Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weaning daughters & homebirth comics

Here are a few items of interest that I ran across today.

The first, via MamaPundit, who grabbed it from Strollerderby, who spotted it on Freakonomics (hope I got my chain right there), is a working paper by Seema Jayachandran and Ilyana Kuziemko [PDF link] offering another explanation for why India has fewer girls than boys in its population: early weaning of daughters.

"Jayachandran and Kuziemko argue that women with a preference for male children may wean daughters earlier in the hopes of restoring their fertility and conceiving a son, resulting in worse health outcomes for girls."

In developing countries especially, breastfeeding protects against disease and mortality in infancy, so daughters are suffering from the mothers' efforts to stop breastfeeding in order to conceive again.

Commenters also suggest another reason that girls are weaned sooner might be out of disappointment on the part of the mothers and, therefore, emotional distancing. Purely suppositional, but both theories are disturbing.


In an opinion piece for an online newspaper, a woman lamented that her paltry two months of maternity leave were not nearly enough to establish successful and long-term breastfeeding, and that she regretted that the necessity to go back to work interfered with her daughter's health and with mother-infant bonding. I figured it was another American, what with our super-crappy short and unpaid maternity leave policies, but it turns out it's written by a Ugandan. This reinforces my perspective that we need mothering and breastfeeding's value boosted the world over.


And now a couple cheerier ones...

As I was bopping around Babble, I came across this awesome comic strip of a home birth, titled, appropriately enough, "My Home Birth" as told by Christen Clifford and drawn by David Heatley. Click on the first panel to enlarge it, and then hover your mouse over the right-hand side to click on "Next" to get to the next (well, duh, I know) panel. I don't know about you, but I love reading me some birth stories, especially good home-birth ones. But sometimes people write really long or don't have good pictures (guilty here, on both counts! I'm wordy as all heck, and we sort of dropped the ball on photography during the 42 hours of back labor...). Sometimes the pictures go the other way, being all-out graphic, which I actually do appreciate, but sometimes not, like if I'm trying to eat a Sloppy Joe or something. Don't get me wrong — I still love crazy long and detailed birth stories with close-up shots of perineums (don't stop posting them, you lovely birthers!), but it was refreshing to read this brief graphic one, enjoy the slight artistic distance of illustrated nakedness, and kick back with the humor.

I've included my favorite box here, where she refers to her angry, kicking self as a "roving Neanderthal." I am quite modest and reserved in real life, but during birth it was like I just had to exist, as an animal, a birthing animal. I flung off clothing. I made sounds. I was emotional. I just was. And I try not to be embarrassed about that.

Speaking of unembarrassed, check out the author photo of Christen Clifford: nekkid as a (pregnant) jaybird except for boots. She's also someone who practices public pumping. I love bold people.


In other hopeful news, there's an alternative to the formula-sample bag of "goodies" the hospital sends home with new mothers. The Cottonwood Kids Healthy Baby Bounty Bag (what? I didn't name it) contains breastfeeding-friendly samples and educational information. I wouldn't really care so much, only it sounds pretty sweet:

“Our new Healthy Baby Bounty Bags contain 100% breastfeeding support and natural product samples, coupons, resources, and more, from top brands including Lansinoh, Bravado, and Seventh Generation. We’re working with leading hospital birth centers to send a clear message about the benefits of breastfeeding, embracing the medical community’s endorsement of breastfeeding for healthier babies.”

Those are good brands to identify with, so I'll go ahead and support the idea. The bags are WHO Code compliant, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding and with no nipple substitutes, bottles, or formula samples included, and the company was started by a dad of three girls (who apparently did not feel his daughters deserved early weaning...).

The breastfeeding-friendly hospital I birthed at avoided the issue by just not handing out goodie bags at all. I walked away with a swaddling blanket, brochures on breastfeeding and pumping, and a couple pairs of those mesh undies that hold in the industrial-size pads. Those things are preeetty sexy. They also gave me — go figure — formula. Because my son clearly needed it. Oh, wait, no, he didn't. Sigh. I would gladly have taken some Lansinoh lanolin or some Bravado bra coupons instead.


Lisa C said...

I love the comic. She makes light of psychoanalyzing herself during labor, but in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, she says it can help you open up if you acknowledge your anger, fears or anxieties during labor.

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty lucky because my breastfeeding-friendly hospital gave us a box full of gourmet snacks as well as anything we needed for breastfeeding, including pump parts, lanolin, and those things you stick on your sore nipples to make them feel better. NO FORMULA, except for one little two ounce bottle because my milk wasn't in yet and he had just come out of the NICU.

Melodie said...

Re: Lansinoh. They aren't as WHo Code compliant as you think. I JUST found out myself this weekend - right smack dab in the middle of doing a review for them. And while they do specifically make products for breastfeeding moms and breastfed babies, and great ones at that, they sold themselves out to Pigeon in 2004 - a flagrant WHO Code violator. For the whole story and a ton of links you can go here.

Lauren Wayne said...

Lisa: I remember analyzing myself during labor, too. It was such a weird mix of being completely out of it, in a hypnotic sort of way, and being completely present, because where else could I be? I couldn't distract myself like in "normal" life. Love Ina May's Guide! And your hospital's care package sounds lovely.

Melodie: Bummer about Lansinoh. Thanks for the heads-up and for the link. That's so sad. I actually used store-brand lanolin, but I imagine that's even worse! I remember when my mom gave birth to my little brother, the hospital gave her a big tub of lanolin that was just...I don't know, a big tub of lanolin, no brand at all. I wonder if any hospitals do that anymore? I remember she would offer it to me for dry skin and I didn't like it because it stank like wet sheep!

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