Thursday, July 21, 2011

Support: The Missing Link

The Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card is out. There are wonderful tidbits of good news to be had - 3 out of 4 American mothers now start out breastfeeding and "more babies in the United States are now born at Baby-Friendly™ facilities than ever before." But - and there are more than a few "buts" here - breastfeeding rates by 6 to 12 months are low and stagnant and even though more births are at Baby-Friendly™ facilities, these still account for less than 4% of all births.

And here is one of the most important keys:

"High breastfeeding initiation rates show that most mothers in the United States want to breastfeed and are trying to do so. However, even from the very start, mothers may not be getting the breastfeeding support they need. "

Mothers need support. Real life, personal, interactive, connective support. Parenting is intense. Breastfeeding isn't always easy. And nothing you read or hear is as critical to breastfeeding as being surrounded by support. Having a spouse or partner who is a champion of breastfeeding is essential and amazing, but if there is no community, if there are no other mothers who can share your breastfeeding bootcamp stories with, if there aren't others who can show you, help you, and "get" you and your challenges, it doesn't stick.

Support comes in many forms and from many different outlets. And breastfeeding has more than a few champions. They are out there, but not necessarily where new moms are looking or where they can be found. From local networks to national organizations, the resources are plentiful but disconnected.

The Holistic Moms Network is, at our core, all about support. Whatever choices a mother makes and whatever her parenting journey, we believe moms need and deserve support along the way. Being a Holistic Mom is not about being perfect and is not without its challenges, but it is about making natural, healthy, and sustainable choices for yourself and for your family. Having a supportive community around you is the key to empowering mothers to make these choices and that is how and why the Holistic Moms Network was formed.

We agree with the CDC that many mothers want to breastfeed their babes but lack the support to continue through the challenges or uncertainties. We want to connect mothers with the resources that are out there and that can help them achieve their breastfeeding goals. That is why we are organizing what we hope will be the World's Biggest Breastfeeding Twitter Party on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 10 pm Eastern. We are inviting moms, breastfeeding supporters, organizations, companies, and everyone who advocates breastfeeding to join us and highlight all the offerings of the breastfeeding community.

We hope this opportunity will highlight the value of support and connect mothers with the resources they need. To join us, visit our Facebook page at:

You may be asking yourself: How do I attend a Twitter party?

Well, you’ve come to the right place for answers!

What is a Twitter Party?

A Twitter party is a gathering of individuals on Twitter who follow a single conversation or subject using something called a hashtag.

Where do I start?

Begin by setting up an account at Twitter. Once you’re up and running, you’re ready to join in the fun!

How to Attend a Twitter Party

Refreshing your home page at just won’t cut it… Twitter parties go fast — and can be hard to follow when there are many people chatting all at once! We recommend using TweetChat for party participation – we think it is the most useful and user friendly application we’ve found so far. When you get to TweetChat, you add the hashtag for the party you’ll be attending (#BigBFParty) at the top and then follow the prompts to connect to your Twitter user name.

The benefit of TweetChat is that you can keep an eye on every post with the #BigBFParty hashtag and scroll up and down to go back to see what you may have missed (when it scrolls fast!) and when you post through TweetChat, it puts the #BigBFParty hashtag in for you so you can type your tweet and it’ll remember to add #BigBFParty for you! As you type your tweet, there is a gray box telling you how many characters you’ve used. If your tweet gets too long… the box will turn red — alerting you that you’ll need to shorten it before sending.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is the # sign. The hashtag for this party is #BigBFParty. Whenever you tweet during the World's Biggest Breastfeeding Twitter Party to ask a question, make a comment, or participate in a prize giveaway, simply add #BigBFParty at the beginning or end of your tweet. Remember, if you’re using TweetChat it adds the hashtag for you!

Why do we use hashtags?

Hashtags allow Twitter and other applications to sort and bring together all tweets that are intended to be shared within the framework of the party or theme. A hashtag can be used any time, not just during a Twitter party, so your tweet will be seen by people who are searching for that phrase.

How do I win Twitter party prizes?

Because this will be such a huge party, we’re doing things a little different. If you want to win a prize, share information about support organizations or receive information about anything we talk about during the party, we’ll have a special link for you. Go and fill in the blanks, and give us a little info so we can send your prize or any info you request. We will not email you except by specific instruction from you.

Remember: You only have 140 characters to use! Keep it short and sweet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Community is Vital to Breastfeeding. Period.

Although breastfeeding is absolutely natural and “normal”, I have yet to meet a mother who has had a completely uneventful, challenge-free breastfeeding experience – at least the first time around. Many successfully persist through the challenges, others find them too hard to surmount. And, some don't even try because the obstacles are too great.

What is consistent in all the stories I hear is the one thing that can make or break a breastfeeding relationship. It's not a product of any kind. It’s support. Finding your tribe. Getting an encouraging word. Receiving information from someone who cares. Sometimes it’s a hug, a casserole, or just empathy. That's what really matters – and what makes all the difference.

The potential for support is huge. There are non-profit organizations, support groups, consultants, authors, websites, and entire companies whose mission and purpose is dedicated to breastfeeding success. Of course, they each have their own passions, their own visions of what is “right” or “correct”, and they each serve mothers in their own unique ways. And, they don’t all necessarily all agree – or get along. But the potential to find support, to connect, and to gather resources to make your breastfeeding experience more successful for you and your baby is enormous.

To a new mother who is feeling alone and isolated, the breadth and depth of these resources isn’t always so evident. That's why, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, the Holistic Moms Network is inviting everyone who supports breastfeeding to come together to highlight these resources. We want to showcase all the enthusiasm, passion, and resources available for moms – and dads. Support is the foundation for who we are as an organization. It is our mission to connect moms who need support on whatever issue they are facing as a parent, and especially to help them discover natural and holistic options. We believe that community is vital to breastfeeding success, whether your tribe is large or small, and whatever your breastfeeding goal.

Our goal is to host the World's Largest Breastfeeding Twitter Party during World Breastfeeding Week. Our event is planned for Tuesday, August 2nd, at 10 pm EST at hashtag #BigBFParty or #holisticmoms. Together with our co-hosts Motherlove Herbal Company, The Leaky Boob, Mama Pear Designs, Bamboobies, The Willow Store, Best for Babes, and other breastfeeding support organizations and companies, we invite everyone in the breastfeeding community (past and present) to join us in showing how much support is available.

Join the Facebook page to find out more information and ask questions:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Celebrating Community: 10,000 Strong on Facebook

Social networking has transformed our culture. Everyone, it seems, is buzzing on Facebook, chatting on Twitter, and linking in on any number of other websites, forums, and social networking sites.

At the Holistic Moms Network, we are thrilled to have attained a new level of interaction with more than 10,000 fans now connecting through our Facebook page. We are excited and honored to have so many people interacting through our page and finding a virtual community for holistic-minded parents.

At our core the Holistic Moms Network is about community building. We use virtual tools and see great value in them, but also think that there is a cultural shift that is pulling us further apart in real life. Social networking sites are great for reconnecting with people from our past and for staying in touch with those far away, as many have suggested, but paradoxically it can turn our friendships into screentime and pull us away from valuable face-to-face, in real life connections.

Additional challenges of virtual communities are permanency and trust. Virtual communities are transient and often short-lived. People come and go and communities themselves can easily dissolve. It is also difficult to grasp the true nature of a person, community, or organization simply by exploring their online presence. Innately we can often sense whether a person is trustworthy or not in a personal meeting, whether we align with them or our energies clash, simply by sensing their cues (consciously and unconsciously). It is easy for people (and companies) to misrepresent themselves online but not so much face-to-face. And a friend can say "I'm just fine" on Facebook, although the look their eyes or their facial expression can tell another story.

For parents, real life connections are invaluable. For many moms the journey to motherhood is disorienting and alienating. Going from a professional job outside the home to being an at-home parent changes everything, including your social interactions. The people you chat with at the coffee shop on the way to work, co-workers and others are suddenly operating in a different world. Finding a new social network - and one that embraces children - is essential on so many levels. For moms and dads who choose natural parenting, this can be a difficult task. Finding others who understand your choices and being able to see another parent breastfeeding, babywearing, buying organic foods, or seeking out non-toxic household products gives you a wealth of information and a sense of empowerment that you cannot always achieve by virtual connection.

Of course, virtual connections means you can expand your social circle and can raise awareness and build support for great causes in numbers that you could not do in real life. For this reason, social networking is a fabulous tool for building communities like the Holistic Moms Network, both locally and nationally. But we see it as just one component of a growing community - one that you can be part of locally, in real life, and grow with on many levels.

So to honor our new milestone of 10,000 Facebook fans, we want to offer everyone an opportunity to join the Holistic Moms Network community and reach out in real life to other parents and caregivers, locally, face-to-face, and virtually. In honor of this opportunity, we're offering a huge discount off our annual membership fee (nearly 25% off!) for ONE DAY ONLY on Tuesday, July 12th, 2011. From 12:01 am to 11:59 pm EST tomorrow, July 12th, you can join HMN (or renew your membership) for just $35 per year and connect with parents in your area, in real life and online, and find vital support for your parenting journey. Just use Coupon Code HMNFB10 to join or renew.

PLUS: One new or renewing member who signs up tomorrow (Tuesday, July 12th) will randomly be chosen to win a set of HMN's two cookbooks (one each) and one of our Holistic Moms Network organic cotton aprons to inspire your inner chef!

We want to thank all of our Facebook fans and supporters for helping us grow! As a 501(c)(3) non-profit community, every supporter, every voice, and every member matters!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sorry, Tom, But I'm Not Happy

It's summertime. That means hot, outdoors, and sweaty. And it means deodorant if we'd like our summer to be social. So, out on the road I needed some deodorant and found myself in a mainstream pharmacy looking for something "natural". My best option? Tom's of Maine. In a rush, with two impatient children awaiting our trip I grabbed it and ran. How bad could it be?

Then my armpits turned bright pink and started to peel. Yes, peel. No sunburn there so I decided it was time to look at the ingredients in the deodorant I picked up. The very first ingredient: propylene glycol. Hmmm. That could be it.

So what do we know about propylene glycol? Propylene glycol PG) is a chemical that is commonly used in coolants and de-icing solutions for cars, airplanes, and boats. According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), "Hazardous in case of ingestion. Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator), of eye contact (irritant), of inhalation." Funny, in my world deodorant is actually applied to the skin. What to do in case of accidental skin contact? According to the MSDS "Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes. Cold water may be used.Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention." While propylene glycol is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by government officials, high levels of exposure have been linked to seizures and cardiac arrythmia in infants. Breathing propylene glycol ethers in paint have also correlated with higher rates of asthma and eczema among children.

So perhaps my Tom's of Maine Deodorant needs to come with a warning label? I guess that couldn't fit on the product. Instead what I found was some great marketing. Their label asks "What makes a product good?" In their book, no animal testing, no artificial colors, and sustainable practices are among the great reasons why their products are "good". Although PG is considered to be relatively non-toxic in the environment, the USDA's own studies show that PG vapors may be toxic to corn and soybean plants. And while the risk levels are touted as safe by the chemical industry and government, many of the environmental watchdogs have chimed in on the dangers of PG and possible alternatives.

I applaud Tom's of Maine for their efforts and their cited commitment to "natural" (albeit an unregulated term) products, sustainability, and their support of environmental causes and of their employees' volunteer efforts. But let's raise the bar a bit here and make products that shouldn't need a warning table and truly reflect a commitment to safety and eco-conscious living.