Archive for the 'controversy' Category

Many thanks

Dear Readers,

I just wanted to thank you for all of the emails. I know that many of you are shy about commenting, (which I think is silly) but I appreciate the encouragement and praise via email just the same. 🙂

To all of my new readers who have emailed me with questions, please continue to do so! Knowing that I am able to help many of you with your pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding related questions really keeps me blogging!

On other matters, I’d like to note that if I wasn’t the opinionated, brutally honest, judgmental individual that I am, you wouldn’t be here. My closest friends and family members have often described me in one word–“blunt.” If I sat here and wrote some wishy washy shit every day, you’d get bored and find another controversial blog to spend your time reading. You like me because I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. I’m going to continue with that, and not just because I like to stir up drama, but because it’s what people want to hear. Parents especially. We don’t want to read about your perfect angels and how well behaved they are in public. We want to read about your faults and your mistakes. We want to be assured that we are normal. Here, at Taming Estella, you can hear about my less-than-perfectly behaved children. You can hear about my failures, my hot headed temper, my nasty case of verbal diarrhea, and my judgments. I can almost guarantee you that someday, there will come a time that you will be offended. If I never offend you, I’d never have entertained you to begin with.

With Love,


P.S. I think I’m also going to start including some interesting quotes at the end of each post. They may not necessarily have anything to do with the topic at hand. I just feel that I should do something else with the stacks of paper in my closet, a lifetime of words I have collected.

“Life is cruel! Why should the afterlife be any different?” -Davy Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean2: Dead Man’s Chest


Estella on CIO

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a controversial topic that really gets me HEATED. I frequently run across this issue on the net. An example of what I am referring to is copied below. This is taken from an enormous thread on, where mothers seek advice on this very subject:

“HELP! my now 6 week old was born just before the christmas guests arrived…and was rocked and held to sleep almost everytime over the holiday season. after having so much success with babywise with my first child (now 18 months) i am determined to get her falling asleep on her own…however, she screams for an hour (sometimes more) and maybe sleeps for 10 minutes here and there, and continues to wake up screaming throughout what is supposed to be sleep time. This continues and eventually 2 1/2 or 3 hours has passed and its time for another feed. I am feeling stressed and guilty and i can’t seem to focus on anything while she is in her room screaming.”

Ladies, gentleman, mothers, fathers, parents-to-be and friends of parents or parents-to-be. Everyone. Listen up.

There are basically two different sets of beliefs when it comes to an infant’s sleep habits. In one corner, you’ve got some older folks who believe in letting a baby “cry it out” or CIO. These people will also generally subscribe to scheduled feedings and tend to be hardcore on other issues such as hand smacking, spankings, and religion. This camp is led by none other than Gary Ezzo and his wife. Here, you’ll find a book entitled Babywise where Ezzo will teach you how to schedule your baby’s feedings and his sleep periods. Let it be known that Gary Ezzo has no qualifications besides being a parent himself (and we all know that even the world’s biggest moron can procreate.) Secondly, virtually every health organization in the nation has discredited Ezzo’s methods. Parents were found to be literally starving their children in an attempt to follow Ezzo’s advice on scheduled feedings.

In the opposite corner, we have Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha. Dr. Sears is an acclaimed pediatrician and his wife is a nurse. Their credentials can be found here. They have over 30 years of experience in pediatrics and have raised 8 of their own children. Together, they have written countless books on pregnancy, labor, birth, infant care, and parenting. Dr. Sears does not believe that it is healthy to let an infant “cry it out.”

I’ve recently read a blog where Dr. Sears followers were being poked fun at. The author writes, “If you’re reading this and gloating because you breastfeed your own reiki-loving free range chickens, give birth unassisted in a strawberry patch and spring up moments later to bake a pie, and then you gather wool to weave slings for orphans in Tibet and to clothe your 14 unschooled, indigo children well, then good for you. Maybe Dr. Sears will come join your drum circle and help you tarpaper your outhouse and can beets.Probably you’re a better mother than I am, but I’m just crazy enough not to care anymore.”

I admit that I laughed at this. It’s funny. But seriously–who do you trust? Gary Ezzo, Babywise, and your grandmother who was knocked out cold during birth, who took a shot to dry up her breasts because she thought that infant formula was superior to breastmilk? Or are you going to have a little faith in the professionals who can provide you with cold, hard evidence? Because here’s what the professionals say:

-An infant’s cry is specifically designed for its own survival. Because an infant is unable to verbalize what it wants, it uses its cry as a signal to it’s mother that it has a need. Perhaps the baby is hungry, or wet and needs to be fed or changed. Or perhaps the baby is lonely and needs to be held and comforted. Just like you, a baby has emotional needs too. The baby who is picked up and held when they are upset will not grow to be a spoiled brat. He will grow into a child that trusts his caregivers and is confident and secure with himself and the world around him.

-The infant’s cry is also used to develop its mother’s parenting skills. When a mother hears her baby cry, the blood flow to her breasts increases, and her body physically urges her to go to her child and nurse, or comfort her baby. What happens when a mother purposefully ignores her baby’s cries? She goes against her very nature, casting off her instincts and ultimately losing touch with her ability to nurture and care for her own child.

-A young infant does not have the ability to maniupulate it’s parent. As Dr. Sears writes, “Baby does not ponder in his little mind, “It’s 3:00 a.m. and I think I’ll wake up mommy for a little snack.” No! That faulty reasoning is placing an adult interpretation on a tiny infant. Also, babies do not have the mental acuity to figure out why a parent would respond to their cries at three in the afternoon, but not at three in the morning. The newborn who cries is saying: “I need something; something is not right here. Please make it right.”

So what happens when a baby is left in his crib because “it’s 7PM and it’s time for bed”. What happens to that baby who is alone, frightened, who craves to be comforted and held or rocked, who wants the warmth of his mother’s arms? What happens to the baby whose cries are ignored so that “mommy can get some rest”, or so that “baby gets on a schedule and doesn’t become spoiled”?

At first, that baby will cry harder. He will cry his little body ragged, waiting for Mama to come help, to fix his problem. He will eventually succumb to exhaustion and will fitfully sleep, small gasps escaping from his lips every few seconds. The next night, the same. But eventually, that baby will learn that no matter how loudly he cries, no one will come. His parents will brag to others, they will say “our baby is so good, he sleeps through the night and doesn’t even cry when we put him down for bed anymore.” They will beam and smile and believe that they are capable parents, that they have done the right thing by their child. And yet, their baby would tell us a different story. He would tell us that he doesn’t trust his parents, that he is discouraged because no one listens. He has lost his ability to communicate, to make his needs be known. He will have learned that even though he hurts, he cannot ever let anyone know about it.

Placing your baby in a crib as far away from you as possible, so that you don’t hear her cries at night, in order to get some sleep, is what I consider CHILD ABUSE. I’ve admitted before on this blog that I haven’t always been the perfect parent. I smoked cigarettes and marijuana while I was pregnant with my 2nd child. And yes, I now lump these actions into the “child abuse category.”

If you can’t spend one year (give or take) of your life with less than your perfectly uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep each night, then DON’T HAVE A CHILD. If you can bring yourself to put earplugs in while your newborn babe is in the other room screaming and gasping for air, then there is something fundamentally wrong with your psychological makeup and you need to seek professional help. And then get your tubes tied. It’s a fucking outrage that this is happening. It’s even more of an outrage that parents who practice CIO are fiercely defending their actions. It’s disgusting that there are so many children out there with parents who will flat out ignore good, sound advice and refuse their own instincts in exchange for a well behaved baby, and a convenient, silent night.

Why I call myself a militant lactivist

When my first son was born, sleepy and drugged from two doses of Stadol and an extremely “effective” epidural, I put him to my breast and found that he was incapable of latching on. He literally could not suck any portion of my nipple into his mouth. Oh he would try alright, opening up with the big baby bird mouth just like his instincts told him too, but once he came into contact with my skin, he would just slip right off the nipple. There was just nothing there to grab onto. The lactation consultant was called. She positioned and lectured and huffed and puffed and finally handed over a nipple shield. As a 19 year old single mother, I think I had done more research than most, reading whatever I could get my hands on and attending a breastfeeding class during my pregnancy. But when it came right down to the scary Unknown, I did as I was told because, after all, *they* were the professionals. The shield seemed to be working. He was getting colostrum, and then 3 days later, the milk came. I had several nurses from various programs visit me in my home to help with the nursing. I was told that my baby had jaundice, and I was told horror stories of its danger. I was firmly instructed to nurse every 2 hours around the clock and I did so, each day growing more and more afraid of this terrible Jaundice that was out to get my firstborn. And yet, it all seemed to be for nought. I was referred to the pediatrician. Everyone agreed. Formula supplementation was necessary to clear the jaundice. My son was a week old, and not gaining weight.

The first bottle seemed like heaven. How easy it was to scoop out the powder, fill with warm tap water and shake. How quickly he sucked it down, and how long it kept him full. All of the sudden, nursing with the breast shield seemed like a strenuous and taxing chore. I had to sterilize after each use. I had to tote it everywhere. I had to perfectly position it over my nipple, which ruled out nursing discreetly in public. I knew that breastmilk was best, but I had been spoiled by the luxury of the bottle. Once the jaundice had cleared and he had gained the “required amount of weight”, I started pumping milk and feeding this expressed milk via a bottle. I wasn’t really sure if this would work. I had never heard of of anyone who had pumped instead of breastfed. None of the professionals had presented it as an option. I pumped until my supply dwindled and eventually disappeared. By 4 months old, my son was exclusively formula fed.

18 months later, my second son was born. I experienced the same problem. Same sleepy newborn, same inability to latch on to my nipple. Same jaundice, same failure to thrive, same weight loss, same doctor paranoia. This time, my new lactation consultants had a diagnosis. I had flat nipples. I would probably never be able to breastfeed directly. I didn’t even have the will to fight. By the time my new baby was a week old, my milk was drying out and he was drinking Enfamil. And besides…my other baby had done just fine with formula. He had thrived and was healthy and smart. Unfortunately, I realized later that my refusal to breastfeed would contribute to a nasty case of postpartum depression. Bonding didn’t come until my child was well over a year old.

Five years passed, and I became pregnant again. This time, I had renewed strength and believed that anything was possible. I wore breast shells every day for the last 3 months of my pregnancy, in order to help draw out my nipples. I did “nipple exercises”, rolling my nipples and pulling on them to make them erect and stiff. I read everything I could. I surrounded myself with nursing mothers.

I had read that a natural birth would be beneficial to the breastfeeding process. To ensure that there was no possible way that I could receive pain relief during labor, I chose and planned a homebirth. Animal was born and was immediately placed on my chest. He wasn’t suctioned. His cord was not cut. His heel was not pricked. His eyes weren’t smeared with goo. He never left my chest. He was alert and curious and he found my nipple and ferociously latched on. In my eyes, it was a miracle.

Unfortunately, in the next few weeks, I started having excruciating nipple pain. I knew that sore nipples could be normal, but this was way beyond “sore.” I would curl my toes and squeeze my eyes shut every time he latched on. Then I would cry and scream while he nursed. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. I hated feeding him. I never looked forward to it, and when he was hungry, I would cringe, knowing what I would have to endure.

The situation was made even worse because of the fact that he was constantly nursing. Sometimes he would eat for 30 minutes on each side, fall asleep for a few moments, and then wake up screaming for more. He never seemed to get full. I stopped feeling my letdowns. I stopped hearing him swallow. He was jaundiced, and much worse than my first two boys. He was not gaining back his birth weight. He had lost almost a pound. I sought help, everyone gave me advice and tips, but nothing worked.

When he was 3 weeks old, I could not take it any longer. I broke down and told my husband that I couldn’t go on. I felt like a complete failure, and I spent several days as an emotional wreck, feeling like I was a terrible mother. I was fully aware of the many benefits of breastfeeding, and was determined that my baby would still receive breastmilk. I searched the internet, and found some information about Exclusively Pumping. I found a support group and messageboards where women were pumping their milk and feeding their babies. Some of them had been doing it for a year or more! So I started on my pumping journey. I rented a hospital grade double electric breastpump from a local pharmacy. I pumped every 2-3 hours for 20 minutes. I pumped at least 8 times per day. I got up to pump once in the middle of the night. At first, I had very little milk. I was pumping an ounce during each pumping session. I started taking Fenugreek supplements and drinking Mother’s milk tea 3x per day. I ate oatmeal, blessed thistle, alfalfa, drank gallons of water and tried every “letdown” trick in the book. Very slowly, my supply increased (about a half ounce each day). I did have to supplement with formula for awhile, but within 2 weeks, I was pumping enough milk to keep up with my baby. At first, it felt liberating. My nipples had healed, I had no more pain, my baby was full and happy, the jaundice had cleared and he had gained weight. But it didn’t take long before the pumping became exhausting. I was chained to the pump. I couldn’t go shopping without making sure I could be back within 2 hours to pump. I had to bring the pump, bottles, freezer bags, ice packs, bottle warmers, and cooler to my in-laws house for Thanksgiving. I was confined to the house. I saw other people effortlessly nursing their babies and I was jealous. It wasn’t fair. I missed the feeling of having my baby close to my breast. Breastfeeding would have been so much more convenient and easy.

Eventually, and with everyone telling me “I was crazy”, I started bringing Animal back to the breast. I would let him latch on, but as soon as I felt discomfort, I would unlatch him and feed him a bottle that was warm and ready for him. At one point, I let him nurse for too long, and I got a blood blister on my nipple. It was very painful, and I just couldn’t believe that such a terrible thing could be happening. What was wrong?? I knew there was something wrong with Animal’s latch. I knew that it shouldn’t hurt, and I knew that he was not effectively drawing enough milk from my breast, and this had caused my supply to dwindle. I didn’t think he would ever successfully breastfeed. I took him to my midwife. She evaluated the latch, and found that he was tucking in his lower lip. She showed me how to correct this, but the pain still would not subside. I took him to my pediatrician. She concluded that Animal was tongue tied. She told me that we could clip the tongue, but she would not recommend it, and advised me to keep trying. At my 6 week check up, I explained to my midwife that I felt that he wasn’t efficiently able to draw milk from my breasts. My midwife wondered if maybe a huge increase of milk would help. She gave me a homeopathic remedy called “lactuca virosa.” She instructed me to put one dissolvable pellet under my tongue 3 times per day. On my way home, I took the first pellet. Within a few hours, I was engorged and leaking! I put Animal to my breast and nursed him without discomfort. While he was eating, milk was dribbling out the sides of his mouth. I had never seen that happen before! He came off the breast with a full belly and happy as a clam. I couldn’t believe it! Throughout the day, I kept breastfeeding him. I wanted to see how long it would take before he needed a bottle. 24 hours later and still no bottle! Days became weeks, my supply was more than sufficient, and I had no pain to speak of. It was amazing! I still felt very uncomfortable with nursing. Because of Animal’s tongue tie, and the way he latched, I could only nurse him in the football hold, and that made it impossible to nurse discreetly in public. It wasn’t until he was about 3 months old that he was finally able to be held in the cradle hold and I finally felt that we were getting the hang of it.

Animal is now 12 months old and still nursing. I still can’t believe that we turned things around, but I am so glad we did. When Animal is curled up in my lap, stroking my arm, looking into my eyes, or playing with my hair, I feel so blessed for the experience. Breastfeeding my son has made me a better mother. Not just to him, but to my older children as well. I had no idea how important the physiological process of nursing was for a mother/baby connection. I’m proud of myself for the overcoming the struggles, and fighting so hard for this privilege.

I’ve faced a lot of opposition regarding my views on breastfeeding. I expect it. I know what its like to feel like a failure. I know what its like to feel like you did all that you could. I know what its like to be offended by someone insinuating that your formula fed child is not healthy or smart. It’s okay to say “I didn’t have enough information” or “I didn’t have enough support/resources”. It’s okay to say “I was tired/frustrated/depressed and bottlefeeding was easier.” It’s okay to say “I was bullied into formula feeding by a medical professional, a family member, a friend.” Hell, it’s even okay to say “I didn’t want my breasts to get saggy. I wanted to start drinking/smoking/dieting again.” It is NOT OKAY to say “My breasts didn’t work. I tried everything I could and it was impossible.” Because ladies, you can’t all have broken breasts. And the majority of you are formula feeding. It is not okay to make excuses and perpetuate the myth that it is common for our bodies to fail us. While you are trying to rationalize your choice to bottlefeed in an attempt to clear your guilty conscience, you are spreading the word that your situation is normal. As a result, the children in this country are suffering and missing out on the health and psychological benefits that breastfeeding provides. Be honest with yourself, and honest with moms-to-be, and new mothers. Your experiences can help, instead of hinder if you’ll only be willing to face the truth.

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Epidural Risks

The question has been asked, “What are the possible effects of an epidural on the baby?”

-Epidurals can slow labor, and as a result, oxytocin (Pitocin) will be administered through an IV. Pitocin brings on unnaturally strong contractions and almost always causes fetal distress. Pitocin also increases the chance of a forcep or vacuum assisted delivery, as well as cesarean section. (All of which can cause even more unpleasant side effects to the baby.)

-An epidural will also require electronic fetal monitoring, which I believe is highly inaccurate and prone to error. Inaccurate signs of fetal distress picked up through electronic fetal monitoring can lead to an obstetrician’s hasty decision for an unecessary c-section.

-An epidural requires that a precautionary IV be put in place. Any fluid overload from this IV can cause fluid in the baby’s lungs and/or blood chemistry disturbances.

-Epidurals can cause a considerable drop in maternal blood pressure, which may endanger the baby.

-Anesthetic is delivered into the cerebrospinal fluid, then passes into the maternal blood vessels, crosses into the placenta, and into the baby’s circulation. It may act directly to slow the fetal heartrate.

As Henci Goer states in her book “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” :

“By the time you are hooked up to an IV, an oxytocin delivery pump, a fetal monitor, an automated blood pressure cuff, an epidural pump, and have a bladder catheter, what was a perfectly normal labor has been transformed into a high tech event.”

Congratulations, you have now pretty much sealed the deal on an “emergency” cesarean.

Ladies, there are REASONS why God created us to experience pain during labor, and it ain’t just because Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

Pain during labor tells your body what to do. Pain will drive you into the most comfortable position, and that position is the one which is perfectly suited to effectively bring your baby into the world. Your body responds to labor pain by secreting massive amounts of adrenaline and endorphins. Adrenaline gives you stamina, keeps you going, gives you strength to push through. Endorphin levels at the time of your baby’s birth will be THIRTY TIMES HIGHER than normal. Natural oxytocin secreted in your brain will elevate your mood and will cause amnisiac properties. (This is why we forget the pain of childbirth and want to do it again!) The pain also prepares your baby for life, readying his lungs to breathe, mobilizing glucose for energy, protecting your baby against lack of oxygen during labor, and pushing blood into the baby’s brain and heart. THE PAIN IS SUPPOSED TO BE THERE, IS HAS A PURPOSE!

As a young, uneducated mother, I birthed my first two babies with the aid of an epidural. I was completely paralyzed from my breastbone to the tips of my toes. I felt nothing, and I thought that was a good thing! I couldn’t walk until the following day, couldn’t go to the bathroom on my own, had extensive tearing and bleeding, was exhausted, and felt like shit. My babies were sleepy and jaundiced. I failed at breastfeeding both times.

My last baby was born at home, completely natural. My body felt strong and alive. I could feel my baby’s head as it crowned. I felt in control of my body. When he was born, I felt like I was on Cloud 9. I felt energized. I was able to get up right away and walk around. I had minimal bleeding. My baby was alert and healthy, and scored perfect on his Apgar’s. And maybe best of all…We are now into the 10th month of breastfeeding.

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