Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time

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Born Hungry: Part III

Are you still there? Thanks to my readers for sticking with me. 🙂 In my first post, Born Hungry Part I, I summarized my experience breastfeeding my daughter (MD). I discussed the multiple problems we encountered, things we tried, what worked and what didn’t, and the outcome. And the guilt and frustration of it all.

In Born Hungry Part II, I summarized how with my son (LM) I unwillingly relived aspects of my first breastfeeding experience. I discussed what went wrong this time, what went right, how I made peace with it all and how things are going now.

In this final post on this topic, I’m going to dig through some family history, and make the environmental connection to breastfeeding difficulties, bringing this blog full circle, in a way.

If you read both of my previous posts on these topics, I salute you. There was a lot there. That was after I had condensed some timelines and removed some sections to improve the flow.

There was a lot I didn’t get to talk about. Like how at about three months MD and I had a breastfeeding breakthrough (she was nursing, looked up at me, unlatched and cooed and smiled at me) which is what made me want to pick it up again.

I didn’t talk about how I bought an SNS, but ultimately ended up not using it because every time I looked at it the thought of cleaning it 8 times a day made me want to throw up. (I salute any woman who has tried this contraption).


I didn’t talk about how my iron should likely have been tested as well as my thyroid. I’ve always struggled keeping my iron up and it was probably lower than it should have been after giving birth due to the extra blood loss. Some of the symptoms I experienced (cold all the time, extreme fatigue) were certainly consistent with anemia, which could have impacted milk production.

I didn’t talk about how nursing sessions with both my children would regularly last for an hour or more. I didn’t learn until later that this can be normal See Frequent Nursing. It just felt like my milk was made of water.

I didn’t rant about jaundice, how we’re not provided with enough information about it; how our parents’ generation were taught to fear it; how PHNs tell us not to worry about it; and how if it’s only tested once in the hospital how the heck do we even know what the levels are in our baby.

I didn’t talk about how I think there should be more research done on breastfeeding science. I didn’t get a chance to review much of the primary litterature, though from what I have read it seems most studies are decades old. And my experiences breastfeeding seem to lead to more questions than answers.

And I didn’t go into much detail on how I felt we were brainwashed to breastfeed. Mind control is defined on Wikipedia as the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. In our case, persons in a position of authority continually and consistently bombarded us with information on breastfeeding, that breastfeeding was the only choice and that there were no other acceptable options, at a point in time when we were most susceptible to being coerced.

I did blast nurses and the health care system. I didn’t mean to. I know they work hard, skipping lunch and pee breaks, not to mention exposing themselves to contagious diseases when no one else will.

I just needed to vent my frustration somewhere. But getting it down on paper as it were also helped me see why, with such limited resources, they spend time helping the women who are having “minor” difficulties breastfeed better, rather than getting to the bottom of why another woman is having supply issues when it seems all avenues have been exhausted. But I still think we, as a health care system and as a society, could do better.

We could do better preparing expectant parents, giving them the information they need to make an informed decision, providing more logistical support when the baby arrives, and preparing their support systems with the most up to date information. We could do at least this much.

Breastfeeding is not only an infant health issue, a public health issue, a preventative health care issue, and a women’s rights issue. It is also a mental health issue (women who experience difficulties breastfeeding are at greater risk for postpartum depression – and it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as to which is cause and which is effect), and an environmental issue.

I didn’t talk about how I spoke with female relatives about their experiences breastfeeding. (They had no supply issues; one had issues with the latch with their first child and no problems with the second).

Both of my grandmothers had passed away many years ago, and I knew that both my mom and dad had been formula fed. My mom said her mom (my maternal grandmother) tried to breastfeed, but she “didn’t have any milk”. It was the 1940s, when formula was being promoted and breastfeeding knowledge was going out the window, so who knows what was really going on.


My mom breastfed me for five months. I was exclusively breastfed until four months (except once at 6 weeks), but between my two and four month check ups I had lost weight, so she had to supplement with both formula and Pablum to get my weight back up.

She was plagued by guilt for years, which led to her continually feeding me. I became overweight (50 lbs at age 3, 90 lbs in grade 3) and have struggled with my weight all my life. She wasn’t provided with any counselling to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault that her supply went down. In the 80s, she was taught to feed on a 3-4-hour schedule rather than on demand (she had no support from her mom either, since as I mentioned above she hadn’t breastfed). Also, I was crawling at four months of age, so my energy demands, and therefore her milk production, needed to be even higher. She also wasn’t provided with any information on how feeding on demand could boost her supply.

When I was researching the symptoms of IGT, I also read about the suspected contributing factors to this type of abnormal breast anatomy. Ironically, obesity is one of them.

Another suspected contributing factor – endocrine disrupting chemicals. As I discussed way back in Week 1, endocrine disruptors mimic the bodies natural hormones, such as reproductive hormones. This is a simplified explanation, but when these chemicals “bind” with the body’s tissues in the place of the hormones that should be there, the tissues don’t develop and/or don’t function properly. It is thought that exposure to these chemicals during fetal development or during puberty inhibit proper breast development, leading to IGT (see La Leche League and Environmental Exposures and Mammary Gland Development).

Endocrine disruptors such as BPAs are found in many plastics, such as plastic baby bottles and bottle liners (BPAs have since been removed, but would have been present in the 80’s). BPAs were also used to line food packaging, such as formula containers (see Health Canada and ABCNews).

Ironically, it seems that my mom’s difficulty breastfeeding may have led to my own difficulties. Between overfeeding me due to a “starvation complex”, the bottles used to supplement, and the formula itself, I would have been exposed to endocrine disruptors during infancy. Whether that was enough to impact later breast development is hard to say. (Do the formula companies know this? Was this their plan all along? Is it all a conspiracy?)

Or maybe it was something she was exposed to while she was pregnant. Or maybe it was something I was exposed to during puberty.  It would be interesting to survey some of my childhood friends born and raised in my community around the same time to see if they’ve since had any difficulties breastfeeding.

Makes me glad, for my daughter’s sake as well, that I’m trying to eliminate endocrine disruptors from our life by using glass dishes instead of plastic, natural cleaners, etc. as I’ve discussed elsewhere in this Blog.

I tell you, if I ever find out that we were exposed to a chemical growing up that caused this, I am going to go all Erin Brockovich on their asses.


Which actually got me thinking . . . another group of common endocrine disruptors is the halogens, such as bromine and chlorine. Both of these chemicals are commonly used in swimming pools. We had a pool growing up, and I practically lived in it every summer from age five until I moved to university. Having said that, bromines are in the same group as iodine and therefore bind to thyroid tissue, not reproductive tissue. But still . . .


Hopefully I’ve been able to break the cycle somewhat, and my daughter, if she so chooses, will have an easier time breastfeeding.

Whatever she chooses,  ultimately #FedisBest.


For more information about endocrine disruptors and pools see:

Clarity for Spas

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

Poison hiding in your environment





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Week # 20 – Losing the Battle, Winning the War

May 24 2014

I learned this week that I was unsuccessful in a job selection process I had participated in. I made it through a grueling interview (see The Hours), and after over a month of not hearing anything I sent an e-mail to HR to see what the status was. And I got the lovely little “thank you for applying but” letter.

Part of me was disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the next step in the process, while part of me is relieved that it’s over . I didn’t have a good feeling coming out of the interview, and to be honest, after the exam, interview, and a year and a half of acting assignments in the position, I don’t think I really want it any way. I wanted the experience of going through the selection process, and that’s what I got. I am looking forward to sitting down with the board to see where I can improve.

I spent part of this week and weekend applying for other jobs like crazy, before my current job sends me over the edge. I feel like I’m losing the job search battle, but as my husband always says, sometimes you need to throw a lot of mud at the wall, and some of it will eventually stick.

Speaking of mud, and battles, for the past few years I’ve been doing battle with a rather large and annoying crop of Japanese Knotweed in our back yard. Previous years I had just cut it back as best I could, but it kept coming back. That is what it does best apparently. The plant is an invasive species which grows readily just about anywhere, from a tiny piece of plant. It quickly overwhelms and crowds out any plants plants in its path. Removing it from the environment promotes the growth of endemic plants, and a more diverse ecosystem.


So last summer I cut it back to the root and covered the roots with newspaper, garbage bags, bricks, rocks, old tarps, anything I could find that would block the light. All summer I kept cutting it back, covering it over, repeat. Even got a few battle scars along the way to prove it! Eventually most of it died back enough that I could chop the roots out. Several spots I left covered over the winter, and this spring dug the most of the rest of the roots out.


But it keeps coming back, and spreading further into the lawn. I did some more reading, research, and there is one more thing I hadn’t tried – I finally broke and bought some Round Up. I don’t know what bothers me more, that I bought an herbicide or that it’s made by Montsanto.

As far as pesticides go, this one is not to bad. It’s “broad spectrum”, which basically means it will kill anything green that it comes in contact with. And supposedly it readily breaks down in the environment. It is also about the only thing that will outright kill Japanese Knotweed. I used it as sparingly as I could, directly on the leaves and shoots, and covered them over so it wouldn’t spread when it rained, and so local wildlife, children or pets wouldn’t come into contact with it. (Luckily it’s also in a part of the yard that is secluded and where my daughter doesn’t play).

A Monsanto scientist discovered it back in the 70s, and Monsanto has since become famous for its genetically modified “Round up Ready” plants – corn and alfalfa plants that do not succumb to the effects of Round Up – so Round Up can be used around these plants to kill other plants so that “weeds” don’t inhibit the crops.

Monsanto became a household name when a farmer was sued for having Monsanto patented canola crop in their farm. The farmer hadn’t purchased the particular variety of “Round up ready” plants found growing on their farm, but the farmer claimed that the seeds had blown over from a nearby field. While we’ll never know what really happened, Monsanto won the lawsuit. This raises all kinds of ethical questions, such as whether living organisms should be able to be patented at all, not to mention the biological impacts of pesticide usage.

Direct exposure to pesticides are known to have negative health effects on humans, and if you’re reading this I probably don’t need to go on a tangent about “Silent Spring” (but you can read more below).

I looked into “natural” herbicide options, such as salts, or acetic acid. But every website I checked indicated that these natural alternatives would be useless against the mighty Japanese Knotweed.

When I went to buy the Round Up, it was under lock and key, and when I asked a clerk to help me out, they had to find a manager who had a pesticide license. He then proceeded to ask me what I was going to use it for and provided some advise on how to use it. All of these things sound like great customer service, but they are also required under Nova Scotia’s pesticide laws.

I plan to keep working on it, and while I feel like I’m losing the battle, if I keep at it I will eventually win this Japanese Knotweed war.



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Week #1 – Switch to environmentally friendly shower gel

January 4, 2014

I can happily report that my challenge for week one is complete. Today I purchased Nature Clean peppermint soap – made in Canada; not tested on animals; free of artificial fragrances and biodegradable. And it’s in a refillable pump container (which is also recyclable if I can’t actually find something to refill it with). Reasonably priced – about 6$ for 500ml. Worth it :-)

I know, to many of you this switch may not seem like a big deal, because you’re all doing it already. And so did I. It’s amazing how much having a child changed me, how selfish I became, and would indulge in little things (like a lovely scented shower gel made in who knows where) to make me feel good regardless of the consequences. (Or, more realistically, it was the first and least expensive item I came across while shopping between feedings). I have already been using biodegradable shampoo and conditioner for some time, but seemed to switch up my shower gel to something different (whatever I could find) each time I needed it.

To those of you I am hopefully reaching with this blog (if I could actually get it to show up in a Google search) here’s the concern. The problem with fragrances is that once they go down the drain, their chemical composition mimics that of hormones- yes, like estrogen and testosterone. When these chemicals get into other animals, like fish, they mimic estrogen and can actually “feminize” the fish.

Why is this bad? Well, it’s like when you go to a dance club hoping to pick up, and you can’t find a “mate”. If you have too many females in a population, the the animals can’t reproduce, because there aren’t enough available males to reproduce with (because they’ve been “converted” to females, due to these chemicals).

Here are a few links explaining more in depth how this works, and some of the folks researching this topic:

The same thing happens with many of the medications we take, including birth control pills. But that’s a post for another day.