Saturday, February 21, 2015

It's Time to Take FMLA to the Next Level

Philadelphia photographer Melissa Hassey created this!
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
This year marks the twenty-second year since the Family and Medical Leave Act has been passed. Certainly many families have benefited from its provision that allows mothers to take up to twelve weeks of leave with their babies and still keep their jobs and insurance coverage. However, there are still improvements that could be made to extend its benefits to more workers.

The Current Situation

Let's look at who benefits the most under the current FMLA. Those who are employed full-time with an employer who has over 50 employees in a 75 mile radius are usually considered eligible for FMLA. The employer guarantees that the employee will still have her job, and promises to continue paying for her insurance. Those employees who work for smaller companies or are not full time do not have any kind of coverage.

The biggest obstacle, however, that many employees face is the loss of income when they take their leave. Mothers who are already living on a shoestring sometimes go back to work even before the baby is six weeks old because they feel they don't have a choice. Some companies do offer at least a partially paid maternity leave, but there is no public policy mandating that they do so. In fact, the United States is only one of three countries in the world that does not have some sort of law mandating some form of paid maternity leave. The other two are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, actually allows parents to receive employment insurance payments of 55% of their regular salary up to a maximum of $524 per week for up to 37 weeks following the birth of a child.
How we compare! From 

Where Do We Go From Here?

The obvious answer is that we need to find a way to provide mothers with a paid maternity leave without placing an undue burden on employers. Small businesses are often the first to feel the pinch when it comes to any extra taxes or financial obligations. However, if every other industrialized country in the world has found a way to do this, then we should be able to find a way to make it work, as well. Canada's employment insurance model makes a lot of sense. In Switzerland employees are required to take 8 weeks of paid maternity leave as part of the Swiss social insurance system. In Sweden both parents are expected to take parental leave, and are given up to a total of 480 days of leave that may be divided between them. They continue to receive about 77% of their pay. The cost is divided between employer and government.

In the United States we have a very different type of economy. We are not a socialist state, nor do most Americans want to pay the taxes associated with a plethora of government-provided services. Nevertheless, there has to be a solution that will respect our capitalistic roots and still care for mothers and babies. The solution is really quite simple, and has been implemented in New Jersey and California: It is a very small tax (less than $3/month) that every employee pays. The program ends up paying for itself and contributes to a stronger, more stable, and ultimately more profitable workforce. This article from Forbes Magazine explains it better than I ever could.

Great comparison chart from KellyMom

Framing the Dialogue

I think it is important to frame this dialogue correctly. We are not talking about welfare or an entitlement program here. Rather we are talking about moving the United States into its rightful position as a world leader in the treatment of women. Even countries where women's rights are scorned have laws on the books requiring a paid maternity leave! That should be a source of embarrassment for our governing authorities. 

This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It does not deal with less government control or more government control. It has nothing to do with liberal or conservative. No, it is an issue that every citizen who has a child, every citizen who respects the roles of mothers and fathers, every citizen who wants to see our children get the very best start in life must take seriously. We have seen the immense costs to our society of NOT having mandatory paid parental leave. In fact, one of the biggest costs of not having paid parental leave is an increase in the number of women receiving public assistance according to a Rutgers Study. 

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, take a few minutes to study this issue and let your elected representatives know that it is time for the United States to take leadership on behalf of parents throughout this great country!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Did Your OB Talk to You About Breastfeeding?

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Most mothers make the decision about whether they will breastfeed or not during their pregnancy. The one health-care provider who is most likely to be able to influence that decision is the mother's own doctor or midwife. Yet many times, despite the recommendation from their own organization ACOG that they encourage mothers to breastfeed, some OB/GYN's remain strangely silent on this subject.

Why the Silence from Some Providers?

Although many OB/GYN's are quick to encourage mothers to breastfeed, some take a very neutral stance on the subject, despite the proven benefits of breastmilk and risks of infant formula. Why is that? We think there may be several possible reasons.

  1. Lack of Education about the Benefits of Breastfeeding   Depending upon when and where your OB/GYN attended medical school, he or she may have had little to no instruction about breastfeeding. What instruction was given may have focused on problems related to the lactating breast as opposed to the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. If your physician is closer to retirement age, he or she may have actually been taught that formula is the "modern" way to feed babies.
  2. Relationships with Formula Companies  In a recent survey we did, many mothers reported receiving formula company gift bags from their OB's office. While it may seem like a nice little "gift," these samples coming from a physician actually tend to undermine a mother's confidence in her ability to exclusively breastfeed her baby.
  3. Her own lack of breastfeeding experience  If your doctor formula fed and has healthy children, then she may truly not believe that breastfeeding is all that important, despite what all the professional organizations say about it. She might also feel like all of this talk about breastfeeding being so important somehow casts her in a negative light for having formula fed. Or perhaps she had some real difficulties with breastfeeding and just didn't have the support she deserved.

The Physician's Role as a Health Advocate

One of the primary roles that all doctors have is to advocate with their patients for healthy practices. Nearly all Ob/Gyn's strongly discourage expectant mothers from smoking because the health risks are very obvious for both mother and baby. Did you know that there are actually risks associated with formula feeding?  So often we frame our pro-breastfeeding language in terms of the "benefits of breastfeeding," when in actuality all babies deserve to have reduced rates of upper respiratory infections and juvenile diabetes. The truth is that babies NOT receiving breast milk, but receiving formula instead actually increases the likelihood that they will get ear infections. diarrhea, eczema, asthma, and even childhood leukemia. 

If their simple recommendation to breastfeed could help make all the babies in their practice healthier, then why aren't doctors everywhere telling every mother they see to breastfeed? When I was born, my mother's doctor literally did NOT give her a choice. He told her that she would breastfeed me because that was her only option. I am not advocating such a heavy-handed approach with mothers, but certainly all expectant women deserve to know the truth about infant feeding methods. It should be the responsibility of every maternal health-care provider to educate every patient about breastfeeding. 

Bringing About Change

How do we effect change? If those mothers who are passionate about breastfeeding would initiate a dialogue with their doctors, it might be a good first step. Make sure your doctor is aware of the tools
available to him or her. In a recent survey over half the mothers said that their Ob/Gyn did mention breastfeeding. But that leaves many, many doctors who aren't saying a word, as well as many doctors whose offices are handing out formula gift packs like candy.

If your doctor's office gives you a sample (usually it will be a receptionist, not the doctor) make sure to bring it to your next appointment along with information about breastfeeding. Ask your doctor why they are promoting formula feeding when their own organization wants them to promote breastfeeding. Share positive resources with your doctor to aid in the formulation of a positive approach to breastfeeding promotion.

If a lactation consultant works at the hospital where your doctor is, try to enlist her help in providing positive breastfeeding resources for your doctor's office. If your physician hears enough voices encouraging strong breastfeeding promotion as a pro-health activity, change will begin to happen. It starts with ONE MOM speaking up. Are you THAT MOM??

Saturday, February 14, 2015

FaceBook Is Blocking This Breastfeeding Blog!

By Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
Today I created a brand new blog called TechNOboobies in response to Facebook's ongoing insistence on blocking this blog, Nurturing Moments. I really hate that it has come to this, but Facebook seems to have absolute disregard for nursing mothers and babies. In their own information, they proclaim that they don't block breastfeeding images, yet they have a long history of doing just that. And now they have resorted to blocking my blog  that deals with Breastfeeding.

A Call to Action

I would like to ask everybody who reads this to do two things:
1. Please share the link to this blog post, then when you see the Security Check at the left saying the link might be unsafe, please click on "let us know" and let Facebook know that they need to stop blocking Nurturing Moments because there is nothing unsafe here!
2. Share the link to TechNOBoobies.  I would like to highlight stories of social media discrimination against breastfeeding everywhere they occur. This isn't just about Nurturing Moments. It is a war to normalize breastfeeding within our culture. Are you up for the fight?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Save BIG on Big-Ticket items for President's Day

This Bilana in Ash just arrived.

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Traditionally President's Day is a big shopping day for furniture. Therefore, here at ANM we want to make sure that you get the very best deals possible on the furniture we carry. Although our focus is breastfeeding, we carry a couple of pieces of furniture that we think every nursing mom needs: comfy chairs, and Arm's Reach Co-sleepers. So from now until Monday we want to help you get what you need at the prices you can afford!

Floor Model Prices Slashed

Alabama Fans will Love this Peyton!
Just this week we slashed the prices on all our floor models. But for this sale, you will get an EXTRA 5% back on any chair you purchase! We have seven chairs available on the floor right now, so you have a great selection!

Save on Your Order

Order any chair from the Best Chairs StoryTime Series between now and Monday and save 10%. Plus, with approved credit you may have the option of no money down and up to one year interest-free financing. That means you could have a beautiful StoryTime glider for as little as $60 a month!

This Natasha is beautiful!
We will also take 10% off any Arm's Reach Co-sleeper order you make during this sale. In fact, you can even combine your glider and co-sleeper order and pay both off interest-free over the next year! We don't know of anywhere else you can get both a co-sleeper and a glider or recliner with no money down!

Remember, the sale ends Monday at 6:00 pm, so come in quickly to take advantage of these amazing prices!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Moms Love Extended Breastfeeding

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

 Recently I asked our moms what is the best thing about breastfeeding past a year. I loved the responses we received. But before I talk about what our moms said, I want to explain what I loved about extended breastfeeding. All of my children nursed at least 2.5 years, and some nursed even longer. I did get comments from well-meaning family members encouraging me to stop breastfeeding, but I knew that I was the expert on my child, and we would wean when it was the right time.

When my first daughter had her first birthday, I knew we had reached my initial breastfeeding goal of one year. Nevertheless, neither one of us was ready to wean. I loved the fact that if she fell down or had a boo-boo, I could provide instant relief with just a few minutes of nursing. I also loved how easy it was to get her to take a nap; that was especially nice once I got pregnant again. I was nursing my third child when we moved to Costa Rica, then Peru. I loved the fact that she stayed so healthy even when the rest of us got various intestinal maladies. I also loved the way that breastfeeding her together with my last baby created a very intense bond between them that continues to this day even though she is an adult and he is a teenager!

Moms Love the Bond

Several moms mentioned how much they love the close bond that breastfeeding creates because baby is always fairly close to mom. The cuddles and snuggles and milky grins are all a wonderful part of nursing a toddler. One mom nursed her oldest until 21 months. After he turned a year they only nursed at morning and night until his second birthday. However, she was a mom who worked outside of the home, and she noted that: "After being at work during the day it was always nice to have snuggle time with him while he nursed before bedtime."

Another mom went on vacation without her 18 month old and without a pump. Needless to say she had pretty severe engorgement and her supply ended up going away. But before that she loved the snugly bond they had. She said he is still snugly, but not nearly as much as when he nursed. She closed her comments with this: "They grow up so fast and enjoying every moment is so important. Nursing helped me "savor" his first 18 months." 

Moms Love the Healthy Nutrition

Breast milk continues to be a wonderful source of antibodies and nutrition as long as a toddler or even a preschooler continues to receive it. A mother who is currently nursing her two year old noted that he rarely gets sick. Another mom who is tandem nursing a 31 month old and a 6 month old had this to say: "A couple weeks ago, when they both had the flu, I was so thankful to still be nursing the toddler as he wouldn't eat or drink anything for a full week. Nursing is the only thing that got him through."  What a blessing for her little boy that he was still nursing; it just might have saved him a trip to the ER for IV fluids!

Moms Love the Comfort

Many mothers talked about how comforting it was to their older nurslings to be able to nurse through the difficulties of toddlerhood. In addition to the healthy nutrition it offered her sick child, the mother of the 31 month added, "It also provides a calm, relaxing space for him during this turbulent time of tantrums and transitions. It is NOT easy, but we make it work." Another mom had this to say: "(I'm) nursing a toddler for the fourth time, and my very favorite part is being able to solve any problem instantly. From falling down to being sleepy to not being allowed to have something she wants, nursing makes it all better." Another mom referred to it as an "instant fix." that can solve any problem.

Moms Love Breastmilk Breath

A couple of moms mentioned the sweet smell of breast milk breath that their older nurslings still have as being the best thing about extended breastfeeding.

Whether you like the snuggles, the health benefits, the comfort it provides your toddler or his sweet breast milk breath, nursing past a year has lots of benefits for both you and your baby!

What do YOU love the most about it? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Formula Gift Bag Rates Plummet at Local Hospitals!

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Recently we did an informal poll on the Facebook page for A Nurturing Moment. The post  reached over 4000 people and nearly 200 responded. A cross section of North Alabama hospitals was represented as well as a smattering of out-of-state facilities, but the majority of the respondents had given birth in Huntsville.
From the Similac site - free gifts....

The question asked was this: "Were you offered a formula gift bag or given free formula when your baby was born? If so was it at the hospital, a doctor's office (pediatrician? or OB?) or another location. Please answer for your MOST RECENT birth. Please give month and year. If you were not offered a gift bag, please respond with 'NO' and tell us where you had your baby."

We got some terrific data about the changing patterns of formula bag distribution. One of the steps for a hospital to become Baby Friendly involves the hospital no longer accepting free formula samples from the formula companies and not giving formula to breastfed babies unless there is a clear medical indication and it is ordered by a physician.

Hospitals in Madison County

There was a very obvious shift in lthe formula distribution at Huntsville Hospital over the course of the last year or so. Prior to 2014, 19 mothers indicated that they had been given formula. Since 2014 only 8 mothers were given formula, and 30 mothers said they were not given formula at all. As early as August 2013 one mother at HH was told that they no longer were giving formula bags. Several mothers who delivered there in the last year reported receiving a Huntsville Hospital bag with an insulated bottle bag, but no formula. 

Fourteen mothers reported giving birth at Crestwood in 2014. Nine of them did not receive formula, and 5 of them did. Fifteen mothers had given birth at Madison Hospital. Fourteen of those mothers received no formula, and one did, but she reported that there was a medical indication for the formula, and it was given by physician recommendation.

Other Local Hospitals

Three respondents had given birth at Athens-Limestone Hospital; all three received formula. Of the three who had given birth at Decatur in the last year, two did receive formula, and one did not. A mother who gave birth last February said the nurse told her they weren't trying to push formula feeding, but were required to offer it so they could give away the free bags. However, by November, a mother who gave birth there did not receive any formula at all. 

The Nurses at RMC in Anniston,
Alabama's only Baby Friendly Facility!
One mother gave birth at the state's only Baby Friendly Hospital, Regional Medical Center in Anniston. She was not offered formula. Two mothers had given birth in Cullman, and both were offered formula. Both Helen Keller and Eliza Coffee Memorial had one mother reporting; both hospitals gave formula. Marshall Medical Center was represented by one mother in each of their facilities (North and South). Both mothers reported receiving formula. 

Four hospitals from Birmingham were represented in the poll. One mother delivered at UAB  and one at Brookwood. Neither one received formula. One mother delivered at Princeton and did receive formula. Three delivered at St. Vincents, and all three received formula.

About 17 mothers had delivered in hospitals in other states. Eleven of them had not received any formula at all. Several other mothers had delivered at Birthing Centers or the Farm. As expected, they didn't receive any formula samples.


Surprisingly, many mothers who didn't receive formula gift bags at the hospital did receive them from their OB/Gyn. Eight different OB/Gyn practices were mentioned as having given formula. One mother, however, made a point of saying that her OB, Dr. Conrad, never mentioned anything at all about formula! A couple of mothers mentioned receiving formula from their pediatrician, but one mother emphasized how thankful she was for it because she was having problems with milk production. 

In a final surprising note, one mother mentioned receiving a formula gift bag from 4D Mommies!

Madison Hospital gets our ANM "Formula Free" Award!

Why It Matters

Some mothers really liked the idea of getting the cute bag. Some actually donated the formula to a local food bank or a mother in need. That is wonderful; however, studies have demonstrated that when a mother receives formula from a health care provider, it subtly undermines her confidence in her ability to breastfeed. Health Care providers have an obligation to help mothers offer the healthiest possible start to their babies. When they give a mother a formula sample, they are in essence saying that breastfeeding might work, but it might not, so just in case, Mom needs a backup. The truth is that with proper support, the vast majority of mothers can provide sufficient milk for their infants. 

In conclusion, we want to applaud Huntsville Hospital for their elimination of formula gift bags and drastic reduction in infant formula being distributed. Actually, most of the formula that was distributed in 2014 was to NICU moms. But the hands-down winner of the ANM "Formula-Free" award is Madison Hospital! Congratulations are in order for the nursing staff and lactation consultants who have created an incredibly supportive environment for breastfeeding moms!