Saturday, November 20, 2010

My new bumper sticker

I have a new-for-me car.  It has a virgin bumper.  I've been in search of the perfect bumper sticker for about 2 months.  Not an earth-shattering decision, obviously, but something I've been on the look-out for.  I don't want to have 20 stickers on my nice, shiny car, but I would like one...just one.

I considered something silly (Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup),  but I really wanted to say something important and thought-provoking.

I strongly considered an anti-circumcision bumper, but frankly, that's a really good way to start a nasty argument with most people, and I'm not sure a bumper-sticker slogan is really going to change most minds.  I drive clients around in my car, and that's not the conversation I should be having with prospective customers, as a rule of thumb.  Besides, there are so many other things that are important to me.

Breastfeeding...ok, maybe....religious tolerance, music in schools, peace, the importance of treating others with respect - how the heck do you boil all of that down to a 2" x 6" piece of plastic?  I thought about having one made that said "Babies are People Too", but I care about people of all ages, and frankly, most folks don't treat adults all that well.

Then, yesterday morning, I saw it on my neighbor's car.

I have spent my $2 and it will be coming in shortly.  There's the crux of my parenting and societal philosophy.  Thank you, Mr. Douglass, for this small piece of your wisdom.

It is easier to support breastfeeding than pay for the health consequences of formula-feeding for the masses.  You can help a mom breastfeed her baby - so much easier than treating asthma, auto-immune conditions, obesity and the rest.

It is easier to get up multiple times in a night with a newborn than treat an adult with anxiety and depression, whose earliest memories were of being left alone when they were crying for help.

It is easier to leave a penis alone, rather than repair a penile adhesion, restore a foreskin, or treat erectile dysfunction.  It is easier to tell a child that you left the decision up to him, rather than apologize if he is not happy with your choice.

It is easier to use gentle discipline than deal with violence in an adult.

It is easier to teach tolerance to a child than reform a teenage bully.

It is easier to invest in education than in prison systems.

"Easier" does not mean easy. 
None of those things are easy at the time - they're so hard that you might not be able to do them all, every time.  That's ok - we're human.  I've only been at it for 9 months, and I've already messed up on quite a few...that doesn't mean I'm going to give up trying.  Ultimately, over a lifetime and in a society, it's easier than the alternative.

I'm trying to keep my long-term glasses on.  I'm not trying to raise a "good baby" or an "obedient child."  I am trying to raise a strong, courageous, compassionate man...who just happens to be 29 inches tall right now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nurse-Ins are for EVERYONE

Often, the only outspoken lactivists are mothers who are currently nursing their children, or have nursed them in the past.  The lactivist community is strong, but insular - demonstrations are often nurse-ins, and understandably, conversation in lactivist groups tends toward the ins-and-outs of being a nursing mother.

Breastfeeding is more than a mom's issue.  It's an everybody issue.

Right now, there's a controversy spreading on Facebook, across the internet, in cafes, stores and churches.  Facebook has recently banned a number of users for posting photos of themselves breastfeeding.  They have deleted an event for a national "Nurse-In", which calls for mothers to post breastfeeding pictures.  Why?

"It's obscene."

I cannot breastfeed my son.  I'd love to post a picture of our brief nursing time, but alas, I didn't capture one at the time.  My husband can't breastfeed, my mom is way past that, and I don't have any friends who are currently breastfeeding their kids.  Nonetheless, I support nursing moms, and their right to feed their babies wherever and whenever the baby needs food.

So, why would I care?


Nursing in public prevents angry, screaming babies.  I hate listening to babies cry hysterically.  It's the worst sound in the world - give me fingernails on chalkboard any day.  Every instinct in my body drives me to find the sound of the screaming child and fix it.   Evolution or God made people that way - we react strongly to the sound of a distressed child, our hormone levels changing, anxiety activated.  When I hear a truly upset baby, all I want to do is help.  If the child is hungry, the solution is simple - feed the baby.   I'd so much rather round the aisle in Target and see a nursing mom than have to hear her child screaming across the store.

Once upon a time, I traveled a lot for business.  When you board a packed plane, there are a few things you dread having in the seat next to you.... a smelly person, an exceptionally large person, and above all else....please.... not a baby!

Well, on one trip, I approached my seat and found a mother with her 18 month old son in her lap.  It was a 4 hour flight, and I was dreading every minute.  We took off, and he started to holler - ear pressure is no fun.  His mom made eye contact with me, popped out her boob, latched him on, and smiled.  I smiled back nervously...did she just do what I think she did?   Her son looked up at me past his mom's nipple and grinned.  I was a little shocked, but there was no screaming.  We chatted on and off during the plane ride, and every time the little one got fussy, she nursed him and he relaxed.  What a pleasure!

That was my first real experience with nursing.  At 23 years old.  What, you say?  It's not a typo.  I understood that, theoretically, women could breastfeed their children, but I had never actually seen it.  For realz.


I was 23 years old the first time I saw a mother nurse her child.  My mother breastfed me for a few weeks until her doctor told her that she didn't produce enough milk and I was going to starve.  She believed him, and formula-fed me and my younger brothers from then on.  Some of my earliest memories were of bottle-feeding my youngest brother.

I have dozens of cousins, and a large, close family.  During my childhood in the 80s and 90s, either none of them breastfed their children - or if they did, they did so in secret, hidden away in the spare room with the coats.  I never saw it, not once.  My baby dolls came with bottles.  Cartoons showed babies being fed with bottles.  I was raised to believe that's how babies are fed.  With a latex nipple on a tube.

So, when it came time for me to have children, I did research - and found out that breastfeeding is not just best, it's normal - it's how babies are supposed to eat.  All the time.  Babies were made to breastfeed.  Breasts were made for making milk.  Not filling out a bikini top.  I knew it was the right thing to do....but I didn't know how to do it.

I took a class. I read books.  Then it struck me - this is a normal thing to do.  Why did I have to take a class to learn how to do the "football hold"?  Why did I have to take a class to show me how to latch a baby on my breast?  The answer is simple - I had never seen it, up close and personal.  Is it any wonder how difficult breastfeeding was for me?

If you want to know why so many women attempt to breastfeed and fail, I would say to look there.  They didn't learn how, when they were 10 and first learning how to care for infants.  Why can't fathers support breastfeeding moms and give advice?  They never saw it, in real life or on TV. 

I later found out that 2 of my aunts did breastfeed my cousins.  They did it in spare bedrooms or the bathroom, because they were told or led to believe that nursing was "indecent" and "obscene." So, at the multitude of gatherings, all I ever saw, and all that millions of American children have ever seen, was a mother either bottle-feeding or sneaking off quietly to some dark room, away from the action, to perform this "disgusting bodily function."

Here's the truth.  Babies don't come with bottles in real life.  They come with boobs.  We are mammals, and mammals breastfeed their young.  Duh.


You don't ask the mother cat with kittens to "cover up" - right?

So, here I was, an expectant mommy, and I bought a nursing cover.  I'm sorry, these things are stupid.  If you're a breastfeeding dummy like me, nursing isn't "instinctual."  It's hard!  Getting the right latch is hard.  Getting the kid on the boob is a challenge at first.  Doing it blind is damn near impossible.  Yeah, yeah, some nursing covers have a hole at the top you can look down through - but their purpose is to reduce sight of breastfeeding.  Right?

Ok, let's see how a new mom, who has never actually witnessed a nursing mom do her thing (because it's gross and indecent and should be done in private only), attempt to get a proper latch with a cover.

Instructions for ensuring a proper latch:

1- The first step to a proper latch on is getting baby to open WIDE!  Brush baby's lips with your nipple to encourage him to open wide, as if yawning.
  (Oh yeah, sure.  I'll see his wide-open mouth with my x-ray vision.  With a cover on, I'm going to brush her nose with my nipple, not her lips!)

2 - Once baby's mouth is open wide, quickly pull him onto the breast by pulling the baby toward you with the arm that is holding him.  Make sure you move the baby towards you, and not move yourself towards the baby.
(Sure, no problem.  I'll just hope I'm pulling him in the right direction, and try to accomplish it one-handed, so I can keep this blanket in place....)

3 - The baby's gums should completely bypass the nipple and cover approximately one inch of the areola behind the nipple.  Make sure the baby's lips are everted.  Some baby's will tighten or purse their lips, especially the lower one.  If the lower lip is inverted (turned in), try simply pressing down on baby's chin to evert the inwardly turned lip.
(Forget x-ray vision.... now I need x-ray vision and a friggin MIRROR!)

 4 - Note how the baby's lips are correctly everted, and the mouth is open wide.  Also notice how much breast tissue has been taken in, almost the entire areola is in the baby's mouth. 
(Hmmm... can't see that areola through the blanket, can I?)

 That is mostly a "beginning" problem... what about later on?

I absolutely love this YouTube Video of an older baby's reaction to being covered...

See?  Not always easy.

Plus, returning to my point above, if nursing moms always cover up, little boys and girls have to learn about breastfeeding from a BOOK. 

Babies are people too.  They deserve to eat when they're hungry. and they deserve to enjoy their meals without a blanket over their heads.  Pretty simple stuff.


Sigh.  Again, a dumb idea from someone who's either never breastfed, or someone who never had problems.

First, when babies are super-little, bottle-feeding can cause "nipple confusion".  Just like it takes a mom some time to figure out how to breastfeed correctly, it takes babies some time.  Artificial nipples work differently than boobs.  They have one hole, boobs have multiple holes.  Breastmilk flows at different rates during a feeding, bottles flow at only one speed - fast!  Babies have to work at the boob.  They just have to open their mouths with a bottle.  If you introduce a bottle before a baby is fully established with breastfeeding, you can actually sabotage the breastfeeding relationship.  

Not all babies will take a bottle, either.  Choice #1 - food from the source, at the right temperature, starting out light and progressing to a thick, sweet dessert as the meal progresses.  Great company, skin-to-skin contact, and just the right fit.  Choice #2, your meal all mixed up, shooting out fast, either too hot or too cold.  Sure, it's still a steak dinner with cheesecake, but you're getting it through the drive-through.

Not all moms have a strong enough supply to pump and feed their baby the old-fashioned way.  To pull this off, she has to make enough food for breakfast and lunch at the same time, but still have enough in the "fridge" for lunch later on.  Pumping's not easy, either - you don't get the same amount from a machine as you do from a baby.

Even if Mom does become a pumping pro, it can change her supply to the other side of things, with engorgement and overproduction.  If you think nursing in public is gross, just wait till she whips out the pump!

NEWS FLASH: Breast milk is not shelf-stable.  It's milk.  Hello.  It has to be refrigerated once it's been pumped out.  So, if Mom's away from a fridge for longer than a couple hours, it's the boob or nothing.   And we're back to the screaming baby.

'Cause that's a nice, safe, clean and comfortable place to enjoy a meal.  

Did we forget?  Babies are people, too.

So, nursing moms, keep it up. Whip it out.   
Feed your babies.

Nurse in public.  In church.  At the store, in an airplane, in the playground, at the mall, at Christmas parties and birthday celebrations, in line for Santa, at a restaurant.  You're doing what's best for your baby, absolutely.

Just as important, you're showing that little girl at the next table over how to do it right.  You're teaching your nephew how to become a supportive father.  You're reducing noise pollution.  You're improving the public health.

You're saving the world, and I'm more than happy to hold your cape.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Advice for New Mommies

I spend time on a couple of Mommy Boards, and I asked for a few pearls of wisdom from the groups for a friend who is expecting in a few weeks.  I figured I'd post their responses here, for the world (or my tiny piece of it anyway) to enjoy.

Credit for the silly baby instructions goes to "Safe Baby Handling Tricks" by David and Kelly Sopp.  :)  Buy the whole book here.

"Every baby is different and what works for one won't always work for another. Follow your instincts!"

"Laundry/dishes/vacuuming/housework can all wait. Don't feel bad if you don't get off the couch all day if that's what you need to do for you and baby that day, and don't try to stay up late to make up work that "should have" gotten done. Only worry about taking care of yourself and your baby. Get help if you can, from your husband, family, friends, or a postpartum doula."

"I wish someone had told me how amazing BabyWearing was and that I should get a stretchy wrap to start with from the beginning :)  I didn't get one until finding this board and my son was 5 weeks old at that time.  I was so excited to have 2 hands when I was wearing him!"
"I wish that someone would have told me that in the beginning breastfeeding is pretty much non-stop and that it is OK to be couch bound or bed bound for the first few weeks...however this is the same reason that I wish I had known about using a wrap- I was able to breastfeed and move about a bit- which felt a bit freeing after 5 weeks of being couch bound :)"

"Trust your instincts; nobody knows your baby better than you do."

"Trust your instincts and enjoy your baby.   So many people offer so much advice and they are only tiny for a short time...enjoy it and don't worry about when your baby is sleeping through the night or if he is spoiled.   Smile and nod at everyone's advice...or better yet...say "Thanks but no thanks"  unless you ask."

"It goes way too quickly - don't wish your child's life away (i.e. I can't wait for him to smile, roll, etc).  Savor every minute that you have - enjoy the now."

"I wish someone had told me to do whatever I needed to to calm a fussy baby....when he was itty bitty and crying all night, I thought it was "cheating" to put him in the swing and I never considered wearing him.  I thought I should be able to comfort him by rocking / singing to / walking / bouncing him.  That seems so incredibly silly to me now, I can't imagine why I thought that."

"Spend the first few days as a family. People will come over and want to visit, but your priority needs to be bonding with that baby!  I see so many new moms exhausted (even more than normal) because all these people come over and watch the baby sleep and then guess who is not sleeping all night because they need to eat?  I encourage them to give people a timeline, and other than that couple of "visiting hours' nobody can come over!"

 "Ignore the clock.  Cover them up if you have to.  Sleep at 4pm, watch a movie at 2am, do whatever works.  Clocks are not your friends right now and they will probably only frustrate you.  Feed the baby when she's hungry, try to sleep when you can, no matter what time it is."

"Do whatever is right for you and your family. If that means sleeping with a baby on your chest or choosing to formula feed vs. breastfeeding. Do whatever you need to do to survive.  "

"If baby is crying, try a hair dryer, it's the only way I can get my son to take a nap. I wish I learned about it earlier. Wear your baby as much as possible if you want to get things done around the house or if baby won't nap. For a while, my son would only nap if I wore him."

 "Family and friends mean well.  But don't let them make you second guess yourself.  And if it becomes too overwhelming having people around ask them to leave for a while.  Even if they're staying with you.  Send them out grocery shopping or to see a movie."

"Sleep when they sleep, don't wake them up to feed them, let them sleep, get out of the house if you want to, ignore advice of others if you want to, listen to the doctor (call even if you think it might be a silly question), ask questions (even if you think they are silly), allow others to help you (watch the baby, make dinner, clean), let your husband be a part of it all, take lots of pictures, and fill out that baby book!"

"Trust your instincts and do what feels right. The first couple weeks (and months for that matter) are a battle to find a routine but it does get better. People mean well, but that doesn't make them right."

"The quicker you get the baby in the night, the quicker they fall back asleep after feeding."

"Nap when the baby naps. Use this time to catch up on sleep, tv, or whatever that relaxes you.  Don't be tempted to do chores!"

"Don't be afraid to tell people NOT to come over. When my daughter was born I was so overwhelmed by people coming over to visit her/us. They all meant well but it was just more trouble than it was worth with everything else going on...I'll change that next time for sure!" 

"Sleep when you can, if you don't get anything done around the house for 2 weeks oh well. You have a new baby and its mommy and baby bonding time. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your husband, in laws or friends. Trust me, my husband knew more about my pump and my boobs then he would have ever wanted to know."

"Try new things with baby to calm them, going outside (weather permitting) will not hurt them, it's good to get fresh air."

"Listen to what others say, but pick and choose the advice you want to use."

"Try not to stress too much over breastfeeding, it's not good for your supply and the baby can feel it. Relax and go slow, and you will eventually get it. I will be the first to say... Its not easy.  That said it's also not for everyone. Don't feel guilty about going to formula of you just can't do it. Whats important is that baby is getting enough to eat."

"If you can, relax and assume that babies know what to do and take your baby's lead on everything.  As long as s/he's eating, peeing/pooping, and growing, s/he's fine.  Try not to compare to the "average" baby or babies you know."

"Make sure you always have a drink for yourself, a source of entertainment, and a burp cloth within arm's reach and that your position is comfy before starting to breastfeed."

"Point the penis down before you secure the diaper.  And always keep in mind that an undiapered boy is a loaded weapon.  Oh, and move from NB to size 1 diapers when your baby starts peeing more volume even if they still fit in NB- I swear my son started sleeping longer after that change just from the added absorbency."

"Try to put the baby down for a nap when s/he is drowsy or showing signs of fatigue not just when s/he is completely out.  Doesn't always work, but saves a ton of time for you when it does."

"Get out of the house early and often for your own mental health.  It's an undertaking the first few times but gets easier and easier.  Take a ton of pictures and enjoy every stage because the time goes SO fast!"

"Don't give a second thought to what you or your baby "should" be doing.  Do whatever works for you and screw what everyone else is saying.  Don't be afraid to stand up for what you are doing.  It's your baby, not your mom's, not your sister's, not your aunt's, not your grandma's, not your best friend's.  So do what you want, not what they want."

"The first 6 weeks (sometimes more) are pure survival.  Allow yourself to let go of the outside responsibilities like cleaning the house and keeping on top of the laundry, and don't feel guilty about it.  For the first month and a half or so, the only time I ever did laundry was when my nursing bras and tanks needed to be washed.  Basically my laundry during that time consisted of the same nursing bras/tanks, yoga pants, and hoodies.  My husband was on his own.  And we ordered in food a majority of the time.  There was no cooking.  I felt horribly guilty about it at the time, but now I wish I would have given myself permission to just let it all go!  I certainly won't be worried about that crap this time around."

"If you have someone over that you trust don't be afraid to let them love on the baby for a bit while you go shower, take a nap, use the bathroom, or just take sometime to yourself.  Some of my favorite visitors were those that I didn't feel like I needed to entertain.  When my best friend came over it was so nice handing her the baby and saying "I'm going to jump in the shower, be back in 20 mins."

"Even though it seems so hard at first, I promise it does get better. :)"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The "Lemonade" of Formula Feeding

Sometimes, life gives you lemons.  When it comes to breastfeeding David the 9th, I got a big old pile of lemons.  I breastfed him for 2 months, but had to stop due to my own life-threatening medical issues.

If I could control the universe, I would still be breastfeeding my son. Even with all these "honorable mentions." I wanted to breastfeed him SO badly that I ended up in the hospital! I will probably always feel guilty that my health cost my son and I our breastfeeding relationship, and if I could, I would be breastfeeding now, despite its challenges.

This is not a list of "10 reasons not to breastfeed", although it could be read that way. I try to live by that silly saying, "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade" - this list is my lemonade.

It is meant to be lemonade for other women like me who constantly feel guilt or sadness over feeding woes, to not just come to terms with formula-feeding, but enjoy what we have. I hope breastfeeding moms can appreciate this in the spirit in which it was written.  My next post will be all about why I support nursing in public and why I'm boycotting Nestle.  I plan to breastfeed my next child, if my body will allow it.

Also - because the subject has come up - I contacted 2 milk banks and found that not only was the milk $3-$4 per ounce,  it was only available to the sickest preemies.  My son is healthy, and I did not qualify.  I also posted on MilkShare's board, and sent money for "shipping" to someone who never sent me any milk.  That scared me off of milk donation from strangers; if I couldn't trust someone on the board not to steal my money, how could I trust them not to do drugs, drink, take medicines, or eat onions and garlic?  I don't have any friends or family who are lactating.  In addition to better support for nursing moms, I would deeply appreciate open access to clean, safe, donated breast milk.  I would much rather be using that than formula. 

The Lemonade of Formula Feeding

We all know that “Breast is Best”, but for some women, myself included, it’s either not possible or not appropriate, and we instead feed our babies formula.  The benefits of breast milk are well-documented, there’s a ton of information online about the benefits, and I am in no way underplaying them.  I support breastfeeding moms.

Nonetheless, when I stopped breastfeeding, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are real plusses to formula feeding for my family – and while they might not stack up, they certainly are worth honorable mention. 

A note – many of these benefits can be achieved with pumped breast milk, and should be if it is possible.  A little bit of breast milk is better than none at all; if you can feed your baby breast milk, please do!

1. I know exactly how much food my son is getting.

I constantly struggled with supply while breastfeeding.  My son always seemed hungry, and there was no easy way for me to tell if he was getting “enough”.  I counted wet and dirty diapers, but I never felt confident that he was getting enough food.   Pumping yielded 1-2oz per breast, but I was regularly told that pumping was a poor indicator of production.  Once a week, we went to the doctor for a weigh-in, but these results were varied.  I tried every method known to raise my supply with no luck (herbs and galactalogs and 9-hour pumping/nursing sessions, you name it).  I probably had these supply problems because of my serious health issues.

With formula, I know if he is getting enough to eat; there is no fear of dehydration or poor weight gain due to poor supply.  I know if he’s only had 2oz and will be hungry again soon, or if he’s filled up and will be good for a while.

2. Daddy can feed the baby.  So can anyone else.

My husband was happy when I stopped breastfeeding for a number of reasons (mostly because I didn't die), but one of the biggest was that he was able to feed our son.  When we switched to formula, we went to a split-night system; from 2am to sunrise, he was the “primary parent”.  I got to catch up on sleep, and he was in charge.  No handing baby to mama with “he’s hungry”; there was no excuse.  He became a better parent and a better husband.

Feeding my son is now a community activity.  He has been fed by his great-grandfather, his 8-year-old cousin, and our minister, and it is a joyful experience for everyone.   It is absolutely a bonding experience – not one that is restricted to just mommy.

3. I can feed my baby anywhere.

I support nursing in public - anywhere.  Unfortunately, not everyone else does (though they should, prudish morons).  I can happily feed my son in a restaurant, park, church, or anywhere else, and the only funny looks I get are from people who think formula is evil.  I did nurse in public while I was breastfeeding, but I was always (unfairly) uncomfortable exposing my breasts for the world to see, even if it was only an inch.   The bias against breastfeeding isn’t fair….but it’s nice not to have to deal with it.

It may seem a small benefit, but I can also feed my son in a moving car (while someone else drives, obviously).  This may seem trivial, but when you’re 30 minutes from your destination and stuck in traffic, it is a lifesaver!  I can mix up a bottle in the middle of a store without looking for a place to set up.  It is very convenient.

4.  I can eat or drink whatever I want. I can take whatever medicines I need to take.

If my son develops a food sensitivity or allergy, I will simply switch to a different formula.  If I want to have a margarita night with the girls, I can, without fear of damaging my baby or having to ‘pump and dump’.
Most importantly for me, I can take the medicines I need to take to stay healthy.  Not all medicine is safe for breastfeeding mothers, and there is not always an adequate alternative (in my case, I am on 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate and Remicade, category X drugs that pregnant women can't even touch).

Mom’s health is more important than her boobs.  Period.

5.  I have more freedom.

I can work outside of the home, and I don’t have to take 3 pumping breaks in my car.  I can head out to the grocery store to pick up eggs without looking at the clock.  My husband and I can go on a “date night” and leave baby with his doting Grammy without worrying about pumping or supply. 

6. My boobs don’t hurt.

I read everywhere during my pregnancy, “if breastfeeding hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”  Then I actually did it, and found out that the books were lying.  Breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful.  My nipples bled, blistered, and literally fell apart – even though our latch was fine.  My breasts would become engorged and ache.  I had bouts with thrush, clogged ducts and mastitis.  It wasn’t always painful – I had a lovely 2 week stint before my hospital stay where I didn’t cry during feedings – but I spent 2 months in hell, literally screaming when he first latched on, dreading his hunger cries.

There is no pain in feeding formula (unless you count the emotional pain, of which I've had a LOT).  None.  I was delighted to see my son’s first teeth, not terrified!

7.  My boobs don’t leak.

I made a quick trip to the store while breastfeeding.  A baby cried in the next aisle over, and I soaked through my nursing pads and straight through my shirt.  I was horrified, and my husband told me not to worry at all… it really was not a big deal. 

I’m still glad I don’t have to worry about leaking through my white shirt during my next performance of “Messiah.”  I also don’t leak anymore during sex.

8.  My son sleeps longer and better.

There.  I said it.  I know, research shows that on average, breastfed and formula-fed babies sleep the same, but my baby slept better with a full belly of formula.  Again, this was probably because of my supply problems, which most moms can work through with proper support.

The first day that my son was exclusively formula-fed, he slept through the night.  8pm until 6am.  Previously, he was up every 2 hours like clockwork.  We thought it was a fluke.  It was not – unless he is teething, in a growth spurt, or otherwise upset, he sleeps “like a baby”, and that phrase is no longer a sick joke.  So – not only does he sleep better, but obviously so do his parents!

9.  Formula’s not that expensive.  For me, it was cheaper than breastfeeding.

Luckily, my son isn’t a picky eater.  He likes Target Up & Up Organic formula, which costs $15 per can when you buy in bulk.  Each can makes about a week’s worth of bottles, for a cost of around $2 a day.  We spent $30 on bottles, for a total annual expense of $760, or less than my daily visit to Starbucks.  If you’re eligible for WIC, formula is even less expensive (though in my opinion WIC should also cover any and all breastfeeding expenses and it is a travesty  that they do not).

Conversely, I spent $350 on a breast pump, $50 on the special bottles that work with it, $600 on 3 visits to a lactation consultant, $90 on prescriptions for thrush and mastitis, $50 on lanolin creams and special ice packs, $30 on a breastfeeding pillow, and $200 on nursing bras and tops, for a whopping total of $1360.  I spent this in 2 months.

10.  I am a happier, healthier, and better mother.

This is the biggest and most important benefit for me.  Instead of being sleep-deprived, in pain, and anxious, I am confidently enjoying being a mother.   I do not dread feeding my son; I look forward to it.   I am healthy, taking the medicines my body needs to be strong.   I am enjoying him more, and I am a better mother for it.  I thank formula for saving my life, and for improving its quality.

UPDATE: I have reached out (thanks to the wonderful commentators on this blog) to my local Eats on Feets organization, asking for donor milk.  No bites yet, but I am hopeful.  Huge thanks to Emma Kwasnica for her hard work in creating this new organization - I look eagerly forward to seeing this take off.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

50 Reasons to Leave It Alone

Your son's penis, that is.
DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man" - Did you ever notice that he has his whole penis?

I know, talking about baby penises seems like a strange choice for a blog post.  I used to think that penises came in two varieties, circumcised and uncircumcised....but education is a powerful thing.  Now, I know that they only come in one style - Natural - and we, as parents, choose to alter what God or Nature or Evolution or The Great Spaghetti Monster created.

Why am I calling "uncircumcised" penises "natural"?  Most of the "intactivist" culture uses the word "Intact", which is also accurate, but really, an uncircumcised penis is exactly that - natural.  

Just like women without breast implants have "natural" boobs, or a person has their "natural" nose before a nose job.   It's the way nature made it - therefore, a natural penis.  Does that mean a circumcised penis is unnatural?  Yes, it does.  

I do want to note that I'm not anti-circumcision.  If an adult man wants to modify his body, that is his choice and I support it - just as I would support a woman who wanted labiaplasty, or anyone who wanted to stretch their earlobes or tattoo their body.  I am opposed to the routine circumcision of infants for non-medical reasons.

So, here are 50 reasons to leave your son's penis alone and not let a doctor cut it up.

1.) It's his.

2.) I've never met a man who wanted "less" penis when he was old enough to care.  Men tend to like their penises just the way they are.

3.) You can change your mind.  It's not possible to "un-circumcise", although there are men who have chosen to restore their foreskin later in life.  If you're not sure, don't decide at all.   It's a non-decision.  :)

4.) There is no medical reason to do it routinely.

5.) Circumcision isn't the majority for newborns anymore.  According to the New York Times, the infant circumcision rate is down to 32%.  That means 68% of your son's locker room will likely have natural penises.  If you circumcise, he will probably ask you why he's different from his buddies.

6.) Natural penises are easier to take care of during the diaper-changing years.  Just wipe it like a finger.  No retracting, no mess or fuss.  Compare that to having to care for an open wound in a diaper.

7.) You wouldn't cut your baby girl's genitals.  In fact, it's illegal - even a "nick" is illegal.  Male circumcision is a lot more involved than a nick!

8.) Many doctors and nurses refuse to perform the procedure because it violates the Hippocratic Oath - First, Do No Harm.

9.) It hurts.  A lot.  Really.  Don't believe me?  Watch a video.  With the sound up, please.  If you can't watch the whole thing, can you really ask your newborn to go through it?

10.) Babies can't be properly anesthetized.  An older child or adult would be given anesthesia and strong pain medication after any kind of operation, especially one on their genitals.  Babies can't have the same level of anesthesia and after-care medicine that an older child or an adult would receive.

11.) Did you know?  Infant circumcision rates are less than 10% in the following counties: England, France, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, all of South and Central America, Japan, China, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and more.

Infant circumcision rates are higher than 10% in the following countries: USA, Israel, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon,  Yemen, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, and Kenya. 

12.) Men with natural penises are less likely to experience Erectile Dysfunction as they age.  Translation - your son will be less likely to need Viagra when he's 55.

13.) Female sexual partners of men with natural penises are more likely to achieve orgasm during sexual intercourse.  They are also less likely to need lubricant.

14.) There are over 20,000 nerve endings in the foreskin.  That's more than in the female clitoris.

15.) The foreskin protects the head of the penis.

16.) The foreskin provides lubrication during sexual intercourse.  Men with natural penises are less likely to use lubrication during sex or masturbation.

17.) No major medical organization on earth recommends routine circumcision of infants.

18.) It's easy to clean when he's older.  Shower.   Besides, by the time his foreskin is retractable, (average age, 10.4 years old), you will no longer be cleaning his penis.  I hope.

19.) Circumcision does not prevent AIDS, or any other STD. Condoms do.  Having sex with one, monogamous partner and avoiding IV drug use prevents AIDS.  Why would you assume your baby's going to be a man-whore anyway?

20.) We don't chop off ears to prevent ear infections.  We don't remove baby toenails to prevent fungal infections.  We don't cut off body parts anymore when a wound becomes infected.  In the very unlikely event your son does develop an infection, we have antibiotics. 

21.) Circumcision in the US began as a method to discourage masturbation, advocated by Kellogg, the cereal magnate, who also believed in the importance of daily cold enemas.  Really - true story!! He stressed that circumcision should be done without anesthesia so boys would remember the pain every time they wanted to masturbate.   How'd that work out?

22.)  Natural penises only "look funny" to you if they are unfamiliar to you.  Your son's generation will see them as normal.

23.) Women produce far more smegma than men, but we don't cut off their baby girl labia to keep things "clean."

24.) Your son will respect you for leaving the decision up to him, and for respecting his right to genital integrity.

25.) Complications of circumcision are NOT rare. Check out this thread on (a mommy board, not a circumcision website) to read their stories.

26.) Most hospital circumcisions are performed by Obstetricians and Gynecologists, whose specialty is female reproduction, not male.

27.) Circumcision is not usually performed in a sterile operating room, but in a dirty nursery or a side room in hospitals without nurseries.

28.) Circumcision makes money for doctors.  A doctor who performs circumcisions makes an extra $20,000-160,000 per year on the operations.  That's why they offer circumcision at hospitals - for cash.  They'll ask you if you want your son circumcised multiple times at the hospital: they want the money.

29.) Less than 1% of men with foreskins will ever "need" to be circumcised, just as the vast majority of women will never need a hysterectomy or mastectomy.  We don't remove tonsils or fingernails or anything else at birth "in case" it has a problem.

30.) Penile cancer causes 300 deaths a year, almost exclusively in men over the age of 70.  Infant circumcision causes over 500 deaths a year worldwide.  Circumcision does not prevent penile cancer.

31.) Babies with foreskins are more likely to breastfeed successfully.  Infant circumcision interferes with breastfeeding and hinders breastfeeding success.  Isn't breastfeeding hard enough?

32.) Fathers don't spend time comparing penises with their sons.  If your son does notice that his penis is different from Dad's (other than size and hair), you can simply explain that Daddy had an operation when he was a baby.  My dad lost half of his ring finger in an accident, but I was never bothered by having all of my fingers.

33.) Your grandfather (or great-grandfather) probably wasn't circumcised, unless you are of Jewish or Muslim descent.  It's a relatively new thing in the USA.  Abe Lincoln and George Washington had foreskins.

34.) Most circumcised penises have scars.  If you've ever seen a circumcised penis, you have probably seen circumcision scars and didn't know what they were.  Curious?  Click here for pictures (adult eyes please, extremely graphic).

35.) When erect, natural penises don't look very different from circumcised ones (adult eyes please)

36.) Babies have died following complications of circumcision.

37.) Babies have had the glans (head) of their penis accidentally amputated during circumcision.

38.) Female circumcision was legal in the United States until 1985.  It was practiced in the USA as recently as the 1979 to prevent masturbation.

39.) Your health insurance may not cover the procedure.  Medicaid does not cover it in 16 states, and many major insurance companies also do not reimburse for the surgery, since it is cosmetic.  If your insurance doesn't cover it, it probably also does not cover any complications.

40.) Babies are strapped down on a circumstraint to have the procedure done.  That is the most unnatural, terrifying position for a baby, who previously was all curled up and safe inside Mama's body.

41.)  If you believe in evolution, why are men born with foreskins?  If you believe in God, why did he give men foreskins?  Did they screw up?

42.) If you are Christian, your religion actually *forbids* circumcision.  Your son's body is a temple, and Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices - including the foreskin.  See this link for more info.

43.) If you are Jewish, you should know that there is considerable debate about the religious necessity of circumcision. 

44.) If you do believe that your religion requires the sacrifice of the foreskin, your son can choose to sacrifice his foreskin in the name of religion when he is old enough to make the decision himself.

45.) The foreskin is fused to the head of an infant's penis, just like your fingernail is fused to your finger.  Have you ever pulled back your fingernail all the way?  Owwwwwwwwwwwww.

46.) Circumcision makes penises smaller.  Who wants a smaller penis?

47.) "My partner should make the decision, he has a penis/she looks at penises" is a dumb reason to abdicate responsibility for a decision.  You are your baby's parent, penis or not, and you have a responsibility to protect your child from harm.  Victims of FGM (aka female circumcision) are the most vocal supporters and perpetrators of the abuse.  Call on your inner Mama or Papa-bear and stand up for your baby's rights.  Make your partner watch a video with the sound on and convince YOU why they want this done to their precious child.

48.) You have seen an uncircumcised penis, and you probably didn't even notice.  Take a look at this (safe for kids) picture!

49.) He'll be in good company.  Check out this (in my opinion, mouth-watering) gallery of famous intact men!  From Elvis, James Dean, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law and sooo many others.
 Jensen Ackles, my personal favorite.

50.) It's his.  I know, I said it already. but it's really the first and last reason - and perhaps the only one you really need.  It's his body, and unless medically necessary, it should be his choice.  You wouldn't give him a nose job without his permission, you wouldn't tattoo your infant.  This is the same thing.  If you really look at your motives, why would you want to take the risks?  Leave the decision where it belongs - in your son's hands.