Key Breast Milk Ingredient Synthesized: Exciting or Freaky?

I stopped breastfeeding Mason when he was five weeks old, for a variety of reasons, and I felt incredibly guilty about it for months–even though it was the right decision at the time. I gave Mason a formula that I (and our pediatrician) felt good about, and I focused on finding other ways to bond with him. But I still felt a little wistful when I watched friends nurse their babies.

Now there’s a new development in the works that could give formula-fed babies (and their moms) a boost. According to a report published in Science Daily, a microbial engineer at the University of Illinois has synthesized a sugar in human milk that is thought to protect babies from pathogens.

Of course the human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) is incredibly expensive: 1 milligram of 2FL (the shorthand scientists are using to describe it) costs $100 and a single study would require $1 million worth of HMO alone. Scientists will need to do a lot of testing before something like this could ever be released to market–who knows whether it’s really safe. And given the prohibitive cost, it’s hard to say when or how those studies will take place.

But despite the obstacles, I find the prospect of something like this to be very exciting. To be clear, I’m not saying formula with this HMO would be superior to breastmilk. I’m just saying that for moms who can’t breastfeed (think of my sister), or who just don’t want to, any advancements that would make formula more healthful would be awesome.

What do you think?

Photo: Bottle with milk via lorenzo_graph/

Breastfeeding Father Should Be Allowed to Become La Leche Leader

Trevor, a 27-year-old transgender father and stay-at-home dad in Canada, was grateful that La Leche League helped him breastfeed after he gave birth to his first child last year. Now he wants to pay that support forward, but the group won’t let him, according to a report on Today Moms.

The breast-feeding advocacy organization told him via a letter that he posted on his blog ( that only a mother who has breast-fed a baby is allowed to become to
La Leche League leader, reports Lisa Flam. In other words, thanks, but no thanks, Trevor.

Say what?

New moms are under tremendous pressure to breastfeed, so how can the largest group devoted to promoting breastfeeding deny an experienced, passionate person the opportunity to help and support moms who are trying to become successful nursers? It just doesn’t make any sense.

In fact, Trevor is probably the group’s best argument that anyone can breastfeed.

Furthermore, Trevor’s a  particularly valuable resource for moms who are struggling to nurse, because it couldn’t have been easy for him to do it either. After all, it’s annoying when you’re struggling to learn how to do something and the person who’s teaching you how to do it makes it look (or seem) effortless–or who doesn’t have a story of legitimate struggle.

And surely it hasn’t been easy for Trevor. He was born with female anatomy and although he took appearance-altering testosterone and underwent surgery to remove most of his breast tissue, he kept his female reproductive system.

After reading Trevor’s enthusiastic remarks about breastfeeding I almost wished I could nurse Mason. Then I thought of Mason’s vampire-like incisors and suddenly felt fine sticking to the sippy cup.

Not surprisingly Trevor’s story has created a firestorm and now La Leche League policymakers say they’re reviewing the case and figuring out next steps, Flam notes.

Let me make it simple for you, ladies: Allow Trevor to volunteer for your organization. Value him, and every other person, who is willing to work hard on behalf of your cause.

Photo: Dad and baby via Ana Blazic Pavlovic/

Waitress Forbidden from Pumping Breastmilk at Work, Manager Feared She’d “Spray All Over” His Office

The New York Daily News is reporting on a new kind of breastfeeding bully. The latest offender is a chain restaurant manager in Seal Beach, California, and he made a terrible mistake last week.

Kristen Joseph, a 28-year-old single mom and waitress at Hennessey Tavern, was just trying to earn a living—and pump her breastmilk during a 10-minute break from work, as she had done for the last six months—when her as-hole manager stood in her way, according to the report.

Joseph says he refused to give her keys to the office so that she could pump in private. “He said it was disgusting,” she told CBS Los Angeles. “He said he didn’t want me to spray all over his office.”

But apparently he was fine with her waiting on tables while her breasts leaked.

After crying outside, Joseph says she returned to her shift and continued to work as her milk leaked on her shirt, because she had tables to close and paperwork to finish.

How can a manager be so cruel? This poor woman is a single mother, and I imagine she returned to work (despite the humiliation) because she was afraid of being fired.

Companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide an area, separate from the bathroom, for women to pump their breast milk, according to the report. Although I don’t know how many people this particular restaurant employed, how hard is it to give someone a private space for 10 minutes?

I stopped breastfeeding before I returned to work, so I never had to worry about pumping on the job (although my company is very accommodating to nursing mothers). Have you ever had any problems pumping at work?

As an aside, I’ve never been to a Hennessy Tavern, and now I’ll be sure to never go to one.

Photo: Breastfeeding mother via Natalia Dexbakh/

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg: The Biggest Breastfeeding Bully of All

It’s not enough that hospitals are banning free gifts of formula, or that the editor of Mothering magazine likened free gifts of formula to cigarettes, now the mayor of New York City is locking up formula at local hospitals, according to the New York Post. He says that he believes the maneuver will “encourage” new moms to breastfeed, but it sounds like the ultimate act of breastfeeding bullying to me.

As part of his Latch on NYC initiative, which launches September 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use, making it the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation, reports the Post.

More than half of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded freebies, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

I live in New York City. Mason was born here. If I choose to give birth to another child in the city, I better pray that my child latches on immediately and is naturally perfect at nursing. Otherwise I’m going to have to negotiate with a nurse in order for my child to be fed (as I’m recuperating from a C-Section) and endure a “talking-to.” And what about that medical justification?  Is one night of solid sleep following major abdominal surgery good enough, or will I need to somehow feign total incapacitation?

I breastfed Mason the entire time I was in the hospital, but I was grateful that he could get a bottle in the nursery at night so that I could have a couple of nights of solid sleep (and time to heal) before we were totally on our own with him.

Oh, and get this: If I get thirsty during all of this, I’ll need to watch what I drink because the major is also trying to ban large sizes of sugary drinks from being sold in NYC. What liberty will he rob from us next?

Policies like Latch on NYC do nothing but create more stress and anxiety for expectant mothers. If a mom is willing and able to breastfeed her child, she will. If she’s not, she should have a viable alternative without being put through a major guilt trip. Why should NYC’s mayor–or anyone else, for that matter–have the right to institute a policy that make a new mother’s time with her baby anything but joyful?

Photo: Michael Bloomberg via Miro Vrlik Photography/Shutterstock

Just Ridiculous: Giving New Mothers Formula Is Like Giving Trying-to-Quit-Smokers Cigarettes

“A ‘gift’ of formula is like a ‘gift’ of a pack of cigarettes when you’re trying to quit smoking; it will undermine your resolve,” says Peggy O’Mara, editor-in-chief of Mothering magazine.

O’Mara made the comment in support of the fact that Massachusetts has become the second state in the country whose hospitals ban free formula gifts to new moms, in an effort to force encourage moms to breastfeed. Her remarks were excerpted in a TIME magazine article about the formula ban and the Mitt Romney connection (see the article for more on that).

I had to read O’Mara’s remarks three times–was she making a terrible joke? How could she seriously compare formula to cigarettes? It’s incredibly offensive for so many reasons.

For starters, I gave my baby formula, so how dare she even suggest a connection between a toxic cancer-causing product and a nutrient-rich food. I didn’t throw in the towel on breastfeeding because the hospital sent me home with a few free samples. In fact, I transitioned Mason to formula after I struggled for weeks to breastfeed. I finally confessed my anxieties to our pediatrician and he told me to let go of the guilt and switch to a specific brand of formula. He insisted that Mason would be just fine. And you know what? He was absolutely right.

O’Mara is also suggesting that moms lack free will. Using her logic, grocery stores should never offer free samples because some shoppers might be on a diet and the freebies might weaken their resolve to avoid snacking between meals.

It’s ridiculous.

I’m also appalled that Rhode Island and Massachusetts instituted the ban in the first place. Why should the government have that right? And what about moms who can’t breastfeed their babies for health reasons?

Take my twin sister, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about a decade ago. She gave up her MS meds while she was pregnant, because the particular drug she was taking had been proven harmful to a growing baby, and by 30 weeks her symptoms were so bad I was afraid for her. However, Erin insisted that she would not go back on her medication–nor would she seek an early induction–because she was determined to give birth to a healthy baby girl.

When asked by her ob-gyn whether she was taking a breastfeeding class, Erin explained that her neurologist was urging her to go back on her MS medications immediately after the birth due to her declining health, and therefore she wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. Instead of being supportive, her doctor gave her grief about formula feeding and pressured her to delay taking her medication. Erin called me crying after the appointment, and I told her to ignore the b*tch.

Erin’s efforts paid off and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl at 41 weeks. Fortunately she listened to her neurologist and started her shots, along with an aggressive steroid infusion, immediately after she delivered her baby. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough: Erin had a massive relapse shortly after Natalie was born and was paralyzed for weeks. Imagine what kind of shape she’d be in if she had given in to the pressure to breastfeed.

When did breastfeeding become a tool for bullying?

Photo: Mother feeding a baby a bottle via mathom/

Were You Afraid to Breastfeed?

A co-worker just sent me a clip of a  Good Morning America interview with Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. It aired this morning, and I had seen it earlier while clicking around online, but I hadn’t watched it yet. I am not a Snooki fan; in fact, I think she’s pretty gross. But celebrity pregnancies are part of my beat here at, and so I read (or watch) pretty much everything on the topic.

So far Snooki has handled her pregnancy just like I’d expect a C-list celeb with a bad rep to; basically it’s one obnoxious photo op after another. She appeared on the cover of a tabloid to announce her pregnancy. She, gasp, colored her hair. She bared her bump in a bikini on a beach. She walks around in ridiculous shoes. And she still has three more months to go, so I’m sure that there’s plenty more fodder coming for the tabloids.

The GMA interview was pretty vanilla, but one part caught my attention. When Snooki was asked whether she planned to breastfeed (a rude question, in my opinion), she admitted that she was scared.

“My friend did and she said it was so painful…but I definitely want to pump because it’s the best nutrients for the baby,” she told GMA. However, she was quick to point out that pumping didn’t really excite her either. “It’s kind of like you’re a cow and you’re just milking.”

At least she was honest. I can relate to those fears a little bit. I was worried that I wouldn’t get the technique right and that Mason would  starve as a result. I was also a little nervous about the pain. And I can certainly remember feeling like a cow while pumping.

Were you afraid to nurse, or at least nervous about it, before your baby was born?

 Photo: A mother breastfeeding via SvetlanaFedoseyeva/

Here We Go Again, Another Breastfeeding “Controversy”

If you read or watch the news, I’m betting you’ve heard about the latest breastfeeding brouhaha. Once again, critics are in a tizzy about a photograph of a nursing mom. In this case, it’s actually two military moms in uniform nursing three babies (left). The pic was captured as part of a local breastfeeding awareness campaign by Mom2Mom of Fairchild Airforce Base, a support group launched in January by Crystal Scott, a military spouse and mother of three, according to Yahoo Shine.

“People are comparing breastfeeding in uniform to urinating and defecating in uniform,” Scott told Shine in an interview. “They’re comparing it to the woman who posed in “Playboy” in uniform [in 2007]. “We never expected it to be like this.”

Are these people serious? Ah, let us rehash the old arguments and explore the new.

There are those who say that you sexualize breastfeeding when you depict beautiful moms doing it. (Sound familiar?) In this photo, the women are both are pretty.  And the one with twins appears to have near-perfect boobs even though she’s nursing. The horror! How lewd. Unless you’re like me and you simply see two women feeding their children.

Other people are angry that these women are breastfeeding in uniform. But why? Is it the symbolism? Women can be tough and fight in the military (ie. do a man’s job)–and then go home and perform the role of a traditional, soft mother. Is it unsettling that they have the capacity to fit into both roles, while a man’s stereotypical role is so much more narrow? Puulease.

And what about those people who insist that breastfeeding is private, not public. As a super-modest person I can understand where they’re coming from. However, every mom who has ever breastfed knows that there are times when you don’t expect to breastfeed and then suddenly you need to and there’s no private room or cover in sight. I found myself in this position when Mason was nursing, and I didn’t care at all what anyone around me thought about it.

Whatever your rationale is, if you’re a critic, I say get over it.

In my opinion, this photo represents pride more than anything else. When I think of the people who serve in the military, I think of heroic men and women who make our country proud. For many moms, breastfeeding successfully is something to be proud of. So it makes total sense to me to juxtapose women in uniform and nursing babies.

Furthermore, as Terran Echegoyen-McCabe (above, left) points out in an MSNBC article, there is no military policy against nursing in uniform. So I would imagine that a lot of military moms have fed their children in uniform before. Are we really to believe that they come home on a break or after work and make their hungry child wait while they change into different clothes? C’mon.

Seems to me like this “controversy” doesn’t have legs.

Photo: Brynja Sigurdardottir

I'm Mom Enough Not to Be an Attachment Parent

I’m home on my couch, in sweats, with my chest covered in bandages and a skin tight sports bra, following my lumpectomy for a precancerous breast mass yesterday. I had planned on leaving my computer off and relaxing with an icepack all day, but after I saw the Today Show this morning, I had to fire it up and blog. The segment with Dr. William Sears, 72, and Jamie Grumet, 26, who was photographed nursing her three-year-old son Aram on the cover of TIME magazine, totally pissed me off.

To be clear, I’m not riled up that Grumet is nursing a preschooler. I agreed with Charlotte when she told Violet on Private Practice two seasons ago that, “What you want to do with your boobs is your business.” (See the latest post on Love & Diapers for more perspective from a breastfeeding mom.) If Grumet, who was breastfed until she was six-years-old, thinks that nursing her older son is the way to go, so be it. I momentarily fantasized about nursing my 20-month-old when I learned that I was still producing breastmilk, but it’s just not my style.

What irritates me is the notion that moms who practice attachment parenting, in which they carry a child in a sling everywhere they go, breastfeed into toddlerhood, share their bed with their child, and attend to their child’s every cry–are somehow better than moms who don’t (as suggested by the headline on the magazine’s cover, “Are You Mom Enough?). And that kids who are parented in this way are somehow superior. Dr. Sears, who pioneered this extreme style of parenting, even goes so far as to suggest that attachment parenting prevents bullying.

“I’ve never yet seen an attachment-parented baby who’s become a school bully,” he said on the Today Show. “If you were on an island, and you had no mother-in-laws, no psychologists, no doctors around, no experts, this is what you would naturally and instinctively do…”

The bully statement is impossible for him to prove. In fact, one of his former patients just might be a bully now. I imagine that he’s seen thousands of patients in his career given his age, and I can’t believe that he’s followed every single one into adulthood.

And the island comment? I just don’t buy it. If we lived on an island, I wouldn’t haul Mason around in a sling all day–I’d encourage him to explore our surroundings and learn. I’d make every effort to protect him against dangers, just like we do at home by baby-proofing our apartment, but I’d want him to develop independence and curiosity, not cling to me all day. Part of being a healthy, happy person is being self-reliant, which he can’t learn if I do everything for him. The ultimate goal of parenting, I think, is to foster independence and instill an understanding in your child that you’ll be there for him, no matter what.

I also agree with psychotherapist Robi Ludwig’s take on attachment parenting, which she shared as part of the segment.  “When you give a child the feeling that the whole world revolves around them, it’s not good training for the real world,” she said. “The whole world doesn’t revolve around anybody.”

Since I’ve become a mom, I’ve tried to be less judgmental, and I think I’ve succeeded in some ways.  But there are certain issues that I can’t be neutral on–and this is one of them. Are you pro-attachment parenting, or against it? Share your thoughts here.

Most Ridiculous Breastfeeding “Advice” Ever

When I saw my breast surgeon for a consultation two weeks ago, she made a startling discovery: I’m still producing breastmilk. It’s been more than a year-and-a-half since I nursed Mason, so I was shocked by the news. How in the world could that be? Truth is, I have no idea. I had so much on my mind during that doctor’s appointment, including my upcoming lumpectomy for a precancerous breast mass and the BRCA test that I chose to take right then (more to come on that), that I didn’t say more than Wow, you’re kidding, when she mentioned it .

(Update: I emailed my doctor as a follow-up for this post and she says: “The breast milk is not a problem, and it’s not related to the atypia [a clinical term for abnormality in a cell]. I see milk leaking more often when women have had multiple pregnancies, breast fed multiple times, but it can happen in someone who has nursed once .”)

Despite the mystery of it all (to me, at least), my doctor’s finding made me feel nostalgic for my breastfeeding days. Although I found nursing to be extremely stressful, I’ll never forget the moment Mason latched on. It was at least as magical as his birth, and it was at that moment that I felt the overpowering love that you hear new mothers describe. Despite the angst that I felt when I wasn’t able to nurse him, I’m grateful that we had that bonding time–and I have serious hopes of breastfeeding success when (if?) I’m lucky enough to have a second baby. On the way back to myoffice after the appointment, I had the crazy (and very brief) thought of What if I tried to breastfeed him again tonight? Maybe it would work!

I live in New York City, and in the short time that I nursed, I felt very supported by most people around me. Because breastmilk was Mason’s first food, and this blog is all about feeding my kid (and yours), it’s a topic that I cover frequently. I follow breastfeeding news and articles to get the latest scoop, so my interest was piqued when I saw a breastfeeding etiquette Q&A on A first grade teacher in Scottsdale, Arizona, was seeking advice on how to handle protests from other parents about a mom of a child in her classroom who nurses her one-year-old at school events “without covering up sufficiently.”

I rolled my eyes at the question and thought, Tell those parents to get a life. Then I kept reading.

In response, writer Judith Newman offered this advice from Patricia Rossi, author of Everyday Etiquette: “Talk to the school ­principal about designating a comfortable, quiet place for breast-feeding. You can then offer the mom use of the room as a place away from noise and germs.”

Maybe Rossi’s suggestion would work. If the mom is at a two-hour open-house for her child’s classroom, for example, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to offer her a private place to nurse (she might even appreciate it), as long as she has the right to decline. But if she’s sitting in the audience of her older child’s class play then I don’t think it’s fair to suggest she go elsewhere–she might miss her kid’s part in the production.

Then Newman, who is also an etiquette expert, added her own (absurd, in my opinion) two cents: “Of course she could also consider the feelings of others and try to feed her son before or after a school event.”

Really? She must be joking.

When Mason was hungry I never stopped to consider the feelings of the people around me, I simply fed my child. It wasn’t always predictable when he might eat, and there were even a few times when I didn’t have a cover with me, so I nursed him as discreetly as I could, but perhaps someone near me saw too much and was offended. Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less. My number one priority was to attend to my child’s needs and if someone didn’t like it, they didn’t have to look.

I’m all for knowledgeable, informed, supportive breastfeeding advice–everything else should be left unsaid. Please.

Care to share your thoughts?

Photo: Breastfeeding mom via Natalie Dexbakh/

Cookie + Breastfeeding Ad “Controversial”? No, It’s Just Funny!

It’s rare that I get to sip coffee and read blogs (alone!!) on a Sunday morning. But Mason’s out running the hallways with Chris–it’s raining out, we’ve been up for four+ hours, and our apartment is a tiny 800-square feet, so he’s bored. Thirty minutes of free time for mommy? Priceless.

As I was browsing around, I stumbled upon Kavita Varma-White’s take on the ad from South Korea in which an adorable baby is nursing while clutching an Oreo cookie, with the slogan “Milk’s Favorite Cookie.”  (You can see the ad here.) The Today Moms blogger says that the ad “blatantly sexualizes breast-feeding” and she calls it “textbook juvenile,” citing  the comments on a Huffington Post article about it. She also questions whether the woman in the ad is even a lactating mother.

My opinion? C’mon, it’s just provocative and kind of funny.

The ad was apparently created by Kraft’s ad agency, Cheil Worldwide, for a one-time use at an advertising forum and was not intended for public distribution or use with consumers, according to an update on the Huffington Post article. But even if it were meant for consumers, I hardly think it’s a crime that the people who created it chose to show a woman with “perky and perfect” breasts, in Varma-White’s words, and I don’t blame them for finding someone who didn’t have stretch marks and cracked nipples (or just air-brushing all that out). Beauty sells, not ugly reality. And the childish comments about the ad? Please. There are childish comments about pretty much everything on the Internet. If they bother you, don’t read them.

If I were to look at this ad literally, which really isn’t the point, I’d say that it’s a positive portrayal of breastfeeding–albeit it a completely unrealistic one.  Furthermore, it’s provocative enough to create a dialogue about breastfeeding, which the people who rallied behind the very public nurse-in that took place at Target stores last December would argue is very important. And with this ad comes fresh buzz about Oreos. And isn’t that what every ad campaign aims to do? I mean, really, what is the harm here?

What do you think: Is this ad offensive?

Photo: Oreos via Jaimie Duplass/