Friday, 4 December 2009

My thoughts on the tragic death of baby on airplane

There has been a lot of press in the last few days about the lady whose baby died of SIDS while on an airplane.

I'm not going to link to the actual news articles because frankly, I am disgusted about how this is being reported. Headlines that blame breastfeeding, when breastfeeding has NOTHING to do with how the baby sadly died. What message will this all give new parents? That co-sleeping is bad, and breastfeeding probably is too, because you might smother your baby.

What message SHOULD we be taking away from this tragic incident? Co- sleeping is safe when done properly. Teaching parents how to co-sleep safely with their babies is more productive than demonizing it.

I also read a comment on Annie's blog above which is apparently an eye witness account of what happened. The mother asked for privacy to breastfeed and was given a whole row to herself. I don't blame the mama in the slightest, as society tells us over and over again that breastfeeding is something that must be done in private, discreetly, etcetc. However I can't help thinking that if breastfeeding in public was more accepted and she was comfortable with breastfeeding with others around her that this probably would not have happened. Falling asleep with a baby on a row of airplane seats is a similar environment to falling asleep with baby on a couch - which is an unsafe sleeping environment.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Why I challenge the breastfeeding in public "haters"

(I won't go into all the reasons why it is important for mothers to be able to feed their babies in public. I went into that in great detail here.)

Twitter is an amazing resource. As a breastfeeding mother, one outstanding use for it is providing help to other mums who might be having a hard time with breastfeeding. There is a huge network of experienced mothers, lactivists, and trained LCs who can advise within seconds of posting. All you need to do is mention "breastfeeding" in your tweet and help is on its way! Wonderful, huh?

Case in point a lady stricken with swine flu recently posted that she had been advised to stop breastfeeding and give formula because the antivirals she had been prescribed were contraindicated whilst breastfeeding. Within seconds of tweeting this, she had been directed to various websites including one from the NHS which states that it is not only safe to breastfeed whilst on antivirals, but very important to continue to provide breastmilk to an infant who has been exposed to H1N1, because the antibodies being produced by the mother's body will help safeguard the infant and prevent hir from becoming sick.

So the question has been asked, how do people find tweets from people not on their friends list? Personally, I use Tweetdeck. It has the functionality of typing in a keyword search and leaving the column open so you get updates on any new posts mentioning breastfeeding, or any other word, just as you do your friends new tweets or your mentions.

The downside of this is that you also see a lot of tweets from people saying blatantly ignorant things about breastfeeding mothers and in particular breastfeeding in public. See my previous post. Sometimes, engaging a person in this way makes them think twice, providing them with some information about WHY people breastfeed their babies in public places gives them an insight. I've been thanked by some by giving my opinion and insulted and sworn at by others. Some people genuinely don't seem to understand that Twitter is a public resource and unless your tweets are protected, saying something inflammatory is like shouting it in a crowded room. Don't say offensive stuff unless you want to be called on it. Twitter isn't like Facebook, or a private blog, where unless someone is on your friendslist they can't see anything you post. If you can't personally handle this, I'd suggest posting any rants on an invite only blog, protected Twitter feed or Facebook where only your likeminded friends can read them.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Interview with a 5 year old (and his baby brother..)

Q1. Why did God make mothers? (modified question: What are mothers for?)

Seamus: Booba.
Noah: I don't know.

Q2. How did God make mothers? (modified question: How were mothers made?)

Both boys: Mmmmmmmm.. (completely stumped by this question)

Q3. What ingredients are mothers made of ?

Seamus: Biscuits. I want a biscuit as well.
Noah: Skin.

Q4. Why did God give you your mother and not some other Mum? (modified question: Why am I your mommy your mommy instead of another woman being your mommy?)

Seamus: Because.....*trails off*
Noah: To look after me.

Q5. What kind of little girl was your mommy?

Seamus: Like you.
Noah: I think you were quite good.

Q6. What did Mommy need to know about Daddy before she married him?

Noah: That you needed to be friends with him.

Q7. Why did your Mommy marry (choose) your Daddy?

Noah: Because you thought I would like him.

Q8. Who’s the boss at your house?

Noah: You are.

Q9. What’s the difference between mommies and daddies?

Noah: Mummies are small and daddies are big.

Q10. What does your mommy do in her spare time?

Noah: You have a day off. (Questioned what I do in my day off?) You do things.

Q11. What would it take to make your mommy perfect?

Noah: To dry your hair and put glasses on.

Q12. If you could change one thing about your mommy, what would it be?

Noah: Not put glasses on you. (I took my glasses off) You look beautiful Mummy.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Anti Breastfeeding Hate on Twitter

This is me. Breastfeeding my 2.5 year old son Seamus, and look! NO blanket. Because there is no way in hell he would wear one. And because well, honestly, how much flesh can you see? You might get a flash for a split second when I latch him on, but since he and my top cover most of it you'd have to be looking pretty hard to see anything.

I have breastfed two boys now, and this is my youngest. My oldest weaned at 21 months. I breastfed both of them everywhere right from early on. I used nursing rooms when I was first starting out because I was unsure of myself and inexperienced with it. Now, I really couldn't care less. I've never had a negative comment, several people have said that they didn't realise was I was doing until they looked closer. I've breastfed in doctors surgery and hospital waiting rooms, on park benches, in town, on the bus. I've never had so much as a dirty look.

Yet, get a bunch of people on a medium like Twitter, and some really nasty comments come out. I doubt they actually say this stuff to people to their face, I guess being behind a computer screen makes them feel somehow safe and protected from being called out on their bullshit. So for your pleasure, here's some tweets to myself and other nursing mamas. This is just in the last 24 hours. Names removed to protect the guilty.

@xxxx o my gosh what is youre fucking problem? get that creature off your nipple and put that shit away. WHAT THE FUCK

@xxxx is being a huge moron. its symbolic speach motherfucker. go put a bullet in your fucking head. #realfuckingtalk

@clairelouise2 i wanna see you cry a river of your own tears and have your baby drown in it. so u cannot do that in public ever again

@clairelouise2 today im fighting to make it against the law. FUCK LACTIVISTS. YOU JUST WANT ATTENTION. im the fucking MAN LETS GOO #realtalk

@xxxx @clairelouise2 are retarded cunts. @xxxx is right. they need to put their tits away before i take their babies away

Just saw a woman enjoy a breakfast sandwich while breastfeeding her baby. In starbucks. Eww go to the bathroom for that its disgusting

@xxxx @tbottv @xxxx @xxxx xxxx and clairelouise2..those were the fucking psycho bitch breatfeeding "lactavist"

@xxxx yeah... me and the majority of society has issues because we don't feel the need to see your tits

If your kid is old enough to say 'momma' clearly you shouldn't be breastfeeding!!

And the object of all this vitriol? A mother, breastfeeding her child, in a public place. And those that dare stand up and fight the ignorance of those who insist she do it out of sight, covered up, whatever.

So what is wrong with people insisting mothers go to the bathroom, stay at home, cover with a blanket? Well, I have noticed that most of these people are either childless, or have never breastfed a baby before. Breastfed babies have different feeding patterns to formula fed ones. They vary, but most eat VERY often. We're talking about hourly, sometimes even more especially at first. And the length of feeding also varies. My children both ate for 5-10 minutes at a time, about once an hour, but for some people it can take an hour or so to feed. It can feel in the first few weeks that nursing is ALL you do.

Nursing rooms are all very nice, but let's face it, how many of them are there, and how often are they taken by other people using the loo or preparing bottles, sitting around chatting etc. In my town there are *two* nursing rooms. Both have enough room for only one person/pushchair at a time, and they also have changing facilities in, so you can imagine they get queued up sometimes.
And then there's the option that one of our anonymous Twitter commenters mentioned above, which is using a public bathroom. Now I can't speak for all public toilets out there, but I can tell you now, the ones here are pretty disgusting. They stink of pee and shit, they're dirty, and I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeding my child in there. Would you want eat there? No, didn't think so.

So where does that leave the average nursing mother? Well, honestly, after messing about with nursing rooms as a new mama, once I'd got confident with nursing and babe and I were at ease with latching on and all, I just started to nurse wherever I was. This way, I dont have to let my baby yell while I find a convenient spot that isn't already taken. I don't have to deal with the smells from public loos. I don't have to let my meal get cold in restaurant while I sit in the loo for 20 minutes eating while my friends get to eat theirs while it's hot and fresh. And, as a mother, I'm sorry, but my child's needs to come first, if my child needs feeding right then and there, I'm going to do it, avoiding upsetting a random person in the street or at the next table really isn't on my radar.

And what about blankets. Well, especially once your baby gets older, they get quite fussy about such things, and many won't nurse with a blanket over them. And, really, having a blanket on just draws attention to what you're doing anyway. The next thing of course is bottles, because some people think you should "just" bring a bottle of breastmilk, or formula, with you in case the baby wants to feed. This is also usually said by people who have not breastfed before. I will say this - Pumping breastmilk is a huge pain in the arse. It is. Before I had kids I used to think you just attached the pump and an unlimited amount of milk just came out. Um, no. You have to pump at certain times of day, train your body to produce extra, just so you can get enough to fill a bottle. Then, if you feed your baby a bottle of your expressed milk, you have to pump again as soon as possible to replace the feeding you just missed, otherwise you risk your supply dropping. It's so much easier just to well, nurse the baby straight from the tap. As for formula, well, that stuff's ridiculously expensive, and very much inferior to what my body makes for free. Mothering is difficult enough especially if you have more than one child, without going through all that rigmarole just to avoid upsetting someone else's delicate sensibilities when you're out and about.

Isn't breastfeeding in public indecent exposure? Well, actually, no. In America, almost every state has laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers. Similar laws exist in other countries as well.

Why is all this important anyway? Well, UNICEF states that worldwide, six million lives are lost as a result of not breastfeeding. Contrary to popular opinion as well, the risk does not just apply to developing countries either. There are risks to using infant formula no matter where you live.
Yet, breastfeeding rates are shockingly low. Let's take the US for example. In 2003, 62% of women were exclusively breastfeeding at 7 days old, reducing to 14.2% at 6 months. Rates in the UK, where I live, are even worse, with
only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months in 2005. This is especially sad when you consider that for optimum infant health is recommended that infants are exclusively breastfed up to 6 months before complementary foods are introduced. The vast majority still end up on formula, for a multitude of reasons, and societal pressures are just one of them. We should be encouraging women to breastfeed and removing social stigmas to breastfeeding, not putting up more barriers to them doing so.

So I ask. Please. If you see someone when you're out feeding their baby and it makes you feel awkward, which I understand, it's actually quite rare to see it especially around here (which is a shame, as breastfeeding has SO many benefits compared to feeding formula milk) Just look away. That is all. It really isn't hard. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Circumcision Bingo

As promised to @cmantito!

This is Circumcision Bingo. Points to who guesses which tweet will come from @circinfo next.

My thoughts on #nestlefamily

I've sat and watched a big drama unfold on Twitter over the past few days. Seems that Nestle invited a bunch of bloggers to LA, paid for their hotel/air fare and gave them the opportunity to ask questions and test products. Bloggers tweeted using the hashtag #nestlefamily leading up to, during and after the event.

However many of the bloggers attending the event have been criticised for not being aware of Nestle's chequered history regarding formula marketing, child labour and other issues. Annie at PhDinParenting sums up the problems many people have with Nestle that have led to there being an international boycott of their products that has been going on since the 1970s. Some tried to make it about breastfeeding versus formula, commenting that mothers in the Third World who are malnourished are unable to breastfeed their infants, and therefore Nestle is doing an honourable thing in giving them formula samples. This is, in most cases, not true. If Nestle really wanted to improve the health of people in developing countries they'd give food to the mothers, NOT formula to their infants.

I did see name calling on both sides of the #nestlefamily debate - but if I'm honest, I saw the worst offences coming from those defending Nestle, with the boycotters being called Nazis and Communists, at the same time making jokes about child labour and talking enthusiastically about cookie dough. Most of the bloggers attending were respectful to the cause but one thing that has bothered me is how so many took Nestle's responses at face value (see Lauredhel's critique of this) yet stated that sites like IBFAN and BabyMilkAction were biased and therefore not to be taken as an objective source. To this I would say - Who actually stands to benefit, financially? IBFAN and BabyMilkAction are non profit organisations.

On a positive note I feel this has brought a lot of attention to the boycott, which can only be a good thing!

Testing this out!

Trying out a blogging app for my phone. Looks sweet so far but will it work!

-- Posted from my iPhone

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Information on @Circinfo

I am posting this here as it was originally posted on Pastebin, and therefore can be doctored and fully expect this to happen by a certain individual.  So this is the original text in its entirety. Original author is @actualcircinfo on Twitter.

There's a chance that if you've ever raised his topic of (obsessional) interest you've received an unsolicited tweet from a user referring to himself as "Circinfo". As the odds are you have no idea it is I thought it might be valuable, as someone who's debated with him, to assemble what I know and think.

Circinfo operates by continuously running Twitter searches for words such as "circumcision", "circumcised", "foreskin" & so on. He then sends the person who used it a link to a website which purports to be balanced, but is in fact a circumcision advocacy outlet. The epitome of this shares his name ("Circinfo", although he claims no connection) has in its masthead a partially peeled banana being poked with a finger and wiggling. Not exactly the sort of place you can trust for reliable information regarding the health of your newborn. 
This is the link which he distributed most regularly.
This would be a slightly unusual hobby, but it is what characterizes his behaviour in debate that makes him truly strange. Despite claiming to trust in science CI clearly has a very poor grasp of how it works: he simply ignores studies with findings contrary to his beliefs, brandishing those that support them as if you can cherry pick reality. This is quite an abuse of the scientific method, which demands repeatability. If there is mixed research (as there most certainly IS over this issue) a sound scientist would tend towards scepticism & not make bold claims, but CI is clearly more interested in reinforcing his view than reaching a dispassionate understanding. 
Additional to this he is unaware of the rudiments of debating, apparently believing that snarkily reversing an argument into something which he agrees constitutes a rebuttal. Additionally he frequently using logical fallacies, such as the appeal to authority. Consequently it is impossible to engage in discussion with him without him introducing some degree of rancour. At his nadir he heavily mocked a clearly deeply traumatized child abuse victim, then refused to apologise.
What is most interesting though is his favourite logical fallacy: the ad hominem. Despite knowing next to nothing about his targets CI proved persistently willing to make wild claims about them. Alleging that the aforementioned child abuse victim was in some conspiratorial way connected to me (in reality I didn't know the man, knew next to nothing about him & still do not). He has claimed that people who have never suggested state tactics against circumcision are somehow determined to curtail parental rights & generally imagined strawman positions easier to rebut.
Now perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised about this. It's quite possible that my expectations of internet debates is far too high minded. However, I like to expect the best from people, & although he's about average for a YouTube commenter CI is significantly less civil and rational than the standard Twitter user. CI left me deeply disappointed, not least when he presumed to know the sexual tastes of a set of complete strangers. The most presumptuous claim made was that his opponents were "foreskin fetishists". He seemed to truly believe that the only reason for disagreeing with him over the health status of foreskins was them being the sole source of sexual arousal for those who did so.
This is also perhaps the most revealing attack made by him, although as with most insults made towards strangers it tells more about the accuser than the accused. It seems likely to me that CI is suffering from what psychologists term "Projection". He himself is a man sexually fixated with circumcision, thus can only perceive those who disagree with his position as sufferers of the same condition, inverted. This explains his continual focus upon the issue & his evidence devoid claims to know others erotic predilections, something which would otherwise be inexplicable save if he was simply trying to smear his opponents. This is a non-falsifiable, of course, it is entirely possible that his purported motivation is correct (although as aforementioned, he knows far too little about the rudiments of science for his analyses to be trustworthy or the links he admires reliable). 
But if I were a gambling man I would call my speculation a safe bet.
I would treat any links provided by this man with a good deal of caution. Remember that he is making a claim ("foreskin is unhealthy") & that as such the onus of evidence lies with him. Websites which exclude studies showing no correlation are easy to construct, as well as highly misleading. These are the ONLY kind of website to which CI reliably links to.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Lactivists to blame for woman's death?

I read this article in the Daily Mail with disbelief yesterday.

Where to even start?

The caption on the photo for this article is "There are some mothers who instantly turn into Madonna and child." Well, no, actually. Speak to a bunch of breastfeeders and they will all tell you that breastfeeding is hard at first for pretty much everyone. Yes, it requires some perseverance. I have two children, my oldest being 4 years old (he was breastfed until 21 months) and my youngest is 26 months and still nursing on demand around the clock. Is nursing difficult in the early days? You bet. Is it worth it? Unequivocally, YES!!!! To the point where I have to hold myself back when talking to mothers to be about breastfeeding as I can get so passionate about it. It is, once past the first few difficult days/weeks when you are both learning how to do it, one of the best and most fulfilling things I have done in my life, something I am very proud of. It's a huge part of how I identify myself as a mother. It is far more than a choice of coke vs pepsi. And those of us that get past the initial hurdles to get to the payoffs see that. 

I am yet to discover the "breastfeeding gestapo." I had a relatively easy time breastfeeding my first - 10 days of mildly sore nipples, then it went away and we had many months of blissful nursing ahead of us.  Not really so with #2. To start with, he developed a belly button infection at 10 days old and we were informed at the hospital that he had lost weight from his 5 day weighin (where he was at 8lbs 1oz, down from 8lbs 4oz at birth) The record in Shay's red book from that day shows 7lbs 15oz, and we were told to start supplementing with formula after nursing every 3 hours, however I had quite  a bit of expressed breastmilk in my freezer from pumping to relieve engorgement when my milk first came in so I attempted to bottlefeed 1oz of this after each feeding. Attempted. My son would have NOTHING to do with that bottle and screamed at me for trying.  So, I rang my midwife the next day and told her I was going to be nursing him every 2 hours at least, more if he demanded it, but would be waking him to make sure he had at least this, but there would be no supplementation. Next day, she came around with the scales. Two days after being apparently 7lbs 15 oz my son weighed 9lbs even.

I don't think it is even possible for a child to gain over a pound in 2 days.  We realised that the problem had been that in the hospital they had put the scale on a bed (Scales have to be placed on a spirit level surface to be accurate) and also the weight, in grams, was rounded down. So, what was an approximation was used to try and label my child as failure to thrive when there was nothing wrong with him. I had a doctor tell me that day that if my baby wanted to nurse more than every 4 hours then clearly I wasn't making enough milk for him, and that many mothers do not make enough milk for their children. When I argued back he called for backup and  I had several of them arguing at me. Where was my breastfeeding gestapo then? Had I been a first time mother who had never breastfed before, I would have gone running straight to the formula, and been one of those women who say "I don't make enough milk."

Then at 5 weeks old, he for some reason started to scream through every feeding. This lasted until he was approx. 10 weeks and was hell on earth.  I believe it was to do with introducing a dummy shortly before, as he would take that piece of plastic crap and I would have to quickly whip it out to insert my boob or he wouldn't eat.  I rang the breastfeeding helpline when it all started and I was about ready to lose my mind and was told I would get a call back. Which I didn't, for FIVE DAYS.  By the time I finally did, I had been all over the internet looking for a solution, and finally figured out swaddling really helped, so I did this until he grew out of the phase.  Of course, I got lots of "helpful" advice from family/friends "Just give him a bottle!!!!" It was a bank holiday weekend, as it always is when you need help and can't get anyone.  

This is the problem we have - It's not lactivists, it's a lack of support for mothers when they need it most that I personally blame for this woman's death. She needed help, and that help was lacking. To blame people who are there to help people breastfeed because they don't tell women to try a bottle is ridiculous.  

While a lot of mums do mix feed (breastmilk and formula) whether we like it or not, the best way to get breastfeeding off the ground and be successful with it is to stick with it and avoid all bottles. Why? Because a) Some babies will develop a preference for the bottle as it's easier to get at the milk that way and b) every bottle you give, you're telling your body to make less milk, leading to supply problems down the road UNLESS you pump (And even then you still risk your supply because a pump is not as good as a baby at extracting the milk.)  I was in a group of mothers when Shay was born who all had babies born in Feb 2007 and a ton of them mixed fed when their babies were tiny. Almost all of them weaned early stating "low milk supply" or "baby preferred bottle" as the reason. 

So, yeah. I'm very sad for this mother's death as it was entirely preventable. Breastfeeding counsellors are usually unpaid volunteers who donate their time and experience to help others. To blame them is cheap and wrong when we should be looking at drafting MORE support to help women where is is clearly needed.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Absolute VS Relative Risk Reduction

I've noticed a definite trend with pro circumcisers and statistics. Now as we all know, you can twist statistics to mean pretty much anything you want, and one way to do it is by using absolute and relative risks when it suits you. So, with circumcision, use absolute risk when you're talking about complications of circumcision (and take the smallest possible figure) Then when talking about the potential benefits, use relative risks. Because, when you're talking about a very, very small number, using relative risk makes your gain look MUCH bigger.

Take HIV, as the press is really pushing the alleged link with circumcision at the moment after the 3 Africa studies.  Apparently, the studies showed a 60% reduction in HIV acquisition in the 2 years after voluntary, adult circumcision. Note the latter part, as that is all it does show, since the studies were halted early we do not yet know if circumcision has an effect beyond that, and it is quite possible that the effect becomes lesser as time goes on (Observation of country prevalence of HIV certainly does not bear out that circumcision affects HIV, see the CIA Factbook for that. Note that the United States is right up there as one of the most HIV ridden countries despite around 80% of adult males currently being circumcised there)

The important point is though in terms of absolute vs relative risk reduction is what is the actual risk of catching HIV? Now, I'll admit that I always thought if you had sex with an HIV positive person you had a nigh on 100% chance of catching it. So, I'd forgive people for taking these figures as - 100% chance with unprotected sex, 40% chance with circumcision with the 60% risk reduction, and around 1% with a condom. Schoen touches on the actual risk factor mentioning a figure of 1 in 300, but does not elaborate on what this actually means.

First off where does this figure actually come from? Is he referring to the chance of contracting HIV when having sex with an HIV positive person, or the risk overall of a heterosexual male contracting the disease? It isn't at all clear, and it really seems to me that he simply cherry picked the best possible stat to meet his needs.   A blanket "1 in 300" means very little, because risk of transmission varies by country due to HIV prevalence, and of course viral load in the individual can vary. Some conditions like genital ulcers can make the risk of transmission higher. 

I've heard a lot of parents who circumcise their children state that they want their child to have an extra layer of protection for the "just in case" scenario if a condom breaks or whatever.  Sounds very reasonable, until you look at the actual probability of this occurring. 

This excellent post by Fellow Traveller at spells it out rather well. Quote:

"We'll start the estimate that the chance of infection is 0.06% a bit higher than published in the Lancet article. That means a male having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman has about a bit more than 1 in 1800 chance of being infected. Base line risk intact men vs circumcised men 1 heterosexual contact with an HIV+ partner.

[1 - 0.0006]^1 99.94% ~= 0.06%
[1 - 0.0006 * 0.5]^1 ~= 99.97% ~= 0.03%

But the HIV distribution in the US population is about 5 in 1000 or 1/200 so, in general, there is only a 1 in 200 chance that one will encounter someone who is HIV positive. Actually, the risk is much lower but we'll discuss that in a bit. Given that the HIV prevalence in the general population is about 1/200, a closer estimate of the risk of becoming HIV infected after the 1 random heterosexual encounters is more like:

The chance of event A (encountering an HIV positive individual in the general population) * the chance of event B the likely hood of getting infected during that encounter.

1/200 * 0.0006 = 0.000003 --- 1 - 0.000003 = 99.9997% = 0.0003%
1/200 * 0.0003 = 0.000006 --- 1 - 0.0000015 = 99.99985% = 0.00015%

Now, the number of sexual encounters is important too. For 1,000 encounters, the difference is 1.5 hundredths of a percent. That's is what circumcision bought you, big deal. Over the course of 1,000 random encounters, on average, an intact guy in the US has 1.5 hundredths of a percent larger chance of becoming HIV positive. Circumcised guys, party on!"

So - parents are being given the information that circumcision will reduce their child's risk of HIV acquisition by 60%, but fail to mention that the actual risk of their child a) coming into contact with an HIV positive partner b) condom failing and c) contracting the virus is a tiny, tiny, fraction.  A 60% reduction of a miniscule base is still miniscule. 

It's also worth looking at the British response to this article here:

"Dr Colm O'Mahony, a sexual health expert from the Countess of Chester Foundation Trust Hospital in Chester, said the US had an "obsession" with circumcision being the answer to controlling sexually transmitted infections. 

He said: "Sure, a dry skinned penis is a bit less likely to contract HIV, herpes and possibly genital warts but it will get infected eventually."

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Twitter and Breastfeeding..

Recently I've joined Twitter - well the point was for me to combat certain pro-circ folks posting there as one particular individual was using it to "tweet" new parents trying to convince them to cut their kids. (Creepy.) Anyway, a few days after and it's pretty addictive. Meeting new mama friends and I'm generally wittering on about rubbish to anyone who seems vaguely interested.

The AP community seems pretty strong. Lots of like minded people. Life is good.

And then - someone posts a link to that infamous "Breastfeeding at 8" video. As if this hasn't been posted a million times over on the internet and every single time it comes up, a huge flame war erupts, people get nasty, others get upset, etcetcetc. Been there, seen it a million times. I should never have got involved. But, I tweeted that as far as I am concerned, people should just let others live their lives, as long as they're not hurting their kids, who really cares.

This is where a certain lady who had followed me due to a few tweets on #flylady got really upset and started sending me about 10 tweets per minute (or so it seemed) on how morally corrupt I am, how I don't teach my children right from wrong, and how this makes me a terrible parent. This particular lady apparently weaned her baby as soon as he could walk, because apparently it's morally wrong to breastfeed a child after this point. At one point she brought my obvious stance on circumcision into the mix.

Now, get this straight. I am openly against infant circumcision. I post links about it, blog posts I find interesting (Much the same as I do breastfeeding, vax or other stuff) I will combat blatant misinformation I see posted about. If someone posts something like "what do you think about circumcision" I'll give my input. But I don't tweet people and insult them/their decisions and attack their moral fibre. Circumcision is also different from breastfeeding in that there are no damaging effects from breastfeeding. It has no risks attached. The benefits from breastfeeding are diverse and well documented, while with circumcision there are pretty much equal information on both sides of the argument (which is why, to me, it is more of an ethical issue. People should be given the chance to say whether they have healthy body parts removed, or not. The AAP states that the medical benefits of circumcision do not outweigh the risks therefore it is a cosmetic/cultural issue.)

As for breastfeeding - it is recommended, universally, for the first two years and beyond, as per the WHO and various other organisations. We've seen a few opinion pieces slating it lately (eg Hanna Rosin) But this does not change the fact that breastfeeding ultimately promotes optimal child health. Extended, or to use the term I prefer, "full term" breastfeeding, is attacked by some prudish types who see it as somehow incestuous and psychologically damaging. This is ridiculous. There have never been any studies on it proving psychological damage due to breastfeeding. However, the list of studies proving benefits to continuing the breastfeeding relationship is extensive.

I have noticed that people who did not breastfeed, or who breastfed for a short time, tend to be very vocal about others not judging them for their choices, yet will happily dish it  out when it comes to us full term breastfeeding mothers.  I don't go around randomly saying to formula feeding mothers that they are bad parents and made bad decisions.  I don't personally do formula, but I get that other people have the right to decide for themselves.  Lactivism is not about personally attacking others - it's about helping breastfeeding mothers by getting better support, campaigning for better breastfeeding in public laws, etc.

The final straw really in this particular discourse was that she commented that breast is best "but only until children can get nutrition from other foods". This is one thing that bothers me - people really think that if you're breastfeeding a child they're not eating anything else? My toddler is allergic to dairy, so he drinks my milk like he might have cows milk, an occasional and comforting drink with the bonus that it's attached to mama and he gets a cuddle at the same time.

And then, there's the people that say "After XX years, why not pump and give it to them IN A CUP!" I am sure the people saying this have never, ever pumped. Pumping sucks. You have to pump regularly to ensure you will get a decent amount of milk each time. It's time consuming, and soul destroying. I did everything I could to try and ensure I didn't have to pump with my second son - including negotiating work hours that would enable me to nurse before and after work without having to have a pumping break in between.  Why would I want to give up the cuddling closeness that comes with nursing (it's a fabulous way to connect with a toddler who is generally too busy for hugs otherwise) and replace that with attaching myself to a plastic device multiple times a day, just so to not offend other people's delicate sensibilities?