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Finding Breast Milk on the Internet

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This CNN story is the latest in a burst of press about the growing movement to buy breast milk on the Internet. More and more, it seems mothers are using technology to find a modern day equivalent of a “wet nurse.”  There’s the Facebook group called Eats on Feets and there is also Only The Breast.com

But this option is not without controversy.  Tanya of the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog outlines some of the issues. And recently, The FDA  issued this statement:

Consider the possible safety risks

If you are considering feeding a baby with human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother, you should know that there are possible health and safety risks for the baby.  Risks for the baby include exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants, such as some illegal drugs, and to a limited number of prescription drugs that might be in the human milk, if the donor has not been adequately screened.  In addition, if human milk is not handled and stored properly, it could, like any type of milk, become contaminated and unsafe to drink.

FDA recommends against feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet

When human milk is obtained directly from individuals or through the Internet, the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infectious disease or contamination risk.  In addition, it is not likely that the human milk has been collected, processed, tested or stored in a way that reduces possible safety risks to the baby.

FDA recommends that if, after consultation with a healthcare provider, you decide to feed a baby with human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother, you should only use milk from a source that has screened its milk donors and taken other precautions to ensure the safety of its milk.

There are human milk banks that take voluntary steps to screen milk donors, and safely collect, process, handle, test, and store the milk.  In a few states, there are required safety standards for such milk banks.  FDA has not been involved in establishing these voluntary guidelines or state standards.

You can contact your state’s department of health to find out if it has information on human milk banks in your area.  Another source of information is the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), a voluntary professional association for human milk banks (http://www.hmbana.org/. disclaimer icon).  HMBANA issues voluntary safety guidelines for member banks on screening donors, and collecting, processing, handling, testing and storing milk.

Why We Won’t Get a Dog as a Chanukah Gift

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Update on December 6th: We are now the proud caretakers of Joey and Rocky, two gold fish.

The people who live next door to us have a dog.  So do the people across the street.  The same goes for several families down the hill, and up the hill as well. You can imagine the chorus when one neighborhood canine starts barking.

There are simply dogs everywhere in our new suburb.  In fact, the week we moved in, a polar bear sized white beast (I’m not exaggerating), escaped (again) from his house.  It took six kids to corral him, attach a leash and walk him home.

Hence, you can understand why the boys want a dog for Chanukah.   Much to their regret, it’s just not going to happen.

I didn’t have a dog growing up, and while I resented my parents’ decision, I am apparently inflicting the same fate on my kids.  Fortunately, my husband, who grew up with cats, agrees.

We recognize the myriad benefits of having a dog.  It would be a companion for the kids; a way for them to learn responsibility.  But you all know the reality… I would be the one walking, feeding and caring for the dog.  I would be the one going to the vet.  I would be the one wielding endless rolls of tape to get the dog hair off the couch.

Plus, I now have this to back up my argument: having a pet costs money.  A recent story in the New York Times exhorted readers to think about the costs of owning a pet before making a holiday gift purchase.

Yet the reality is that pets cost far more than many people expect. And right now, as the economy continues to stumble, those costs have become a burden to many people, like the cat lover who cannot afford medical care or the horse owner struggling with boarding fees.

The problem is that the general information out there is not realistic. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the cost for a large dog at $875 a year for food, medical expenses, toys and a few related expenses, and $560 for first-year setup costs. The estimate for a cat is $670 a year, with first-year expenses of $365, for a total of $1,035.

The Times goes on to talk about how those numbers can really run much higher.  But that’s not what this story is about.  Pure and simple, I am not bowing to the neighborhood pet pressure.

Besides, I think I’ve come up with some other Chanukah presents that might take their mind off the dog thing.  This year, I’m leaning towards the type of gifts that take time, make a mess, and require a dash of creativity.  So far I’ve stashed away some paint, glue, wax, felt, Popsicle sticks and Legos.  And if I end up with a Popsicle stick puppy or a floppy-eared wax figurine, well, I’ll deal with the guilt then.

In the meantime, our youngest will just have to stick with his favorite stuffed animal named “Bow Wow.”  And maybe a goldfish or two.

Study Finds It’s Too Easy For Parents To Give Kids The Wrong Medicine Doses

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Recently, in the middle of the night, I found myself squinting at the markings on the side of a medicine dispenser.  One teaspoon?  Where was the half-teaspoon marking?  The thing was virtually illegible.

It turns out many parents face similar challenges when trying to give their kids the correct dosage of a medicine, and it has dangerous consequences.

In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration responded to reports of unintentional drug overdoses among children who took over-the-counter medicines.  The FDA issued guidelines that recommended greater consistency and clarity in OTC medication directions and measuring devices.

Now, a new study just published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed that this is sorely needed.  Researchers found that 98 percent of the top selling OTC children’s medications sold in 2009 had confusing and inconsistent dosing directions and markings on the dispensers.  From The Wall Street Journal:

[The study] looked at 200 OTC pediatric liquid medications and found that 74% came with a measuring device such as a cup or syringe, almost all of which contained at least one inconsistency, such as extra markings on the measurement device that weren’t relevant to the dosing instructions. (A full 81% of products studied had superfluous markings.)

And from WBUR and National Public Radio:

The industry group that represents makers of over-the-counter kids’ medications, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, says they’ve already made some progress in improving dosing instructions for parents.

They’re moving closer to adopting consistent units of measurement, so that the directions on the bottle match the markings on the dosing device.

“It will take between now and next year to fully implement the guidelines,” says CHPA’s Barbara Kochanowski.

In the meantime, what’s a parent to do?  First of all, I never use a teaspoon or kitchen spoon. Those are notoriously innacurate.  Mainly, my approach is to make sure I ask the pediatrician what dosage to give.  I find that sometimes the doctor’s order is actually different than the recommendation on the packaging.  And from now on, I’m going to make sure I look at the dispenser in the light of day, when my eyes can focus better.  And when I’m really in doubt, well that’s what waking up a spouse is intended for.