I've seen a lot of breastfeeding videos, and have helped two hospitals choose videos to use in their breastfeeding classes. And I can say that many breastfeeding videos are outdated, clumsily made, or (this might sound like a funny critique of an educational video) overly pedantic.
Simply put, this is the most beautiful educational breastfeeding video I've ever seen.
The clean, minimalist, high definition images are just stunning. The moms and babies are adorable and of mixed ethnic backgrounds, and the narration is modern-sounding. The close-up confessional-style segments of moms telling their stories are honest, intimate, and captivating. The stripped down, white background and clothing allows you to zero in on the mothers and babies, and the filming is so intimate and clear you can almost feel the babies' soft skin. It's big on breastfeeding bliss, but still seems grounded in reality.
Because the wardrobe and furnnishings are very basic (clothes, furniture, and background are all white) and classic, there isn't any danger of the images seeming out of date over time. This is a big problem with other videos - old hairstyles and clothing are very distracting and make the information seem similarly out of date.
When a video is this gorgeous, it's inspirational. Aspirational, even. I can see pregnant moms watching it thinking, "I want that to be me."
I think that this film is representative of a trend toward simplicity in breastfeeding instruction. When I first started teaching classes at our local hospital eight years ago the video seemed interminable. And my class reflected this, too - I tried to cram every last bit of information into a two hour class, and it still felt like I was leaving things out. The class always got good reviews, but I knew that I was bombarding everyone with more information than could really be absorbed.
More and more I see educational materials which approach teaching about breastfeeding by reducing the number of messages. I think it's no coincidence that this is concurrent with the rise in popularity of Laid Back Breastfeeding (Biological Nurturing), and a shift in counseling techniques to an approach which emphasizes mothers' and babies' own instincts and wisdom. As a strongly left-brained person neither of these shifts have been that easy for me, but I know that they are the right direction to be moving in.
But back to the content of this film. This film is up-to-date, covering the breast crawl, laid-back breastfeeding, and baby-led breastfeeding. The topics covered include breast changes, early breastfeeding, positioning, feeding cues, sources of support, partners, working, and weaning. Is every topic covered in a lot of detail? No, and I'm sure that this wasn't the creators' intent. It's the perfect jumping off point for further investigation, whether a mother sees it in a class or support group setting, or on her own.
So, knowing that this film isn't supposed to be encyclopedic, are there any basics left out? There are two things which I think could have used a little more emphasis: feeding frequency and latch. Feeding frequency is addressed indirectly, through a strong discussion of feeding cues, and mention of it taking a lot of hours each day. If a mother took this to heart and followed her baby's feeding cues (assuming a healthy, full term baby), she would most likely end up feeding in the 8-12 times/24 hour range. So is it important to mention the normal range? For some women, I think so. The other issue, latch, could have used some direct discussion. What should it look like? How should it feel? What should a mom do if she's having pain with latch? Even in the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which in its latest edition takes a similarly "laid back" approach when it comes to positoning, discusses what to look for in a good latch, both in terms of attachment and comfort. And when I talked with Suzanne Colson about this she said that mothers using Laid Back positions still often need to help their babies achieve a good latch.
But these are topics which could easily be covered in more detail in a breastfeeding class, and the trade off for such beautiful production and up-to-date information is one I'd happily make. If I were still teaching breastfeeding classes, this is the video I would show.
From time to time I've posted about research at the University of Massachusetts which seeks answers about breast cancer risk using breastmilk.
I'm writing today to see if any of you can help find a small group of women whose milk might hold particular value in unraveling the mysteries of breast cancer: women who have had, or currently have, breast cancer.
We're looking for women who can provide breastmilk samples - either fresh or frozen - and who have had breast cancer (not other cancers).
If this is you, please contact Beth at (413) 545-0813 or email her. If not, please help by spreading the word however you like - Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thank you!
You might think that I wouldn't like a book entitled Boob Hell.
I would, too, especially if it has a cover like the one to the right. But I have a real appreciation for this breastfeeding memoir, self-published by Rebekah Curtis.
Boob Hell is a story, too familiar to some of you, about breastfeeding and pain. The author writes about her struggle with pain that lasted for months, a nipple so atrociously cracked it practically becomes a character, and the pain of suffering in relative isolation.
But as I read it it became clear that the author's story is largely about the pain caused by what the Best for Babes Foundation would call "Booby Traps:" institutional and cultural barriers to breastfeeding which make it so hard for us to meet our breastfeeding goals.
From her 8 week obstetrical appointment, at which she's handed a formula "gift" bag, to health care providers who fail to give her good treatment, to discomfort nursing in public, to family members who tell her that she should toughen up her nipple with a toothbrush and that her pain is a result of her fair complexion, Rebekah bumps up against these barriers again and again.
As I read it, I got more and more angry in particular at the health care providers (from physicians to lactation consultants) who repeatedly fail her. In the end, it's another mom who provides the breakthrough advice. No mother should have to suffer like Rebakah did, but I'm afraid that it happens all the time.
Rebekah is a smart, and saavy woman who has resources a lot of women would envy, but even as she recognizes the barriers she encounters, she's mostly powerless to break through them. I've been writing a long series for the Best for Babes Foundation about the Booby Traps. The more I write about them, the more I think that we place far too much responsibility on mothers and far too little on our providers to prevent stories like Rebekah's from happening.
In spite of my frustration, I found this book a really enjoyable read, largely due to the author's sense of humor and writing style. The only other breastfeeding memoir I know of, How My Breasts Saved the World (after reading it I still wasn't sure how), isn't much of a comparison in those areas. If a book about pain can be fun, this is one of them.
The only thing I would have liked more of in this book is a bit more reflection about the experience. What did she learn about herself - in particular, why didn't she stop? What did she think, looking back, about the support that she got? What should have been different? Knowing what she knew, why on earth did she sign up to breastfeed her second baby? And if, as the cover states, it was worth it, how?
In spite of this, Boob Hell is a good read and, in my mind, a call to action to work to eliminate the Booby Traps. I'm happy to recomend it.
The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition has announced that, as of July 1st, 2012, all 49 of the state's hospitals have gone "bag free," making it the second and largest state to end their distribution in hospitals.
The bags in question are the formula company promotional "gift bags" given to new mothers as they leave the hospital. Rhode Island announced last year that all their hospitals had gotten rid of them.
Not sure why these bags are harmful to breastfeeding? Check out this podcast with Dr. Alison Steube I posted a few years ago. I have new one on this topic coming out in August at the Motherlove Blog - an interview with Marsha Walker.
This is great news because the bags have been shown in multiple studies to negatively impact breastfeeding, but also because getting rid of them is one (very challenging step) in the process of becoming a Baby Friendly hospital.
Advice about what to eat when you're nursing is notoriously bad.
From the lists of traditionally "prohibited" foods (you know that something's up when the list varies dramatically by culture), to the more modern confusion over omega 3's and vitamin D, it can be hard to figure out what to eat.
And the advice about when, what, and how to feed babies once they start solids is changing, too. And moreover, most books present food in a very isolated way: here's what the nursing mom should eat, here's what the kids should eat, and the partner...I guess it's pizza again.
Having read some bad food advice in books for breastfeeding moms I'm always a little wary of the topic. That's why I was pleased to see this new offering from La Leche League International - a name you can trust for breastfeeding-friendly feeding advice.
Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family by La Leche League International, presents food from pregnancy through breastfeeding and weaning, and is addresses these needs in the context of the whole family. That, in itself, is pretty refreshing.
The advice about nutrition during breastfeeding is up-to-date and evidence-based, though not preachy or presented in an overly complicated manner. The information about starting solids reflects the current trend toward "baby led weaning (solids)." The recipes look healthy and the accompanying images are beautiful, and many are La Leche League member favorites - including a generic starter mix. I'm planning on trying a number of them.
In a culture of frequently bad breastfeeding advice, you can trust this book to be breastfeeding-friendly: from the time-saving nature of the recipes (they know you're going to make some of these "one handed"), to the statements about how your diet affects your baby's health and tastes, to the information about weight loss during breastfeeding. To not have to be on guard for bad information - that's worth the price in itself.