My View at The Big Latch On – Houston

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This weekend I attended The Global Big Latch On as a mother, a resource person, and an advocate.

So what’s the point of women and their nurslings congregating to breastfeed together at 10:30 a.m. for sixty seconds? (Most of the kids were latched long before and after, of course). First, GBLO wanted to set a new world record for the most children simultaneously latched to breastfeed, and for the most moms simultaneously breastfeeding.

This popular World Breastfeeding Week event also spreads awareness of all the different ways mothers breastfeed (nursing newborns, infants and toddlers, older kids, tandem nursing, adoptive nursing, wet nursing, with various apparatus like nipple shields or SNS, restricted diet nursing, supplementing, and exclusively pumping mothers were counted for the latch, too).

It intends to encourage support networks for families within their communities during the breastfeeding years and beyond.

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I represented Dr. Momma with a Peaceful Parenting table along with my Intact Houston co-director Abbie and helpers Amber, Travis, and The Designated Dad. DrMomma.org has many evidence-based resources about different areas of gentle parenting in childhood, from co-sleeping to babywearing to breastfeeding to genital autonomy and more.

GBLO’s attendees were the perfect audience to receive this encouragement of attachment and the continuum concept, in lieu of common mainstream practices that focus on premature separation.

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Abbie and I met Amber here for the first time in person. It seemed that some people who stopped to chat with us felt Amber’s position in the nursing field (as evidenced by her scrubs) lent special credibility to her advice, especially regarding medical questions.

Most people this year were interested in talking about breastfeeding (given the strong lactivist power in the room, this goes without saying!).

We talked about introducing solid foods (food before one is just for fun), pumping, how breastfed babies generally take the same amounts of milk as they age (because breast milk itself changes in composition as times goes on), nursing on demand (without schedules), breast-sleeping, and where to turn for general support for a few mothers whose family were pressuring them to wean.

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Thanks to Director Abbie Setterbo’s fantastic networking efforts and the generous sponsors for our table this year, we had tons of great freebies to give away. We put stickers on each of the items in hopes that people might be curious to check out the sites later at home for more information.

Besides info cards, we had Breastfeeding Bags with tea, info cards, candy; stickers; Lanolin samples; Lansinoh breast pads; various lactation teas; coupons; nipple butter; breastfeeding journals; pregnancy grab-bags with info cards and snacks perfect to alleviate morning sickness; Calmoseptine samples.

For a donation, we offered lactivist and intactivist bracelets with positive advocacy messages, and Intact Houston decals (we still have some left so PM me here if you want one!).

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Below, behold the gift basket we lovingly put together for the vendor prize giveaway. (Every Latch On participant received a ticket toward the raffle for each latched child. I got two tickets, and won twice! Lucky day!).

It included two Hypnobabies CDs (“Breastfeeding Success” and “Peaceful Sleep For All” tracks), Dr. Momma’s Breastfeeding Moms Info Pack, an Intact Houston car decal, pregnancy and Mother’s Milk teas, a cute mug, sonogram frame, pregnancy journal, lactivist bracelets, and an “Eat Local” onesie.

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We had a side table devoted to circumcision resources. It’s an important consideration many U.S. parents are faced with, though it’s rare that they receive an adequate (if any) education about what foreskin is or does before they’re asked whether they want to excise it from their babies.

The most attention is always given to our frame with the clothespins symbolizing the 117+ newborn boys (I’ve seen other estimates in the 225 range) who die every year in the U.S. alone due this elective, 100% avoidable and unnecessary surgery. Frowns, grimaces, pouted lower lips, expressions of disbelief. I notice them all.

If only those tiny clothespins didn’t have to stand in for whole people who could still be with their families today. If only we could all walk by a peaceful parenting table without having to grimace once. And that is why we must continue to inform, in hopes that one day we’ll no longer need this circumcision side table.

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So, the connection between respecting bodily autonomy and peaceful parenting is self-evident, but what does circumcision have to do with breastfeeding, you wonder?

Written by a nurse with 19 years experience with nursing mothers:

“Breastfeeding is often irreparably damaged by circumcision. At the time of most circumcisions, many mothers and babies are barely getting the hang of breast feeding and the baby is sometimes literally torn off the breast for his journey to the circ room. When he comes back, he is often in shock, in a deep sleep, and unarousable, or so irritable that he is inconsolable and will not take the breast, making the offer of a bottle by a healthcare professional more likely to be accepted. The main thing with getting breastfeeding going is uninterrupted exposure of baby to mother. They are one. Anything not crucial to sustaining life should be avoided. This is a huge concern in the pro-breastfeeding community.”

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I went around to personally visit many of the other vendors when the crowd had died down. I told them about our table and the information we were sharing.

One woman thanked us for being there. She said she had a nine-year-old son, but she “had no idea about any of that” (circumcision) back then. Some others asked how they could get gentle cards into the hands of their own birth clients to help educate without shaming or attacking.

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Amber’s recollections of the interactions below:

“We chatted a bit about the online resources and support groups available for parents who have chosen to keep their sons intact. She was very strong in her feelings against circumcising, so I tried to just inform her of good solid materials to share with friends she was trying to talk with who had questions.”

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“She left her son intact, but wanted clarification on intact care and what to watch for. I told her that [circumcision] should never be a first line of defense and that full retraction may not happen until after 18 years of age or until sexually active and there’s nothing wrong unless sex or arousal is painful.” – Amber

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“She had two sons that were circumcised so she said ‘Hmmm, I guess I don’t need this information because I already did it’ and I said ‘That’s okay, I think it’s still important to know. Do you plan to have more children?’ She said she wasn’t sure, but it was a possibility.

So I talked to her about the functions of the foreskin and that she can always choose to keep her future sons intact and the more we know the more we can advocate and educate other moms who are pregnant with baby boys.

I wanted to let her know that she could still be part of the change, though she never seemed remorseful about having her sons [circumcised], she spent 5-10 minutes with me chatting about her experience and how one was really easy, but the other was pretty bad… I think we planted some seeds and she might start thinking about this differently.” – Amber

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Here, Amber spoke with Caroline Toby, a midwife who works at Ben Taub.

“We talked the most about the need to educate providers and nurses in correct intact care and the functions of the foreskin and need to leave intact rather than circumcise.

She also realized that she hasn’t been as upfront with her patients on the benefits of leaving intact and said she definitely was going to look into how they as a practice can do more educating to the moms rather than just assuming they (the moms) have the same stance on circumcision that they as a group have (which is that it’s not necessary and shouldn’t be done). That just because their patients want a more natural birth doesn’t actually mean they feel the same way about [circumcision] (which has been my experience).”

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“We chatted about how she has conversations with friends to try and educate her friends on benefits of keeping intact, I informed her of the option to send a packet of information from SavingSons.org anonymously to this particular friend who was on the fence/leaning more towards circumcising.

The girl standing to the left in the same photo said ‘she’s the reason my son is intact!’ I was glad to put resources in her hands to further her ability to continue advocating.” – Amber

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The Main Event

This year at GBLO, there were a recorded 17,223 children nursing during the one-minute count (we broke the previous record of last year’s 14,889 latched children!). 17,072 breastfeeding women attended, and there were 46,290 people who came out to registered locations in support of the cause.

That’s a LOT of happy babies, a LOT of empowered mothers, a LOT of nourishing human milk for human babies, and a LOT of nipples being used for their biological purpose!

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