Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Breast Intentions – The Cover Explained

Ta-da! I can finally unveil the cover of my new book. After much too-and-fro with the publisher’s design team, we have finally reached a compromise, and here it is:

Now, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this dark and sinister cover would be better suited to a thriller novel rather than a breastfeeding guide – and that’s the point! Breast Intentions is NOT your average breastfeeding manual. The book takes you through the twisted world of mother-upon-mother manipulation, shining a spotlight upon the murkiest inner conflicts inherent within the maternal psyche. 

The cover features a mother clutching her baby. What’s that expression in her eyes.. Concern? Resentment? Guilt? Malice? Well, that’s for you to decide. The mother clearly loves her baby as she holds him close to her bosom, yet there’s tension between the dyad, as well as tension within the mother herself. The cover taps into the postpartum taboo - that motherhood (particularly early motherhood) is not all gurgling babies and exchange of blissful stares. Rather, early motherhood is wrought with tension - with guilt, envy, defensiveness and sabotage.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Anti-Breastfeeding Books - Part Six

Here’s something to rattle your cages: Another trio of anti-breastfeeding books disguised as ‘helpful parenting guides’..

Denise Tiran

At first, I was worried that "Positive Pregnancy" would actually be positive in some fashion. You know, helping women have the safest, healthiest, most fulfilling pregnancy and postpartum experience. Yet the only thing positive about this book, is that it has an end.

Positive Pregnancy would have feminists gnawing at their fists. Got pregnancy backache? Piles? Heartburn? Sciatica? Well, this author thinks you should stop feeling sorry for yourself and spare a thought for the poor menfolk:

"Some men can feel jealous of the baby growing inside you, or neglected if you do not feel well enough to satisfy their needs. It is extremely important to take steps to overcome this – try to find a compromise, talk about the situation and, if necessary, seek professional help. In most cases, if you are in a long term stable relationship, the problem will pass as your pregnancy progresses. However, if you are not aware of any problems, this can be a warning sign for you to obtain appropriate help. Statistics show that a first pregnancy is the time most likely for a man to have an adulterous affair" (p32). 

Ladies, it all hinges on you if your husband has an affair. Neglect him and he will stray – it’s a statistical likelihood, innit. 

Goodness to Betsy! It’s like we’ve been sucked into Stepford and the women’s movement never happened. If you actually make it into labor with your marriage intact, the book’s retrograde attitude continues:

“While you are at home in early labour, he can join you in whatever distraction activities you choose, or he may prefer to wash the car or mow the lawn until you need him” (p110). 

Car washing, lawn mowing. How about shooting a few pheasants? Slaying a bison? This book is as big on gender equality as it is on breastfeeding:

“If you and your partner have decided that breastfeeding does not appeal to you, or if you are returning to work soon after the birth, it can be more convenient and easier to establish formula feeding than breastfeeding. If you have any medical conditions which could be made worse by the exertion of breastfeeding, such as a heart problem, you may be advised to formula feed” (p193).

It’s the same old crumbling white turd: breastfeeding is dispensed with in favour of parental convenience. The risks of not breastfeeding go unmentioned. It appears that facilitating informed choice is not the aim of this book. Rather, mythical hurdles to breastfeeding – employment and medical conditions – are erected. Another common myth is quick to join the party:

“Unlike pregnancy, breastfeeding is the time when you really should be eating for two! Eat plenty of protein foods, vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables, to prevent illness and infections, and drink at least two to three litres of fluid daily” [emphasis hers] (p195).

The Author.
(Clear the stocks!)
There is absolutely NO – zero – nil - nadda – evidence that a nursing mother needs to eat or drink more than she usually would. As long as she eats when hungry and drinks when thirsty, she’s good to go.

First this book tells breastfeeding mothers to ‘eat for two’, then it warns of the following:

“Regular exercise will help you tone up and lose weight but you may not return to your ‘normal’ weight for some time, especially if you are breastfeeding” (p200).

GO FOURTH AND FIGURE. If you’re eating for two when you don’t need to, of course you aren’t going to be shedding the pounds!

Next comes the obligatory lists of the pros and cons of breast and bottle. For the latter, convenience and “being less embarrassed in public” are listed (p13). I shit you not, the book even lists two pros of bottle-feeding for the baby. Yup, this book has boldly gone there. It’s attempted to frame bottle feeding as better for baby. Wanna know what they are? Barrels were well and truly scraped to come up with these:

1. “May establish routine quicker than with breastfeeding”.
2. “Less risk of vitamin K deficiency than with breastfeeding (theoretical)” (p195).

‘Theoretical’...what the..?! If it’s theoretical, then why include it? Oh yes, because you’re scraping barrels looking for positive aspects of bottle feeding for babies. Fact – for the normal baby, there aren’t any.


Hollie Smith

Next up, we have ‘First Time Mum’, which seems to have fallen from a formula feeder convention and can't get up. This book should be appealing simply because it isn't 'Positive Pregnancy',, but alas, no such luck. Whilst ‘Positive Pregnancy’ was at least written by someone with qualifications (a midwife), this specimen of trash was written by a lady called Hollie Smith, a pervasive breastfeeding-basher with zero qualifications in the arena. Despite this training deficit, Hollie has a handful of books under her belt, most of which relegate breastfeeding to an act to be done for no longer than six months (see here), whilst at the same time elevating bottle-feeding to be just as good ‘if done with love’ (see here).

So excuse me if I’m not brimming with optimism when I open Hollie’s latest offering 'First Time Mum', particularly as the first mention of breastfeeding is:

“I don’t mean to be negative about breastfeeding...” (p27).

Total buzzkill.

She continues:

“Twice, I gritted my teeth through the pain of cracked nipples and went on to breastfeed for four months (at which point, admittedly, my commitment foundered – but that’s another story)” (p27).

We’re not talking about an unbiased approach here, and it shows:


So, with the optimism of a parent about to change the diaper of diarrhoea-suffering child, I turn to the Feeding chapter. This leaky turd of a chapter arouses a horrified expression as I am confronted with the large bold-fonted title: “IS HE GETTING ENOUGH MILK FROM ME?”

“You might be worrying about providing enough milk for your baby if you’re breastfeeding. After all, if he’s getting what he needs, how come he seems to constantly want more?” (p70).

How come indeed; He's feeding a lot? Could it be that he’s regulating supply..

“It’s tedious and tiring having to be so committed when the supply-and-demand system is being cranked up” (p70).

Suck it up buttercup. Parenthood isn’t 24/7 Hallmark.

Back cover boo hoo

No wonder Hollie believes breastfeeding is too much hard work, she thinks that in order to get a correct latch you need to go through a two page, 10 step mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine (p28-29).

On the other hand, to give this book its fair-dos, skin to skin is mentioned, along with Fenugreek capsules to aid supply. Yet conversely, the mega supply-boosting practice of baby-mooning is shunned as being in poor taste:

“Oh God, the thought of getting into bed with my baby and staying there for days horrifies me. I would have gone stir crazy” (41).

The inconsistency continues.. Whilst rooming-in is out, pacifiers are most definitely in:

“If your baby isn’t settled, or if he likes to comfort suck and you’d prefer he used something other than a piece of you to do so, you may find that offering him a dummy provides a helpful solution” (p65).

But ‘what about nipple confusion??’ the lactivist in you recoils. Apparently, this threat doesn’t even register on the book’s radar:

“If you want to give your baby a dummy, do. The only main drawback is that at some point you’ll have to take it away” (p66).

Indeed, nipple confusion is completely overlooked. Case in point:

“Some mums find that nipple-shields can really save the day” (p78).

Oh, and while we're talking about artificial nipples, according to Hollie, you'll deffo need to purchase all this gear:


The truth is, if you have this shit 'on standby' as she recommends, and you're giving yourself a one-way ticket to Quitsville. Listen here folks: keep all this paraphernalia out of your home if you seriously want to breastfeed. You wouldn't stockpile cake if you wanted to lose weight. Keeping all potentially-sabotaging items outta hands-reach will give your willpower extra mojo.

On the topic of alien devices, the book's small-ish section on pumping breastmilk recommends:

“It’s a really, really good idea – even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding and very happy with the arrangement – to offer your baby a bottle at quite an early stage if you know you’ll need him to take one in the future, perhaps when you return to work, or maybe when you’ve had enough of breastfeeding and decide to use formula instead” (p81).

A mother should use a bottle even when she plans on feeding exclusively from the source? All together now: ‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!!’

The fact that the author only managed to breastfeed for 4 months becomes painfully apparent by her botched understanding of lactation; 2nd Case In Point:

“You may find a happy compromise in mixed feeding. Although be aware that once you swap a regular breastfeed with a bottle of formula, it won’t take long for your body’s supply and demand system to adapt accordingly. After a while, there’ll be no going back” (p86).

Whilst I appreciate the warning that formula introduction can lower breastmilk supply (correcto!), the assertion that ‘there’ll be no going back’ is utter tosh. Part of the awesomeness of boobs is that they are dynamic: less suckling – less milk, more suckling – more milk! Those girls swing both ways.

If adoptive women can lactate, biological moms can sure as hell recover their full supply after taking a few bottles of formula. Make no mistake, this is a vitally important fact – one that could help a majority of mothers salvage their breastfeeding relationships - yet this fact is commonly neglected or even denied in literature such as this, why?? Because relactation involves arseing about. It involves effort. It interferes with parental convenience. So, let's pretend it doesn't exist to make ourselves feel better.

Whilst we’re discussing convenience, no feeding chapter would be complete without a dip into the wallpaper-paste world of formula. Sadly, as to be expected, the risks of formula are omitted from the book – even the risks of incorrect hygiene:

“It’s easy to get in a bit of a pickle over sterilising rules and regulations, and of course, no-one wants a baby with a poorly tummy. If you’re worried that you’re not being scrupulous enough, you may be reassured to hear that some parents don’t sterilise at all, considering a wash in very hot soapy water or a run through the dishwasher to be sufficient” (p89)


Next, and true to form, this book adopts the same-old oxymoron, all too familiar in parenting books, whereby the author broaches the topic of ‘guilt’ and then asserts that formula feeding mothers shouldn’t feel guilty (go figure!)..

“Please don’t feel guilty about it if you’ve decided to formula feed your baby, or if you end up formula feeding because breastfeeding didn’t work out for you. Sadly, it’s a common reaction. But formula is a perfectly good alternative to breastmilk” (p34).

And just in case you’re hard of hearing, have memory issues or dead, the message is regurgitated later in the book:

“Please don’t feel bad about it (or let anyone else make you feel bad) if a breastfeeding problem turns out to be insurmountable and you end up reaching for the formula instead. It’s a brave woman who battles through potentially toe-curling issues like mastitis or thrush. And if you’re really struggling, remind yourself that what’s best for your baby, may not be the best thing for you. What your baby needs most of all is a happy, pain-free, and non-stressed out mum” (p78).

Translation: ‘Don’t feel guilty or bad if you formula feed. Happy mum – happy baby! Yadda yadda’.

So basically, being non-judgemental is about being vaguely judgemental to people who have a view you don’t like (those who ‘make you feel bad’), then patting yourself on the back for not being as fully judgemental as you could be. Hurrah!

Yet, of course, by linking formula feeding with guilt and bad feelings, the author is solidifying just that – guilt by association. She is implying that formula feeding moms should feel guilt. If guilt was truly irrelevant to formula feeding, it would not keep cropping up in the same sentences.

One of the many boo hoos in this book.

And while we’re looking at oxymoronish comments...

“It’s generally agreed that you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, however often they seem to want to[sic] much” (p31).

Breastfed babies seem to want too much? Where the shit did they learn that? Dang that survival instinct!

Alas, the babies-as-hassle rhetoric is recycled:

“Babies often enjoy chomping on a boob for the comfort factor, long after they’ve actually taken their fill. That combined with the frequency of early feeds means that initially, breastfeeding mums can find themselves amazed (and often, very fed up) by the sheer proportion of their life spent releasing their breasts from their bra. They feel little more than a human milking machine” (p32).

Dude, breastfeeding is but 0.5% of a woman’s life, hardly something to get melodramatic over. Is donating 0.5% of your time over your whole life span really something to get your thong trapped over? When you consider the lifelong health implications for both your child and yourself, it’s a no-brainer. 

'Maternal Selfishness 101'

Next, we’re treated to some specific advice: As you’re a milking machine, remember to stay well-fed, but not with cabbage, cauliflower, or any other farty stuff:

“Colic-causers: Some foods are said to be likely causes for colicky symptoms – strongly flavoured vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, onions, caffeine, what, citrus fruits, dairy products, and anything very spicy are the usual suspects” (p73). what exactly does that leave on the menu? Oh yeah.. Dust. Wonderful. Bon appetite nursing momma!

So far we’ve seen this book regurgitate the ‘mom’s diet causes colic’ rhetoric, the ‘guilt’ rhetoric and the ‘milking machine’ rhetoric. Resurrecting clapped out rhetorical devices is scaremongering propaganda at worst, lazy writing at best. Indeed, rhetoric becomes the core of the ugliness in this book (which is, really, wall-to-wall ugliness). There’s the:

  • ‘Boobs-are-like-bottles’ rhetoric:

“Make sure each breast is completely drained” (p31).

(Note: you can never ‘completely drain’ a breast because mammary glands are constantly synthesizing. The mom who believes that breasts can be ‘empty’ is the mom vulnerable to ‘empty boob syndrome’ – a treacherous state of mind).

  • The ‘Breastfeeding-in-public-eeeeewwww’ rhetoric:

“One drawback of breastfeeding is that you’ll almost certainly have to get your whammers out in front of people you wouldn’t normally: your father-in-law, for instance, and random members of the public” (p76).

  • The ‘Lactating-breasts-eeeeewwww’ rhetoric:

“Sometimes it’s blokes who go off sex after birth. It’s possible he’s a bit turned off by your wobbly belly or leaky breasts: harsh, but potentially true” (p222).

  • The ‘Nursing-moms-need-supplements’ rhetoric:

“Continue taking an ante-natal supplement, if you took one in pregnancy, or buy one specifically for breastfeeding mums, and ask your pharmacist about suitable daily multivitamin drops for your baby” (p75).

The only benefit to come from following this advice is to the supplement manufacturers – who rake in £385 million annually in the UK alone. There’s even evidence that supplements could do more harm than good. So, save your cash people, and simply eat well.

Another well-trotted quagmire commonly seen in parenting books is the push towards early solids introduction, and this book is, alas, no exception:

“The most recent research available suggests that weaning from four months is no more likely to be harmful than if you wait until six months. One 2011 study even flagged up the possibility that some exclusively breastfed babies really do need to get cracking on iron-rich solids a bit before six months, if they’re not to be at risk of problems like iron-deficiency anaemia. (This is unlikely to be an issue for babies who are on formula as it has more iron in it)” (p95).

Research this. Research that. Yes, it’s all well and good using the R word, but where is this research?? The book does not mention it by name, institution or otherwise. There’s no trace of which research is being referred to. It could have been carried out by Dr Who Polytechnic rather than the actual WHO. In fact, that would explain why WHO and the health department of each major government have overlooked this ‘recent research’, standing firm with their 6 month guideline.

As for the iron issue, the fact of the matter is that there is enough iron in breast milk to last an infant until at least 6 months. Just the right amount. Perfect. In fact, recent research (I’m talking 2013 here people) suggests that the iron in formula may actually be making babies ill. This is because many of the bacteria involved in infantile illnesses require iron for growth and replication (for more info, see my article here).

Next, we switch chapters from Feeding to Sleep. I’m suspecting that placing these two chapters side-by-side in the book wasn’t a mistake, as any dedicated breastfeeding-saboteur knows, every parent’s achilles heel is their sleep deprivation. The usual tripwire in such circumstances is to suggest tanking up baby with solids:

The back cover image.
“You might consider – if you’ve been breastfeeding until now – giving formula as his last feed, instead, or maybe if he’s past the four-month point you’ll be tempted to whip up some baby rice and offer that at teatime in the hope of tanking him up” (p125).

Many self-fashioned ‘baby experts’ seem to think that babies should function like adults, suggesting that we tank them up during the day. Such an assumption may be true for us adults, with our large stomachs, but for a small baby with a tiny tummy, it just isn’t realistic or fair.

“Whether it’s a feed, or just your attention that he demands every time to get back to the land of Nod, he doesn’t actually need [her emphasis] it. And if you want to, you can teach him as much, by ceasing to offer what he’s looking for until he gets to the point where he realises he might just as well roll over and go back to sleep again instead” (p126). 

Dude, we're not talking about a husband with a boner here. We're talking about a baby's hunger. This is a sad misunderstanding of babies' needs. The makeup of human breastmilk, with its relatively low fat content compared to other mammals and the speed at which it is digested, means that babies are not designed to spend lengthy periods without suckling. Human babies are meant to be close to our bodies. To use an unfortunately popular term, they are meant to be ‘clingy’, it is in our genetic makeup. Human babies are designed to require constant attention and contact with other human beings because they are unable to look after themselves. Unlike other mammals, they cannot keep themselves warm, move about, or feed themselves until relatively late in life. In other words..

“Bear in mind one really good reason not to invite your baby into your bed: you won’t easily get him out again” (p113).

Ho ho. It’s that old Chrimbo cracker joke again: the co-sleeping teen!

“..So if you do set up a heavy bed-sharing habit, be prepared to initiate a concerted turfing-out campaign, perhaps with the aid of a sleep training technique” (p113).

Oh nadds, I was wondering when sleep training would slink its way into the narrative. Still, what can we expect from a controlled crying fan (p128) and Gina Groupie?

“Gina Ford has a great many fans among mums who swear she helped them to have a contented baby, so it you think it could be the way forward for you, pick up a copy of her book, or check out her website, and give it a go” (p33).

I’ll pass. Shame this mother didn’t:


Denise Robertson

Okay, Denise Roberton, you win. Somehow you've written something more vile, more petulant, and possibly dumber than anything even Gina Ford has ever written. Congratulations.

The title of this book says it all: “Relax, it’s ONLY a baby!” Translation: 'Gawd, don’t sweat it. It’s not like it’s something important'..

I think this book may be a sign of the coming Rapture, or maybe just confirmation that formula company propaganda stretches further than the psyches of unsuspecting moms. In her first chapter, the author, Denise Robertson (a TV granny in her 80s, sans any qualifications), straps medical science to a rocket and fires it into south Lebanon:

“Don’t worry that inability to breastfeed will hinder bonding. It’s the closeness and the holding of the infant during the feeding process that strengthens the link between mother and baby –nd [sic] father and baby, too for the father who bottle-feeds his baby is also forging valuable links. It’s important to share the early days with your partner or willing grandparents” (p24).

Nevermind that breastfeeding actually restructures a mother’s brain; Nevermind that artificial feeding pulls the plug on the evolutionary waltz between moms’ and babies’ bodies; Never-fookin-mind that handing baby to every Tom, Dick and Harry can cultivate attachment issues, this book just wants Granny to have her some hands-on baba action. Obviously, as a granny herself, that’s the author’s prerogative. In the past, such horrible women with their blue-washed hair would have faded into obscurity, cursed to recycle the same tired, childish arguments at their local country club or knitting classes. These days, they get their own slots on morning TV shows. This country is going down the shitter, I tell you.

As we exit chapter 1, it’s worth noting that this book has, thus far, featured ten bottle feeding illustrations and zero breastfeeding illustrations, a suspiciously coddy whiff that gets even more fishy as the book progresses.

We turn to Chapter 2 and see that it is entitled, simply: “Crying” and is a measly four pages long, two of which I have scanned for your viewing pleasure: 

p36 & 37

Yup, that’s right, the book alerts mothers to the apparent fact that their baby may be crying because their breastmilk is - and I quote - “unsatisfactory”, with no explanation for what the heck that means or from what glitch in the matrix the author sprung from. Heck, the text is even accompanied by a little asterisk prompting moms to seek medical help for their malfunctioning mammaries.

..which brings us, not-coincidently, onto the next chapter: “Feeding”. You hear that creaking sound? Sorry. That's just my teeth grinding in anticipation.


In this chapter we’re given the predictable spiel: breast is best but it’s no biggy if you can’t or don’t want to; you’d have probably gotten sore nips anyway; bottle feeding has loads of ‘benefits’; etcetera, etcetera. If, after reading this standard propaganda, you still insist on breastfeeding you’re instructed to block-feed (p43) – a sure recipe for drying up the Milk Bar.

The feeding chapter is only 6 pages long, and quite frankly, that’s a blessing. Especially when you consider that (subliminal messaging intended or not) the bottle image count is now up to 20 now and just one (ONE!) breastfeeding pic (the little sucker measuring precisely 1.3cm - they couldn’t even give us an inch!) We’re only up to page forty five FFS! That’s one boob illustration for every 20 bottles. Sad times, people. Sad times.

Here's just a smattering of what I'm talking about:




p28 and 29




To save you some reading (and me some writing) let’s just say the book is sans any value. It’s utter trash. Oxfam wouldn’t want it for their stores; heck – even my guineas would disown me if I tried to line their cage with it. The thing advocates controlled crying (p58), routines for 4 week olds (p69), and weaning if your baby so much as glances at an edible food source (p92). The author recommends introducing solids at 4 months (p93) and prescribes mush over BLW (p94).

On the topic of extended breastfeeding, the author’s opinion is: How very dare you! (This is actually a pic of the author, no bull, she be judging):

Don’t you know “breastfeeding gets more difficult to stop as your son gets older and can assert his will” (p94).

Well that’s us told.

Spread the word - pin it!

Wanna see the entire fleet of anti-breastfeeding books I've exposed so far? Really, you wanna put yourself through that shit? Okay, you're in luck.. click away:

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Sleep Training Edition

Monday, 25 August 2014

Why Some Lactation Consultants Fail Breastfeeding Mothers

Lactation Consultants are fairy godmothers devoted to mothers and babies, appearing out of nowhere at the crack of a broken nipple or the click of a bad latch, they sprinkling pixie dust upon mothers' nursing dreams. When they impart their wisdom, their words weave a whimsical spell, furnishing a happily ever after for mom and baby. [Insert the sound of vinyl being scratched].

Back in the real world, lactation consultants, like any professional, are not immune to incompetency. No doubt you’ve heard about LCs dishing out faulty advice to an unsuspecting mother, unwittingly sabotaging her breastfeeding efforts. Perhaps after a poke and a prod they diagnose that a mother's milk has ‘dried up’ when in fact it has just regulated; or perhaps they advocate the breast pump as a gage of how much milk a mother is producing. Maybe they suggest formula top-ups, test weighing, block feeding, controlled crying, et cetera; the list of potentially poisonous advice is endless. Could this explain why for every successful breastfeeding story, there are countless failures? Could some fairy godmothers be witches in disguise? One cannot escape the tragic irony that professionals employed for the sole purpose of facilitating breastfeeding, may actually be partaking in its demise.

Why are so many mothers being sabotaged by lactation consultants? Part of the answer lies in one simple fact:

There are two types of lactation consultant

Before I launch into my rant, I need you to read this short story; its relevance will become apparent, trust me:

After receiving the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918, Max Planck went on tour across Germany. Wherever he was invited, he delivered the same lecture on new quantum mechanics. Over time, his chauffeur grew to know it by heart: “It has to be boring giving the same speech each time, Professor Planck. How about I do it for you in Munich? You can sit in the front row and wear my chauffeur’s cap. That’d give us both a bit of variety.” Planck liked the idea, so that evening the driver held a long lecture on quantum mechanics in front of a distinguished audience. Later, a physics professor stood up with a question. The driver recoiled: “Never would I have thought that someone from such an advanced city as Munich would ask such a simple question! My chauffeur will answer it!”

Okay, back to breastfeeding. There are two types of knowledge. First, we have real knowledge. We see it in people who have committed a large amount of time and effort to understanding a topic. The second type is what I am going to call chauffeur knowledge - knowledge from people who have learned to put on a show. Maybe they have a white coat, brandish leaflets, even hold a certificate, but the knowledge they espouse is not their own. They are adhering to a scripted 'medical model' of breastfeeding. They reel off eloquent and technical words as if reading from a script. They are on thin ice, and they know it.

The Medical Model of Breastfeeding Advocacy

Unfortunately for the exhausted and, dare I say, vulnerable new mother, it is difficult to distinguish whether a lactation consultant’s advice derives from real knowledge or from medical model - chauffer - knowledge. A major problem with the dominance of the medical model in defining and dealing with breastfeeding problems is that it carries with it implicit assumptions and explicit practices that isolate the innate physiological characteristics of breastfeeding and pathologize them. Normal breastfeeding behaviour is framed as something to be 'worked out' and 'gotten over' like recovery from an acute illness. Yet many breastfeeding 'problems', such as cluster feeding, have no cure, because they are normal healthy biological processes. This situation is exacerbated by the pertinent issue of misdiagnosis.

Let me tell you about a fascinating, if horrific, phenomenon that has been documented in medical research: Patients who are told they have a pathological condition, for instance high blood pressure, immediately begin to experience more illness-related absenteeism from work, though their physiological condition had not changed from previous months or years - they had simply been labelled as sick. Likewise, when mothers are misdiagnosed as having poor milk supply, many behave in a way coherent with this diagnosis, becoming apathetic and debilitated, behaviour which, in turn, leads to genuine low supply. Dayyyyum!

Another problem with the medical model is that it requires the mother to be passive. It assumes an expert professional serving an inexpert patient and thus relies on a hierarchical relationship based on the former's textbook chauffer knowledge. It focuses on atomized mothers and babies, often placing them in a clinical setting, and then separates them from their social, cultural, and historic contexts. When viewed out of context in this way, mothers' social locations and cultural understandings fade out of view. Professionals, placed in the driving seat, draw upon their chauffer knowledge to access and make sense of the symptoms of a passive mother-baby dyad. What I'm saying is that in the medical model, definitions of what constitute a breastfeeding problem flow from the professional's assumptions and stock knowledge and are imposed on the mother and baby's experience rather than being constructed from it.

Indeed, LC's solutions to problems are frequently narrow medical treatments, for instance drug prescriptions, nipple shields, or more commonly, formula top-ups. It continues to astonish me the respect and trust these perfectly-coiffed script readers enjoy, not to mention the fact that they earn a salary delivering support on a topic some of them can barely fathom. Here is some actual advice given by lactation consultants to new mothers (click to read the details in full):

This list is, of course, anecdotal, and thus only scrapes the surface of global maternal experience. It is however clear from such accounts that many LCs are arguably well-intentioned yet ultimately fail because they have only a limited textbook ‘circle of competence’. They rely solely on their chauffeur knowledge. What lies inside this circle they understand; what lies outside, they may only partially comprehend. When faced with an issue outside the perimeters of their competence, say, helping a sick or severely premature baby to latch, they find their script is lacking and so bluff their way through. For instance, the difference between a baby feeding effectively at the breast and one who is struggling to get milk is obvious - if you know what to look for. However, many lactation consultants with chauffer knowledge don't realise that breastfeeding is different from bottle feeding. So, when they see a baby 'sucking strongly' (usually with his lips pursed and cheeks drawn in), they assume he is feeding effectively. They couldn't be more wrong. Unfortunately, because the medical model of breastfeeding is the dominant go-to paradigm, it informs the view of most lay people. Everyday people often join the professional in seeing any hitch in the breastfeeding journey as analogous to an illness.

So, is there still a place for LCs in our health care system? I'd say certainly, but within narrowly prescribed limits. Rather than being insidious witches in disguise, many current LCs are merely out of their depth, often being devoid of the practical acumen that comes with having breastfed a baby oneself. How can mothers distinguish LCs with chauffer knowledge from those with real knowledge? (And more importantly, should mothers be burdened with this task?) A good way for moms to increase their chances of obtaining genuine quality of care, is to opt for the services of a breastfeeding peer supporter (as an extra bonus, they're normally free).

Whilst a LC is apt to apply a fatalistic 'diagnosis' and 'treat' medical-model approach to the breastfeeding journey, a peer supporter - because she has 'been there' herself - is more likely to adopt a practical needs-based 'manage', 'adapt', 'adjust' and 'cope' approach. By the very nature of being a literal peer, she is inclined towards self-empowerment: a non-hierarchal shift from the medical model of 'power over the mother' to having 'power with the mother'. In a nutshell, what I'm advocating here is mothers working with mothers. The Experienced guiding the Novice. In turn, the Novice herself becomes experienced, and passes that wisdom down to another Novice. This is oldschool stuff my friends, and it works.

...And, while you're chewing that over, all this begs the question: Should Breastfeeding Support Workers Have Successfully Breastfed Themselves?

That's a whole other post!

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Monday, 18 August 2014

100 Things To Do With Just A Pipe Cleaner

Did you know can educate, entertain and exercise your child using just a single pipe cleaner? Oh yes you can! A pipe cleaner is the perfect toy for children of all ages! Don't believe me? Here's 100 reasons why..

Jump to age...

0-2 Years 3-5 Years 6-9 Years 10-13 Years 14-16 Years

0-2 Years:

1. Tickle Stick: 

Use your pipe cleaner as a 'tickle stick' to tickle your baby's feet. For toddlers you can introduce body-part language by tickling different parts and naming them.

2. Zipper Pull:

Toddlers often have problems with their zipper until they develop the fine motor skills. Help your toddler by attaching your pipe cleaner to their zipper. It gives them extra leverage and looks pretty neat too.


3. Pencil Grip:

One of the most important markers of learning to write is using correct pencil grip. Here's where your pipe cleaner can come in handy.


4. Little Chef:

Invite your toddler to act like a chef and use the stick to chop, stir and cook in the kitchen.

5. Defuse a Tantrum:

Toddler approaching meltdown territory? Use your pipe cleaner to explain how people can bend and change when they need to in a situation. Full instructions here.


6. Pipe Cleaner Stethoscope:

Create a pipe cleaner stethoscope for fantasy play. This works best with an extra-long pipe cleaner. Don't worry if you don't have foil for the end, just twist a circular shape.

7. Wiggly Worm:

Here's a simple activity to boost your toddler's fine motor skills. Show them how to twist a pipe cleaner around their index finger. Instant wiggly worm - cute!

Via craftyville

8. Needle Craft:

Create an adorable child-safe needle that you can use for pretend threading. Turn your toddler into a mini tailor.

Via alittlelearningfortwo

9. Microphone:

Invite your child to pretend their pipe cleaner is a microphone and enter them into a 'singing contest'.

10. Hand-Free Microphone:

Now combine singing and dancing! Bend your pipe cleaner into a hand-free microphone so your child can move and sing more easily.

Via busybrissymum

11. Decorate A Tree:

Pimp up a tree either by twisting your pipe cleaner around a branch or by 'hanging' it on like a candycane.

12. It's A Wrap:

Name different body parts for child to see if they can wrap the pipecleaner around it (nose, ear, toe, ankle, wrist, forearm, thumb, etc - great for learning body parts)

3-5 Years:

13. Piggy Tail:

Twist your pipe cleaner into a spiral and pretend it's a pig's tail. Tuck it into your child's pants and let the squealing commence!

14. Cats' Whiskers:

Time to morph into a different animal. This time, if you want to be extra smart-ass you can discuss why cats have whiskers (i.e. to help them navigate their environment).

Via sweetfromtheheart

15. Easy Shamrock:

Show your preschooler how to make a shamrock using just two easy-peasy steps.


16. Flower:

Like the shamrock but more elaborate. Suggest a specific number of petals and see if your child can make them.

17. Xmas Decs: 

Twist your pipe cleaner into a Christmas Decoration. Don't forget to twist a hook on the end so you can hang it up. Beads optional.


18. Bookmark:

Yup, you can make useful stuff out of pipe cleaners, like this epic bookmark.


19. Pipe Cleaner Snail:

Show your child how to create a simple pipe cleaner snail by twisting the pipe cleaner into a spiral.


20. Badass Pipe Cleaner Snail:

Now see if you can make a 3D pipe cleaner snail. That's badass, right there.

21. Hair Band:

Create a pipe cleaner hair band. Simples.

Via creativecoloringsandcrafts

22. Necklace:

Ditto a necklace.

Via creativecoloringsandcrafts

23. Bracelet:

It's easier (and classier) to make a bracelet if you have a few pipe cleaners to hand, but one still looks decent. Beads optional.

24. Air Guitar:

Suggest that your child to use the pipe cleaner as an air guitar. Hilarity guaranteed!

25. Air Drum:

Now demonstrate how to use the pipe cleaner as a drum stick. Just make sure no one important is watching.

26. Magic Wand:

You don't have to go all show-off like the wand below. A simple untwisted pipe cleaner will suffice, Harry Potter style.


27. Shoelace:

Kids' shoes are always coming unlaced. Not if they are made of pipe cleaners! Your pipe cleaner will also be easier for your child to manipulate with their little fingers, making learning to tie shoe laces a doddle!

Via scripps2023

28. Finger Puppet:

Create a finger puppet and then act out a story. When the story's over, unroll your finger puppet and create a different character for a new story! Don't worry if you don't have the equipment to add details (eyes, nose) - your child's imagination is the best equipment.


29. Descriptive Words:

How many words to describe the pipe cleaner can you child name? Furry, Light, Thin, Red, Glitter, Soft, Toy, Stripey, etc. When you feel they are getting stuck, prompt them with various concepts such as length (long, short) or dexterity (flexible, bendy, twisty).

30. Length Lingo:

Take the above activity to the next level with this game. Give your kiddo a pipe cleaner and ask them to make it 'Shorter' (they could bend it in half). Now ask them to make it 'Longer', then 'Shortest', etc. If you have any hair clips to hand you could use it to mark various lengths on the pipe cleaner (see pic below).


31. Cake Toppers:

Create a pipe cleaner cake topper, ideal for birthdays.


32. Learning Letters:

Name a letter and challenge your child to twist their pip cleaner into that latter. Talk about how the letter might be formed. Discus upper and lower case letters.


33. Nifty Numbers: 

As above, but numbers. Genius.


34. Splendid Shapes:

Yup, as above, but shapes. Count the number of sides on your shape. Discuss whether your shape is curved or straight. Older children can locate angles and talk about diameter.


35. Decorate Something:

A pretty pip cleaner bow can bling up even the most mundane of items, and it's great for strengthening fine motor skills.


36. Keyring:

Create a keyring, then use it to attach your keys to your bag, belt, or some place else. You're SO never losing those bad boys again! Added bonus: this activity strengthens fine motor skills.


37. Flick Soccer:

Scrunch your pipe cleaner into a tiny ball and flick it back and worth to your child.

38. Hat For An Egg:

Random, I know, but every egg deserves a hat.


39. Simple Tiara:

Okay, enough with egg hats! Invite your preschooler to construct this simple tiara with triangles.

Via addieplum

40. Fancy Tiara:

Once you've perfected the simple tiara, why not have a bash at this slightly more complex version using spirals.


41. Cat Toy:

Give your pipe cleaner to a cat and watch what happens - guaranteed laughs! (Remember to supervise said cat).

Via therapink

42. Simon Says: 

Challenge your child to make various items. "Simon says.... make a heart!"

43. Hair Clip:

Construct a fancy hair clip. Cute.


44. Turn-Taking:

Encourage your child to converse with this simple activity. Explain to your child that whoever is holding the pipe cleaner is the only person who can speak. Ask your child a simple question such as "What did you do that was fun today?" Hand the pipe cleaner to your child and encourage him/her to respond. Continue to converse using the pipe cleaner. Variations: This is a great activity to use at dinnertime to keep your child's attention on the conversation. Hold the pipe cleaner and begin telling a story,  passing the pipe cleaner to another family member to continue the story. Continue passing the pipe cleaner until the story is finished! Be ready for some interesting twists in the plot!


45. Handmade Christmas Ornaments:

Pipe cleaners make fabulous icicles, doncha know? Beads optional.

Via kid-craft-ideas

46. How Many Legs:

Here's a math activity with a twist (quite literally!) Twist your pipe cleaner into a spider or an octopus and ask 'how many legs'. Can your child create more legs, less legs. Take a leg away by rolling it up - how many left?

47. Cameleon Game:

Discuss cameleons and how they use their skin as camouflage. Create a pip cleaner cameleon with your child and then find an environment for your cameleon to 'blend in'. If your pipe cleaner is green, the garden would be a perfect spot. Of course, your cameleon doesn't have to look as fancy as this fella:


48. Buttonhole:

You don't have to be attending a wedding to look fancy. Jazz up any outfit with a pipe cleaner buttonhole.

Via arthelpline

49. Dip Stick:

Use your pipe cleaner to see how deep a mud puddle is. Now try on a different mud puddle. Which puddle was the deepest?

6-9 Years:

50. Napkin Holder:

Create a napkin holder - perfect for themed parties!

Via arthelpline

51. Silly Spectacles:

Contract wearable spectacles using an extra-long pipe cleaner. Or use multiple pipe cleaners if you have them.


52. Balance Beam:

Use the pipe cleaner as a horizontal line, keep your feet behind the line, and see how far in front of the line you can place your foot, using only one hand to balance yourself.

53. Tricky Tweezers: 

Bend the pipe cleaner to make tweezers and then challenge your child to pick up small, light items. Great for fine motor skills but takes skill to avoid bending the pipe cleaners when attempting to pick up the item.

54. Measuring:

Have your child lay on the floor and then use the pipe cleaner to 'measure' how many pipe cleaners' tall she is.

55. Barbie Coat Hanger:

Twist your pipe cleaner into a cute miniature coat hanger for Barbie's ever-expending wardrobe. Yep, I know, Barbie is evil, so you could always pretend this mini coat hanger is for 'the faries' or something.

56. Barbie Bling:

Use your pipe cleaner to bling up your Barbie (or anyone else if you're a Barbie-hater). Challenge your child to find as many creative ways to pimp up their toys as possible.

Via meandmyshadow

57. Gravity:

Can you get your pipe cleaner to stand up and stay up? Challenge your child to construct elaborate pipe cleaner sculptures that stay standing.

58. Gravity Take 2:

Now that you've got your sculpture to stand, can you make it stand AND rock? The boat below wouldn't work because it is unevenly weighted on one side. See if you can do better.

59. Coaster:

Create a drinks coaster by twisting the pipe cleaner around and around in a tight circle. This works best with a super-long pipe cleaner.

60. Pipe Cleaner Butterfly:

Follow the instructions to create a pip cleaner butterfly. See here.


61. Balancing Act:

Fine tune your preschooler's fine motor skills by inviting them to explore the concept of balancing. First, twist the pipe cleaner into a semi-circle and then challenge your child to 'hang' the pipe cleaner from various locations (this is a lot harder than it looks and requires uber concentration!)


62. Rodent Harness:

I wish I was joking, but this is a genuine suggestion. Create an adjustable harness for small or medium rodents using the step by step instructions here. Just don't tell anyone you did this.


63. Relay Race:

A relay race is a track and field event in which athletes run a pre-set distance carrying a baton before passing it onto the next runner. Use your pipe cleaner as the baton.

64. Fancy 3D Snowballs:

They won't melt, and they look awesome.


65. Palm Cross:

If you're religiously inclined why not create a pipe cleaner palm cross using the step by step instructions here. Discuss the significance of the crucifix to Christians.


66. Flower Power:

Create a pretty pipe cleaner flower using the step by step instructions here. It's harder than it looks!


67. Curtain Tie-Backs:

Use an extra long pipe-cleaner to create a curtain tie-back (beads optional).


68. Conductor's Baton:

Use the pipe cleaner as a conductor's baton and invite your child to sing (when you wave the baton high, they must sing high notes; when you wave it low, they must sing low notes). Now switch roles so your child can be the conductor.

69. Musical Notes:

Carry on with the music theme by using your pipe cleaner to construct musical notes. Now see if you can label them - e.g. Treble clef; Quarter note; Beamed note (see the full range here).

Via flamecreativekids

70. Clock Hands:

Bend the pipe cleaner to symbolise clock hands and take turns making and guessing what the time shown is.

71. Core Workout:

Laying on your back hold the pipe cleaner between your feet. Keep your legs straight and raise them up and pass the pipe cleaner to your hands. Drop your feet back down slowly, then back up, passing the pipe cleaner back to your feet. Continue for 15 repetitions.

72. Stretch:

Sit with feet straight out in front of you and with the pipe cleaner in your hands above your head reach down and stretch as far as you can towards your feet. Put the pipe cleaner down. Reach back up to the top and back down to pick up the pipe cleaner again. Repeat.

73. Sitting Bunny:

Follow the step-by-step instructions to create a cute little bunny, perfect for Easter.


74. Speech Bubbles:

Challenge your child to twist their pip cleaner into various speech bubble shapes, and then invite them to place their speech bubble over a word in the environment (on the page of a book, a sign, a newspaper, etc).

75. Star of David:

Try your hand at creating the Star of David, a Jewish religious symbol. Once made (if you ever get the thing made - it's difficult!) ask your child how many triangles they can identify. Look for big triangles and small triangles.

Via munchkinsandmayhem

76. Twisty Treasure: 

Another elaborate construction - treasure jewels. These look especially spectacular if you have a glittery pipe cleaner.


77. Pipe Cleaner Hunt - With A Twist:

You need a group of kiddos for this game. First, one player begins with the pip cleaner. The other children close their eyes or leave the room while he hides the pipe cleaner and then sits down. Next, the other children return to the room and begin hunting for it. The twist is that they must hunt with their eyes only - no moving around the room allowed - since the pipe cleaner is partially visible. The first player to spot the pipe cleaner sits down on the floor. In this way, the finger avoids letting the other players know where it is. One by one, as the other players see the pipe cleaner, they sit down. When all the players are sitting down (or after a period of a few minutes), the first one who saw the pipe cleaner whispers the whereabouts to the hider. If the hider confirms that the first spotter has found the pipe cleaner, the pipe cleaner is retreived from its hiding place and the first spotter takes a turn as the hider.

..Notice something? You've just inadvertently encouraged your kids to be quiet and sit still. Genius! (Don't say I never gave you anything).

Via DebraWise

78. Who's Got It:

This is another hunting game, so a group of kiddos is required. All players except one sit in a circle. The remaining player, who is the hunter, sits in the middle of the circle. The hunter closes her eyes and slowly counts to ten out loud. Meanwhile, the other players begin passing the pipe cleaner around the circle, keeping it hidden in their hands (you may have to curl it up). When she reaches ten, the hunter opens her eyes and - while the pipe cleaner is still being passed - tries to figure out who has it.

Via DebraWise

10-13 Years:

79. Symmetrical Snowflake:

Challenge your tween to make a snowflake that is symmetrical (very tricky!) Bonus points for adding a hanging hoop.


80. Hairogami:

Use your pipe cleaner to structure an elaborate hairstyle!

81. Braiding:

Enhance your kid's concentration skills and fine motor dexterity by challenging them to 'braid' their pipe cleaner like a rope. You can find detailed instructions here.


82. Complex Heart:

Take your braiding to the next level with this complex heart design.


83. Telephone:

Once your child and their buddies are old enough to control the volume of their voices and keep a secret, they are sure to love this game of mischievous whispers. To play, participants sit in a circle on the floor. One player is chosen to start, and it is his job to come up with (but not say loud) a brief message. "I'm wearing blue underwear" is a good 'un. Whatever the message, the first player holds the pipe cleaner like a telephone and leans over whispering it into the ear of the player to her right. The player then passes the pipe cleaner and whispers the message to the player on his right, and so on until the message makes its way back to the first player.

Via DebraWise

84. Sign Language: 

Use your pipe cleaner to teach sign language!

85. 3D Ring:

A beautiful ring is just a pipe cleaner away.

Via funkypolkadotgiraffe

86. Mega 3D Ring:

Go Lady Gaga with a ring the lady herself would be proud of.


87. Paper Clip:

Transform your pipe cleaner into a paper clip. One useful thing to another!


88. Glam Up Your Bike Wheels:

Decorate a spoke by twisting your pipe cleaner around it. If you have several pip cleaners you could decorate every spoke.


89. Topsy Tail Hair Tool: 

A topsy tail tool is a very helpful object for making specific hairstyles. It helps you in flipping your hair or in pulling it through something like a braid or ponytail to create a new style. Twist your pipe cleaner as show to create a topsy tail that your child can use on their hair to create a multitude of styles!

90.Pipe Cleaner Teddy:

Challenge your tween to follow these elaborate instructions to create a detailed pipe cleaner teddy.


91. Angles:

Explore the mathematical concept of angles with your child. Twist the pipe cleaner to show an angle, for example, 90 degrees, and invite your child to guess the angle. Alternate this activity by saying a number, and inviting your child to twist the pipe cleaner to demonstrate that angle.

92. Drink Charm:

Need wine or drink charms in a pinch so your guests don't mix up their glasses? Don't dash off to the store in a last minute attempt to stock up on charms; simply grab some pipe cleaners from your craft box and get your kid to fashion a few!


93. Pipe Cleaner Skeleton:

Create a pip cleaner skeleton and see if your child can name all the bones correctly.


94. Comedy Hair:

Give yourself comedy hair, just be sure to remove before you step into public.

95. Hair Curler:

Okay, this one is more strategic than the above. Twist damp hair around a pipe cleaner and leave to dry. You'll end up with perm-style curls.

96. Pipe Cleaner Name:

Using a super-long pipe cleaner, challenge your child to create their entire name. This activity mirrors handwriting. The finished item is ideal for labelling personal belongings or using as a bedroom door sign!

Via livingpractically

14-16 Years:

97. Cellphone Stand:

Twist your pipe cleaner in half, then curl over the ends to make a nifty stand for your cellphone or tablet (image below shows paper clip but this activity actually works better with a pipe cleaner!)

98. To Infinity:

The concept of infinity is difficult for even adult to completely understand, but your teen should be old enough now to grasp the basics. Twist your pipe cleaner into the official 'infinity symbol' (below). Explain that infinity is an abstract concept describing something without any limit. Why does your teen think this symbol represents infinity? What things can your teen name that have no beginning and no end? (e.g. a circle).

99. Pipe Cleaner Sandals:

You'll need an extra-long pipe cleaner for these bad boys (or a few regular pipe cleaners will do). Invite your teen to design their own high fashion sandals. For sure, they ain't functional but Tyra Banks would be all over them.

Via jimgottuso

100. Decorate Earrings:

Turn perfectly reasonable-looking earrings into these monstrosities.

What?! I've ran out of ideas. Sue me ;)

Hope y'all enjoyed the timeline. Now, before you depart.. something to bear in mind:

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