August 27, 2010

Choices In Childbirth, by Cathy Daub

At every turn of life, there is a choice to make. When I was pregnant with my daughter, who was a single footling breech, I had to decide whether to go into labor or opt for a Cesarean two weeks before my due date like the doctors advised. I took the time to think about it and decided that there was a chance she could turn in labor. She didn't turn but to this day, I am grateful that I felt the contractions of labor. I will never wonder, "If only I had labored, maybe she would have turned."
I had another choice as to whether or not to go back to work when she was young. I thought about it. I decided that I would never have this opportunity again and wanted to enjoy every minute of it fully, so I stayed home. To this day, I am glad that I did.
Each time I had to make a decision, I took time to think about it. Awareness and expression of thoughts is very important. In BirthWorks classes, birthing parents are given ample opportunity to express their thoughts, fears, and joys. Speaking fears is a way of releasing them. They hear stories from other women who have given birth. They begin to develop a base of current and evidence-based knowledge. This will serve them well when having to make decisions in labor.
In childbirth, women are faced with many decisions such as choosing their birth place, the birth team, positions in labor, and whether or not to accept various medical procedures and/or obstetrical drugs. These decisions will be based on knowledge, love, self-confidence and too often fear.
A fear based thought might sound like, "If the contractions become too painful and I can't take it, I'll request an epidural." A thought based on knowledge and love/self confidence might sound like "If the contractions become too painful, I'll go into the birthing pool and find positions to work with the contractions, and I'll make sounds. Thousands of other women have done this and I can do it too!"
I believe that choices women make in childbirth that are based on fear and/or lack of knowledge, are ones they later live to regret. Choices they make that are based on love and self confidence are usually ones they feel good about in the months and years after birth. Regardless of the choices that women make, I believe one thing- that every choice a woman makes is right for her at that point in time because she is her own best friend. If indeed we are doing our very best at any given point in time, what more can we ask of ourselves than that? It is not anyone's place to judge another person's choice. As childbirth educators, all we can do is offer information in terms of options, and alternatives to expand the available choices open to birthing parents. And we can do one more thing; we can offer them our love.

This is a letter written by our BirthWorks president Cathy Daub for the Summer 2006 Edition of our newsletter.

Please feel free to use our comment section below to post your thoughts and experiences of choices in your own childbirth.

August 20, 2010

We Have A Winner!!!!!

The winner of the BirthWorks T-shirt is (drum roll please):


Congratulations Celeste, you have won a BirthWorks T-shirt. Contact me at to claim your prize!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway. We will be having more giveaways in the future, so be sure to keep following us!

August 18, 2010

Breastfeeding; Not So Pure And Simple

This is a wonderful article written by one our our BirthWorks Educators and Trainers, Joan-e Rapine. This article was also published in our newsletter, vol. 7 issue 3.

Breasfeeding – Not So Pure & Simple
Excerpts from a paper on Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy by Penny Van Esterik (Rutgers, 1989)
By Joan-e Rapine, CCE

The breast-bottle controversy goes far beyond boycotting a product or its manufacturer.
In her book Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy, Penny Van Esterik examines the
controversy from every possible angle and brings up many points to consider, such as the
environment in which many women live, medicalization of infant feeding, turning infant
feeding into a status symbol, and breastfeeding as a feminist issue. As to existing studies,
Van Esterik says: "What is significant is what does not get researched, what questions are
not asked" (16).
It is easy to question people's choices when they have everything available to them and
all resources at their disposal. However, when people live in poverty with limited
resources, if any at all, questioning their decisions would be unfair and inappropriate.
Many people, especially in developing countries, have no choices available to them.
There are women who breastfeed because that's the only choice they have, while others
'choose' not to because of physical and emotional constraints. I have seen families living
in the streets of Lima, Peru – a mother sitting on a dirty old tarp, selling lemons, while
her children take turns at her breast. Children as old as nine or ten were nursing,
probably the only 'meal' available to them that day. That mother may have had no choice
but to breastfeed when her babies were born; she most likely could not afford not to. On
the other hand, there are women who have to earn a living and cannot afford to stay with
their babies and breastfeed (I am referring to women, in developing and developed
countries, who will die of starvation if they do not earn a living). There are also women
who are so malnourished, due to poverty, that they are unable to produce milk. All of
these situations are not a matter of choice, but harsh realities of many women around the
world. Some women live in such inhumane conditions, that they lack the spirit it takes to
protect their infants and do what is best for them. As Van Esterik wrote: "The cold,
damp mountain air blows through the flimsy walls of the shack, chilling Rosa's body and
soul and reducing her will to struggle for her infant sons " (36).
Although technically countries are separately governed, they are part of the "world
system" (55-63), which Van Esterik describes as a "unified hierarchical system" (55). As
long as economy and politics continue to influence all parts of the world, breastfeeding
mothers will face many challenges in their decision-making. "Certainly, …women have
some choices as to how they participate in the world system, but they cannot choose not
to participate in it" (62).
One of the world system's effects is that women living in poverty are not only influenced
by their poor living conditions, but by the aid they receive. When I lived in Guatemala I
helped distribute the monthly shipment of food aid, which provided the local 'poor'
villagers with powdered milk and refined flour, sugar and rice. Not only are these foods
traditionally not used in Guatemala, they provide no nutritional value and may contribute
to weakened immunity and disease. Nursing mothers were the main target of this aid and
many accepted the food articles, believing them to be healthier than their own traditional
rice (unrefined) and beans. Ultimately, it was the nursing infants who suffered from their
mothers' poor nutrition. Other women accepted the food, but did not use it themselves.
Instead, they sold it and used the money to purchase corn, beans, molasses, and
vegetables. It seemed that the more remote the village and the simpler the people lived,
the healthier the choices they made.
Another way the world system affects infant feeding in developing countries is by
allowing companies to advertise formula as the better choice. Most new mothers want
the best for their babies and are easily influenced by advertisements for 'better' ways to
care for their babies. Mothers are convinced that formula is superior to breastmilk and,
despite their poverty, they purchase the pricey infant food. Many mothers cannot afford
to buy the formula regularly and 'stretch' it to make it last longer by diluting it, which of
course deprives the infant of whatever nourishment formula actually has. In addition,
most families lack the means for proper use of formula, such as clean water, refrigeration
and ways to sanitize the bottles and nipples. I have helped treat many bottle-fed babies,
gravely ill with cholera and a variety of parasites whose mothers used unserilized water.
When those mothers were asked to their reasons for not breastfeeding, they usually
replied that they wanted to be like American mothers. Whether American mothers breast
or bottle-feed is not the issue, but what the formula companies are telling mothers in
developing countries.
In addition to being advertised as a superior infant food, artificial infant foods have also
become a status symbol. Since formula can be costly, only wealthy women would be
able to afford it, so when a mother is seen bottle-feeding her infant, it may be easily
assumed that she is wealthy. She now has status. In addition, with the world becoming
more technological, technology equals advancement. When formula is described as
"scientifically designed" and "developed", or as "new and modern" (178), women
wanting to be viewed as advanced would choose formula over 'primitive' breastfeeding.
New mothers are also very vulnerable and have many fears about their ability, or
inability, to breastfeed successfully. One of their greatest fears seems to be having an
insufficient amount of milk. Formula manufacturers take advantage of this fear and
provide a 'solution' in the way of supplementation with formula, which is likely to cause
milk production to decrease. Once the mother's fear has manifested she becomes very
thankful for the supplementation, unaware that it may have been the cause of the problem
in the first place. This makes "infant formula manufacturers… both the cause and the
cure" (128) for the problem. Even well educated women in western societies fall prey to
this game. They fail to recognize formula as the problem, disguised as the solution.
As technology advanced, doctors became an authority on almost everything, including
childbirth, breastfeeding and childrearing. The medical profession has created a
dependency on medicine and doctors by labeling normal conditions as diseased ones and
then creating medications to correct them (112). Infant feeding, too, has fallen under the
jurisdiction of doctors and has 'earned' itself a set of rules and regulations. Mothers are
advised by their doctors on how long and how often they should breastfeed their babies.
Since breastfeeding offers no financial advantage for anyone but the breastfeeding
mother, it is not beneficial to promote it. Unfortunately, the physiological and
psychological benefits do not count when it comes to politics and economy.
I feel that medical doctors have no place in the world of mothers and infants (except for
when true medical assistance is needed). Doctors are trained in treatment of disease, and
pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are normal processes that do not require
treatment. Mothers need guidance and support through patience and love- things most
doctors are not trained in. When a natural process is portrayed as abnormal or diseased, it
is difficult to see it as anything but that. Furthermore, the medical profession has become
partners with infant formula manufacturers (143). This partnership may not be officially
documented, however, they depend on and promote each other. I find it very disturbing
and have lost my trust in the medical profession.
The decision to breastfeed depends on so many factors – some of which are in the
mother's control, but many are not. It seems that world economy and politics play the
biggest role, and while well intending individuals and organizations may focus their
attention on the mothers, perhaps global attention is needed. Van Esterik quotes Dr.
Vicente Navarro, Professor of Public Policy, Sociology and Policy Studies: "The greatest
potential for improving the health of our citizens is not primarily through changes in the
behaviors of individuals, but primarily though changes in the patterns of control,
structure, and behaviors of our economic and political system" (150-1). While
breastfeeding is individual and intimate, it is affected by worldwide factors. Our goal
should be "not to have every woman breastfeed her infant, but to create conditions in
individuals, households, communities, and nations so that every women could" (211). We
must begin to question global environment and its effect on what we eat and breathe. We
must also question world economy and the effect that greed has on our future.
When evaluating the breast-bottle controversy it's easy to get lost in statistics and facts.
However, breastfeeding is a very personal choice and may not always be easily explained
in a scientific factual way. Women "may well find they have no words, models, or
metaphors for expressing this intimate power" (107). This may render the whole issue of
breastfeeding difficult to study on a scientific level because one must rely on truths that
may not be supported by facts. When examining breastfeeding it is important to keep in
mind that "there's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the
truth" (Maya Angelou), and as Van Esterik has conveyed so well in her book, there are
many truths to breastfeeding.

August 13, 2010

BirthWorks Giveaway!

As announced on our Facebook page BirthWorks has recently hit 400 friends on Facebook! To show our gratitude and thanks to our loyal friends, BirthWorks is giving away a t-shirt to one lucky friend! The t-shirt is the BirthWorks Human Values design and comes in blue, yellow, or gray. The winner will be able to choose color and size.

In order to be entered in our giveaway please follow this blog and leave a comment in our comments section below. For some additional entries you may do any or all of the following:

1: Follow us on Twitter
2: Follow us on Facebook
3. Make a facebook post on your facebook page about our giveaway with a link to the blog
4: Tweet about our giveaway with a link to the blog
5. Suggest your friends to become a fan of our face book page

For each additional entry you have done be sure to leave a comment about it so we may enter your name the correct amount of times.

A random winner will be chosen using We will announce the winner on this blog one week from today so be sure to check back. Good Luck!

Thank You for all your support!

August 10, 2010

Workshop Review: Raleigh, North Carolina

The is a lovely review, written by Lauren Farnsworth, of our 2006 North Carolina Childbirth Educator workshop.

The BirthWorks weekend retreat was nothing like I had experienced before. Through guided exercises, we explored feelings and philosophies about birth, discussed our relationships with our mothers, identified feelings of blame and guilt and released grief over past birthing experiences. Unlike other childbirth education workshops, BirthWorks uses emotional exercises and discussions to lift fear and empower the inner voice.

Over three days, I experienced incredible healing. In any other setting it would have taken more time to merely touch the surface of my feelings. By isolating blame and guilt, I was able to work through issues with my daughters birth. I realized that my birth was intended to be what my mother was denied with her children. I felt lifted after expressing grief over my mother's passing as I now explore what it means to be a mother.

Our views about and experiences with childbirth represent so much of who we are. By delving into the emotional realm of birth, I was freed to relinquish pain and hurt that may limit my ability to grow and blossom. The birth of a baby is our re-birth, and how better to enable the metamorphosis than to trust our ability to create.

-Lauren Fransworth

August 6, 2010

Breastfeeding Advice

What is the best advice you received in regards to breastfeeding? If you could share one piece of advice with a new or expectant mother preparing to breastfeed what would it be?

Any products (i.e. lotions, pillows, pumps) or books you would recommend?

We would love for you to participate in an open discussion in our comments section, regarding the questions posted!

August 5, 2010

How long?

How long did you breastfeed for? If you are still breastfeeding when do plan to start weaning? What are your thoughts on extended breastfeeding?

We would love to hear your thoughts on the above questions. We invite you participate in an open discussion in our comments section!

August 4, 2010

Did you have support?

Did you find your friends and family to be supportive of your decision to breastfeed? Was there anyone you found to be not supportive? Did you seek support from an outside source, i.e. La Leche League, Post Partum Doula, Lactation Consultant?

We invite you to participate in an open discussion in our comments section regarding the questions posted.

August 3, 2010

Was it everything you expected?

How did your first few breastfeeding sessions go? Was it harder than you had anticipated? Did you find that breastfeeding came naturally to you or did you find it to be something you needed to work hard to establish?

We would love to hear your thoughts and the experiences you had during the first few days of your journey in breastfeeding. Please feel free to use our comments section to participate in an open discussion based on the questions posted!

Recipe: Lactation Cookies

These delicious cookies are used to help a breastfeeding mother increase her milk supply. They taste great and really work!

If you have any other helpful hints for increasing your supply please feel free to post them in out comments section!



1 C butter
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
4 T water
2 T flaxseed meal (no subs)
2 Lg eggs
1 t vanilla
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
3 C Thick cut oats
1 C Chocolate chips
2 T Brewers Yeast (no substitutions)


Preheat oven at 375.

Mix 2 T of flaxseed meal and water, set aside 3-5 minutes.
Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs.
Stir flaxseed mix into butter mix and add vanilla.
Beat until well blended.
Sift: dry ingredients, except oats and choc chips.
Add butter mix to dry ing.
Stir in the oats and then the choc chips.
Drop on parchmant paper on baking sheet.
Bake 8-12 minutes.

Let cool and ENJOY!

August 2, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Being that BirthWorks is huge supporter of breastfeeding, we would like to take this opportunity to honor one of Mother Nature's greatest gifts.

Each day this week we will be posting a breastfeeding related question and we invite you to use our comments section to post your answers and participate in an open discussion.

We would also like to feature some of our readers "Breastfeeding Stories" throughout the month of August. Just like a birth story the journey of breastfeeding may have it's ups and downs with unexpected twist and outcomes. We would love for you to share with us the experience you have had during your journey through breastfeeding. If you have a story we can feature on here please send it to , with "permission to publish" in the subject line. Please feel free to also share with us any pictures you may have!

Today's question: What did you do or wish you did while pregnant to prepare yourself for breastfeeding? Were there any particular books or classes you took that you would recommend?

Please use our comment section to post your answers