Category Archives: Controversies

The Misrepresentations of a Spanking Culture

At the grocery store. The two year old is walking and the four year old wants to ride in the cart.

They want to buy many different things. “That is not on the list.” I say. “What IS on the list?” my four year old asks. I let him know what is on the list, and ask him to help me find those things.

He still wants to talk about all the things that excite him, that make him wonder. My two year old still wants to look at everything, but holds my hand as we walk.

We take it slow. I answer questions. “Can we buy this?” “Not this time, no.” “What is this?” “It is a rubber spatula.” “Why is it rubber?” “So that it can scrape the sides of things.” “Why?” “Sometimes when you stir something up everything sticks to the sides. Like when we make banana bread. This lets you scrape every last bit of it out.” “Can we get one?” “I think we have one already, I just always forget to use it!”

In the checkout aisle my daughter wants candy. “I WANT CANDY!” she shrieks. “You want candy.” I say. “Do you remember all your Halloween candy?” I ask. She says she does. “We have ALL that candy at home, right?” She smiles and says “yesssssssss we doooooo.” She still does not want to be carried, so she’s down on the ground near the candy, but she’s leaving it alone.

My four year old son wants to swipe my debit card. He asks to hold it. I tell him that he can, but that if it gets dropped I’m not going to be very happy so please hold tight. And he does. Then he pauses to show me how he wants to swipe the card. I show him that it has to be held a different way. He swipes too slowly. I say “Try again, quicker this time.” and show him with my hand. He does it quickly and it goes through. He wants to do it again. I say “Nope, it worked. We cannot do it again.” and open my wallet so that he can put it away.

My daughter has her arms wrapped around my leg and she is asking for one of the strawberry yogurts that we just bought. “We will eat those at home.” I let her know. And she asks me again. I repeat myself again, and she decides that she wants to be carried after all. I sweep her up as the clerk hands me my receipt. I give it to my son to carry and we all push the cart outside.

I remember before I had kids. I saw a lot of children in grocery stores. I saw a lot of parents getting really upset when their kids threw tantrums. I saw some spankings. I saw some well behaved kids. I saw some out of control kids. I saw so many memes on Facebook that said that if we whooped our kids butts as a nation, all the rudeness and problems would stop. I saw many of these referencing the tantrums that a “spoiled” child would throw in a store and how a good whoopin’ or “not tolerating the manipulation” would make those tantrums disappear.

And I remember it somehow… Making sense.

It somehow made sense that if your children feared you that they would never misbehave. Even though I saw plenty of spanked children misbehaving when I was a child, myself.

My kids talk a lot in the store. They ask a lot of questions. Sometimes they get upset. Mostly, though, they follow me through the store and stick by my side. They help me find things and they help me load the conveyor belt.

Some kids have a harder time.

But… when these kids of mine throw a tantrum? I give them empathy and not a time out. I don’t ignore them. And I don’t swat them to get them to stay silent. I give them hugs and tell them that I understand, and that we all want things sometime that we can’t have right away.

And they accept that.

Most of our trips are the way they were today.

No whoopin’. Just patience and empathy.

The spanking culture misrepresents a lot of things. It misinterprets them. It says that the only way to set a child onto the right path is to spank them off of the wrong one. I do not choose to believe that is true.

What Does a Stay At Home Parent Do All Day?

What’s the result of my work? It’s tucked inside their heads and hearts, hidden in little bodies and minds.

If you look at the floors after a long day of play… Yes. Sometimes I can sweep them clean after a day of eating, play, and the traffic of many little feet moving from outside in through the house. Sometimes I can’t.

If you look in the sink sometimes it will be empty, and sometimes it will be full of the dishes that I used to feed them healthy meals.

If you look at the beds unmade.
If you look at the toys not put away.
The books in piles or scattered across the floor.
The Legos that may be underfoot.

You might mistake my job for that of a mess-maker.
A laze-about.
A do nothing.

But look at them, those children that you love. That is where you will see my work. If you wonder, you can ask what we are working on and I will tell you all the details. I will tell you what I am teaching them. What they are struggling with. How we are practicing things together all day.

I could turn on the TV and leave it on so that no messes are made. I could feed them only the things not easily scattered across the floor.

But then these children would not be who they are.

There are people out there that try to guess what kind of salary a stay at home parent would earn for all of the things we do all day. There are people that say we should be grateful. (And indeed we should be.) There are people that say we do nothing. That we do everything. That we deserve more recognition or that we are doing nothing special.

And at the end of the day, when other people come home or when people visit. When you to go a parent teacher conference and guesses are made about your life at home. When you pass by strangers on the street or in a waiting room at the doctors.

Guesses are often made based on all of those things. We speculate. We gossip. We learn to try and pretend to be SuperHuman. Often we lose sight of what matters.

The truth is. I don’t need to know my projected salary. I don’t need to know that what I do is valuable. I know that already. I know how overworked and under appreciated I am. Those articles aren’t really for me. They’re for me to try and share with everyone else in my life that has questions about my value.

For me? This is something that has a value all of its own. Not a “better” value or a “worse” value or a quantifiable value. Not a value to bicker over and bargain with. It. Just. Is.

I understand that this world is obsessed with a standardized test and with punishing people out of any tendency to be lazy. About assuming that a child’s behavior is the perfect indicator of their parents abilities. That a clean house is the litmus test. That it is even something that can be tested.

I guess when someone goes to work we take it on faith that they are doing their job otherwise they would be fired. But why in the world would a stay at home parent do their job without risk of being replaced, judged harshly or losing their job?

Where is the end product of my work? What do I have to show for the days I spend here at home? What do I /do/ all day? Why should I keep my job? Why should I evade lazy-worker penalties?

Bright blue eyes pop up from behind a mountain of pillows as I am cleaning. “Would you like to help me put this in the laundry basket?” I say. I make a game of picking up the room and as she helps me she learns to clean. My four year old is not interested in the game. He is in the other room playing with Legos by dumping them out on the floor to look for a particular piece. My seven year old is practicing making a snack for all of us that meets the criteria of “healthy”. He will leave the kitchen a wreck, and while he will help me clean up some of it as he learns, there is not enough time or attention crammed in the day for all of everything to be done while still allowing these children the freedom to move and to learn and to play and to grow.

Why would I do this job as best as I can?

Why do you wake up every day and go to work? To provide what you can for this family of ours.

Why do I wake up every day and do the work that I do  here? To provide what I can for this family of ours.

Do you do less than you can at work all day? Do you risk providing less than you can for your family? Or do you try your hardest? I don’t ask you that.  That would be rude.

So why does everyone ask the stay at home parent exactly that? Why do we need to compare our job to other “real” jobs? Why is it that what we do.. Seems to have no intrinsic value in this society? Because it can’t buy us another large screen LCD TV or pay off a fancy new car?

These. Are. Our. Children.

Of course what I do has value. Value worth working for.

That is what a Stay at Home parent does all day. They work for the most important thing in their lives. Their children.

Why do we even feel that it is okay to ask that question? To think it?

Is Pretty the Problem?

Is pretty a bad thing? I don’t know. Is handsome a bad thing? Is the color pink bad? Is the color blue?

Pretty like a squash blossom. Did you know that squash blossoms can be male or female? But they’re both showy and big and orange and they poke out of beautiful green leaves on top of a mound of dirt.

Pretty like a betta fish, a duck, a guppy. Did you know that in those species the “pretty” ones are the males and the females are drab and boring?

Pretty like my daughter with her hair up in tangles, strawberry juice running down her face, covered in mud and rambling through the garden commenting in glee about all the bugs that she sees.

Pretty like my oldest son, bent over a book, his long dark lashes swooping away from his deep-sea-blue eyes that are surrounded by a smattering of freckles.

Pretty like your wife laying on the clean white sheets, exhausted and asleep with your newborn son curled up safe in her arms.

Pretty like your husband when he watches your children with fascinated wonder.

Pretty like the elderly woman and her delicately wrinkled hands with surprising speed, knitting something in the sunshine at the assisted living home.

Maybe the problem isn’t with pretty, maybe the problem is with the definition. The idea that pretty is a marketing term used to describe a particular category of humankind. The female sort that is of a certain height, weight and age.

We forget that we describe many things as pretty. Things with no gender. Pretty rainbows and pretty sunshine and beautiful days. Pretty landscapes and beautiful things. Things that make us smile.

The issue isn’t with being told that we are pretty. The issue is that it’s the only thing that we’re expected to be. It’s sometimes the only thing that we are valued for.

I was a pretty child. My favorite color was blue and I was often covered in scrapes and scratches from bike rides and bug hunts and berry picking.

I don’t regret being pretty.

I regret that I was not encouraged to be fascinated with math.

I regret that my father would not teach me how to ride a motorcycle the way he taught my brother.

I regret that my father would not teach me how to fix a bike, throw a ball, repair a car, use a chainsaw.

I regret seeing an older man say “It’s too bad she’s deaf. At least she’s pretty, she’ll have no trouble finding a man.”

I regret every time I have offered to do something that is traditionally a “male” job and have been turned down only to have a man’s offer accepted.

I regret every time I mentioned a fascination with something technical and was told I couldn’t.

And all of the doors that closed in my face.

Pretty? That just means that someone is happy when they look at me. Maybe a perfect stranger might find me pretty in a particular moment. Or maybe my partner will find me pretty. I find him pretty, too.

Pretty isn’t the problem.

The problem is that boys are told that they can’t be pretty and that their favorite color shouldn’t be pink.

And girls are told that they can’t open doors and that they can’t play in the mud.

Pretty isn’t the problem. Pink isn’t the problem. Gender isn’t the problem. It’s the idea that any of these things stand out on their own and encapsulate a complex human being that has their own ideas about who they are.

Yes. My daughter is pretty. She is pretty while she builds with Legos. She is pretty while she examines how her bike is put together. She is pretty while her grandmother paints her toenails the same shade of red that her three year old brother picked for his. She is pretty when I show her how to use garden tools that I know how to use and she is pretty when her dad shows her how to use the tools that he knows how to use.

She sees me open doors for men and she sees me offer to carry packages. She sees me fix computers and she sees her father make dinner. She sees her grandfather cook and load the dishwasher. She sees me sweep the floor. She sees that men and women change diapers and bathe babies and fix things.

She hears me call her pretty. She hears me call her brothers pretty. She hears me talk about the pretty weeds and the pretty butterflies and the pretty bees and I’m pretty sure she understands that “pretty” is just one of many things to be.

Public Breastfeeding, and the Things I am Sorry For

I am sorry.

I am sorry that breastfeeding is a scary and offensive thing that you did not get to grow up with, that you didn’t get to see your mother, your aunts and your cousins do. That you didn’t get to see your siblings do. That you didn’t see a newborn grow into an infant at his mother’s breast, and into a toddler and into a small child that slowly weaned away.

I am sorry that you learned about the sexuality of breasts before you learned about the nurturing. That your first exposure to breasts as a child was one that came with shame rather than growing up with them as a source of comfort and nourishment.

I am sorry that you think that breastfeeding is private.

But it isn’t.

It is nothing sacred, as it happens every hour for an hour, sometimes. Ain’t nobody got enough time in their day for that amount of sacred. Not even monks spend that much of their day to day life on sacred things.

It is nothing unusual, as it is what every infant is born expecting. While things happen in this culture that make it rare, and while there are conditions that make breastfeeding impossible (as there have been throughout all of history) it is not a thing that is meant to be rare. It is a thing that once was a part of the beginning of every man and woman born. It should not be as unusual at it is.

It is nothing private. It poses no risk to anyone. It is self contained and clean and quiet. I am sorry that you have not grown up with the knowledge of how clean, how simple breastfeeding is. It is not like the other things that come to mind. It is not like urine or feces, it is not like vomit or semen. It is one of nature’s cleanest things.

I am sorry that you feel that a child should wean when they start to speak, and that you likely have no clue about why a mother would nurse beyond that point. That the idea so shocks you that you can’t deal with finding out. That you don’t know about the antibodies, the nutrients. That you don’t know it is what a child’s body expects and what they need.

I am sorry that we are on such different pages. That you find breastfeeding to be so scary and shocking, and that I find it to be what it is. Something humdrum and ordinary that weaves its way through the pattern of those early days.

I am sorry that I cannot come to meet you where you are. I cannot un-learn the things that I know about breastfeeding and I cannot come to a place of shock and outrage about something that is so simple, so clean, and so needed.

I am sorry, though.

I am not sorry for breastfeeding. I am not sorry for each toddler that I have nursed. I am not sorry that I breastfeed in public.

I am sorry for each and every woman that wishes deeply to do those things, but that fears…

Because your thoughts about breastfeeding are a violence against them. A violence against these women and their babies.

I wish you were sorry, too.

Shame is an Ingredient in the Recipe for Disaster (MommyWars)

One of the things that really bothers me about wars between parents is this:

If you just change a person’s behavior when their thoughts stay the same? It’s a recipe for disaster.

If someone REALLY feels that a child is manipulating them when they cry, and they’re forced through shame to respond to those cries, what is going to happen between that parent who feels manipulated and that child?

If you are forced to cater to the whims of a petty tyrant do you feel happy and loving? Or do you feel angry and resentful and forced?

I prefer to try and provide other ways of viewing a child’s behavior. When you have other words to think of, you can start trying to see the truth in them rather than simply trying to act on what feels like another manipulation.

Shame isn’t a motivator. It’s a paralytic. It’s fight, flight or freeze.

Is that the mental space that struggling parents need to be in?

Or do they need to know that it’s okay to slow down, to give hugs, that there are other ways that they can try and see things? Do they need to understand that you can trust a child, and how to help that child earn your trust just as you earn theirs?

Big Bullies with Boobs vs. Big Bullies with Rules

Woman contacts airline to ask about a breastfeeding policy.

Woman is told that unless she can convince her baby to allow a cover.. Too bad, so sad. Outta luck. Gotta use a bottle that the baby won’t take.

Women try to convince airline that they should possibly educate their employees better. The end goal being so that employees do not continue to pass out false information that damages the reputation of the airline and that forces restrictions on women and babies.

The end result? Those women are called bullies.

There’s another word. Advocates. People that push for things that should be.

Bullies push. Sure. Bullies push you over and take your lunch money. Bullies tell you that you can’t fly on an airplane unless you can do something that you can’t. Bullies are big all on their own and they target small people. Airlines are big. Breastfeeding women tend to be individuals rather than parts of some huge horking conspiracy geared to expose everyone to babies that need to eat.

Bullies don’t say “Hey big company, can you clarify your policy to your employees so that they’ll stop pushing us over and taking our lunch money telling us that we can’t breastfeed our babies on your planes?”

That’s called pushing for a change from a company with a problematic issue over policy. Were the people that yelled and hawked and hemmed over TSA rules and regulations “bullies” or were they pointing out valid concerns like “people should be able to carry water on a plane without being strip-searched” and “refusing to allow a woman wearing a hijab on the plane is a really bad move and discrimination”.

If people took to the internets with a social media push to get airlines to offer better potoato chips in-flight would that be bullying or would we all jab our fists in the air and yell VIVE LA DEEP FRIED POTATO THINS! while being all smug about how awesome social media can be at enacting important change?

Breastfeeding women are simply tired of being told that they can’t sit at THIS table (which is for the people with the cool babies that let them cover up with fashionable fabrics) and that they can’t do /THAT/ here. (With “that” being feeding a baby.) We’re tired of being told to “just pump” by someone who has never struggled to pump half an ounce while balancing a baby on one hip and vacuuming the floor with their free arm. We’re tired of people that have never had mastitis telling us that we have to fly an entire long flight without nursing, and the possibility of being accosted by airport personnel if we nurse before a flight. We’re tired of people being ANGRY at us if our baby is crying, but being even more ANGRY with us if our baby is nursing quietly and they witness a peek of the very same upper boob that was visible through the top of the v-neck of our socially acceptable shirt.

We’re just tired of being told that we have to jump through hoops to feed a baby when “not seeing those things” just involves… Looking away. Turning your eyes somewhere else.

Who’s bullying who here?

The real bullies should grow some boobs and fess up to making a mistake. They should clarify their policy and make it clear to customer service reps. They should have their policy in stark black and white letters on their website so that women can print it out and bring it on the plane in case the airlines don’t want to spend the money educating the people that they hire.

There should be some sort of a solution, and it should be the airlines that are pushing for it, not the women that just want to nurse their babies and maybe take a shower here and there.

You don’t want to be bothered about a problem with your company.. Fix it. None of us want to be wasting our time with this stuff, either. Let us talk about happier things instead. Like the awesome new policy that you are working on where women can breastfeed their children with no restrictions-and-by-the-way-here’s-a-complimentary-water-because-we-know-how-thirsty-breastfeeding-moms-can-be. You’d turn your “bullies” into awesome buzz overnight.

Looking Down on Other Women (Dear Amy Glass, I AM Sorry.)

Dear Amy Glass,

I am sorry. Not sorry that you look down on young women that have husbands and kids. Not sorry for you for not having a husband or kids. But sorry that you see a sliver of the world as an absolute truth. Sorry for the attitudes that you have expressed in other articles that you have written. Sorry that you are living in a mindset that seems to devalue occupations that have traditionally been female simply for the fact that they have traditionally been female, rather than choosing to look at them for what they are. Sorry that you feel that the traditionally male-defined sexuality-as-power way of approaching things is the “feminist” way.

My initial reaction to reading your post “I Look Down on Young Women With  Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry” was anger. I wanted to rant on and on about people that choose to have children and a career at the same time. I wanted to rant about people that don’t choose to have children at all. I wanted to do exactly what my cat does when she feels picked on. Turn around and swipe the dog across the face even though the dog did nothing.

Then I realized that I am not angry.

In order to look down on someone you have to have a higher vantage point. To somehow see more than the person that you are looking down on.

What you are really doing, Amy Glass, is you are looking at us and you don’t understand our choices. You are making different choices that you feel better fit your life. And no one should tell you that you can’t. Maybe people are telling you that you need to get married. That you need to have babies. Maybe you’re sick and tired of hearing it and feel that is what is wrong with the world. So you are turning around like my cat and swiping the dog across the face even though the dog did nothing.

When the dog gets swiped across the face do you know what he does? All of his 64 pounds against the 10 pound cat? He backs away. He understands that she is no threat to him. He is bigger.

There are things bigger than you, Amy Glass.

I don’t have the energy to be annoyed with another person that presumes to know better what choices I should be making in my life, or what value I should place on having children. I am not your property, Amy Glass. I am not your lesser. I am not a person in your command or control. I make my own choices about my life. I choose the things that I value. No one tells me that I have to marry a man, that I have to have children, that I have to breastfeed them, that I have to wake with them in the night and whisper that I love them. I do these things as a free person. This is not society’s choice for me, it is a choice that I have made. I am a good mother.

Other women have children and careers. They work long hours and see their children mostly on weekends. Their husbands stay home, or they hire a trusted nanny who devotes every waking moment to these children that are not her own but that she loves anyway. I’ve known these women. They have shown me pictures of the child that they will not be getting home to that night. There has been love on their face and in their hearts. They take their children places, give them experiences, dote upon them, and can provide for them very well financially. They are good mothers.

I’m not sure what a female should do. A good woman. A good little feminist. Should she ruthlessly pursue financial gain? But what about the intellectual who has no interest in money but a deep passion in science? Is a passion in science a passion wasted if no monetary gain comes from it? What about the person who spends years in another country helping them to build wells to keep that country’s people and children alive? No monetary gain, no stunning intellectual feats, a risked life and for what? Simple charity to help the lives of someone else’s children. Is that something to look down on? Shouldn’t a feminist be doing something that will benefit her somehow?

In truth we all have different skills, different desires, different wants and needs and we live our lives in different orders at different paces.

If you said that you looked down on people that do nothing with their lives other than have children and depend on the support of someone else.. People that have no other goals in life… I’d still sort of view you as a feminist. But that’s not what you said. You said you look down on women that make that choice. Not people, not men. Women. You look down on women that make choices that you don’t feel are the good ones.

That’s not feminism. I’m sorry. I don’t believe that we “threw off the chains” of oppression where men could tell us what to do with our lives… Just to have a sanctimonious little girl with a narrow world view tell us what to do with our lives. Feminism isn’t about “validating” the choices that other women make. It’s about saying that those women have the right to make their choices. They have a right to an education and opportunities. And they have the right to follow their hearts and pursue their passions. They  have a right to not require that someone else… Woman or man.. “validate” their choices.

You don’t own other women, Amy Glass. You are not their mommy. You are not their owner. You are not their boss. You don’t need to “validate” anything as though it’s some sort of parking ticket in the Grand Garage of Feminists.

I understand that you do not understand my choices. That much was clear in this sentence: ” Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.” Laundry is no more the defining part of motherhood than swabbing a patients arm with an alcohol wipe is the defining part of being a doctor. No more than doodling is the defining ability of an architect. Any schmuck can dab some alcohol onto someone’s arm. That is not what being a doctor is. Anyone can pick up a pencil and draw a line on paper. That’s not what an architect is. I’m sure as hell not staying home to do the laundry.

So why am I staying home? Because I have three children. Not because of the laundry, the dishes, the diapers. But because of the experience and the investment.

Any job.. Any vocation… They all have paperwork, Amy Glass. They all have clean-up. They all have undesirable bits and pieces. Drudgery. Wastes of time. If you look only at the worthless bits of a job then you will never understand why a person might choose to work that job when surely there is some /other/ job that is more worthwhile.

If you want to look down on the job of motherhood.. Look down on the act of raising children. Look down on teaching children to read. Look down on teaching children to be compassionate and on encouraging their imagination. Look down on being a provider of experiences and a settler of disputes. Look down on the real work of motherhood, not the bloody laundry that we get stuck with on the side.

I am not here because anyone put me here. I am here because I made a choice with value. You can question that choice, sure. But in order to “look down on it” you have to somehow be something bigger than the women that have made that choice.

You’re not. You don’t even seem to have the information necessary to understand the job that we do every day. You’ve mistaken the drudge work for the vocation. You look down on it simply because it is a historically female job. Amy.. That’s not feminism.

And I am sorry. I’m sorry that you’ve missed the forest for all the trees. That you are trying to be a feminist within the world as it was once defined by men. A world where your value is defined by your beauty and your sexuality is the reason to get ahead. You still view children and homes as the possessions of men, it would seem, as that is the only possible reason that being here to raise them would be contrary to feminism. If women had no stake or investment in their own children.

I’m sorry you’ve somehow managed to misunderstand something that big.

<3 Sarah

How to Not Conduct a Study about Peer Breastmilk Sharing

A recent study on peer breastmilk sharing has been done. You’ve probably seen the headlines. I’ve seen a few. For example, the New York Times  headline is “Breast Milk Donated or Sold Online Is Often Tainted, Study Says” Other headlines also scream doom and gloom.

What this study  really seems to boil down to is this: A researcher obtained samples of breastmilk using questionable methods that don’t duplicate real life and that seemingly exclude any responsible donors as well as common sense.

The study has issues. Big issues.

EXCLUSION OF RESPONSIBLE DONORS

From reading the study… A researcher contacted 495 people through peer breastmilk sharing communities with a “standard inquiry”. 206 of those people dropped communications or never responded to the inquiry. (For 57 of those the researcher chose to drop communication because the donors asked about the baby that would be getting the milk or asked to speak on the phone or meet in person.) 84 people backed out before milk was sent and three people apparently accepted payment, did not send milk, and did not refund what they were paid. 101 samples were eventually tested (after being stored for a period of time). In other words MOST people wanted nothing to do with the researcher even though they were getting paid and being asked for a small amount of milk.

The study did not share what their “standard inquiry” was, but from what they did share I was able to glean this: they did not speak about the infant that would be receiving the milk. They asked for small amounts of milk (it sounded like about 3 bags worth which would be approximately 18oz based on a 6oz bag size) and they left it up to the sender to provide whatever information the sender wanted to provide about themselves. They also allows the sender to choose whatever shipping method they thought was good (ice… no ice.)

Anyone who has donated milk will see where the HUGE MAJOR WARNING BELLS start clanging.

For those of you not familiar with how milk sharing works.. A “standard inquiry” would typically be an introduction. “Hi, my name is Margaret. I am looking for a donor for my baby Harry who is nine months. I saw your post on SpecificMilksharingCommunity. I am trying to help Harry have breastmilk for the first 12 months of his life. Unfortunately I have hypoplastic breasts which means I have a hard time producing enough milk. Harry gets my milk and donor milk through a SNS.”  In other words it TALKS ABOUT THE BABY. It talks about the reason the milk is needed. It talks about mom.

From there the donor and the recipient will talk and become a bit more comfortable with each other. Typically the donor will share why they decided to become a donor. Why do they have extra milk? What are they like? Who are they? The recipient usually has a lot of questions. The donor and recipient may choose to share medical paperwork including blood test results, a medical diagnosis of failure to thrive for the infant, a pediatrician’s letter stating that the baby needs donor milk, a medical diagnosis for the mother who is requesting the milk, and sometimes even a drug test depending on the diligence of the recipient. Video chats, phone calls, facebook friending. There is usually substantial contact.

Compensation, if discussed, is generally in terms of “would you like me to send you milk bags to replace the ones you’re sending the milk in? Do you have a preferred brand?” Often the recipient sends the cooler and packaging supplies to the donor as the recipient has more experience with how they want the milk shipped.

After the “getting to know each other” period has passed then the donor and recipient will talk about how to get the milk from the donor to the recipient. There are two ways that are generally accepted. The first is meeting in person. The second is Fedex overnight. Expensive. Only worth it (and only safe) if large amounts of milk are being sent. (Enough to fill a styrofoam shipping cooler without any extra room). This will be hundreds of ounces. Many bags. Not three. And you won’t be using any method that takes up to two days without dry ice.

If someone contacted a responsible donor, refused to speak in person or over the phone, dodged questions about the infant, requested a small amount of milk, was willing to pay for it, and asked that it be shipped to a PO Box?  Honestly I’d be picturing a skeevy man in his 50’s that wanted to bathe in the milk. I’d hit “delete” faster than you could say “pervert”. I’m willing to bet that a lot of the people who simply never responded or that dropped contact at any point… Those warning bells started clanging. In fact the people who did end up sending the milk? They probably suspected that it would be getting used for something that they didn’t want to know about, and they just wanted to get paid. (Which is why I’m very much against selling breastmilk.)

SHIPPING/STORAGE DO NOT REFLECT REAL LIFE

Would you drink a baggie of cows milk from the grocery store that had been shipped two days ago without ice? I accidentally left a glass of cow’s milk on the counter for a few hours when I took the kids out to the playground. When I returned it had solidified into a rancid smelling yogurt-like texture. This is pasteurized cows milk from the grocery store. FDA gold standard certified safe for the public.

NO ONE asking for breastmilk to be shipped to them.. Is going to be okay with small quantities being shipped without dry ice. (edit: large amounts can and should be shipped without ice as long as they fill a styrofoam cooler to capacity of about 200+ ounces with the empty spaces packed with newspaper. The entire time in transit should be less than 24 hours with this method.) If someone DOES get a fully thawed bag of rancid milk and feeds it to their infant there are some severe issues there and the issues aren’t with milksharing the issues are with unsafe feeding practices and the person should not be left alone with an infant regardless of what they are feeding the infant. Feeding a baby milk that has been unrefrigerated for 48 hours is NOT… NOT… safe. No matter what the source of the milk is. If the milk is fresh pumped from your own breasts in a pristine sterile environment using sterile equipment and then left to sit on a counter in your own home for 48 hours and you feed it to your baby? Still a problem. The MAXIMUM amount of time you’re supposed to leave human breastmilk without refrigeration or some method to keep it cool is 10 hours. That’s freshly pumped milk. You do NOT leave frozen milk out after it has thawed. Regardless of the source.

Responsible recipients that receive shipped milk? They discard any bags that have fully thawed even if they are still cool to the touch. Slushy bags are allowed to finish thawing and are used immediately or discarded. Only fully frozen bags go into the freezer.

The milk that the researchers received? It was stored at -20C for up to two months before the sample was analyzed. In other words it would seem that some of the milk that had thawed was… refrozen. That violates breastmilk storage guidelines 101. Which was part of the researcher’s claims. But I’m unsure how the researcher’s possible incorrect handling of milk works into the study. “If you handle breast milk incorrectly it will become full of bacteria”. Sounds about right.

SO WHAT DOES THE STUDY SHOW? ARE THERE ISSUES WITH MILK SHARING?

Absolutely. There are issues with milk sharing.

People don’t know how it works or how it’s supposed to work or how to do it safely. Apparently even the people doing the research don’t know how it works. (Unless it was the intention of the researcher to specifically exclude responsible donors through its screening process and initial inquiry– if they wanted to truly study milksharing they would have obtained samples from people who had received donor milk rather than seemingly chasing after the worst of the worst.)

Donor milk is just as much of a sabotage as formula if used incorrectly. A lot of people are lead to believe that they have a low supply when the issue is something else entirely. (Tongue tie, flow preference, a pediatrician shooting for the 50th percentile or higher across the board or comparing breastfed babies to formula fed ones.) ANY supplementation can sabotage mom’s supply. Donor milk included. And that’s a problem for a lot of reasons. http://nurshable.com/2012/06/18/when-donor-milk-is-no-different-than-formula/

People don’t know how to properly express in a hygienic way. Or sometimes don’t take hygiene seriously. You know? Like that woman you /heard/ in the next stall who just walked out without washing her hands? Eww. (That said, pumping breastmilk is a LOT of work. And storing it properly is also work. If you get hundreds of bags of meticulously labeled flat-frozen milk.. That took a lot of effort. Surely it took more effort than a few baggies of milk shipped without ice. She also presumably pumped for her own baby who she likely cares a great deal about. )

Mistaken Beliefs of Safety. I suppose there are people out there that think that milk obtained from someone you know absolutely nothing about and that you have never spoken to in-depth is as safe as milk from the grocery store. There are also grocery stores that sell expired milk. And there are also people that buy milk without checking the expiration date. There are people that don’t refrigerate cold cuts. That don’t wash produce before eating it. There are people that aren’t aware that powdered formula isn’t sterile and that expired infant formula is often sold. There are people that aren’t aware that you have to measure the water and then add the formula to the water rather than measuring the formula and then adding the water otherwise your formula won’t be mixed properly. In fact most people don’t seem to understand how to safely prepare infant formula. Regardless.. There are people that will probably obtain and use free breastmilk just because it’s free. Just like someone might obtain and use free formula just because it’s free. (Their babies eat the “whatever’s free on the classifieds today” brand.)

You’re not just dealing with the donor, you’re also dealing with her husband. Your donor can be the most lovely person in the world but if her partner is sleeping around behind her back at all then she may not have a full picture of her STD status. Don’t just get to know your donor. Get to know her partner.

The whackadoo wildcard exists. There are whackjobs out there. They’re thankfully rare. But they do exist. This is one of the reasons I’m vehemently against the selling of breastmilk. There’s been issues with expired formula being sold. Once you introduce profit into anything you’re going to have problems. Since the study author purchased milk I’m surprised that there weren’t more problems with the samples that were received.

SO WHAT’S THE GOOD OPTION?

I absolutely agree with where the study author speaks about limited options available when a mom can’t feed the baby her own milk. Our system is completely broken for moms and for babies. Moms get sabotaged. Doctors are not well educated about lactation. There are some terrible lactation consultants out there that do more harm than good. The formula companies are for-profit and love profit. There are no wonderful great options for most moms if they’re having trouble. The best option that they can hope for is a truly trusted and trustworthy known donor. In our culture where we’re so socially isolated as parents that’s hard to come by. I’m part of a huge network of thousands of mothers and I can count on a single hand the moms that I would trust to donate milk to my baby.  But milk banks that minimize risks are not the norm.

What I would like to see is some way to make milk bank testing available to mothers that are involved in milk sharing. A screening and education program for peer milk sharing. It’s unlikely to happen though, because the focus is on milk banks (which increase the cost) and on studies that purport to show the dangers of something that the study author doesn’t quite seem to understand.

I would also like to see studies of milk that mothers have received through a more typical donation process. Why not a study that obtains small samples of milk that a recipient has received from a batch that she intends to feed to her infant? That would paint a more accurate picture of peer milk sharing as it would test milk that was actually in the donation cycle as opposed to testing the milk of donors that might very well never have manged to donate since there is a “trust” factor involved that this study completely excluded.

THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY’S COMFORT WITH THE RISKS OF FORMULA

Formula has risks, especially when proper preparation guidelines aren’t followed.

What I would like to know is this: Would doctors be so quick to recommend supplementation if we used a system of unpaid human donors? Or would they be quicker to refer mom to lactation consultants to help her establish a breastfeeding relationship where she can provide her baby with her own milk?

Information exists that points to infant formula being a risky option when compared to a trusted and tested donor. Yet doctors are very comfortable suggesting that moms use it with their newborns, and they seldom provide information on reducing the risks.

Why don’t we hear more about that? What’s the fixation that everyone has on making breastmilk donation into something scary? We have accepted the risks of infant formula for decades and have made little effort to reduce them. Where are the studies on the microbial contamination of infant formula? Where are the studies on the the risks of formula use compared to a donor following proper hygeine practices? Where is the media hype over the dangers of improper mixing of infant formula?

WHY the focus on “breastmilk is a problem” to the point of a study that focuses on the rock bottom of what the milksharing community has to offer?

Feminism and Not Breastfeeding

There’s an article making the rounds on feminism and the choice to not breastfeed. The particular spin of this particular article is that it’s not fair to the male parent because breastfeeding is something that only the female parent can do.

Breastfeeding has nothing to do with feminism.

Is it a mother’s choice to breastfeed or not breastfeed without being told what she should do with her body? Yes. But is breastfeeding anti-feminist? No. Is breastfeeding anti-dad? Again.. No.

My opinion on the mother’s right to choose is this: If she wants to bottle feed because she believes that her child’s astrology sign predicts dire consequences if he sups at her breast… Fine. Whatever. 

If she wants to bottle feed because she’s a feminist and it’s unfair to her husband.. Fine. Whatever.

If she wants to bottle feed because she’s a feminist and thinks that breastfeeding is anti-feminist and that you can’t be a feminist and breastfeed… Fine. Whatever.

Her body. Her definition of feminism.

I do sort of put those things in the same category though. Not because I disagree with her right to choose but because I think it’s a bastardization of feminism and it’s not fair to the male parent because it assumes that breasts make for superior bonding and that the only way a man can have an equal relationship with his child is by removing a big positive in the female’s relationship with the child. Hocus pocus. It’s also not fair to the female parent for a huge long list of reasons. UNLESS she doesn’t want to breastfeed. Then it’s a personal choice. And feminism does say that women can choose what to do or not do with their bodies. I’m cool with that.

I’m not cool with the notion that feminism is incompatible with breastfeeding.

Feminism isn’t about “become the same” it’s about “don’t use a vagina or a penis as an excuse to tell me I can’t do something that does not involve reproductive organs in any way shape or form. And don’t treat me as though my equal abilities are worth less because I have a certain set of body parts.”

If it was “become the same” then women shouldn’t have children because it gives them the unfair advantage of the child’s stem cells helping their bodies do some pretty nifty stuff after birth. If t was “become the same” then men shouldn’t be allowed to pee standing up. And sex should be disallowed because there is no way for a female to obtain direct sexual pleasure by penetrating the male without the need to use a prosthetic device. 

We CANNOT become the same. I don’t think that become the same should even be a bloody goal. I’ll never be able to generate sperm to impregnate another woman. At least not without some pretty darned unnatural sciencey stuff or random late-life mutation. 

I also think that the choice not to breastfeed is NOT fair because breastfeeding helps lower the female breast cancer rate substantially. 

If the writer in the article that I read wants to not breastfeed for that reason.. That’s fine. But I don’t see “not breastfeeding” as a feminist choice or a choice that makes things more equal for the male somehow.

Breastfeeding isn’t superior to all of the things that dad does. It’s just a way of feeding. My partner bonds amazingly with his babies. Not because he’s somehow able to breastfeed them. Not because I don’t breastfeed them. But because he’s their father and he puts in all the effort at doing all of the things that a parent does, and there are some things he naturally does better than me. Burping? Dad’s the pro. Bouncing with baby? Dad’s got baby bouncing ninja skills that I couldn’t hope to rival. I’m better at changing diapers on a standing toddler. I’m better at breastfeeding. I’m better at convincing our older children how to share. Daddy’s better at playing with Legos and super heroes and all that stuff. I’m better at cooking with the kids without ending up dipped in flour. Breastfeeding’s just a bullet point that happens to be linked to my breasts just like childbirth is linked to another part of me.

I think that every person has the right to devour life to the maximum of their physical and mental abilities. If my partner is stronger than me and can carry our children more easily on his back.. He shouldn’t forego that because I’m not able. 

Neither partner should avoid whatever natural abilities they have to bring themselves to a point of equality. 

Feminism isn’t about discarding what women CAN do or what men CAN do. It’s about not saying that a penis means someone can automagically do something non-penis related so very much better. Like build a house. I’ve never seen someone build a house with their penis. So unfair hiring practices for house building? Sexism. Unfair hiring practices for sperm donation that only hire men? Not sexism.

As for all the arguments that breastfeeding is somehow sexist because it reduces a woman’s ability to earn an income.. Would we look down at a woman as being a “bad feminist” if she joined up with Doctors Without Borders to risk her life giving free medical care to struggling populations? Would we view a woman as a “bad feminist” if she chose to do pro bono work for domestic violence victims? Those choices also reduce her ability to earn an income. Something that breastfeeding actually doesn’t do, because a woman can pump while she works.

The only thing that is sexist about breastfeeding is the idea that breastfeeding can somehow be “anti feminist”. Unless I’m saying that you HAVE to breastfeed or you’re saying that I have to NOT breastfeed… There’s no sexism there.

I breastfeed for a variety of reasons. I believe it’s a healthy choice for me and for my child. I’m ABLE to. (Big one here. The amount of effort a mother puts into breastfeeding doesn’t always equal a met goal.) It’s free. I don’t like making bottles. I’m home anyway. It’s the right choice for me right up and down all the little checkboxes. So I do it. Another woman has the right to tick off different checkboxes and come to different conclusions.

I do NOT think that the choice to not breastfeed is automatically some sort of feminist choice, though. It’s a personal choice, not a feminist one.

“Too Old” to Breastfeed (from the archives)

(From the old Custom Made Milk blog)

I don’t know why it comes up so frequently.. Maybe because it seems like an easy conversation topic. Afterall, who WOULDN’T agree that nursing a 7 or 8 year old is “too old”?

When I hear this and the inevitable “Yeah! It’s gross” comments from other breastfeeding moms, I cringe for a moment.

And then I proceed to ask… “Well… Why?”

The answer always boils down to the same old arguments.

I’m gonna tell you this now. Those arguments that breasts are only for babies under 6 months or one year or two years on the outside? They hold no more water than the idea that breasts are there solely for the husband’s pleasure.

I request this of all moms, breastfeeding or not: If you’re going to say that another mother should do something or shouldn’t do something, at least be prepared with good basic facts and studies that support your judgement of her.

I’m not even talking about the moms that say “Well, I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that.” I’m really not. Everyone has their own comfort zones. I’m talking about the moms that are quick to say that full term breastfeeding is “perverse” “going on too long” “encouraging emotional dependence”, etc. Please, please feel free to provide links to studies that say that children that breastfeed until 3, 4, 6, 7 8… Have any psychological or physical trauma as a result. Please feel free to back up your arguments. Because I’ve searched long and hard… High and low.. And have found NOTHING that says that breastfeeding at any age is a negative.

In fact, during my desperate hunt to find out what age to wean, I’ve found some interesting things.

Those interesting things are BIOLOGICAL MILESTONES. Hard set-in-stone gold standards for when a child is “Supposed” to wean. These biological milestones are based on the child’s physical, mental, sexual, and immunological development… Milestones that similar species meet.

Milestones that aren’t just “Well the child can survive without breastmilk now, it must be time to wean.” Our children are not puppies that we’re desperate to get into homes and out of the house. Ability to survive without our milk is the first and most crucial step to independence, sure. But it’s hardly the point at which to say “Success! Weaning time.”

A child essentially has a severely compromised immune system until they are two years old, and does not reach the full adult level of immunocompetence until closer to 5-8 years of age. This means that their immune system is still intertwined with mom’s BY DESIGN.

A child’s jaw and oral development benefits tremendously from breastfeeding until their permanent teeth start to come in.

Interestingly enough, the natural disappearance of the suckling reflex also occurs at about that same time: 5-8 years of age.

Breastfed children that are not introduced to hormone-ridden soy and cow milk tend to reach puberty later, at around 13-18 instead of the 9-13 which is becoming increasingly common in this country. In most primates, weaning happens at about 1/3rd of the way to sexual maturity. With the normal range of sexual maturity this would have children weaning at about 3-9 years old…

Breastfeeding is so ingrained in our biology that having children and NOT breastfeeding or weaning prematurely actually effects our health. Breastfeeding to 13 months or longer decreases mom’s risk of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Or… To put it more accurately… Having children and NOT breastfeeding full-term until at least 13 months INCREASES your risk of autoimmune disorders, since full term breastfeeding is the NORM. Breastfeeding decreases our risk of breast cancer, decreases our children’s risk of childhood cancers, decreases the odds of them landing in the hospital or suffering severe versions of normal childhood illnesses… The list goes on.

If you’re going to jump on the bandwagon and squeal “It’s GROSS!” “It’s PERVERSE!”… Fine. But if you do so around me, expect to be engaged in a quiet non-sensationalized discussion about facts, biological NOT arbitrary weaning milestones, and the negative impact of premature weaning on our society and our children.

I’m not telling anyone to breastfeed until this age. I didn’t breastfeed either of my two older children until that age.

I’m simply asking you politely to refrain from engaging in unsubstantiated attacks upon women that are following the biological and healthful norm of child-led weaning and full-term nursing.

I’m simply challenging you to think before you open your mouth or tap on the keyboard. If something has SO many benefits, and NO documented downsides.. If something has the endorsement of every major health organization… How is it that a mom can be CRITICIZED for doing it?