Natrel Baboo Toddler Milk Awakens my Inner Lactivist

I write about breastfeeding much less than I used to, probably because I’m not doing it anymore myself. Since my son Jacob weaned nearly a year ago, I don’t spend as much time thinking about it as when it was part of my daily reality. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve turned in my lactivist card. Occasionally, I still encounter something that makes my inner breastfeeding mama stand up and take notice. This happened to me recently when I was walking through my local grocery store, and I came across a new product on the shelves called Natrel Baboo.

Natrel Baboo is a dairy product that claims to be specifically designed for toddlers aged 12-24 months. It’s supposedly easier for toddlers to digest than cow’s milk. It’s sold in tetra paks and ultra high temperature pasteurized, so while it says that it contains fresh milk and no preservatives, it does not require refrigeration. The idea is that Natrel Baboo will somehow ease the weaning process for a toddler, helping them to transition more easily from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk. Right now it’s 30 cents off at the Thrifty Foods near my house, so … score?

Baboo from Natrel

Like I said, the product caught my eye, so I had to check it out more closely. Specifically, I wanted to see what was in this stuff, anyway. But before I got to the ingredients, I got to the marketing message on the back. This sentence extolling Natrel Baboo’s virtues caught my eye:

It is easy to digest because its milk protein closely matches breast milk.

Do you want to know how to irritate a lactivist? Claim that a product which lists “reconstituted ultrafiltered milk permeate” as the first ingredient closely matches breast milk. That really gets our goat. It’s simply not possible to manufacture something that closely matches breast milk. Formula companies do their very best to try, and I commend their efforts to ensure that babies who aren’t exclusively breastfed are receiving the best possible nutrition. But those same formula companies are excluded from making these sorts of claims under the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Natrel Baboo can get away with it, because it is intended for toddlers, who are not covered under the code.

A milk product I saw at the grocery store

There’s something else on the label that really raised my lactivist hackles, and it was this:

Important notice: Breastfeeding is the best method of feeding infants in the first six months of life and is recommended for as long as possible during infancy.

(The italics are mine.)

Natrel Baboo is sold here in Canada, but its makers seem to be unaware that the Canadian Pediatric society recommends that breastfeeding continue up to age two and beyond. That statement clearly implies that at some point during infancy breastfeeding is just going to become impossible. Or, failing that, it suggests that breastfeeding should not continue outside of infancy. I believe that it’s up to every mother and child to set their own breastfeeding schedule. This is not some sort of contest to see who can go on the longest. But many nursing pairs happily continue through toddlerhood, and even into the preschool years. That is perfectly fine – in fact, it’s better than fine – although it means fewer customers for Natrel Baboo, so it’s no surprise they’re not lauding the benefits of nursing during the second year of life, let alone the third or fourth.

Still, most toddlers aren’t breastfeeding here in North America. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that your toddler is already weaned, or never really got started with breastfeeding in the first place. Does that mean that Natrel Baboo is the superior choice? There’s simply no clear evidence to support that claim. Nutritionists and dieticians who worked with Natrel say it has added benefits over whole cow’s milk, but I read an article quoting at least one independent nutritionist who disagrees. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that toddlers who aren’t breastfeeding drink whole cow’s milk or follow-up formula from 12-18 months of age, and whole cow’s milk from 18-24 months of age. All of this seems to suggest that the product is likely unnecessary.

The big difference for Natrel Baboo is the cost – it’s quite a lot more expensive than whole cow’s milk. I’m calling marketing spin. I believe the company is trying to create a need where none exists. Frankly, that ticks my inner lactivist off big time.

Clearly, I’m not a fan of Natrel Baboo, although I do have to admit it comes in a very pretty package. I wonder what you think. Would you buy this for your kids? Why or why not?

Of Babies and Habits

Periodically, I am invited to speak to mom-and-baby groups about breastfeeding. I really enjoy going, and most of the time a lively and engaging discussion results, and the moms who are present share with and learn from each other. I think it’s fabulous. After all, parenting is something you learn on the job. While books and videos and the like can be useful, nothing beats talking it out with other parents in the trenches. It’s especially great if they have children around the same age, so they understand where you’re coming from, and they can remember how they dealt with whatever issue you’re currently encountering.

One of the concerns that always comes up when you get a bunch of new moms together is sleep. It’s totally understandable, because sleep-deprivation is issue number one for many (most? all?) parents of young infants. At some point, we all face a conflict between our need for sleep, and our baby’s desire to party hard, well into the wee hours of the morning. It turns out that newborns can be shockingly inconsiderate when it comes to other people’s desire for a little peace and quiet.

When I was a new mother myself, I read Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small. The book examines how babies are raised in different societies, and how our cultural beliefs and values about children affect our parenting. One of the main things that I took away from the book is that everyone does this parenting thing differently, so I should feel free to follow my own instincts and do my own thing, provided that “my own thing” wasn’t harmful to my child. That point comes into play for me as I listen to parents discuss sleep. There simply isn’t a single right answer when it comes to how much sleep your baby needs at night or during the day or how much sleep you need or how to make it all work.

There are experts who would disagree with me, and lay out set sleep routines and standards based on a baby’s age. Many of these experts are quick to point out that poor infant sleep happens because parents are somehow creating bad habits, which means you’re responsible for your infant’s night-waking. They use terms like “human pacifier” and give dire warnings about the dangers of infant sleep deprivation. The bad habits message doesn’t end with sleep, either. We’re giving our toddlers bad eating habits, teaching our children bad study habits, and we’re creating a whining epidemic, too.

When you have a little baby, and you already feel out of your depth, it doesn’t take much to totally undermine your confidence as a parent. Having an expert tell you that your child has bad habits that will harm them and that it’s probably all your fault will almost certainly take the wind out of your sails. When I had my first child I had no idea what I was doing most of the time, and I felt like I was constantly making mistakes. I would have done pretty much anything that someone suggested to avoid messing up as a parent any more than I already felt I had.

I’m no longer the mother of a newborn, I’m the mother of a three-year-old and a six-year-old. I wouldn’t call myself a seasoned parent, exactly, but I’ve successfully made it through infancy and toddlerhood twice, and I know a thing or two. For instance, I know that if something isn’t working for you, you can always change it. When it comes to sleep, for instance, I have switched things up more times than I can count as my children have grown and their needs and abilities have evolved. I also know that every baby is different, and no two children will respond in exactly the same way to any particular parenting technique. And finally, I know that none of those experts have spent any time in my house, with my kids, navigating my day.

As I said, if you’re not happy with something, you can change it. If you’re so sleep-deprived you can’t see straight, then by all means you should find a solution that works for your family. But the problem I have with dire warnings about bad habits is that they can create fear in someone who was previously totally fine. And these warnings don’t always come from experts – sometimes they come from concerned relatives, or that friend with the miracle baby who somehow does everything right, or random people on the street who feel that you need their parenting wisdom. Once that grain of self-doubt is introduced though, you’re not so fine anymore.

I’ve said this before on this blog, but I think it bears repeating: if your child is healthy, and things are working for you, that’s all that matters. You don’t need to worry that how you respond to your two-month-old will create a lifetime of bad sleep habits. It’s simply not true. Your two-month-old will grow into a four-month-old and a four-year-old and a forty-year-old, and the issues you’re grappling with now will have long since disappeared. Your child will have grown out of their current habits – good, bad and otherwise – and into entirely new ones. And most of the time, this will happen without any input from you, because growing and changing is what kids do best.

When I hear the moms at the mom-and-baby-group beat themselves up because they’re afraid they’re creating bad habits in their children, I just want to give them a hug. And then I want to insist the phrase bad habits never be used in reference to babies and toddlers. New parents already have all the fear they need and more, we don’t need to pile it on even higher.

What do you think? Do you think that warning parents against instilling bad habits in their babies is helpful, or harmful? Do you think that very young babies can even form habits at all? And if you have more than one child, did you see them respond differently to your parenting tips and tricks? I’d love to hear!

Podcast: Wendy Armbruster-Bell of Snugabell

Wendy Armbruster-Bell was born and raised in Coquitlam – the community that I now call home. She lives less than 10 minutes from me, and we’ve been chatting online for years, but it was only recently that we got a chance to meet. She was at a local Momcafe event talking about her experience appearing on the CBC show Dragons’ Den, and I knew I had to attend so that I could finally connect with her in person.

PumpEase hands-free pumping bra snugabell podcast Wendy Armbruster-BellWendy is the mom behind Snugabell, a company that makes breastfeeding products. Most notably, Wendy designed the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra. The idea is that it holds the pump in place so that your hands are free to do other things – type, eat lunch, read a book, whatever suits your fancy. And her bras aren’t what you would describe as vanilla. She uses colourful fabrics and has a very tongue-in-cheek, flirtatious ad campaign. I knew that I wanted to to talk with her and hear more about her and the business she created.

Like me, Wendy has a background in technology. She worked for the phone company as a computer programmer, but she retained a love of fashion. This led her to attend a two-year fashion program at a local college. She started a business making patterns for clothing and other sewn products, and then she had two children. Like a lot of us, having her children changed her focus, and Snugabell was born as a result. During our podcast Wendy told me a lot more about how she got the idea for the PumpEase, and how her business has grown.

Podcast Wendy Armbruster-Bell of SnugabellWendy just recently launched the Toni Top, for pregnancy and breastfeeding, and she’s working on a line of maternity and nursing clothes. During our conversation, I really got the feeling that Wendy has a mission to make moms feel better about themselves. The postpartum period is not a time when we normally feel attractive and desirable. With her colourful pumping bras and flattering nursing tops, Wendy’s trying to bring a little bit of style and fun into a new mom’s life. I think that’s fabulous. Whether someone else ever sees your pumping bra or not, you do, and you deserve something that will make you feel happy.

Wendy and I could have gone on forever. I asked her about her experience on Dragons’ Den, and heard how she introduces her product to people who aren’t familiar with breastfeeding or pumping. I asked what drives her as an entrepreneur, and got the inside scoop on the clothing she’s creating next. Mostly, though, I just got a sense of a mom who’s making her dream into a reality, and nothing’s more inspiring than that. Listen to our full conversation here:

I’m still working on an interview for next week, so I can’t give you a preview. But you won’t want to miss it, so subscribe to the podcast and hear every minute!

Talking to Christine Poirier of Momzelle

What I love best about having a podcast is that it gives me the perfect excuse to email someone I think is cool and say, “Hey, I’d love to chat with you!” It adds a certain air of authority that just asking to pick someone’s brain doesn’t. This is how I found myself interview Christine Poirier, the mom behind Momzelle, a Canadian company that makes fabulous breastfeeding apparel.

Christine Poirier of Momzelle Breastfeeding ApparelChristine is a very creative person. Only a few days after her daughter Cécile was born, she made herself a nursing top so that she could breastfeed anywhere comfortably and confidently. Her midwife loved it and her friends loved it, and her brother Vincent saw the business potential. So when Cécile was nine months old, Christine and Vincent joined forces and co-founded Momzelle. They’ve been growing ever since, and so has their line of breastfeeding apparel.

I had lots of questions for Christine. I asked her what it’s like to work with your brother. I wanted to know if all of the babies on her site are actually breastfeeding (they are), and I was curious as to what a photo shoot with nursing moms looks like. I asked what happened to the original nursing top, and what’s coming up next for Momzelle. Christine was a very good sport, and she told me all about what it’s like to be a mom and an entrepreneur. There are highs and lows, of course, but I get the impression that Christine is right where she’s meant to be. I so enjoyed having the chance to speak with her.

Momzelle Breastfeeding Apparel Flamenco nursing dressThere are some exciting things happening with Momzelle right now. They’re growing all the time, launching new lines and tweaking the ones they have. Christine shared an exciting piece of news with me about what they’ll be doing next. So take the time to listen to the podcast, hear Christine’s answers to all of the questions I asked her, and learn about the mom and the breastfeeding apparel company she built:

It was great chatting with Christine, and I really enjoyed the chance to learn more about Momzelle. I’m just as excited to tell you that next week I’ll be sharing an interview with children’s entertainers Bobs and LoLo. Subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, and you’ll be sure not to miss a thing!

Interview with Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite

I think that the first time I met Melodie she sent me an email, introducing herself as a fellow British Columbia blogger with an interest in breastfeeding and natural parenting. Of course, I had to check out her blog, Breastfeeding Moms Unite! I found someone who was well-spoken, passionate and a strong advocate for causes she believes in.

Breastfeeding Moms Unite Melodie and girls hikingIt didn’t take long for Melodie and I to connect on Twitter and Facebook, and become fast online friends. That online friendship has even translated to a real-life meeting at my house. She was visiting the area and it was entirely too rainy to attempt a park playdate, so she dropped by with her lovely daughters and we had a great visit. I was thrilled to see the real-life person behind the online persona I’d come to know and love. We talked about seeing each other again sometime, and even made plans to be roommates at BlogHer 11.

But then, earlier this year, Melodie decided to stop blogging. It was something that came out of left field for many of us who know and love her, and even Melodie says that she made the decision on the spur of the moment. She was going through some massive changes in her life, and she realized that the time she spent online was no longer working for her family. I understood her decision, and I admired her ability to set personal boundaries, even as I lamented the loss of a blog I loved to visit.

Breastfeeding Moms Unite Melodie's avatarIt’s been more than seven months since she stopped blogging, so I decided to catch up with Melodie and see how things are going. Many of us know first-hand how difficult it is to work from home with small children, leaving us pulled in two different directions. I was curious to see whether Melodie’s decision to dramatically curtail her online activity had worked for her. Did it have the effect she hoped it would? How has her family life changed since she went offline? If she could make different decisions as a beginning blogger now that she’s had this experience, what would they be? Hear all of Melodie’s thoughts on her journey by listening to the podcast:

I’m so grateful to Melodie for taking some time out of her day to speak with me, and I am grateful for the food for thought that she has given me. While I have no plans to stop blogging myself, I can take a page from Melodie’s book and consider what is and isn’t working in my own life, and then act accordingly.

Next week I’m sharing an interview with the sisters behind Bella and Charlie Designs, makers of handmade bibs and baby blankets. They have some exciting celebrity-related news to share. Subscribe to my podcast, and you won’t miss a minute of it!

Chatting with the Chair of La Leche League Canada

As I have mentioned repeatedly on my blog, my daughter Hannah was born at 34 weeks. This led to a number of breastfeeding problems, and unfortunately, not all of them were resolved by the time I left my midwives’ care when she was six weeks old. When I asked my midwife where I could turn for ongoing breastfeeding support when I wouldn’t be seeing her anymore, she suggested La Leche League. So I looked them up and found a group near me, and I went. I found much more than breastfeeding support there – I also found a community of friends.

Over the years since I first visited La Leche League, I have found that mentioning their name in a group often brings mixed reactions. Some people have incredibly warm feelings towards La Leche League, and others have incredibly negative feelings. I suspect that, at least in part, this is because when a woman is struggling with breastfeeding she’s in a very raw place, emotionally. I was, anyway. And when you’re in that situation, every stray comment is taken to heart and etched into your memory. I will never forget some of the things that nurses in the NICU said to me.

I thought it would be a good idea to get some information about La Leche League straight from the organization itself, so I got in touch with Fiona Audy, the Chair of La Leche League Canada. They’re currently celebrating 50 years in Canada, and they’ve recently launched a National Awareness Campaign. You can find out more about that, and the work that La Leche League Canada does, by watching this video:

Fiona has been a leader for over 25 years, and now she serves on the volunteer board, helping to support breastfeeding mothers and their babies all across Canada. I got to hear a little bit more about how she became involved with La Leche League (her first contact story is actually really funny), and I got to hear about how the organization works to help mothers breastfeed. It was great to catch up with her, and get a new perspective on the work that La Leche League does. If you’ve ever had an experience, good or bad, with La Leche League, you’ll want to hear what Fiona has to say.

I am still working to track down my next podcast interview. I have a few leads, but I can’t make any announcements yet. This leads me to ask you a question that I’ve been meaning to ask for a while – is there anyone you’d like me to interview? If you have any suggestions for who you’d like to hear from on the Podcast, leave me a comment and let me know. I can’t make any promises, but I can certainly try!

Chatting with Nonie from Mom’s Breastaurant

Today, I’m happy to bring you the latest edition of the Podcast.

For years, I was a loyal subscriber of Mothering Magazine. When they ceased publication, I was tremendously sad. I looked forward to receiving my copy every month, I tried the recipes, I gained tips, and I felt I was part of a larger community. And it was through an article in Mothering in 2008 that I first learned about Mom’s Breastaurant.

Mom's BreastaurantMom’s Breastaurant is a non-profit organization that provides infant care stations at fairs and large events. It started as a place out of the sun and crowds to breastfeed, and expanded to provide some basic amenities like fans, change tables and some space for older children. They maintain a calendar of where they’re going next on their website, which is worth checking out. Most of their events are in the American West, but they’re expanding and growing all the time.

Nonie Veccia

Image by Tony Juniper

When I connected with Nonie Veccia, the mom behind the breastaurant on Twitter, I knew that I wanted to speak with her. She graciously accepted. I have to say, she is one busy lady. Pretty much every weekend she’s loading up her car and her kids and driving to one event or another. It’s a real labour of love, and she’s doing it on a volunteer basis because she sees a need. In some cases she even has to pay for the space to set up her booth at events she attends. And on top of all that she’s homeschooling her two kiddos and running two businesses.

Nonie and I talked about how Mom’s Breastaurant got its start, what she’s learned since starting it, and what you can do to help bring an infant care station to events near you. I really enjoyed chatting with her, and you can hear what she had to say by listening here:

After speaking to Nonie, I don’t feel quite as busy as I did. Mostly, though, I’m impressed by the lengths she’s gone to in order to make the world a little easier for families of babies and young children to navigate. It’s a story that I’m going to be drawing inspiration from for a long time.

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