Bullies and breast-feeding

I love when local moms write to the newspaper to talk about topics of direct interest to us. Today’s Opinion pages have a letter from a Missoula grandparent concerned about bullying in schools.

We always think this kind of thing happens to someone else’s kid. Maybe we even have personal prejudices about the “type” of kid this happens to be or the kind of family he or the bully came from. I am telling you, it could happen to your beloved child.

The letter encourages parents to research laws and policies regarding bullying.

And yesterday’s Opinion page brought us a letter from a Missoula mom who decried the common practice of including formula in hospital’s take-home bags for newborns.

Hospitals giving away free formula definitely undermines a new mom’s determination to breast-feed. It’s hard enough to nurse your baby, it’s even harder when it’s 2 a.m. and the formula is so close by. I wish I had never had formula in my house.


Were I to write my own letter today, it would would be one advocating a playground on every block – a swing for every child! Case in point is today’s Hall Passages in which the folks at Lewis and Clark Elementary talk about the marked decrease in students’ behavior problems, thanks to the schools’ new playground.

Plus, as this photo demonstrates, play structures can pull double duty as public art.

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Baby formula a top target for shoplifters

Last week ABC News carried an in-depth story about the dramatic numbers of thefts involving formula for infants.

It’s on a scale that suggests this formula is not being stolen by desperate parents; rather, it’s become a hot item for organized retail thieves.

In response, the International Formula Council and others are asking U.S. Congress members to make baby formula theft an offense subject to federal racketeering laws.

These groups want to crack down on the formula thefts not only because it’s a growing crime, but also because it presents a potential hazard to infants who are fed stolen formula:

“Improper storage conditions can potentially affect the nutrient content or physical appearance of infant formula, which could impact the product’s nutritional value and safety as well as potentially threaten an infant’s health,” says the International Formula Council’s Robert Rankin, as quoted in the article.

It’s worth reading to the end of this news story for the account of a recent bust named “Operation Milk Money” by the feds. It gives a sense of where this formula is ending up – and how much money the thieves are making off their crime.


Can we encourage breastfeeding without dissing formula?

One of the unhealthy things too many moms do is compare themselves to other moms and cast negative judgements – on themselves, and on the other moms. I’m as guilty of this as anybody.

And I have to admit that I was definitely guilty of it this morning as I read the Missoulian’s story about breastfeeding numbers being higher at Community’s maternity ward than the national average. Even as I applauded the findings, I couldn’t help but feel a little sting about my own failure to breastfeed my daughter.

The unhelpful voice in the back of my head kept chiming in as I read the list of advantages to breastfeeding:

  • “Breast milk is inexpensive and convenient, and uniquely tailored to meet all of a baby’s nutritional needs for the first six months of life. (I failed to meet all my daughter’s nutritional needs, and spent too many money doing it, too.)
  • “Breast milk contains antibodies from the mother that can protect infants from infection. (I failed to provide the utmost protection for my baby’s health.)
  • “Breast milk helps boost the baby’s own immune system. (I REALLY failed in the health department).
  • “Babies who are breast-fed have less frequent diarrhea, and have fewer ear or respiratory infections. (I made my baby prone to more diarrhea, and more ear and respiratory infections.)
  • “Babies who are breast-fed are less likely to develop asthma or diabetes.” (My daughter is more likely to develop asthma or diabetes because of my failure.)

And the real zinger: “Exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life has also been associated with higher IQ scores.” (Actually, I’m not worried about this one because I’m certain my 5-year-old is a certifiable genius.)

I remain an enthusiastic, committed supporter of breastfeeding. The science is pretty clear that breast is best, and I think that anything we can do to make breastfeeding easier for new moms and their babies, we should do. That’s a message I would love to see hanging in every maternity ward throughout the nation.

But alongside that message, I’d also like to see some reassurance that those of us who cannot or choose not to breastfeed our babies are not utter failures as parents. We are told over and over again that breastfeeding is the more natural, convenient option. Except that it’s not always – not for all of us. For some of us, it feels awkward and painful and most definitely inconvenient. Some moms simply cannot produce milk. Some babies simply cannot tolerate breast milk. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why breastfeeding is not more common, and a lack of information about the benefits of breastfeeding is only of them.

But even though I try really hard to stifle that self-destructive voice in my head, sometimes I just can’t ignore it when it insists on screaming “mom FAIL” at me. I know other moms struggle with this, too. Sometimes we just need someone else to say: Stop it. You’re doing the best you can, and the best you can do IS what’s best for your family.

If you haven’t gotten that message yet today, well, here it is. Repeat it as often as necessary. And pass it on.

– MM