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Update on Melamine in Infant Formula

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And an update on the China story, read here.

Last week, the FDA reported that it had found trace amounts of the chemical melamine in some infant formulas. From CBS news:
They are Mead Johnson’s Enfamil LIPIL with Iron and Nestle’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron. Abbott Laboratories, whose brands include Similac, independently reported that it had detected trace levels of melamine in its formula…
The FDA came under fire recently for failing to set safety standards after large doses of melamine, as much as 10,000 parts per million, caused the deaths of three infants in China and made 50-thousand others sick. But late last week, administration set a safe threshold for either of the chemicals alone at 1 part per million – higher than the amounts they found in U.S. brands. The FDA insists the formulas are safe…
The FDA said it believes the contamination may occur because melamine is contained in a cleaning solution used on some food processing equipment. Parents looking for an alternative might consider this: about 90 percent of all infant formulas produced in the U.S. are made by the three companies whose products tested positive for contaminants.

Here’s the FDA update.
And watch this video from CBS news.

Melamine Found in Some Infant Formula in the US.

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Earlier this year a major scandal was exposed among China’s infant formula manufacturers. Companies were adding an industrial chemical called melamine to the milk, in order to disguise test results that measure protein levels. The melamine left more than 50,000 infants sick and killed 4.
At the time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration assured American consumers that Chinese formula was not for sale in the U.S. But now, the FDA says it has found trace amounts of melamine in some American infant formulas. The FDA says the amounts do not pose a health concern.
So what does this mean for us? If you’re feeding your baby formula, take a few minutes to read the articles below. And if you have any questions, talk to your pediatrician.
Here’s today’s New York Times article.
Here’s a link to the FDA’s page on melamine, as well as some Frequently Asked Questions.
For a more extensive piece, here’s the article from the Associated Press. It has more information than the New York Times article.
Traces of the industrial chemical melamine have been detected in samples of top-selling U.S. infant formula, but federal regulators insist the products are safe. The Food and Drug Administration said last month it was unable to identify any melamine exposure level as safe for infants, but a top official said it would be a “dangerous overreaction” for parents to stop feeding infant formula to babies who depend on it.
“The levels that we are detecting are extremely low,” said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “They should not be changing the diet. If they’ve been feeding a particular product, they should continue to feed that product. That’s in the best interest of the baby.”
Melamine is the chemical found in Chinese infant formula — in far larger concentrations — that has been blamed for killing at least three babies and making at least 50,000 others ill.
Previously undisclosed tests, obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the FDA has detected melamine in a sample of one popular formula and the presence of cyanuric acid, a chemical relative of melamine, in the formula of a second manufacturer.
Separately, a third major formula maker told AP that in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula.
The three firms — Abbott Laboratories, Nestle and Mead Johnson — manufacture more than 90 percent of all infant formula produced in the United States.
The FDA and other experts said the melamine contamination in U.S.-made formula had occurred during the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally.
The U.S. government quietly began testing domestically produced infant formula in September, soon after problems with melamine-spiked formula surfaced in China.
Sundlof said there have been no reports of human illness in the United States from melamine, which can bind with other chemicals in urine, potentially causing damaging stones in the kidney or bladder and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.
Melamine is used in some U.S. plastic food packaging and can rub off onto what we eat; it’s also contained in a cleaning solution used on some food processing equipment and can leach into the products being prepared.
Sundlof told the AP the positive test results “so far are in the trace range, and from a public health or infant health perspective, we consider those to be perfectly fine.”
That’s different from the impression of zero tolerance the agency left on Oct. 3, when it stated: “FDA is currently unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns.”
FDA scientists said then that they couldn’t set an acceptable level of melamine exposure in infant formula because science hadn’t had enough time to understand the chemical’s effects on infants’ underdeveloped kidneys. Plus, there is the complicating factor that infant formula often constitutes a newborn’s entire diet.
The agency added, however, that its position did not mean that any exposure to a detectable level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula would result in harm to infants.
Still, the announcement was widely interpreted by manufacturers, the news media and Congress to mean that infant formula that tested positive at any level could not be sold in the United States.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, for example, told its members: “FDA could not identify a safe level for melamine and related compounds in infant formula; thus it can be concluded they will not accept any detectable melamine in infant formula.”
It was not until the AP inquired about tests on domestic formula that the FDA articulated that while it couldn’t set a safe exposure for infants, it would accept some melamine in formula — raising the question of whether the decision to accept very low concentrations was made only after traces were detected.
On Sunday, Sundlof said the agency had never said, nor implied, that domestic infant formula was going to be entirely free of melamine. He said he didn’t know if the agency’s statements on infant formula had been misinterpreted.
In China, melamine was intentionally dumped into watered-down milk to trick food quality tests into showing higher protein levels than actually existed. Byproducts of the milk ended up in infant formula, coffee creamers, even biscuits.
The concentrations of melamine there were extraordinarily high, as much as 2,500 parts per million. The concentrations detected in the FDA samples were 10,000 times smaller — the equivalent of a drop in a 64-gallon trash bin.
There would be no economic advantage to spiking U.S.-made formula at the extremely low levels found in the FDA testing. It neither raises the protein count nor saves valuable protein, said University of California, Davis chemist Michael Filigenzi, a melamine detection expert.
According to FDA data for tests of 77 infant formula samples, a trace concentration of melamine was detected in one product — Mead Johnson’s Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron. An FDA spreadsheet shows two tests were conducted on the Enfamil, with readings of 0.137 and 0.14 parts per million.
Three tests of Nestle’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron detected an average of 0.247 parts per million of cyanuric acid, a melamine byproduct.
The FDA said last month that the toxicity of cyanuric acid is under study, but that meanwhile it is “prudent” to assume that its potency is equal to that of melamine.
And while the FDA said tests of 18 samples of formula made by Abbott Laboratories, including its Similac brand, did not detect melamine, spokesman Colin McBean said some company tests did find the chemical. He did not identify the specific product or the number of positive tests.
McBean did say the detections were at levels far below the health limits set by all countries in the world, including Taiwan, where the limit is 0.05 parts per million.
“We’re talking about trace amounts right here, and you know there’s a lot of scientific bodies out there that say low levels of melamine are always present in certain types of foods,” said McBean.
Mead Johnson spokeswoman Gail Wood said her company’s in-house tests had not detected any melamine, and that the company had not been informed of the FDA test results, even during a confidential agency conference call Monday with infant formula makers about melamine contamination.
The FDA tests also detected melamine in two samples of nutritional supplements for very sick children who have trouble digesting regular food. Nestle’s Peptamen Junior medical food showed 0.201 and 0.206 parts per million of melamine while Nestle’s Nutren Junior-Fiber showed 0.16 and 0.184 parts per million.
The agency said that while there are no established exposure levels for infant formula, pediatric medical food — often used in feeding tubes for very sick, young children — can have 2.5 parts per million of melamine, just like food products other than infant formula.
The head of manufacturing for Nestle Nutrition in North America, Walter Huber, said in an interview that the company took samples alongside FDA officials who visited a manufacturing plant, and that those samples showed similar results to what FDA found for the two pediatric medical foods. Huber added that Nestle didn’t fund cyanuric acid in any of the samples.
The FDA shared its results with Nestle a few weeks ago, Huber said. He said he wasn’t sure whether Nestle had tested other of its products beyond what it did related to the FDA.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who heads a panel that oversees the FDA budget, said the agency was taking a “marketplace first, science last” approach.
“The FDA should be insisting on a zero-tolerance policy for melamine in domestic infant formula until it is able to determine conclusively based on sound independent science that the trace levels would not pose a health risk to infants,” DeLauro said.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., a frequent critic of the FDA, said: “If no safe level of melamine has been established for consumption by children, then the FDA should immediately recall any formula that has tested positive for even trace amounts of the contaminant.”
Several medical experts said trace concentrations would be diluted even in an infant, and are highly unlikely to be harmful.
“It’s just a tiny amount, it’s very unlikely to cause stones,” said Stanford University Medical School pediatrics professor Dr. Paul Grimm.
Dr. Jerome Paulson, an associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said he didn’t think the FDA’s decision was unreasonable. He added, however, that the agency should research the impacts of long-term, low-dose exposure, “and not just assume it’s safe, and then 15 years from now find out that it’s not.”

Information About BPA in Bottles

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Here’s my friend Julia Bovey from the Natural Resources Defense Council, talking about the dangers of BPA, a chemical commonly found in plastic baby bottles. This video will tell you how to find BPA free bottles.
Click here to watch the video:

Minnie Driver and Breastfeeding

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Here’s a celebrity tid bit from US Magazine… Actress Minnie Driver credits her post-partum weight loss to breastfeeding:
“I think the breastfeeding is what burns it off,” she told Friday at the annual Oxfam party held at Esquire House in Hollywood. “I go for one big long walk with my boy every day. I live in the hills, so it’s kind of up and down. I do some yoga, but I’m not doing a whole bunch yet. I still have a marshmallow tummy.”

More About Angelina Jolie and Breastfeeding Twins

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Here’s the latest from People Magazine:
Angelina Jolie might be a supermom, but there was one thing she struggled with – breast feeding her twins at the same time!
“It’s very hard,” the actress confessed on Britain’s morning show GMTV. “I stopped at three months, [it was] about as much as I could do.”
The actress, 33, who was in London promoting her film The Changeling with her partner Brad Pitt in tow and their four-month-old twins, Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline, said she even resorted to manuals on the subject.
“There’s this football hold – it’s a lot harder than it looks in the books,” she says in the prerecorded interview at her London hotel on Monday. “I did that a few times. I would take turns. It just takes a long time.”…

For more on how to breastfeed twins, go here. These pictures are helpful too.

Product Review– Utterly Yours Breast Pillow and Pregnancy Pillow

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This fall I spoke at the Lamaze International annual conference in Kentucky. It was an amazing opportunity to meet people from all over the country who devote their lives to helping women and babies. While I was there, I meet a mom who invented the Utterly Yours Breast Pillow and the Utterly Yours Pregnancy Pillow.
The breast pillow was designed for larger breasted women (or anyone fighting the pull of gravity) who sometimes feel like they have to hold their breast up in order for their baby to feed. You position the pillow under your breast for a little boost. It comes in different sizes.
As for the pregnancy pillow, what woman doesn’t experience some discomfort trying to sleep when she’s pregnant? Personally, I found the pain in my hips excruciating. Well, this pillow gives support to both your back and your stomach, and it folds up into a nice neat box when you aren’t using it. This, too, comes in multiple sizes.
Since my baby days are over, I didn’t have a chance to test these pillows. But my gut tells me they may be worth a try. To see how these products work, watch this video.
This post is part of the monthly Breastfeeding Carnival. This month we’re reviewing breastfeeding products. To see what everyone else is writing about, here are the links:
# Motherwear: Breastfeeding and Pumping CDs.
#Breastfeeding123: Medela Sleep Nursing Bra
#Breastfeeding Mums: The Food of Love
# Babyfingers: Bravado Essential Nursing Tank
# Half Pint Pixie: Gorgeous nursing bras – they do exist!
# Blacktating: More Milk Plus tincture
# Mama’s Magic: Breastfeeding basics (and bling) Nursing product junkie!
#Hobo Mama: Nursing pads

Home Births vs. Hospital Births

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The New York Times had an interesting story this week about the increasing number of homebirths.

Home births have been around as long as humans, but since the 1950s, the overwhelming majority of American women have chosen to give birth in hospitals, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists identifies as one of the safest places for the unpredictable and sometimes dangerous process of childbirth. (The group has officially opposed home births since 1975, and this year the American Medical Association adopted a similar position.)
Recently, though, midwives and childbirth educators say, a growing number of women have been opting instead for the more intimate and familiar surroundings of home — even in New York City, where homes are typically cramped warrens of a few hundred square feet and neighbors often live close enough to hear every sneeze and footstep.
Births in New York’s hospitals, where pediatricians are able to check babies immediately for potentially dangerous conditions, it should be noted, still vastly outnumber those in its homes — in 2006 home births accounted for only one-half of 1 percent of the city’s 125,506 reported births.
But local midwives say they have been swamped with calls and requests in recent months, in some cases increasing their workload from two, three or four deliveries a month to as many as 10. (New York health department statistics for this year will not be available until 2010.) Several certified nurse midwives who have home-birth-only practices said they had gotten so many more requests in recent months that they have begun referring pregnant women to midwives in Rockland County, Long Island and New Jersey.

The article attributes the increase, in part, to a documentary Ricki Lake made about giving birth at home.
This fall, while speaking at some conferences, I had the chance to watch two other documentaries that cover the same topic: Orgasmic Birth, and Pregnant in America. These films were eye-opening for me. While I never even considered having our kids at home, and could not have because I had pre-eclampsia, these films did really change my view of having a baby at home.
If you’d like to read some blog posts about home birth, check out Breastfeeding123.

South Carolina Moms Says Walmart Employees Didn’t Let Her Breastfeed in Public

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Here’s the story from a South Carolina TV station:
(You can watch the video too).
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – A Midlands mother called us about something she says happened at a Richland County Wal-Mart.
Heather Silvis says she felt bullied when Wal-Mart associates told her she could not breastfeed her baby in the store on Two Notch Road.
“I sat down on the bench and put the baby on my lap. I had not even began to nursing when supervisor and four Wal-Mart employees who were standing in the area began to tell me ‘You can’t do that here,’” Silvis said.
Instead, Silvis says employees told her to go into a dressing room.
“Then one of them stood up and pushed my shopping cart with my 21-month-old baby in it and my purse around the corner and I was told, ‘If you want to breast feed, you’re going to have to go in there.’ So I followed my child who was in my shopping cart went into the dressing room and nursed my baby,” Silvis said.
Silvis says she wants an apology from Wal-Mart and hopes she and other mothers don’t have to face this type of discrimination.
State law does allow mothers to breastfeed in public.
Wal-Mart representatives say the dressing room was offered to Silvis as a courtesy and employees did not mean to offend her.

Rebecca Romijn and Breastfeeding

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Actress Rebecca Romijn is getting ready to breastfeed her twins. The Ugly Betty star is due in January. Here’s the scoop from The New York Post:
More recently, her co-stars Vanessa Williams and America Ferrera threw Rebecca a baby shower in New York. America gave her a gift certificate for a foot massage because, Rebecca says, “My ankles were huge! I couldn’t see any bones in my feet.” And Vanessa, who has numerous friends with twins, showed Rebecca “the double-football hold” she’ll have to use to breast-feed her daughters.
For more on different breastfeeding positions, such as the cradle hold and cross cradle hold, click here to go to

The Election

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It’s over. We have a President-elect. And I believe that we are going to move in a new direction.
This morning I told our kids that when they are grown-ups, and their kids ask them if they remember the Obama election, they can say, “Yes, we do.” They can tell their kids that they helped vote. They can tell their kids that they remember the signs “Vote Here” all over New York City. They can tell their kids that while they didn’t really understand what was going on, they knew something important was happening.
And at a minimum, our two year old can say, “And you know what I apparently told people? I told them I voted for my daddy.”
Leave your comment here about the election, your experience voting and your hopes for the next administration.