Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Busy working

It's been busy around here--we're installing a fence in our backyard and getting ready to leave for France next week. We'll be gone until the end of July. We hope that Zari learns lots of home improvement skills from all of the time she spends in the backpack watching us work.

In the meantime, here's a thought-provoking essay for you to read: "Childhood, Industrialized."
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hands: Father and Daughter

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fun with our camcorder

We were looking into buying a digital camera (the one we use belongs to our company and we have to return it this month), but then we discovered that our new camcorder has a camera function, and it actually takes very nice pictures. Eric took these today, around our house. Plus he snapped this one of Zari right after she woke up from a nap. She looks so big to me in this picture.

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Speaking of weird dreams...

Eric just told me a dream he had 2 nights ago. Here it is almost verbatim as he told it to me:

    Two night ago, Eric dreamt that he was pregnant. He went into labor and had a sudden realization that he hadn’t prepared for it and didn’t know what to do. He was sitting there, realizing he was having contractions, and then he thought “I just need to remember what Rixa taught me—to trust my body.” He closed his eyes and visualized giving birth, taking a deep breath and letting his body relax into the contractions. Soon after, he had one baby, and then another and then another until he had six boys. Afterwards he went to look at the babies. They were lying in these individual cots. They all looked kind of like Beaker from The Muppets with these really long foreheads and a unibrow.
    That beats any of my pregnancy dreams by far! Most of mine, interestingly enough, consisted of me laboring alone, giving birth kneeling or squatting, cradling my baby's head as it emerged, and catching her myself. More true to life, but much less dramatic than Eric's dream. Oh, and my babies usually talked immediately after they were born.

    Here is one of my favorite birth dreams, taken from my journal. It's very spunky:
    For some reason I couldn’t give birth at home, not for health reasons but something else. I think there must have been some sort of disaster and that’s why I couldn’t get home. Anyway there was another woman in labor too and a nurse was leading us to our rooms. It was a very cold, sterile, empty place. I knew I’d be just fine and just wanted to keep the nurse away from me. The other woman was freaking out—drama queen. Anyway I was fine by myself. I had to poop—and knew that probably meant baby was on the way—so I went to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and my baby was crowning. I supported her head as it slowly emerged with my right hand. I felt her slippery, wrinkly head. Very cool. I then used both hands to catch the rest of her body (I didn’t want her to fall into the toilet!). I cuddled her naked body against my own naked chest and, to show the horrified nurse that I was just fine, thank you, I got off the toilet.
    What is the strangest pregnancy dream you have had?
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    Reuters article on Freebirthing

    This just came out today via Reuters: "Freebirthers dismiss fear and bring babies home."

    I like the quote the article ended with, from Mary Siever:
    I can't claim to know why they feel this way, but my belief is that the majority of them -- doctors and health authorities -- truly do not think women are intellectually capable of making their own decisions when it comes to birth.
    I dedicated nearly 4 years of my life to researching and preparing for my birth. This was not a decision made out of selfishness, ignorance, or irresponsibility. I wish that more women would put as much effort into preparing to give birth. The knowledge I have gained over those four years has had a transformative effect on the way I view the world and how I make decisions.

    Giving birth unassisted is not for everyone. But learning about it, and every other birth option, is. More women need to ask "Why do we do the things we do at birth? How can we make it better? Are the practices in my country, or state, or hospital, really necessary? What is the true physiology of birth? How can we facilitate, rather than hinder, the process?"
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    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Request from eve magazine

    I'm forwarding this message on that Laura Shanley posted on MDC...
    I’m passing this along for Sharon Wright, a contributing editor for eve magazine. Sharon and I had a wonderful (hour and a half long!) conversation today, and I think she will do a nice job on the article!

    "My name is Sharon Wright and I'm writing a report on unassisted childbirth for eve magazine in the UK. eve is a stylish, intelligent, monthly magazine aimed at thinking women in their 30s.

    "We are very interested in the whole subject of unassisted childbirth and why and how women choose this path.

    "Would you like to share your experience of having an unassisted childbirth, without a midwife or doctor present? I would be particularly interested in speaking to women in their 30s (like our readers), from any country, who were alone by choice when the baby was born.

    "Alone might mean by yourself in the room, or maybe with a partner close by. I would love to speak to anyone who actually caught their baby themselves! We'd also like to use photographs of you and your lovely baby, to help convey this amazing experience.

    "I can be contacted in the first instance at:

    "With all good wishes and thanks in advance,
    Sharon Wright
    Contributing editor
    eve London"
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    Saturday, May 19, 2007

    Sprinkler fun

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    Welcome baby!

    Another good friend & regular poster here,, just had her baby on Wednesday. You can read a short birth story on MDC, and see some beautiful pictures of the birth. (Pictures are not work-appropriate, by the way. That's basically a given for birth photos!)
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    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Judit's Birth Story

    One of my friends Judit, a regular commenter here, recently had her baby! Read all about it here: Life with Magda.

    (Her story has lots of nude laboring pictures, so it isn't work appropriate, obviously!).

    Judit had considered UC, but felt more drawn to hiring a midwife as her pregnancy progressed. She made her desires for an autonomous, undisturbed birth very clear, and the midwife respected that. I think you'll find her story quite inspiring!

    Some of my favorite parts:
    • her experience getting the baby to turn vertex
    • her descriptions of pain and laboring alone at night
    • how she KNEW she had to get her baby out quickly at the end
    • how baby Magda managed to come on the day of her husband's comprehensive exams: good timing, right??
    Anyway enough of my own commentary. Now go read the birth story!
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    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Two more UC articles

    One from Canada, one from the UK:

    DIY Delivery from The Globe and Mail

    The Women Having "Extreme Births" from Marie Claire

    Note the obligatory disapproving statements from docs and midwives in the first article.

    You might enjoy posting comments--thoughtful, articulate responses would be a nice antidote to some of the people freaking out over the concept!
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    Join me at the Trust Birth Conference

    I will be one of the 30 speakers at the Trust Birth Conference next March in Redondo Beach, CA. It is sponsored by Carla Hartley, founder and director of the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute. I am so excited to speak!!

    I don't have an official program yet, but speakers include Dr. Michel Odent, Dr. John Stevenson (a homebirth physician in Australia), Gail Hart, Dr. Sarah Buckley, Gloria Lemay, Henci Goer, and Sheila Stubbs.

    For more information, email carla @
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    Family Doctor Blog

    I found this fantastic blog several months ago, then lost the address and wasn't sure if I'd ever find it again. Well, here it is: FPMama. She's a family doc who attends hospital births and writes about them. This physician is very respectful of normal birth physiology and does things quite differently than the Standard American Birth (she advocates mother-directed pushing, no mother-baby separation, very hands-off, etc). It's interesting to read how often, this doctor wants her clients to have peaceful, non-interventive, natural births--but the clients demand the medicalized care. It would be a hard place to be in, knowing how certain interventions are likely to lead to less-than-desirable outcomes, but not being able to convince your clients otherwise. The story "A Tale of Two Friends" illustrates this quite well.

    Two of her recent posts are particularly good reads: "The Epidural Queen" and "What If You Never Saw a Birth Like This?"
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    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    How Women Become Mothers

    I just came across this eloquently written article about giving birth, mentioning Ricki Lake's new documentary. It's called "How Women Become Mothers." A great read for Mother's Day.

    And here's an interview with Ricki Lake about her documentary.
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    Home Birth of Triplets

    This is another amazing photo montage of the home birth of triplets, and the babies' first 6 months. When one of the triplets, Lily, was 4 1/2 months old, she contracted RSV and became critically ill. The story of her hospitalization is on this video as well.

    I know this woman from some birth lists I am on. She has requested that you not forward the link without her permission, by the way.

    The first baby was born at 1:26 pm. Ten hours later, the other two were born (11:16 and 11:26 pm). The mother was 36 weeks 4 days pregnant when she went into labor. Pretty incredible.
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    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Home Birth After 3 Cesareans

    A beautiful photo montage of a woman's home birth after 3 c-sections. Her triathlon pictures are so inspiring!

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    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Another UC article

    "Going It Alone," from The Guardian, a UK publication.

    Regarding the study the author referenced, it was about a certain religious sect that rejected any medical care for childbirth. Here is the citation to the original study:
    Kaunitz AM, Spence C, Danielson TS, Rochat RW, Grimes DA. “Perinatal and maternal mortality in a religious group avoiding obstetric care.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1984 Dec 1;150(7):826-31.
    A summer 2003 issue of Midwifery Today had some responses to that study, including these comments:
    Midwives who have been working in the freebirth community for these last 25 years have a different story....Many families choosing unassisted birth are highly educated and responsible; their births are a far cry from those that are unattended for reasons of poverty, distrust in medical attendants or ignorance.
    ~ midwife Jeannine Parvati Baker

    There has never been a study done that consisted of data from planned, unassisted births of healthy women who wanted their babies, were in emotionally and physically supportive environments, were somatically aware and comfortable with their bodies, had full access to health care as they needed it and who made the choice freely and gladly. We really don't know (statistically speaking) what happens when the human body is allowed to give birth instinctively and undisturbed under such conditions.
    Linda Hessel
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    Join the WOMAN challenge

    Join with me in the WOMAN Challenge 2007. Starting on Mother's Day, for National Women's Health Week, the Office on Women's Health will sponsor an 8-week national physical activity challenge. You record your progress in either minutes, miles, or steps per day on a virtual cross-country route of your choice.

    I've started running again after a long hiatus (walking and swimming were my main pregnancy exercises). It feels good! Zari comes for the ride in our Chariot Cougar 1 and Zeke runs alongside me.

    Let's get moving!
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    Calling all Illinois Home Birth Supporters

    News just in regarding the CPM legislation that passed the Senate 51-7 last month in Illinois:

    The bill (which would license Certified Professional Midwives in Illinois) is currently in the House Registration and Regulation committee and seems in danger of being killed. If any of my readers are from Illinois, please get your pens out ASAP! If you don't live in IL, but have friends or family who do, please ask them to participate. Instructions below:
    Dear Homebirth and Midwifery Supporters:

    We have gotten the news that the House Registration and Regulation committee
    intends to kill our bill unless we take additional action. We are considering another amendment, but in the mean time, we need EVERYONE to write a letter to the individuals on the Reg and Reg committee, even if their own Rep is not on that committee. We must produce a packet of letter for each committee member, just bursting with letters from you - the midwives, doctors, doulas, childbirth educators and families who are effected by the homebirth crisis.

    This should be a very simple letter to produce. You can recycle a previously sent letter and just change the date and add a few lines as listed below, or you can start fresh. If starting fresh, please pick up pen and paper, and then read the rest of this email. You'll be done before you know it! These letters should be addressed to “Dear Committee Member:” In the following sentence or two, identify yourself as a homebirth consumer or supporter.

    Next, unless your Rep IS a committee member, indicate that you are not one of their constituents, but that it is your understanding that they represent the interests of all the people, the whole state, when working in committee.

    Express your deep desire to see that your own state Representative is allowed to vote on this matter. Ask the Committee members to PLEASE allow Senate Bill 385, the Midwifery Licensure Act, Senator Haine's bill, to get to the floor so that your Rep can weigh in. If your Rep is a committee member, remind them there are many families in addition to you, many of whom are not their constituents, but are depending upon them to help make homebirth birth safer for them. Give some sort of plea to help the families who choose homebirth have a chance to have a safer experience, or access to all safe maternity care options, or something similar.

    Sign off and send via email to
    If you have a fax machine, please fax to 630.369.2456. Please do not use a cover sheet. If you have no fax, please drop a signed copy in the mail to Coalition for Illinois Midwifery, 901 E. Krage Drive, Addison, IL 60101 PLEASE DON'T DELAY! DO THIS TODAY OR TOMORROW AT LATEST.

    We will take all these letters and distribute them in a packet to the Reg and Reg committee members early next week. WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO GET OUT OF THIS BILL OUT OF COMMITTEE WITH YOUR HELP!!! PLEASE HELP US, please write and help us show the State Medical Society just how strong we are!

    Thank you,
    Rachel Dolan Wickersham, CD, LCCE
    President, Coalition for Illinois Midwifery
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    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Someone's got a bee in his bonnet

    Just when you thought breastfeeding in public was finally becoming a non-issue, we get articles like this one:

    Making Milk Public Controversy.

    Sheesh. Take a chill pill.
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    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    In the news

    About a month ago I was interviewed for this article about unassisted birth that just came out today: "Baby's Day Out." I was interested to see how the article turned out, since so many media reports of unassisted births present it in a sensationalist fashion, often stressing the dangerous or extreme nature of giving birth without a paid professional. There's usually the obligatory quotes from unsupportive midwives and obstetricians (birth can be very dangerous, complications arise frequently and suddenly with catastrophic results). Often the media focuses on things going wrong with an unassisted birth. Scandal sells, right?

    Overall, this article took an in-depth look at unassisted birthing. I was disappointed that the author chose to profile a hospital transfer story as the primary narrative, focused on several scary experiences, and included the all-too-familiar disapproving comments from midwives and OBs. On the other hand he delved into many interesting issues that many other articles have not addressed.

    I got a kick out of my "quotes." I am pretty sure those were not the exact words I used, but hey, it still sounds good, right?

    Articles like this fuel my desire to get my dissertation written and published. I want people to be able to understand unassisted birth, even if they do not ultimately agree with it for their own births. Because even a very thorough reporter who has done many hours of research can misrepresent things. I wonder how much editorial control he had over his article--did the choice to emphasize the sensational and the scary elements come from him, or from higher up? Hmmm...
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    Wednesday, May 02, 2007


    French Onion Soup
    Serves 8

    ¼ c vegetable oil
    5 onions, sliced
    2 cups white wine
    8 cups beef & chicken stock
    salt to taste
    baguette slices, stale or toasted
    grated Swiss, Emmenthal, or Gruyère cheese

    Heat oil on high until almost smoking. Sautée onions for 30 minutes, stirring constantly, or until a deep golden brown. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by 2/3. Add beef stock & salt and simmer for 20 minutes. Spoon soup into oven-proof bowl. Place a slice of bread on top, and sprinkle generously with cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

    Saffron Rice
    Serves 6-8
    This isn’t an official recipe, just something I grew up eating.

    1 onion, chopped
    1 Tbsp butter
    2 cups rice
    ¼ tsp saffron threads
    salt & pepper
    1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Sautée onion in butter until soft and golden. Add rice and cook for 1 minute. Add 4 cups water and saffron and simmer until rice is done. Fluff with a fork and stir in Parmesan cheese.
    Creamy Herbed Pork Chops
    Serves 4

    4 boneless pork chops
    1 Tbsp butter
    2 finely chopped medium carrots (tiny cubes, ¼” or smaller)
    1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    2 tsp flour
    ½ tsp dried tarragon
    ½ tsp beef bouillon
    ¼ tsp pepper
    2/3 cup half & half
    2 tbsp white wine or water

    Trim fat from meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat butter in a large skillet and cook the pork chops over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn chops and cook 5-7 minutes, until no pink remains. Repeat with all of the chops & butter.

    When cooking the last batch of chops, add the carrots after turning the chops. Remove chops & keep them warm, reserving drippings and carrot in the pan. Add parsley, flour, tarragon, bouillon, and pepper into drippings and carrot. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Stir in wine or water.

    Serve chops with sauce poured over the top.
    Leek and Chèvre Quiche
    Makes 1 large quiche

    2 Tbsp butter
    3 medium eeks (use white part and a few inches of the light green), sliced 1/2" thick
    1 Tbsp flour
    1 pastry shell
    2 oz goat cheese
    2 eggs
    ½ cup light cream or half & half

    In a large skillet, melt the butter, and cook the leeks over moderate heat for 5 minutes, until just soft. Sprinkle with flour and toss. Spoon the leeks into the pie shell.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the cheese, eggs, and cream. Season with salt & pepper to taste, and pour over the leeks.

    Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and firm to the touch.
    Note: you might need to add more eggs & cream if there's not enough liquid--it depends on how big your tart pan is. I have a 10" tart pan and often double the amount of eggs & cream.

    Pastry Shell
    (for 1 large or 2 small tart pans)

    1 stick butter (1/2 cup) cut into pieces
    1 generous cup flour
    pinch of salt
    2 Tbsp cold water

    In a food processor, blend flour, butter, and salt until completely mixed. Add water all at once and blend until the mixture forms a ball. Switch off the machine as soon as the dough form a ball.
    (Optional step, but it does help: wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out).

    Country Tomato Bisque
    Serves 8-10

    4 Tbsp butter
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    3 stalks celery, chopped
    3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
    2 onions, chopped
    3 zucchini, chopped
    4 Tbsp flour
    2 28-oz (or 4 14-oz) cans diced tomatoes with juices
    3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
    2 Tbsp brown sugar 1 tsp salt
    1 tsp dried basil
    1 tsp dried marjoram
    2 bay leaves
    2 cups half & half
    grated Cheddar cheese
    sunflower seeds

    Melt butter in large soup pot. Stir in garlic, celery, carrots, onions, and zucchini until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Blend in flour. Add tomatoes, broth, sugar, salt, basil, marjoram, and bay leaves. Heat to boiling. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaves. Puree mixture in a blender in small batches until smooth. Pour in half & half and stir. Garnish with grated Cheddar cheese and sunflower seeds.

    Make small, golf-ball sized cream puffs. Fill with whipped cream (using compressed cream in cans). Spoon creme anglaise onto a small dessert plate. Put 3-4 cream puffs on the plate, and drizzle with chocolate ganache.

    Chocolate Ganache
    1 cup 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips (Ghardelli makes these)
    1 cup heavy cream

    Gently melt chocolate and cream, either in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add more chocolate if the sauce is too runny

    Crème Anglaise
    1 cup heavy cream
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean)
    4 egg yolks
    1/3 cup sugar

    In a small, heavy saucepan, heat cream and vanilla until bubbles form at edges. While cream is heating, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

    Crème Brûlée
    serves 8

    3 c. heavy cream
    1 vanilla bean, halved lenthwise, or 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    6 large egg yolks
    1/3 c. granulated sugar
    pinch of salt
    turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw) for the top

    Preheat oven to 350.
    Pour cream into heavy 2-quart saucepan. Using tip of a knife, scrape seeds from the vanilla bean, if using, into the cream and add pod (if using vanilla extract do not add yet). Heat cream over moderate heat until hot but not boiling; remove from heat and discard the pod.

    Whisk together yolk, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly until combined. Add vanilla extract (if using).

    Arrange 8 ramekins in a roasting pan and add enough boiling water to reach half-way up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are set, 25-30 minutes. With tongs transfer custard to a rack to cool, then refrigerate for a least 4 hours.

    Just before serving sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over custards. Move blowtorch flame evenly back and forth close to sugar until caramelized. (Can also do this in the broiler if you don't have a creme brulee torch). Let sugar stand until hardened.
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    Please participate

    I am closing my research surveys for my dissertation at the end of May. Please participate if you have not already filled one or more out!

    The surveys cover a variety of topics: home birth, unassisted birth, what kinds of birth-related literature you read, how you define intuition, etc.

    Click here to visit my dissertation project and surveys.

    I am also looking for UCers to interview over the phone, including those of you currently planning an unassisted birth. Email me at @ if you are interested, and we can talk about confidentiality, informed consent procedures, etc.
    Read more ...

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    Cooking up a storm

    I am hosting an etiquette dinner tomorrow night for the teenagers in our church. We do this once a year to teach them proper table manners (and to eat a fantastic meal!). I hosted it last year as well. I love doing it because I get to plan the menus. I do a good part of the cooking, but have to farm some of the dishes out to the teenagers and their families.

    Can you tell I like French food? Most of these recipes are from various French cookbooks.

    This year’s menu:

    French onion soup
    Leek & goat cheese quiche
    Creamy herbed pork chops
    Saffron rice
    Steamed broccoli
    Cream puffs filled with whipped cream in a bed of crème anglaise,
    drizzled with dark chocolate sauce

    Last year's menu:

    Country Tomato Bisque
    Chicken in Chive Cream Sauce
    Steamed miniature golden potatoes
    Crème Brulée

    Read more ...

    What are you doing?

    We've had several discussions recently about breastfeeding and formula. A commenter left these remarks a few days ago, in response to "Bottle Feeding":
    When I had the twins however, no matter my effort and determination I just didn't have enough milk! I persisted and persisted until I finally brokedown emotionally because of the incredible guilt I felt as you are always told 'breast is best'. One of the twins was not gaining weight so I ended up bottle feeding them and they are both really chubby, healthy, happy and bright. I felt so angry that the pressure to breastfeed caused me to go through so much emotional pain and guilt.
    This got me to thinking--we have a big problem for moms who desire to feed their children breast milk but cannot for whatever reasons. They generally have no alternatives but to formula feed.

    Breast milk should be freely available to any mother who needs it. After all, formula is not the next-best alternative to nursing your baby. It is last on a list of four options, from best to worst:
    1. Direct breastfeeding
    2. Expressed breast milk from the baby's mother
    3. Expressed breast milk from a donor
    4. Formula

    As many of my readers know, I am pumping milk for a mom who is going to adopt a baby. Before I found her, I looked into donating via Milk Share.

    You could give your milk, or money, to milk sharing organizations. You could donate to a milk bank (for-profit or non-profit). You could write to formula companies asking them not to advertise their products, as they had agreed to do in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. You could write to your local hospital and request that they establish a milk bank so that every new mother has access to human milk. You could write to your insurance company requesting that they cover breast milk from milk banks. You could pump milk, or offer to cross-nurse, for a friend who is struggling with her milk supply.

    So my question is: what are YOU doing to remedy this situation?
    Read more ...
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