June 29, 2006

The power scares me

Despite Carolyn's rather desperate comments yesterday ( "I will never forgive you if you don't use the blue mouse buttons") I went on and recklessly put the wooden ones on.

Ppswweaterdt

In the end, the commenters who thought that the sweater already had a lot going on convinced me. Those mousies are so cute that I want to put them on something where they will be the stars of the show. (I have also become desperately possessed, thanks to a comment from Marianne, with the idea of finding wooden mouse buttons. Sadly, in this high tech day and age, using my google-fu to enact a search for "mouse buttons" was counter productive. I swear that even as I clicked my mouse on the search that I was thinking of nothing but clothing instead of computers.)

Ppswweatd

The incredible thing is (and now I am starting to frighten even me) that I sewed the buttons on last night, and I learned this morning that a healthy baby boy (8lb 4oz) was born to my neighbour almost instantly. (Less than a four hour labour later.) I have been largely joking about my superstitious belief that I control the arrival of human infants with the mighty power of knitting, but I might have to start taking this more seriously. Clearly, with great power comes great responsibility. I've got to start finishing baby stuff on time this poor lady was due the 21st. (Do you think she hates me?)

In other baby news, Jeanne, who reads the blog and is a knitter, has an idea. She works to promote breastfeeding with low-income families, and is trying to get together gifts to give to families at an event in early August to inspire interest in what the WIC program has to say about breastfeeding. She has had the wonderful idea to give them each a baby/toddler hat (especially a fruit or vegetable hat, since the program is about nutrition) and would love to enlist a few knitters to help her get enough hats.

Most of you know by know that I'm an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) and can imagine that this means that I'm extremely pro-breastfeeding. I'm interested in everything to do with breastfeeding, but I have a special passion for initiatives that serve low income families. In Canada and the US breastfeeding initiation and duration (if you start and how long you stay with it) has a very great deal to do with your income and education. (This effect is very pronounced in the US, likely because of issues surrounding maternity leave, access to health care, and public information) The more money you make and the more education you have, the more likely it is that you will be breastfeeding.

It is alarming to me, extraordinarily alarming, that the people who can least afford to have a child who is more likely to suffer illness, disease and long term consequences, are the very people who aren't being given the information and support that is necessary to lower their kids risks. The disadvantaged child suffers more disadvantages. (This is right up there for me with the whole "rich get richer while the poor get poorer" thing.)

Now, before you all write to me and dump your misplaced guilt ("I tried to breastfeed, I really did" ) let me tell you this. It's really ok.
I respect a woman's right to make decisions about her own baby, and I'm not interested in judging another woman's choices. (It is demeaning to say that you respect and empower women, but only as long as they are making choices you agree with. ) It is a woman's right to decide what she does with her breasts. Period.

It's a nasty trick, this getting women to spend all of their time slagging each other for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding instead of wondering why, when they tried to breastfeed their baby there was no reliable information, no reliable help and not enough time off of work to get the hang well enough to continue, or why women find out after they have decided to feed formula that it is significantly linked with diabetes.

I am frustrated with the culture that does not provide women with proper information about risk, tells us that formula and breastmilk are the same, and forces women through misinformation and poor social constructs, to make decisions that they wouldn't have to make if they had proper help and support. This is a culture where women are bombarded with information and incentive to use formula, because nobody makes any money when you breastfeed.

I'm angry that we know that the infant mortality rate among formula fed babies is higher, but that the US has the worst maternity leave of any developed country in the world. (If I were an American woman, making up 52% of the population, that would be a serious election issue for me.) We know that in countries where breastfeeding is taught properly, supported socially and enabled by proper leave time, the number of women who are able to breastfeed increases drastically, just like the number of car crashes decreases when you teach driving, or the number of knitters increases if you teach knitting. It is a sad state of affairs when we all stand around condemning women for not "choosing" to breastfeed, when the circumstances of their lives often provide little choice at all.

It is simply not possible, in any sort of a way, that Swedish women (who initiate breastfeeding at a rate of 98%) have wonder-breasts, but that American breasts fail miserably...often. The breasts are the same, the women are the same, the fault lies with a culture that does not help women properly, not even those who desperately need and want to nurse their babies. (If you have little money and no health insurance, it should be a priority to minimize your baby's needs to go to the doctor, and to spare you the $1500/year expense of formula.)

Therefore, I think that Jeanne is doing good work in the world. She's increasing breastfeeding among low income families in California, and she's doing it with about 1/100th of the budget that a formula company is using to convince these same families of their point of view. Jeanne is going to be giving away these baby hats during Breastfeeding week, and if you want to help her to make the US a baby-friendlier place, or if you're grateful that you had the resources to nurse your baby, maybe you can knit one (or ten) for her. If you email me, I'll tell you where to send them.

Ps. If you were one of the knitters asking for the Sock pattern yesterday, It's a Socks That Rock pattern from Blue Moon. ("Rock and Weave") and if you contact them, they'll set you up.

Posted by Stephanie at June 29, 2006 12:41 PM