MAYD to Birth: At Your Doorstep

Promoting gentle, empowering mother journies……

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Milk at the 2013 AAPA & HBA Meetings

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Milk, Lactation, & Weaning Presentations at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and Human Biology Association Meetings April 10-13, 2013 in Knoxville, TN.  
primate art by Rob Elliot
see all of the awesomeness at Monkey Mondays

3:15-3:30 Rethinking lifetime reproductive effort in humans: does early weaning provide the fuel to extend the human lifespan? J.M. BRAGG, B. BOGIN, C.W. KUZAWA.
4:15-4:30 Bioactive factors in macaque milk: Relationships with maternal physiology and infant growth. R. BERNSTEIN, H. DROUGHT, M. WECHSLER, K. HINDE.
5:15-5:30 First molar eruption and life history in living wild chimpanzees. T.M. SMITH, Z. MACHANDA, A. BERNARD, R. DONOVAN, A.M. PAPAKYRIKOS, M.N. MULLER, R. WRANGHAM.
Session 36: PRIMATOLOGY: Feeding Ecology, Energy & Nutrition. Ballroom C
4:15-4:30 The meaning of weaning in wild Phayre’s leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus phayrei crepusculus).C. BORRIES, E. LARNEY, A. LU, K. OSSI-LUPO, A. KOENIG.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON Session 51: PRIMATOLOGY: Ecology, Behavior & Flexibility. 200ABC.
1:30-1:45 Weaning in the Virunga mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) – factors causing variation in weaned age. W. ECKARDT, A.W. FLETCHER.
photo by Katie MacKinnon from MPIG

THURSDAY MORNING Session 5: Current Bioarchaeological Research in the Near East and Circum-Mediterranean. Invited Poster Symposium. 200DE.
(9) To wean and to die – childhood life course differentials in Middle Bronze Age Sidon. H. SCHUTKOWSKI, C. THOMAS.
THURSDAY EVENING Plenary Poster Session. 5:30-8PM Session 20: PLENARY POSTERS. Park Concourse.
(22) Longitudinal changes in macronutrient and hormone concentration in orangutan milk during peak lactation. L.A. MILLIGAN, R. BERNSTEIN, L. WRIGHT, H. DROUGHT, C. LEWIS, K. MURTOUGH, M. POWER.
(23) Bioactive factors in milk: comparisons across nonhuman primates and humans. M.L. POWER, J. SCHULKIN, H. DROUGHT, K. HINDE, R.M. BERNSTEIN.
FRIDAY MORNING Session 31: HUMAN BIOLOGY. Park Concourse.
(5) Associations between metabolic hormones and macronutrients in human milk. E.A. QUINN.


37. Concordant maternal-infant immunity among the Ariaal of Kenya. EM Miller, DS McConnell, TW McDade

9:00-9:15 Maternal predictors of human milk leptin levels and associations with infant size. EA Quinn and CW Kuzawa
9:15-9:30 Sex differences in human milk adipocytokine concentrations.  EW Demerath, D Fields

ALSO- Not to be Missed! 
(even though its not about milk)

Session 39
Ethical Practice in Biological Anthropology: 
Continuing the Dialogue
Invited Podium Symposium
Ballroom A. 8AM-Noon

• Ethical practice in biological anthropology: An introduction to the 2013 symposium. M. SAINE, H. SHATTUCK-HEIDORN.
• Applying the Belmont principles to physical anthropology. S. STINSON.
• Ethics of field site management and oversight. K.B. CLANCY.
• Building a code of best practices for field primatology. K.C. MACKINNON, E.P. RILEY.
• Ethical questions in human reproductive ecology. M.W. REICHES.
• Laying the Yanomami to rest: The endless saga of the blood samples. K.M. WEISS.
• Informed consent and building a skeletal sample. K.M. HARTNETT.
• Ethical practices for outdoor anthropological research facilities with willed body donation programs. S.R. MAVROUDAS.
•“Stand fast and suffer long”: The ethics of repatriation. J.T. WATSON, J. MCCLELLAND, T. PITEZEL.
• Ethical challenges for biological anthropologists working in mass fatality contexts. B.J. FIGURA.
• Do biological anthropologists have an ethical obligation to identify themselves as anthropologists? Reflections at the AAPA x AAA intersection. K.B. STRIER.
• Professional publishing and professional ethics in biological anthropology. P.T. ELLISON.

Feel the Fear and Birth Anyway

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This is just a little post to ease me back into the blogging world (thesis finally submitted). As usual, the content is in response to a reoccurring issue and discussions with mothers and midwives. And I welcome your experiences and comments on this topic…

In a backlash against the medicalisation of birth women are beginning to reclaim birth (yay!). Partly thanks to the availability of information via the internet, a counter culture has emerged. Movies, images and stories of empowered birthing mothers circulate through social media – women birthing in beautiful calm environments (usually in water, surrounded by candles), looking like Goddesses whilst gently and quietly ‘breathing’ their baby out. Women are able to see how birth can be, and many are inspired and driven to create a birth experience like those they watch.

Whilst these images can assist in building self-trust for mothers as they approach birth, they do not tell the whole story.

Fear, losing control, and the birth process

Labour is hard work – hence the word ‘labour’ (and I know some people don’t like the word… neither do I). But the work is not just physical, as women birth their babies, they are journeying through a life changing rite of passage into motherhood. At this time a woman is at her most powerful, and her most vulnerable. Historically and globally, childbirth is a time of danger for both mother and baby. Rituals are enacted in an attempt to ensure the safety of mother and baby. The nature of these rituals reflect the culture in which they are enacted. In medicalised cultures these rituals are technological and medical, focussing on surveillance and intervention (Davis-Floyd 2003) – which often create danger but that is a whole other post/s. Regardless of attempts to ensure safety, deep down, like our ancestors we know we step into the unknown during birth. Fear is a normal part of birth. It is normal to fear for yourself and your baby. It is normal to fear the changes that will come when this new person enters your life. It is normal to fear how you will cope/are coping with the enormous physiological changes and sensations in your body.

It is unusual and unhelpful to be extremely fearful throughout labour, and prolonged high levels of adrenaline can reduce contractions and placental blood flow. However, most women experience a point in their labour where they feel out of control, frightened and overwhelmed. Some call this ‘transition’, and it is usually a sign that birth is close. Victor Turner (1987, p.9) described the middle phase of a rite of passage as an ‘undoing, dissolution’ and a ‘decomposition’ [of the self] which is accompanied by the ‘processes of growth, transformation, and the reformulation of old elements in new patterns’. I think this is a good description of the transitional phase of labour. In addition, Michel Odent suggests that the intense fear and sense of ‘losing it’ experienced near the end of labour facilitates the physiological process of birth.

Most women will verbalise their fear, reaching out for reassurance, becoming loud and/or angry… often later apologising for their behaviour. Others remain externally calm, and those around them are oblivious to their turmoil. I have previously written about how women are judged by how they behave in labour. Women who manage to remain calm and serene whilst birthing are admired for maintaining control. In contrast, those who are loud, and appear to ‘lose it’ are considered to be out of control. However, appearing calm, and feeling calm are entirely different things. Only the woman knows what is going on inside her head – and body.

We have created a culture (and birth culture) that seeks to avoid and minimise extreme emotion and pain, and encourages being in control. We use medications and/or skills, methods and techniques to remain in control and dampen the emotions – or at least the expression of those emotions. In some cases women are told that they should not experience fear, or pain, during birth… that these are conditioned feelings and you can control them. I think it is a shame that this powerful aspect of the birth experience remains hidden and suppressed. Birth movies rarely include footage of women visibly ‘losing control’ (are these scenes edited out?). Women rarely share with others their experiences of feeling fearful and out of control – possibly they are worried about being judged, or think that they are unusual.

Getting real – acknowledging fear

I realise that my perspective/suggestions go against many childbirth preparation programs which aim to give women skills and techniques to control their fear (and behaviour). Whilst these techniques can be helpful… particularly during early labour… they are unhelpful for some… particularly during the intense transitional phase of labour. Women have told me they felt like failures because the techniques stopped working for them and they ‘lost it’. One woman recently told me that the practitioner who had taught her the techniques told her she had not done them properly because she felt pain and fear! In addition, suggesting that the baby suffers long-term emotional issues if fear is experienced during labour is unhelpful (seriously, women are told this).

An alternative approach is to open up the discussion about fear and losing control during birth.  Rather than trying to eliminate fear, it seems more helpful to acknowledge it is part of birth (for most) and to embrace it. Some suggestions:

During pregnancy

  • Explore fear – What are you afraid of? Is there anything you can do to help alleviate specific fears (eg. researching, talking, planning)?
  • Reinforce that it is OK if fear surfaces during birth… even if you think you have ‘worked through’ a specific fear during pregnancy it may resurface.
  • If you want to, learn relaxation/coping techniques – these may help, particularly in early labour – but don’t rely on them to work throughout (they might if you are lucky). Also don’t be persuaded that you need to master particular skills to birth well… you already have everything you need within you.
  • Create/plan a safe birth environment where losing control and feeling fear will be OK. Anyone who you plan to have in your birth space should be able to ‘be with’ your fear, and support you through it. You should feel comfortable about losing it in front of them without being judged.

During labour

Get on with birthing – as fear arises let it come, feel it, accept it, and deal with it however you need to (be loud, be angry, be quiet, reach out for reassurance, shut yourself in the toilet, breathe, whatever). It will pass, and you will birth.

D-MER {No, You Are Not Crazy} | Birth…

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Happy Birthday to Birth Boot Camp!

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Wow!  This time last year, we had no idea where Birth Boot Camp would be a year down the road.  Actually, we wrote a great post over at the Birth Boot Camp blog letting you know about our statistics for our first year out of the gate.  This hasn’t been shared anywhere yet, so head on over and check it out.

We have over 30 instructors and 40 more in the wings, representing more than 20 states and 3 countries.

When you head over to the Birth Boot Camp blog, you’ll get to check out our statistics for our LIVE CLASSES and also our ONLINE CLASSES.

On April 1st, we’ll be announcing our 2014 schedule.  Check our blog and the Birth Boot Camp Facebook page for details.  The demand has been overwhelming to bring Birth Boot Camp to different cities, so we are traveling to 3 different cities next year.  We are also in Southern California THIS SEPTEMBER!

If you are interested in becoming an Instructor, apply today.  If you’d like to take a class, visit to find a live instructor.  If there is not an instructor in your area yet, take the 10-week class online.

I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.  Happy 1st birthday Birth Boot Camp!

“You CAN Have an Amazing Birth!” or teach an amazing birth class!

Hathor the Cowgoddess, Year 2007

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The book is here! (it was two e-books before, now it’s all hold-in-your-hand real and everything ;o) Fondle it, caress the cover, fold over the corners, use it as a coaster, leave it on the coffee table for that Aunt that always asks, “Haven’t you weaned yet?” to see. The cover is in full color, the interior is in beautiful full-spectrum black and white, what could be more wonderful?



Buy it here!!!!!!!! 

In 2007, Hathor the Cowgoddess, the heroine of the comics by the same name, was battling an evil bottle-man, the Super-nanny, child-ism, and the term Boob-Nazi. This book is a collection of all the comics and most of the blog posts from that year, lovingly compiled by the author. Oh yeah, it’s also the year that was voted Best Parenting Blog. Only $14.99!!!!!!!

Are you a $5 a month supporter of this site? You can get this book for only $9.99! You can send me an email and I’ll send you a paypal request for money.  ;o)

For those of you who aren’t members, or supporters, please consider joining the site, your memberships and the sales of my books are the only income that these comics make, and I’m always looking for ways to give my members extra love and special treats. More to come!

Finley’s Birth Story – challenges and triumphs

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I have many birth stories on my blog…most of which were written from my point of view. That’s all fine and good, but as you know from reading my blog (I’m sure) – obviously I have a deep passion for what I do and that is going to skew my perspective in telling the stories.

Stories written by the mother are my favorite…it’s their journey, and their point of view of their experience is what is ultimately the most important. Here is a BEAUTIFUL and very detailed story of challenges and triumphs written by an NHBS….
We love you, Kari!! Thank you for letting us be a part of your baby’s story!!!




Broccoli Eater

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I’m working on a series of comics about a statement in this article: Fearless Formula Feeders specifically that rates of breastfeeding are ‘spectacular’ because 19 out of 20 new mothers report that they breastfed at least once. This week I also heard Attachment Parenting called “the dominant parenting philosophy” of our time. This was on a blog post that claimed that mothers who self-identify as a attachment parenting mothers are (sneeringly) ‘tribal’ and ‘insecure’ and ‘aggressive’ and that, it’s tantamount to a mental disorder for someone that’s in a majority, to falsely claim to be in a minority just for the sympathy and the rebellion of it all. Indeed, I was going to do an entire series on THAT bit of freudian logic alone, but when I went back to the blog post the ‘dominant philosophy’ part was taken out. I guess the writer was clued into their hypocrisy by someone, drat them. Truth is, breastfeeders are still a minority of the populace and if you want to say that everyone who has breastfed at least once is a breastfeeder, then yes, we start to look like a majority, but seriously, that’s just on paper. And why do you want to get breastfeeders to look like a majority? So that mothers that don’t breastfeed can get the kudos of speaking truth to power, the sympathy vote? And here you have it, infant formula becomes an act of rebellion. SURE. Oh, and guess what sells? Rebellion sells.

I did some research on why there are a number of ‘parenting philosophers’ calling Attachment Parenting the dominant philosophy. firstly, they’re the ones decrying the philosophy, so I submit to you they are the ‘backlash’, and that they are usually taking money from the formula companies. AND I find they’re talking about an overall and general ‘kids first’ mentality. Yes, and good, if that’s true, then I’m glad that’s the dominant philosophy. I’m concerned that this ‘kids first’ version of Attachment Parenting is often falsely expressed in too much stuff: classes, planned activities, toys, but if putting kids needs out in front is where we are in this world then hallelujah!

Attachment parenting, as far as I’m concerned, is a set of actions, often beginning with natural childbirth (that’s the one that’s not an absolute, as mothers often have no personal control over the birth), exclusive and extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and a general hanging-out with and respecting of kids, that’s attachment parenting. I live in California, in the land of Dr. Sears, and even here it’s obvious AP is not the dominant philosophy. There are no statistics on attachment parenting, that I can find, but exclusive breastfeeding rates are probably okay stand-ins. In the US exclusive breastfeeding rates through three months are 36%, not a majority and NOT a dominant parenting philosophy.

I’m thinking that when ‘parenting philosophers’ claim that attachment parenting is “dominant”, or that breastfeeding rates are ‘spectacular’ they’re trying to falsely place them in a majority and hence place themselves in a minority, definitely a comfortable place to be if you want to get sympathy, inspire rebellion, and ultimately raise funding. Your thoughts?

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I’d also like to point out that this comic is a rare glimpse at my diet almost exclusively chocolate, viva la Broccoli Eaters!!!!

New live, online classes on April 11, 2013

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Timeline Photos

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