Monday, June 22, 2009

Breastfed baby growth

Mr. Bubs is definitely chunking-up nicely. His plumpness has me thinking about baby growth. I've noticed a trend in my own experience and among my friends whose babies are breastfed for at least a year. Our babies grow much more quickly in the first few months and then their weights taper off or plateau. They follow a completely different trend than the growth charts you see in the pediatricians' offices.

I've heard so many stories from friends and family of their doctors being concerned about their babies' growth between 6 months and 18 months. 'Cause they pretty much stop gaining weight and just start getting taller and thinner. So the doctors recommend formula supplementation or tests to check for problems. But nearly all the moms have said that they're sure their babies are fine... they're happy, reaching developmental milestones, etc. With all the childhood obesity out there, you'd think doctors would be delighted to see thin, thriving, smart little babies! Fortunately, our doctors never showed too much concern.

I'd heard that breastfed babies grow differently and that the growth charts weren't the best gauge for them, but I'd never researched the particulars myself until last night.

Read the rest of this post over at my new website!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Re-post: To the women of the world

I've been reminiscing about two years ago when I started this blog and thought it might be fun to do a re-post of my very first post ever... which also happened to be one of my first publications ever--an opinion piece in the newspaper. It was a long-time goal of mine to have something I had written published. And it was all the more satisfying and fulfilling because I was able to educate people about something I was passionate about in the process. Here it is...

After two years of reviewing 15 years of medical literature, a team of national experts has come forward with this reality: Many of the routine medical interventions used in births in the United States do not improve outcomes for mothers and babies. Some even cause harm.

Their findings demonstrate increased risks and problems with many prevalent interventions including labor induction, cesarean section, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, routine use of IVs, amniotomy (artificial breaking of water) and withholding of food and liquids. Though these interventions have become commonplace and viewed as part of "advanced" and even "superior" medical care, this study indicates these practices are not improving outcomes in most cases. In fact, they often create more problems than they eliminate. These findings will appear in the winter 2007 supplement to "The Journal of Perinatal Education" in a summary report entitled "Evidence Basis for the Ten Steps to Mother-Friendly Care."

This is not the first time these facts have been brought to the nation's awareness. Time and again researchers, activists and organizations, such as the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, have tried to create change by raising awareness about the problems with maternity care in the the United States. Generations of women have recounted their birth horror stories over and over to each other. Scores of women wear the physical and emotional scars of unnecessary medical interventions.

Who is listening?

Does anyone care?

Let me use the words of Thomas Paine from his fiery call to arms, "Common Sense," with just a few of my own insertions: "Every quiet method for [change] hath been ineffectual. Our [appeals] have been rejected with disdain; and only tended to convince us, that nothing flatters vanity, or confirms obstinacy in [an old, broken system] more than repeated petitioning." The methods we have used thus far have been passionate and have brought about small victories, but the changes most needed have yet to be recognized or addressed by the mainstream medical community. We need a new approach.

Buckminster Fuller said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

Women and mothers of the world, I call on you to "build a new model." The time for complaining, pleading and persuading is over. Those methods have been tried, and they have done little. It is time to say, "Enough!"

Let us no longer accept mediocrity and "go along blindly" with any procedure. Let us no longer tolerate practices that have been shown to cause us or our babies harm. Let us stop playing the victims and start creating the reality that we all deserve — the absolute best maternity care possible. Let us demand the best of the best for ourselves and our babies.

We cannot underestimate the power of women united in behalf of themselves and their children. "There is a woman at the beginning of all great things," said Alphonse de Lamartine. Imagine what we can accomplish if we unite our efforts. Imagine what we can create.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can you spare a few for midwifery?

I just got this forwarded email from a friend and midwife in UT:

Supporters of midwives! We have an amazing opportunity to advance the availability of midwives not only in our state, but nationally.

Holly Richardson has been asked by the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM) to go to Washington, DC this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to lobby Senator Hatch and Congressman Matheson to get Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) on the national Medicaid provider list. These two leaders hold important positions on the committees that will make the decision to add CPMs or not, and therefore we as Utahns can play a particularly influential role on this issue.

What does this mean?

If Holly and the NACPM are successful and CPMs are added to the national Medicaid provider list, CPMs would become eligible Medicaid providers in all states, and all states would have to reimburse CPMs for their services under Medicaid. This would make midwives and out-of-hospital birth much more accessible to women who currently can't afford it, or who won't even look at it because they feel forced by Medicaid to "go hospital." Midwives would be free to choose whether of not to participate in Medicaid, of course, but at least this way it would be a choice instead of an impossibility.

If President Obama is successful in implementing some form of national/universal health care, the national Medicaid provider list will likely become the de facto list of providers under that plan also. Anyone not on that list will have great difficulty playing in the health care game. Whether you love the idea of national health care or hate it, it's passage might be the death knell of midwifery if midwives aren't included on the list of eligible providers.

If CPMs are included in the national Medicaid provider list, other private insurers are more likely to reimburse for services. They don't have to, but it does become more likely.

Even if the effort is unsuccessful in securing CPMs a spot on the provider list, there is still great benefit to sending Holly on this mission. At the very least, she can raise the awareness of our senator and congressman to the issue of midwifery, and pave the way for lobbying on any midwifery issues that may come up in the future.

Why send Holly?

Holly is in a unique position to succeed in this mission. Since she first started working on legislation here in Utah she has been working her way into other Utah politics and been unbelievably successful. She has run successful campaigns, joined organizations, started a very influential blog, become a recognized player statewide. She now has the kind of clout to ask for a meeting and GET HEARD. We can't guarantee the senator and congressman will do what she's asking, or that the committees they sit on will listen to them after she's convinced them, but she has a better shot than anyone at making it happen.

This is an amazing opportunity. We need to send her, but she doesn't have the money. The NACPM that has asked her to do this doesn't have the money to send her. We estimate that it will take $1150. That's a doable amount if we all share! Can we do it? Can we raise that in three days? I believe we can.

Here is what we need:

1. Send a check TODAY to Holly Richardson, 882 W 2800 N, Pleasant Grove, UT 84062.

We would love a large check, of course. But we'd love small checks, too. We know times are difficult, so if $5 is all you can give, we'll accept it with gratitude. It will make a difference!

Even better, WE HAVE AN ANONYMOUS DONOR who is willing to MATCH all donations up to $500. This will double your contribution! $5 will become $10, $100 will become $200. It won't take much to reach our goal if you'll all help.

Obviously, we aren't going to have enough time if everyone mails checks today to get the money in Holly's account before she leaves. But she's willing to put everything on her credit cards as long as she knows the money is coming to pay the expenses off afterwards. So,

2. Post either to the list or to me privately at and let me know how much you are sending.

This way we'll know whether we'll have enough to send her or not. If we can't get enough commitments by Wednesday June 17 for her to feel comfortable that the money will be there, she won't go and the money will be returned. DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN! This is a huge opportunity, way too important to waste. I'll be posting as the commitments come in so you can see how we're doing.

If we get more than the amount needed to finance this trip, we will turn the extra back over to Utah Friends Of Midwives for the further advancement of midwifery in the state.

Come on! We can do this. Ask everyone you know who supports midwifery to send what they can. Send what you can. Make a difference. Please, please, please, send a check right now. If we fail to act, the consequences could be terrible, and the opportunity if we succeed is amazing. I believe in you guys.

Suzanne Smith, CPM LDEM

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Big Push for Midwives Congressional Briefing on the Hill

Two great clips from the Big Push! First, Jennie Joseph speaks on her study showing midwives improve outcomes and close ethnic disparities:
And David Anderson, PhD, discusses economic benefits of midwifery and homebirth:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In praise of good birth attendants

I brought these mini rose bushes, thank you cards, and copies of my birth slideshow to my midwives today. It was my 10 week postpartum appointment. I was thrilled to see their new, gorgeous, and much larger office. Their practice is growing, and that makes me so happy.

This is the first time I've ever wanted to give a thank you gift to my birth attendant. And I'm feeling even more grateful today than I was a few weeks ago. Some scary complications following my sister-in-law's home birth have shaken me up over the last couple of weeks. And they have shown me more clearly than ever how valuable an experienced midwife is. I love midwives. I think more women should be attended by midwives. I think we need more midwives in this world. But I now know that I will never feel comfortable putting my or my future babies' lives in the hands of just any midwife.

I sat and talked with Mary today at my appointment. She held and admired my beautiful Bubby, of course. And we chatted for a bit about my birth and my sister-in-law's birth. Every midwife is so different. Not all midwives will handle a situation the same way. But I think one of the reasons Mary's outcomes have been so consistently good is that she can sense when something is going to happen... before it happens. She told me that most midwives develop that ability after they've practiced for more than 15 years. Mary's been a midwife for over 30 years, so her sense is especially in tune. And I'm so grateful for her gift. Because it kept my Bubby safe when she sensed he needed to be born quickly. I also think her years of experience have exposed her to nearly every possible complication, so she has witnessed and learned the best ways to handle those problems.

I had a really hard time keeping my "birth faith" during and immediately after my sister-in-law's brush with catastrophe. I even contemplated quitting this blog altogether. But then I cooled down and got my head in order and realized that her experience didn't change what I already knew deep down. The birth process was beautifully designed, but that doesn't mean complications don't ever happen. No one ever said bad things don't happen in home births. What we do know is that home birth is just as safe for low-risk women as hospital birth, but there is always the "with a skilled attendant" to qualify that safety. Midwives have varying degrees of experience, skills, and credentials. So what exactly qualifies someone as a "skilled attendant"? I'm not really sure what the answer to that is. But I am grateful and fortunate that I chose Mary--without a doubt one of the most skilled attendants there is.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law is doing much better now. Thank heaven for doctors and hospitals when we need them! No doubt about it... we are so fortunate to have modern medical intervention at our service when we need it. And, fortunately, my sister-in-law's birth experience itself was wonderful and beautiful. In fact, to this day she can't remember feeling any labor pain. Now that's incredible! I guess I need to look into that hypnobirthing stuff!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Nobody thinks you're a hero"

A comment from this site has got me on the defensive. So I'm going to spill my thoughts here.

I did NOT choose to give birth without drugs because...

* I wanted people to call me their "hero."
* I wanted to prove something.
* I wanted a reason to feel superior to other women.

As I've mentioned before, when I was a newlywed, I didn't even know people still had babies without drugs. The only experience I had with anything like that was the "crazy lady" who lived behind my grandma's house who had her babies at home. Ha ha. I didn't become interested in drug-free birthing until an acquaintance told me she was planning a natural childbirth and mentioned that there were benefits to avoiding drugs. It was the benefits that piqued my interest... not the dream of proving my supposed superiority to the world.

In fact, I don't know a single woman who chose natural childbirth for the reasons listed above. All of the women I know who have actively pursued a drug-less birth have done so because they recognize the many benefits. It may be controversial to say it, but I really do believe that the best way for (most) babies to be brought into this world--and for new mothers to be born--is through natural childbirth. (Before anybody gets upset, recognize I said MOST, not ALL.) I know that the birth process was designed as it was for our benefit.

I wish I could spend the day listing all those benefits with references to research backing them up. But I have two young children and a newborn, so my writing time is limited these days. But I do want to list some of the benefits I have experienced through my attempts to give birth as God and nature intended.

Choosing to give birth without drugs makes sense because...

* It reduces risks to both mother and baby. All of the drugs available for pain relief have very real (sometimes severe, sometimes long-term) side effects. Often one intervention leads to many (and more invasive) interventions. I know several women who traded the temporary pain of childbirth for long-term daily back pain after their epidurals.

* It enables a woman to be more aware of her instincts and urges. Pain in childbirth serves a physiological purpose. When a woman feels her labor, she can allow it to prompt her movements and changes of position. Women who can be mobile in labor will almost always move their bodies and adopt positions that will facilitate and speed-up the birth process.

* It facilitates the release of hormones which prime mother and baby for smoother delivery, bonding, and breastfeeding.

* It instills confidence and self-worth in a woman. Women who have given birth without drugs often describe the experience as life-changing. I believe God knew that new mothers would benefit from the trial of labor because it would allow them to see the strength and power within them. What better way to begin motherhood than on a springboard of power and strength?

Now I realize that this last reason may appear similar to "proving something to the world." But I believe there is a clear distinction between 1) Choosing to take a difficult path because you believe it will be beneficial to you and teach you important things about yourself AND 2) Choosing to inflict pain on yourself for future bragging rights.

I chose to accept the birth process and the possibility of intense pain because I knew it was best for me and my baby. But I think it's impossible to come out the other end of natural childbirth without feeling the euphoria of achieving something beautiful. Childbirth is one of the most physically and emotionally difficult challenges many women face. How could a woman NOT feel enormously fulfilled and proud of herself for her labor of love and endurance? Why do so many fault us for that sense of fulfillment? Why do some want to belittle that achievement as merely "nuts"?

I do hold my children's births in my heart as some of my greatest accomplishments. Does that make me prideful, macho (but in a female way), or full of myself? I don't think so. Just like I don't fault my husband for the joy he feels in completing a marathon or anyone who tackles something difficult and feels gratified upon overcoming it. Aren't those kinds of achievements the makings of our heroes? Is it not in our witnessing of human strength and endurance that we find our own desire to reach higher and push further and grow stronger?

I didn't pursue natural childbirth so people would call me their hero. But people have. Does that make me feel superior to other people? Of course not. I feel honored that my experiences have inspired other people because I believe wholeheartedly that the same strength I drew upon to birth my children lies within all of us. We are all strong. We are all heroes-in-the-making. We all have opportunities to discover our strength. Childbirth just happens to be where I discovered mine.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Misleading headlines

I don't generally read the newspaper. We only subscribe on Sundays (for the coupons). But I do, on occasion, scan through the Google News headlines in my Google Reader to stay somewhat informed of what's happening out there in the world. Quite often I never click to read the full articles. I generally only click on the ones that are pertinent to my locale, my circumstances, or my interests. I assume I'm not the only one who often doesn't read beyond the headline. Which is why headlines like this are extremely frustrating to me...

"Police probe home birth; baby died"

If all you do is scan the headlines, what are you going to assume? You may assume the author is using the term "home birth" in the usual sense--a baby intentionally born at home. The average person would then continue their thought process with... "See! That's why we have hospitals, people! Babies aren't supposed to be born at home! What a horrible, preventable tragedy!" And those people may never know that this mother was completely unaware she was pregnant until she saw a baby in her toilet... which means zero prenatal care, zero preparation for birth. And besides that... we don't even know the cause of death. Was the baby preterm? How long was the baby in the toilet? So many unanswered questions.

I would like to think the article's authors were unaware that their use of the term "home birth" in connection with "baby died" was loaded and misleading. But, unfortunately, I think they knew exactly what they were doing.

On a happier note... my brother and sister-in-law welcomed their beautiful new baby girl yesterday afternoon. She was born at home with the assistance of midwives, surrounded by loved ones. They did experience some scary complications following the birth, but the midwives handled them, and everyone is doing well... trying to get some much-needed rest. Thank goodness for skilled birth attendants. I am eager to hear the birth story in detail!