Off the Line
Sweet Homebirth (Video)
Midwives have existed since the
beginning of humanity. Why, then, is it so difficult to find a midwife in America?
What events occured between the mid 1800's until the present day which nearly made
midwifery extinct in America? And why are more families now looking into homebirth as a
refuge from hospital care?
Home Sweet Homebirth
provides the answers. Interviews with noted doctors, historians and midwives. Very
interesting and informative video.
Breast-Feeding is a Skill -- Not a Crime
from the San Diego Union-Tribune
Tabitha Walrond, a 19-year-old mother from the Bronx, NY is living one nightmare after
another. After her newborn son, Tyler was repeatedly denied medical care, her first
child died in her arms of malnutrition at seven weeks. Now, shes being prosecuted
for manslaughter and, if convicted, could serve 15
years in prison for her sons death.
The welfare recipients crime was doing what the American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends as the best means of providing optimal nutrition for babies. Walrond
exclusively breast-fed her son.
The problem was that Walrond suffered from an extremely rare condition called insufficient
milk syndrome. Her ability to produce milk was inhibited in part by breast reduction
surgery she had four years prior to the pregnancy. But
Walronds doctors never mentioned the possibility that her surgery could affect milk
production. Had the new mother been able to cut through red tape blocking the
entrance of health care clinic, her sons pediatrician could have
diagnosed a birth defect, known as congenital adrenal hypoplasia. The defect,
discovered during the boys autopsy, causes loss of appetite, wasting and
The real crime here is that in seven weeks, this child never had a single medical
examination. By law, baby Tyler was entitled to automatic Medicaid coverage from
birth. Health care financing experts say a city case worker had to approve and
secure the babys enrollment in Medicaid. Due to bureaucratic delays and
mistaken computer rejections, Tyler had no Medicaid number and was repeatedly turned away
when Walrond tried to schedule his check up.
When Walrond went for her post-partum examination, her doctor remarked that five-week-old
Tyler looked underweight. He made no attempt to help the mother
secure a pediatric appointment nor did he examine the child himself.
Because of fetal distress, Tyler was delivered Caesarean section and Walrond developed
complications which kept her in the hospital for 12 days. Because she was taking
medication, she was only allowed to nurse for five days.
The hospital staff should have known that breast milk production follows the law of supply
and demand. The more a baby nurses, the more milk a mother will produce. The
human breasts make exactly as much milk as they perceive a baby needs. The fact that
Tyler was formula-fed for seven days, and therefore not nursing, likely played a
major role in Walronds limited breast milk supply. The mother should have been
offered a breast pump to help maintain adequate
This case will certainly frighten women who are considering breast-feeding their babies.
But Walronds tragedy has little to do with breast-feeding and everything to
do with limited access to health care services and education for the poor.
Last year, then-Assemblyman Kevin Murray introduced AB 2438, a maternal and child health
services bill which would require medical insurance plans to cover lactation consulting,
prenatal diagnostic testing, nutritional assessments and health education. Further,
it would have required that health
education include information on child birth preparation, newborn care, breast-feeding
instruction, infant safety and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and parenting skills.
Unfortunately, the bill was gutted beyond recognition.
All that survived was a single provision for alpha feto diagnostic testing.
Had Walrond received the education and services like those outlined in Murrays bill,
she would have learned warning signs of infant malnutrition. La Leche League, the
worlds foremost authority on breast-feeding, advises mothers to nurse frequently and
on demand. To ensure baby is receiving enough milk, mothers should feed newborns
8-12 times a day and listen to hear the baby swallowing. If the child is getting
adequate nutrition, he will have at least five wet diapers and two bowel movements after
the third day of life. The baby should gain at least four ounces per week after the fourth
day of life, and will appear healthy, have good color, firm skin and will be growing in
length and head circumference.
Several months ago, an episode of Chicago Hope joined in the chorus of anti-breast-feeding
hysterics. New parents arrived in the Emergency Room with a baby who later died from
dehydration. The mother, who also suffered from
insufficient milk syndrome, refused to supplement her breast milk with formula. The
middle class mother was chastised by the medical staff, but spared manslaughter charges.
As it turns out, the episode of the television hospital drama was sponsored by Abbott
Labs, a pharmaceutical company which
generates 50 percent of its income through formula sales.
In fact, insufficient milk syndrome is exceedingly rare. Even more rare is death
resulting from it. On the other hand, 400 babies around the world die every day from
unsafe bottle feeding.
Though many pediatricians educate themselves about breast-feeding and offer their patients
excellent advice, they are only required to have two hours of training in breast-feeding.
Many times this training consists of watching a video tape produced by formula
manufacturers that do little more than discuss potential problems with nursing and offer
tips on weaning.
Two hours may seem like enough training for something that is assumed to come naturally
for mothers. But compared to the minimum of 80 hours in lactation training the
volunteer mothers at La Leche League leaders are required to
complete before becoming accredited counselors, it is clear that the pediatric community
is woefully uneducated about the benefits and practical application of breast-feeding.
After all, doctors can only offer patients as much information as they have
Though some may use the death of Tyler Walrond to make a case for the need for breast-milk
substitutes, we must see this tragedy for what it really is a health care system
that failed a young woman and her newborn son.
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