Here’s hoping UM gives the go-ahead to a new infant care center

Well, shoot. Looks like that new infant care center at the University of Montana isn’t going to be available just yet.

I guess it’s a good thing that ASUM is putting it to a student vote. The students should get a say in how their money is spent, after all. I just hope the student body recognizes how important newborn daycare services are to those who use them – parents and babies alike.

The vast majority of students at UM aren’t parents, and they may not know what it’s like to take care of kiddos and a course load at the same time. I applaud those new parents who are furthering their educations, improving their job prospects and building a better life for their families.

And I vividly remember what it was like when I toted my own newborn around campus nine years ago. I started taking Willow to class with me when she was two weeks old. She came to interviews with me and she spent a lot of time in the grungy old Kaimin offices, building up her immunities. Thankfully, I had very understanding, very supportive professors.

Of course, there were times when I absolutely couldn’t have Willow with me. I usually managed to cobble together help from friends and family for a few hours at a time. But it was always a stressful, seat-of-the-pants type of arrangement – and it remained so until I landed a gig at the Missoulian. That’s when my schedule finally became regular and predictable enough to arrange for a regular daycare provider.

Let me tell you something: Daycare for children younger than 2 is nearly impossible to find in Missoula, let alone GOOD daycare.

All children, especially babies, need the best possible care. Student parents need to know their children are in good hands when they can’t be with them.

I hope UM students will keep this in mind when they vote this Spring.

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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.

Playground

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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‘Mompreneurs’ – not necessarily moms – targeting infant market

While I am waiting to see if the pregnant cat we are fostering from the Humane Society is going to have any more kittens – she has given birth to three so far today, and has been laboring since 4 a.m. – I’ve been going through the short list of unread mom-related business articles I save for occasions just such as these.

I’m a nerd.

One of the things I found interesting about this Crain’s New York Business.com article is that its headline about “Mompreneurs” immediately made me think the story would be about moms who start businesses, and the article does state that the infant good industry is “dominated” by women. But the two primary sources cited in the story are actually men – a father in one case and a man with no children in the other. So, duh, you don’t have to be a mom – or even a woman – to break into the newborn market.

And it’s an especially appealing market to cater to, apparently, because it is considered essentially “recession-proof,” and because there’s a thriving high-end niche in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Of course, there are plenty of baby-centric businesses that were started by new parents right here in Missoula, too.

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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.

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Pregnancy and infant health info

The Living Well insert in today’s Missoulian is a must-read for pregnant women and new moms. The issue tackles infant massage, breastfeeding, infant illness prevention (“If babies could talk they would say ‘Wash your hands!'”), the days and weeks following neonatal intensive care, doulas, tackling that “baby bump” and more. Almost all the articles are written by local health professionals.

– MM

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Breastfeeding in bathrooms a thing of the past?

A little-discussed nugget of law tucked into the federal health care reform act directs businesses that have more than 50 employees to give lactating mothers a private space in which to pump milk or breastfeed, as well as a “reasonable” amount of (unpaid) time to do so.

This Free Press article forwarded to me this morning discusses it in more detail, and got me reminiscing about all the gross places in which I struggled to pump milk for the short six weeks I breast-fed my newborn baby girl.

Bathrooms, mostly. I was struggling to wrap up my journalism degree at the time, and if the University of Montana had a dedicated lactation room, I was not aware of it. I was also working at the Kaimin, and have fond memories of sitting with my back against the door (because it didn’t lock) of the old editor’s office – a room so filthy I had to scrape what looked like crusty old macaroni and cheese off the windows just to get a little natural light – praying no one would barge in.

The article also got me looking around the Missoulian, pondering places I might pump if I were lactating now. Hmm. Looks like the bathroom again.

Which brings me to my favorite quote from the article. Here’s what Michigan Breastfeeding Network cochair and Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatrican Rosemary Shy had to say about breastfeeding in bathrooms: “I want every employer who says (pump in a bathroom) to be forced to eat his lunch in the bathroom for a month.”

The law creates a lot of questions – how will this work for non-office staff? – and will no doubt lead to many more as the details are hashed out. But I think it’s a positive thing that the nation is acknowledging its lactating labor force at all, and I, for one, welcome the long overdue discussion.

– MM

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Swimming lessons start early. Real early

Photo by KENNETH BILLINGTON/Missoulian

Photo by KENNETH BILLINGTON/Missoulian

“There are ditches in people’s backyards, rivers and creeks – and no matter how good a parent you are, kids sometimes fall into them.”

That’s fellow Missoulian and mom Kaci Briggeman, who recently became the only Infant Swimming Resource instructor in Montana, as quoted in today’s Missoulian story.

The story also notes a 2007 report from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services that says the most common cause of unintentional injury death among children 1 to 4 years old in Montana is drowning.

The high rate of dr0wning deaths of very young children is why Infant Swimming Resource’s motto is “The sooner, the safer.” And why, though it’s always a little startling to see an infant floating on her own or a toddler paddle by you before he can walk, it’s a very good thing for all kids to learn to float and swim.

We waited until my daughter was almost 5 to enroll her in a swimming class at Currents, and the confidence it gave her in the water is just amazing. She still can’t swim on her own, and she refuses to float on her back, but at least she’ll dunk underwater and paddle a bit on her own initiative. And best of all, swimming is now a lot more fun for her.

Makes me wonder how she would be doing now had she had some swimming classes as an infant.

– MM

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Is glass or plastic better for baby bottles?

Back when I was bottle-feeding my baby (and it was only a few years ago), plastic bottles were the norm and it never occurred to me to question how much BPAs or other chemicals my daughter was ingesting with her formula.

Today, I received an opinion piece from Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. In it, Logomasini argues forcefully that plastic bottles have not been proven harmful and that plastic bans are a bad way to go. Here’s her full commentary:

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