Monday, July 9, 2018

Breasts of the World Unite!

A Voice for Babies!

U.S. (the Trump administration) Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials 

Full article found in NY Times:  By Andrew Jacobs

July 8, 2018 Wesley Tomaselli contributed reporting from Colombia. Reprinted here without permission.

 A Brooklyn mother unable to nurse fed her child donated breast milk. The $70 billion infant formula industry has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years.

A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the United States.

Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.

“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s.

“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.

In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them. The State Department declined to respond to questions, saying it could not discuss private diplomatic conversations. The Department of Health and Human Services, the lead agency in the effort to modify the resolution, explained the decision to contest the resolution’s wording but said H.H.S. was not involved in threatening Ecuador.

“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

Although lobbyists from the baby food industry attended the meetings in Geneva, health advocates said they saw no direct evidence that they played a role in Washington’s strong-arm tactics. The $70 billion industry, which is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding. Over all, global sales are expected to rise by 4 percent in 2018, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in developing nations.

The intensity of the administration’s opposition to the breast-feeding resolution stunned public health officials and foreign diplomats, who described it as a marked contrast to the Obama administration, which largely supported W.H.O.’s longstanding policy of encouraging breast-feeding.

During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution to the W.H.O., several negotiators said. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.

The confrontation was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues.

In talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Americans have been pushing for language that would limit the ability of Canada, Mexico and the United States to put warning labels on junk food and sugary beverages, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New York Times.

During the same Geneva meeting where the breast-feeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity.

The Americans also sought, unsuccessfully, to thwart a W.H.O. effortaimed at helping poor countries obtain access to lifesaving medicines. Washington, supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has long resisted calls to modify patent laws as a way of increasing drug availability in the developing world, but health advocates say the Trump administration has ratcheted up its opposition to such efforts.

The delegation’s actions in Geneva are in keeping with the tactics of an administration that has been upending alliances and long-established practices across a range of multilateral organizations, from the Paris climate accord to the Iran nuclear deal to Nafta.

Ilona Kickbusch, director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said there was a growing fear that the Trump administration could cause lasting damage to international health institutions like the W.H.O. that have been vital in containing epidemics like Ebola and the rising death toll from diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the developing world.

“It’s making everyone very nervous, because if you can’t agree on health multilateralism, what kind of multilateralism can you agree on?” Ms. Kickbusch asked.

A Russian delegate said the decision to introduce the breast-feeding resolution was a matter of principle.

“We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” said the delegate, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said the United States did not directly pressure Moscow to back away from the measure. Nevertheless, the American delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.

In the end, the United States was largely unsuccessful. The final resolution preserved most of the original wording, though American negotiators did get language removed that called on the W.H.O. to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.” “We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” said the delegate, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said the United States did not directly pressure Moscow to back away from the measure. Nevertheless, the American delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.

In the end, the United States was largely unsuccessful. The final resolution preserved most of the original wording, though American negotiators did get language removed that called on the W.H.O. to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”

The United States also insisted that the words “evidence-based” accompany references to long-established initiatives that promote breast-feeding, which critics described as a ploy that could be used to undermine programs that provide parents with feeding advice and support.

Elisabeth Sterken, director of the Infant Feeding Action Coalition in Canada, said four decades of research have established the importance of breast milk, which provides essential nutrients as well as hormones and antibodies that protect newborns against infectious disease.

A 2016 study in The Lancet found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk.

Scientists are loath to carry out double-blind studies that would provide one group with breast milk and another with breast milk substitutes. “This kind of ‘evidence-based’ research would be ethically and morally unacceptable,” Ms. Sterken said.

Abbott Laboratories, the Chicago-based company that is one of the biggest players in the $70 billion baby food market, declined to comment.

Nestlé, the Switzerland-based food giant with significant operations in the United States, sought to distance itself from the threats against Ecuador and said the company would continue to support the international code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes, which calls on governments to regulate the inappropriate promotion of such products and to encourage breast-feeding.

In addition to the trade threats, Todd C. Chapman, the United States ambassador to Ecuador, suggested in meetings with officials in Quito, the Ecuadorean capital, that the Trump administration might also retaliate by withdrawing the military assistance it has been providing in northern Ecuador, a region wracked by violence spilling across the border from Colombia, according to an Ecuadorean government official who took part in the meeting.

The United States Embassy in Quito declined to make Mr. Chapman available for an interview.

“We were shocked because we didn’t understand how such a small matter like breast-feeding could provoke such a dramatic response,” said the Ecuadorean official, who asked not to be identified because she was afraid of losing her job.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tribes and following your heart: Continuum Concepts

Image result for Bayar Babies movie

Every parent interested in tribal peoples and natural parenting must see Babies, also known as Baby(ies) and Bébé(s), a 2010 French documentary film by Thomas Balmes, who in fact did not have an agenda or even know about Continuum Concepts when he produced the movie.
An interesting review written by Roger Ebert on the 2010 French documentary unwittingly touches on the fact that the babies seen in the movie from the poorest parts of the globe appear the happiest. He writes:
"Babies is the perfect film for anyone who has never had the opportunity to interact with humans at an early age. You may never have had one, held one or baby-sat one, yet remained curious about the infants you see in a park, on the beach, or in baby carriers at the mall. Now a French documentarian has traveled to Africa, Asia and America to bring back charming footage of babies in their natural habitats.
If, however, you've raised children and/or grandchildren, or had little brothers and sisters, the movie may resemble 79 minutes of unpaid baby-sitting. When Baby Mari starts screaming, you're wishing you could turn on the TV and use something bright and noisy as a distraction. But no, you're at a movie. However, maybe “Babies” may be fascinating viewing for babies, just as many dogs and cats have their favorite programs. The babies are cute. Well, all babies are cute. That's just as well, because how could filmmakers audition a baby and wait six months to give it a callback? It's not a baby anymore. The director, Thomas Balmes, has found exemplary babies in Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco, and observes them lovingly as they nurse, play, doze, poke kittens and happily hit one another. The movie is really about the babies, not their parents, and in most cases, we only see those parts of the parents ranking highest on the infant's interest scale: nipples, hands, arms, and male and female chests. Not all of the nipples are real, but the babies don't discriminate as long as they work. 
Two of the babies come from poor parts of the world, and two from rich. They seem equally happy and healthy. The Japanese and American babies are subjected to an awesome array of baby training strategies so they can begin climbing the success ladder as early as possible. I have no argument against baby yoga classes, but I have never known a baby who wasn't naturally able naturally to contort itself into alarming positions and get lost in meditation on the spur of the moment.
The African baby, Ponijao, lives in a forest hut with an earth floor, but this is Home and here is Mother and there are sticks to play with that may not be made of plastic and ornamented with Disney creatures but are excellent sticks nonetheless, and satisfying. Bayarjargal (nicknamed Bayar), whose family lives in a yurt in Mongolia, passes time by becoming expert in sibling rivalry.
Mari, from Japan, and Hattie, from America, are surrounded by a baffling array of devices to entertain them, serve them, shelter them, protect them and help them grow up big and strong. Can the epidemic of attention deficit disorder be explained by the First World's lack of opportunities for babies to be bored? How can babies concentrate when things are forever being jingled and dangled at them? Is there too much incoming? 
I dunno. What I do know is that babies are miraculous. From a sprawling, bawling start, they learn to walk, talk, plan, scheme, play and figure stuff out. Generations of scientists have hurled themselves at the question of exactly how babies learn to talk. They must be getting so frustrated by the fact that the babies just go ahead and do it with no training." 
From my book, Ma Doula: A Story Tour of Birth: In the late 1970s, after the Vietnam War had displaced them, thousands of Hmong people immigrated to the U.S., Minnesota absorbing the bulk of them: 35,000 in the first years. I decided to befriend them. And I watched and listened.
Like Jean Leidloff (The Continuum Concept, 1971) whom I didn’t read until many years later, I was not seeing babies who resembled our American babies. These babies hardly fussed, never seemed to cry, were carried most of the day only being put down on straw mats on the floor when they were sleeping, but were otherwise scooped up at the first peep and tied onto whomever was the first adult on the scene. Babies were nursed on demand until the next newborn came along. Then that toddler became the charge of Grandma or an Aunt who would carry, feed, sleep with, entertain and care for him so that the little person would not feel left out for one minute by the tiny intruder. Children were constantly milling around the grownups wherever they were congregating. The men would gather before and after a meal, often sharing a bamboo hookah, babies or toddlers on their knees or in their laps, older children quietly playing and listening to the conversations while their moms and sisters cooked, cleaned and took care of the household.
During the first years I was with the Hmong, I never saw a baby crying uncontrollably, or left to cry behind a closed door. I never saw a tantrum when a parent said no. I didn’t see whiny or clingy children in stores demanding this or that dry cereal or toy. I also didn’t see parents entertaining their little charges, rather, they were simply brought along throughout the day wherever their parents or aunt or grandma needed to be engaged. Toddlers were looked after by the whole extended family. It did take a village to raise each child. Everyone, even the oldest grandpa’s lap wasn’t off limits to a grazing toddler. Grandpa just kept talking or telling a story to whomever was listening (or no one.) Spoken Hmong is a preliterate (unwritten) language, so there is a very rich oral tradition of story-telling. Stories are told and retold. Stories are sung over and over. Stories are even sewn into intricate, elaborate quilts and wall hangings. You can find story quilts telling the story of a particular family’s exodus from Laos or the layout of the clan’s farm and animal herds before the war.
I also saw toddlers wielding knives and machetes. Adults didn’t admonish the children, or grab the tools away but quietly hovered nearby, letting this be an educational moment. Children hardly more than toddlers themselves would comfort a smaller child if he fell down. There were no toys as such in those early days, but children would share or patiently wait for a turn with an empty juice bottle ‘doll’ wrapped in a rag that another child was playing with.
This was continuum bonding. After 9 months in utero, being totally surrounded by everything he needs a baby’s care isn’t suddenly completed, like an assembly line product, popped out at birth. The complete circle of touch, smell, sounds, taste and comfort must be continued 24 hours a day. ‘In arms’ he will continue to be held, fed, jostled, rocked and hear and see everything around him that he will slowly learn from. That is stimulation enough. We don’t have to constantly entertain, provide educational toys, teach, hang mobiles, come up with unique experiences, schedule play dates, put on classical music, and play CDs of foreign languages, ad infinite. Our babies will process as much as they are able at each appropriate stage without our perpetually thinking that they won’t learn or be smart if we don’t personally fill each teaching moment by offering them multiple options. Our daily lives already provide the social and physical requirements for our brain development.
Fast forward to 2018. I am now seeing 3 generations later, an entire society emulating our American lifestyles, values, and so unfortunately, our parenting styles. Most have lost sight of the continuum model I saw in the beginning of their assimilation. I would bet, though, that I would find that model again in Laos should I return to visit those that stayed behind. 
(Grandma) Stephanie Sorensen
Midwife, Author

Friday, April 22, 2016


Minneapolis Author Named a Finalist 
in the 26th Annual Midwest Book Awards
Minnesota: The 26th Annual Midwest Book Awards has recognized Ma Doula: a Story Tour of Birth by Stephanie Sorensen as a finalist in the category of family & parenting.
Winners will be announced at the Midwest Book Awards Gala to be held on May 13, 2016, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Olson Campus Center at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The competition, sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association, is judged by experts from all aspects of the book world, including publishers, writers, editors, librarians, teachers and book designers. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence.
From the author: My books are about the courageous men and women from across the planet who have fled war, torture, famine and genocide. They come here with hope. They dare to hope that they can once more live in peace. They dare to fall in love again, dare to have babies again and provide a better life for their families. They come from every country and background imaginable; from Africa, Asia – Laos, Vietnam, China, Thailand, the South Pacific, Mongolia, Burma, Europe and South America. Against all odds they have landed here, bringing absolutely nothing with them... but hope.

My books are not about my life. They are about these amazing survivors starting over, from scratch. They invite me to witness some of their most intimate moments, like the birth of their babies. My job is to help them navigate the impossibly complex world of the American medical system. With each one I try to create a safe environment for them, so that they can access their own power and wisdom from within in order to birth this particular child.
“It is thrilling to see so many talented authors and publishers of high quality books in the Midwest,” said Midwest Book Awards Chair Sherry Roberts. “I look forward to the Gala, where we will be recognizing the achievements of all the finalists and winners as well as celebrating the strength and vitality of independent publishing in the Midwest.”

About MIPA 
Midwest Independent Publishing Association serves the Midwest publishing community to promote excellence in publishing in the Midwest. Through educational programming and other cooperative efforts, MIPA helps members learn more about publishing and book production, promotion and marketing. MIPA also provides networking opportunities for publishers, both new and experienced, to learn from each other.
 MIPA serves a 12-state region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Parent magazine!

We did it! Ma Doula is featured this month in Minnesota Parent Magazine. International Doula Magazine had a lovely spread about the book in their winter issue. I will be signing copies of my book on April 23rd at the MIPA Vendor Fair in Roseville. Hoping to see you there!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mark your calendars, your phones, your websites! 

August 12th, at 7 p.m. 
At Everyday Miracles
1121 Jackson St. N.E. 
Minneapolis, MN 

See movie Birth Story and book signing after. 

Suggested donation: $20 includes movie and a signed first edition copy of Ma Doula: A Story Tour of Birth.

Go to Everyday Miracles’ website to purchase advance tickets. Tickets will also be sold at the door. 

We hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

TODAY in Minneapolis!

Ma Doula: A Story Tour of Birth - the book is born!
My first Minneapolis book signing! 
At Moon Palace Books 2 p.m. TODAY!  Saturday, July 11th
Address: 2820 E 33rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Stephanie Sorensen

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My first book signing at the St. Cloud, Minnesota Art Crawl yesterday

Our book has been born!

Below: L to R, Patricia Morris, my editor AKA fairy godmother (who else makes dreams come true?) center: Corrine Dwyer, publisher from North Star Press, and me, making believe I am a real author.

It kinda feels like my first day at kindergarten did....

And now, my very favorite other book this month that you absolutely have to check out: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Woman's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth  by Jennifer Steil. A gifted writer, Steil surprised me with her brilliant and candid writing… and her elegance. It is rare to find a first book this enticing. Writing with a journalist's eye for detail, Steil narrates the journey she and her staff of a Yemeni newspaper take together, sometimes endearing, but then at other times a volatile clash of two cultures. I was immediately drawn into her story, so different and so original from many of the works being published here and abroad today. A truly refreshing change, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky definitely made me want to immediately order her next book, even before I turned the last page. I am not sure where Ms. Steil has been hiding all these years, but I am glad I have discovered her at last. I think I can expect the same exacting precision of writing in her next book. I cannot wait until The Ambassador's Wife arrives!