Thursday, October 12, 2017

2018 MOM Foundation Calenders On Sale Now!

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

It's  that time of year where we hold our largest annual fundraiser for The MOM Foundation: the annual calendar filled with gorgeous photos of breastfeeding moms from the Tennessee Valley. I love this project because it allows local photographers to showcase their talent. This is the third year that we have done this project, and the photos coming in are absolutely magnificent.

The MOM Foundation

What is The MOM Foundation? It is the 501c3 non-profit organization that allows us to do many of the amazing things we do. The following programs are all sponsored by The MOM Foundation:
  • The Bosom Buddy Project: This project allows low-income and teen moms to receive free gently used nursing bras. We measure each mother and help her find 2 bras that will fit her. The bras come from our generous Nurturing Moment family. When you bring in a bra to donate, you get a discount on your purchase that day, and we are always in need of all sizes of bras. If we don't have a single bra in our donation boxes that will fit a mother, then we provide her one bra from our ANM inventory. The MOM Foundation pays that cost.
  • Sliding scale Lactation Consultations: We believe that every mother is entitled to the breastfeeding help she needs without worrying about finances. That's why The MOM Foundation allows us to provide our lactation services on a sliding fee scale. We tell every mother who comes in to pay whatever works in her budget.
  • Half-price Breast Pump Rental: Mothers on the WIC program are entitled to half price breast pump rental. Instead of the normal $65 monthly rate, they pay only $32.50 a month for a Medela Symphony breast pump. This is a tremendous savings for those moms who desperately need a pump during the first month of baby's life before they are able to get one through WIC.
  • The North Alabama Cloth Diaper Bank: Some mothers find themselves in a situation where they must choose between feeding their families and diapering their babies. So The North Alabama Cloth Diaper Bank provides free loans of cloth diapers to families in need. Instead of having to keep going back to get more disposable diapers, these mothers are able to receive a loan that provides enough diapers for their baby throughout infancy and toddlerhood.

Your Role

We couldn't do all of this without your support. As you look at your end of the year charitable giving please consider including The MOM Foundation in your plans. One way to support us is to make a donation to the MOM Foundation. Another way is to buy a calendar or two (or three...)! Important events like The Great Cloth Diaper Change, Mom Prom, The Big Latch On and Huntsville Mommy Milk Meet-up Meetings are listed on the calendar, so you never miss anything! These calendars make a great gift for your favorite doula, midwife, lactation consultant, WIC nutritionist, doctor or nurse. Why not get one for that special friend who is pregnant or breastfeeding!Think about who you want to bless this year with a calendar. And make sure to buy one for yourself, too! 

The Presale price this year is $20 for one calendar, or $15 each for 2 or more calendars. The presale begins today and will go through November 22. After that, the cost will be $25 for one calendar or $20 for 2 or more calendars. If you want your calendar mailed to you please add $5 for shipping for 1-2 calendars and $9 for shipping for 3 or more. It's easy to make your order, just click the donate button below, and in the note section be sure to leave your name and phone number. In early December, you will receive our calendars in plenty of time to give them as Christmas presents!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Your Baby's First Trip

A Baby Ktan makes the trek
through the airport easier!
by Belinda Moss, Guest Blogger

Traveling by road with your little one may be tedious and stressful, but it can be loads of fun for the family if you plan your trip ahead of time. I recommend that you get a good night’s rest before embarking on your trip, map out your route as carefully as possible with the aid of maps and GPS navigation, and last but certainly not the least do all your packing ahead of time. All essentials you would need during the trip should be packed into quick access bags that can be placed in the back seat. Some essentials you might need while on the road include:
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Blankets, change of clothes and bibs
  • Formula and liquids
  • Toys and portable video players

Be sure to stick to your baby’s feeding and nap schedules to keep him/her happy and comfortable during the trip. You can premix the dry ingredients for the formula then add liquids when needed. This will make it easier to feed your baby on time and make things easier to prepare.

Ensure your baby’s comfort during the road trip by using a car baby seat which supports your baby’s body. If your baby is alone in the backseat, and you are worried about keeping an eye on him/her, then have the baby seat installed behind the driver’s seat. That way you can keep an eye on your prince/princess from your mirror.

Take scenic routes and make stopovers at nice diners for a meal or at a motel for some rest. Make sure you take photos at all stops to document your trip’s memories for the family album.

You may consider playing sing-along audio CDs, which most babies tend to love, or you can opt for a portable video CD player that can be installed in the car to enable your baby have live visual entertainment. That will definitely keep the angel busy for a few hours!

But how do you plan for a flight with a baby? It’s not as tedious as you think! Check out these tips from to make sure you have everything needed for the big trip.

Belinda Moss first published this infographic here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Your Secret Weapon for Breastfeeding Success

From the NPR Morning Edition, June 26, 2017
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Yesterday NPR (National Public Radio) ran a fascinating story about breastfeeding mothers in Namibia. It is really worth taking a few minutes to listen to it.  It turns out that mothers there struggle with breastfeeding just like mothers in the United States do. They get sore nipples; they may have supply problems; they have to learn to breastfeed just like American moms do. However, they have a huge advantage that the vast majority of US moms do not have: a culture of breastfeeding.

The Grandmother Factor

This article explains in detail how the Himba people in the northern desert of Namibia have a culture that makes breastfeeding work. They live in mud huts, and babies are born at home, so there is no separation of mother and baby after birth for medical procedures. Their maternal and infant mortality rates are both high. For every 100,000 births, 265 mothers die, and or every 1000 live births 36 babies die. Obviously, I am not advocating giving birth in a mud hut as a solution to our breastfeeding problems. And even Himba mothers do struggle with learning how to breastfeed.

When 17 year old Bethany had her baby, her mother
supported her and taught her how to breastfeed.
But that is where they have the amazing "Grandmother" factor. Himba mothers actually go in the third trimester of pregnancy to the compound where their own mother lives. The new grandmother sleeps in the hut with mother and baby, even serving as an alarm clock to awaken the new mother and remind her to nurse. The grandmother teaches the new mother how to position the baby, how to help baby get the best latch possible, how to safely sleep with baby, and all the other little details necessary for parenting. The new mother remains with her mother for several months following the birth.

In the US we have a generation of great-grandmothers whose doctors told them that formula was the best way to feed a baby. Their daughters who are now grandmothers likely had no support for breastfeeding from either their mothers or the medical community. This lack of help often spelled lactation failure for that generation of mothers. Those who persisted are able to support their daughters in an amazing way, and usually those daughters benefit from their wisdom.

A grandmother who can help with breastfeeding is a treasure.
But there is another glaring obstacle that mothers in the US face. They are expected to jump right back into the routines of life within days or weeks after giving birth. I have worked with mothers who had to return to work or school as little as 2 weeks after giving birth. They aren't even able to give their bodies time to recover, let alone get breastfeeding well-established. The scant 6 weeks that so many employers deem as "generous" maternity leave is actually the bare minimum to move a mother beyond the post-partum period. Employers who allow 12 weeks are much more in tune with what mother and baby both need.

Another big difference between our culture and the Himba culture is the normalization of breastfeeding within the society. There it is completely expected that mothers will feed babies at the breast. Although there is some supplementation with goat's milk when mothers don't have enough milk, it is not the normal way to feed a baby in that culture. In contrast, new mothers here often feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about breastfeeding their babies with anyone else around. We do not have a breastfeeding culture here where children grow up seeing breastfeeding as the normal method of infant feeding.

Lessons We Can Learn from the Himba People

So how can we take this information and use it to increase breastfeeding success among US mothers? I see several ways in which we can learn from the Himba culture.
Skin-to-skin contact during the early days is
critically important for Mother and Baby.

  1. Mothers and babies should NOT be separated at birth for any reason unless there is a genuine medical reason. Many hospitals have implemented policies to protect the Golden Hour because the evidence clearly points to improved outcomes when mothers and babies have this uninterrupted time together immediately after birth until after the first feed. 
  2. Mothers and babies should have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible in the early post partum period. Research shows that this elevates hormone levels which increase mother/baby bonding. It also helps milk come in faster and increases the rate of breastfeeding success.
  3. Mothers need to go home to somebody who will take care of them as they are learning to care for and feed their babies. This person needs to be supportive of breastfeeding, ideally having breastfed herself. Mothers need several weeks of this encouraging care and support. If a supportive grandmother, sister, aunt or close friend is not available to fill this role, a postpartum doula is an option. A Nurturing Moment actually offers a postpartum support package that provides some of this kind of ongoing support to new moms who don't have a grandmother/sister/friend to help out. It is very interesting to note that in the NPR broadcast yesterday morning they actually mentioned IBCLC's as an alternative for mothers who don't have "the Grandmother factor."
    India has a mandated 6 month maternity leave!
  4. Our lawmakers need to get serious about providing a minimum of 12-16 weeks maternity leave to employees. As a small business owner, I understand the hardships that can cause, but as a lactation consultant, I see daily the hardships caused by the lack of adequate maternity leave. Research as well as the experiences of mothers and companies in the rest of the world have clearly shown the benefits of making sure that a strong maternal leave policy is implemented across society. 
  5. From their earliest days, children need to see breastfeeding as the normal way that babies are fed. Children's books should feature pictures of babies nursing, not getting a bottle. Mothers should try to expose their children to other breastfeeding mothers, explaining that this is how babies are designed to be fed. Science classes at the elementary level should include breastfeeding in their curriculum when children are learning about mammals. At the secondary level, breastfeeding should be included in instruction about reproduction and family planning. A breastfeeding culture is built by one mother and baby at a time normalizing infant feeding at the breast. I am optimistic that together this generation of mothers can make that happen!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Does Your Baby Sleep....Like a Baby?

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
Does your baby sleep like a baby? You know, waking every 2 or 3 hours, maybe crying, nursing or taking a bottle, then falling back asleep? Physiologically newborns are not programmed to sleep a stretch longer than about 4 hours. By about 6 months, they might be capable of sleeping a stretch of at least 6 hours (many infants do sleep longer) at night. The fact is that some babies are simply born with easier temperaments than others, making nighttime much easier for some parents than for others.

Why Babies Wake Up

A newborn has a tiny tummy. In fact at birth his tummy will hold about 5- 7 ml of breastmilk comfortably. Many formula feeding parents mistakenly think that their babies need to take most of the 60 ml formula bottle the hospital gives them. Even 20 ml can cause baby's stomach to be too full, leading to discomfort and spitting up. Newborns nurse very frequently - every 2-3 hours or perhaps even more often. Breastmilk is designed to digest quickly, so often newborns wake up hungry after just an hour or two.

Many infants will cluster feed in the evening because that is how they prepare for a slightly longer sleep stretch at bedtime. Breastmilk composition changes throughout the day. In the evening, there is less milk, but it is actually higher in long-chain fatty acids like tryptophan (that wonderful amino acid found in turkey that makes you want to fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner). It is also higher in sleep-inducing melatonin. A lot of mothers worry that they don't have enough milk in the evening because baby is nursing non-stop. So they end up supplementing in the evening. But that really isn't necessary. The frequent nursing helps baby get what he needs and helps mama produce more milk.

As they approach about 2 months of age, some babies do start sleeping longer stretches of 4-8 hours at night. That is normal. But it is also normal for babies to continue waking several times at night to nurse. At this age babies are still sleeping pretty deeply when they are actually asleep.

Around 4 months many babies experience a sleep regression. A baby who was sleeping a 6-8 hour stretch may suddenly be waking every 3 hours again. The good news is that baby's brain is maturing. The bad news is that these changes are permanent. You will need to help your baby adjust to falling back asleep when he awakens. One way to do that is to help him learn to fall asleep in his crib without you. Most experts do not recommend letting baby "cry-it-out" because research has shown that can actually be harmful. However, there are gentle methods to help baby learn to sleep. The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley is a terrific resource that many parents have found to be invaluable.

Where Baby Sleeps

The American Academy of Pediatrics came out with revised sleep recommendations in 2016. They recommend that babies sleep in a "separate but proximate"sleep environment. That means that baby should sleep in Mom and Dad's room, but not in their bed. Nevertheless, in this revision, the AAP did acknowledge that mothers do sometimes fall asleep while nursing. 
"However, the AAP acknowledges that parents frequently fall asleep while feeding the infant. Evidence suggests that it is less hazardous to fall asleep with the infant in the adult bed than on a sofa or armchair, should the parent fall asleep. It is important to note that a large percentage of infants who die of SIDS are found with their head covered by bedding. Therefore, no pillows, sheets, blankets, or any other items that could obstruct infant breathing or cause overheating should be in the bed. Parents should also follow safe sleep recommendations outlined elsewhere in this statement. Because there is evidence that the risk of bed-sharing is higher with longer duration, if the parent falls asleep while feeding the infant in bed, the infant should be placed back on a separate sleep surface as soon as the parent awakens."

 Dr. James McKenna is a professor of Biological Anthropology and the director of the Notre Dame Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory. He has written extensively on the biological reasons for mothers and babies to share sleep environments. He also has created safe co-sleeping guidelines that any family who is practicing co-sleeping should be very careful to follow. Everyone agrees that the most dangerous place for an infant to sleep is a recliner or sofa, even with a caring adult. If that adult falls asleep the risk of the infant suffocating is many times greater than it would be on a firm sleep surface such as a futon or firm mattress.

Getting Help 

Fortunately  we have a local infant sleep expert. Dana Stone is the mother of four children. When she had serious sleep issues with her last baby, she looked for answers. She knew that the traditional cry-it-out method wasn't right for her family, so she found a program that helped her gently teach her child to sleep. She ended up becoming a certified Sleep Sense consultant and has helped dozens of local families get a good nights' sleep.  She offers a free download for parents entitled "Five Steps to Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night." It is important to recognize that nobody expects an infant to sleep through the night. Physiologically they just aren't ready to do that. However, later in the second half of the first year, many babies are capable of sleeping an 8 hour stretch. Dana is able to work with your individual situation and help your baby sleep a little less like a baby!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Local Businesses Roll Out the Red Carpet for Breastfeeding Moms

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

North Alabama is home to some amazing businesses that really understand how important it is to support their tiniest clients...and their mothers who are nursing them. Our moms have weighed in on which stores, restaurants and other businesses have made them feel welcome as they nursed their babies, and we want to share these with you. Be sure to thank these businesses for their outstanding customer service!


Alchemy at Lowe Mill   Lindsay says they were wonderful when she was having her non-dairy small latte there!

Bravo at Bridge Street  This restaurant gets our 5 star rating! Amanda was there the other night as part of a graduation party. While they waited up front for the party room to be set up, her baby got hungry. When the hostess noticed she was nursing she asked Amanda if she'd like a glass of water or sweet tea. Once they were seated the manager came out and brought a car seat hammock, helping them get settled in. When they saw her get out a bag of breastmilk to heat up, the waiter brought a glass of scalding water to warm it, and the female waitress assisting with the party noticed the glass was too full, so she brought a coffee cup and poured some of the milk into it, explaining that she heated her milk that way, too. Amanda never had to ask for anything. They obviously had a process in place and were very comfortable with nursing mothers. 

Buffalo Wild Wings in Huntsville  Leah has high compliments for their staff's treatment of breastfeeding mothers.

Casa Blanca  Justen said that the waiter took her order without any hesitation while she was nursing uncovered. He acted like it was a totally normal day for him, which was really nice.

Nothing But Noodles in Huntsville  Leah says their staff was particularly great about her nursing.

Phil Sandoval's  Holly says that although both of her nurslings are past the typical nursing age, this restaurant has always been super welcoming!

Rosie's on South Parkway  Keli notes that she breastfeeds here all the time. She has never felt uncomfortable, and they have always made her feel welcome!

Tzakikis in Madison  Rebekah says that they are SUPER welcoming and supportive of nursing mommas! Sometimes the girls from the Madison Breastfeeding group will go there for lunch, and they have everything all set up for them. She says this restaurant is awesome!


Moms and Babies are always welcome to hang out at
A Nurturing Moment
A Nurturing Moment  Rebecca says that so far this is the only place she has nursed in public. Rebekah adds that it is great to be able to shop and not feel judged or rushed with her nursing Toddlet. Kristi says she loves stopping by ANM to nurse when she is out this way. We offer nursing mothers a comfy place to sit as well as nursing pillows if necessary. We also have a refrigerator stocked with water because we know mamas get thirsty when nursing.

Acorn Treasures Caitlyn and Rebekah both say they are great.

Belk  Mary was shopping for her 8 year old when her baby got fussy. They showed her to a comfortable area by the dressing rooms, then left her alone to nurse in privacy.

Costco  Marie says they have a nursing room set up near their employee break room. Once when she was there the lady checking receipts saw that she was sitting at one of the tables to nurse. When Marie walked by her later, the lady told her that it was available if she needed it.

Posh Mommy & Baby, Too  Rebekah says they are great with nursing moms.

Professional Services

Dr. Patty Long welcomes nursing moms
Advanced Eye Care of Madison   Rebecca says that her eye doctor is incredibly supportive of breastfeeding. She was there when her baby was just a month old and they were still struggling with nursing. They gave her an exam room and told her to take all the time she needed to feed her baby. Furthermore, the staff - including her doctor - encouraged her to continue breastfeeding and made sure that she had a lactation consultant when she admitted that she was having problems. This is one business that really cares about their clients!

Chase Animal Hospital  April says that she had a bit of a wait there, and her baby got hungry. The doctor came in and said that she was breastfeeding, too. It made her feel much less self conscious.

Long Chiropractic  Rebekah says that Dr. Patty Long is very breastfeeding friendly.

Madison Speech Associates  While she was there, the receptionist and SLP overheard Claire mention that she was about to feed her daughter. They set her up in a private room during her son's speech therapy.

Whitesburg Gardens  Samantha is usually nursing her baby in her sling as she goes into her grandmother's nursing home. She has received verbal praise for breastfeeding from the employees. She has also had nurses or other employees peak in at her baby and talk to her while she's feeding without even a second glance. 


Insanity Skate Complex Mary praises the way they handled a guy who was harassing her as she nursed in a corner away from everyone: they threw him out!

Marriott Hotel by Space and Rocket Center  Sarah was there for a conference, and they had no place to pump aside from the restroom. However, a very kind female administrator let Sarah use her personal office.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Attachment Parenting Produced an Amazing Graduate

Last year in Colombia
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

This has been a very special week in our family's life. My baby graduated from high school (for the second time) Friday night. His first graduation happened last year in Cali, Colombia, where he had spent his junior year. In Cali they only have 11 years of school, so he graduated with his eleventh grade class there and received a special honor because of his outstanding grades and his contributions to the school despite everything being in Spanish. By the time we went to Cali last year to see him graduate, he was completely fluent in Spanish.

But he wanted to come back to his school here, Westminster Christian Academy, to finish his senior year. He took 3 Advanced Placement courses this year and continued his habit of making straight A's, graduating with a 4.2 GPA. He has known since he was 12 that he wanted to serve his country as a military aviator. This year he applied to Annapolis, applied for a Navy ROTC scholarship and actually enlisted as a Navy Nuke! We were overjoyed when he received the NROTC scholarship to Auburn University where he will study Aerospace Engineering. Thursday afternoon at the awards ceremony two US Navy officers and the recruiter who has worked closely with John Carl all year presented him with a huge check representing his scholarship.
John's Navy ROTC Scholarship

John Carl is a product of Attachment Parenting. He nursed until he was two and a half. He slept with us as a baby and toddler. He was a product of gentle discipline, and always had a deep desire to please us. We were asked to write a letter to be given him at senior breakfast. I want to share with you what we wrote.

Our precious, amazing son,

It is such a privilege to be your parents. You have brought so much joy and love into this family, and each family member has been touched by you in different ways. You have a strong relationship with each of your siblings, and Dad and I both really enjoy just being with you, too. From the time you were just a baby, you have always been a truly delightful person to be around.

I remember taking you to Nido when you were just three years old. You loved stopping by the panaderia on the corner to grab a special treat. Everybody loved seeing you come by! You were such a precious little caballero (NOT caballo)! Then you started Pre-K at Westminster, and everybody just loved you. You may actually be the only student who has been at Evangel, M&M, North Hills and Brockway campuses! From the earliest days at Westminster you excelled in everything. You wanted to do well; I think it was important to you that we were proud of you, but I also think you had an inner drive to succeed!
John's Spirit of Auburn Scholarship

When it came to sports, you never held back even a tiny bit. I wonder how many students have actually been forbidden to play football and soccer at recess?? You may have been a bit small for your age, but you were the most aggressive athlete out there many times! You allowed sports to shape you into a keen competitor who is fit both physically and mentally for the many challenges that lie ahead. I think now you can see that the many years of sports weren’t about winning or losing. Rather, they were about helping you become the man you are today.

I remember when you were 12 and told us you were going to be a military pilot and study aerospace engineering. You never wavered in your determination to pursue a military career, even going to the point of actually enlisting. The night you got word that you were awarded your NROTC scholarship was one of the happiest moments of my life! We would have been proud of you as a Nuke, but we are so thankful you can go in as an officer doing what you really want to do!

I will never forget the day we were walking around Colegio Americano and you told me you wanted to spend your junior year there. Letting you go to Cali last year was one of the hardest things we have ever done in our life. But we didn’t have a choice because the same God that was speaking to your heart was speaking to our hearts as well. We were so proud of you at graduation last year. You had grown so much during that year in so many ways.  Your accomplishments at Colegio Americano still amaze us, and we are so thankful that you had that life-changing experience.

We are so proud of our Honor graduate!
For many people, the high school years are the best time of their life. Not you! For many people, college is the best time of their life. Not you! The best time of your life will be the day that you are living today in the presence of your Savior. As you look back on your life when you are our age, may you see a lifetime that is full of God’s richest blessings, a lifetime that has been spent serving Christ and serving others, a lifetime that has made a difference in this world.  Cling to Christ like a shipwrecked sailor clings to his raft. Hold tight to Him in the bad times, but especially in the good times!

Son, we love you more than words could ever begin to express, and our hearts are bursting with pride as we see you graduate today. Last year’s graduation was just a prelude to this year’s. And tonight’s graduation is but a prelude to the rest of your life!

Mom and Dad

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Local Mom Makes Heartfelt Plea for ABA Coverage for Spectrum Individuals

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
This morning I read the following letter that my friend Ashley Sparks wrote to Senator Paul Sanford. Ashley is an amazing woman who eloquently advocates not only for her daughter, Brinley, but for all individuals on the Autism Spectrum. I have known Ashley since before Brinley was born. I remember when she suspected that Brinley might have a problem, and when Brinley received her diagnosis. Ashley, like many other mothers of children on the Autism Spectrum, pours her heart and soul into advocating for her daughter!  

A Bill mandating insurance coverage for the expensive ABA therapy needed by children on the Autism Spectrum passed the House by a unanimous vote. However in the Senate, it was referred to committee. Senator Sanford was only one of two "No" votes in the committee that approved the bill 14-2. My prayer is that this letter touches Senator Sanford's heart and the hearts of other Senators who may happen to see it. Please share it far and wide in the hope that every Alabama state senator will see it and understand how critical the ABA funding really is!  

Senator Sanford,
I would be surprised if you remembered me, but we spoke at length several times during your first campaign. At the time, I had no idea my second child would have an autism diagnosis and would struggle to get through a normal day without sensory overwhelm and, often, violent meltdowns. I just knew you coached my cousin's basketball team, ran a killer barbecue joint, and supported the legalization of midwives. Each time I spoke to you I was encouraged because I felt you were someone I could count on to always do the right thing. Your integrity was what stood out to me, above all else. So I not only voted for you, I campaigned for you. I walked streets and handed out flyers, I advocated for you to anyone who would listen, and I held signs on election day.
I know that often the "right thing" is not always black and white, especially in the murky political world. I understand that you have firm beliefs in small government, and the right of the free market to regulate itself. As such, I can understand why you would balk at a bill mandating private insurance companies to cover any specific therapies.
Brinley in the middle of a meltdown. I wasn't able to touch
her for nearly half an hour while she screamed "Mommy!
Help me!" She could not tolerate being touched due to her
sensory overwhelm, but wanted my help. There is nothing
 more heartbreaking than watching your child suffer
when you are helpless to fix it.

But senator, I do believe that this is one of those times that departure from your political principles is not only reasonable, it is critical. You see, a free market might well regulate itself into including these coverages through competition. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the fence about the feasibility of that actually coming to pass. However, it requires a great deal of something of which we simply don't have the luxury - time.

My daughter, Brinley, is six years old. She has already lost the most critical years for ABA therapy, but if this bill were passed, she could still greatly benefit from therapy. She might one day sit in a regular classroom, at least for part of her day. She might be able to go out to a restaurant without covering her ears and screaming halfway through the meal because of her learned coping skills. She might even, someday, be independent enough to have a job and even a home of her own. But only if her critical supports are provided. As you can see, I can't wait for a free market to sort itself out. Neither can the other 50,000 plus individuals in Alabama with Autism Spectrum Disorders. While we respect that economics must be a considered factor, we must prioritize our children's greatest needs. For Brinley and tens of thousands of others, that need is ABA and the time it is needed is yesterday.

Senator, I am urging you - no, pleading with you - to support this bill. I am begging you to support the removal of the amendment capping the age at 16. Autism is a lifelong condition and while the greatest needs for ABA are in the younger years, the need for access doesn't magically disappear at any given age. A child who required thirty hours of ABA at age six might only require a couple of hours a week at age sixteen, but they may still desperately need that support at a time in their lives when their worlds continue to change rapidly. I am also asking in desperation that you remove the amendment that would limit coverage requirements to plans for fifty or more employees. This would exclude at least half of Alabama families, and severely limit tangible job opportunities for parents of children on the spectrum. It would prevent parents from venturing into small business for themselves, and could easily become a functional cap on the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Alabamians. Please, sir, don't let that happen.
Brinley with her service-dog-in-training, Max. Moments like this
we get to see our daughter - really see her, and not just her autism.
Moments like this give us hope. ABA therapy would mean far
more moments like this and fewer like the one above.

I voted for you in the confidence that you would always do the right thing. I was so disheartened to hear your votes in committee the other day because it was clear to me that you and I were not on the same page about what the right thing was regarding this bill.

Please look at this sweet girl. Look in the faces of our children who need this therapy to lead lives with meaningful communication and relationships. They need this therapy to lead full lives. I think when you look at them, senator, you will know in your heart that the right thing to do in this situation is not about political philosophy, but about human dignity - and that is passing this bill, preferably free of the amendments.
Thank you for your time. You have my faith to do the right thing.
Ashley Sparks

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Join Us Saturday at Babypalooza

Come celebrate all things Baby!
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

It's time once again to celebrate everything BABY this Saturday when the Babypalooza tour hits Huntsville. From 9:00 - 1:00 the North Hall of the VBC will be transformed into a  veritable candy store for expectant and new parents! Exhibitors will have everything from baby registry information to safety tips to adorable outfits for your little bundle of joy!

Babies R Us will be present with information on setting up your registry, door prizes, and other goodies. Aetna is sponsoring the Child Safety Area where the focus will be safe sleep, infant CPR, and other topics relevant to keeping your little angel safe. Local preschools, retailers and medical professionals will all be on hand to help make the day memorable for you.  Baby shower games throughout the day will keep it fun!

But Babypalooza isn't just about fun and games. It is also about education. Dana Stone of Rest Assured Consulting will be talking about how to help your child get a good night's sleep. Crestwood Hospital will be offering a series of classes throughout the day.

9:45 Breastfeeding
10:15 Overcoming Breastfeeding Obstacles
10:45 Crestwood Maternity Unit Tour
11:15 Q & A with OB Nursing Staff

A Nurturing Moment will also have a full schedule of classes throughout the day:

9:15 Nutrition in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding - Join Freida Houck, certified instructor with the LEAN program to learn how to feed yourself so that baby gets optimal nutrition.
10:00 Post Partum Depression - Alicia Schuster-Couch of New Leaf Counseling Services of the TN Valley will discuss maternal mental and emotional health issues and how to know if you need extra help.
10:45 Cloth Diapering - Margaret Harmon will  teach the basics of cloth diapering. This is a great introductory class for anybody thinking about trying cloth.
11:30 Your Birth Plan - Bradley Instructor Ashlea Sukhwani help you figure out what you want to include in your birth plan.
12:15 Hypnobabies - Hannah Ellis, Hypnobabies certified doula will talk to you about this fascinating approach to childbirth. 

We will also have several doulas present throughout the day so that you can actually meet them and talk about the possibility of having a doula present for your birth. Our spot is right by the nursing room, and we will have a baby scale set up so that you can actually weigh your baby before nursing and after nursing to see exactly how much milk baby is getting. I will be available to check your baby's latch and answer any breastfeeding questions you have.

Make your plans now to attend, and we'll see you Saturday!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Does Calling Breastfeeding "Natural" Make Moms Choose NOT to Vaccinate?

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

I was at Rick's Barbecue Thursday night with my son when I saw Tucker Carlson interviewing Cathy Areu about an article that had been published in Pediatrics, the professional journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics about a year ago. That interview, in which Ms. Areu argued that finally there was a study showing that breastfeeding isn't natural and that fathers can just as easily feed their babies as mothers can, made me go in search of this ridiculous study. When I found it, I realized that it was highly likely that neither Ms. Areu nor Tucker Carlson had actually read the manuscript which was not a study at all, but rather a piece posted in the Perspectives section of Pediatrics. I don't know what Areu and Carlson were discussing, but it certainly wasn't the article I read!
Dr. Jessica Martucci

 The piece, entitled "Unintended Consequences of Invoking the 'Natural' in Breastfeeding Promotion" is authored by two PhD's. Anne Barnhill, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Jessica Martucci, PhD is a Fellow of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the same university. She was a faculty member in the History department at Mississippi State University, but a recent employee search indicates that she is no longer there. In 2015, Mantucci published an interesting history of modern breastfeeding called Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America. She recounts the struggles that mothers had in the middle of the 20th century to breastfeed, the emergence of La Leche League as a voice for mothers, and the resurgence of breastfeeding in recent years. One breastfeeding advocate who heard Mantucci speak in 2013 came away from the evening with the sense that she was not a proponent of breastfeeding. It is worth noting that her primary area of interest is in relationship to how history and policy affect women's and LGBT health.

Knowing who authored the piece does shed some light on it. However, the authors are NOT saying that breastfeeding isn't natural. Rather, they are concerned that the use of the word "natural" to promote breastfeeding could have some unintended ethical consequences. They discuss two areas of particular concern.


Their first argument has to do with their fear that parents will equate "natural" with not vaccinating. She seems to think that hearing the word "natural" applied to breastfeeding will inevitably lead some parents to think they should avoid anything not "natural." Somehow that word will turn everybody into some kind of crazy fringe anti-vaxing hippie:
Breastfeeding actually is baby's "first immunization"
"Studies have shown that parents who resist vaccination tend to inhabit networks of like-minded individuals with similar beliefs. These pockets of antivaccination sentiment tend to overlap with reliance on and interest in complementary and alternative medicine, skepticism of institutional authority,  and a strong commitment and interest in health knowledge, autonomy, and healthy living practices."
Dr. Mark Sloan, a pediatrician in Petaluma CA says this in response to that argument:
"The idea that the use of 'natural' to promote breastfeeding will lead parents to question the 'unnaturalness' of vaccination hinges on a false dichotomy: that parents considering vaccination are faced with a binary choice between the natural (probiotics, herbs, nutritional supplements, etc.) and the unnatural (manufactured vaccines). In reality, parents often choose a mix of these measures, none of which are completely natural in the Oxford Dictionary sense. The drive to protect our children from infectious diseases—whether by amulets, prayer, vaccination, or the harvesting, processing, packaging and sale of herbs, supplements and the like—has always involved a substantial degree of human intervention."
 Dr. Joan Y. Meek, a pediatrician at the Florida State University College of Medicine, together with colleagues Dr. Julie Ware and Dr. Lawrence M. Noble, offers us the ideal way to juxtapose vaccinations and breastfeeding:
"The ideal way to connect breastfeeding with vaccinations is to highlight breastfeeding as the 'first immunization' recognizing the abundant immune protective factors present in breastmilk, and especially in colostrum."

Gender Roles
Breastmilk really is nature's perfect infant food.

The second area of concern they raise has to do with the ethics of promoting a gender role by saying that breastfeeding is natural. They argue that when we talk about breastfeeding in terms of it being a "natural" function, we are entering into a controversial area where public policy does not belong.
"Coupling nature with motherhood, however, can inadvertently support biologically deterministic arguments about the roles of men and women in the family (for example, that women should be the primary caretakers of children). Referencing the 'natural' in breastfeeding promotion, then, may inadvertently endorse a controversial set of values about family life and gender roles, which would be ethically inappropriate."
So apparently if we say that breastfeeding is the natural way to feed our babies, we are politically incorrect misogynistic throwbacks to a bygone era where June Cleaver stayed home dutifully caring for Wally and the Beaver.

Breastfeeding is a pure, natural act of love
THAT IS RIDICULOUS! I have had the privilege of meeting families in all kinds of situations during my time at A Nurturing Moment. We have mothers who are the breadwinners in their families who take their breastpumps to work so that Dad will have plenty of NATURAL breastmilk to feed baby the next day. We have families where both parents are working outside the home and Mom is pumping each day. We have families where Dad works outside of the home and Mom works in the home caring for their children. We have families with two mothers. I have seen it all and supported each type of family in their specific situation. I cannot imagine a single one of these mothers being offended that breastfeeding has been called natural.

Dr. Meek and her colleagues say it best:
"Choosing our words carefully in health promotion is important, but even more important is the effect our words have on the desired health outcomes. Just as the authors are concerned about a theoretical effect of breastfeeding promotion on vaccine rates, we are concerned about the effect of their article, and other similar articles, on breastfeeding promotion and rates. Let us state clearly that breastfeeding is the normative standard for infant feeding, and other feeding methods put mothers and children at risk for both short and long-term adverse health outcomes."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I Celebrate Resurrection Sunday

There is irrefutable proof of the resurrection.
By Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

A grieving mother watched her Son die in the most horrific way some 2000 years ago. She couldn't begin to reconcile what she knew to be true about her Son with what had just happened. Now she was gathered with His closest friends as they all wondered what would happen to them. It is early on the Sunday morning after He was killed. Two nights have passed, and this is the dawning of the third day.

Suddenly she hears a commotion. Peter, one of her Son's closest friends, is saying her Son is alive. That's impossible. She saw Him die. But then her friend Mary from Magdala confirms it, and everything begins to make sense. The angel's prophecy before He was born, His teachings about the all falls into place. She had always known that He was the Son of God. She of all people knew the truth about His holy conception. Now she begins to understand more fully the incredible depth of God the Father's love for mankind. He had sent His Son, allowed her to carry Him, to nurse Him, to teach Him, to love Him in a way that no one else ever would. Then He had allowed that beloved Son to make the ultimate sacrifice and do what no one else ever could, conquer Death once and for all.

That is the reason I refer to today as Resurrection Sunday. The word Easter has nothing to do with my Savior. Today is about the fact that He conquered death, that in so doing, He made a way for me to also live eternally, and that He will come again (regardless of whether I believe it or not.) Today is about His Resurrection! The historical fact of Jesus' life, death and resurrection fills me with hope. It is the reason I am the person I am. So today I celebrate Resurrection Sunday, and I invite you to celebrate with me❤

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Will It Ever Get Better? Depression and Anxiety in Mothers

by Alicia Schuster-Couch, guest blogger

Over five years ago when my first baby was born, I expected to be a happy mother with a happy baby. And, why shouldn’t it all be happy and great? Seemingly, parents’ posts on social media portray pure happiness and joy surrounding their children. Movies and stories are filled with tales of mothers being completely fulfilled and satisfied with motherhood. And  well-intentioned friends and family endlessly reminded me to enjoy every sweet moment of babyhood. Unfortunately, I was struggling as a new mother. More accurately, I felt like I was drowning. My baby was perfect but I was not. The guilt of not being perfect, of not enjoying every moment, of not being satisfied only served to exacerbate my depression. I never felt like hurting my child, but I frequently wondered if she’d be better off without me and sometimes thought about how much better everyone’s life would be if I ended mine.

How could this happen to me? I have a masters’ degree in counseling and years of experience in mental health. How could I be suffering so badly? When I went to my six week follow up OB appointment I had planned to bring up my feelings. Unfortunately, I was met by my overbooked and rushed OB who quickly wanted to make sure that my stitches were healing, wanted to talk about birth control, and needed to rush out the door. I also wanted to tell my husband, my friends, my family, my old coworkers that were still in the mental health field, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have the courage to tell anyone. I felt embarrassed. So, I retreated into isolation with my baby and wondered if I would ever get better.

Of course I got better, but it was a painful journey. Now with three babies and one pregnancy loss under my belt, I feel strong and have a sense of contentment. I did get depressed again after my second child, but not as severely as with my first. Then, when I was devastated by the loss of my third pregnancy, I reached out for help (finally!) and was quickly able to get back on track after some counseling. Thankfully, after my third baby I didn’t have any clinical depressive symptoms. I still don’t know what I’m doing half of the time as a parent and feel like I’m winging the roller coaster ride of motherhood. But, thankfully, I’m out of my depression. Now after my journey through depression and anxiety as a parent of young children, I feel compelled to use my formal education and professional experience to try and reach out to other mothers who may being sharing my past struggles.
 I frequently wondered if she’d be better off without me and sometimes thought about how much better everyone’s life would be if I ended mine.
I was surprised to find out that post-partum depression is the number one complication of pregnancy. There are higher incidences of post-partum depression than preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. How many times did your health care provider check your blood pressure? Check for swelling in your feet? Screen your urine? And, remember that tasty beverage you had to choke down to screen for gestational diabetes? Now, how many times did you get a mental health screening? How many conversations did your healthcare provider have with you about mental health or about treating mental health complications? Although all of the above mentioned screenings are important to your health and your baby’s health, I find it odd that we are screening mothers for preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, but not for depression, or anxiety, or other mental health diagnoses. Moreover, if you are one of the few that were screened by your healthcare provider for depression or anxiety, did they provide adequate referrals and follow up? After three births and one miscarriage, I never once had a conversation about my mental health with an OB, nor did they ever offer any referrals to mental health treatment. I am not bashing OB’s. They have a challenging job and have an enormous amount of responsibility when it comes to the physical health of not only mother, but baby as well. However, I think there is a dangerous void in screening for mental health. I’m not sure why there is a huge gap in offering mental health services specifically to pregnant women and to mothers. Nevertheless, this very vulnerable population deserves better.

I could write pages and pages of all the variables that contribute to mental health disorders in pregnant women and mothers. There are organic factors and family history; there are interpersonal and social factors, and many, many more. Regardless of the cause, it’s painful. It creates difficulty in accomplishing day to day tasks. It creates difficulty in parenting children. It can facilitate isolation, guilt, intrusive thoughts, and a litany of other symptoms that make life a struggle. Just like words can’t adequately describe love or joy or grief, I don’t think that words can actually capture the pain of living with a mental health disorder while concurrently trying to care for a baby or child(ren).

So, what are some important things for pregnant women and mothers to know about mental health? Let me quickly break it down into symptoms, treatment, and prevention. For the purpose of this article, I’ll stick with depression and anxiety, although I realize that some mothers experience other mental health symptoms.

Symptoms of PPD

What does depression look like? It’s not as simple as being sad. Sometimes people who are clinically depressed show symptoms of appetite changes, sleep changes, fatigue, low self-esteem, difficulty making decisions, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of irritability, thoughts of harming themselves, and decrease in pleasurable activities. Now, some of these are a natural part of having a brand new tiny human move into your house, but these symptoms cause problems when they are pervasive and do not seem to get better. Anxiety can look like perfectionism, excessive worry, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, and obsession. Neither of these symptoms lists is provided with the intent for you to diagnose yourself with depression or anxiety. They are simply some of the common symptoms associated with depression or anxiety. If you feel like you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, I hope that you seek a professional diagnosis so that you can receive proper treatment.

Treatment of PPD

Treatment for depression and anxiety begins with a diagnosis. To receive a diagnosis, you’ll need to visit with your health care provider or with a mental health provider. Mainstream treatments include therapy and medication. I believe that treatment should also include education because after all, knowledge is power. Other important factors during treatment include nutrition, exercise, social support, and self care. These treatment factors are ones that should also be considered for prevention. Although it’s impossible to prevent a mental health disorder if you are predisposed to it, there are things that you can do to insulate yourself from the blow of having a mental health disorder. I am not a nutritionist or a personal trainer, but I do know that a healthy diet and regular physical activity make a world of difference. In our era of processed and dyed foods there are a lot of things in our food that negatively impact our bodies and have an effect on our biochemistry. Therefore, it’s important to eat a healthy and varied diet. Exercise is also important. I’m not recommending that you get an expensive gym membership or start training for a triathlon, but it is important to be active. This can mean going for a walk or jog in your neighborhood. This could also mean gardening, or riding a bike, or playing with your kids outdoors. We know the importance of Vitamin D (sunshine) on our physical wellbeing and the importance of hormones that are released through exercise. We all know how important nutrition and physical activity are, but it can be difficult to be motivated to partake in those healthy behaviors if you’re overwhelmed with depression or anxiety.

Another important treatment factor is self care. What is self care? It is whatever it means to you to maintain your wellbeing. For some women it can be reading or writing. It could be yoga or meditation. It could be a glass of wine and your favorite television show. Self care is completely subjective and individualized. The important point is that self care is crucial. Your kids and significant other and life are demanding of you; nevertheless, you also need time to decompress so that you are able handle day to day stressors.

Easy enough, right? Nutrition, exercise, self care, social support, and therapy will set you up for a healthy and happy life. I realize that this is easily stated advice. I know how hard it is to just get one of those things on the list done. I also know that when you’re wading through the mud of depression and anxiety, all of those things seem totally impossible. It seems like you have no options, no time, no motivation, and no money to make any of those things happen. All of those feelings of doubt are normal and even expected. However, if you find yourself struggling, I hope and I pray that you can find the courage to reach out for help. Whether you reach out to your significant other, your sibling, friend, or professional, please reach out. Once you reach out you can begin to release the burden that you’ve been carrying around. You can begin to make a plan to address your symptoms and make your life enjoyable. I once wondered if things would ever get better for me. They got better, much better and I’m confident that things can get better for you, too.

I just want to acknowledge that this article does not capture the depth of mental health issues in pregnant women and mothers. The article needs to be ten times as long to adequately address all of the issues. For instance, I didn’t even address issues relating to the role that trauma plays. I didn’t address thoughts of harming others or thoughts of harming your baby or many of the other symptoms that mothers experience. This was meant to be an introductory overview of the issues. If you feel like you want to learn more about mental health in pregnant women and in mothers, please contact me. I’m a local counselor who is passionate about helping mothers and their families. I think mothers deserve better and more comprehensive treatment.

My name is Alicia Schuster-Couch and I am the owner of New Leaf Counseling Services of the TN Valley, LLC. I can be reached by phone at (256) 755-4599 and by email at . I am passionate about working with women to help them achieve their goals. I am currently an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) under the supervision of Liz Howell, LPC-S. I hold a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Texas State University and two Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Women’s Studies from New Mexico State University.

Please feel free to contact me or another professional if you feel like you need help. I wish you peace and grace.