Judge Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court.  Yes, quite simply I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

You may wonder what this has to do with human milk or patents.  Who controls the making of our laws and our government?  Legislators, billionaires, corporations and their lobbyists;  all mostly males.  The perpetuation of rape culture particularly in academic institutions of higher learning puts women in "their place."  The use of rape is a common war tactic used to subdue other nations and in our own country to control women.  It's not about sex, its about power and control.  Domination.  Fuel the need to dominate with alcohol or drugs, and what we get is a society of violent acts and violence towards people, particularly women and children.

Societies prone to violence treat their young with emotional and physical violence.  The Spartans of Greece, were considered great warriors.  They were brought up strictly:  infant cries ignored, boys at a young age taken away from parents to be trained in the military, hazing and fighting encouraged in children.

In the US, the violence of our actions globally are also reflected in how women and children are treated in our own society.  Birthing is manipulated and violent with women enduring either a very drugged birth, surgery, or a very painful birth based on the convenience of a medical staff.  Sleep training, letting babies cry it out until they vomit, separation of mothers and babies/children as normal: are all ways in which nurture/nature is disdained.  Women no longer believe that their bodies work and postpartum depression has become the norm. Birth/breastfeeding can not be achieved without technological interventions and drugs. Natural birthing  or exclusive breastfeeding is dangled in front of women as impossible, impractical, and unsafe.  Meanwhile maternal and infant mortality increases as more women are persuaded that male-dominated medicine and corporate infant feeding is the only answer to risky female biology.  Female instincts are mocked and driven underground.  Women are encouraged to return to employment while having their babies and children.  Mocked for being depressed because of forced early separation.  Mocked for being tired or sick.  Told to remember that indigenous women had their babies in the fields as they worked and went right back to work.  So women feel guilty for not having babies easily in hospitals and guilty for being so damn tired.  And guilty for not breastfeeding.  How easy to manipulate women into one huge guilt trip regarding their own biology.  Women have a biology that many men do not understand or even care to know.  It is a biology not necessarily connected to them and their sexuality.  War-like societies do not want a society that nurtures the next generation.  They need a society devoid of connections to humanity, a society that turns a blind eye to its violence against women and children.

Women can grow and feed a human, sustaining life without dependency on corporations.  Men of science are busy in their labs trying to imitate that ability in order to make a profit.  Meanwhile the propaganda machines continue to spew out messages that make women feel less capable physically and mentally.  It's a societal rape on the nature of women.  Modern science no longer needs women.  They can make a baby in a petri dish, grow it in a plastic sack, birth it, and feed it an imitation human milk.  So women can be more like men and men can have babies and feed them, too.  The problem with presumption of control of nature/biology is that life is far more complex than current knowledge.  Do we understand the biological and societal repercussions?  How much of this science is based on discrimination and contempt of women?  

"Indigenous knowledge systems are by and large ecological while the dominant model of scientific knowledge, characterized by reductionism and fragmentation, is not equipped to take the complexity of interrelationships in nature fully into account." --Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy:  The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

I consider breastfeeding a system of primal, instinctual knowledge that runs counter to the current medical, legal, corporate, and scientific value system. Originally breastfeeding was shared from mother to mother, passed from one generation to the next.  It was survival.  It was about keeping the next generation fed.  And it was about quickly responding to infant cues for comfort, food, and warmth with the breast. The cries of infants were never ignored. Babies slept with their mothers because an infant alone in those early days would not survive.  Modern medicine ignores the instinct of mothers to be near their infants, to sleep with them, to hold them close, to breastfeed them.   That instinct is always close to the surface of a mother's emotions in the early days postpartum.   And sadly that instinct is discouraged, replaced with medical-technical advice that is contradictory and confusing.  Mothers suffer, when breastfeeding fails because it is a far bigger loss than is recognized by society.  The primitive part of the brain recognizes the loss but society refuses to recognize it.  Women are told breastfeeding doesn't matter.  We have infant formula, "closer to breast milk than ever before." 

The domination of women impacts our lives as girls, young women, in pregnancy, childbearing, and even into our "elder" age.  Violence towards women is part of that domination and control.  Rape is one part of that domination.  Similar violence permeates birth and breastfeeding.  

I feel tangled up in a variety of emotions.  Hopeful because of women like Christine Blasey Ford who are willing to speak their truth to power. Disgusted by the contempt republicans revealed in the Congressional hearing, towards women.  I have seen that same contempt towards women by males in the medical, legal and business communities.  Contempt is the other side of violence.  Contempt blinds people from seeing the person in front of them as human, as worthy of time and consideration.  It blinds people from seeing the physical and emotional pain of another human being. 

Likewise, the patenting of human milk components shows a contempt, a violence, towards women and their biology. Human milk components are not inventions or the intellectual property of researchers and corporations.  Human milk components are part of a complex nurturing system that cannot be owned. We do violence to women and future generations, when we ignore the violence behind a system that patents life, that claims ownership in the biology of women.  The culture of contempt of women creates a blindness to rape and a blindness to the usurious nature of patenting human milk components.
Copyright 2018 Valerie W. McClain


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A critique of Fed Is Best's emergency considerations

"Breast-fed infants are better protected against infections of the GI, respiratory, and urinary tracts as well as other diseases compared with those who are formula-fed (Cleary T. D. "Human milk protective mechanisms" Adv Exp Med Biol 2004; 554:145-54). Salminen and co-workers have attributed this effect at least partly to differences in microbiota composition (Salminen S. J., Gueimonde M., Isolauri E., "Probiotics that modify disease risk". J Nutr 2005; 135:1294-8)."


"Given the characteristic gut microbiota of breast-fed infants and the associated health benefits such as protection against infections, there is a real need to develop formulas with similar properties to human milk to ensure that infants who cannot be breast-fed obtain at least some of the beneficial effects conferred by human milk."
--Both quotes from Nestec (Nestlé) patent #9131721, entitled, "Gut microbiota in infants," filed in 2008. 

The Fed Is Best Foundation has put out a pamphlet for mothers who are formula feeding, supplementing, combo feeding or exclusively pumping and living through emergency situations.  It was written by co-founder of the Fed Is Best Foundation, Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC.  One of the major problems with this particular information and their pamphlet is a lack of understanding of who is hardest hit by emergency situations.

Those who are of middle or higher incomes can easily buy supplies in preparation for a hurricane or other emergencies.  If they have to evacuate, they have the money or credit availability to travel, buy gasoline, pay for lodging and survive without a paycheck for a number of weeks.  Most lower income families live from paycheck to paycheck.  So going out to the store and buying extra formula and bottled water may be next to impossible because they don't have the extra money to buy extras of anything.  Their credit may be maxed out and their car barely running.

Segrave-Daly recommends that a mom who is pumping buy 1-2 hand pumps.  Depending on the pump that could cost at minimum $60 (not a battery-operated pump).  Not sure how an unemployed mom or a family of low income could afford that along with all the necessities needed to prepare for an emergency?  She mentions batteries for a hand pump.  Batteries are very expensive.  Any emergency that goes on for weeks (Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico--no power for many for as long as a year).  Batteries are the first thing to go off the shelves of local stores--so finding batteries after a storm is usually an impossibility.  Same story for gasoline after a hurricane or emergency, no gas and if electricity is out no pumps at gas stations work.

I have lived in Florida since 1978 and been through a number of hurricanes.  The worst one was Charlie and I had no power for 11 days.  No stores or gas stations were open for some 2-3 days, no phones-cause cell phone towers came down.  September in Florida is one of the hottest months of the year.  No ice for coolers for several days.  Many roads impassable because of downed trees and power lines, traffic lights not working and many people did not understand that meant intersections were 4-way stops.  This area was hit by Matthew (category 3) in 2016 and Irma (category 3) in 2017.  We had mostly wind damage but flooding in some areas.

Fed Is Best emergency pamphlet mentions buying 4-7 day supply of ready-to-fed bottles of formula (mentioning single use bottles of formula).  Very expensive and depending on where one lives of limited supplies in stores.  The pamphlet mentioning buying extra bottles and nipples.  Also mentioned is buying a 4-7 day ready-to-feed toddler foods.  Expensive products to buy and families living pay check to pay check may find this impossible to purchase.  Also this supposes that the emergency situation lasts only 4-7 days.  We know that some emergencies may last much longer.

The pamphlet suggests storing a 2-week supply of clean water.  This may be an impossibility.  Those families with wells rather than city water supplies may have wells that don't work because pumps need electricity.  And wells may be contaminated and need to be tested.  Even city water supplies can be contaminated.  

The most careless suggestion in this pamphlet is about cleaning bottlefeeding supplies without power or hot water.  I consider it pretty risky to clean bottlefeeding supplies in cold water., particularly if a mom has a newborn or preterm infant.  A camping propane stove or barbecue grill (used outside-concern about carbon monoxide) can heat up water easily for washing bottles and nipples.  But may be an impossibility for low income families, if they have already spent most of their money on extra formula and bottles. 

The pamphlet mentions using a freezer with frozen ziplockbags of water.  I had a very large chest freezer and by day 4-5 with frozen 1/2 gallon containers of water it would be totally defrosted.  So thinking that a freezer will store your formula or breast milk is dependent where you live--tropics/subtropics, on the length of power outage, whether you have a generator (and gasoline is available--generators need to be outside because of carbon monoxide), and availability of ice.  

While it is not surprising that there is no suggestion or encouragement on Fed Is Best website and pamphlet to exclusively breastfeed, I find it very troubling.  I can only believe that the author, Jody Segrave-Daly has never really experienced living through a hurricane or a seriously large emergency situation.  Nor does she have an understanding that her suggestions reflect a limited view of breastfeeding, pumping, formula feeding and its true effect on families of limited means.  I think Hurricane Florence will be a lesson for many people regarding the length of an emergency situation and the health repercussions.  I can only hope that health workers/researchers will carefully track infant feeding as related to  infant mortality and morbidity in North and South Carolina.  The presumption that there will always be electricity, grocery stores open, gas stations open and that an emergency will only last 4-7 days is short-sighted.  The belief that infant formula will always be available and that clean water will be available no matter what emergency is a blindness to reality.  But then the Fed Is Best organization is quite blind to everything but their mission;  all babies using infant formula or pumped human milk and maybe breastfeeding a little bit.
Copyright 2018 Valerie W McClain

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"The Beast is the Breast." Exclusive Breastfeeding Tales

"'I think we've conquered the social media thing," says Barston, who has witnessed the evolution of online discussion of infant feeding go from 'beast is breast'  to 'fed is best' since launching her blog, The Fearless Formula Feeder nearly a decade ago." --interview of Suzanne Barston at

The Fearless Formula Feeder Conquers Social Media or 
The Beast is Breast
I think the author of this article, "Formula Feeding mammas don't feel supported--and that needs to change," at meant "Breast Is Best" not "beast is breast," but I am not sure.  Was it a Freudian slip?  Did the author know that Suzanne Barston, the Fearless Formula Feeder, who she was interviewing is now a corporate journalist for an infant formula company (AbbVie--parent company is Abbott Labs marketer of Similac infant formula)?  

The Fearless Formula Feeder's constant attacks on breastfeeding advocacy now appear obviously slanted because she really was a shill for an infant formula company.  People believed that her statements were legitimate.  Breastfeeding advocates turned against their own advocates for "shaming" formula feeding mothers.  I can see the infant formula industry clapping their hands in joy.  Not only was this media blast of Barston's encouraging more formula feeding but she turned breastfeeding advocates against each other with accusations of shaming.  Barston is quite proud of herself and her accomplishment and in this article shares the spotlight by giving thanks to the Fed Is Best Foundation.

"According to Barston, moms who physically can't breastfeed or who don't produce enough milk are more supported now than ever before, thanks in large part to the efforts of organizations like The Fed Is Best Foundation and its co-founders, Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi and B. Jody Segrave-Daly, who advocate against formula stigma in an effort to protect babies from dehydration and starvation."

A month later (August 7, 2018) Suzanne Barston is interviewed by PR News (a Public Relations news outlet) and asked, "Why healthcare communication professionals have been slower than other industries to make the transition to social media?"  Her response,

"Typically it comes down to two things: regulations and fear. Social is a wild animal, and once you let it out of the cage, you need to be prepared to fight back. This makes all corporations uncomfortable, but when you add in the intense scrutiny healthcare is under (and I’m not just talking about pharma, but hospitals, insurers, and even individual physicians – have you seen the backlash when doctors advocate for vaccinations, for example?), it brings it to a whole other level."

Yes, I would say that the Fearless Formula Feeder let the animal out of the cage.  No wonder AbbVie/Abbot Labs hired her.  She did a great hack job on breastfeeding promotion and now she gets to enter the big time arena, pharma.
I find it fascinating that she gets to play the Fearless Formula Feeder while getting paid by a company that makes its profits from the destruction of breastfeeding.  Who needs ethics these days?

Iatrogenically-caused inadequate breastfeeding in the newborn

Meanwhile,   the Fed Is Best Foundation, social media buddies of the Fearless Formula Feeder, continues to spread the media message that exclusive breastfeeding is not safe.  Their stories of infant starvation caused by exclusive breastfeeding are horrifying.  Yet are these tragic stories the result of exclusive breastfeeding or the result of iatrogenic events?

What is an iatrogenic event?  Here's is a definition,

"When medical or surgical treatment causes a new illness or injury, the result is considered to be iatrogenic."

How did the human race survive, if exclusive breastfeeding caused dehydration and starvation in babies?  We know that breastfeeding newborns/infants before the advent of the infant formula industry meant infant survival.  Few infants fed foods or other animal milks back then, survived.

Is dehydration and "starvation" in breastfed infants caused by exclusive breastfeeding?  Fed Is Best uses the term, starvation-an emotive word that is not truly an accurate term. Do formula fed infants get dehydrated?  Yes, they do.  And formula fed infants also starve to death, particularly in famines, wars and disaster zones where the supplies of infant formula are non-existent or severely limited due to the chaos of war, hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes.   

Are the causes of dehydration and starvation in breastfed infants the same as formula fed infants?  Yes and no.

Diarrhea is a known cause of dehydration in infants and children.  It has a high rate of infant morbidity and mortality.  Infants fed infant formula are at a greater risk for dehydration due to the renal solute load (high protein and sodium load) of infant formula.  Cow's milk has a higher renal solute load than infant formula and is the reason why cow's milk is considered an inappropriate substance for infants.  Breastmilk has the lowest renal solute load and therefore is less of a stress on a young baby's immature kidneys.

"There is strong epidemiological evidence that the feeding of cow's milk or formulas with similar potential renal solute load places infants at an increased risk of serious dehydration." --EE Ziegler

One would suppose that breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, would lessen the risk of dehydration in newborn infants.  Unless the baby for various reasons has:  a birth defect or infant birth trauma, tongue-tie, excess sleepiness due to maternal medication, first time mother or first time breastfeeding mother of subsequent babies; and is at higher risk for breastfeeding difficulties that could lower milk supplies.  A medical staff that does not prioritize a first-time breastfeeding mother as needing more assistance, or is ill-informed about how to observe actual breastfeeding, looking for suck/swallow patterns creates greater risk for inadequate breastfeeding.  Infants younger than 39 weeks at birth are at a higher risk for complications such as lung immaturity, jaundice, difficulty with feeding, digestive difficulties and various other risks.  Therefore the need is for greater observation of the infant while supporting breastfeedingInfants that have sustained bruising during birth, will have higher jaundice levels due to red blood cells being processed out of the newborn's body. 

Birthing medications and practices impact breastfeeding and inadequately trained medical staff compound the problem.  Is a hospital birth reflective of a normal birth?  Is birth a medical event that must be managed, timed, and quantified?  Does managing birth with drugs and machinery improve health outcomes for mothers and babies?  There is reason to question the current birthing practices used in US hospitals because statistically maternal and infant mortality is increasing, particularly for African American populations.  Despite all the machinery and drugs and testing, birth has become a risky business in the USA.  And likewise exclusive breastfeeding like natural childbirth is medicalized, considered too risky, and cannibalized into a medical version that traumatizes mothers and babies.

For example the standard use of IV fluids in laboring mothers can have side effects to the mother and to the newborn. There are 3 common IV solutions used for laboring mothers who are not allowed anything by mouth (normal saline/sodium chloride, Ringers lactate, dextrose).  Side effects mentioned regarding saline/sodium chloride IV's for adults:  hypernatremia, heart failure, kidney damage, electrolyte abnormalities, etc.  Side effects mentioned for neonates is intraventricular hemorrhage.,_and_how_does_it_work_(mechanism_of_action)?


"In neonates or in very small infants even small volumes of fluid may affect fluid and electrolyte balance. Care must be exercised in treatment of neonates, especially pre-term neonates, whose renal function may be immature and whose ability to excrete fluid and solute loads may be limited. Fluid intake, urine output, and serum electrolytes should be monitored closely."

The use of IVs in labor within hospitals is so common that one may be unaware that IV solutions carry risks for some adults.  Consider that the IV solution used for a laboring mother is adjusted to the weight of the mother not the neonate in utero.  After the birth, the newborn appears disinterested in nursing, losing incredible amounts of weight, or is diagnosed with hypernatremia.  The assumption by Fed Is Best followers is that these problems are caused by exclusive breastfeeding.  Reality may be that IVs in laboring mothers have side effects and seems highly likely that side effects may be unrecognized in newborns.  Studies are now showing that the huge weight losses we are seeing in breastfed newborns after birth are related to IV solutions given to laboring moms.  A 150-pound mother losses 1 pound in 24 hours is of little concern. On the other-hand a 6-pound infant losses 1 pound in 24 hours represents a huge amount weight for its body size.  Rapid weight loss in adults may cause electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, fatigue, irritability, muscle loss, etc.  The recommendation for weight loss in adults who want to lose weight is 1-2 pounds a week.  Yet some newborns may lose up to 1 pound in 24-48 hours after birth.  Might IVs be a far more serious risk for newborn problems than pinning the blame on exclusive breastfeeding?  Do many US medical institutions and staff have the knowledge to support exclusive breastfeeding in the newborn period?  Inadequate breastfeeding in the US is caused by iatrogenic factors during the early postpartum period.  Change birthing practices (like standard IV use-let moms drink and eat according to their thirst and hunger) in the US would lower the risks of dehydration and jaundice.  Educate medical staff and parents to recognize the importance of more support and care for first time breastfeeding mothers. 

Organizations that have no credentials in supporting breastfeeding and in some cases are linked to infant formula companies should not have a seat at the table of US government breastfeeding policies.  People who have credentials such as CLC or IBCLC who are involved in these organizations should have their credentials revoked.  It is obvious that these people have chosen to blame breastfeeding for iatrogenic issues that cause inadequate breastfeeding.  They are ill-informed and don't deserve the credentials that they use and it dishonors all of us who have worked for years to promote and protect breastfeeding.

The Beast is the Breast, seems to me to be an accurate description of the fears that these organizations promote.  They fear the Breast because it represents a nature that must be controlled, conquered.  It must be isolated, weighed, measured and lo and behold it is found deficient.  Blinded by our artificial world, they blame the very thing that they should support. 
Copyright 2018 Valerie W. McClain


Thursday, September 13, 2018

The historic slogan, "Breast Is Best."

                                    "BREASTFEEDING IS BEST"
                                                  --Henri Nestlé, 1867

According to Nestlé, Henri Nestlé wrote a book, Memorial of the Nutrition of Infants, in 1867 in which he stated that, "Breastfeeding is best."  Of course, don't tell this to the Fed Is Best Foundation or the Fearless Formula Feeders of the internet who blame breastfeeding advocates for this slogan.  I guess I understand now why some breastfeeding advocates don't like the slogan either.  But breastfeeding advocates never say that it is because Henri Nestlé coined the phrase and the company plus the rest of the infant formula industry have used this phrase.  Early this morning, I just kept thinking about where the slogan, Breastfeeding Is Best, came from.  Where did I first read it?  And then it dawned on me that I saw it on cans of infant formula.  But I never thought it was a 151 year old infant formula slogan,

It appears to me that the Fed Is Best Foundation and the Fearless Formula Feeders believe it is a sentence used by breastfeeding promoters to shame women who use infant formula.  No, nada, we all use this slogan around the world.  Is it to shame mothers who don't breastfeed?  No it's what we call, the power of advertising!  Having an advertising slogan last a century and a half and still impact the public is pretty amazing.  Although it actually scares me.  What other thoughts that rattle around in my brain are really just some corporate slogan to influence me and make me buy a product? Think of all the people influenced by Nestlé since 1867.  It's a mindset, we are the empty slates in which corporate influence marks its territory.  One world brain stumbling through life repeating corporate slogans over and over again.  I have heard some people say breastfeeding is better, to make moms feel better about their choice.  But actually Nestlé has the very best.....chocolate (I remember this slogan from my childhood in the 1950s and can even see the commercial cause I loved the commercial and begged my mom for chocolate milk--never remember my mom buying chocolate milk.  Although I did beg my mom for Tang, and other various advertised products.  My Mom bought Tang, "The Breakfast Drink," (advertising slogan remembered from my childhood) but I really was not impressed.  I liked mixing it up and using more powder than I was suppose to or just eating the powder cause it was tangy.  The power of advertising to children on TV.  

I  was fascinated by Nestlé's pdf file in which they state, 

"DOES   support WHO's global public health recommendation calling for exclusive breastfeeding for six months..."

So an infant formula company supports exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months but Fed Is Best and Fearless Formula Feeders do not support WHO's global public health recommendations on exclusive breastfeeding.  Rather interesting that the infant formula industry would support the WHO Code, while these organizations promote their unscientific views of infant feeding.  Of course maybe this is just words by Nestlé with no real intention of support of the WHO's global public health recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding.  And maybe after these Public Relation organizations saturate their media messages on the internet, this infant formula company will change its tune and no longer support the WHO's global public health recommendations. 

So next time someone tells you that "Breastfeeding Is Best" makes formula feeding moms feel bad and shamed.  Tell them to blame Nestlé!  We are all trapped by the influence of corporate advertising.  And sometimes we get trapped for 151 years!!
2018 Valerie W. McClain


Monday, September 10, 2018

Infant feeding: Survival or Choice?

"If a multinational company developed a product that was a nutritionally balanced and delicious food, a wonder drug that both prevented and treated disease, cost almost nothing to produce and could be delivered in quantities controlled by consumers' needs, the announcement of this find would send its shares rocketing to the top of the stock market."  --Gabrielle Palmer, The Politics of Breastfeeding. (page1)

I read The Politics of Breastfeeding, when it was first published.  It seems like a life time ago.  I loved the book and shared it with a number of people I knew.  I never got it back but understood why someone would keep the book. So I bought another copy, a newer edition.  The above quote from Palmer's book was one of my favorites and of course she states after that sentence, "Women have been producing such a miraculous substance since the beginning of human existence."   

The statement is certainly a true statement. Yet the statement troubles me now.  The problem is that various multinational companies are mining human milk for the components that make it such a miraculous substance.  Through patenting, they can claim that genetic engineering duplicates the substance.  Of course anytime you mine a natural resource there will be costs passed onto the consumer.  So what was once a free resource has a price.  The infant formula industry is just part of many industries competing for patents on the components of human milk.  There is the vaccine, drug, food and supplement industries that somehow obtained that precious liquid, isolated its components, studied those components, and then proclaimed that they have found the magic bullet to create health.  

The good men and women of science believe in isolation, that separation from the whole can make powerful medicine.  Yet nature does not do isolation.  Isolation in nature is failure, life depends on multiple interconnections.  We see this when looking at the human body.  The organs and tissues of the body work in synchrony, disturb one organ or tissue and its impact is felt throughout the body.  Or consider how one simple act of spraying DDT to kill bugs, results in dead song birds.  Or dumping toxins in a river ends up with human clusters of cancer or birth defects.  The web of life is a complex system.  Disturb one small part of it and we often witness the ripple effect of the consequences of that disturbance. The sad thing about human disruption of nature is that often we do not see the consequences until it is too late. 

Life is complex and the wonder of it never ceases to entertain me.  The internet entertains me, for it too is a web, a web of ideas that ripple across the world.  The impact of those ideas can be beneficial or detrimental to our society.  We can easily get a distorted view of various subjects or we can see our politics more clearly.  I recently read a NY Times article, Breast-Feeding or Formula?  For Americans, It's Complicated by Christina Caron (July14, 2018)

It was an attempt at being a balanced article on breastfeeding and infant formula.  Yet I immediately began to suspect that this article had an agenda.  The author gives us a little history,

"Wet nursing, which began as early as 2000 B.C., was once a widely accepted option for mothers who could not or did not want to breast-feed, but it faced criticism during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The profession eventually declined with the introduction of the infant feeding bottle in the 19th century."

Wet nursing was widely accepted because; if a mom refused to breastfeed her infant, the baby died.  If a mom died in childbirth, the need for someone to nurse the baby was imperative.  Who hired wet nurses?  Wealthy women.  I would not describe the history of infant feeding as one of options.  Rather I would describe it as survival.  In the text book, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 2nd edition (page 5)

"Wet-nursing may not have been the earliest alternative to maternal breastfeeding, but it ws the only one likely to enable the infant to survive."

Choice is the current ideology (promoted by the infant formula industry). Making it seem as, if women have always demanded options in infant feeding is not particularly accurate.  To ignore the connection between breastfeeding and infant survival, is to ignore a crucial fact regarding the history of infant feeding.  But choice as the bedrock of infant feeding,  does serve the purpose of this NY Times article.

The article goes on to telling an abbreviated history of infant feeding and the information seems geared towards sending a message that the US policy on breastfeeding is based on the need for choice and has always been that way.

"A couple of years later, in 1981, the W.H.O. voted 118 to 1 to adopt a nonbinding code restricting the promotion of infant-formula products. The United States, under President Ronald Reagan, was the lone dissenting vote.
The decision drew a chorus of critics, much like the Trump administration’s recent stance on the marketing of powdered formula to women in developing countries.
Elliott Abrams, then the assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, said in 1981 that it was a free-speech issue."

But the article never mentions the Senate hearings lead by Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1978 regarding the marketing of infant formula in developing nations which lead to talks which eventually resulted in the creation of the WHO Code. And yes I know a Republican administration (Reagan) refused to sign the WHO Code.


 Instead the impression left by this NY Times article is that politically the US has always been against the WHO Code.  The article leaves me with the belief that one side of the story is being told.  Might we believe that this is an issue of infant survival? The WHO Code was designed to save infants from illness and death.  Why do some Americans (and the industry) say this is a free speech issue? When a product sickens and kills some infants, how many infants should we accept as collateral damage?  (considering that 4-6 infants per year are damaged and/or die due to the intrinsic contamination by Cronobacter sakazakii in powdered infant formula, and many more from Salmonella)

The author briefly mentions the tragedy of the infant formula company, Syntex, that decided to delete salt from their formulas, Neo-Mull-Soy and CHO-free. It was believed that 22,000 US infants were affected by this change in formula.  Babies suffered serious health consequences due to the salt deletion.  Two mothers waged a campaign that eventually saw the creation of the Infant Formula Act of 1980.  Here is an article on the mothers who helped change US law regarding the regulation of infant formula.

Fed Is Best movement emerges as the last topic of the author's history of infant feeding.  The author seems to believe that since the Infant Formula Act of 1980 that formula in the US is safe and bottles are safer because they are BPA-free.  Let's not bring up the fact that there are studies that the BPA-free plastics are not any safer than the BPA bottles.

The author mentions that Similac has organic formula.  Interesting that the author mentions a specific company.  I question this statement since I believe this "organic" product has the Martek oils made from algae and fungi.  These oils are genetically engineered, use hexane for extraction and are not considered organic by organic standards.

The author states, 

"What is often missing from the debate over breast vs. bottle is the fact that so many women do both. Breast-feeding is still considered the gold standard, but formula supplementation is commonplace, especially as women return to work after maternity leave. For many mothers, this is the best of both worlds."

Mothers can have it all, the best of both worlds? Or does one negate the other?  Certainly, the infant formula industry can have it all.  The last statement the author makes in the article,

“Malnutrition and poverty are the precise settings where you absolutely do need to breast-feed,” Dr. Michele Barry, senior associate dean for global health and director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford School of Medicine, told The New York Times. “Because that’s the setting where access to safe and clean water for reconstituting powdered formula is often impossible to find.”

Choice in infant feeding decisions is predicated on the belief that safe and clean water exists in every town in the US and other developed nations.  Yet tell that to the moms in Flint, Michigan where the levels of lead in their water require the use of expensive filters or buying bottled water.  Or tell that to the families that live down river of the teflon manufacturing plants.  Or tell that to people who read their water department statements.  Cryptosporidium is a parasite that infects water causing diarrhea and other ailments.  It is commonly found in lakes and streams contaminated by animal feces. In immune-compromised individuals it is so serious it may cause death.  It is suggested that severely immune-compromised individuals boil their water. Disinfection is difficult to do because the egg cell is immune to chlorination.

Some babies born prematurely are considered immune-compromised.  Babies not breastfed may be considered immune compromised depending on your viewpoint.  The risk is the water and even if a formula fed infant is not considered immune-compromised, there is an obvious risk of diarrhea.  And diarrhea in an infant is a known-killer.  This article is from 1988.  Has water supplies in the US improved since 1988 or are we faced with another important element of our infrastructure that is broken?

The last quote from Michele Barry failed to mention that she is the director of the Yale/Stanford Johnson & Johnson Global Health Scholar Program.  One might presume that Johnson & Johnson funds this Scholar Program.  Johnson & Johnson sells pharmaceuticals and seems very involved in research regarding hiv/aids in Africa (they are working on a vaccine for hiv). Hm, now why would Michele Barry be interviewed for an article on infant feeding history that also involves the Fed Is Best organization?  

I still very much appreciate The Politics of Breastfeeding.  The last few sentences in the book state,

"A creature from another planet visiting the Earth might ask, "If women are the ones that keep the human race going, why do they get the rough deal?"

Why indeed?  Why is women's history so unknown?  Why does a NY Times reporter distort the history of infant feeding?  Perhaps she needs to read, The Politics of Breastfeeding?  Maybe we should develop a book campaign and send this book to Christina Caron as well as the founders of Fed Is Best?  I imagine they wouldn't read it--too political?  Telling half the history, leaving out the reality is another political choice.  Getting half the story does not illuminate the issue but mentioning all those wonderful products (Similac, bottles) we now have certainly tells us that consumerism is the prime directive.  Choice in products becomes the reality of our world.  
2018 Valerie W. McClain