Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NOT chilling out about breasts

On Monday, celebrity mother Mia Freedman posted a blog post "Let's chill out about breasts" which was picked up and published online (and I presume in print) by major Australian newspapers.

You can read the original article here. I say original, as she has since amended her blog post with the facts about BFHI being an international organisation working to make heath services around the world "Baby-friendly" when it comes to breastfeeding. You can read about BFHI in Australia here.

I will leave you to read her words and make of them what you wish, however I want to share how I feel about them. Hurt. So are many of my friends. Libeled is another word that comes to mind.

I have posted my thoughts on Mia's blog, amid the comments from women who are adding to the bitterness and misunderstanding as they label ABA and its volunteers as anti-formula and out to make women feel guilty for not breastfeeding or giving formula.

Having been a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor for 20 years in May, I find it hard to reconcile this with the organisation I have known for 28 years. I have been fortunate to know many hundreds of women who have volunteered in this time, across the country in this socially-connected world we now have. I have trained volunteers, led discussion meetings and read 28 + years of the newsletter and magazine. I have been involved in writing books, booklets and magazine articles. I have spoken to groups of mothers and health professionals. I have attended countless conferences, seminars and local group meetings and I have NEVER heard disparaging remarks about formula- feeding mothers from ABA volunteers. Yes, occasionally zealous members may voice such opinions in a group discussion but part of our training is how to HALT such comments, move the discussion on and explain how our code of ethics does not allow such statements at our meetings. I have sat alongside bottle-feeding women who have been welcomed in ABA and in many cases, gone on to breastfeed their next baby successfully and train as ABA volunteers. I work with one such mother. I don't judge her for formula-feeding her first child and neither does anyone else I know.

It seems that women who breastfeed find themselves on a double-edged sword: if they talk with pride at overcoming problems, they are seen to be saying formula-feeders didn't try hard enough - if they don't talk about their problems, other mothers say nobody told them how hard it could be. If they breastfeed too long, too often, in public or any other circumstances that someone disapproves of, they are judged and humiliated just as the formula-feeders say they are. If they conceal themselves or hide their breastfeeding from family and friends, then they know they are perpetuating those perceptions. If the formula-feeding mums feel they are judged, then they should see what it is like on the other side of "the fence".

Organisations like ABA have NEVER used the term "breast is best" - that was a term formula companies took on-board for their labels, where it is usually followed by the word BUT. Breastfeeding organisations have no funding for research, it is not them behind the research findings that are declared as benefits of breastfeeding - often, it is formula companies who support the research, as they try to replicate breastmilk. It is the media who add the spine-chilling headlines, not the researchers or breastfeeding advocates.

There are NO benefits to breastfeeding - it is what nature intended babies to eat. Please don't attack me if learning how a person's health can be impacted if they are not breastfed or weaned prematurely - I am sorry if it makes you distressed to learn what those impacts can be. If you want to be aware of these, then this is an excellent summary. Yes, it makes me uncomfortable too - I weaned my first child at 9 months and she was given formula top-ups in hospital. She is about to turn 28 and I still worry. I am a mother, that is my job.

Tonight, I have posted this directly in response to a comment Mia freedman made, where she said:

Hi kstock, I’m sorry for whatever distress this column may have caused you. My experience was a genuine one and has been echoed by many other commenters. In no way did I intend to imply everyone at the ABA were extreme – of course they do great work and I acknowledged this.

Mia, nowhere in your article is there any indication of contact between your friend and ABA, yet you continue to imply – even in this comment – that ABA have somehow been involved. What you haven’t considered here are the feelings of the individuals, the mothers who have undertaken training as breastfeeding counsellors – across the country, there are women truly distressed by this article. I invite you to visit my Facebook wall, where I posted the orignal article and also Tara’s response – people are feeling hurt. They have had sleepless nights and some are questioning if it is all worth it. I would challenge you to spend some time with ABA volunteers and members – at a group meeting, at a volunteer’s home while she does a four-hour helpline shift or at our Breastfeeding Centre in Melbourne on drop-in day. Visit the website, find out about how the volunteers are trained, learn about the code of ethics every volunteer is bound by. Attend a branch conference, where hundreds of volunteers, along with babies and toddlers, give up their weekend to continue their learning about breastfeeding. Go along to one of our seminars for health professionals and hear the latest research and clincal practices from experts from around the world – there is one in Melbourne on Monday and others around the country this month. Look into the ABA complaints process. And then write another blog post, sharing what you learn – from research, not heresay.

I suspect Mia freedman, like many other people who write such influential blog,s has not done the research to support her perception of groups like ABA. It is just so much easier to listen to the disappointed voices of women who did not hear what they wanted to hear when they called the helpline and lash out the only way they can, with harsh words. I know some of the women I have taken calls from are so stressed out, they cannot really take in everything I say - and to then later recall and speak of the call, they are reliving the emotions they were feeling at the time, not the information they were given or the way it was given.

I doubt Mia will take up my offer, but if she did, she could then do some real good with her writing, rather than fuel the endless emotional "us against them debate" where nobody is validated and nobody can win. it just churns round and round in the media. But if she does take my suggestion on board, I would be more than happy to introduce her to the real ABA, the one I know to be supportive and non-judgemental and one that I hope to continue my involvement with for many years to come.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Loving Letters

I have already mentioned I am doing several art journaling courses online this year. I am going along nicely, up-to-date, with both Book of Days and Life Book but am deliberately behind with Letter Love.

Letter Love is a daily class across February and has only a few days left to run. As I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up daily and you get access to the videos and other course materials forever, I felt no need to rush it. The main reason, as it turns out, is access to supplies. A daily class with a lot of new materials, which you won't know you need until the day, is really hard when so many of them are hard - or impossible - to get here in Australia. So running along watching the other participants and what they use is more useful to me.

The funniest thing i am trying to track down is patterned duck tape - yes, I did ask "isn't it called duct tape?" and apparently, this is a brand of duct tape called Duck tape! Doesn't seem to have hit our shores though, where duct tape is very blokey, grey and sold in the hardware store. So still trying to work that one out.

Anyway, another tool used in the course is a Pilot Parallel Pen and I haven't sourced one of those yet, so when class participant Pippa announced a giveaway on her blog, I was up for it! One of the things I need to do to enter is share some art I have done with lettering in it, so here is one of the Letter Love assignments I have managed, which I did in a Moleskin water-colour notebook :) I only used water-colours and markers for this, which I prefer to another version I did in a visual art diary. I look forward to doing more and continuing through the course once I source a few more bits and pieces (and translate others into Aussie-speak!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wishes do come true! Part Two

I bought my current car about 7 years ago. A little Mazda 323, owned by a little old lady who drove it rarely and kept it in immaculate condition, it had amazingly low KMs on the clock and every mechanic (and once, a car park attendant!) fell into oohs and ahs when they looked at the interior or under the bonnet - reasonably so, given it is a 1984 model and only two months younger than my eldest daughter, about to turn 28! Even so, I was taken aback a year or two ago when the RACV guy went into raptures of respect for my now-classic car!

My dutiful Tardis would hold an amazing amount of ABA stuff for events and work and with regular love and care, she has trundled me around for all this time. But all good things come to an end and she is now coughing and spluttering, struggling to to get moving at intersections and needing more $$ invested than seemed sensible to keep her on the road.

I told my husband I need a new car with a sad heart, as I really do love my little lady.

Timing being everything, my hubby was about to get a new car himself - and decided to use his current car as a trade in on mine, as his is a work car and he gets a car allowance. Suddenly, a new car became a reality and - even better - we can keep my little Mazda, fix her up and let my son drive her once he gets his license. Or maybe sell her to a classic car fan!

So yesterday, we went looking at used cars (don't get too excited - you didn't think I would get a brand new one, did you? Me - the recycling queen??) and we found a worthy replacement! A 2006 Honda Jazz! Just like this!
Yes - it is that yellow! The salesman was worried I mightn't like such a bright colour but I soon put him right! It isn't purple or orange, but that's okay - I like yellow too, especially this sort of orangey-yellow!!

We will pick her up in a day or so - she was only freshly-traded and hadn't been detailed or road worthied yet, so she will get her face and fancy threads on to meet me properly. The test drive was great, she handles so well - must be all those innovations in car design since 1984 :)

So - happy days!!!

Wishes DO come true! Part One

There have been two things at the top of my wish list and I can hardly believe both wishes have come true in this past few days!

On Thursday, after a long wait, a windfall of money and just a little retail stress, I brought home my longed-for Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1 :)

Not my image but I would love those little Androids!
I had worked out many months ago that this was the perfect Tablet for this non-Apple, Android-loving gadget-user - and then Apple sued Samsung and it wasn't allowed to be sold in Australia (or many other parts of the world!). I have been patiently waiting for the legal case to be resolved and the product to be released into the market. 

And I love it to bits and pieces! I am a Google-phile and Android functions in sync with how my brain works, so nearly everything I use on my laptop or phone has an app for the tablet, meaning it is the perfect inbetween, away from home/work option for me. I went for the 16GB 3G and wifi option, giving me access anywhere in phone service and chose a pre-paid data service with Telstra to give me control on my spend.

This would have been perfect for my road trip last year - as I kept telling myself at the time! It is my intention to store all my stuff "in the cloud" - and most of it is there already! - using services like Dropbox, Picasa and Evernote to keep my documents and photos for access. I have synced my iTunes  so I will only have my current preferred playlists in the Tablet but can easily change them when online.

Amazingly, I am impressed with the battery life, the usual hurdle to me using my tech gear as I wish! My Android HTC phone doesn't last anywhere as long as my Blackberry did and I need to be careful when I have the laptop off-site for a day, but the tablet is doing fine - I am testing it by using lots of stuff at once and it is lasting a full day. Will be great for expos and conferences!

So- that is the first wish come true - but the second is even bigger ... to be continued!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How's your house looking?

So the New Year's resolutions have faded, school and work life are back in the swing and your house is looking ... neglected? Or is that just me?

As the change of season approaches, I start to get twitchy and want to declutter and organise, but it is more than that - I want my home to be the haven it is in my head. Which is why I love Goddess Leonie's Creating Your Goddess haven course, which is rolling around again on March 1st.

I have done this course a few times now - as a member of the Goddess Circle, I can access the courses whenever and as often as I wish. The six-week course focuses on a different part of the home each week and gives ideas on decluttering and organising, but also on the little things that make your house into a home you want to retreat to when the world closes in. As Leonie says:

A six-week adventure for when you’re wanting & needing & craving a space that is a true haven for your the Goddess in You! You’ll use space clearing techniques to make your space’s energy sparkle. You’ll learn how to divinely declutter. You’ll dive into inspired interior design. You’ll be empowered with all of the wisdom, tools & techniques you need to make your space feel & look amazing to you. And you’ll end up with a home that is a sanctuary just for you.

This is just another example of the wonderful stuff I get as part of my yearly membership in the Goddess Circle - but the friendships are the icing on the cake :)

All better now!

Phew! Nothing like a malware warning on your blog to make you feel techno-inadequate! Thanks to the lovely spammers who managed to put the wind up Google. But all fixed now and back to the blogging :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some mothers CAN'T breastfeed

Those who regularly read my ramblings may do a double-take at the heading of this post. Aren't I a self-declared lactivist? A volunteer breastfeeding counsellor? Manager of a breastfeeding centre?


And I do passionately believe that every baby has the right to be breastfed, that every mother has the right to make an informed decision and that society must make every effort to support her to breastfeed as long as she and her child wish.

It is because of all of the above that I hear quite a lot about those women who cannot breastfeed. And how breastfeeding promotion can distress those women. And this I acknowledge.

So, let's look at the reasons why some women cannot breastfeed (those who won't breastfeed are an entirely different matter):

Physical: There is a figure that has been floating about for as long as I can remember, that only 2% of women physically cannot breastfeed. I suspect it is higher than that - these days in Australia, almost all mothers initiate breastfeeding and that probably includes a lot of women with physical barriers not included previously. But it is still a very small minority of women. You only need one functioning breast to feed a baby (or even two - I have known women to successfully breastfeed twins after a mastectomy!). So if one breast is scarred by fire, accident or surgery, the other can pick up the baton and do the work of two. If both breasts are affected - then sadly there may be no possibility. There are also women whose nipples are just not compatible with a young babies mouth (although it is amazing what babies can grow into!) which may mean only the option of expressed-milk feeding is possible. This can also be the case where the baby's mouth may not be compatible with feeding at the breast. Finally, there are a very small number of women who are advised not to breastfeed because they need medications which are actually not safe for a baby to be exposed to through breastmilk (as opposed to the drugs which actually are safe but are marketed by litigious wary companies and prescribed by health professionals who look only to those companies for information.)

So, I think that sums up the physical barriers to breastfeeding and many might expect this post to end here.

Except I believe there are many other barriers to breastfeeding which render mothers unable to do so. And these tend not to be acknowledged openly, with the cause simply given as "I couldn't breastfeed". Which perpetuates the myth that there is an unquantifiable reason that which gives worry to pregnant and new mothers alike. Lets look at these:

Big Sister and Grandma don't want to miss out on feeding baby
Social: Apart from the obvious issues like embarrassment of feeding in public or impending return to paid work, I think there are other social reasons that cause mothers to wean prematurely or only make  a token attempt at breastfeeding. Family culture, peer-pressure and the expectations of others mean that "lack of support" translates into actual discouragement. If you are ambivalent to begin with, then criticism or sabotage from others within your circle can be enough to make you give up altogether. The blame may then be laid on a family inability to breastfeed: mum couldn't none of my sisters could ...

Propping the bottle minimises intimate contact
Emotional: For a lot of women, issues like depression, a history of abuse, poor self esteem or body image issues can be a barrier to breastfeeding. The dependence of an infant, fear of bonding, the physical connection, the exposure, can be triggers that lead to a preference to have others feed the baby, to physically separate mother and baby with a propped bottle, to keep her body covered in bulky clothing, to resist the intimate contact with health professionals that breastfeeding can involve. So piled on top of all the other negative life experiences, a failure to breastfeed is just another layer of grief.

Charts allow you to record input and output - and work best for bottles
Intellectual: There is another group of parents (dads included here), often highly motivated, who cannot have successfully breastfed  babies. Despite accessing every possible source of breastfeeding  support - in person, print or online - these women are not able to give in to the intuitive, feeling side of themselves that a natural approach to breastfeeding requires. Their need to be in control, to have a predictable schedule, to lead rather than follow means they focus on routines, expect regular feed and sleep patterns and have an expectation of their lives returning to "normal" within a very short postnatal period. Unwilling or unable to tune into their baby's subtle cues and frequent feedings, they are unable to trust if a feed was "enough: without measure and are more comfortable with feeding EBM by bottle. They want to know when the baby will sleep longer, feed less, settle quickly and get into a routine. As more and more formula is given (because they are also unable/unwilling to express often enough to maintain milk production) and the desirable sedating effect it has reinforces the inadequacy of breastfeeding, she will sadly say she never had enough breastmilk, her baby was starving and she was feeding all the time without respite.

I have not included here the issue of "insurmountable breastfeeding problems", which certainly lead to most premature weaning. What one mother will persevere through and overcome, another - possibly due to one of the issues above OR because of poor access to skilled help at the right time by the right people - will not. They fall outside the intent of this article but are worthy of a future in their own right.

It is to be said this is a simplistic way to look at the issue and for many women, there is so much overlap between multiple issues that no one personal barrier can be identified. However, for women facing social, emotional or intellectual barriers to breastfeed, different models of support are needed - including counselling in many cases, if we are to reduce the impact.

Today I am Thankful - garden, surprise and supplies.

- for garden: hubby has been busy tidying up before our son's 21st birthday party this weekend. I just wish it could be like that all the time. My health issues make heavy  gardening a painful task that I just can't risk right now, but when it is in order it does a lot for my spirit!

- for surprise visit: a friend and fellow volunteer (who used to be my "boss" before my last boss!), who lives on the other side of town, popped into today as she was in the area.

- for supplies: art mail - the up-side of needing buy supplies online is the feeling of Christmas when packages arrive :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Today I am Thankful - memories, music and sanctuary

- for memories: I was sitting in traffic held up by the freeway works and looked over to see the fresh soil being moved around by diggers and trucks and, for just a moment, I wanted to be a child making roads in the dirt again, just like they do.

- for music: during water aerobics, as worked our butts off to the music of the 70s and 80s, it struck me we were all the generation who first embraced aerobics back in the 80s: and we are still exercising to the same tunes!!!

- for sanctuary: in my dash between appointments today, I realised I had a window of about 20 minutes and a desperate need for a cup of tea. I parked right across from Aum Shanti cafe, raced in and ordered a pot of English Breakfast. A quick chat with the owner. A flick through Well-being magazine. then off and running to the next.

Today's Book of Days work: have nearly caught up!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Today I am Thankful - downtime, traffic-stopper and planning

- for downtime: with a busy week behind me and a busy week ahead of me, a rest day today was fortunate and necessary!

- for stopping traffic: some may say my tie-dyed fisherman pants could stop traffic alone, however yesterday they helped me stay seen, stay safe as I stood in the middle of one of our busiest intersections to make the traffic into/out of the roundabout wait so our MS group could cross the road safely: with one electric wheelchair, a walking frame and a couple of walking sticks, we stopped traffic alright!!!

- for planning: weeks like this one coming I really appreciate all the systems I have in place - my calendar for tomorrow alone is boggling - ABA group, water aerobics, physio, naturopath and my new counsellor! Then three working days and yoga class, followed by the doctor on Friday and then full-on getting organised for my son's 21st birthday party on Saturday! Luckily, my phone is full of reminders and text messages to tell me where I need be at any given moment! (And hopefully time to keep on track with my art assignments too!)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Today I am Thankful - organised, arty and yoga

- getting organised: having a quiet couple of days at work (phone, email and people visiting all down - the world had other things to do in back-to-school week?) meant I could clear a lot of small, non-urgent tasks like filing. It feels good to get back to empty inboxes and to do folders!

- getting arty: I got home from work and was able to put in two solid hours in my creative space (not sure if calling it my scrapbooking room is still accurate as my focus is art journalling this year - although i do need to do some scrapping before Kieran's 21st birthday next week!) I should be able to use my magic window of time between 5pm and 7pm each weeknight (except for yoga night!) to keep up with my class commitments.

- for yoga: last night I was back at my wednesday night yoga class, with lots of familar faces. I tried the Tuesday class last week, but it starts an hour later at 7pm and I just know I couldn't sustain that. So back to busy Wednesdays after drop-in day, but I am going to be like Nike and just do it!!!