At Long Last….

Baby held in parents' palm

After many years and many promises, Ontario finally has a breast milk bank! This is amazing news for those babies who most need donated milk. Until now, milk for vulnerable babies whose moms were unable to feed them directly had to be shipped in from outside of the province. Now moms in Ontario can donate milk if they have oversupply and this will mean access to donated milk for a much higher number of at-risk babies.  If you need milk, you need to get a prescription in order to access the bank. For more info on that, go here. If you have milk that you would like to donate, please visit this page to find out more.

Every baby deserves the most nutritious food possible and for the vast majority, that food is breastmilk (the only real exception that I know of being babies with galactosemia). Eventually, it would be wonderful to see the system open up to all babies – not just at risk babies – whose moms are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons and who wish to have breastmilk for their babies. This might further encourage the powers-that-be to ensure that all moms are given adequate education and consistent, good quality support so that they can realize their breastfeeding goals. Believing that you can’t breastfeed your child is a frustrating and heartbreaking experience for many women and sadly, in a huge number of cases, support and education are all that stand between breastfeeding success and failure. We can’t continue to let so many moms and babies fall through the cracks, given the tremendous health benefits of breastfeeding and how much it can mean to moms to be able to achieve their goals.

This is the announcement about the milk bank that I received this morning from The Maternal Newborn and Child Health Promotion (MNCHP) Network:

Located at Mount Sinai Hospital, and in partnership with The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Milk Bank collects donated breastmilk from lactating women, pasteurizes it, and distributes it by prescription to medically fragile babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units across Ontario.

The Milk Bank has been developed by some of Canada’s foremost experts in paediatrics and neonatology, including Dr. Shoo Lee, an internationally recognized neonatologist and Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health and an inter-professional clinical team from all three hospitals. The process for creating the Milk Bank included ensuring regulatory approvals for donor milk banking and conducting research about the benefits of donor breastmilk for very low birth weight babies. The safety and quality of donor human milk is the Milk Bank’s top priority, and The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank meets or exceeds all safety standards for donor human milk banking.

Evidence from the medical literature was used to determine the eligibility criteria for babies to receive donor breastmilk. The research determined that providing donor breastmilk to a specific group of infants – preterm or very low birth weight hospitalized babies – can protect them against life-threatening illnesses such as necrotizing enterocolitis and potentially against serious infections and other complications related to preterm birth.

The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank is made possible through the generous support of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Rogers Foundation.

http://milkbankontario.ca/

Birth at the Movies!

I have been absolutely terrible about posting lately – things have been super busy with lots of births, teaching, speaking engagements, event planning and Community Animation at the Centre for Social Innovation. All good things, but I miss having more time to write and share with all of you out there. Hopefully I will have more time soon!

In the meantime…I’m feeling pretty excited about the number of films coming out on the subject of birth these days. I think that the idea of birth as an opportunity for empowerment and birthing rights as a human rights issue are really starting to edge towards the mainstream (have you told someone about doulas today?!) and that these films are a sign of that movement. I thought I’d link to some trailers and things for those of you out there interested in checking out the latest and greatest in birth cinema. Continue reading

Spots Left for Summer/Fall Prenatal!

I still have room for a few more couples in my Summer-Fall Prenatal Series! For more info, see my earlier post here.

This course is ideal for anyone expecting to give birth between late September and December of 2012.

What is a ‘good’ birth?

I am one of the very lucky people in Toronto who gets to work out of the Centre for Social Innovation. This shared workspace is teeming with brilliant, engaged minds belonging to individuals who all want to make the world a better place. Every day I am surrounded by people working in social justice, the environment, food politics, public spaces and other important fields. With such a committed group of people come a lot of shared values and the interest that is fostered between members here is really motivating; everyone truly seems to care about each others’ projects, even when they seem to have very little in common with one’s own. As the only (I think!) doula in the space, people know when they see me packing up and rushing out the door mid-day, or when they don’t see me at all for a couple of days, that I am more than likely supporting a woman in labour. Upon my return I am often warmly greeted with questions like, “Were you at a birth?”, “Did somebody have a baby?”, and sometimes the hardest to answer, “Was it good?”. Continue reading

Summer/Fall Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation

If you are expecting a baby in later summer or fall of 2012 and are looking for prenatal education that works for you, you’re in luck! I am offering a full series of Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) from August 15th to September 19th, 2012. This is a six-week series, Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9:00 pm. People have already started registering for this series – I have, at present, room for four more couples (or singles with a support person). If you are interested in taking my summer course (May 30th to July 4th), there are still a couple of spots available in that series too.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why would I pay for independent prenatal classes when I can just attend the free ones at the hospital?” This is a great question and there are a number of excellent reasons. Continue reading

BirthFire! This Friday!

Just a quick reminder that BirthFire is this Friday, May 11th at Dufferin Grove Park, from 7-9:30pm.

Whether you want to celebrate your birth experience, let go of negative or unwanted feelings about your birth or birth in general, or just support others, we hope you’ll be there!

This event is open to everyone with an interest in birth.

In honour of International Doula Month, sponsored by doulaC.A.R.E.

Birth Tool Review: The Kaya Birth Stool in Action

I recently had the opportunity to try out my brand spankin’ new Kaya Birth Stool while supporting a client throughout her labour and birth. I have been really psyched about the stool ever since I first saw the design on Toronto designer Kara Springer’s website, and I was itching to give it a whirl.

I’ve already written about the stool, in terms of how, theoretically, it could be useful during labour and I am excited to report that it really, really was! Continue reading

Major Milk Makin’ Cookies

This cookie recipe, by Kathleen Major, was recently published in the doulaC.A.R.E. newsletter. I thought some of you might want to give it a try. Delicious and nutritious… whether you’re breastfeeding or not! Check out the info below the recipe on how some of the key ingredients can help with lactation. If you have other recipes that contain these or other known galactagogues, feel free to share them in the comments!

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c. oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 c. almond butter or peanut butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. flax
3 T brewer’s yeast
1/3 c. water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 c. (12oz) chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
In a large bowl, beat almond butter, butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, brewer’s yeast, flax and water until creamy.
Mix in eggs.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Mix in nuts and chocolate chips.
Add oats slowly, mixing along the way.
Place balls of dough onto greased baking sheets or baking stones.

Press down each ball lightly with a fork.

Bake 12 minutes.

Oats are key in boosting milk supply because of the iron they contain that nursing moms need. Oats are also filling, dense with healthy calories and a great source of fiber.
Brewer’s yeast is an ingredient that has also long been thought to increase milk supply. Brewer’s yeast is one of the best natural sources of B vitamins, which are essential to overall health of a nursing mom. Even if milk supply were not impacted by brewer’s yeast, the boost of energy (and increased sugar metabolism) that comes from brewer’s yeast consumption is worth including it in lactation cookies.
The oil from flax seed is considered by many to be a galactagogue (substance that improves lactation). It is also a great form of fiber. And, while it is again debated among those who believe in flax’s galactagogic properties or not, one thing is certain: flax is power packed with omega-3 (essential fatty acids) that are absolutely crucial to a nursing mom’s diet (as well as baby’s diet, and all human health in general). Human milk is super charged with heavy amounts of omega-3 because the brain is dependent on these fatty acids. It is important that a mother not be deficient in omega-3 and risk her baby not getting enough for optimal health, development, and wellbeing. These fatty acids also boost brain function, memory, joint lubrication, and help to regulate hormones and decrease postpartum depression.

Technological ≠ Scientific

There was a really excellent article by Alice Dreger in The Atlantic that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago. The article, entitled The Most Scientific Birth is Often the Least Technological Birth was rightfully celebrated by birth advocates who believe in evidence-based practice as the best way to improve obstetrical outcomes AND maximize satisfaction for individual women with regards to their birth experiences.

A lot of the time – and not just when it comes to birth, though I will be coming back to that topic (of course) shortly – we have a tendency to see things in terms of conflicting pairs, what semioticians call binary opposition. For example Light//Dark, New//Old, Good//Evil, Presence//Absence, Male//Female, Science//Nature, etc. Contemporary communication theory explores the way that these pairings in language are embroiled in how we see and construct our world (i.e. culture). Essentially, we can only understand ‘good’ in the context of its pairing with ‘evil’ for example, or ‘light’ in terms of its relationship to ‘dark’. Without the opposing term we are unable to define either. Driven by the psychological urge to categorize and order our world, we find comfort and satisfaction in these constructs. Unfortunately, as post-structuralist theory demonstrates, in every pair one of the two terms tends to assume dominance (culturally speaking) over the other. Quite often this privileging is determined by prejudicial assumptions of the larger culture (that is, it is often imbued with values that are tainted by ethnocentric or gender-biased perceptions of reality).

So, how is my nerdy fascination with language and culture connected to birth, you ask? Continue reading