#MyStoryMatters

“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”

The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.

Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.

And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.

Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.

All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.

Enough.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your highs, your lows.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The moments of pride, the moments of shame.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your hurt and your joy.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

And #YourStoryMatters.

#MyStoryMatters too.

Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?

Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?

Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?

Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.

But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.

#IAmEnough

 

TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.

And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Ondansetron: a critical response to media coverage

by Kari Swanson

In the interest of full disclosure: I am the survivor of two pregnancies with Hyperemesis Gravidarum during which I was given Zofran and/or ondansetron. Both of my children, currently ages 9 and 4, are developmentally normal, with no health problems attributable to my use of ondansetron.

 

Birth defects from Zofran in pregnancy

A recent headline in the Toronto Star proclaims in bold face “Birth defects blamed on unapproved morning sickness treatment.” The lengthy piece about the drug ondanestron, which is sometimes prescribed off-label to women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), is written as an exposé of drug companies and physicians gone wrong, the result of which is “vulnerable” pregnant women being prescribed a harmful drug that causes their babies to be born with extraordinary birth defects as a result. This would be horrifying if it was true, of course, but, it’s not. This article is not a scientific article. It is not a scientific literature review. It is pseudo-scientific sensationalism. One might think the goal of such an article would be to protect women and children, but like most pseudo-science involving medicine it presents very real public health risks.

According to the Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation web site, HG is

“…a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids. If severe and/or inadequately treated, it is typically associated with:

  • loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight (usually over 10%)
  • dehydration and production of ketones
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • metabolic imbalances
  • difficulty with daily activities”

HG is not morning sickness. HG is just plain sickness. In my first pregnancy there were many days when I vomited in excess of once an hour. I lived with constant nausea. I vomited before getting out of bed when I woke up in the morning. I vomited in the shower. I vomited on the side of the road while driving to work. I vomited in my flower garden while weeding. I believe my record was 38 times in one day. I vomited so violently and so frequently at one point that tiny blood vessels broke in my face and eyes. It certainly wasn’t the pregnancy glow I had envisioned.

I tried all of the remedies that everyone, including my obstetricians, suggested: crackers, sips of water, lemon, ginger ale, ginger tea, ginger snaps, candied ginger, extra vitamin B, extra sleep. Nothing worked. I lost weight. At 3 months pregnant I weighed about 11% less than I did before my pregnancy. I had several visits to the ER for IV hydration. More than half way through my pregnancy, after an all-night stay in the ER for IV fluids, my OB finally prescribed Zofran. For me it was a miracle drug, because it meant that I was able to keep at least one meal down every day. It didn’t completely eliminate the symptoms, but it did make them much more manageable. When I became pregnant again 5 ½ years later and started vomiting numerous times every day at 5 weeks pregnant I asked for Zofran. I still experienced nausea and vomiting throughout my second pregnancy, but nothing like I experienced the first time. I only required IV hydration in the ER once the second time around.

HG presents serious risks to a woman’s health. Complications of HG include: dehydration, malnutrition, damage to tooth enamel, renal failure, jaundice, ruptured esophagus, and deconditioning of the heart muscle, just to name some. Some of these complications can be and have been fatal. In addition, HG can cause long term health effects. Some women experience PTSD. Others, like me, develop complications of their complications: prolonged dehydration caused me to develop kidney stones.

HG also presents risks to the child. Fetal complications of HG include: premature birth, low birth weight, neural tube defects, and congenital heart defects, among others. Also, according to the Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation, “…prolonged stress, malnutrition and dehydration in the mother can potentially put an unborn child at risk for chronic disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease) in later life.” And, HG can also cause fetal or neonatal death.

Clearly Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a serious health condition. It is not something that can be or should be ignored or treated lightly. Women die. Babies die. When considering treatment options, women and their healthcare providers must weigh the benefits and risks of particular treatments. The decision is not about a minor inconvenience. It is very often a matter of mitigating potential harmful or life-threatening effects.

The Toronto Star article cites data recorded in the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS). The reporters cite this data as if it presents irrefutable proof that ondanestron is a dangerous drug that caused harmful effects to babies. But, the truth of the matter is it does no such thing. The FDA states on the FAERS site:

FAERS data do have limitations. First, there is no certainty that the reported event (adverse event or medication error) was actually due to the product. FDA does not require that a causal relationship between a product and event be proven, and reports do not always contain enough detail to properly evaluate an event. Further, FDA does not receive reports for every adverse event or medication error that occurs with a product. Many factors can influence whether or not an event will be reported, such as the time a product has been marketed and publicity about an event. Therefore, FAERS data cannot be used to calculate the incidence of an adverse event or medication error in the U.S. population.

Let me reiterate: the FDA does not require that a causal relationship between a product and event be proven. This means that random, purely coincidental health conditions may be reported as side effects of a drug. FAERS data are useful for looking for trends or potential side effects that might have been caused by a drug, but they are not proof that a side effect is caused by a drug. FAERS data should be used for further study. They should not be construed as concrete evidence of a causal relationship.

The use of ondansetron in pregnancy has been studied. The Toronto Star article sites some of the research, but a news article is not a scientific literature review. The reporters do not present the totality of research on the subject, and what they do present is presented in a manner that shows bias in favor of their own assertion: that ondansetron causes birth defects. There are, however, numerous other scientific studies that indicate otherwise. Anyone can easily research the topic for herself (or himself) by utilizing the freely available medical research database PubMed.

Although it has been studied, the use ofondansetron in pregnancy is considered an off-label use. It is unfortunate that the Toronto Star article presents off-label use of medications so negatively. Off-label prescribing is common and sometimes is the best or only treatment option for certain conditions. While it is true that sometimes off-label use of a medication might later be proven (by research) to be of no therapeutic value, or worse: harmful, sometimes off-label use later becomes an FDA approved use after further research supports it. According to WebMD certain beta-blockers once only used for the treatment of high blood pressure and used off-label to treat heart failure later became approved prescription treatments for heart failure.

Despite the fact that use of ondansetron to treat HG is off-label, the prescribing information for Zofran (ondansetron from GlaxoSmithKline) states:

Pregnancy Category B. Reproduction studies have been performed in pregnant rats and rabbits at daily oral doses up to 15 and 30 mg/kg/day, respectively, and have revealed no evidence of impaired fertility or harm to the fetus due to ondansetron.

Pregnancy Category B is defined by the FDA as follows: “Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.”  The safety and categorization of drugs varies from country to country. For example, acetaminophen is US FDA Pregnancy Category C (less safe to use in pregnant women than ondansetron!), but in Australia acetaminophen is Australian Pregnancy Category A, which means Australia considers acetaminophen to be safer for pregnant women than the US FDA does.

Ondansetron is not entirely without risks or side effects.   The FDA, like Health Canada, issued warnings about potential heart risks, specifically a heart rhythm problem called QT prolongation. However, those risks very clearly apply to people with Long QT syndrome, those with underlying cardiac defects, those with low potassium or magnesium, and people taking other medications that can cause QT prolongation. They did not withdraw the drug from the market. Many thousands of people have taken ondansetron with no apparent harm to their hearts.

Furthermore, many women, including those who have not taken ondansetron or any other drug, give birth to babies with birth defects every year. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Birth defects occur in about 3% of all live births.” Recent CDC data on the prevalence of birth defects in the US between the years 2004 and 2006 show an estimated prevalence of 4.71 in 10,000 babies born with atrioventricular septal defect, for example. HG is associated with an increased risk for fetal cardiac defects, but women without HG and who have not taken ondansetron also give birth to babies with heart defects. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “doctors often don’t know why congenital heart defects occur.” Leaping to the conclusion that the heart defect of one infant reported in FAERS was caused by ondansetron is wildly inappropriate.

I do not speak for all women who have experienced HG, but I and more than one of my “HG sisters” found the Toronto Star article disturbing. It is sensationalist journalism that has the potential to cause women or their healthcare providers to delay or avoid effective treatment at the risk of their/their patients’ own or their babies’ immediate or long-term health or even at the risk of their lives.

For another look at the safety of odansetron during pregnancy, see this Huffington Post piece breaking down a Danish study of 1,970 births where the drug was used during pregnancy.

 

kariswansonTLBKari Swanson, MLS, is a daughter, sister, wife, mother of two, member of Generation X and an admin for The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page. She has been an academic librarian for 15 years. She blogs occasionally over at Thoughts from BookishMama

 

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The Leaky Boob, responsibility, India, sex trafficking, hand sewing, and transforming communities

In the rural south east agricultural area of A.Konduru, Andhra Pradesh, India, a group of women came together and decided to change their community.  They started simply doing something they already knew they could do well, enlisted the help of a woman with experience starting and running a business, and launched an endeavor called a.ku designs.  Their goal?  Start a school for their children.  One that was in their community, that wouldn’t require sending their children away and would include English language instruction, the business language of India.  A school that could help stop the cycle of poverty their community has been steeped in for generations.  A school that could offer their sons options instead of being bonded to the brick factories.  A school that could step in the gap as a way of preventing the sex trafficking of their daughters into brothels in the cities of India.  This school was their dream.  Their hope.

With the average income at $2.00 a day, job creation would break the cycle of poverty and provide hope for the future.  For these low caste families, many live in a round mud hut with a thatched roof and a dirt floor. The caste system has been banned but people still practice it. This prejudice holds people back from reaching their social and economic potential.

The women created a 5 year business plan for a.ku designs and got to work sewing and selling.  Their product made it to the other side of the world and with it their desired goal to the ears and hearts of a few people.  And instead of 5 years it took just one.  The A. Konduru village school opened on June 10, 2013 for grades 1-3 with 50 students, 30 of which were on full sponsorships.

Ride for Refuge International Teams

When a group of determined mothers come together amazing things happen.

Every once in a while I have to awkwardly look at The Leaky Boob and ask “is this really what I want it to be?  Am I being responsible with what I’ve been entrusted with?  Can I do better?”

More often than not I’m unsettled by the answers to these questions.

It is an incredible honor and a privilege to be a part of any aspect of your life and your journey, even if for just a moment, one article, or one Facebook post.  There are times where this is overwhelming and I want to run away and shut it all down.  Not only is it time consuming, it can be completely intimidating and at times, exhausting.  I have been attacked, mocked, questioned, and have discovered a political side to all this I had never anticipated.  I’ve even been accused of distributing child porn (AKA breastfeeding images) and called a pedophile (for breastfeeding my daughter past 12 months).  Sometimes I really want to quit.  But The Leaky Boob is also deeply satisfying and when I step back from my own insecurities and headache I see something I believe in and love.  I even think it’s important.  There’s no way I could walk away.  No way.

But can I do better?  Oh yeah, much better and I am grateful to have wise counsel and good friends that have become a team advising me how to do so.  Am I being responsible with it?  To an extent, yes but not enough.

I believe The Leaky Boob can make a difference, in fact, I believe that in the 3 years since starting TLB, it has made a difference.  Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have imagined the impact the little blog I started would have in encouraging and supporting families starting out or in being a voice to normalize breastfeeding.  Now, even I can’t deny that is the case.  I have no idea why and I’m an unlikely candidate to be in this position yet here I am.  With you.

This isn’t about changes coming to TLB, though there are some on the horizon.  This is about something else close to my heart because while I love supporting breastfeeding moms and the people that support them, I’m also very passionate about making a difference in the world as a voice for the voiceless and I want to use the voice I have here to invite you to join me.  Outside of The Leaky Boob I work with an organization leading a global movement to bring artists together to speak up for the oppressed.  As part of that movement I share these stories and opportunities with you because I know first hand just how much influence a determined group of mothers can have.  As a mother I unite myself with these mothers because I know their heart and just as I’m deeply connected with the community of TLB because of breastfeeding, I’m connected to these women as their desires and determination resonate in my mother’s heart.

a.ku designs women at sewing machines

The mothers of A. Konduru inspire and humble me.  When two of my children were sexually assaulted I wanted to run away and hide with my children forever, getting through each day was overwhelming.  These women come together, risk it all, and make their world a better place in the face of oppression that would crush me.  They are my heroes.  They are not cowering, they are changing their world.

What does it look like?

Today with the help of supporting organizations, A. Konduru has a plan to transform their community even beyond the school.  This transformation will come from the community itself by intentionally working with government leaders, social workers and pastors in the community. Developing local business opportunities and education opportunities; bringing jobs to the community, lifting many from the oppression and poverty they live under daily. These efforts are enabling families to obtain proper food, receive needed health services and to live farther from the marginalized edge of hunger, sickness, slavery, and prostitution. a.ku designs will put back into the community using their profits for education in Grace School, taking a lead role and model community transformation.  Change will also come through community education in vocational, business and wellness training.

I have no doubt they will continue to succeed.

I want to be a part of it.

Do you?

__________________________

In January, 2014, The Piano Man, Earth Baby, Sugarbaby, and I are going to see first hand with a group of artists the transformation happening in A. Konduru.  With a group of artists we are going to celebrate the school, encourage the faculty, connect with the community, and gather stories to share.

To support these efforts and help raise awareness and funds to support these inspiring mothers on the other side of the world, I’m joining them as I can right now by getting on a bike and riding to raise funds and awareness, as I shared before.  Come join me outside of Chicago on October 5, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. with your bike (or stroller and walking shoes) at International Teams, 411 W River Road, Elgin, IL 60123 and ride with me then hang out for lunch after.  If you can’t join me you can ride where you are that same day and time, share this post with others, and/or contribute and help me reach my goal of raising $18,000 as part of the Initiative 31.8 Ride for Refuge team.  Go HERE to sponsor me in the ride.  All funds raised go to support the work of International Teams bringing people together to help the oppressed.

__________________________

 a.ku designs model

a.ku designs brown bag

a.ku designs two bags

a.ku designs green and black floral bag

To help me reach my goal of raising $18,000 with the Initiative 31.8 Ride for Refuge team (and hopefully surpass it), The Leaky Boob is giving away 3 a.ku designs bags.  (Please note, items are handmade, each unique and imperfect.  The bags pictured in this post are just a representation of the work, the bag each winner receive will be unique.)  Use the widget below to be entered and hurry, this giveaway ends the night of Monday, October 8th.  Sorry, at this time, entries only available to those within the USA and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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No Right Way- Sonnets of the tired mom

by the admins of The Leaky [email protected]@b.  There are 7 of us admins here and none of us have made the exact same decisions in all aspects of our parenting and that is okay. Each parent is going to make decisions with the knowledge that they has at the time that works best for their family.  This sonnet is dedicated to those who have judged, from all of us who have felt judged.
This post made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Boba, makers of the Boba baby carrier.

judging moms

How could you judge me?  Let me count the ways.

You could judge me to the playground, the grocery store and dance studio too

You could judge me for not being as put together as you

For how I feed my children: organic or not, frozen, fresh or fried

Homemade or store-bought, you can judge how I tried

How my breasts do or don’t leak, weaning, and where my child sleeps

How I catch their poop and if my child ever weeps

The birthing room, soccer field, and selected books

For screen time you can give me funny looks

Judge me for the guilt I feel and that which I don’t

Lay it on because my heart won’t give up hope

For the times I lost my cool

And the way my child drools

Don’t forget to judge for school

I doubt you can judge me more harsh than I

Go ahead, let your criticisms fly

How I long to be parent enough

Not alone and no need to bluff

Hitting walls and ceilings and poop to fans

Getting in and missing out on all the right brands

The car seat, yoga pants, if my child wants to hold my hand

All I forgot; registration, shoes, toilet paper, and hairnets

Being late and probably too much internets

The number of kids, the mess that is my house

You can judge the spit up smeared on my blouse

From your glass house the ways to judge are many

It will not change my loving any

Working out, working at all

Or staying home, you can clap when I fall

If judging me helps you feel strong

Feel free to do it all day long.

Your words and thoughts will not damage my will

Flawed though I am, my children know I love them still.

Growing always, I will be

Along this path of parenting.

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Advocating for mothers and children around the world

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Typically I talk about boobs, breastfeeding, babies, birth, children, parenting, and other related topics here.  This post is going to be about more of the same, it just won’t look like it.  To be really up front and fair: I have an agenda with this post.

In my comfortable first world lower middle class status I have to admit that I have experienced very little true oppression.  I’ve had rough times and I’ve struggled but I don’t have a complete grasp on true suffering.  That’s not to say I haven’t suffered, because I have, and as a mother I’ve experience great heart ache, specifically when 2 of my daughters were sexually assaulted by a close friend.  So I know pain, grief, suffering, but I am really only familiar with it in the context of the first world setting where I live.

Still, when going through difficult and dark times, the care of others, even people I didn’t know, made a difference.  It is because of that support that I choose now to find ways to support others in difficult and dark times, even if they are half way around the world.

In the years that I’ve been active on the internet I have seen people create community, developing global communities where people find friendship, support, information, and the gift of knowing they are not alone.  Babies whose mothers have died have received milk from other mothers.  Families grieving the loss of a child have had funeral expenses covered.  Friends that have never met face to face have journeyed to be with someone during a bitter relationship breakup.  Auctions held to help families that have lost a parenting partner and cover medical expenses.  When my own family went 2 weeks without power following hurricane Ike, my online relationships virtually supported me with tangible gifts of care.  The global community found online extends support where, for some, there would be none.

I am confident that if my brother took my daughter from me and used her for his financial gain there would be national and international attention and online outpourings of support.  I guarantee you, if my child was taken from me by a relative or friend and forced to work harvesting cocoa pods using a machete and having no access to schooling, there would be an organized effort not only locally but internationally by my online friends.

If that community was aware that their favorite chocolate brands used cocoa they were aware could have been harvested by my child there would be letters of outrage, Facebook posts and tweets of fury, and massive calls for boycotts.  Moving beyond promises, without proof of accountability to be sure their supply chain did not contain cocoa beans my child was forced to harvest, these companies would feel heat not only from the media but directly from their consumers to proactively fix the problem.

If it was my child I would not be able to stomach even the thought of eating chocolate that may be a product of their suffering.

If it was your child, I doubt you could either.

If it was our children we would want the world to take note, to stand with us, to fight for our children.

If these things happened we would not be able to stand it.

These things do happen.  For us to have cheap chocolate, this woman’s son was taken from her.

child slavery cocoa, human trafficking, mother human trafficking

And it happens for coffee, sugar, vanilla, cotton, and so much more.  I’m struggling because even the very computer I’m using to write this is suspected of being made under unfair labor practices.  Many products that are staples in the comfortable lives of people through out most of the world have passed through the hands of a working child in dangerous conditions, interfering with their education, and too often through slavery.

One child would be bad enough for public outrage.  An estimated 284,000?*  Are there even words?

About 10 years ago my husband and I became aware of the issue of human trafficking.  We learned, to our shock, that many products we used daily were grown, harvested, and manufactured in dangerous settings by people treated poorly and compensated inadequately.  Worse, some were in a form of slavery.  Still worse, some of those were children.  Children working as slaves without access to education and in dangerous environments were part of the manufacturing line creating products I thought I couldn’t live without.  How we had been ignorant of this harsh reality was a combination of never asking and nobody ever talking about it.

This knowledge would eventually change our lives, how we spend our money, and even how we celebrate holidays or interact with others.  Because we were talking about people being abused, not simply a different standard of living, but the oppression of others.

An oppression that we benefitted from.

Once aware, turning a blind eye was not an option.

At the time of this writing, I serve as the director of a global initiative that brings artists together to speak up for the oppressed.  I see over and over again the ongoing suffering of families ripped apart by the greed of others.  The issue is complex, far more than I am prepared to go into here, but as a family, our personal choice is to not be a part of the chain that enslaves children.  We started by doing just one thing, all of us can start with just one thing.

Please understand, I know that in some cultures, in some settings, child labor is a necessary part of the family’s survival.  What I’m talking about here is child slavery and child labor that violates the standards of the International Labor Organization, child labor that is truly dangerous, forced, and interferes with access to education.  The worst types of child labor.  I’m not talking about a child working on their family’s farm when they get home from school.  No, this is kidnapping, forced labor, restricted or no access to health care, no education, physical and psychological oppression, and controlled movement.

For us, we do with less so that what we enjoy or take for granted won’t cost a child so very much.  We choose to spend our resources on products that at least make traceable, documented, and third party audited steps to not use child labor at any point along the way.  It costs us more.  A cost we would rather absorb than to place on a small child that should be safe with their mother, able to play, and attending school.

It has taken time for us to make this shift and there has been an adjustment period.  Financially we can only afford so much so we started with the big ones: coffee and chocolate.  Shopping at thrift stores for our clothing and other textiles, we feel at least we aren’t buying brand new and can support local charities to some extent with our purchases.

We’ve accepted that less is ok.  In our land of entitled overabundance, we don’t need as much as we think we do.

Could avoiding chocolate produced with unfair labor practices and enslaved children actually create more problems?  Should we wait until there is a viable solution in place?  I don’t think so.

Without pressure that impacts their bottom line, there would be no reason for chocolate manufacturers to create change.  Some of these companies have claimed they are taking steps to ensure their products do not involve the worst forms of child labor but refuse to comply to 3rd party audits and employ diversion techniques such as charitable giving in other areas or launch a fair trade line.  But real progress in their supply chain is not evident.

Chocolate that contains the sweat, lashings, and crushed spirit of a child slave simply does not taste as good.  So we choose to buy fair trade.  Fair trade isn’t without it’s issues and controversy and there is valid conversation about direct trade, and other verification options.  Within an imperfect system we are trying to make the most responsible choice we can buy purchasing chocolate and coffee items that we can verify their labor practices or display one of these symbols:

Within the breastfeeding education and support community there is a strong push back against Nestle and other formula making companies that disregard the Code of Ethics for marketing artificial breastmilk as set out by the World Health Organization.  There has been outrage from many regarding the underhanded marketing of formula in communities where extreme poverty, contaminated water sources, and lack of information highways result in vulnerable infants suffering without breastmilk, sometimes even leading to death.  It is a despicable business practice.

So is abusing humans, enslaving people, endangering children, and prohibiting children from receiving an education.

There are many causes in this life, issues of injustice and importance and none of us can pick up all of them as advocates.  We don’t have to advocate for every cause though, sometimes it is enough to explore how we can respond on a personal level, changing ourselves.

I told you at the beginning of this that I had an agenda with this post and I was serious.  My goal in writing this is to challenge you, to make you uncomfortable, and to take the platform that I have here to raise my voice to speak up for the oppressed.  My agenda was for you to hear it.  What you do with it, how you respond, and if it makes any kind of impact on your choices is completely up to you but I will be able to enjoy my chocolate and coffee just a little bit more knowing I have tried.  Not for you, not for me, not even for my children.

I have tried for another mother’s child.

Will you?

*International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast

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I appreciate Kristen Howerton over at Rage Against the Minivan for writing about this issue, sharing more information and links, challenging readers to be aware.  The resources available are growing, I encourage you to explore this issue for yourself, watch videos, read reports, and connect with organizations aiming for fair trade practices.

 

 

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A market for breastfeeding support- The Family Friendly Business Initiative

Supporting breastfeeding as a marketing tactic?

That’s what the Family Friendly Business Initiative is hoping businesses of all sizes will see in their project.  Providing families a way to find local businesses that have pledged to be a supportive space for breastfeeding mothers, the Family Friendly Business Initiative just asks participating businesses to provide a welcoming attitude and a comfortable clean environment for breastfeeding moms.  Companies that agree to participate get listed on the Initiative’s website, marked on a google map display to make finding them easier, shared on the Initiative’s Facebook page, listed in materials given to new moms in the local hospital, and given a decal to display identifying their location as a safe place for breastfeeding mothers.  In addition to the website, there is an app in the works which will make finding businesses in the Initiative an easy option in the palms of breastfeeding moms on the go.  For most businesses, it’s a business growth opportunity that may be too good to pass up.  It’s simple, easy, a medically endorsed community initiative, and full of benefits for the companies that choose to participate in the form of free marketing.

And based on a quick informal poll on The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page, there’s a market for it too.

For some women, breastfeeding their child wherever they are, whatever they are doing is no big deal.  They are unfazed by the possibility of being asked to coverup or move.  But each woman has her own comfort level and many would prefer to find a place that is known to be “safe” for breastfeeding moms and where she and her little one can be left in peace.  For some, this challenge can be so overwhelming that they’d rather stay home than risk finding themselves out and about in a potentially hostile environment.  Moms that are afraid to leave the house due to concerns about finding a comfortable and welcoming place to breastfeed their baby are in jeopardy of either lowering their supply if they feel they must supplement which could lead to them not reaching their breastfeeding goals or increased risk of postpartum depression if they feel trapped in their home.

The Family Friendly Business Initiative is helping businesses that fit the bill connect with moms that are in need of breastfeeding friendly environments.  Mothers are a significant portion of the spending demographic, businesses know this, so for them to provide a safe place for moms to breastfeed without fear of harassment or discrimination can provide a boost to not only the family but the business and community as well.

In most states, mothers have the right to breastfeed their children wherever they have the right to be but, unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean they experience a warm welcome from businesses and employees or other customers.  Due to a lack of awareness of the laws supporting a mother’s right to breastfeed her child, some have experienced subtle or overt forms of discrimination and harassment so far as having businesses calling the police on breastfeeding mothers.  Repeatedly incidents make national or even global news where a business has told a mother to stop breastfeeding on their premises or leave.  Such experiences can intimidate mothers who desire to breastfeed into not leaving the house or compromising her breastfeeding goals.  These actions undermine the message health care professionals and scientists are giving moms that there are risks to artificial breastmilk substitutes, society isn’t walking the talk.

As a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor in Ames, Iowa, Jennifer Pitkin knew this reality first hand in her work to support moms in their breastfeeding journey.  Time and time again she heard from women that were afraid to breastfeed in public and would use formula if they had to go out, over time their breastmilk supply diminishing as a result.  For many of them, pumping was much harder than formula (and since not all moms respond well to pumps, not always a viable option) so they would switch for those feeds that happened while doing errands and shopping.  Talking with her local La Leche League and her retail manager husband, Jennifer was inspired to tackle this problem from a different angle and the Family Friendly Business Initiative was born.

Today, a year after this inspired idea to support moms and the businesses that support moms, the grass roots Family Friendly Business Initiative has grown to 4 local chapters and increasing interest from other states.  The participating businesses communicate their status as a Family Friendly Business to their employees including a letter displayed in the workers area explaining laws supporting breastfeeding and a mother’s right to do so in public.  These businesses may or may not designate an area specifically for breastfeeding mothers and the Family Friendly Initiative lists what kind of accommodations are available for families.  At this time 25 out of 28 businesses contacted have agreed to participate and while not all of them initially were sure about the opportunity, after some education most have enthusiastically joined.  It’s fairly simple for a company to be involved with many advantages not the least of which is a positive impact on the economy.  This medically endorsed community project supported by the Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition has been well received by Iowa State University, which is widely displaying the Family Friendly Business Initiative decals supporting both their faculty and their student breastfeeding population.  There is optimism that the Initiative will be well received by not just small businesses but large corporations as well.  Encouragement from costumers for companies to join can help influence these businesses to make participation in the Initiative a priority and make a difference for families in your area.

If you would like to see the Family Friendly Initiative in your area, email [email protected].  Another reference for businesses that welcome breastfeeding can be found at You Can Breastfeed Here.

 

 

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