New baby, new concerns

When I was pregnant with Iris, I was so confident about becoming a mother of two. I was proud of the way I had parented Willow and figured I would be an expert the second time around. In some aspects, I was, like nursing for instance. That came really easy. But the majority of the other time, I felt like I was completely losing my mind.

Friends told me: “One to two is the hardest. Two to three is a piece of cake.”

“Ha! Three, I thought. That’ll be the day…”

And that day will be sometime this July when we welcome a third little hooligan into our family. It seems I have completely lost my mind.

This time, I’m unconfident about virtually every aspect of parenting a third child. Oddly, even with 5 years prior experience, I find myself most anxious about nursing again.

Unlike when I anticipated breastfeeding my firstborn, I’m not worried that I won’t produce enough milk. I know enough now to trust my body. I’m not worried that my baby won’t latch. I know enough now to trust my baby.

Instead, I’m concerned about developing nursing aversion as I did with both of my daughters. (Our weaning and burnout stories here and here.) I’d love for my breastfeeding relationship with this baby to be pleasant enough for me to allow child-led weaning like I wished I could have done with my daughters. Even more, I’m worried that the aversion will onset before an “appropriate” time to wean. By appropriate, I mean the standard I’ve held myself to to nurse my children until at least two years old as recommended by the World Health Organization.

When Willow overheard me express my concern, she reassured me: “It’s OK Mom, we can give the baby chocolate milk instead.” At least I have options.

I have options when it comes to nursing in public too. The thing is, I’m not actually worried about nursing in public. I’m worried that if someone were to discriminate against me for feeding my child, I would respond so ferociously that I’d be setting a terrible example for my children and fellow breastfeeding moms.

Quite honestly, Willow and Iris might not even be in sight when this hypothetical, discriminatory situation occurs. Mostly likely, they’ll be scurrying through grocery store aisles on their own agenda, leaving me to panic. How do mothers wrangle multiple, mobile children while NIP?! I’ve never been fond of child leashes but come July, I just might be in the market for a couple.

Finally, I’m concerned about how I’ll make time for my husband when the new baby comes. When Willow was born, I was so occupied with being a new mom that I completely forgot that I had a husband who needed me to nourish our relationship too. It wasn’t any different when Iris was born. With a third on the way, I don’t anticipate Addison and I finding much free time to spend watching House Hunters and gazing into eachother’s eyes.
All of my concerns considered, I should mention that I’m thrilled to be growing our family. It’s just that, we mothers, we never stop worrying, do we?

Energy medicine and breastfeeding

unnamed-1It’s been just over a year since I first spoke with Cathy Holland, RN, BS, IBCLC, FACCE about her 2015 International Breastfeeding Conference presentation on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) for Our Milky Way.

The first time we spoke was also the first time I had ever heard about EFT. Admittedly I was initially skeptical about its effectiveness, and as someone who identifies as a “Crunchy Skeptic,” I almost immediately wrote it off as pseudoscience. But the more I spoke with Cathy, the more intrigued I became.

I was excited to participate in her presentation, but found myself in the back of the room, nursing my sick tot. While tending to Iris, I observed Cathy guide a roomful of well over 50 participants experience EFT, most for the first time.  

The energy in the room changed within only a few minutes; tense and restless to calm and engaged. It was as if the room precipitously and collectively exhaled. Incredible!

I don’t expect anything less from Cathy’s upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference presentation Breastfeeding and Energy Medicine: A Brief Introduction.

Energy medicine has been around for far longer than medical doctors.

“There were homeopathic doctors, acupuncturists and countless healers of all kinds,” Cathy says. “When I was in nursing school, we were taught that everyone from the Osteopath through the Chiropractor were quacks, just like witch doctors and medicine men/women throughout history.”

Cathy shares this quote from Plato: “Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught in falsehood’s school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.” (I’m reminded that our planet was once flat.)

While alternative medicine has been criticized for lacking supportive evidence, Nikki Lee, RN, MS, IBCLC, CCE, CIMI, ANLC, CST points out in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Breastfeeding Therapy that this is no longer true.

“Evidence-based healthcare is defined in the Cochrane Collaborative’s online course, Understanding Evidence-Based Healthcare: A Foundation for Action as ‘the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values’ (Dickersin & Mayer, 2009),” Lee writes. “According to this definition, CAM is evidence-based healthcare.” [Read more here: ]

Further, The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology states that “Energy psychology (EP) modalities have been researched by more than 100 investigators in at least 7 countries. As of 2014, over 60 research studies have been published on EP modalities; out of these only one has not shown efficacy.”

“Things like essential oils, epigenetics, craniosacral therapy, osteopathy, homeopathy, EFT, music therapy, exercise, yoga, Feldenkrais, Bowen work, Lymph Drainage, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, etc. all are valid modalities that help as many as, or more than standard American style medical treatment,” Cathy explains.

Actually, she says that most physicians intuitively do some sort of energy medicine after performing procedures; a soothing with their hands for example.  

Energy medicine isn’t limited to trained professionals. Cathy points out that we are all energy medicine practitioners, and we’ve all performed energy medicine intuitively.

What do you do when you get a bump, a bruise, or some other sort of injury? she asks. Immediately put your hand on the site of the injury, she replies.

“This is a natural…self healing response.”  

Donna Eden and David Feinstein write in Energy Medicine: “Your body is designed to heal itself.  The ability of the body to maintain its health and overcome illness is, in fact, among nature’s most remarkable feats.  But, you’ve been placed in a world that systematically interferes with this natural capacity, and your conscious involvement in your health is required if you are truly to prosper.” (p. 17)                                             

When we last spoke, Cathy shared her best story about energy medicine and breastfeeding. A mother struggling with mastitis for seven months had tried everything she knew to do holistically and within the traditional medical model. (Mind you, Cathy reports this was not a crisis case of mastitis.)

Almost at a loss, Cathy asked the mother to have her two year old put her “healing hands” over the troublesome spot on her breast.

A few days later, the mother called back laughing and reported that the mastitis had healed and did not return.

Everybody has those healing hands and everybody can do it,” Cathy says. “I want people to wake up to their own innate powers.”

Many of the puzzling challenges new mothers encounter, including infant feeding challenges, can easily be resolved with simple, non-invasive energy medicine applications, Cathy explains.

Not only can breastfeeding challenges be treated with energy medicine, breastfeeding itself is energy medicine.

Breastfeeding is an all-around sensory experience where babies and mothers use all of their senses.

Babies themselves epitomize energy medicine, because “they’ll do everything they need to do to help themselves,” Cathy says.

Yet, so many of us still think of babies as helpless beings. (Of course, they aren’t.)

The same holds true regarding our culture’s general consensus of mothers’ abilities. Women are often made to believe that we are dependent on medical professionals to do birth to us, and after, we’re reliant on lactation professionals to show us how to feed our babies. I am not undermining the work of lactation professionals, certainly not. In this climate, lactation professionals are of utmost importance; however like our babies, mothers can help ourselves too.

The mother is the world in which the baby lives; accordingly, “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Lyn Milum, blogger at Energy Medicine for Life, has a three part series called Breastfeeding Your Baby which details how energy medicine support can influence mothers’ and babies’ well-being and happiness.

During her upcoming presentation, Cathy will further share her knowledge and experience on how to create balance and ease and make the motherhood journey one of joy and peace.

If conference participants would like a copy of Cathy’s Powerpoint presentation, please send your request to
Register for the International Breastfeeding Conference here. It starts this week!

Exclusive breastfeeding: A Qualitative Study of Women in the Gambia

PhotosAs one of the eldest in a predominately male family, Sering A.L. Sosseh, BSc, MSc, HND says he grew up nurturing and feeding babies. Though it was a burden to him as a child, caring for infants and children flourished into a hobby and ultimately into his career goal.

While working as a public health officer and nurse under the Gambia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Sosseh says he was inspired by the officers of the Reproductive and Child Health Unit to study public and environmental health.

He is a recent graduate of National Yang-Ming University’s International Health Program in Taiwan where he says he gained “competencies in environmental assessment, designing and evaluating evidence-based policies geared towards creating healthy and conducive environments for infants and their mothers worldwide.”

Sosseh will present Exclusive breastfeeding: A Qualitative Study of Women in the Gambia at the upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference in Orlando, Fla.

“Our findings revealed that breastfeeding is a culturally cherished practice in the Gambia,” Sosseh reports. “However, in-spite of the common practice, the number of exclusively breastfed infants has been low for decades; despite its extensive promotion countrywide.”

Sosseh and his colleagues found that “the welfare of babies is perceived to be dependent on the types of foods mothers eat during breast-feeding.”

He reports that breastfeeding mothers in the Gambia refuse spicy, watery, green leafy and hot foods.

Challenges like weight loss, nipple inflammation and backache arise in breastfeeding women in the Gambia which sometimes discourages them from breastfeeding.

“The strong cultural belief that water is essential for infants’ survival and the practice of giving ‘charm water’ to infants are…barriers to exclusive breast-feeding,” Sosseh adds.

He concludes that “the promotion of exclusive breast-feeding is challenged by some complex and sensitive socio-cultural factors” and advises these be taken into consideration when promoting exclusive breastfeeding in developing countries like the Gambia.

Sosseh comments on other complex socio-cultural factors that influence infant feeding in the Gambia.

For instance, elders and husbands in the Gambia are highly influential in matters regarding infant feeding.

“On one hand, it is due to the structure of Gambian families; which is typically extended and patriarchal in nature and on the other hand, it is the influence of our entrenched cultural and religious beliefs,” Sosseh explains. “Unlike what prevails in other parts of the world- where women have the right to participate in decisions that affect their daily lives- women of child bearing age in the Gambia have limited opportunities for this kind of participation…”

Sosseh goes on, “It should be pointed out that this culture is not in any way close to changing because there are no intervention programs targeting these groups in the country.”

Current breastfeeding practices in the Gambia are also influenced by specific traditional beliefs and practices.

“For example, breast feeding mothers are advised to abstain from sex, because of the belief that sperm may contaminate breast milk and thus render it impure,” Sosseh explains.

He says that breastfeeding mothers are traditionally separated from their husbands for at least a year or two “to avail infants the opportunity to be adequately fed with pure breast milk.”

Moreover, many Gambians believe that breast size is a significant determinant of milk production, so women with smaller breasts are not always confident in their ability to produce milk for their babies.

“Finally, due to the preference of male over the female child, men are less likely to be breast feed longer than their female counterparts,” Sosseh explains. “Among others, it is believed that over exposing males to breast milk may compromise their physical strength or make them womanizers.”

Because breastfeeding is both culturally and religiously preferred in the Gambia, exclusive bottle-feeding is “almost negligible.”

“However, due to the rapid modernization, about 8 percent of women either express their breast milk in bottles to feed infants or use supplementary milks to feed their infants,” Sosseh says.

He adds that because the majority of Gambian women are informally employed or unemployed, they have the time to breastfeed their babies. Employed Gambian women are entitled to six months paid maternity leave.

Sosseh explains that the 2013 Gambia Demographic and Health Survey indicated that feeding children with bottles is linked to the income and educational status of households; children from rich households are more often fed with bottles than children from poor households.

Education also plays a role in infant feeding method with those who attain secondary education or higher more likely to practice bottle-feeding.

Among the mothers practicing bottle-feeding, the majority of them live in urban areas, while those in the countryside prefer using basins, cups and spoons, Sosseh says.

The 2013 Gambia Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS)– a nationwide study conducted by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the National Population Secretariat Commission– is the latest national document with maternal and child health related data.

“It reported a considerable increase in [exclusive breastfeeding] from 33 percent in 2010 to 48 percent in 2013, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the National Nutrition Agency,” Sosseh reports.

“Considering the dynamic socio-cultural beliefs and how they influence breast feeding practices…the exclusive breast feeding agenda is not a one-size-fit all subject, especially in settings like the Gambia where traditional beliefs are entrenched,” Sosseh comments.

He suggests further studies “explore how such beliefs can be negotiated, modified and integrated into current interventions geared towards the promotion of exclusive breast feeding.”
Register here for the opportunity to network with and learn more from Sosseh at the International Breastfeeding Conference held January 12-16, 2016.

‘Innovative Ideas for Prenatal Breastfeeding Education: Helping Women Reach their Goals’

Nicole Brouwer,  BSc, BEd, MEd, CLC, ICCE is a neuroscientist turned science teacher turned childbirth educator and breastfeeding counselor in Calgary.

While attending prenatal classes during her pregnancy with her first baby, Brouwer recalls thinking, “I wish I could do this,” but was under the impression that because she is not a nurse, would not be able to teach perinatal education.  

“Then to my great joy I discovered that the organization that runs healthcare in our city did in fact hire people who were not nurses to teach prenatal classes,” she says.

Brouwer spent the year of her maternity leave training to become a perinatal educator.

After the birth of her second child, she was inspired to take The Lactation Counselor Training Course because her baby “had every nursing problem in the book.”

Brouwer reports feeling lost and confused about how to help her baby.

“I found the available help to be difficult to access, and the lactation experts did not really listen to me about the scope of the problem,” she goes on. “So after that experience, I really wanted to help other mothers so they did not have to go through what I went through. In other words, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’”

Brouwer uses her diverse background and experiences to help families be successful at breastfeeding.

“As a neuroscientist I learned how to read and assess scientific research in a very vigorous way,” she explains. “That training helps me be able to read and understand the relevance of the new studies about labour, birth and breastfeeding that are published every day.”

Specifically, Brouwer is interested in work about the normal complement of bacteria found in newborns, how that is affected by mode of birth and how it might be impacted by breastfeeding.

“I am so looking forward to seeing how this research will play out in the everyday lives of mothers and babies,” she says.  

As a perinatal educator, Brouwer makes certain her classes are not “boring.”

“Parents who expect to sit in a circle and listen to me do all the talking for two hours, are pleasantly surprised to find out that the classes are much more interactive than they expected,” she says. “I am definitely a facilitator, not a lecturer.”

Brouwer will co-present  Innovative Ideas for Prenatal Breastfeeding Education: Helping Women Reach their Goals at the upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference. She says she’s excited to share Calgary’s innovative perinatal education model.

“[I am] really looking forward to the discussions that will arise out of the session about how perinatal education can be a huge pillar of support for breastfeeding,” she adds.

What’s more, Brouwer recently completed a Master’s degree in adult education.

“Completing my Master’s degree was a huge challenge, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to look at how I teach classes and ensure that my work is the best it can be for supporting parents in their transition to parenthood,” she says.
Hear more from Brouwer at the International Breastfeeding Conference in Orlando, Fla. Register here!

Positive Deviance Inquiry research with breastfeeding mothers in local, Latino, migrant communities

RandiRandi McCallian, MPH, CPH, IBCLC, CD(DONA) has conducted some of the only known Positive Deviance Inquiry research with breastfeeding mothers in local, Latino, migrant communities. The term “Positive Deviance” (PD)  initially appeared in nutrition research literature in the 1990s according to the Positive Deviance Initiative’s website. The research “documented the existence of ‘Positive Deviant’ children in poor communities who were better nourished than others.” The approach has evolved and is now used as a “tool to promote behavior and social change to organize various PD-centered social change interventions around the world.” [More here:]

McCallian also directs a breastfeeding program in FL, MI, and OH. She will co-present Innovative Ideas for Prenatal Breastfeeding Education: Helping Women Reach their Goals at Healthy Children Project’s upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference. This week, she joins us on Our Milky Way.

Q: Where does your interest in maternal child health come from?

A: It took awhile before I realized that my passion could be my profession; I thought my love for babies, birth stories, and breastfeeding were “just” because I wanted to one day be a mother. I think my turning point was when I read Jennifer Block’s book PUSHED: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. I was so impassioned, enraged, and motivated by what I was reading that I started sharing information with others and seeking opportunities to join the movement to improve maternity care. I pursued a doula certification, began working with pregnant mothers and their babies in Early Head Start, and then I stumbled upon maternal and child health graduate programs and I knew I had found a home.

Q: What surprised you most about your experience at The Lactation Counselor Training Course? Is there anything you learned in particular that you find you use the most in your day to day work?

A: I was surprised at how well I did, truly! I shouldn’t have been surprised, I had studied a substantial amount in the years prior (becoming a doula, etc), but passing the course gave me a boost of confidence right as I was starting my graduate public health program and I eagerly began applying my skills and knowledge for breastfeeding advocacy and support.

I really enjoyed the layout of the course, the wealth of information provided, and the massive list of references in the manual; I felt good about the accuracy of the information I was learning.

Q: You’ll be co-presenting Innovative Ideas for Prenatal Breastfeeding Education: Helping Women Reach their Goals at the International BF Conference. Could you please share a few teasers from the presentation?

A: I’m really looking forward to sharing two wonderful and innovative ideas for improving maternal and child health. The positive deviance approach is such a fantastic way to identify what strategies already exist in a community and then build upon them to improve health. Community Health Workers (CHWs) are an increasingly popular strategy to deliver health education and health services because they are so effective at reaching and impacting the community they serve. In fact, I bet many people in the audience will connect with the idea of a CHW and will likely feel they have served in this role at some point while working with breastfeeding mothers or in health education. The program I direct is a breastfeeding program, so it will be awesome to share these strategies in a way that is directly relatable and interesting to the audience, and share our positive deviant breastfeeding findings from our research year, too!

Q: Please tell us about the multi-state breastfeeding program you direct.

A: I work with an organization–MHP Salud–that uses a Community Health Worker model to improve health outcomes in migrant, farm-working communities. My program in particular (funded by the Kellogg Foundation) focuses on improving breastfeeding outcomes among these communities in a novel way, using the Positive Deviant Inquiry Approach. For the first year of the program we identified mothers in the target communities who were already successfully breastfeeding (‘positive deviants’) and gathered information to try and learn what it might be that helps these mothers breastfeed longer than their peers. Then, program activities and goals are developed from the research findings. In our organization, Community Health Workers provide direct services to the community in an effective and culturally appropriate manner.

Q: What drew you to the Positive Deviance method?

A: When I read the term I was instantly intrigued; I rarely hear “positive” when it comes to health topics! I love the idea that we look to those individuals in the community who are succeeding in making a target health behavior happen (in this case breastfeeding) and then we put our efforts towards increasing the presence of those behaviors or resources that already exist. Knowing the barriers to health is certainly important, but I think it is time to put some of our efforts into knowing our health assets and focusing on proliferating those!

Q: Could you please share some of the highlights from your Positive Deviance Inquiry research with breastfeeding mothers in Latino, migrant communities.

A: In my opinion, one of our most exciting findings has to do with the support a breastfeeding mother has from her close family, specifically her husband/partner. The more support for breastfeeding that a woman feels from her family and the more accurate knowledge her support network has about breastfeeding, the more likely she is to breastfeed longer and more exclusively. This is also demonstrated in the breastfeeding literature.

It may be time to focus more of our efforts on normalizing breastfeeding with the community and not just women/mothers. In our program, this is one of the things we plan to do over the next 2 years, focus on breastfeeding education for husbands/partners (and other people close to a breastfeeding mother) with the goal of increasing breastfeeding rates and improve maternal and child health outcomes. I will be sharing one of our newly developed community health education tools at the Conference!

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the International BF Conference?

A: I spend a lot of time on the research side of breastfeeding and not as much time practicing or improving my experiential breastfeeding skills/knowledge, so I am looking forward to case studies and workshops that increase my knowledge of application and individual practice – like the workshop from Karin Cadwell and Cindy Turner-Maffei, “Solving Tricky Breastfeeding Problems: A Case Study”.
Register here for the opportunity to learn more from and network with Randi McCallian!