Sunday, October 23, 2011

RIP Google Reader

I take a break from my (ir)regularly scheduled programming of birth & breastfeeding to go a little meta and lament the major changes coming to Google Reader. I know, what a nerd, right? But I am fairly Reader-dependent (ahem, addicted) and what I read, think about, and blog about is largely fueled by the blogs that come through my Reader.

One of my favorite things is the ability in Reader to follow, share, and comment on posts with others. Some of them are birth-y people, a lot of them are not. Some of the latter have said to me "I learn a lot from the things you share, they're um...real different from everybody else's!" I feel the same way about their shares. Some of it is adorable baby animals, some of it is urban planning or video games or meteorology. Sometimes it overlaps with my blog-reading areas of interest in surprising ways. Some of it, from the birth-y people, is birth-y stuff and I learn about blogs or topics I may not have been closely following. I enjoy the comments and interactions I have with other people - it's a nice mini-social network and so simply and seamlessly integrated into Reader. If I remember seeing something, or am trying to find a bunch of relevant posts on a topic, I can easily search the blogs I read AND the shared items back in time (search "cord clamping" for example).

I like Google Reader so much I created a bundle of my favorite Reader feeds to encourage people to use it. I always recommend Reader to people as a way to start following more blogs more easily.

However, in what seems to be an attempt to push people into using Google+, Google is going to cut a lot of the social functions from Reader and make them only available in G+:

we’re going to bring Reader and Google+ closer together, so you can share the best of your feeds with just the right circles.

As a result of these changes, we also think it's important to clean things up a bit. Many of Reader's social features will soon be available via Google+, so in a week's time we'll be retiring things like friending, following and shared link blogs inside of Reader.

Yes... a week. As another blogger put it:

after thinking about just how much I use Google Reader every day, I’m beginning to revise my initial forecast. Stay calm is quickly shifting toward full-bore Panic Mode.

First of all, how do you think I found Sarah’s piece? From a share in Google Reader. How did I easily and quickly archive both Austin’s and Sarah’s posts so that I could access them in the future for a post like this one? Again, Google Reader. How can I quickly search a variety of excellent sources, or dig back through my own writing in a quick and efficient manner? Yeah, you guessed it. As Sarah notes, Reader is a “carefully constructed “human curated” list of shares. It is, and will be up until the day it disappears, one of the most regular and enjoyable news consumption behaviors I engage in every day.”

Check, check, check. All exactly how I feel about this (right down to the part where I heard about this via a share). I am not interested in logging into Google+ to create groups to follow/share with, and I don't want the people who might follow me on Google+ to necessarily see my Reader shares. I'm not really interested in logging into Google+ at all - and this change will not make me any more likely to. Instead, I'm now searching (so far in vain) for a feed reader that will have the same social functions that Google Reader is getting rid of, WITHOUT forcing me to log into a separate social network. Poorly done, Google!

If anyone out there has reader suggestions, let me know...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Which part of baby-friendly do you have a problem with?

So since I wrote my screed, more has happened (all forwarded to me by the endlessly helpful Beth!) At the end of my last post, I linked to a post by Gina at Feminist Breeder called "Why I am a Feminist AND a Lactivist", responding to Jessica and talking about why she supports Baby-friendly. Apparently some Twitter activity around the past happened (I try to stay off Twitter - I'm already addicted to the Internet enough as it is!) Then Jessica Valenti wrote a response to the tweets (hard to tell if she actually read Gina's post). Jessica said:

I’m sympathetic to Catilin’s argument that there are problems with the way that formula companies market their products (there’s quite a long history there). That said, of course free formula in hospitals is done from a marketing perspective, not for the good of women. Companies are companies and they’re targeting their audience. But I’ll tell you what - when my breastmilk ran out while Layla was in the NICU, I was sure as shit glad there was formula there to feed her. ...

But the marketing/corporate aspect was not really what Hearts’ post and my response was about - we were addressing the hypocrisy of judging women who choose to formula feed and the way they are made to justify their choice. In this case, the fact that the hospital would make formula available to women who “medically” needed it - what constitutes medical need? And what if women simply didn’t want to breastfeed? Isn’t that her right, and shouldn’t she be equally supported for that decision in the same way a breastfeeding mom is?

Except, you know, that wasn't what Jessica's original post was about. Maybe that's what she THINKS it was about, because it triggered feelings around formula feeding, breastfeeding, guilt, shame, expectations, etc. But her original post was about Baby-friendly, and criticizing hospitals for "denying" women the opportunity to use formula. Gina was pointing out that she was incorrect; Baby-friendly is about denying formula companies the opportunity to use hospitals for marketing purposes, and getting hospitals to adopt best practices to support breastfeeding.

But Jessica also covers that in her second post (which is confusing because she also said in the second post that's not what the debate was about), and says she thinks limiting formula marketing is paternalistic:

... the argument that women are “vulnerable” to free formula is just plain insulting to women’s intelligence. I trust women to make their own decisions.

As Gina points out, that's not the case for a lot of other marketing efforts that feminists take issue with:

Feminists are constantly calling out “Pregnancy Crisis Centers” for being predatory. They snag women who may be alone, scared, and confused by a major reproductive choice, and they offer them freebies to gain their trust. They tell them they’re helping them make a decision about parenting, but what they’re really doing is piling their Anti-Choice agenda on them, promising the mothers they’ll help, and then vanishing when it comes time to foot the costs of raising this baby. Feminists recognize that these centers are preying on a woman during a vulnerable time in her life. We’re not saying these women are stupid or that they’re being duped. We’re not saying that one choice is better than the other. We’re saying that the marketing is absolutely unethical.

Feminists are constantly calling out and boycotting the beauty industry for shaming women about their bodies, their lifestyles, and their choices. Why do we do that IF we think women are immune to marketing influence? Isn’t a woman smart enough not to fall for that “skinny is better” imagery? Don’t we trust her to recognize the airbrushing for what it is?

I am very curious to see how (and if) Jessica responds to that argument. But in the meantime, let's move on to her conclusion:

Listen, I support breastfeeding women - long before I had my daughter I was blogging about the heinous lack of resources for breastfeeding mothers and the various ways they are discriminated against. I think we need mandated paid maternity leave, insurance that pays for lactation consultants and breast pumps, employers who are required to have a space and breaks for pumping moms, hospital- and state-funded breastfeeding support groups and more. But I also believe that formula feeding your child is just as valid and healthy a choice as breastfeeding - it’s not something women should have to justify or be denied resources for or access to.

I agree with her! Breastfeeding women deserve time, space, resources, and support? yes! Formula feeding as valid a choice as breastfeeding? Yes! As healthy or even MORE healthy than breastfeeding? Yes, sometimes! Should you have to justify it to anyone else? No! Should you be denied resources for formula feeding? No! Wow, look, me and Jessica agreeing on everything. Except the part where she slams me, the organizations I work with, and the work that we do. Because she still thinks Baby-friendly can "suck her left one". I wrote in my last post that she doesn't seem to actually understand what Baby-friendly is. But maybe it didn't get through. So here's a little review for Jessica Valenti and anyone else who's confused:

Here are the Ten Steps to Baby-Friendly, from the UNICEF Baby-Friendly page.

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
7. Practice “rooming in”-- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic

The Ten Steps prevent hospitals from doing things like routinely supplementing breastfed babies, not training their staff, routinely separating new babies from their mothers, and trying to force babies to feed on a schedule. Good stuff, right? So where is the issue here?

The current debate seems to center around Step 6, Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated. This is an international guideline, and in the U.S. Step 6 has been reworded as "Give breastfeed newborns no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated." As the U.S. has a long history of formula marketing via hospital, Baby-Friendly USA has added this clarification to Step 6:

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative supports the International Code on the Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes ("WHO Code"). The WHO Code stipulates that health care facilities and professionals neither accept nor offer free or low-cost substitutes for human milk. In keeping with the Code, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative asks facilities to purchase all infant formula in the same manner as it purchases all other supplies. Additionally, facilities should not give infant formula samples, literature, or other items bearing the name of an infant formula product to breastfeeding mothers.

Since the original story was about a UK hospital, I looked up the UK guidelines and found their page on Step 6. They have not reworded the guideline from the international version; they have set out the following criteria for following it:

No food or drink other than breastmilk should be given to breastfed babies unless:
- there is an acceptable clinical reason, the baby is unable to breastfeed and there is no/insufficient breastmilk available
- the mother has made a fully informed choice to feed her baby other than from the breast.

No promotion for infant food or drink other than breastmilk should be displayed or distributed to mothers or staff in the facility.

The hospital in the article that sparked all this seems to have drawn ire for asking mothers to bring in their own formula if they decide to formula feed without a clinical/medical reason. But that requirement is not part of Baby-friendly. It's not required in the international guideline, or in the U.S. interpretation, nor in the U.K. interpretation. This hospital has chosen to make this change part of going Baby-friendly, but it is not required. I said in my original post that I thought that whether was a good idea or not was a legitimate subject of debate, but it is not actually being made the subject of THIS debate. Instead I'm seeing people call Baby-friendly shaming and lump it together with the anti-formula douchery on Twitter and that's just plain wrong.

Saying, as Jessica Valenti did in her original post, that "refusing to give mothers access to formula is not “baby friendly” or helpful - it’s shaming and in some cases could be very dangerous" shows that she REALLY didn't understand what Baby-friendly was about, since apparently she never saw "unless medically indicated" in Step 6. No Baby-friendly hospital would put a baby in a "very dangerous" situation by denying them formula. "Medically indicated" is how we avoid "very dangerous". It really bothers me that someone would imply that LCs, nurses, and doctors and those hospitals would shrug and say "Sorry, no breastmilk no eat!"

I made this point before and I make it again now: Baby-friendly is not about you needing to justify your choice to formula feed to hospital staff. It is about the HOSPITAL having to justify its OWN reasons for supplementing breastfed babies. Yes, that hospital in the U.K. differentiates between medical and elective supplementation, and asks the elective supplementers to bring in their own formula, and that may seem judgy and we can talk about that. But let's talk about it WITHOUT bringing Baby-friendly into the mix and WITHOUT implying that health care professionals are starving babies.

I'm glad formula was there for Jessica's baby. I'm glad she likes formula feeding and that it was a healthy choice for her. I'm really sorry people are jerks about how women feed their babies. I just don't see the connection between all those things and Baby-friendly. As I said in my last post: they are different things. Jessica had the opportunity to say "Hey, I get what Baby-friendly is, I just have a problem with this part of it and let's talk about that", but instead off we go on the mommy-wars train to Stopjudgingmeville, complete with opportunities for self-proclaimed lactivists to show off their ugliest, judgiest sides. I get so depressed by how so many feminists hop on this train unquestioningly. Back to my conference proposal in an attempt to encourage more people to think about this in a more critical way...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another screed on breastfeeding & guilt – this time with cussing!

Oh, this comes at a great time. This comes at a PERFECT time. I was literally in the middle of writing a conference proposal for a presentation on breastfeeding as a reproductive right, and I check my e-mail. My friend (thanks for loving Internet drama, Beth!) had forwarded me the following links on breastfeeding and baby-friendly:

The first was from a feminist blog called the F Word, by a guest blogger named Laurie Hearts, "Baby friendly - but is it woman friendly?":

Manchester's largest maternity unit, St Mary's, is set to become a Unicef-approved 'Baby Friendly' hospital by ceasing to provide free formula milk to the women who give birth there. ... Women who choose to formula feed at St Mary's will have to bring their own ready prepared milk in cartons from this November; powdered milk will be banned for health and safety reasons. ...

In an era when many feminists are (in my opinion rightly) dismayed by the suggestion that a woman's right to an abortion should be subject to conditions, I have been shocked by the high level of acceptance when it comes to the notion that women who formula feed should be forced to justify their choice, not only to medical staff, but to pro-breastfeeding women. While I have never seen anyone claim that formula is better than - or even equal to - breast milk, a large number of women are vociferously and uncompromisingly against a woman's right to choose formula milk. I have witnessed a sizeable number of women, some of whom are self-declared feminists, debating on one another's social media profiles and calling for formula to be made illegal.

The second was from Jessica Valenti's blog:

[F]or me, formula feeding was absolutely, 100% better than breastfeeding. Like, life changing better... refusing to give mothers access to formula is not "baby friendly or helpful - it’s shaming and in some cases could be very dangerous. Enough already.

I usually don’t swear very much on my blog (real life is a different story) but like all good screeds, this was written while I was feeling just a little riled up. So: Holy shit. Let’s just make this clear: baby-friendly is not about preventing you from formula feeding. I work in a hospital that is pursuing baby-friendly certification. Most women at our hospital plan to breastfeed. Some women plan to formula feed. A fairly significant percentage of the breastfeeders choose to use formula at some point. The straight-up formula feeders never hear a word about breastfeeding from us. You told us on admission you planned to formula feed, here are your bottles. The breastfeeders who need to use formula for medical reasons – and they are very clearly outlined, including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and excessive weight loss – get formula too (and we are very fortunate to be able to offer them the option of donor milk if they are not comfortable with formula.) The breastfeeders who ask to use formula – this happens not infrequently, often because “I think I don’t have enough milk” – get education and discussion, sign a consent form, and then are given formula too. (No, we don’t have them bring in their own formula like the hospital profiled; we can debate whether that’s any different from making them bring their own baby clothes, but I think there’s a legitimate debate there.)

However, while I have a lot of respect for Jessica Valenti, she and the other blogger are completely mischaracterizing the issue here. Baby-friendly is not part of the mommy wars, and I honestly think it is irresponsible to do so. What makes hospitals baby-friendly is not preventing women from choosing formula feeding, or refusing to give them formula when their babies need it. Baby-friendly is not about forcing mothers to do anything. Baby-friendly is about preventing HOSPITALS from shoving bottles and pacifiers into breastfed babies’ mouths and then sending their unknowing mothers home with a screaming, nipple-confused baby who won’t latch. Baby-friendly is about preventing HOSPITALS from accepting “free” formula and gift bags and samples from formula companies, turning the hospital into a shill for a for-profit company, and engaging in practices that research has shown make it less likely for women to reach their own breastfeeding goals. Baby-friendly is about forcing HOSPITALS to offer regular breastfeeding education to all their staff, including nurses and doctors, so they can help mothers and not give them crap advice. Baby-friendly is not about the mommy wars. It is not about trying to force any mother to breastfeed. It is about changing HOSPITAL practice, and whether or not you realize it, most hospitals in the U.S. have a long, long way to go. Baby-friendly is about offering evidence-based care to promote health.

“Who are you to decide that breastfeeding promotes health? Formula feeding can be lifesaving!” Hell yes it can. You think I don’t see that? I see that all the time. When women are dealing with a new baby, sleep deprivation, hormone shifts AND feeding issues, you are dealing with a potent cocktail for severe depression – you think I never meet women with serious PPD? You think I don’t see women with intense pain from feeding, or a history of low supply, or a baby who isn’t transferring milk well? You think I don’t see women who are BBAC (breastfeeding baby after challenges), who are having the same issues as their last hellish breastfeeding experience, where we talk through their situation and their emotions and their individual needs and they decide that on balance, formula feeding is the healthiest thing for them and their babies? You think I don’t see women with insufficient glandular tissue to make enough milk, whose babies will starve without supplementation? That I never meet women, like Jessica Valenti, who had life-threatening health issues and premature deliveries, who are pump dependent and struggle to make even a tiny supply? You think that because I work at a baby-friendly hospital I refuse to let any of those women use formula? Of COURSE I do. Of COURSE formula is lifesaving. And it doesn’t NEED to be lifesaving to be OK. I see women who just decide that breastfeeding isn’t for them. They don’t want to breastfeed. Maybe they said they wanted to because they wanted to give it a try, but they’re not that into it. I shrug and move on. As a lactation consultant and public health professional, I would love for more women to choose to breastfeed. The lady in Room 4 doesn’t want to? We gave her the spiel, and it’s her choice.

So “formula-should-be-illegal” Judgy McJudgersons out there (even though I think there are fewer of them out there than their reputation): Shut up. Yup, I said it. You can never know what’s really going on in a woman’s life. When you demand that a woman give you a good reason for not breastfeeding, you have no clue what you’re asking. How about this: “Well, I was sexually abused as a child and I had very frightening flashbacks every time I breastfed.” Is that the reason you need to hear? Women don’t need to justify their feeding choices to you. They don’t need formula to be made illegal “for their own protection”. Because even if a woman doesn’t have a “good”, “morally correct” reason to breastfeed (just like many women do not have “socially approved” reasons for having an abortion), “I just didn’t want to” is reason enough. “But if they were really informed – ” No. I know we don’t do a very good job with breastfeeding education in this country. Please, if you really care about educating women, do not do it by asking nosy questions of your pregnant friends or of the woman with a bottle next to you on a park bench, or post judgy comments on mommy wars-fueling news articles. Lobby our elected officials to stop slashing funding for maternal and child health programs. Volunteer to teach classes at a community center. Write a letter to your local hospitals encouraging them to become (gasp!) baby-friendly.

Finally, let’s stop with the idea that women who tried to breastfeed – who wanted to breastfeed – and couldn’t breastfeed, shouldn’t be sad. Do I think they should feel guilty? That they should feel ashamed? HELL NO. But it’s OK for them to mourn something they had hoped to do, and couldn’t. It’s also OK for them NOT to mourn it, to just accept it and go on, to appreciate the things about formula feeding that are positive for them. Everyone is different. But women who had looked forward to providing milk for their baby, who planned to have a positive nursing relationship with their baby, can feel sad about the loss of those hopes. That does not mean that “boob nazis” made them feel guilty and should just stop it with the baby-friendly bullshit already. It doesn’t mean that formula is supernifty and that we should let formula companies engage in deceptive marketing practices and co-opt hospital staff. It means we should support those women and help them work through their sadness so that they can move forward feeling good about themselves as mothers. It means that we should work harder to offer donor milk so that if those mothers are helped by knowing their baby is still getting breastmilk, they have the option to choose it. It means we should continue to research ways to help women so that they ARE able to reach their breastfeeding goals.

I am just tired of this argument. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when we hate on breastfeeding initiatives like baby-friendly, we hate on the very things that make it possible for women to breastfeed. An individual woman’s feelings of being judged or of guilt are REAL issues that deserve their own space and time (that’s why I just gave them their own paragraphs). But they are not the same thing. They are different. Different things. The end.

(As I was finishing this up, I saw that Gina at the Feminist Breeder has also written a post prompted by those blogs, "Why I’m a Feminist AND a Lactivist", and I highly encourage you to go and check it out.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Android apps for doulas

I got a smartphone for the first time in March of this year. I had wanted the iPhone for years, but was tired of waiting for it to come out on Sprint. (Of course, once I gave in, Sprint announced they were getting the iPhone. As much as I love Apple products though, I can't say for sure I'd switch to the iPhone once I'm ready for my next upgrade. I've gotten a little bit addicted to certain Android apps & features.)

I've found the phone mildly addictive in some ways (Google Reader on phone = bad idea?) and super helpful in many others - including doula work. I thought I'd do a post on a few of the apps I've found useful as a doula, and ask for app suggestions that others have discovered.


When you're meeting up with clients at their houses, or various places out in the community, or driving to unfamiliar hospitals, navigation is wonderful! One of my favorite things about the Android is that Google Maps is your in-phone GPS. This is absolutely amazing, not just for the directions but for a lot of other little details. For example, when you arrive at your destination, it will show you the Google Maps street-level photo of the address you're looking for. I am using it constantly for both doula and non-doula navigational needs (I have a terrible sense of direction.)

Contraction Timer

I definitely don't spend a lot of time at births timing contractions (I don't spend a lot of time at births looking at the clock, period), since most of what you need to know about labor progress you can tell more from looking and listening than you can by timing. But there is the occasional situation where it's helpful to do a little contraction tracking, especially when getting ready to pass along information to the midwife or doctor. I found it helpful in dark, quiet room while the mom was resting with her eyes closed. There were no lights and no light-up clocks (other than my phone), but I felt like her contractions were lasting surprisingly long. I turned my screen brightness all the way down and was able to just hit the button silently whenever I heard her start or finish a contraction, and pass along the information to her midwife. This app is simple, free, and does exactly what you want it to: show duration and frequency of contractions.


I've written about this app before, and now it's on the Android Market proper! Quick and easy look-up for medication safety & breastfeeding, from the comprehensive database maintained by the NIH. I make a point of using it and demoing it in front of the medical providers who should know about it - already got an ER doc to download it this way!

"Whitelist" call screening apps

The one holy grail app I am still searching for is a "whitelist" call screener. Especially since I work nights, I am at very high risk for getting phone calls when I'm sleeping. But when I'm on call, I cannot turn off my phone. All doulas face this problem in some form: you might be at movies, at work, in class, etc. You're willing to let your phone buzz or ring quietly for a client, (knowing it's highly unlikely they'll call during that time) but when the dentist calls to confirm your appointment it's kind of embarrassing. What you want is an app that screens calls, so that your clients' phone numbers are OK to ring through, and and all others will be sent to voicemail.

VIP Alert worked perfectly, but when the whitelist numbers rang through, the ring would just be a soft beep. That would work perfectly in a movie or meeting, but I needed something to wake me up! It now seems to have been updated so you can adjust the volume, but at the time I tried it, that was a no-go. I'd be curious to try it again.

I tried Profile Call Blocker, but it just did not work the way I wanted it to. No matter how I adjusted it, the blocked calls would still ring through briefly before getting blocked - long enough to wake me up. I e-mailed the developers and didn't hear back from them. It might work on a different model of phone than I have (HTC Hero) but I can't recommend it myself. Also, it had a lot of other features I didn't really need, just to get at the one thing I did need.

I haven't tried Semisilent since I just discovered it while doing research for this post, but it looks promising! Does anyone have experience with it?

OK, this isn't really a doula-specific app. Um, I'm listing it because it makes it faster to write e-mails to your clients? I'm just putting it in here because I love it so much. Seriously, it is the best typing/keyboard app I have tried, and I have tried multiple. Instead of tap-tap-tapping out each word, you just slide your finger from letter to letter and Swype magically guesses the word that you want (occasionally you have to correct it, but not often). I probably type 3-4x faster with this method than I ever did thumb-typing. You can't find it in the Market - you have to go to the Swype website. The trouble is worth it!

Other apps doulas have found useful? Feel free to list iPhone apps...maybe I can be tempted to switch!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In the category of blogs that I am enjoying this week

Privilege Denying Dude!

I think privilege denying dude would also say related things like "If you don't want to have a baby in a hospital, don't get pregnant" and "Birth trauma is all in your mind" and "Maternity leave is discriminatory".

Of course, he would do it while condescendingly mansplaining.

(For the record, women can also be privilege denying dudes. Lest anyone think I'm being sexist.)

Bonus link: If you are having a baby, and don't want your baby's pee or your milk to get on your mattress, I can vouch for this mattress pad: Queen Size SafeRest Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector - Vinyl Free