Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Formula Factory: Nutrition or Baby Junk Food?

In the past few weeks I have been following the infant formula case of a 10 day old infant who died from consuming bacteria infested formula sold in a Missouri Walmart store. My heart broke when I heard the headline and I decided it was time to do some research on the ingredients many mamas are feeding their babies during the first year of life.

Before infant formula was attempted in the late 1800's, most women used wet nurses to feed their babies if they were unable to breastfeed themselves. In 1915 the first powdered formula was developed, marketed and sold by pediatricians to women who could not or did not want to breastfeed. It was interestingly called "dry nursing". As the years progressed more research and understanding entered the arena of baby formula but the duplication of human breast milk was never achieved. By the 1970's the evaporated milk formulas had all but disappeared and the major game players took over the market with their brands of Similac and Enfamil. During this era over 75% of infants were fed with marketed baby formula largely due to the introduction of free samples given at the hospital and formula being fed to the infant while in the nursery.

All formulas sold in the U.S. are regulated to contain the same density of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but the problems lurk in the additives and preservatives that are used.
Melamine is a chemical which is combined with formaldehyde to make resins, Formica countertops and other household products. It is included in small amounts in formula to imitate plant proteins but a very small dosage causes death in laboratory rats. In 2008 there was a Chinese formula scandal where too much melamine was included in a batch of formula and 300,000 infants were affected with nearly 1,000 hospitalized and 6 infants dead from kidney failure. In soy based formulas phytoestrogens are added which can cause abnormal development in children. In 2010 Similac was recalled due to a "small common beetle" being found in some containers of their formula. Aspartic and glutamic acids are included in all of the name brand formulas. These acids are essentially MSG and are harmful to any humans, especially infants. MSG causes endocrine disorders such as obesity, reproductive problems and learning disabilities in children.
Below you will find the ingredients in bold type that are the ones in question in a few of the major formulas on U.S. shelves today.

Nestle Carnation Good Start (Easy to Digest Comfort proteins) enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals, whey protein concentrate (from cows' milk), vegetable oils (palm olein, soy, coconut, high-oleic safflower), lactose, cornmaltodextrin..

Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Formula Water, corn syrup solids....casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch...carrageenan, L-cysteine....

Ross Isomil Soy Formula with Iron Water, corn syrup, sugar, soy protein isolate...modified cornstarch...carrageenan...

MeadJohnson Enfamil with Iron Reduced minerals, whey,nonfat milk...carrageenan...
Studies have found infants in developed countries who consume formula are at increased risk for acute otitis media (ear infections), gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infections, dermatitis, asthma, type 1 diabetes, SIDS, eczema and autism when compared to infants who are breastfed.
All of these formulas are inspected by the FDA to be safe and a good alternative to breastfeeding, but in truth, are they really? In reality they are highly processed foods that are put through a six step process to mix, pasteurize, homogenize, standardize, package and sterilize before they even reach the shelves. Are we essentially feeding our infants junk food when we could be giving them exactly what they need to learn and grow with human breast milk? Would we even conceive of giving our six month old a bag of chips, an Icee and a frozen pizza for their lunch? It sounds ridiculous, but the ingredients in many formulas are like unto taking your child to a greasy Chinese restaurant day after day or letting them belly up to the convenience store bar, so to say.

In the U.S. formula is heavily marketed and given for free to nearly every woman who births in a hospital. It is also free to low income women on the WIC program, which constitutes nearly 1/3 of our population.
The World Health Organization developed an international health policy for breastfeeding promotion called the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in hopes of encouraging all mothers to educate themselves and be self reliant and do what's best for their infants by breastfeeding. Their aim is to have truth in marketing and to encourage formula companies to have labels that include the superiority of breast milk. They oppose the free sampling of formula in hospitals and they encourage formula companies to only use safe, nutritious and whole ingredients. Many major U.S. infant formula companies are in violation of this code and since it is not legally enforceable, refuse to abide by it.

As we watch the unfortunate headlines and educate ourselves about the ingredients used in infant formula we see a pattern of insanity. Nestle, Mead Johnson and other companies are not using completely safe ingredients, are continuing to use preservatives and additives that are harmful and will clear the shelves from time to time and then do the same thing all over again. This is the definition of insanity and we as consumers should be smarter and think more deeply about what we are feeding our precious newborns and how it will affect them throughout their lives.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Birth Advocate

I have had writer's block for the past few months, as you can see from the lack of posts since June. I have to admit that I am personally struggling with my full time job as an elementary art teacher while my soul yearns to be a midwife once again. It has been a full year since I caught a baby and I feel the heaviness of that emptiness in my life.
Case in point: We were at a friend's birthday party on Saturday and my friend introduced me as a "used to be midwife" and then she must have seen the horror on my face as she quickly reintroduced me as "a midwife who is a full time teacher right now". I do prefer the latter introduction, but the first one may be just as accurate, albeit heart wrenching.
In my school day I get to teach many of the babies I once helped welcome into the world and this always makes me smile when I remember that connection. I also had an arts night last week for my school and at one point in the room there were four families who at one time called me their midwife. Remembering these facts makes my heart swell!
I feel an inner conflict about this brewing in my soul and I know that this is something that I will always keep close, whether it be in a midwifery practice or by being a birth advocate, but I can't quite get comfortable in my skin right now with the lack of birth activity.
I feel an immense responsibility to continue writing this blog and educating women on natural birth and health issues, so I will forge ahead. I appreciate your loyalty for staying with me during these past months of silence. A blog is supposed to be a channel for writing, but when the author gets a block then things get stuck and stale. Therefore, the lack of posts.
Please hang tight, if you will, and let me get my mojo back about being a "birth advocate" and not a currently practicing midwife. In my heart it still stings to hear that, but in my head I know it is reality. My commitment to women, babies and natural childbirth ways has not waned and if I must look on the bright side of things, I must say the flame has not died, but only burns brighter. Here's to many more posts, more stories and research based information to keep women abreast of support and natural options! Happy November to all of you!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

State of the World's Mothers Report 2011

Greetings to all of you birth advocates! It is already summer and I finally find myself able to relax and enjoy my family and time once again!
I just came across the State of the World's Mothers Report published by Save The Children. It is full of interesting and surprising facts that continue to boggle my mind in this day and age. The 12th annual Mothers' Index analyzes health, education and economic conditions for women and children in 164 countries. Norway ranks #1 this year and Afghan ranks last. The United States comes in at #31, with the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized nations! This means that one in every 2,100 women will die due to childbirth complications. Wow! What does this say about our ultra clean, ultra safe hospitals and high tech baby nurseries? We seem to be getting it all wrong. Norway ranks #1 because of their education of women, lower birth rate, generous maternity leave policies and lowest maternal and child mortality rates.
In "Childbirth Without Fear" by Grantly Dick-Read, one of the most influential and powerful books in the past 100 years, it states that 90% of the fear, tension and complications of pregnancy and childbirth can be eliminated with education of the mother. If the mom is curious, aware and understands the process of childbirth she will help her body's natural processes and not stand in the way to hinder it. The more educated women are the more they seem to aid their birth with knowledge and understanding, not fear.
Most women in the United States have a "take care of me" mentality. They don't want to know what will happen to them during the birth process and they think their care provider will take care of them and safely deliver them through it. There is no personal responsibility put on them by their doctor to become educated about birth or meet them half way with understanding and an acceptance of the process. This attitude and behavior invites the tension-fear cycle which leads to complications and interventions that snow ball and lead to bad outcomes and high mortality rates.
This report is very interesting and eye opening and continues to point to the downfalls in our hospitalized birthing practices. The sacredness has been taken out of birth and institutionalized. The power of the process has been taken from the birthing mom and given to the doctors and nurses instead. We are continuing down a path that is unsafe and ignorant.
As natural childbirth advocates we must educate each other and choose more wisely. We must be the leaders of change in our mass media culture. Birth is sacred. It is inherently safe. Only when we alter the natural path of birth do we find that one in every 2,100 women will have to die for our ignorance.
One of my most favorite quotes is by Harriette Harttigan who said, "Birth is as safe as life gets." Women are designed to give birth without complication and coercion from an outside source. When we forget the power and sanctity of birth we fall to #31 on the maternal safety rankings.
Here's the link so you can check it out for yourself;

Friday, April 8, 2011

Savor The Moment

Today as you run down the list of all of your "to-do's" just remember this quote:

Overdoing leaves insufficient time for savoring.

I don't remember where I found this, but it has been a daily mantra since I wrote it on a sticky note and put it near my computer. Yes, there is much to be done each day and as women we feel it is our duty to do it all, but remember to savor each moment, stop to listen or give support and slow yourself down!
As I find myself to be the ring leader of my family and to my community of clients, I wish I would remember more often to take a few breaths, slow myself down and just give myself a small space to cherish the moment and stop running from one thing to the next.

As you walk your journey today, remember this wonderful quote and let it infiltrate your life and your choices. It does make a difference in who we are as we strive to serve others.

Monday, February 21, 2011

End Unnecessary Hysterectomies!

For the past few weeks I've been researching online the statistics and trends of current hysterectomy surgeries. The results are shocking and have left me with a 'punch in the gut' type of reaction. I began this blog a few years ago as I studied the trends and effects of natural child birth in our medical world. As a home birth midwife, I saw firsthand, the detrimental effects our medical community has upon women and babies. I believed it was my responsibility to give voice to what was happening all around us and to show that women are still being mistreated in hospitals everyday despite our advancements in medicine and the counter intuitiveness of it all.
Now as I delve into another woman's issue I have found a similar medical mentality that is detrimental to women's well being and reasoning for surgery that is unsupported by research.
In a 2010 article published by The Berkeley Electronic Press and written by Patricia Quintilian, Unnecessary Hysterectomy: The Lack of Informed Consent, it states that "the root of the problem is the monopoly of the American Medical Association and its lack of oversight, doctor review and a contrived shortage of physicians to keep medical costs soaring." A large part of their guarantee of monopoly power is through arresting paramedics, nurses and midwives who are doing their jobs and convicting them of "practicing medicine without a license". This ensures that only the elite few will have the privilege and right to practice medicine with a license and all else are criminals. There are medical boards and oversight committees that are supposed to handle complaints and remove bad doctors, but these are usually physician dominated, understaffed and ill equipped to handle the amount of complaints pending. This club of doctors is not unlike a fraternity that takes care of each other, whether in the wrong or right, while there is a strong brotherhood of protection to keep them together.
Knowing the basic structure of the medical community helps put the physician's opinions and recommendations into clearer perspective when it comes to major surgery decisions. Having a long history of sexual prejudices with women being the "weaker sex" and "more emotional" all tie into where we are today with women's health. Women visit doctors seven times more than men and are prescribed 50% more drugs. Women have more operative procedures done on them and their female organs are operated on 3.5 times more frequently than those involving the prostate or male urinary health. Any coincidence in a male dominated profession?
Hysterectomies are now the most common surgery in the United States while five of the ten next most common surgeries are obstetrical-gynecological. If the present hysterectomy rates continue 62% of all women in the US will have had their female organs completely removed by the time they are seventy years old and it is estimated that nearly 40% of these surgeries will be unnecessary!! Imagine, more than half of all the women you know having this major surgery and for what good reason???
Today's physicians are in a disagreement over what exactly constitutes the need for a hysterectomy, which allows them many various reasons to perform them 'legitimately' to their colleagues, yet unnecessarily to women's well being when many other less invasive alternatives exist. Hysterectomy complications include a string of awful complications, including; shock, heart disease, bladder and ureter injury, inability to void, gastrointestinal complications, nerve injury, depression and sexual dysfunction. Many doctors today will tell you these are minor and rare complications, yet 55% of all women under the age of 40 have suffered from depression and 46% have found an adverse affect upon their libido and sexual satisfaction following surgery.
Most of these surgeries are elective and scheduled ahead of time, which means they are not life threatening and can be postponed. Only 15% of hysterectomies are done because of gynecological cancer, yet physicians will tell you having a hysterectomy isa good preventative to uterine or ovarian cancers. There is less chance that a woman will die from uterine cancer than from a hysterectomy!
The research is shocking and eye opening and it reconfirms my passion for understanding all aspects of medical decisions before accepting them as "doctrine". Just as I have done the research for the effect of epidurals on mothers and babies and the soaring rates of cesareans performed in this country, now I add unnecessary hysterectomies to my list of unacceptable and irresponsible medical care for women. Certainly there are many women who have benefited from hysterectomies that were properly diagnosed and correctly performed, but what about the huge margin of error for those who had the surgery and now suffer the many, unfortunate and debilitating consequences? Since the reasoning is simply a matter of judgment on the doctor's part, it stands to reason that the judgment might be self serving and influenced by non-medical factors.
Please urge your mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones to look at the issue from all sides and consider less invasive procedures first. Taking the entire female organs out of the body is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Sure, it will be a quick fix for whatever ails it fibroids, heavy bleeding, uterine prolapse, backaches, endometriosis...and the list goes on...but be smart and proactive with your health! Know the facts before you make a major decison and know what you're up against before you quickly decide.
I want all women to be smart and put themselves first when it comes to their health and major decisions, such as a hysterectomy. I hope this will help someone who needs some guidance. Pass it on and stay strong!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hysterectomy Epidemic!

Yikes! In the past few months I have heard about six women in my community who've undergone hysterectomies. My first question to them was; "Was it a necessary surgery right now?" and "What were your symptoms?"
Interestingly, the most common reason for removal of the female reproductive organs was that they were bleeding heavily during and between periods. As a midwife my mind went to wanting to find the source of their heaviness. Was it fibroids, cysts, endometriosis or rough handling of the organs during a hospital cesarean or birth? The reason for my strong suspicion on the latter reason is because I worked in a hospital for over a year as a professional doula. I was hired by the hospital to be on call to every laboring woman who walked in their doors. This meant I met the woman when she was at her worst socially and together we walked the labrynth of labor together, coming out victorious in the end. It was exhilarating, yet challenging, but I loved it! In the midst of being with hundreds of women and their obstetricians, I observed the most awful handling of women's bodies. It was shocking! It occurred mostly in those who had the epidural and were unable to feel anything down there and so they were unaware of how the doctor was treating them. I was appalled and disgusted at one doctor who took some liquid to "clean" the birth area as he stuck both hands inside her and sloshed things around roughly. I also witnessed episiotomies that were extremely liberal in length and depth and tools that were aggressively inserted in to pull the babies out. There were a few times I had to turn my head or move to the top of the bed to get through the delivery.
From these awful and disrespectful situations I am now wondering if this isn't the reason for an early hysterectomy. I can only imagine what your lower body goes through if it is drugged and unknowing during a delivery...and then to repeat that a few times over, it makes sense why women aren't able to keep their precious female parts.
I haven't done any research on the subject but from my experience it doesn't seem like a long shot. Women who give birth at home seem to keep their organs much longer. I don't know of one of my clients through the years who has gone in for a hysterectomy. I guess its time for some probing.
A hysterectomy epidemic? I'll gather the facts and get back to you...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Best Feeding

Last month as I took a vacation with my family to California a billboard caught my eye. It simply stated; "Babies are born to be breastfed." My heart leapt and my skin filled with goose bumps. Yes, babies are born to be breastfed! That's what our bodies are naturally and wisely made to do.
When I came home I found an article in the Salt Lake Tribune that pertained to the California billboard. It reported that Utah leads the nation in breastfeeding but that only 60 percent of moms do it for more than six months. What does this say about other states?
Do you know the many hidden benefits of breastfeeding? You may be surprised.
-mother's milk passes along antibodies to baby and lessens the chance of obesity and diabetes and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as well as, common colds, flus and viruses
-nursing babies' jaws are naturally formed at the breast and their speech is improved when they begin talking
-nursing babies are more quickly bonded with their mothers at the breast because of oxytocin which is released as the mother nurses
-nursing is the perfect distance from the breast to the mother's face for a newborn baby's eyes
to see and focus
-the longer a woman nurses throughout her life the less risk that she will have breast and ovarian cancer
-it's FREE!
-helps moms to reduce their pregnancy weight naturally and shrinks the uterus down to size
-reduces baby's risk of developing food allergies and asthma
-reduces the risk of postpartum depression
-increases baby's IQ
-reduces cavities
-it is the perfect nutrition for your growing infant
-it slows you down and allows more one on one time with your babe in arms
-it increases bone density
-breastfed babies are 10 times less likely to need hospitalization in the first year of life
-antibody response to vaccines are 10x higher than formula fed babies
-babies have a reduced risk of heart disease later in life
-reduced risk of acute appendicitis and arthritis for baby
...and the list goes on!!!
If we are so concerned with eating well in pregnancy and having a drug free and natural birth then we should be just as concerned with how we will feed our baby when it is born. In today's fast paced and self oriented world we must not forget to slow down and continue to give our babies the best of us after they are born.
I completely understand the difficult situation that arises for mothers who must work and who struggle to breastfeed their babies. Is there any way you could pump and stock up your breastmilk in the freezer for when its needed? Breastmilk stores for a year in the freezer and can easily be warmed in a bottle so baby gets the nutritional benefits of your milk even when you are away. You can rent electric pumps from most hospitals for a reasonable price and while you eat lunch you can plug it in and pump.
In a world where we are fighting for natural pregnancy and simple birth methods we must not forget to nurse our babies and continue to give them everything they need. It can be a sacrifice, but it is a worthy one. Just like everything else we must think wisely about what we are feeding these tiny ones and give them the best that we have. Breastfeeding is truly best feeding!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Empathy as a Midwife

Recently, I found myself telling my husband how interesting it is that I have so much empathy for the school children that I teach art to. I was musing how interesting it was that I have so much compassion for these students and wondering out loud where it all came from? He replied by saying that it was exactly like the empathy I carry for my midwife client mamas and why should this profession be any different for me? What a correlation he drew for me! I realized that even though I may not be in the throws of midwifery at this instant, that I'm still interacting with humans on a daily basis and forming relationships and this requires a great degree of empathy. As a midwife I would find myself amid situations or smells that were less than savory, but I wasn't ever repulsed by these things. Instead, my mind would see the situation clearly with the woman at the helm needing compassion and care and not criticism. My heart would always jump to the defense of the good and it was relatively easy for me to feel a great degree of compassion instead of contempt for these women and what they were going through.
Being a midwife requires that you take risks personally and professionally. It demands that you stick to your guns and remain passionate about what you are involved in. It requires that you enter in to relationships with wonderful and not so wonderful people and yet, treat them all the same. It calls to you in the middle of the night when the world is quiet and your mind is racing and quietly whispers to you the reason why you are going out on a limb for women and families. Midwifery has brought me to my knees, made me go to depths I wouldn't have chosen to go to and broken down my soul many, many times, but through it all, it has remained a constant, powerful force that reminds me of what it means to serve humanity and contain the empathy of the world in your heart. It keeps my soul alive and wanting and through the challenges and joys of dealing with women and men and children, it continues to call me to compassionate service. I consider midwifery to be my best friend. She has gently helped me to grow and become the woman I've always desired. She has been a constant in my life for the last 13 years and compassionately molded my soul through both challenges and triumphs. She has helped me to hold a compassion for all human beings by witnessing their challenges and pain first hand. Midwifery has been a wonderful teacher and for this I am so grateful. As I teach the children of my community art and humanity, may I remember the stories and women who have taught me how to be more compassionate and empathetic. Midwifery has a way of changing your perspective and revealing raw, human experiences to teach you all along the way. How did I become so privileged to partake of this great profession? I feel so grateful that I was led to midwifery many moons ago and that I allowed it to take hold of my heart. It has been a wonderful journey with many more lessons to learn, I'm sure. Mostly, I've been privileged to work with other compassionate women who have been teachers to me. I would love to hear how midwifery has increased your empathy for others, also. Please post your comments so we can learn from all of you wise women. Thanks for reading and good luck on your journey!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Top 50 Midwife Blogs!

Thank you to the website Health Nation! My blog was named on of the top 50 midwife blogs on the net! Check out this link to find other great blogging midwives out there!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Lazy Days of Summer

I missed a birth last week because of a family reunion I was traveling to. Ahhh...the so called "lazy" days of summer are not quite so lazy these days! I find myself wanting to do it all and be there for everyone and say yes to every new inquiry, but thankfully there is a little whisper of self preservation that calls out to me in these instances and helps to keep me balanced.
The call of duty is great and midwifery holds such a beautiful energy that envelopes your life when you are a part of it. The loveliness of the entire experience; attending births, talking to women and palpating swollen tummies is so addictive and tantalizing that even a few months of reprieve leave me wanting more. The richness that it brings to my life is unexplainable and having to be away from it more this year has been somewhat conflicting for me. I absolutely love teaching art to elementary school children and feel very passionate about doing so, but there is something even more magnetic to my soul than teaching and that is midwifery. If finances were out of the picture I would surely spend my days tending pregnant mamas and living out a midwife's life. There's nothing like that raw, beautiful experience that we call birth. The entire process is perfection and it is my privelege to be a part of it.
For today, I will hold my missed birth's baby in my arms and stay by the family's side as we walk through their postpartum days together. I will listen to that quiet inner wisdom when my phone rings and I feel overwhelmed by the weight of 'doing it all'. I hope that each of you are only doing what truly makes you happy and fulfilled, no matter what that entails. As women, we are the keepers of birth and we must strive to keep it pure and simple in our increasingly complex world. Thank you for reading and walking the path with me...I appreciate your collective support.