Monday, 9 May 2016

Mothering Journeys

The woman in the photos is a lifelong friend.
When she gave birth to her first son (below right) she breastfed him like mothers do and watching her son breastfeed like I had seen done by other mothers probably formed part of my visceral drive to do the same with my baby.  As neurocogitive science into mirror neurons show, 'monkey see, monkey do.'

My stored images of her breastfeeding and others breastfeeding catalysed my breastfeeding journey. I wanted to be like these women, my friends from in our little part of the Caribbean.  It was a connection to home that in my self-imposed exile took me home.

Fast forward to 2011 when she was preparing to give birth to her second son, I found myself sharing my accumulated birth wisdom via social media when she was becoming anxious about labour.  Two years after and we were laughing about the challenges she was facing to wean her second son at 26 months old.

I love these photos because they speak to the timelessness of breastfed children.  They seek the comfort of the breast in many ways.  These photos exemplify how the lived experiences of our community and how a child's identity, security, comfort, and food are actualized in his mother's breasts. How our sexuality and motherhood can simultaneously be expressed through our breasts.

Tun, you are amazing.  Your influence has been deeper than you imagine.  Thank you and, Happy Mother's Day.

with permission
with permission
with permission

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Still fighting for Birth Choices?

Conversations with women about birth choices show that women STILL have to fight for the right to choose where and with whom, if anyone, she would like to give birth.  

Sometimes, for many reasons, a woman may want to change her named midwife. There is a template letter on the AIMS website which helpful but using a template is not necessary.  Simply write a brief letter saying you would like to change your midwife and / or give the name of the midwife you want to have no further involvement in your care including during labour. There is no requirement to give a reason for wanting to change your midwife, exclude one from your care, or discuss why you would like to take this step.  A woman can suggest a favoured MW but there is no right to have a specific one.

I have borrowed this quote from the AIMS website which may be useful to remind midwives that a woman has an informed choice to decide where she may like to give birth.
QUOTE " I understand that it is Government policy that the NHS should support women who intend to birth at home. In a House of Commons debate (20 Dec, 2000) Lord Hunt of King's Heath stated: 'The Government want (sic) to ensure that, where it is clinically appropriate, if a woman wishes to have a home birth she should receive the appropriate support from the health service. At the end of the day, it must be the woman's choice'. " UNQUOTE

The NICE Guidelines (published Dec 2014) in 1.1 Place of Birth can add extra support regarding place of birth.  Quote sections that you will find useful to your circumstance.

While the NICE Guidelines talks about low risk women only, informed consent safeguards women to make choices regarding their place of birth and birth attendant(s) even if health care provider believes her status to be high risk.  That is, a high risk status does not preclude a woman from making decisions regarding her maternity care unless she is sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

It may be helpful to remind health care providers of the following: QUOTE "Care and support should take into account individual people's needs and preferences.

People have the right to be involved in discussions and make informed decisions about their treatment and care, together with their health or care team.

Give relevant information and explain the treatment and care in a way they can understand.

Support people's choices wherever possible. Each person is an individual, with their own needs, wishes and priorities. Treat everyone you care for with dignity, respect and sensitivity." END QUOTE

Lastly, a woman's right to a home birth is protected under the European Convention for Human Rights which will add further weight to your conversations with maternity care providers.

Some mothers have found that their wish for a home birth is being treated as a safeguarding issue and this implies that a referral to social services will or have been made.  If there has been written, spoken or implied indication that this is so, a woman has the right to know the reasons this referral was made or may be made.

Making a subject access request may help with focusing the minds of the intentions of those who are responsible for your care.

 A woman may want to write a letter stating that she is extremely concerned that that her pregnancy has safeguarding issues with implications that her unborn child is or will be subject to social services intervention.  A woman has a right to know how, by whom and when the decision was made and has a right to access to all information, formal or informal, hand written and electronic, including private email communication held by the hospital, showing her how the decision was arrived.

This link contains a template letter and further information about making subject access requests.

She may feel it necessary to state that any decision which contravenes the national home birth policies, NICE guidelines, and European Convention for Human Rights without transparent discussion with a woman of the rationale or any behaviour which contravenes these safeguards may be harassment and that she could seek legal advice regarding action she can take if she feels it becomes necessary to do so.

Use registered post to the Supervisor of Midwives (SOM)  on Duty or one whose name is known and you may want to copy your letter(s) with any with interest in maternity provision such as the Chief Executive, the Director of Obstetric and Gynaecology, your named consultant if you have one, and your MP either by post or email.

Sending a letter precludes issues with phone calls like 'forgetting' to call you back or saying that Midwife X is not on duty, busy elsewhere, or on holiday. Writing saves on the stress of talking and thinking at the same time especially if a woman feels that she is already being undermined in her birth preferences and she can say everything she plans to say without interruption.  Of course writing brings its own stresses but it is an opportunity to clarify the issues for the woman - and it becomes evidence to which she can refer to later.

Typically expect a 5 working day turn around for a response in writing which is how you are entitled to have it.  If the SOM decides to phone, listen calmly and engage her but a woman is  within her rights to ask for confirmation in writing of whatever they say over the phone or is free to email asking for confirmation of the details of the conversation that transpired and bullet point the main points of what was understood in the conversation.

I hope this is helpful to the women who are still fighting these battles.  Ideally maternity care will be simpler and supportive but there are, unfortunately, times when women feel embattled and responding in these terms becomes an option she feels she has to take.

It is never her fault that she feels like this.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Bruce Lee, the Mind and Body and Childbirth

"In order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature."
 ~ Bruce Lee

In labour a woman travels to her primordial space, formless, shapeless, to harness the power of her body.

Birth and water, transform.

"Empty your mind
Be formless
Like Water
You put water into a cup
It becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle
It becomes the bottle
You put water into a teapot
It becomes the teapot
Now water can flow
Or it can crash.
Be Water, my friend."

Bruce Lee

For a greater understanding of the quotes above please visit

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Shoplifting Formula

Some people will shoplift in order to eat.
People who shoplift to generate an income steal high ticket items which can be easily sold on. And this is probably why some foods in supermarkets carry security tags.

Since 2012 or so, I noted that infant formula has joined the ranks of food with security tags, joining champagne and other high value alcohol, razors, and expensive cuts of meat, for example.
My local police force posted this photo below on its Facebook page today. 

Courtesy: Durham Constabulary 
The price of formula averaged 52p/100g in 2005, 68p/100g in 2007 and 96p/100g in 2015. Roughly double its price 10 years ago.

For some babies infant formula is their only food for several months and they continue to need it for a year or more.  Babies have to eat and parents who don't breastfeed have to buy formula.  How a person budgets or on what they spend their income is not really relevant to the price of formula.  The main point is that the price of formula is exorbitant and it is basic food stuff such as bread.  Were it treated like bread it would not be in the photo above.  Parents don't want to steal their babies' food but many are forced to choose between stealing it or buying stolen formula, or feed their babies watered down formula or other inappropriate foods and drinks.

Some wit created the infographic below to help others understand how the price of formula is accounted for.  While it may not be to scale, it is roughly correct, according to Gabrielle Palmer, the author of the Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business.

If formula was priced as other basic food items the price would be controlled.

In which world can we price baby milk like a luxury item such as champagne?

In this one, I guess.

Edited 14 May 2017:  In case we are lulled into complacency that diluting formula is only a developing world problem.  There is now solid evidence that it is occurring in the UK too. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Prince George and Breastfeeding.

How could I not meme the little prince?
Who knew he was such an advocate of breastfeeding?
Oh my word!  What a guy!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thoughts on Exclusively Pumping

Elisabeth Petrucelli puts forward her insights into exclusively pumping in this excellent blog post.

I can only add but a shred more.

The fact that the data does not exist to show that BF is 'better' than EP shows how our culture has become obsessed that the biological norm needs to prove itself against the many interventions put upon breastfeeding.  BF is the biological norm and as such, there is no need to provide evidence that it is 'superior'.  It is just the norm.  Not better, not superior.  Evidence to show how it differs from EP is a nice scientific extra for people to be all academic about but it isn't necessary to prove that the way mammals are designed to eat is the normal way to eat and all other methods are not quite equal to the norm.

For me EPing has nothing to prove either.  In the absence of breastfeeding, mothers own milk, expressed, is the next logical option.  Breastfeeding is worth fighting for just like learning to walk without a crutch is worth fighting for.  The medical and wider community provide multiple means of support to get people walking unaided but they don't provide multiple systems of support for breastfeeding when it isn't going well.  Put another way, no one would dream of telling someone that she doesn't have time to help you to learn to walk so here is a crutch.  It is just as good.  Likewise, why is it ok to tell a mum that we don't have the time to teach her to breastfeed; here is a pump. Mothers and their babies lose out.  Mothers are trying to source robust breastfeeding support when they are at their most vulnerable.  The lottery of support available leads to much disappointment for many and a source of much grief and emotional pain.

My last point comes to the widely held misconception mentioned in the original article that exclusively pumping mothers cannot benefit from breastfeeding support!  What a travesty!  They are using their breasts to feed their babies!!! Hello?

Lactation consultants who are turning EP mothers away from lactation support really must reflect on the WHO Code and the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative as well as their own education and workplace practice.  This is a whole new post on its own and unfortunately, real life is calling at the moment.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Tweeting about a baby eating

Some people find t that a baby breastfeeds to be an uncomfortable thing to happen near them.

The more we breastfeed in public the more people see breastfeeding the longer babies will breastfeed and the healthier we will all be for it.

So I Storify-ed one such encounter.