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Breastfeeding Mom in Maryland Could Face Jail Time for Postponing Jury Duty

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When I was about 36 weeks pregnant with our first baby, I had to go to court for jury duty. I waddled my way into the courthouse and settled uneasily into the wooden bench. Fortunately, the lawyers took one look at me and let me go. Wise decision, I believe. Had they picked me, I would have had to raise my hand every hour to go to the bathroom.
Before that day, I had considered postponing my jury duty until after the baby was born. But I soon realized that didn’t make sense since I was planning to work from home and breastfeed. Without a full-time sitter, jury duty would have been near impossible. I had served on a week-long trial once before, so I knew what I was in for.
Given the challenges of breastfeeding and serving jury duty, there are twelve states that actually exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty (California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia). Click here to learn about the laws in your state.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to see what’s happened to a Maryland mom. A judge sentenced her to a night in jail or a $150 fine, after she asked to postpone her jury duty. Here’s the story from one of the local TV stations:
Elizabeth Jett’s baby boy Henry was less than 12 weeks old when she was called for jury duty. “I think it’s a case of priorities. Taking care of your children should be your first priority. Jury duty can always come later,” Jett said.
Jett asked to postpone and serve during the Summer, when Henry would be older and her mother, a full-time teacher, could take care of him and his five-year-old brother.
The Carroll County judge said Jett was in contempt of court, which Jett thought was unbelievable. “I was just shocked. I couldn’t even put it into words,” she said.
Legislation that would allow nursing mothers with children under the age of two to be excused from jury duty was introduced for the second time. When the plan was proposed in 2004, many lawmakers shot it down.
Brian Frosh, Chair for the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the law would cause more people to try to postpone their duties, “If you start saying, we’re gonna excuse people for breastfeeding, you’ve gotta say ok to kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and all the other maladies that afflict the human condition.”
Frosh said the law already gives judges broad discretion to excuse residents from jury duty, “So what we want is for judges to use their discretion liberally.”
As for Elizabeth Jett, she has since asked for a waiver, because she can’t afford the fine. The judge in the case, Barry Hughes, did not want to comment. The jury commissioner hung up on Andrea McCarren, as soon as she identified herself as a reporter.

Click on this link to watch the video from the TV station. You can read more about this story from the Baltimore Examiner.

Sometimes I Have Momnesia

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I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a flash of insight. I finally remembered where my cell phone was. It had been missing since 3 pm on Wednesday when I put it in a safe spot– a dining room chair– while I was straightening up. Of course it was such a “safe” spot, that I couldn’t find it. And not only that, I had silenced the ringer because of nap time, so calling myself was useless.
Does this ever happen to you? Do you find yourself forgetting things because you are so preoccupied with work and kids and stuff? The Today Show and USA Today say it happens to a lot of moms and they’re calling it “momnesia.” Today did a whole piece this morning on momnesia and the kids and I were included in the video. Click here if you want to check it out. The story ran again, in a slightly different version, on NBC Nightly News.
If you watch the piece, you’ll learn about some of my other momnesia highlights…like the time I bought groceries at the supermarket, and then drove away, leaving the bags behind. I didn’t realize my blunder until I got home. But hey, at least it wasn’t the kids who were left behind. Small victories.

New Policy for Separating Illegal Immigrants From Their Breastfed Babies During Detentions

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For once, here’s some breastfeeding news that makes sense. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has issued new guidelines on the detention of nursing mothers who are in this country illegally. The New York Times is reporting today that they can now be released unless they pose a national security risk. ICE’s new written guidelines also establish how agents should handle the arrests of single parents, pregnant women, and other immigrants with special child or family care responsibilities.
This follows a sad case last month. Here’s part of the NYT article:

Federal immigration agents were searching a house in Ohio last month when they found a young Honduran woman nursing her baby. The woman, Saída Umanzor, is an illegal immigrant and was taken to jail to await deportation. Her 9-month-old daughter, Brittney Bejarano, who was born in the United States and is a citizen, was put in the care of social workers….
Ms. Umanzor, 26, was arrested in her home on Maple Street in Conneaut, Ohio, on Oct. 26 and was released 11 days later on orders of Julie L. Myers, the head of the immigration agency. While in detention, Ms. Umanzor did not see her daughter Brittney, who had been fed only breast milk before her mother’s arrest. Ms. Umanzor remains under house arrest with Brittney and her two other children in Conneaut, 70 miles east of Cleveland, under an order for deportation. Her lawyer, David W. Leopold, has asked that her deportation be delayed on humanitarian grounds.
Ms. Umanzor had been at home with two of her three children, both American citizens, when the immigration agents arrived, along with a county police officer carrying a criminal warrant for a brother-in-law of Ms. Umanzor who also lived in the house.
As the agents searched, Ms. Umanzor breast-fed her jittery baby, she recalled in an interview after her release.
The baby was born in January in Oregon, where Ms. Umanzor’s husband, also Honduran and an illegal immigrant, was working in a saw mill.
Through a quick records check during the raid, the immigration agents discovered a July 2006 order of deportation for Ms. Umanzor, who had failed to appear for a court date after she was caught crossing a Texas border river illegally.
The agents detained her as a fugitive. She was forced to leave both Brittney and the other American daughter, Alexandra, who is 3, since the agents could not detain them.
“Just thinking that I was going to leave my little girl, I began to feel sick,” Ms. Umanzor said of the baby. “I had a pain in my heart.”
Ms. Umanzor turned over her daughters to social workers from the Ashtabula County Children Services Board, who had been summoned by the immigration authorities. In all, the social workers took in six children who lived in the Maple Street house, including Ms. Umanzor’s oldest child, a son born in Honduras. They also included three children of Ms. Umanzor’s sister, an illegal immigrant who was at work that day. Four of the children were born in the United States.
In jail and with her nursing abruptly halted, Ms. Umanzor’s breasts become painfully engorged. With the help of Veronica Dahlberg, director of a Hispanic women’s group in Ashtabula County, a breast pump was delivered on her third day in jail. Brittney, meanwhile, did not eat for three days, refusing to take formula from a bottle, Ms. Dahlberg said.
After four days, the county released all six children to Ms. Umanzor’s sister, who managed to wean Brittney to a bottle.
On Nov. 7, after two dozen women’s health advocates and researchers sent a letter protesting Ms. Umanzor’s detention, Ms. Myers issued a memorandum instructing field officers “to exercise discretion” during arrests by releasing nursing mothers from detention unless they presented a national security or public safety risk.
In cases where the breast-feeding children were United States citizens and entitled to public services, Ms. Myers urged the officers to seek assistance from social agencies to “maintain the unity of the mother and child.”

Sophie Currier Wins Her Appeal– She’ll Get Extra Time To Pump While Taking Her Medical Licensing Exam

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The Harvard medical student who was suing the National Board of Medical Examiners to get extra time to pump breast milk during an exam, has won her appeal. Here’s a quick summary from The A.P. on Yahoo news:

A Harvard student must be allowed extra break time during her nine-hour medical licensing exam so she can pump breast milk to feed her 4-month-old daughter, a Massachusetts appeals court judge ruled Wednesday.
Sophie Currier, 33, sued after the National Board of Medical Examiners turned down her request to take more than the standard 45 minutes in breaks during the exam.
Currier said she risks medical complications if she does not nurse her daughter, Lea, or pump breast milk every two to three hours.
A Superior Court judge last week rejected Currier’s request to order the board to give her an additional 60 minutes of break time. Appeals Court Judge Gary Katzmann overturned that ruling, finding that Currier needs the extra break time to put her on “equal footing” with the men and non-lactating women who take the exam.

Here’s a piece from The Boston Globe. And to read what I’ve written before, go here. Here’s Sophie’s blog. I’ll write more later, but right now I have an 18 month old trying to rip the power cord out of my computer. It’s nearly time for the early bird dinner special.

Breastfeeding in the News

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Here are some stories you might want to follow…they’ve all been brewing for a while so I’ll summarize them.
Dr. Sophie Currier is suing the National Board of Medical Examiners to get extra break time in order to pump breast milk while she’s taking a 9 hour licensing exam. The Board has denied her earlier requests. Sophie has set up her own blog, Support Nursing Moms. The case is going to federal cout.
For summaries of the Applebee nurse-ins this past weekend, check out my pals over at Breastfeeding123, Motherwear, and The Lactivist. There were reportedly close to 2,000 people at 100 restaurants in 44 states. There’s a lot to watch on YouTube.
And finally…good old Facebook, the social networking site, has been giving moms who post breastfeeding pictures a hard time. Facebook has removed some pictures and even revoked one mom’s priveleges to use the site. According to USA Today…
USA TODAY heard back from Facebook’s P.R. department.
“Facebook does allow mothers to upload and share photos of themselves breastfeeding their babies, and those photos remain available on Facebook as long as they follow the site’s Terms of Use. Photos containing a fully exposed breast do violate those Terms and could be removed,” spokeswoman Brandee Barker says in a statement that was sent to On Deadline.
The company says “an investigations team” within the customer service department decides whether a particular image qualifies as “offensive content.”

I joined Facebook recently, and I have to say while I was originally a skeptic, I love it. It’s enabled me to find friends I haven’t been in touch with for a while. But come on Facebook, what’s the big deal? I joined this group on Facebook, “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene.”

Formula Industry Lobbied To Tone Down Government Breastfeeding Ads

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This is a story about big companies and their Washington lobbyists. It could be a story about getting a tunnel built, regulating gas mileage or even securing a military contract. But in this case, it’s about infant formula companies influencing an ad campaign aimed at promoting breastfeeding.
The The Washington Post reported the story yesterday. Here’s a quick summary:
1. The Department of Health and Human Services ran a public health campaign a few years ago to promote breastfeeding. The ads aimed to convince mothers that their infants faced health risks if they did not breastfeed.
2. Some of the original ads showed baby bottle nipples on top of asthma inhalers or insulin dispensers for diabetes. The point of the ads, which included statistics, was that breastfeeding reduces the risk of these diseases.
3. Formula makers lobbied to get the ads changed and they succeeded. The ads were never seen by the public. Instead, they were replaced by pairs of dandelions (ie. breastfeeding reduces asthama), or two scoops of ice cream (breastfeeding reduces obesity), that evoked breasts.
4. Furthermore, HHS did not promote a study by its own Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of multiple studies on breast-feeding, which generally found breastfeeding was associated with fewer ear and gastrointestinal infections, and lower rates of diabetes, leukemia, obesity, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. (To read the report, look in the right hand column of the Post story, in the box that says On The Web, and read “Breastfeeding and Maternal Infant Health.”)
Now here are some paragraphs from The Washington Post story:

The formula industry’s intervention — which did not block the ads but helped change their content — is being scrutinized by Congress in the wake of last month’s testimony by former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona that the Bush administration repeatedly allowed political considerations to interfere with his efforts to promote public health.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating allegations from former officials that Carmona was blocked from participating in the breast-feeding advocacy effort and that those designing the ad campaign were overruled by superiors at the formula industry’s insistence.
“This is a credible allegation of political interference that might have had serious public health consequences,” said Waxman, a California Democrat…
Gina Ciagne, the office’s public affairs specialist for the campaign, said, “We were ready to go with our risk-based campaign — making breast-feeding a real public health issue — when the formula companies learned about it and came in to complain. Before long, we were told we had to water things down, get rid of the hard-hitting ads and generally make sure we didn’t somehow offend.”
Ciagne and others involved in the campaign said the pushback coincided with a high-level lobbying campaign by formula makers, which are mostly divisions of large pharmaceutical companies that are among the most generous campaign donors in the nation.
The campaign the industry mounted was a Washington classic — a full-court press to reach top political appointees at HHS, using influential former government officials, now working for the industry, to act as go-betweens
Two of the those involved were Clayton Yeutter, an agriculture secretary under President George H.W. Bush and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Joseph A. Levitt, who four months earlier directed the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition food safety center, which regulates infant formula. A spokesman for the International Formula Council said both were paid by a formula manufacturer to arrange meetings at HHS….
The industry substantially increased its own advertising as soon as the HHS campaign was launched. According to a 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office, formula companies spent about $30 million in 2000 to advertise their products. In 2003 and 2004, when the campaign was underway, infant formula advertising increased to nearly $50 million.

So there you have it. Washington D.C. at its finest. For me, while I think breastfeeding is best, I still it as a matter of personal choice. A mom has to decide what will work best for her and her baby. Even so, it is sickening to see the inner workings of the formula industry. Of course we’re talking about businesses here. And businesses is designed to maximize profits. It’s just a shame that for some companies, doing so can have serious health consequences for our children.

Pennsylvania Nurse In Saturday February 24th

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A mom and her hungry baby are behind a nurse planned for Saturday in Pennsylvania. Leigh Bellini says she was at a shopping mall, trying to feed her son, when she had a little run in with mall security. She says they told her to cover her baby with a blanket, feed him in the bathroom or sit in her car outside.
PA moms, take note–
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a law protecting a woman’s right to nurse in public or private. But Philadelphia does have a city ordinance allowing women to breastfeed in public places. A State Representative, however, is pushing two pieces of legislation that could help breastfeeding moms. (via Breastfeeding123)
If you want to go to the nurse in, here are the details:
Center Court at the Berkshire Mall in
Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.
Saturday, February 24th at 1:00p.m.
The nurse in is being sponsored by Mothering And More and Birth Without Boundaries.
Check both of these sites for details about the event.
As for Leigh’s story, you can read the whole thing here. In part, she writes:
My husband and I took our 2-year-old daughter and 6 month-old son out for a day of shopping and errands. While at the mall, my son became hungry. I found a bench near an indoor tree and parked my stroller directly in front of me. As discretely as possible I began nursing my son. After about 10 minutes or so I was interrupted by a security guard, who asked me if I could put a blanket over my son and cover up better. I informed him that I did not have a blanket nor would I like him to get me one and also that I had no breast exposed anyway….
Moments later we were confronted by another security guard. I immediately told her that I had no intention on listening to what she had to say. My husband told her that she had to back away from my son and I and speak with him further down the hall. While I continued to feed my son, my husband dealt with this person. She asked why they couldn’t provide me with a blanket or buy me a new one. My husband explained to her that we weren’t going to use a dirty blanket or use a new one that hadn’t been laundered. At this point the first security guard came back to get involved. He asked why I couldn’t move the breastfeeding into a more private location like the bathroom. My husband asked him if he liked to eat on a toilet seat in a public bathroom. The security guard replied that I didn’t have to sit on a toilet. My husband asked where should she sit, on the floor. The security guard replied that I could stand in the bathroom. My husband laughed and said “obviously you’ve never breastfed.” Then the security guard suggested I go out to my car to breastfeed. IT WAS 30o OUTSIDE!!!!!!

New York City Mayor Promotes Breast Feeding

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Go Mayor Mike! I always knew I sort of liked you, even though you are a Republican. But now I think you’ve won me over.
The New York Post is reporting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending more than $2 million to get city run hospitals to promote breastfeeding.
“We don’t yet have any hospitals in New York City that meet national ‘baby-friendly’ standards,” Bloomberg’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said at a parenting conference last week.
“That means getting formula out of the nursery. It means putting the baby on the breast immediately after birth. It means that every person who interacts with that mother and child is supportive and encouraging of breast-feeding.”

According to the Post, Deborah Kaplan, chief of the Health Department’s Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health, says the days of hospital goody bags filled with formula freebies are over. Hospitals will now give new moms ice packs to keep pumped breast milk fresh.
The Gothamist covered this one as well.
The man who doesn’t want you to smoke in City bars or clog your coronaries with sweet, sweet trans fats now wants to do something healthy for the tiniest and newest New Yorkers…City health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, wants babies to dine on nothing but their mothers’ breast milk for the first six months of life. Right now, about 75% of New York mommies breast feed their babies but nearly 40% stop before the six month mark.
It’s nice to see a politician promote breastfeeding.
Oh, and by the way, it seems fitting that we can say Happy Birthday to you too, Mayor Mike.

Consumer Reports Recalls Its Own Report On Infant Car Seats

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Consumer Reports has always been my Bible. I would never buy a car or a children’s product without first checking what CR has to say.
Well today, my faith in CR is shot. They’ve withdrawn the scathing story they published earlier this month about infant car seats. It seems there was a big mistake in the report. The report claimed CR tested the car seats at a certain speed, 38 m.p.h, when in fact it was closer to 70 m.p.h according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
CR is backpedaling furiously. If you try to find that original story on its site, it is gone. Gone. Completely gone. I wrote a post about the original report. And now, when I click on the links in that post that are supposed to take me to the study, I’m directed instead to today’s press release.
Here’s a quote from that orginal study:
Cars and car seats can’t be sold unless they can withstand a 30-mph frontal crash. But most cars are also tested in a 35-mph frontal crash and in a 38-mph side crash. Car seats aren’t.
When we crash-tested infant car seats at the higher speeds vehicles routinely withstand, most failed disastrously. The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab. Here are the details:
Of 12 infant seats we tested, only 2 performed well: the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
Nine infant seats provided poor protection in some or all of our tests, even though they meet the federal safety standard. One seat, the Evenflo Discovery, didn’t even meet that standard. We urge federal officials to order a recall of that seat.

Here’s what CR is saying today:

Consumer Reports is withdrawing its recent report on infant car seats pending further tests of the performance of those seats in side-impact collisions.
A new report will be published with any necessary revisions as soon as possible after the new tests are complete.
We withdrew the report immediately upon discovering a substantive issue that may have affected the original test results. The issue came to light based on new information received Tuesday night and Wednesday morning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted.

For a minute now, let’s put aside the colossal error CR seems to have made and look at the bigger picture. If these seats were actually tested at 70 m.p.h, and they “failed disastrously,” then maybe the seats really are dangerous. Honestly, don’t most of us drive on highways from time to time? If so, we’re not going 38 m.p.h., that’s for sure.
In which case, maybe it’s NHTSA which should come under a bit of scrutiny here. According to the New York Times, NHTSA only requires car seats to pass a test at 30 m.p.h.
The federal government requires that the seats protect babies in front impacts of 30 m.p.h. The highway traffic safety agency said it was trying to develop a side-impact standard. It rates cars under a New Car Assessment Program, which it uses to award “stars” to each model, and those are done at 38 m.p.h. for side impact.
So, while I’m disappointed in Consumer Reports, I do think there may just be a kernel worth hanging on to in their report. Moms and dads, check out their original study, it’s worth considering.

FDA Warns Nestle Over Baby Formula

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If you’ve been using Nestle’s Good Start Infant Formula with Iron to feed your baby, you may want to think twice.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Nestle a warning letter on November 27th after a sample failed to meet proper nutrient levels. It seems the sample, collected in May, did not meet minimum requirements for calcium and phosphorus.
Nestle has said that its tests found that its product is fine. Here is a quote from a Reuters news story:
“We are working with FDA to better understand how issues relating to analytical testing methods might explain the differences noted in these two nutrients,” the company said.
The Dairy Reporter.com reported that Nestle stands by its product.
“We have had two independent tests done by absolutely top quality laboratories and we have not been able to confirm the findings of the FDA,” said a Nestlé spokesperson. “There is no question of a recall. We are in contact with the FDA and discussions are in progress.”
Nestle has had problems with its formula in the past. It was first accused, in the 1970′s, of unethically pushing formula on women in developing countries and thus discouraging them from breast feeding. Check out Breastfeeding.com for background on the boycott. This will lead you to Baby Milk Action, a group devoted to boycotting Nestle.
Nestle has 15 working days from receipt of the letter to respond. So that brings us to some time this week. Let’s see what happens. I have calls in to both the FDA and Nestle to see what’s happening. I’ll keep you posted.
And PS…thanks to Micky at Mocha Milk for first pointing out this story.