Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Human milk for human babies.
Nectar for butterflies and bumblebees.

Since it might be hard to see: Margaret was a butterfly, Isaac was a bumblebee, and I sewed flowers on my shirt and cut a slit in it to nurse. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the Archives: Out to Eat

This post was published in September 2008. It was actually one of my very first posts about lactivism. I think about it a lot and thought I'd re-publish. In this edition, I took out the footnotes of the original post, but the message is the same. I didn't even fix the grammar and verb tense issues, though maybe I should. It's grating on me.

One sentiment I've noticed with some people's issues with breastfeeding in public is, "I hear breastfeeding is this private, bonding time. If it's so intimate, don't do it in public."

You know what? You're right. Breastfeeding can be a very wonderful bonding time. But it's not always and it doesn't have to be every single time.

Imagine you're having dinner with someone you love: a friend, a sibling, a spouse, whoever. That can be a very sweet, bonding time. You can go out to a fancy place and have a candlelit date, or stay in and spend some time talking and catching up. A beautiful bonding time.

But you can't have dinners like that every day. It'll wear you out if you try to make sure you're always intimate every single time- it takes energy and thought and planning. Sometimes, you're tired and just need to throw a pizza in the oven or you have a lot of errands and you need to grab some fast food.

Breastfeeding is the same. You can bond, but sometimes, you need to eat on the go. And expecting that every time you breastfeed it's going to be this magical connection...that's setting yourself up for disappointment, or at least frustration- because your baby's going to want different things out of breastfeeding, too. Sometimes they want comfort and bonding, but sometimes they're just thirsty or tired or are more interested in something else, but are still hungry. And sometimes I think they just want to show off how flexible and agile they are. "Look Mom! I'm eating AND standing on my head!" "Look at me! No hands!"

So conclusion, although breastfeeding can promote bonding between a mommy and baby, it also can simply promote food in a baby's tummy. And it can be that simple and doesn't require intimacy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breast Cancer and Breastfeeding

Last night I gave a talk at an Oakland church that was putting on a breast cancer awareness and community education night. I was asked to speak about how breastfeeding reduces breast cancer as well as the options for a mom who is going through diagnosis of cancer and treatment. My audience was primarily black women. It was really fun. I especially loved that after I made a point, the pastor and audience would say, "Amen!" We need more of that. And if McKay hadn't been texting me, "Isaac cries every time he sees a picture of you on the computer," I would have stayed for all the speakers. I also think, that for the audience, it would have been better to include more stories. But hindsight is 20/20. Here is part of it:

It might not be immediately clear why breastfeeding would be brought up in discussions about breast cancer. However, the American Institute for Cancer Research has included breastfeeding in their Ten Recommendations for Cancer Prevention List. We know that breastfeeding sets a child up for a healthy life and that breastfed children are less likely to contract childhood diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer including childhood leukemia and it also reduces the child's chances of getting breast cancer. Breastfeeding is not just for the child, though. Breastfeeding reduces a woman's chances of getting breast cancer.

In the Nurses' Health study between 1997 and 2005, over 60,000 women were studied. They reported that women who had a mother, sister or other close relative with breast cancer had a 59 percent lower risk of developing the disease if they had ever breastfed. Women experience a greater decrease in their chances of breast cancer if they nursing lasts 1 and a half to 2 years or more. In fact, nursing one child for one year will do more for decreasing your chances of breast cancer than nursing 2 children for 6 months each.

Does it make a difference as to what kind of breast cancer? There are two types of breast cancer: there is a kind that depends on estrogen or progesterone for growth and that one is reduced through breastfeeding because the breastfeeding hormone of prolactin keeps progesterone and estrogen levels down like birth control does. There is also a kind that is more aggressive and is not dependent on hormones and it disproportionally affects African American women. Amazingly, in a study of 47,000 African American women that was done between 1996 and 2009, published this past August in the journal Cancer Epidemology, it was found that while an African American woman increases her chances of that cancer when she has more than one child, breastfeeding 2 or more children causes that risk to decline considerably. It is believed that breastfeeding affect the immune response in such a way that this aggressive form of breast cancer is less likely to take hold.

In all, breastfeeding your baby will reduce both yours and your baby's risk of breast cancer.

Now, we know that early diagnosis greatly increases your chances of beating breast cancer. Tests such as X-rays, mammograms, MRIs, and CT scans are safe for breastfeeding. The radiation from those tests does not collect in the milk. There is no need to stop breastfeeding or to pump and dump for these procedures, though you'll probably be more comfortable if you have recently nurse and your breasts are more empty. A well-experienced radiologist should be able to tell the difference between cancer and normal functioning milk ducts, so if you are told to wean before a mammogram, then you might need to find a new radiologist. The agents used in imaging procedures are not absorbed in the breast milk, so they are breastfeeding safe.

However, there are some diagnostic procedures that use radioactive isotopes and particulate radiation. Those aren't breastfeeding safe, so you can pump and dump until the milk is clear of the radiation. That can be tested in the hospital and can take from hours up to a month to clear, depending on the agent used. Working closely with someone who knows a lot about these drugs and lactation will be priceless. If you know that such a procedure is coming up, you can store up milk to feed your baby while you wait out the radiation.

Procedures like biopsy can affect the nerves related to breastmilk production and release. Before a biopsy, it would be wise to tell the surgeon that you are breastfeeding and ask that they keep as much of the tissue intact as they can. If you imagine the breast is a bicycle wheel, cuts that are in the direction of the spokes are more likely to keep nerves and ducts intact as opposed to cuts that go through those nerves and ducts. Depending on the situation, it may not be possible to do that.

If cancer is found, or if you've recently had it removed and you're lactating, you might have some questions. First, your baby can't get cancer from nursing on an infected breast. It is possible for a breast's ability to make milk or the baby could refuse the breast because of the changes in it. Breastfeeding might also be painful. But it also might not be. You are the one going through all of this, so follow what feels right: if you feel like weaning is necessary, there are ways to wean that will minimize the impact on your child and your breasts. If breastfeeding isn't bothering you, then you can keep on nursing for as long as you want.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding during chemotheraphy is not safe. The chemo drugs are very literally poisons and will transfer to your milk. You can pump and dump through treatments, but you can also choose to wean as chemotherapy is extremely draining. Know that you are doing a great job and making hard choices about keeping you and your baby well and healthy. You know your situation better than anyone else and you'll make the best choice for you.

So that's a lot of technical information. The take-away from this is: breastfeeding prevents breast cancer in both your baby and you. Most procedures used for diagnosing cancer like mammograms, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds are 100% compatible with breastfeeding and you don't have to wean. If you do have cancer, chemotherapy is toxic and so it's not safe to breastfeed your baby, but you can pump and dump to keep up a supply and breastfeed when the treatment is done, if you want to. Having a good breastfeeding support person is vital. This can take the form of a good doctor or midwife, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or an LLL leader.

Information without reference links is taken from the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th edition.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday Fill-ins

1. Old me would let ideas eventually fade away; new me would go out there and implement the ideas.

2. I'm not happy with the way things are, so I'm taking responsibility.

3. a way I'm turning over a new leaf.

4. And new beginnings are fun, right?

5. The big difference is that I'm researching the ins and outs of owning a business and looking at the logistics of all that.

6. Because I want to do what makes me happy.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Halloween birthday party for one of Margaret's friends, tomorrow my plans include _playing soccer with the kids (we've promised Margaret) and going minimalist on our boxes and boxes of stuff and Sunday, I want to speak at this event about how breastfeeding prevents breast cancer and what the options are for a survivor or fighter when it comes to breastfeeding!

I've started a couple of posts this week, but I end up trashing them because I'm just not into it.

A couple of evenings in a row this week, McKay has had to remind me to be nicer to the kids. It makes me wonder if I'm really the best person to be home with them. He's the one with infinite patience. If there were an interview for the stay at home position, he'd beat me out in qualifications for sure.

And then that leads me to wonder if I should pursue a career. There's my plan B career, which is math-related and lucrative. That sort of soul-sucking thing. I really don't want to. It's plan B for a reason. NOT my plan A, but my anxiety part of me thinks I should take some of the exams and get that under my belt just in case.

And then there's the thing I really really love, but I'm intimidated by the industry: knitting and designing. But I think I'm going to step more into that soon. Of course, everything's working against me. I can't find my knitting notebook! I have a pattern written down in there that I need to write up and turn into a pdf. CANNOT FIND IT.

So I think this weekend, I'm going to go through everything and declutter the house. Less stuff = more likely to find my notebook and less mess for the kids to make.

Also, this week, we bought a play kitchen from Craigslist. The kids love it and the house is full of play food right now. We need to figure out how to control that mess as well. Also, I have boxes of baby clothes and maternity clothes. Since a new baby is not in our plans for the foreseeable future, I'm tempted to get rid of all of that. What do you think?  I have already limited the baby clothes collection to 7 outfits per size, but even those take up space.

I finished the kids' costumes. Margaret's a butterfly and Isaac is a bumble bee. And I'm wearing a green shirt with fake flowers sewn on it. I have strategically cut away part of the shirt it so I can nurse my butterfly and bee: they can get "nectar" from the flowers! Pictures will be forthcoming. Yay breastfeeding-friendly costumes!

Also, I love the Occupy Movement. It's definitely wrong that people are without money, healthcare, homes, and jobs when corporations aren't paying any taxes. There have been tensions in Occupy Oakland and Occupy SF, and so I can't actually go down and occupy. Risking arrest while I have small children isn't judicious. But I can knit! There is a Ravelry group dedicated to knitting hats and other warm items for Occupiers as the weather gets colder.

So that's what has been on my mind. Halloween! Knitting! You can say I've been keeping myself occupied. Haha!

Monday, October 17, 2011


I am drowning in all that I have to do: knit Christmas stockings, make Halloween costumes, knit Christmas presents, and other day to day things like filing, emailing, doing all the things.

So you get linkage today!

I have friends!
A friend of mine is starting a site called Our Nourishing Roots. It's about nutrition. Give her some love!
Another friend of mine writes sci fi.

Why my Son is Not Circumcised at the Whole Network
Bad Science Doesn't Justify Male Circumcision at Sexis

What I missed seeing/sharing
International Babywearing Week was last week.
Somehow I lost the RSS feed to Nursing Freedom and I'm going back and reading old posts and wanted to share the link to Nursing Freedom with all of you again.
I'm trying to get back into Tweeting again. Link on the left hand side.
If you are LDS and a birth professional, there's a directory you can add yourself to.

I'm a nerd and I want this pumpkin and dress.
I'm not blogging as much because I want to knit more.
We cut Margaret's hair for the first time ever. She wants it shorter, but McKay doesn't want it very short and I don't know about my hair-cutting skills with a wiggly 3 year old. Isaac still has his rat tail, no worries.
I initially made this post just to share the circumcision links, but fleshed it out because I'm a very wimpy intactivist. That's not to say I don't want to share the other stuff! Go see my friends' stuff! And check out the rest! But also, keep your boys as intact as you keep your girls. They're important, too.

ETA: Just saw a link about how breastfeeding doesn't mean your baby isn't getting good sleep.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Community Breastfeeding Support

Today, I just wanted to give a shout out to those in our community who are supportive of breastfeeding. This past summer, two of the local hospitals cut services to women, including free breastpumps for mothers of newborns in the NICU. Upset about this, a local RN group hosted a bake sale to raise money. Last night, I was witness to them using some of the subsequent money to support local community breastfeeding support. It warms my heart to see people caring about the nursing relationship like this.

I love where we live: I've never once had anyone mention anything about me breastfeeding anywhere since moving to California. Our local WIC is huge on breastfeeding and organized the World Breastfeeding Week Walk we went to this year. I know there is an Oakland hospital that is actively working on receiving Baby Friendly status.

Because we are generally healthy as a family, we don't really run into healthcare professionals all that much. It's easy to read sites like myOBsaidwhat and get the impression that good support for breastfeeding from health care providers is rare to non-existent. No, we're not there yet, but we're getting closer.

Also, don't forget to buy non-Nestle candy this Halloween.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inquisition Monday: What do you like?

I've been in a blogging rut lately. Life is happening and blogging isn't keeping up, and I think that's a good thing, but I do love the outlet that blogging gives me.

So for Inquisition Monday, I want to ask all of you, "What do you like?"

Do you like life updates? Friday Fill-ins?
Do you like the tree-hugging natural living things (no poo, gardening, cloth everything?)
Do you like the parenting things (breastfeeding, gentle discipline?)
The activisty things (feminism, lactivism?)
Do you like the birthy things?

What do you want to see more of? Less? I won't be able to comply with everyone's wishes, but it would give me a little direction.

Go to the comments and discuss!

Monday, October 03, 2011


It's that month for raising awareness of an evil that harms families, children, and costs more than $5.8 billion each year. Less than 1/5 of victims seek medical treatment. 85% of victims are women, with women in the 20-24 age range at greatest risk. One in every 4 women will find themselves a victim at some point in their life. And it is 100% preventable.

It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I don't know if the fact that this is completely preventable is something hopeful or disparaging. It's disparaging because... wow... It's really bad. Just think of the women in your immediate family as a sample size. 1 in 4. Or on your street, or at your knitting group or church group or on the bus, or in the line at the grocery store. 1 in 4. But on the other hand, there is wonderful potential to bring those numbers down to 0. Every incidence is preventable.

So take this month and donate to your local women's shelter, as shelter services decrease the incidence and severity of future violence (in the 3-12 month period) more than court or law enforcement or moving to a new place. Check yourself for abusive behavior. Learn and practice nonviolent communication; if we can speak without violence, we can act without violence. Plant a tree. Teach your children that it is never ok to hurt another person and how to report abuse to you or another trusted person. Love, love, love.

Between Friends YPG - Ribbon Tying (Domestic Violence Awareness Month)
Image by National Domestic Violence Hotline on flickr

Sources, Resources, and Links
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Awareness Project
Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Domestic Violence Resource Center (Oregon)