Sunday, March 21, 2010

Feed the baby? FEED the MAMA

I was outside working on my yard, when I started thinking about my work as an IBCLC a few years ago. The mantra was "feed the baby," and it is probably still considered the IBCLC priority. I absorbed that thought at a Conference and had no reason to question it. It was on top of the list when I did home visits--feed the baby, feed the baby. As time went along and I became more experienced, I began to question whether that should be the top priority. No, I wasn't into starving a baby to "make" her or him breastfeed. But I had some real doubts about the use of infant formula, when breastfeeding "appeared" to be not working. It became particular difficult, when the health care provider was recommending infant formula for insufficient weight gain. Yet, the baby was gaining albeit slowly, and not according to the charts. When I was a practising IBCLC, donor milk was out of the picture--no milk banks in the State.
This morning I began to think that perhaps our profession ought to consider a new mantra, "Feed the Mama." By feeding the mama, the infant gets fed. Mothering the mother so that a mother has time with her baby. Our society needs to "Feed the Mama." I started thinking about the mothers I visited for breastfeeding problems. I think of the young mom who had a c-section who was scrubbing her kitchen floor, when I knocked on the door. She had her baby's clothes in the sink, washing them because she had no washing machine. She was struggling with breastfeeding but had no support system. No one to say, "Lie down. Rest, take what time you have and give it to your baby." How could she figure out breastfeeding? Who would take her clothes to the laundry mat? Who would cook her meals? I could say to her rest, take time with your baby. But we both knew that was a cruel joke. There was no one to do for her, to mother her so she could mother her baby. Another mother I visited had no privacy, she lived with a number of people. And during my home visit, various people came in and out of the apartment. She had her boyfriend put up a blanket, to give her privacy so that she could feed her baby. She never relaxed because the door was always opening and closing. Her living conditions and her powerlessness to control her living space made breastfeeding a challenge.
How do we protect breastfeeding? We protect the mother. Yet, in the USA, little is done to protect the mother. Economically, many mothers feel under the gun because they have to go back to work asap. So time, time for baby--you have to be kidding. Mama has no time. No time to relax, no time to take a bath, no time to cook, no time to eat, no time, no time.
I did a home visit with a teenage mother of a premature baby. Her boyfriend's mother was staying with them and she was mothering the mother. In fact it was the boyfriend's mother who had called me and asked me to come by. She was cooking meals and giving the new mom lots of information and support to breastfeed. It was an easy home visit. All they needed was reassurance that everything was OK and it was. I saw the teen mom and baby some months later, and the baby had gained alot of weight. So much weight that her pediatrician wanted her to start formula because he believed that breastfeeding was making the baby fat. Her support was gone and she succumbed to the belief that the medical "expert" knew more about infant feeding. She was a teenager and it was just amazing to see how far she went with breastfeeding. I met another teenage mother who breastfeed her infant for 18 months. These young woman contradict our notion that teenage mothers aren't interested or can't breastfeed. But both teenagers had adults willing to mother the mother (and not so surprising both adults involved with these teenagers were at one time La Leche League members, neither were leaders).
In childbirth, we know that mothers do better in labor, with female support--the doula, midwives. Breastfeeding, likewise, needs the same kind of mothering. Feed the mama.
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Black box warning

Wyeth has a recent patent that is about the need to reduce the adverse effects of infant formula by 20-50%. So why don't we have a black box warning on cans of infant formula?? "The Surgeon General's Warning: Infant formula feeding is hazardous to a baby's health. It may cause diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, disease, cancer, and death." The industry has been trying for years to correct all their mistakes by new and improved formulations, yet we still have a product that is risky. And now we have the added unknown risks of genetically engineered infant formulas. We still have a general public that believes in the safety of this product. Why for heaven sakes do mothers have to have a prescription for donor milk but mothers don't need a prescription to buy infant formula? Why aren't mothers being adequately warned of the risks? Why do breastfeeding advocates skirt this issue? They skirt the issue by calling the risks of infant formula, the risks of not breastfeeding. Heaven forbid we address this issue head-on, we might offend someone. No one seems to be afraid of offending smokers--"smoking kills." Hey, I know smokers and they are perfectly healthy. This is a democracy, smokers have rights. It's a free country. All these issues and more, and yet at some point in time, most people began to understand the health risks of smoking. Why is formula-feeding any different? Why do we accept the ill health and death of formula-fed infants? I also wonder why we are accepting of the high infant mortality rate of our black infants in this country? Shouldn't we be up in arms about this? Genetics, my this is about poverty and lack of information caused by discrimination. Society makes its choices. This society has chosen to reward the pharmaceutical/infant formula/dairy industries. No questions asked. These industries wage a public relations game that muddles the picture. Add to this, human milk researchers who are paid by industry, yet clearly support breastfeeding. How much of our research on infant feeding is politicized? How much is white-washed to not offend? Isn't it time we had a black box label on infant formula?
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Endangered species: the suckling mammal

Suckling mammal sounds like a song or a poem written by a biotech engineer during a lull in watching his petri dish or his micro scope. I thought mammals were animals that nursed their young. So suckling mammals is rather redundant. On the other hand, we do have non-suckling mammals. We have created them. We have infant formula for kittens and puppies because well, you know....they really don't want to do that, that, that primitive, instinctual stuff. Actually many female dogs and cats are prone to not enough milk. And well they prefer a choice. Liberation from mammalian captivity, just ask Nestle's Purina....
Silly me. See what happens when ya read infant formula patents. The words, suckling mammal, snared my mind and danced upon my funny bone. Before I knew it, I had to write it. I thought about my Neeko, my cat who nursed her babies until they were bigger than her. For shame, Neeko, nursing your big baby-children. Neeko hasn't negotiated the grocery store aisle and seen the great kitten formulas--even has DHA and ARA. She does watch TV and stares at the computer screen. So she could be a well-informed consumer. Instead, she seems caught up in grooming and nursing her babies...and chasing anoles and biting their heads off and leaving them at the front door. She shares unlike the dog, who eats everything in sight. Now he got the canned puppy milk cause he became an orphan at an early age. We call him Fat Boy, the not-so-lean eating machine.
Silly me. Sidetracked again by the animal farm in my house. Let's get down to the nuts and bolts of the suckling mammal. "There is a need for a nutrient for the manufacture of a nutritional composition for suckling mammals which promotes an intestinal flora pattern similar to the one present in mammals fed by their mother." Thank you Nestec (Nestle). That is patent # 7666830 called "Nutritional composition preventing bacterial overgrowth." Now the grand entrance of the miracle component, a protein hydrolzate. Don't ask, I don't know, and don't care to know about their miracle. It is suppose to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis and septicemia. Obviously, previous infant formulas have failed to prevent these bacterial diseases. Of course, the suckling mammal doesn't seem to have this problem. But where oh where is the suckling mammal?? Please Nestle, tell me where is the suckling mammal?? Endangered species??
Wyeth has a better patent called, "Methods for reducing adverse effects of feeding formula to infants," patent #7651716 published this January of 2010. They are going to reduce the side effects of their infant formula by 20-50%. Ask me how? They are going to make it more like human milk by increasing the levels of alpha-lactalbumin and tryptophan. Ya didn't know that infant formula had side effects did ya? Not written on the can. Of course, I haven't bought infant formula since......1982 and if I had only known then what I know now. But back then it was the new and improved SMA and we had heard by good authorities (medical, I believe) that this was a safe formula. The child now adult survived but as a baby she threw alot of that stuff up. It was the inspiration to relactate and it did set me on the road to breastfeeding advocacy. So thank you Wyeth.
The nonsuckling mammal needs arachidonic acid or so they say. Yeah, you remember the ARA to the DHA, the essential long-chain polyunsturated fatty acid? This is from Martek Bioscience (they have a bunch of these patents on DHA and ARA). This one is called, "Method for production of arachidonic acid," patent #7666657. Their goal is to produce the amount of arachidonic acid that "approximates the concentration of human milk." Once again, Martek touches the touchy subject of genetic engineering this component. "It will be obvious to one skilled in the art that mutant microorganisms of the present invention also include arachidonic acid-producing microorganisms that can be obtained by genetically-engineering microorganisms to produce increased amounts of arachidonic acid." They have been writing similiar statements since 1992 in their patents on DHA and ARA. This is a company that was founded by genetic engineers but interestingly enough they say they are not genetically engineering DHA and ARA. What should the consumer believe? That these substances are just algae and fungi that hang out in the ocean or under some log? And yes we will give it to the nonsuckling mammal. We do have bolder companies regarding the production of arachidonic acid for infant formula. E.I. du Pont de Nemours (patent # 7588931 called, "High arachidonic acid producing strains of Yarrowia liploytica) just states they will be using a "recombinant" oleginous Yarrowia yeast cell for the production of arachindonic acid and the primary purpose of doing that is for infant formula. Recombinant is something genetically engineered. Why are we doing this? Because the suckling mammal is an endangered species.
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain