Mama Knows Breast

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Flying and Pumping–What’s a Mom to Do

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Update: a new rule effective August 4, 2007 does away with the limits on the amount of breast milk a mom can carry on board a plane.
I love the Style section in the Sunday New York Times. Seriously, it’s the highlight of the paper for me. My husband brings it to me if I’m still in bed, breast feeding the Titty Bear (From here on out, the Titty Bear will simply be called “The Bear.” We decided he might be embarrassed to learn some day that we called him the Titty Bear. What would his friends say?)
I digress. Anyway, I was thrilled yesterday to see a piece in the Style section about a mom who goes on a business trip, breast pump in hand. She describes all the crazy places she had to pump (in the plane, on a bus, in a closet), and ultimately what happened when she had to pass through airport security with a cooler full of breast milk.
The new restrictions for carry-on luggage have made traveling even tougher for breast feeding moms who have left their babes at home and need to pump.
It’s all a little confusing, so I called the TSA to try to figure this out. Here’s the deal: If you have a baby with you, you can bring formula and pumped breast milk on board. You just have to show it to an agent at the security check point. If you don’t have a baby with you, you are more restricted. You can bring on board the plane one, quart-size ziploc bag, with three ounce containers of breast milk inside. (Each passenger is allowed one ziploc bag for any toiletries). If you have more milk than that, you will have to put it in a cooler, pack it up with ice, and send it on it’s way with your luggage.
For a little more information, here’s a link to the TSA’s rules about carry on luggage. Here is specific information about breast milk and formula.
So if you’re planning a trip any time soon, and need to leave the babe behind and instead, tote the pump, good luck to you. I know these flight restrictions are there to keep us safe, but boy oh boy, do you need a serious level of dedication if you intend to bring that liquid gold home with you. Happy trails to you.

Plane Crash Puts Things in Perspective

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If you live in New York City, or watch CNN, you most likely know that a small private plane hit a condominium building today. The pilot, New York Yankee Cory Lidle, and co-pilot died.
At the time of the crash, I was four blocks south of the accident scene, in a doctor’s office at New York Presbyterian Hospital. I had the baby with me. Our older son was at home with a babysitter. While I was sitting in the waiting room, some office workers started talking loudly about an explosion and a fire across the street. A few minutes later, people started saying a plane had hit a building. I called my husband. He checked the internet and confirmed that it was a plane.
Here are the thoughts that went through my head. Am I safer inside, or outside? If I’m inside, what if the fire spreads to this building? If I’m outside, could there be another explosion? Why isn’t anyone telling us what to do?! Ironically, I was never too concerned that it was a terrorist incident.
The doctor I was supposed to see came out to talk to me. We decided we would do the appointment on another day, and we left. I had driven our car across the city to get to the doctor’s office, but now there was no way I was going to be able to drive back. The car was parked one block from the accident scene.
Outside, the street was a total mess. Caravans of fire engines, police cars and ambulances raced up York Avenue. Some people walked calmly, as if nothing at all was happening. But then there were others…TV news trucks trying to make their way through the traffic, videographers and photographers running with their gear, doctors running from the hospital towards the scene. Helicopters hovered overhead.
When I was a reporter, I used to be one of those people running towards the chaos, trying to get the best pictures, rushing to figure out what was happening. Now, I just wanted to get as far away, as fast as possible. I pulled the baby’s hat low over his ears to shield him from the noise, and started my manic-mama-on-a-mission walk.
As it turned out, the biggest risk at that point, was making it safely through the traffic. Everything was bumper to bumper, so crossing the street was a challenge. I made it home one hour later, walking in absurdly high heels, pushing the stroller in the rain, through Central Park on a narrow sidewalk not really meant for pedestrians.
Back home safely, I’m thinking about the two people who died, and the others who were hurt or had their lives severely disrupted. Tonight, all the petty things that I ususally worry about don’t seem so important. I’m not as concerned about the looming book deadline. I’m not analyzing the nutritional value of the Bortskerini’s dinner. So what if the baby wakes up again in the middle of the night. So what.
Tomorrow, we’ll get up far earlier than we’d like. Half asleep, I’ll breastfeed one baby while spoon feeding the other one. I’ll stumble my way through the morning and things will go on as usual. I’ll check my email, re-schedule that doctor’s appointment, and take our older son to school. And at some point, I’ll retrieve my car from the other side of town, and stare at the black scars on the side of a building that some people call home.

Hip to NIP (Nurse in Public)?

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Remember the brouhaha last month when Toys R Us in Times Square asked a breastfeeding mom to take it elsewhere? First there was the incident. Then there was the protest outside the store.
To see if anything has changed in Manhattan since then, a New York Daily News reporter went under cover–so speak– taking her baby with her on a breastfeeding excursion around New York City. The assigment…figure out places where it’s “hip to nip.”
Her findings: An ultra fancy restaurant, Le Cirque? No problem. Public bus? Just fine. The Apple Store? Check. The Metropolitan Museum of Art? More or less fine. Babies “R” Us? Believe it or not, some bumps in the road.
So how do you feel about nursing in public? Comfortable? Uncomfortable? Personally, I’ve feed our kids anywhere and everywhere…as long as it won’t completely offend the people around me. I’ve breastfeed while getting a pedicure; while the baby was getting an ultrasound of his hip; and while sitting in a parked car during a funeral at West Point.
But now I’d love to hear from you. Share your stories about your most unusual lactation location.

Baby Einsteins?

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Have you ever tried to actually read an article printed in a medical journal? I’ve had to do it more than a few times…while working as a reporter, and now, while researching my book, “Mama Knows Breast.” Personally, I find that reading the results of a scientific study is an exercise in skimming and extreme concentration. I’m not a doctor. I don’t play one on TV, and the last science class I took was aptly nicknamed “Physics for Poets.” Science is not my forte. Just give me the bottom line.
Anyway, I just read the latest study that examined the possibility of a link between breastfeeding and intelligence. And here’s the study’s conclusion: “Breast feeding has little or no effect on intelligence in children. While breast feeding has many advantages for the child and mother, enhancement of the child’s intelligence is unlikely to be among them.”
The study was published today in the British Medical Journal, BMJ. Here’s a link. The study notes that since 1929, other researchers have found that children who were breastfed had higher IQ’s. But this new study says some of the earlier research is flawed because it did not consider the mother’s IQ as a factor. Basically, the study published today says that kids inherit their IQ; they don’t get it from breastfeeding.
The authors write, “Children who were breast fed had mothers with higher IQ and with more education and who were older, less likely to be in poverty or to smoke, and more likely to provide a stimulating and supportive home environment.” In other words, the kids were smart because their moms were smart, not because they were breastfed.
As the headline from a Medpage story put it, “Children Inhert IQ From Mom’s Brains; Not Her Milk.” For more news stories on this research, you can go to WebMd, MSNBC, or the CBC.
So why don’t I groove on reading scientific articles? Is it because my mom breastfed me for six months and not longer? I doubt it. I simply didn’t get the math or science gene in the family. It went to my brother, the neurologist. And he got less breastmilk than I did.

Way To Go Toys “R” Us

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A New York mom says she was harassed by Toys “R” Us employees for breastfeeding her 7 month old son in the Times Square store. Chelsi Meyerson said employees tried to get her to go somewhere else to feed her baby. When she refused, she said they summoned a security guard. The store says employees only offered a private room and did not call a guard.
New York State law allows breastfeeding in most public places. Meyerson, with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union, is demanding an apology and compensation.
Here’s a press release from the ACLU.
Here’s a story from UPI.
Personally, I’ve had to feed both of my kids in “kids” stores many times. These stores are populated by parents, grandparents and other caregivers after all. They’ve seen it all before. And I’m sure they’d choose a little discreet breastfeeding over a screaming, inconsolable baby.

Similac Recall

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Similac has voluntary recalled hundreds of thousands of bottles of ready to feed infant formula because they may not have enough Vitamin C.
The recall is for approximately 100,000 32-ounce plastic bottles of Similac Alimentum Advance liquid formula and approximately 200,000 bottles of Similac Advance with Iron. Some hospital discharge kits are affected as well.
The problem seems to be that the bottles are missing a special layer that keeps air out. When the oxygen enters the bottle, it causes the level of vitamin C to decrease over time.
Abbott, the maker of Similac, says there have been no serious medical complaints. But the concern is that if infants drink formula without enough vitamin C for two to four weeks, they could show symptoms of vitamin C deficiency such as irritability with generalized tenderness.
Here is a news story from The New York Times.
You can find the company press release on the Similac website. Look for it at the bottom of the home page. There is a short sentence which says click here for information on the voluntary recall.

Way to Go Vanity Fair—The Suri Scoop

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As I’ve said, it’s not breastfeeding news, but I can’t help myself. Like many others, I’ve been fascinated by the baby Suri story. I couldn’t wait for my October issue of Vanity Fair to arrive, so I bought a copy at a newsstand. The reward— ok, so I got to see the very first public photos of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ baby. But what did I really get? An incredibly disappointing piece of “journalism.” What a waste of money.
I’ve been a Vanity Fair fan for years. In fact, I worked for a Conde Nast publication after graduating college. (I was a fact checker at Conde Nast Traveler). While Vanity Fair has it’s share of fluff, and a viewpoint to be sure, I always felt that the journalism wasn’t so bad. Well, not this piece.
For twenty-two pages we get to see some beautiful Annie Liebovitz photographs. But there’s not one ounce of interesting news. There’s nothing about Cruise’s public feud with Brooke Shields about her battle with post-partum depression; nothing about his Scientology faith; nothing about his recent split with Paramount Pictures. Sure, we read that Tom is a doting dad and that Katie is upset about all the rumors in the media. But the whole week-long gathering of the extended Holmes and Cruise clans at Tom’s 400 acre retreat in Telluride, CO seems little more than a P.R. stunt. The reporter spent “the good part of a week” there and this is all she got?
So what did I learn from the story? Here’s a quote for you: “Most mornings, everyone tries to be the first to pick up the baby from her crib or to offer her a morning bottle.” Is breast milk or formula in there? Maybe I’ll write a letter to the editor of VF to find out. In the meantime, anyone want my subscription copy when it finally arrives?

Letters to The New York Times

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You may recall the recent New York Times story about how hard it is for working moms to breastfeed, especially moms who don’t have “white collar” jobs. As the article pointed out, white collar workers have an easier time pumping because they often have privates offices or even designated lactation rooms. “Blue collar” workers often find their jobs incompatible with breastfeeding, and their employers unsupportive. ( I wrote about this story on September 4).
These Letters to the Editor reaffirm the primary point of the article. They emphasize the need for employers, and even the government, to foster an environment that makes it easier to pump, or even breastfeed, at work.

At Long Last–Baby TomKat Makes Her Debut

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Ok, fine, it’s not breastfeeding news, but I can’t resist. The first photos of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ baby have finally appeared. We’ve had months of media speculation…Where is Suri? Why won’t they show photos? Is something wrong with Suri? Is something wrong with Katie? (Why in the world is she with that wacko?!?!) Now finally, the world is getting their first glimpse of the TomKitten. Baby Suri appears with her mom and dad on the cover of the October issue of Vanity Fair. Annie Leibovitz took took the photos. I’ll go get the magazine tomorrow. Perhaps Katie will have something to say about breastfeeding.

And the Booby Prize Goes to— McDonald’s in the UK

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A UK based non-profit has awarded the breastfeeding “booby prize” to McDonald’s in Britain. The organization, National Childbirth Trust (NCT), says that women find the fast food chain unaccomodating to breastfeeding moms. NCT says moms have been asked to either stop breastfeeding, or take their babes to the “loo.” How unappealing. McDonald’s in the UK has defended itself in the media, saying its policy is to allow breastfeeding in its restaurants. NCT did give high honors to Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant.
So does McDonald’s have a bad rap here on the other side of the Atlantic? Have you been forced to take your tot’s very own “fast food” somewhere else? Tell us your views. And who do you think deserves the booby prize closer to home?