Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Are any of you into the Super Bowl? Admittedly, I view it more as an opportunity to chat with friends over a cup of tea while our husbands watch the game. And of course, I watch the halftime show. I was feeling old since I was more into the Red Hot Chili Peppers than Bruno Mars — and I had no idea that Mars was that young! What were the highlights for you?

Here’s a shocker: I was sad to learn that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday at the age of 46. He died of a drug overdose, according to CNN.

Also from the breaking news files: I am a supporter of breastfeeding rights, but this is a bit much. The United Arab Emirates is now mandating by law that women breastfeed their children for two years. It isn’t clear whether formula will be banned altogether. As someone who went 9 months and then a year with my two children and supplemented with formula when they were born because I was waiting for my milk to come in, this makes me shudder. Those poor women…and babies.

In other health news: the UK Daily Mail had an interesting article — and discussion — on one teen’s idea for a plus-sized Disney princess. While moms welcomed the idea to improve body image among teen girls, some also wondered whether it was healthy for Disney to promote either skinny or plus-sized princesses. What say you?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Strollerderby had an important and timely post on preventing child sexual abuse.

From the bizarre-o files: couples who have faced a miscarriage are 22 times as likely to break up and couples who have had a stillborn are 40 times as likely to divorce, according to CNN. Also from CNN: even formula-fed babies are not getting enough vitamin D.

And I don’t get this column at all. According to an op-ed piece in the New York Times, sleep deprivation actually lifts depression. Huh? All I gotta say is I have been taking half a sleeping pill about two times a week and I feel SO much better in terms of my outlook on life. It is incredible what 8 hours of straight sleep can do for the psyche.  

From the gross files: a mom at the Baby Bites blog actually sat out a McDonald’s Happy Meal for a year and discovered that it doesn’t decompose. Ick!

Remember the Netroots Nation moms caucus in Austin two years ago? We had the honor of meeting Melody Townsel at Amy’s. She wrote a sad and heartfelt diary at Daily Kos about her father’s cancer diagnosis. Let’s keep her in our thoughts and prayers.

There have been a lot of good diaries at Daily Kos lately — thank you, Shenanigans, for pointing them out! Here is another one on famous daughters of politicians.

Finally, I have been meaning to post this story I originally spotted in Newsweek. Florida may become the first state to abolish tenure and tie teacher annual raises with a performance review. What do you all think?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


CA Assembly Fails to Pass BPA Bill

Thank you to Anne Fitten Glenn — aka “Edgy Mama” — for mentioning MotherTalkers and the BPA bill, SB 797, I was advocating for on behalf of

I thought I would update you on that bill, which would have banned the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic baby and toddler products like bottles and sippy cups: It was favored by the Assembly 35-32, unfortunately, it did not garner the 41 votes necessary to pass. Here is how individual Assemblymembers voted.

Here is a statement by Sen. Fran Pavley, who sponsored and fought her heart out for this important bill:

California was poised to join Canada, Minnesota, Connecticut and several other cities and counties in the United States that, with significant bi-partisan support, have enacted bans on BPA in baby bottles and other feeding products for children. “The science on BPA clearly shows cause for alarm,“ said Senator Pavley. “Every child from every community in our state deserves access to safe, affordable products. I don’t understand how some lawmakers are willing to ignore science and risk the health of California children.“

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an artificial hormone that is widely used in shatter-proof plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and the lining of formula cans. It leaches out of containers and into food and drink consumed by babies and young children.

More than 220 peer-reviewed studies have linked BPA to a host of health host of health problems, including breast and prostrate cancer, infertility, obesity, and neurological and behavioral changes, including autism and hyperactivity.

Senator Pavley’s SB 797 was co-authored by Senator Carol Liu, D – Pasadena, and was sponsored by Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group and Physicians for Social Responsibility. The bill received widespread support from health care professionals, business owners and a long and diverse list of organizations including; Black Women for Wellness, Latinas for Reproductive Justice, The Help Group for Autism Spectrum Disorders, California Teachers Association, California Nurses Association, Asian Health Services, and California Women Infants and Children (WIC), SEIU, California Labor Federation, and Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice to name a few.  The opponents include BPA manufacturers Dow and SABIC Innovative Plastics, as well as infant formula makers Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestle.

Pavley went into details on the lies and distortions coming from the formula industry like there would be an automatic recall of formula cans — the ban would not have taken effect until 2011 — and there are no alternatives to BPA-lined cans, even though they themselves are marketing “BPA-Free” products.

She also released sample minutes from a meeting involving the corporate food, chemical industry and its allies employing fear tactics to extend the shelf life of BPA products. Our GiGi covered that story in a diary here.

I won’t lie. I am especially disappointed in the Dems who abstained, when it was clear that the opposition was all corporate lobbyists and their largely Republican friends. Ugh.


Latest Statistics On Infant Feeding

The formula industry recently commissioned a study with some interesting statistics:

The nationally representative survey sampled opinions from 876 mothers of children aged 12 months and younger throughout the country. Eight out of 10 mothers (84%) believe breastfeeding is healthier for their babies, and a similar percentage (79%) believe it is healthier for themselves. Most mothers (83%) made their infant feeding decision prior to going to the hospital to give birth. The vast majority (82%) breastfed at some point during the first year; however, over half of the moms changed their baby’s diet during the first year.

Okay, this is a press release so I am wondering “over half of the moms” gave their babies solid foods? Switched to formula? Moving right along…

Mothers also identified a number of barriers that either prevented them from initiating or continuing breastfeeding, including demands of work or school, the inability to produce enough milk, the feeling that breastfeeding restricts freedom, and the expense of a breast pump. “Many mothers want to breastfeed,” stated Nicole McCleskey, Partner at POS, “but oftentimes they realize that when it’s time to go back to work, continuing to exclusively breastfeed and maintain their milk supply can be difficult without adequate support.”  

When asked what government actions could help increase breastfeeding in the U.S., mothers recommended support after leaving the hospital, including guaranteed paid or longer maternity leave, increased assistance from healthcare professionals, breastfeeding support in the workplace, and access to a breast pump. “It seems like these are areas where the government could support increased breastfeeding initiation and duration,” Greenberg added.

For its own purposes, the survey press release emphasized the “key finding” that “three out of four moms believe new mothers should receive information on breastfeeding as well as infant formula so they can make an informed choice. Most mothers agree infant formula provides flexibility and choice, as well as a means of supplementing breastfeeding, when necessary.”

Formula is also $30 a can. Nonetheless, I was grateful to have one around even though I breastfed both my kids. What do you think of these findings? Are you surprised? Anything new here?  


NJMom… this one’s for you

I came to MotherTalkers almost 3 years ago and since that time, I’ve learned a great deal from the mothers here.  Especially the ones who did things differently from me.  I used to run with an attachment parenting crowd.  It was wonderful to surround myself with like-minded parents, but I didn’t realize what a myopic view I had of the parenting world I had at the time.  That was, until my mother told me about MotherTalkers. (Yes, she’s even MORE the blogger than I am and saw the link from DailyKos.)  I had just moved to a conservative rural town, and was happy to find some women online with whom I had some commonality politically.  

Like anyone who comes to a new site, I lurked for a bit before jumping in.  I think my very first comment was in a diary about overweight children.  Being the pro-breastfeeding advocate that I was, my comment included details about how breastfed babies grow up to be more slender than their formula fed counterparts.  NJMom was the one who answered my comment, and told me there was conflicting evidence to support that.  It rocked my attachment parenting world.  At first, I thought… this person is WRONG.  How dare she question my extensive knowledge about breastfeeding benefits? 😉  You see, having been in that AP world for so wrong, we became what Gigi might call Attachment Parenting “hoity-toits”.  Yep…. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s true.  You build yourself up to think you know it all… all the latest research, you are doing everything “right”.  And then someone comes around and tells you, “No… that’s not how I did it”.  And it makes you think.  Could I be wrong?  Or, could we both be right?

A while back we had a troll-like dad on MotherTalkers who was pro-attachment parenting, but oh boy was he obnoxious.  I thought to myself… I wonder if I ever came across like that?  Holier than thou.  His mantra:  “I’m right and anyone who does things differently should be reported to child protective services”.  Remember that?  Good grief… shoot me if I’m ever like that!

It took me a while to see that there were other ways that things could be done and I’m forever grateful to MotherTalkers for that.  I’m especially thankful for NJMom and Katie and other moms here for their insightful comments even if I don’t agree with them 100% of the time.  We are all trying to do the best we can, and there’s no “right” way.  We all have our own ways and that’s a good thing.  

I’m sure I’m not alone here… what have you all learned from other moms here?  


Parents Stand Up to Chinese Government (Again)

This is awful. Contaminated Chinese formula has killed four children and injured more than 6,000 in Shanghai, according to NPR.

Both the formula company, Sanlu, and the Chinese government have been accused by parents for covering up the tainted milk.

Qu Chunli has been looking after baby Zhaohang for eight months, feeding him milk formula made by Sanlu, the company whose milk was found to have the highest level of contaminants.

The family traveled 200 miles for the medical tests. They were told baby Zhaohang has stones in his urinary tract. The family had chosen Sanlu because it’s a famous Chinese brand. Qu Chunli was beyond angry.

“I hate them, I hate them,” she said. “They’re killing our children.”

The scandal is hitting China’s poor. Zhaohang was drinking formula because poverty had forced his mother to leave home to find work. His family could not afford more expensive imported brands.

Sanlu company has issued a televised apology. But it and local officials are accused of a cover-up, since they knew about the problem for at least six weeks before issuing a recall.

And the scandal is snowballing. Tests now show 22 Chinese dairy companies were selling products containing melamine — a chemical normally used in plastics and banned in food products.

Another mom quoted in the article said the doctor told her not to talk to the media since the Chinese government “is dealing with it.”

This isn’t the first time China has experienced a milk-powder scandal. Four years ago, at least 12 infants died from malnutrition after drinking fake baby formula with no nutrients, according to NPR. The national radio program also noted that the scandal has cast yet another negative light on exported Chinese-manufactured products like the pet food that was tainted with melamine and killed and sickened thousands of American cats and dogs. It is unethical middlemen in China who have added the deadly chemical to make the food appear higher in protein, according to NPR.

Thank you, Rachel, for the tip!


Top Mommy Guilt Trips

Here you go folks, courtesy of Babycenter…the Top 7 Mommy Guilt Trips and why you should stop tripping…

1.  Feeding baby formula

Why you shouldn’t feel too guilty? From the CDC:

42 percent of U.S. moms are still nursing at 6 months but only 11 percent are nursing exclusively. And in a BabyCenter poll, 68 percent of moms said their babies had formula in the first six months. In other words, there’s a lot of the stuff floating around.

2.  Using TV as a babysitter

Why you shouldn’t feel too guilty?  According to two BC experts:

“Using television entertainment as a form of quiet time is perfectly appropriate.” The key is moderation. If your child is under 2, keep viewing time to a minimum, and break it into 15-minute chunks. Watch with your child, and pick programs that are appropriate

3.  Being environmentally unfriendly, like using disposable diapers

Don’t feel too guilty.  Why?  According to the article,

“Focus on the small changes you can make.”

4.  Leaving your child with another caregiver.

Why not to feel too guilty?  

“Good childcare can promote cognitive, language, and social skills. Relieve your guilt by choosing the best daycare center, home daycare, babysitter, or nanny that you can.”

Good advice here:

“Stay away from the online “mommy wars” between working and at-home moms, and tune out any judgmental comments you may receive.”

For the rest, see the article here.

What do you think MTers?  Do these sound right to you?  Has feeling mommy guilt ever served a good purpose for you?  A sign that you needed to rethink something?


The Politics of Breastfeeding

I’ve been an avid reader of the attachment parenting resource Mothering Magazine since my son was an infant.  Mothering’s editor, Peggy O’Mara has written a very interesting editorial about how she feels breastfeeding is in trouble.   According to O’Mara, breastfeeding initiation rates dropped when infant formula companies began to advertise to consumers in 1989 via magazine and television.  At the same time, she says that breastfeeding advocates became more active to actually increase the initiation rate to an all time high of 70.1% in 2002.  Then, in 2003 she says the unthinkable happened.  The rate drops 4% to 66%.  

And, the numbers themselves might be somewhat skewed as they are compiled by formula manufacturer Abbott-Ross.  And, you might be surprised to find out that breastfeeding initiation rates are defined as “one breastfeeding during one day“.  So, if breastfeeding is just “tried“, that counts as “breastfeeding initiation“.  It may not even be exclusive breastfeeding… but mixed feeding including formula.  

As we’ve discussed many times before, this country does nothing to help moms exclusively breastfeed.  Lack of paid maternity leave and lack of support to moms who choose to pump at work present major obstacles to successful breastfeeding.  O’Mara describes how it affects mothers from different socioeconomic backgrounds:

…because the six weeks of unpaid leave that we do get—if we can afford to take it—barely give us enough time to establish breastfeeding, much less figure out how to combine it with working. In addition, white-collar workers have greater access to lactation support in the workplace than do blue-collar workers. We need laws that protect every woman’s right to breastfeed or pump in the workplace, and provide training for employers about breastfeeding’s advantages. Numerous studies have shown that the many benefits include lower health care costs, less absenteeism, improved staff productivity, and lower employee turnover.

And, how about this?  Some websites that appear to be breastfeeding advocacy sites are actually just “mouthpieces for the formula industry“.   MomsFeedingFreedom tells moms they need to stop the Ban The Bags campaign.  Here’s where the politics comes into play:

One such website,, is registered to eNilsson, an international Web consulting firm whose clients include Romney for President. Republican candidate Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, pressured his state’s Public Health Council to rescind a ban on the bags of free formula given by hospitals to new mothers and paid for by formula companies. The website states that “the opinions and views expressed on this website are of Kate Kahn,” a corporate communications strategist based in Boston. A sister site,, is licensed to Kellen Communications, a public relations firm whose clients include the International Formula Council.

As you may recall, Massachusetts was the first state to institute the “Ban the Bag“ policy.   Governor Romney pressured the Public Health department to put a hold on the ban in May of 2006.  The result?

Less than two weeks later, Romney announced a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb, the world’s largest formula manufacturer, to build a $66 million pharmaceutical plant in Devens, Massachusetts.

So, it’s not about choice.  It’s about corporate profits.  Take a look at the abysmal breastfeeding rates in some developing countries:

Sub-Saharan Africa has a rate of 32 percent; Asia, overall, 35 percent; Indonesia, 39 percent. In Vietnam, only 19 percent breastfeed, and in Thailand, only 5 percent.

If the majority of babies in those countries are formula fed, you can imagine the enourmous profits for US formula companies.

In the Philippines, the government tried to do something about raising their 16% breastfeeding initiation rate.  When they did, the infant formula industry stepped in and sued the Philippine Health Department from new rules like stricter labeling and accurate health claims from being enacted.  

In July 2006, the Philippine Supreme Court denied the formula companies a restraining order, but on August 15 it overturned its earlier decision and granted the restraining order to PHAP. This action was taken just four days after Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to President Gloria Arroyo in which he threatened the Philippines with loss of international investment (

No, breastfeeding advocates aren’t crazy like Bill Maher would have us believe.  I think sometimes advocates are portrayed as nutjobs trying to push an agenda.  On the contrary… I think it’s just retaliation to the corporate greed of the formula industry.  As long as there’s profit to be made by pharmaceutical companies, breastfeeding can and will be compromised.  


Weekend Open Thread

Update on my ongoing drama to get Blue Shield of California to pay for my epidural: As I had mentioned before, it cost $1,500 to get an epidural to deliver Eli. Our provider, Blue Shield tried to get me to pay for it saying the anesthesiologist was “out of network.“ (As if I were in a position to ask him!)

After some haggling, I received a shmarmy letter from the company that for this time only it would graciously pay for it. (As if our premiums have not doubled in the last few years.)

I thought this was settled as BCBS agreed to call the hospital and settle this. Except I received a phone call from a bill collector yesterday, telling me to pay up or deal with the credit bureau instead. UGH.

So I wasted another 45 minutes of my life, waiting on the line to speak to either the bill collector or BCBS. The bill collector especially was rude. I told her that the insurance company was supposed to call her — she had no such record and treated me as if I were lying about the whole thing. Infuriating — and then I confided in her, “Excuse my language, but last time I spoke to them (BCBS), they told me that they were sending small checks here and there so that your doctor would drop his fee as a ‘courtesy’ to them. They are dicking you over.“

Bill collector: “Maam, we are not the hospital. We just want to collect the bill. You need to call the insurance company.“

Once I finally got through to someone at BCBS, I demanded a three-way conversation with the bill collector to settle this. Turns out, BCBS had a record of the conversation with the bill collector, but the bill collector did not. The bill collector lashed out at me, “Elisa, I sent you a bill with some notes on what BCBS would pay. You should have responded!“

Me: “Well, you told me that you were going to take care of this! It’s been almost six months and this still has not been settled!“

The BCBS rep told me she would send payment to the bill collector but asked her to put a “30-day hold“ on my account. The bill collector grudgingly agreed. Sigh.

I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I will hear from either of them. This is so aggravating.

I love reading those personal “My Turn“ essays in Newsweek, which probably explains why I love blogs, too. The other day I was perusing the magazine’s “online only“ My Turns — there are more of them online than in the magazine! — when I came across this intelligent essay by formula feeding mom Laura Cook-Crotty: Formula is Fine.

While she pointed out that “breast is best,“ and she tried her hardest to breastfeed her daughter for four weeks, she said the breastfeeding campaign has had an unintended consequence.

There is now a very desperate sense of guilt and failure attached to bottle-feeding, which for many women is the only option…

Notwithstanding the fact that it was physically impossible for me to breast-feed, there were moments when I felt like an utter failure as a mother. For weeks I was guilt-stricken, anxious about my baby’s health, and worst of all, jealous. Everywhere I went I saw women who had absolutely no trouble breast-feeding. And yes, some of them seemed to have no trouble glaring at me with what I perceived to be utter disapproval when I bottle-fed my baby. The worst feeling of all was the silent resentment I had for my own friends’ successes with breast-feeding.

At my most bitter stage of bottle-feeding grief I fantasized about the witty comeback I’d give the next well-intentioned stranger who told me with a smug tone: “Don’t you know how much your baby would benefit from breast milk?” Perhaps I’d even give her the shock of a lifetime by flashing my breast-feeding battle scars right there in the church social hall. I even debated starting my own campaign: FORMULA IS FINE.

Good for her. I could totally relate to the pain she suffered from cracked bleeding nipples and multiple bouts of mastitis. It hurts. Thankfully, this was not my experience with Ari, which is why I stubbornly stuck with it for Eli. I hope Cook understands that every baby is different so she shouldn’t fear trying again with a second child — if that is what she wants.

Yes, Eli still loves the boob above all. I have noticed though that when she reluctantly accepts formula — the organic dairy-based Horizon — she gets gassy and grunts like she is constipated. Could something there not agree with her? I’ve been debating trying a soy-based formula or sticking with the Horizon since she rarely receives it.

She does love pears though. The other day I was eating a pear and she tried to grab it. I let her gum it and she kept whining for more! I bought her those Earth’s Best First Pears and she is eating it up. Whew! I thought I would be exclusively nursing her for a year. She is finally showing interest in food.

What are you up to this weekend, MotherTalkers?


NYC Hospital Bans the Bag

Many of you have probably heard of the Ban the Bags Campaign… a push to keep hospitals from giving out free formula to all new mothers.  One hospital in New York City is receiving press coverage as a result of changing its policy to give new moms a bag with a pamphlet on breastfeeding and a cute baby tee that says: I Eat at Mom’s instead of the usual free formula.  

The idea behind the new policy, is educating new moms about the benefits of breastfeeding so that they can make an informed choice.   In a time where few of their mothers or relatives have breastfed, new mothers often lack the confidence to breastfeed their own babies.  The hospital is hoping to increase awareness and breastfeeding initiation rates in the process.  

Personally, I think this is a great move by the hospital.  Sure, there are moms who are definitely not going to breastfeed.  But, there are many fence sitters that may not have all the information needed to make an informed choice.  For those who choose not to breastfeed, the hospital will provide them with formula as they always have.  

You can watch the ABC news report here.  What do you think, MotherTalkers?  Has the hospital gone too far in promoting breastfeeding?  Do you agree with the fact that new mothers need more information about breastfeeding?