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.