Friday, October 30, 2009

Safe Positioning in Slings

Consumer Reports blog this week announces the heartrenching death of 6 day old Derrik Fowler in an Infantino Slingrider. He died of positional asphyxia- when a baby asphyxiates due to the airway being compressed by the weight of his own head.

This happens when babies are poorly positioned in all types of products: car seats, baby chairs & yes, baby carriers. When babies chins are touching their chests, their airway is compressed. They lack the muscular control to lift their heads to prevent asphyxiation, placing them in an extremely dangerous situation- one Derrik's parents must be devastated about.

I cannot imagine their feelings when they learn that his death was completely preventable. In 2006 & 2007, informal tests were done on the respiration rates & oxygen saturation rates of babies in Infantino Slingriders. They were performed by a former RN & babywearing educator. She sent her findings, along with supporting information, to Infantino & to the American Consumer Product Standards council. Further detail can be found at

While the Infantino sling is obviously a disaster waiting to strike again, poor positioning in any carrier places infants at risk. It is essential that babies faces are never covered by the fabric of a carrier & that their heads are angled back, keeping their chins well away from their chests. The photos on the Infantino product site are a good indicator of the unsafe positioning that must be avoided.

While some brands of carrier are designed in a way that does not allow the possibility of safe positioning, many excellent brands that do allow for it are used in a position that I no longer consider safe or biologically correct- the cradle hold.

There are a number of reasons I will no longer teach this position. In most photos of babies placed in the cradle position, the baby's chin is down at its chest. It is very difficult for most parents to safely position the baby while it is in the cradle hold.

Second, the cradle position does not place the baby in the position it expects to be in- vertically, between its mothers breasts. Dr Nils Bergman, a physician & researcher who has extensively studied the immensely beneficial practice of keeping babies in their habitat- vertically, between the mothers breasts, says: "The baby is in the right place and therefore has the right behaviour."

As a Lactation Educator (LE) & a Babywearing Educator, I often help parents resolve difficult breastfeeding problems by simply recommending Kangaroo care- ie, time spent skin to skin, vertically, between the mothers breasts.

When babies begin a nursing session in the vertical position (moving themselves over to actually nurse), they are best able to effectively coordinate their suck/swallow/breathe reflexes (for more information on these concepts, see the work of Dr Suzanne Coulson , Kittie Frantz, Dr Michel Odent as well as Dr Bergman)

If babies orient vertically, I believe placing them at an angle, or horizontally, can disorient them. In my experience, this can lead to, or exacerbate, breastfeeding difficulties.

The cradle position continues to be taught by manufacturers & educators, but I recommend you avoid using this positioning. It makes it difficult to position the baby safely & appears to contribute to breastfeeding problems.

Instead, newborn babies should be positioned tummy to chest, with their legs in a frog position, knees higher than bum. The carrier should support them well enough that they are not slumping down in it, potentially compromising their airway.

Babywearing is a wonderful tool that gives babies the minimum they expect- to be carried by their mother. It is also a learned skill that requires a bit of background knowledge to safely perform. Please always be certain that your baby is safely carried.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moment of Clarity

Thinking back to the time when I was pregnant with my now four-year-old, I feel so blessed to have been able to enjoy the pregnancy in the way I did. Not that I didn’t have morning sickness, or extreme angst about some things that were happening in my life, but my memory of the pregnancy (which hormone is it that makes you forget the rough stuff?) is thoroughly beautiful.

I wandered the trails around Calgary’s Glenmore Reservoir, my belly pressing warmly against my winter coat. When I remember the time, I have this Utopian vision of my cheeks rosy and shiny, my hair gently blowing in the wind, my belly glowing sun-like right through my coat, and a smile that just wouldn’t stop glistening on my perfectly plump face. My hands, for 9 ½ months, were both on my belly, just below my belly button for the majority of each day.

I consciously chose to be outside as often as possible during my pregnancy, and I made that time a special time to deeply connect with the baby in my belly, and with nature. I sang to the trees and the river and the sky, and to my baby, vaguely self-conscious that my singing would be overheard by the many walkers, runners, and cyclists passing along the trails.

One cold morning I got to my usual walking place a little earlier than normal. This felt like a gift. Everything was so quiet and peaceful, no chattering joggers and no bikes whizzing by. I started to sing, listening to my voice echoing the song of my baby’s possible names out into the trees. I headed down the hill into a more excluded wooded area, and about halfway down the hill my thoughts started to churn.

First, I had images of somebody jumping out of the woods, demanding all my money. I held tightly to the cell phone in my pocket, considering storing 911 in my quick-dial as I continued my walk. Then my mind jumped to the time someone had come across a bear on the trail just a bit away from where I was walking. My thoughts flipped to the realization that I would be more frightened of a person than a bear, in that situation. Finally, I realized that people don’t usually carry money while jogging or biking, so anybody jumping out of the woods would be doing so with more horrible intentions.

In the midst of these thoughts and images racing through my mind, both hands went to my belly, and my fear jolted me through to a fight-or-flight response. For a moment, as I considered turning to run back up the hill, I stopped and stood still, tingling with the awareness of danger.

In that moment, a powerful image entered into my mind – I could see a man, obviously of ill-intent, heading up the hill toward me, and I saw myself reach forward, into his chest, and hold his heart in my hand. His eyes looked into mine, and he knew, in the depth of his being, that I would kill him if I needed to.

In that split second, I knew it too, in a way so absolute that the peace of the moment was overwhelming. I knew that if it was necessary, I would growl words that made the incredible, life-giving power of my love for my unborn baby so clear that my attacker would back down and run for his own life. And I knew that, if necessary, I would use my unwieldy body in such a way that any person threatening my baby would be hurt or even killed. I knew also that the power of my love would extend into mercy, and that as soon as an attacker’s intention shifted, he would be released, and encouraged to run.

The image passed, and I exhaled my held breath, my eyes still open wide. The woods shifted back into the warm arms that held my walk and echoed my songs, and the path seemed to open up ahead of me. I continued that walk, and the many more that followed it, drenched in awe for the life journey I was embarking on, and completely confident that the mama in me had access to whatever would be necessary to protect my baby.

Lisa Kathleen is a parenting coach and parent educator in Calgary, Alberta. You can find her on her website at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Transformation Through 4 Births

Chantelle’s Birth Stories

Baby #1

March 8, 2003 (Due date March 10)

My bloody show started in the morning. Contractions started around 8:45pm, 2 min long and 10-12 minute apart. I called Dean at work and told him to come home. I had a false alarm the previous week so he was skeptical, but came home anyway. I kept telling him to have a shower but he did not believe that this was the real deal. Suddenly my water broke at 9:50pm and like a flash Dean was in the shower. Contractions went to 2 minutes apart. We rushed Molly (our dog) down to Dean’s parents and then continued on to the hospital. I called the hospital in our local town to tell them we were coming. I was in so much pain. It was a cold night and I remember running my fingers across the cold window of the truck hoping to ease my pain somehow. Forgot about all the breathing we had practiced in prenatal class as I was unable to get on top of it. The doctor on call checked me in the midst of a contraction (grrrrrrr!) and I was 4cm. They decided to try to send me by ambulance to the Misericordia (hospital in the city nearby). They gave me Demerol to help with the pain in anticipation of an uncomfortable trip. By the time the ambulance was ready, after about 20 minutes, I was already 7cm. The doctor abandoned the idea of Edmonton and admitted me. Dean filled out the hospital papers while I screamed bloody murder. I felt like I had to poop. I asked if it was too late to go in the shower, nurse said yes. I was so lost, with no guidance from the nurse, Dean was clearly overwhelmed and I had no idea how to handle the pain. Meanwhile the Demerol was kicking in. Checked me again and I was 10 cm and ready to go. Dean is still filling out papers while in delivery room. I remember being so out of it and not wanting to cooperate, sleeping between contractions because of the Demerol. I was afraid of the pain if I pushed and of damaging my vagina. Finally I made some effort after the doctor threatened to give me some meds to increase the strength of the contractions. I told him I would try harder although I just wanted to go home. Because I was so reluctant to push she had major swelling and bruising on her face, once her shoulders were through, I couldn’t help but push as the doctor told me not to. One final push and out she came at approx 1am, the nurse exclaimed “a beautiful baby girl!!” Paige Jean was 8lbs 13ounces and I was so shocked that it was a girl as I was certain it was a boy the entire pregnancy!!!

Postpartum: lots of blood (at the time, it seemed extreme, I know better now)

Stitches were painful.

Nurses were bossy.

Baby #2

August 9, 2005 (due date August 4)

Overdue by 6 days, I was scheduled for an appointment in Edmonton to meet with the doctor. I was absolutely desperate to get this baby out, incredibly uncomfortable. Could not walk or sit, and absolutely constipated. BLAAAHHH!!! He stripped my membranes and instructed me to head over to the Grey Nuns for induction. Checked in and nurse set me up with a stress test. I was under the understanding that I was being induced right then and there. Then the head nurse comes in and says they are too busy and do not induce in the middle of the afternoon anyway. They would put me on the list for the following morning. I was devastated! We stayed overnight at Dean’s brother and sister-in-law’s. I did not sleep at all, cried most of the night and had a bath to try to get some sleep. The following morning we waited for the phone to ring, they said they would call around 7:30am. I felt completely out of control and at the mercy of the nurses. Dean came in the bathroom to let me know finally they had called at 8:15am, while I was in the shower bawling my eyes out. PHEW!!! What a huge relief, this baby was coming out today! We called Alana, my coach and friend and she met us there, I had enlisted her hoping for a better, more focused birth.

They started the pitocin around 9:30am. Then the doctor on call (don’t recall his name) breaks my water, contractions come around 2 minutes apart, getting stronger and stronger. Breathing worked well for a while; I remember Alana had spearmint gum and kept breathing hard right in my face, keeping me focused. Contractions become so strong I was screaming, the synthetic pitocin still pumping through the IV. They tried giving me the gas which is a joke BTW, to be effective you have to inhale the gas during the contraction. How are you supposed to inhale when you’re screaming???!!! The nurse suggests that I get up to go to the washroom to move my bladder and dilate the last 2 cm and I thought this was outrageous!! How am I supposed to walk?? But they talked me into it, and it actually was not that bad. I sat for a while on the toilet, and then slowly made it back to the bed, with my cart of wires & IV. Ready to push and when I pushed it felt so much better!! 6 pushes @ 3-4 pushes a piece. The baby had shoulder dystocia and there was some panic for a minute or so. Alana and Dean pulled my legs up by my head and the nurse pushed on my stomach. Out came a huge baby boy, 9 lbs 13 ounces at approx 1pm. The doctor commented all he needed was a lunch box and was ready for school. Reese Douglas was nicknamed “lunch box” for a year or so. As the nurses wheeled me to the maternity ward, they commented how I was welcome back anytime as I was such an excellent patient. I understand that more now, 4 years later.

Postpartum: Lots of blood and a bit of a risk because of bigger baby. All worked out fine. Nurses were excellent. 187 pounds pre-labour, 175 pounds 24 hours later.

Baby #3

November 5, 2007 (due date November 7)

The doctor put me on a waiting list for induction at about 39 weeks due to the bigger baby and shoulder dystocia risk, and I was bumped day after day for about a week. Once again I turned into a psychopath waiting for these nurses to pick me! Of course, they call us shortly after Dean decided to go to work after waiting around at home for days.

Arrive at the hospital and the IV is inserted for the pitocin and Alana, Dean and I hung out for a few hours in the room, laughing and joking around. Quite a bit of time elapsed as compared to Reese. Finally Doc on call broke my water, and then things progressed quickly. Suddenly there is no more joking or laughing. Spent some time in the hot shower, and then moved back to the bed. I began pushing around 4:50pm. As I am pushing I remember being very alert compared to past births. I wondered why there were so many people in the back of the room leaning against the wall. I even asked why, someone said “They are learning.” I was annoyed by this, unfortunately, this was just the start!

Pushing with Hayley was difficult and I really had to work, again on my back. But they were slow and steady. Out came Hayley, 8 lbs 13 ounces. She was born at 5:08pm. The nurses commented how wonderful I did and how surprised they were with my strength. I found this a bit unusual. There must be more women giving birth without painkillers???

Postpartum: I began hemorrhaging and mild Shoulder Dystocia. I also had stitches. I should also note that I was unable to have comfortable sexual intercourse for the following 10 months, cause unknown. I had 2 nurses, one quite bossy the other a bit of a follower. They inserted a catheter to empty my bladder, certain it was in the way of my uterus contracting. The after pains were horrible. The pushing on my stomach was equally or more so horrible!!! Finally after a few hours, I was moved to recovery. New unit, so the room was brand new. I didn’t get out of bed until following morning around 9am, which was hugely detrimental to my recovery.

In one instance a nurse came on shift and said she wanted to check my spine where the epidural was inserted. I told her I had no epidural, “oh” she says “that’s a first.” What???

After the slow start I was convinced I was not going home that day but finally by around 5pm I decided I was ready. So we loaded Megan Isabelle into her car seat. Then Dean said “Let’s go home Megan.” We looked at each other and knew she was not a Megan. We went and found the nurse and our government form and the black pen, scratched out Megan and wrote Hayley. Now we were ready to go home. As we left the parking lot, I felt sad that I would never be back to deliver another baby...or so I thought.

When we discovered I was pregnant for the fourth time, which was completely unplanned and a HUGE oops on our part, I was a mess. Things with our 3 children were just beginning to become easier and a trip to Vegas or somewhere tropical was on the horizon, among that was the idea of working my way out of the infant stage. I cried a lot and it took me months to warm up to the idea as our youngest was only 13 months old when we discovered the news. I was very sick and incredibly tired.

Also, I was terrified of what was ahead of me as far as another evasive labour. In my mind, I was getting too old for this; my body was trying to tell me that I shouldn’t have more children and I interpreted that as, if I did, medical intervention was the only way. In order to avoid a big baby and the complications that come along with it, I began to contemplate an elective c-section. I didn’t necessarily want one; I just didn’t think I had any other choice. I knew that another induction was out of the question as they were getting increasingly more risky.

Then along came Arie. She and her close friend ran an online website that sold cloth diapers, baby carriers and many other products. I had bought cloth diapers from her for Hayley and had spoke with Arie on a few occasions for advice on the products she offered. She had mentioned to me in the past how she had delivered her 3 children at home, which at the time, I thought was crazy!! Then one evening while on facebook I saw she had posted a link regarding c-sections and the risks they pose including the aftermath and potential effects they can have later in life.

I decided to call her the next day and talk to her about my dilemma. Shortly into our discussion she said to me “Did you ever think that the complications you experienced were a result of being induced?” Wow! I had a complete “ah-ha” moment. It all made sense, complete sense. I pushed the doctors to induce me, I wondered over and over why they didn’t seem concerned about my situation, until I was 41 weeks, then they wanted to take control for example with Reese. (Which looking back, I totally believe that it was a “pit to distress” attempt that thankfully did not work out in their favor.) The doctors weren’t concerned because there was nothing to be concerned about. I was making it all into a huge deal, a crisis out of being pregnant. Essentially, I viewed it as a disaster waiting to happen. All of this made me incredibly sad, I had three births under my belt and I knew nothing of my choices and had learned nothing about having a birth that meant something. All this time I bragged of my drug-free births, pushing them out vaginally, when really I had tons of intervention. I had pitocin with 2 births and it doesn’t get more intervening than that, next to a c-section. Just because I didn’t have painkillers (with the exception of course to the Demerol I never consented to), I thought I was doing it naturally. I begged for those inductions, I would have camped out in the labour and delivery ward had they let me. I was not going to wait for the baby to come when it was ready, I didn’t trust my body or my baby. I had basically lost all faith that I was able to go into labour on my own.

So, after this conversation, I set out to find myself a doula and possibly a midwife. I began reading books regarding intervention-free births and books about choosing your own birth. One of the books was “Your Best Birth” by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, I strongly recommend this book. It took me until about 30 weeks before I found a doula, which I ended up not going with after Arie offered her services to me. She was not a registered doula but she had attended a few births but her knowledge surpassed the 3 doulas I had previously spoken with and I trusted her completely. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I began to have an incredible feeling of entitlement. I was entitled to a birth of my choice, a pregnancy of my choice, and I realized that I do not need doctors. We need them when we are sick, or there is an emergency. But I was not sick and there was no emergency. I was pregnant, and that was all.

I have to mention that most people that I told about my revelation thought I had completely lost my mind. It is increasingly disturbing that many people question the safety of a natural birth more than the safety of an unnecessary elective c-section or induction.

As the weeks passed I became anxious at the thought of even stepping foot in a hospital. I dreaded the thought of the doctors and nurses taking the control away, and crapping all over my birth experience. After much discussion with my own thoughts and my husband and doula, I knew that the hospital was the best answer. I was not prepared to take responsibility for the result should something unforeseen happen during a home birth. We began working on our own issues and preparing ourselves to demand the experience we wanted and stand our ground. Occasionally getting a little carried away as I had even contemplated labouring in the parking lot of the hospital or even delivering in the parking lot as I would be close should I need assistance, and then arrive at the ward full out pushing or even carrying a baby in my arms. Then they couldn’t possibly intervene.

*The following are some journal entries close to the end of my pregnancy.

August 10, 2009. Now at 39 weeks and knowing that my one and only choice is a no intervention birth, I am once again being tested to the max, emotionally and physically. I strongly believe that this is the best for my baby and myself, however, I now need to be prepared to wait it out. I have been in latent labour for what feels like 2 weeks. I have had to reassure myself that I have the ability to go into labour on my own, that I need to trust my baby and my body.

I have been confident that one of the false labour experiences I have had in the past few weeks was the one, and I did it! I went in on my own! Then every morning I wake up, still pregnant. And although, I still have a week to go, I am fighting my own internal battle. Feeling the need to perform for all those that doubt this choice I have made, and with the growing feeling inside that I am utterly and completely tired of being pregnant and this baby could not come soon enough. The more I research and learn how psyche has a lot to do with labour, now I am trying not to stress about being stressed... “Allow myself to introduce myself”. At this stage it is all enough to make me nuts! What happened to my “cool as a cucumber” outlook?? “The baby will come when it is ready” philosophy?? Nobody can understand this late-pregnancy syndrome until you are up to your eyeballs in it; I can tell you right now, it is not pretty.

August 13, 2009 I had some show this morning and then nothing. However, I am refreshed and ready to relax after my appointment with a reflexologist this afternoon. I have been in a labour forum this morning, reading other women’s posts, who are 36-38 weeks, and going bonkers and begging for help on how to naturally induce their labours. I keep thinking, you have no idea what is still ahead of you! So I feel like I have a grip again and ready to push through the rest of today and hopefully get through to Monday with this same attitude. At that time I will maybe think of experimenting with some castor oil or other herb at the advice of my doula. I have doctors breathing down my neck telling me to be prepared to be induced at 41 weeks. I don’t dare book another appointment as I’m afraid this will seal my fate. I guess it is time to step up and become uncooperative.

Aug 17, 2009 Due date has arrived and is almost over. I have put my children to bed early in hopes of having some quiet time before Dean gets home. I need to have a chat with this baby and remember why I chose this route to begin with. I have been in tears twice today with fear that I will not go into labour on my own and the baby will have to be removed via C-section or medical induction. I am afraid the baby will go into distress. I am afraid I will be denied care after 41 weeks. I am most afraid that my willpower will not persevere and I will give in and have my membranes stripped, etc. I wish I could be as surprised as I was when my water popped with Paige. I was relaxed and doing a puzzle that afternoon. Not analyzing every little pain in my belly. Being 2 days early certainly helped as well.

Within minutes of writing the above entry, shortly after 8pm, I felt a funny pop in my abdomen. It wasn’t my water but it got my attention. I got up and went to the washroom, I noticed some pink on the tissue after, and so I wiped again some more…nothing. As I sat there analyzing this small pink blot on the tissue, I stood up and accepted it was likely another false sign. I am about to flush and notice pink and red drips in the toilet. I wipe again and more pink, more red. YES!!! I smile and phone Alana. I hang out on the toilet and chat with her, telling her labour is likely only 24 hours away. I get off the phone with her and start to notice that I am out of breath, I am having a contraction. It is weak, but nevertheless, a good contraction. I check my underwear and there is more show on my panty liner. Holy crap! I call Dean and there is no answer, so I try again, no answer. I call the company he was working with and tell them to send him home, I am in labour. Next, I call Arie and tell her what is going on, she is going to get child care and meet us at Dean’s brother and sister’s house in Edmonton. At that time it is around 8:30 pm and the contractions are becoming stronger and closer together, between 4-7 minutes apart. I check my panties again, I feel a spark of panic, the show is so plentiful that I need to change my panty liner. I call Dean and ask him if he is coming, he says he is crossing the bridge, about 20 minutes away. I call Alana again; her husband, Jim answers and I tell him that she needs to come now. As I am walking around the house trying to put the last minute things in my suitcase, I keep forgetting to put on some pants. Jim calls a couple times to check on me as I am waiting for Alana, Dean, Dean’s mom and grandmother to arrive, I get through a couple contractions while talking to him. At 9:10pm they all arrive within seconds of each other. Dean quickly showers and Alana jumps in her vehicle while Dean and I jump in our truck and head to Edmonton, about an hour drive, leaving Marj and Great Grandma with the kids. The contractions are difficult and about 4 minutes apart and all of us are questioning if we are going to make it.

I try to sit hard on my bum in attempt to close my pelvis and I felt like I have a full bladder, which slows down my labour. Stretching it out 7-8 minutes apart and weakening the contractions. As we pass through Nisku, I start to panic, I don’t know the route Dean is taking and I am unable to talk through the contractions. We go through Beaumont and I freak out again that we are lost, we also run out of windshield washer and the windshield is a disgusting bug-gut mess so Dean has to pull over and re-fill. Finally we make it to the hospital. The thought of having to walk anywhere was so overwhelming. It proves to be impossible; I have to sit on my knees on the ground during a contraction. A nurse spots us and brings us a wheelchair. We have to go through emerg because the main doors are locked at night. ER is packed and we have to stop to be admitted, also wait for someone to come down from L & D and come get us. Suddenly I feel someone’s hand on my shoulder; it is Alana clearly out of breath and relieved to be there. I was so happy to see her; we had lost her on the way as Dean was driving 180km/h at times. As we get up to L & D, the nurses see us and we are guided into a room. I tell them I need to go pee. I go into the bathroom and hang out there for a while as I am afraid that they are going to take away the control. I get back to the bed and the one nurse explains that she looked over my birth plan and wants to give me an IV because of the hemorrhage and shoulder dystocia. No, I don’t want an IV. She responds well and then checks me to see my progress, kindly waiting until the contraction stopped. She tells me I am fully dilated with bulging membranes. She calls for more help and they all start setting up.

Everyone was very cooperative with us and after the mention of the IV, no one tries to intervene again. Alana is at my side as I work through a few really difficult contractions, trying to breathe and keep me focused, I kept thinking “I need to get out of this bed!” As the nurse is trying to fill out paperwork and ask me questions, my water busts and shoots all over the floor and bed. That would have been messy had it happened in the truck. I find it difficult to explain how I felt after that, I rolled over to my stomach and got up on my knees. Someone gave me my birth ball and I flop on top of it. I knew that this was it, time to push. I didn’t say anything, or talk to anyone. My body was already pushing and I worked with it, sometimes pushing hard, sometimes just little grunts. I felt everything as the baby descended and the voices in the room that the doctor needed to come, that the head was “right there”. I was in total control and I knew that my baby and I were working together, just as I dreamed it would go and just as it should have gone with Hayley and Reese. Maybe a few more pushes, my guess would be 5 pushes total and our 9 pound 2 ounce baby boy, Brandt Holden, slid rapidly out at 10:46pm. I maneuvered back onto my bum and with the cord still attached I held our baby to my skin and rubbed him with a towel. The doctor cooperated and did not clamp the cord right away. They gave us 3 minutes and then clamped and cut the cord. The nurse then asked if I was okay with a shot of oxytocin in the leg to help my uterus contract, I agreed. Anytime in the past, I was never asked, I was given the shot without consent and possibly without knowledge until after the fact.

No shoulder dystocia, no hemorrhage. In fact, I had less blood loss than the past two births. At one point the nurse turned the lights down and it was dark and quiet. The nurses worked with my uterus and massaged gently. I was able to get up after half an hour and have a shower before we moved to recovery. Arie made it just before 11:30. We had a joke going that day that I was hoping for the baby to arrive on the due date. She gently reminded me that less than 5% of babies arrive on the due date. I told her I was hoping to wiggle in to that 5%, and 10:46 pm is about as tight as you can get! Arie helped with the breastfeeding and he was able to self attach within that first hour of life!! We moved to recovery and had some more opportunity to work on the breastfeeding. I felt great; I didn’t feel tired or wiped out. I felt elated and empowered, I felt that I had made great decisions and it had all paid off!

After being moved to recovery, the nurse told me she wanted to poke baby to check his blood sugar levels. I had this same experience with Hayley and Reese, as big babies sometimes have blood sugar issues. It was a horrible experience as they poke them repeatedly but I also remember them never having a problem. Arie suggested that I decline the test as I have big babies and they have never had problems in the past. One more intervention that nobody gives you an opportunity to turn down, they tell you that this is what they need to do and you feel you are protecting your child by agreeing, when that is not always necessarily the case. It is invasive; it interferes with your breastfeeding and rest, not to mention it being traumatic. My doula taught me, every instance that an intervention is recommended, I must ask myself what are the risks, will the complications of the procedure outweigh the benefits and what will I do with the knowledge I gain from the intervention. I was up walking around within the hour and had a shower in the delivery room. Then I was up to go pee without assistance about 2 hours after birth. This in itself shows me how the natural labour versus the induction has way less complications and an incredible recovery. As I worked through those contractions, though intense were completely natural. Labour is supposed to hurt, and any doctor that offers to take that pain away through medications is essentially taking away your experience and bond with your body and baby.

September 2, 2009

As I read my final birth story, I smile. This is something that I worked so hard for and it all paid off. Every day that I felt I was going to lose it was all worth it in the end. My doula had commented a few times that all of this is a process. The shifts and changes in our behavior, is all part of the early labour and in hindsight I would never do it any other way. I strongly believe that the moments prior to my labour starting were spent facing my fears and journaling them, and that was my final step in my own personal process. I was ready, mind, body and soul.

A drug free, intervention free birth!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What exactly do we have to gain from telling the truth about formula?

An article has been popping up in Canadian newspapers this month, with the dubious headline "Prepare a backup plan for feeding baby: Moms should learn about formulas as a nutritious option to breast milk." It reads as a thinly veiled ad for infant formula, heavily quoting an Ottawa pediatrician (pregnant with her first, of course, & due any day) who recommends that parents plan for breastfeeding failure by having formula at the ready before baby is born. Let that sink in. A pediatrician & mother to be is suggesting that you have at the ready a product that will increase your baby's chance of death in his first year by 30% *

So, really, who benefits from this arrangement? It certainly is not the baby and it is rarely the mother. It has been well-documented that the free promotional formula & coupons handed out by doctors, hospitals etc decreases the likelyhood of successful breastfeeding. It is obvious that the formula (read, pharmaceutical) industry benefits when women don't breastfeed. It is also well-established that parents are apt to continue to buy the brand of formula recommended by their doctor.

So how do doctors acquire the information needed to recommend one brand of formula over another? Not in med school- the amount of education on either breastfeeding or formula feeding is negligent, if at all existent. They receive virtually all of their education on infant feeding from pharmaceutical companies, ie, the makers of formula. It is a drug & it is marketed as such. The pharmaceutical industry is a huge one, with vast marketing & advertising budgets. Chances are you know a drug sales rep- ask them what their job is like! A typical sales rep is expected to build & maintain positive relationships with the MDs in their territory. This is accomplished by spending time- appointments in the doctors' offices, lunches out, golf games. The entertainment is covered by the drug reps' expense account. During the time spent, the focus is on educating the doctor about your product- be it the latest anti-erectile dysfunction pill, or the newest infant formula. How it is different from competitors. How it is used. Swag- pens, notepads, measuring tapes are left (with the product logo on them), as are samples for the doctor to hand out to patients who might use the product.

Consider this when, as a new parent, you walk into your doctors office hoping for help with your breastfeeding questions. While a small industry around breastfeeding has cropped up (nursing pillows, breast pumps, other products) it is a tiny fraction of that of the formula industry. Frankly, the people selling those products are probably not the ones considered to be the Zealots, the Lactivists. The Nazis.

What on earth do the so called breastfeeding bitches(lactivists, nazis, whatever) have to gain? I was inspired by this quote from Edmonton doula Victoria Powell, in response to a "friends" complaint about a link she posted on her Facebook page:

"I don't agree whatsoever. Breast isn't best-it's just normal!!
To make the choice to use formula is absurd. I never know how to respond when I hear that a woman was made to feel guilty because she didn't/wouldn't breastfeed. The first I think is: what exactly do these breastfeeding "zealots" have to gain from telling the truth about formula?
Nothing. We don't spread the truth because we want women who formula fed to feel bad, we want them to rethink what they did, and do it differently with their next baby. And if they medically cannot breastfeed, I want them to still encourage breastfeeding for others. Because the mother who genuinely couldn't breastfeed uses formula to keep her baby from starving, that doesn't mean formula is a safe choice for women who can breastfeed. It is to be used in an emergency situation only. No one has anything to gain from a woman breastfeeding- except for that mother and her baby."

I ask you to consider this. We have nothing to gain. Ostensibly, there is the potential for reduced public health care costs, but that exists with any public health initiative. Frankly, it doesn't impact my bottom line as a taxpayer.
Those of us who speak out against the unethical marketing of formula, the misinformation, lies & spin that the industry perpetuates, have nothing to gain from it. Only one group stands to lose from our efforts- the formula industry itself. We know what happens when it feels threatened. Employees are assigned to stir up Mommy Wars in parenting forums. Companies attempt to bribe bloggers . Babies are lost in the shuffle as the disussion focuses not on how formula should be marketed, or on how it's safety can be improved for those reliant on it, but on the "lactivist agenda".

We have nothing to gain. Mothers & babies have everything to lose when they are not able to access accurate information about the risks of formula feeding.

"No one has anything to gain from a woman breastfeeding- except for that mother and her baby."

*This statistic was quoted by Teresa Pitman at the 2009 Birthing Breastfeeding & Bonding conference in Lethbridge Alberta. It is based on meta-analysis of the combined risks of infection & disease caused by not breastfeeding.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saving My Baby

I gave birth on a February afternoon by repeat caesarean. A pink, squalling bundle was handed to me, and I gazed lovingly into eyes that seemed to recognize me. I whispered sweet words of belonging to this girl child of mine, and comforted her outraged cries. She was the daughter I so desperately wanted.

A week after her birth, a friend dropped off a ring sling. I snuggled my 7 lb bundle into it and went about my way with a mostly content baby. Within two weeks, I was wearing her constantly. Towards afternoon, she’d begin to sob and scream inconsolably. She would arch and thrash, refuse to nurse, refuse a soother, the swing, my arms. The only thing that would quiet her screams was the sling.

Screamy baby began to lose weight. I carried her – day in, day out – in the sling. Repeated trips to the doctor revealed nothing. She was unable to nurse, screaming hysterically within moments of latch on.I was told rudely “ Do breast compressions. Breast is best.” Breast compressions made her choke and gag... and scream. I began feeding her formula. We went back to the doctor. Reflux. Milk Intolerance. Delayed gastric emptying. Her weight gain was poor, and the screaming increased in volume. Nights were long, filled with arching, thrashing baby. There was many a night that I slept with her in the sling, sitting up on the couch, unwilling to move her from her comfort zone. People told me I was spoiling her. I told them “ We’re coping. This is all that works.” I was told to let her cry it out, but I had no desire to abandon my child to a dark room to cry out her angst. My responsibility to her did not end when the sun went down. I whispered in her ear that I couldn’t stop her crying, but I could hold her while she cried.

I paced the floors with her, snuggled tummy to tummy in the sling. At six months, I begged the doctor to hospitilize her – I knew something was dreadfully wrong. The paediatrician agreed. She was poked, prodded, xrayed, and force fed. The screaming continued.

A day before discharge, my pediatrician’s partner waltzed into our room with his holier than thou attitude. He told me I wasn’t putting in the effort to feed her, to put her in another room to sleep and let her cry it out. I banned him from treating my child.

I worked part time, baby in sling. I got a mei tai, two more ring slings. I carried her everywhere. In the shower. To the doctor, to the park, on playdates. People nastily asked me how she would learn to walk if I never put her down. I ignored them. Carrying her stopped the screaming.

Just before her first birthday, she developed a high fever and cough. I took her to the ER, still wrapped in my sling. We waited 7 hours. Xrays revealed her heart was enlarged. We were admitted. I carried her nonstop for the next few days – through a terrifying whirlwind of echocardiograms and finally a diagnosis. During one particularly memorable screaming fit, a nurse turned to me in tears, and handed me my sling. My daughter quieted, safe in her sling.

She was in heart failure. A rare and very serious heart defect had been causing massive heart attacks. Fatality rates were 90% in the first year. The screaming was her suffering from crushing chest pain. In the hallway, the cardiologist turned to me and quietly told me that it was my parenting – the constant carrying – that had allowed her to survive against all odds.

My daughter never cried alone, left in a room. Had I ever practiced CIO, I would have woken to a lifeless baby. I held her through months of gut wrenching doubt, moments when I cried too. But today, I watch my daughter play and run, and laugh. I carried her through a mom’s worst nightmare... and we both survived.

Sarah Kaganovsky

Updated- October 2010~

Mila is now a happily thriving three and a half year old. The scrawny screaming baby has grown into a confident and outgoing preschooler because of the constant babywearing. looking back, it amazes me... My trusty sling and I... We SAVED her.

Mila now has had two brain surgeries as well. And a little sister! The only way I've been able to care for them both is to be wearing one. In a way, babywearing has allowed us to cope as a normal family. The baby deserves Mommy. Mila requires hands on care. And I can provide both girls exactly what they need!

An Introduction

The experience of keeping (or retrieving) your power will make you fierce. As all mamas should be.

I’m pretty sure I’m post-feminist. I know many who will disagree so I’ll only speak from my experience. Is feminism still necessary? Probably- but I don’t believe I’ve ever been the victim of gender discrimination. I realize this is entirely due to the efforts of women before me (thanks Mom!). Things change, though. The feminist movement was about power- men had it, women were denied it, women took it. Women today are still in need of power, but these days, it’s not necessarily the men who are holding it.
Never is this so obvious as when women become mothers. The process of becoming pregnant, giving birth & parenting a young child seems to marginalize educated, intelligent women to the point where many will throw their power at anyone willing to catch it. Why is this? What makes a mother devalue herself as the least expert on her own body, her own baby? And why are the women who reject this system and keep their power for themselves so criticized? Worst of all, why are those willing to take the power the most likely to be those we’re encouraged to trust- our doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers? Is it human nature to take power when someone tries to give it to you? The answer to all these questions is summed up with one word: responsibility.
Power & freedom, to my mind, are two sides of the same coin. We all know that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. What if all these power-abdicating women are actually giving away their responsibility? Such a system would work, if those taking the power also accepted the responsibility. But when was the last time the doctor who performed the c-section went home with the mother to help her recover? Do the specialists who give bad breastfeeding information pay for the formula when breastfeeding fails as a result of their advice?
This leads us to a big taboo that very few parents will acknowledge- they, & they alone, are responsible for their children. We can pretend we’re not. We can choose a hospital birth just in case. We can accept breastfeeding information that allows it to fail. We can place our children in daycare; send them to public school, countless other choices, big & small, that allow others power over our children’s lives. But ultimately, we are the ones left responsible for the outcomes of those choices.
Please don’t misread me here- I am not saying that those choices are irresponsible. In many cases, these would be appropriate. I am addressing those who might be making their choices based on fear of accepting responsibility. Is it easier to accept a negative outcome if it wasn’t your fault? I don’t think so. No one loves your kids more than you- why would you knowingly make a poor choice for them? Keep your power and trust that you know what you & your baby need. Your body can grow your baby, can birth your baby, can provide milk for your baby. You can educate your children. You can advocate for them. The experience of keeping (or retrieving) your power will make you fierce. As all mamas should be.
Maybe I’m more of a feminist than I think.