Celebrating Our Milky Way’s 1st birthday with the greatest pregnancy book ever giveaway

Click. I pressed the home button on my phone. Slide. Tap. I navigated to my BabyCenter My Pregnancy app. The date came with advice about snacks after labor:

“After many hours of labor, you’re likely to be pretty hungry after your baby arrives, and you may not want to rely on hospital food. So think ahead and pack your own non-perishables now- crackers, dried fruits, nuts, granola bars, or whatever you think you’ll enjoy. A bottle of nonalcoholic champagne for celebrating might be fun, too.”

Like much of the app’s advice, this didn’t pertain to my recent, planned homebirth where I  ate and drank throughout my labor.

I continued reading. Scroll.

“Remember that any friends and family at your delivery will likely be peckish as well. Pack some extra to share.”

Eye roll. Accuse me of selfishness, but I have a big problem with this suggestion. Advice like this perpetuates our culture’s tradition where the postpartum mother is forgotten; where she must take on the responsibility of caring for not only herself and her infant but also the people around her. She is trained throughout pregnancy to think this way, thanks to perhaps-well-intentioned apps like My Pregnancy.

Misinformation like BabyCenter’s section on cesarean sections also instills fear in expecting mothers and prepares us for what the medical establishment will choose for us rather than empower us to claim our pregnancies, birthing and parenting experiences.

(Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN of www.evidencebasedbirth.com busts the myths about inductions and c-sections for mothers assumed to deliver big babies and shares her research on unplanned c-sections in Friedman’s Curve and Failure to Progress: A Leading Cause of Unplanned C-sections.)

Click. I pressed the off button on my phone and reached for solace.

1147736It’s called The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: Keys to the Mother Baby Bond by Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CLE, CCCE, CLD and Tracy Wilson Peters, CLD, CLE, CCCE.

Wilson is a graduate of Union Institute & University’s Maternal Child Health Lactation Consulting program and says her Union education taught her a “great deal” about how to do research and how to write about it.

“It helped me to become a better detective,” she says.

A solution to our busy lives and consequently the disconnect between mother and baby, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever is complete with practical advice, creative and engaging activities, evidence-based explanations and empowering messages about the “transformative power of… maternal love,” as psychologist, parent educator and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World and Heart to Heart Parenting Robin Grille puts it.

Grille writes, “By showing the way to a far more peaceful, loving and emotionally healthy beginning for families, this book has the potential to change the world.”

DSC_2132 retouchedThe Greatest Pregnancy Ever is so necessary in our society that “tends to value things that are truly inconsequential in the great scope of humanity,” as Wilson writes.

The authors give readers practical tools to think positively and therefore manage change in their lives and ultimately our world. Wilson acknowledges a parallel transformative effect while creating the book.

“When [Tracy and I] started the process, we were in a state of feeling very frustrated,” she says of the pregnancy, birth and parenting information offered to families. “We wanted to present material in a non-judgemental and non-biased way so families would be open to hearing about how important the prenatal experience is.”

She goes on to say that as a lactational professional, she had realizations that she may have been perpetuating some of that inaccurate  information.

“These are the moments when you realize it’s time for change,” Wilson says.

At the same time, she remembers a level of sadness as she learned how things could be.

“You relive the experiences you had with your own children,” she explains. “It was definitely difficult but I came to a point where I forgave myself for some of the things I just didn’t know.”

The Greatest Pregnancy Ever is presented in four parts: The Beginning, The First, Second and Third Trimesters of Pregnancy. Each part contains activities and keynotes regarding mindfulness and observation, conscious agreements and supportive relationships, physical health and decision making to name a few.

The authors’ recommendations are sensible and attainable for any woman, no matter what her situation or socioeconomic standing.

They dedicate an entire section to “The Four Elements Meditation,” for example, where they guide the reader on a peaceful journey to nourish her soul.

And as an alternative to our traditional baby showers, they provide information about blessingways which honor and encourage the mother in a spiritual manner.

Wilson and Wilson Peters offer readers the opportunity to think positively about their capability. They honor the pregnant woman’s experience.

“We have had so many really amazing stories from mothers who read the book,” Wilson says.

She retells the story of a mother who went through infertility treatments while reading The Greatest Pregnancy Ever and conceived while practicing the book’s activities.

In a thoughtful manner, Wilson and Wilson Peters give readers the confidence to claim their intuition and gut feelings.

We have moved away from a space of trust, where women don’t even believe in the power of intuition, Wilson explains.

Readers are encouraged and granted permission to disconnect from our unplugged world so to better connect with their inner being.

“So many moms are never turned off,” Wilson says.

The Greatest Pregnancy Ever is powerful in other ways. I have shared countless excerpts with my step dad who is battling cancer, and have found him better able to cope with the tragedy of his disease.

Wilson tells me that they have many non-pregnant readers including her teenage sons, her husband and the mothers of pregnant women.

Care providers too will benefit from reading the book by offering them perspective on the change needed within maternal child health policy and practice to better nourish and honor the mother baby bond.

Wilson says that although the majority of care providers she shares the book with are receptive, there is a small minority who are very resistant to the information. It’s possible the providers realize that what they have been practicing is not only not helpful, but harmful to moms and babies, Wilson explains. They have to work through steps of grief when they come to terms with their less than optimal practice, she goes on.

Wilson and Wilson Peters have provided a special resource section for professionals on their website where practitioners can download a series of free handouts like the Beginners Guide to Meditation, The Four As and Keys to Reducing Stress.

To celebrate Our Milky Way’s first birthday this week, we couldn’t be more excited to announce our first ever giveaway thanks to The Greatest Pregnancy Ever authors! Tell us how you created a peaceful and joyful beginning for your family or how you helped a mother enjoy her journey becoming a parent in the comments below. The first five to respond will receive a copy of The Greatest Pregnancy Ever!

Look for Wilson and Wilson Peters’ new release The Attachment Pregnancy: The Ultimate Guide to Bonding with Your Baby this January.

For more information about The Greatest Pregnancy Ever please visit: http://www.thegreatestpregnancyever.com/.

Certified Lactation Counselor helps advance breastfeeding support in Guam

kirsten award
Roberts and daughter Celeste after winning NCO of the Quarter for her wing.

By day SSgt. Kirsten Roberts, CLC works as an active duty Air Force shift manager in the Fitness, Lodging and Food Services field. She deems herself Clark Kent in this role.

“But then I get to put on my breastfeeding cape and help people,” she says. “I feel like Superman.”

Roberts has played an active role in drafting breastfeeding legislation for Guam called the Nana Yan Patgon Act or the Mother and Child Act. Introduced in July 2013, the legislation proposed protection of the basic rights of nursing mothers and infants.

proclamationThe bill was drafted after a mother, Jennifer Camacho, ran into difficulty being able to pump at work. Camacho also had concerns about being protected under the law while nursing in public, so she and her husband crafted the legislation, asked for support of local lactation and health care professionals and introduced it to the government.

The Mother and Child Act passed unanimously in late October and Governor Eddie Baza Calvo proclaimed August Guam’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month which Roberts says is “a great start to promoting and protecting breastfeeding.”

In addition, Guam’s Department of Corrections now provides detained mothers with breast pumps. And a breastfeeding room at Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport is under construction, Roberts says.

“It’s surprising how this little thing has inspired so many people to come out of the woodwork to make it happen,” Roberts says.

Proclamation signing with the Governor of Guam
Proclamation signing with the Governor of Guam

Like many new moms, Roberts didn’t have the most pleasant initial experience breastfeeding her now still-breastfeeding-three-year-old daughter. Induced at 39 weeks, she was unable to hold her baby until nearly an hour after her daughter’s birth. Roberts says she resorted to formula for a period of time, but after doing some research and attending support groups, she was able to reclaim her supply… with excess to donate!

Roberts pumped for 13 months while she was working 12 hour active duty shifts. She pumped in less than ideal conditions like bathrooms and locker rooms on army green cots. Most often she pumped in a makeshift closet.

Roberts admits the conditions didn’t necessarily bother her but she did sense uncomfortability from others who witnessed her “in the act”.

Roberts feeds daughter Celeste.
Roberts feeds daughter Celeste.

Robert’s confidence to pump in public for her baby struck up conversations about breastfeeding amongst her colleagues and brought awareness to an infant feeding method that has become taboo.

Inspired by her own struggles with breastfeeding, Roberts looked for different pathways to become a lactation professional and help others. As an active duty military member, she found most of the programs overwhelming until she came across Union Institute & University’s (UI&U) distance learning degree in Maternal Child Health: Lactation Consulting. She enrolled in Spring 2012.

As part of her degree requirements, Roberts took Healthy Children’s The Lactation Counselor Training Course and become certified in March 2013. She says learning how to counsel and listen to mothers has been most beneficial.

“It’s important to get the story behind what’s going on instead of jumping to a solution,” she explains.

In addition to becoming a CLC, Roberts currently interns at Sagua Managu Birth Center as part of her enhanced learning project with UI&U.

Roberts reports that the birth center sometimes struggles with properly supporting breastfeeding. She once noticed a quarterly publication released by the center plagued with Enfamil artificial baby milk advertisements. [To learn more about predatory marketing visit WHO’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.]

On the bright side, staff at Sagua Managu generally encourage the magical hour after birth and rooming in, but Roberts agrees they could “do so much more” to support breastfeeding.

391676_529384960452680_345321571_nIn May 2013, Roberts launched Guam Mamas Breastfeeding Support which co-facilitates free breastfeeding support groups with the birth center guided by Robert’s mentor, Barbara Mafnas, RN. The support groups run twice weekly and are open to families on the entire island.

In Guam Mamas’ infancy, Roberts says they only had one mother show up to the support group. Since then, they celebrate greater involvement thanks to moms spreading the word about a great resource in their community.

Moms typically come in with breastfeeding concerns after undergoing unfavorable birth practices that hinder breastfeeding initiation. Other times, moms battle hospital staff giving their infants formula without permission.

“Trying to combat all of this feels a lot like we’re swimming up river,” Roberts says. “Still, what we are doing is very valuable.”

Sen. Aline Yamashita, Jennifer Camacho and Roberts raise breastfeeding awareness at Guam's Breastfeeding "Wave".
Sen. Aline Yamashita, Jennifer Camacho and Roberts raise breastfeeding awareness at Guam’s Breastfeeding “Wave”.

Roberts was recently awarded the prestigious awards Non-Commissioned Officer of the Quarter (3rd quarter, July-Sep 2013) for the Group (36th Mission Support Group/MSG), Wing (36th Wing) and PACAF (Major Command/MAJCOM for the entire Pacific region of USAF bases for her career field) for her invaluable breastfeeding work within her community.

Physical environment influences breastfeeding outcomes

A laboring mother is assisted onto a cold examination table under harsh, fluorescent lights. With her partner and nurse gripping her knees and heels into makeshift stirrups, she welcomes her precious new life into a soulless environment: white walls, shiny tiled floors, stale drapery, countertops cluttered with metallic tools.

The new mother and her infant are soon wheeled into another lifeless room. Surrounded by drained tones, they initiate breastfeeding on a strange, electric hospital bed. Her partner sits close by in a brown recliner across from a Similac poster. A nurse comes in, tightly swaddles the new baby, places her into a plastic bin and advises the mother to “get some rest.”

The family is discharged from the hospital. Six weeks quickly pass. Although devastated to leave her tiny infant, the new mother must return to work. Breast pump in hand, she is determined to supply her baby with her milk, but her employer does not provide proper lactation accommodations.

Moreover, ignorance about “the life-sustaining value of human breast milk and stigmas surrounding the female body” prompt unfriendly responses to this new mother breastfeeding in public. [Retrieved from: http://www.patientcentereddesign.org/momfriendly_community.html#sthash.zICvT246.dpuf]

New moms everywhere encounter these glum circumstances and ridiculous barriers that inhibit us from supporting the wellness of our babies. Recently, a mother even reported pumping in 106 degree conditions atop a floor full of dead bugs.

Fortunately, The MomFriendly Network is on a mission to promote breastfeeding acceptance and support by connecting breastfeeding moms with companies that have made accommodations to enable mothers to breastfeed or express breast milk in their facilities.

inverse_logo2-214x152In conjunction with the Institute of Patient-Centered Design, Inc., The MomFriendly Network presents The Lactation Design program consisting of research and outreach projects that will enable the Institute to contribute design resources to facilitate improved accommodations to support breastfeeding. [Retrieved from: http://www.patientcentereddesign.org/lactationdesign.html]

The multi-phase research project currently collects information and case studies that will enable further investigation about the impact of the physical surroundings on a mother’s decision to breastfeed. Information is shared monthly with the public in their free Lactation Design webinars. The Institute also offers the public other ways to get involved with the project including sponsorship, partnership and sharing your experience. {Retrieved from: http://www.patientcentereddesign.org/lactationdesign.html]

In addition, the Institute recently sponsored Lactation Space Design: Supporting Evidence-Based Practice and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a research paper which assumes that comfortable lactation spaces promote lactation in healthcare facilities. [Read more about Design Impact on Breastfeeding Rates here.]

mailWhile systematic change is often difficult, Institute of Patient-Centered Design, Inc. founder Tammy Thompson, NCARB, EDAC, CLC says that by conducting design projects for hospitals, administration is generally open to research-supported change.

Thompson reports that having the opportunity to wear and breastfeed her baby on demand throughout her work days is the most exciting part of her job but also represents the capacity of the working, breastfeeding mother.

“I can’t think of a better way to practice what we preach than by exposing other designers, some who find breastfeeding a foreign concept, to my working environment,” she says. “I want to help normalize breastfeeding by encouraging other professionals to embrace the fact that a working mother should not have to choose between an active career and breastfeeding her baby.”

“I am fortunate to have this opportunity,” she continues. “I hope to influence more company leaders to allow flexible options for mothers who wish to breastfeed after returning to work. I must also say that no matter what demographic I present to, I have not encountered a sneer or negative response.”

Thompson was prompted to take Healthy Children’s The Lactation Counselor Training Course to learn more about evidence-based breastfeeding practices to inform the design work that she and her organization do.

“Professionally, the most valuable thing I learned was how to provide resources, education and support to new mothers,” she says.  “I use this information as I work with other professionals who wish to support new moms.”

In particular, Thompson says she and her colleagues believe lactation design research is especially interesting and helpful to facilities seeking Baby-Friendly status.

The challenges hospitals face when creating lactation spaces are often rooted in budget and designated physical space.

“Many employers fear the unknown when they consider this type of project,” Thompson explains. “They think it will cost them a fortune to provide this space.”

But the Institute helps quell concerns by showing examples of lactation room projects of varying sizes and budgets to provide ideas for even small companies to comply with amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

When it comes to designated space, Thompson explains that many companies do not have any available real estate within the facility to designate as a lactation room.

In these cases, the Institute often suggests creating space with multiple uses.

For instance, The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) provides a lactation center that is used for postpartum mothers returning to the hospital for consults and is also open to staff, Thompson says.

“We also encourage employers to develop creative solutions, like allowing a lactating mother access to a manager’s office for private milk expression when no other facilities are available,” she explains.

Thompson’s Institute created the 2013 Patient & Family Centered NICU project on a quest to find a solution for hospitals to accommodate the patients’ need to have their family engaged in their treatment and care.

PCDESIGNThe project started with a design competition where teams from across the world submitted space ideas that empower families to remain with their patients.  The panel of judges including  neonatologist Dr. Robert White, NICU design researcher and architect Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, NICU parents and clinicians and designers, selected the top three design submissions to inspire a full scale NICU patient room model on site at the 2013 Healthcare Design Conference.

The Patient & Family Centered NICU model will be used in a learning lab comprised of more than 20 workshops where design professionals and hospital stakeholders will engage in dialogue for improving NICU environments and outcomes through facility design, Thompson explains.TTHOMPSON

“This model is sure to inspire better accommodations for NICU families and to promote breastfeeding,” she says.

Thompson adds that she is proud to be working with Lifespan Healthcare to provide accessories that support breastfeeding and kangaroo care especially in the NICU.

To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.PatientCenteredDesign.org.

To register for the upcoming free Lactation Design webinars, visit http://lactationdesign.com/.

Breastfeeding is…

With a gentle pulsing of the sand, a baby sea turtle emerges from her hatching place. She breathes the salty ocean air and immediately begins her race to the rushing tide. She dodges stealthy crabs and gulls, mounts beach debris and endures what seems like an endless journey. Programmed for survival, she plunges into the abounding ocean, her lifeline.

Worldwide, there are over 70 conservation laws and regulations that protect sea turtles.

Not far from the briny ocean breeze, a mother hears her infant cry as she enters the world outside of the womb for the first time. Placed on her mother’s abdomen, the baby relaxes for several minutes until she begins to awaken. Soon, she makes mouthing and sucking movements signaling her interest in her mother’s breast. She leaps and crawls upward with intermittent periods of rest. When she reaches the breast, her hands become increasingly active and she familiarizes herself with her mother’s nipple. She suckles enjoying her first few sips of thick colostrum. After the first feed, she will rest again in the arms of her mother, her lifeline. [For more information about the 9 Stages visit: http://www.magicalhour.com/aboutus.html]

When a newborn is given the opportunity to practice early survival skills, amazing things happen.

But all too often, the newborn’s programming is interfered with by well-meaning health care professionals and popular, although non evidence-based health care practices.

barbaraO“Our culture really discredits the importance of early beginnings,” Healthy Children faculty Barb O’Connor, RN, BSN, IBCLC, ANLC says. “If we protect and nurture mothers and infants, that’s going to impact future outcomes.”

She goes on,  “Mothers and infants really have a synergistic recuperation from birth and if breastfeeding is supported and not interfered with, both parties are able to develop in a manner that leads to positive health outcomes.”

O’Connor discusses several cultural components that make establishing normal, healthy beginnings nearly impossible for families.

Our culture urges independence. Mother and baby are expected to properly function away from one another immediately after birth. Most birthing facilities don’t encourage or appropriately support the important practices of skin to skin contact or even rooming in.

Moreover, mothers are often expected to return to work or school while they are still bleeding from childbirth.

“There are other cultures that really value moms and babies and you can see it in the legislation,” O’Connor says.

Differently, our country provides mothers with zero paid maternity leave.

To be fair, there have been strides made in terms of promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding families in our nation. The Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) offers more and more families the opportunity to successfully breastfeed for instance. Particularly, BFI advocates for babies by requiring the facilities to provide the healthiest practices for mom and baby. O’Connor calls skin to skin contact and rooming in essential practices for all babies regardless of feeding method.

Still we have a lot to grasp, especially when it comes to older breastfeeding babies and children.

“Because we focus so much on breastfeeding being nutrition, our culture doesn’t really understand what breastfeeding really is for infants over one,” O’Connor says.  “We don’t understand as a population that nursing becomes a source of joy and communication and a way of life that should only be discontinued as mother and child mutually desire.”

O’Connor is particularly interested in the value of breastfeeding beyond nutrition.

“The delight I witness in the eyes of a baby who is nursing is indescribable; it is pure, unadulterated joy,” she says. “Every baby deserves the right to experience this loveliness.”

And skin to skin and breastfeeding are lovely in so many ways.

Breastfeeding is a stabilizer.

When a mother holds her baby skin to skin to breastfeed, she regulates her baby’s body temperature, heart and breathing rates, stress and glucose levels just to name a few. [For more information see these publications on skin to skin contact and http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&id=82:the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-contact-&Itemid=17]

O’Connor is fascinated by the findings of Dr. Nils Bergman and KH Nyqvist. Bergman, Nyqvist and colleagues have discovered that if the mothers of low birth weight babies practice Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), they learn to breastfeed at incredibly young gestational ages. KMC also supports increased brain development and decreased mortality for low birth weight babies.

O’Connor’s daughter Brandy, mother and full-time caregiver of a special needs son who, born at 25 weeks gestation (now 5 years old), spent 110 days in the NICU, will speak at Healthy Children’s upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference about her experience with KMC and breastfeeding. She will share her perspective of the emotional turmoil, hospital practices, and challenges experienced by mothers of infants in the NICU.

“It has taken her a long time to come to a place where she could talk about this,” O’Connor says of Brandy’s experience. “I am extremely excited for my colleagues who work in the NICU to hear her perspective on how the experience affects new mothers”.

Breastfeeding is empowering.

The symbiotic relationship between breastfeeding mother and child and the infant’s programming for survival has a profound impact on the mother’s physical and mental well-being, O’Connor explains.

She continues that a child’s desire to breastfeed for comfort can be empowering. No one else but the mother has the capacity to console an upset child the way she does.

In Breastfeeding: A Feminist Issue, author Penny Van Esterik explains the many other ways breastfeeding is empowering including:  “breastfeeding confirms a woman’s power to control her own body, and challenges the male-dominated medical model and business interests that promote bottle feeding” and ”breastfeeding requires a new definition of women’s work – one that more realistically integrates women’s productive activities.”

Breastfeeding is immunity.

Maternal body flora and milk prime an infant’s immune system in a way that cannot currently be replicated and offers beneficial lifelong effects. O’Connor cites Lars Hanson’s immunology of breast milk research.

“A fully breast-fed infant receives as much as 0.5-1 g of secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) antibodies daily, the predominant antibody of human milk,” authors of Breast feeding: Overview and breast milk immunology write. “This can be compared to the production of some 2.5 g of SIgA per day for a 60 kg adult. These SIgA antibodies have been shown to protect against Vibrio cholerae, ETEC, Campylobacter, Shigella and Giardia.”

Breastfeeding is communication.

“If I see a baby who looks anxious or isn’t taking the breast well, it’s an immediate sign that something isn’t right in baby’s life,” O’Connor says.

As stated babies seek the breast for survival, so if baby refuses to breastfeed, they are communicating in a non-verbal way, she continues. Perhaps baby is ill or injured. When circumstances like these arise, it is important that the dyad receive help from a lactation professional who can assist with investigating the problem.

O’Connor reminds lactation professionals that it is always important to practice from a current, evidence-based perspective and to possess appropriate counseling skills.

“Most moms want to breastfeed,” she says. “It’s a matter of figuring out how to fit it in her life.”

Breastfeeding is regulatory.

A breastfed baby is offered control over the amount of milk she ingests whereas a bottle-fed infant’s intake is usually dictated by the amount of milk in its artificial container.

Consequently bottle feeding, regardless of the type of milk, may have future implications on obesity.

“Infants who are bottle-fed in early infancy are more likely to empty the bottle or cup in late infancy than those who are fed directly at the breast,” authors of Do infants fed from bottles lack self-regulation of milk intake compared with directly breastfed infants? conclude.

Breastfeeding is survival.

O’Connor suggests we reevaluate our definition of survival. Survival goes beyond the performance of simple body functions.

“We have to look beyond that at a more encompassing definition,” she says. “Babies who are breastfed have a different potential for intellectual and interpersonal relationships.”

In fact, authors of Breast feeding and intergenerational social mobility: what are the mechanisms? conclude that “Breast feeding increased the odds of upward social mobility and decreased the odds of downward mobility.”

The effect was mediated in part due to stress mechanisms,” O’Connor comments.  “This is really fascinating.”

Breastfeeding has become of international concern because it offers protection against infant mortality. The World Health Organization’s Millenium Development Goals include breastfeeding as a strategy to combat child malnutrition and reduce child mortality.

In “Breastfeeding and Infant-Parent Co-Sleeping as Adaptive Strategies: Are They Protective against SIDS?” included in Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, James J. McKenna and Nicole J. Bernshaw explore the epidemiological studies that suggest that breastfeeding may be protective against SIDS.

What does breastfeeding mean to you? How else is breastfeeding more than nutrition? Please share your thoughts in the thread below.

Lessons from breastfeeding champion Kittie Frantz

Amidst the stack of papers handed to me at Willow’s two-year well child check up was a questionnaire assessing her risk factors for high cholesterol and the potential need for further cholesterol screening.

As I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I laughed in disbelief. How could any two year old possibly have high cholesterol, I thought. I quickly snapped out of my little dream world. I remembered our nation’s pitiful exclusive breastfeeding rate at six months and our heartbreaking obesity epidemic. I thought about the Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare film screening I attended the night before.

I became angry. What is wrong with our health care system?! Why aren’t we paying more attention to maternal child health when it has the potential to change our entire health care crisis?! What is wrong with our society?! Why can’t I remember my daughter’s social security number?! Stupid papers.

Then I saw Willow making faces in the colorful fish mirror hanging in the waiting room. I sighed a sigh of relief, beyond thankful for my healthy, magnificent child.

Kittie_newNot long ago, I spoke with Clinical Instructor in Pediatrics at the University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine, Coordinator of Lactation Education for the Los Angeles County, University of Southern California Medical Center and Breastfeeding Champion Kittie Frantz, RN, CPNP-PC.

She has worked within maternal child health for over four decades. When we spoke, I sort of expected her to validate my fury with our current birth and breastfeeding culture and consequent health in our country. Instead, she shed light on the progress our nations has made. Her experiences watching the evolution of maternal infant attachment allows her to offer invaluable advice to mothers and health care professionals alike.

Although I’m not any less angry with our reactive health care system, I’m inspired by Frantz’s tenacity and her ability to propel change.

When Frantz delivered her first baby in the 1960s, the attitude toward breastfeeding was really one of disgust. “You want to do that?” Frantz remembers her postpartum nurse’s revulsion, hair fashioned into a massive bee hive, holding her baby possessively. The nurse continued to tell Frantz that she was too young to have any milk and handed her a six pack of formula.

“But remember, I’m breastfeeding,” Frantz replied.

“Don’t you starve your baby,” the nurse spat.

I wondered how Frantz had the confidence to speak up for herself in a situation heavy with tension.

“She pissed me off so bad, I was going to succeed no matter what,” she says. “It was probably a good thing.”

And this was the norm; no one helped with attachment, Frantz explains. Swaddled infants were to be left wrapped so not to contaminate them.

Despite Frantz’ determination to breastfeed, she ended up running into some issues.

With no help from health care professionals or family members, Frantz began attending La Leche League meetings.

I tell Frantz that LLL seems to be the point of inspiration for many Our Milky Way interviewees. She explains.

LLL was the only support her generation had.

“We clung to each other like sisters on an iceberg,” Frantz says.

Today, LLL’s prevalence is subsiding.

Frantz puts things into perspective:“Can you imagine being a young mother without an internet connection?” she asks rhetorically. She’s right. If today’s mothers didn’t have continuous wifi access, I’d be willing to bet we’d be clinging to one another on the LLL iceberg just the same.

Frantz has three of her own children but she is also the foster mother of five, grandmother of seven and foster grandmother of at least eight.

She and her family welcomed pregnant teenagers into their family at a time that Frantz says no one was taking teenagers.

“They would have their babies and I would be there in labor with them and help them to breastfeed,” she says. “That was very rewarding.”

Frantz made sure the young mothers were enrolled in school in the next town over where they were allowed to bring their babies with them.

Frantz sat with the young dyads in the middle of the night so the mothers would nurse their babies. (Can I just say some partners don’t even do that?)

“It’s about opening your home and following your principles,” Frantz says of her foster parenting.

Throughout her professional life, Frantz began making observations about maternal infant attachment and tailoring her projects to fit the needs of mother and baby.

As a nurse practitioner, Frantz began making discoveries during her patients’ well visits.

“I noticed moms who weren’t sore held their babies differently,” she says of breastfeeding mothers. “I started applying what I saw and it worked.”

But she admits that her work with positioning and latch led the lactation community to interpret attachment as a step by step process.

“We made it hard,” she says. “It just made me ill.”

Soon though, Frantz teamed up with Dr. Christina M. Smillie, MD who put attachment this way: let the baby do it. In Frantz’s and Smillie’s Baby-Led Breastfeeding…The Mother Baby Dance, mothers learn to breastfeed by letting their babies show them how.

In the same spirit of neonatal capability, Frantz created The Baby’s Perspective, “a course for those experienced with newborns…and want to learn the baby’s perspective.”

Looking at early attachment from the baby’s perspective offers benefits to mother as well. When babies are given the chance to prove their competency, mothers are instilled with a sense of confidence. Current health care practices often inhibit a mother’s ability to believe in herself though, as technology increasingly takes over.

Frantz says this is the most difficult part of her job, helping mothers find self confidence.

From pregnancy and beyond we are sent messages that we won’t succeed at breastfeeding whether it be baby shower gifts of bottles and artificial nipples or the stories we hear from other mothers about their miserable experiences.

Frantz expresses great frustration with the latter.

“Women are not nice to women,” she says. “Why do we talk about how awful birth is and how awful breastfeeding is? What’s in our nature that we think to have to mess it up for other women?”

Lactation professionals play an integral role in promoting healthy environments for mothers and babies to bond. Frantz suggests beginning every consult by putting baby skin to skin because the practice is diagnostic and increases mother’s confidence, she explains. Showing DVDs like the ones Frantz has created is a great way to demonstrate the effectiveness of skin to skin contact.

Because our culture has unrealistic expectations for postpartum mothers, Frantz also suggests lactation professionals give moms practical tools for keeping her sanity. For instance, tell visitors they are welcome from 4 to 6 p.m. The remainder of the day is meant for mother and baby to bond.

Finally, Frantz remembers her colleague Dr. Joan Hogman’s advice: Remember that breastfeeding is fun.

“It’s a beautiful system,” Frantz says of breastfeeding. “The system works. I say let’s give it a chance.”

But lactation staff aren’t the only ones responsible for creating healthy environments for moms and babies.

Frantz conducted the 20 hour staff training for Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center on the new 4-D Pathway.

Trained staff included nurses, aids, clerks, residents, etc. Now, the entire hospital staff has the tools to support breastfeeding dyads. Frantz says that many of their mothers still breastfeed after discharge because they have instilled a sense of confidence in the mother.

“Positive support from staff makes breastfeeding successful in the long run,” Frantz explains.

She goes on, “After discharge needs great support. The pediatric physician residents carry that knowledge and support to the continuity clinic where they do the baby’s well child care in our medical center…Support continues in an ‘atta girl’ format.”

Frantz’s Geddes Productions, LLC Breastfeeding Techniques That Work ™  offers a variety of educational materials for mothers and health care professionals alike including Delivery Self Attachment and a breastfeeding techniques series. Many of the films are available in a pay-per-view format.

For more information about Frantz’s work and her product line, please visit http://www.geddesproduction.com/kittie-frantz.php.