Healthy babies I loved the article on breastfeeding (Breast is best, November 2006) especially because of the fact that it featured an African-American mom. As you may know, the numbers for this group are well below white mothers. I was also surprised that in the list of ways to prevent premature birth, nutrition was not mentioned.
I'm not sure if there is any science behind this, but in the birth community, it is a well known fact that there is nothing more important than good nutrition when it comes to preventing complications during pregnancy.
And finally, your article on breech birth (Chicago Baby, Fall 2006) made the medical model seem like the only model with any efficancy. When considering any kind of treatment, one needs to consider the least intervention oriented and less risky treatment first. Many "old wives tales" often work and have few, if any, risks. I have read that using the pressure point bladder 67 on the little toe has well over 80 percent success if used correctly. I am a certified shiatsu practitioner and have seen this work in my own practice.
JO ANNE LINDBERG President and founder Birthlink & Five Element Shiatsu Evanston
Breastfeeding guidelines needed for travel Thank you for a wonderful article on breastfeeding (Breast is best, November 2006). I was especially grateful for Patti Wolter's comments about not wanting to guilt mothers who choose not to breastfeed and the fact that for some, breastfeeding is a luxury. I'm so tired of the mommy wars, and the Ad Council ads only feed into the mommy wars.
As for what is next for the U.S. Government, I would suggest that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services send its breastfeeding guidelines to Homeland Security/Federal Aviation Administration and work with them on changing the guidelines that will not allow traveling mothers to transport their breastmilk if they do not have their child with them.
The pump and dump mentality of the FAA guidelines are terrible. And if I can't even trust check-in with my eyeglasses, how can I trust them not to lose my breastmilk?
VERONICA I. ARREOLA Chicago
Positive feeding Great job, bringing breastfeeding to the fore. It's a shame that Chicago lags behind in the breastfeeding charts, but wonderful to hear that the national numbers are up to over 72 percent.
I am so glad you were able to bring a perspective that doesn't glorify breastfeeding or demonize formula feeding; you simply reminded people that breastfeeding is the normal way babies are fed. Here's hoping the WHO, AAP, HHS, WIC and all the myriad health organizations can inspire a new generation of parents to do the most basic and healthful thing for baby and mother.
Evin Galang Chicago
Breastfeeding kudos In the article "Breast is best" in your November 2006 issue, Nancy Mohrbacher of the Chicago Area Breastfeeding Coalition is quoted as saying "WIC Clinical Coordinators and peer counselors are single-handedly responsibly for increases in breastfeeding rates." We couldn't agree more. The demographic changes in breastfeeding in the last 10 years have been led by increases in the populations that typically had the lowest rates: women of color, young women, women with low levels of formal education and WIC recipients.
Chicago Health Connection has trained more than 500 peer counselors in the Chicago area over the last 20 years. We have partnered with diverse agencies throughout the area, and our trained peer counselors have dramatically improved breastfeeding rates, with increases from rates of 11 percent to those as high as 85 percent in some areas. We also train breastfeeding peer counselors and their supervisors for WIC programs in several other states.
We believe the key to this success is training people to work in the communities they are from; they are able to develop nurturing relationships with the women they serve, who find it easy to relate to them. With partner agencies, CHC is making an impact on infant health. Twenty years ago, our organization began as the Chicago Breastfeeding Task Force, and today we are part of a national movement.
Breastfeeding is indeed the best thing for your baby. Thank you for your article and for informing parents of this wonderful gift they can provide for their babies.
Rachel Abramson, Executive director Brenda Reyes, Breastfeeding peer counselor Chicago Health Connection
The third-grade brain Thanks much for your story "Brain development: Third-grade crossroad" (October 2006). I have a third-grader and was getting quite frantic with the school workload. Now I know why.
I do wish, however, that you'd included a bibliography for sources and resources/references parents could go to for more information. We especially need to see how we can use these findings in our own homes. After all, parents are a child's first teachers.
Also, the details seem to have been glossed over. For instance, I'd love to have learned how Janet Triner teaches her students to trick the brain to file information, if this was different than using as many senses as possible, which was mentioned. Of course, this is a huge topic, and I am sure multifaceted. So as a starter, yes it did cover much ground. Thank you for doing it. It'll give me some more insights to discuss with my daughter's class teacher.
NAAZISH YARKHAN Glendale Heights
The air our children breathe In your November 2006 issue, John Benish Jr. responded to Mick Dumke's September article "Back to fumes: Illinois school buses engulf kids in harmful diesel smoke." It is universally accepted that school buses are the safest way to get kids to school, and both Benish and Dumke asserted so in their pieces. However, even if school buses are safer than alternatives, it does not mean that they are as healthy as they should be.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strengthened ambient air quality standards for fine particulate matter (or "soot") in September, reflecting medical findings that these elements of diesel exhaust are more dangerous than scientists previously thought. Unfortunately, Chicagoland still fails to meet the old 1997 soot standard, let alone this new tighter standard. While school buses equipped with diesel particulate filters emit 90 percent less soot, only a handful of buses in Chicagoland use these devices; thousands are substantially dirtier. Not only does school bus exhaust contribute to regional air problems, soot also enters the bus cabin directly from the engine's crankcase vent under the hood whenever the door is opened. Therefore, it is also imperative to install crankcase filter systems to protect the health of children and bus drivers on the bus.
The American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago has worked with governmental agencies to retrofit dozens of school buses with cleaner technologies. Funds that can help cover costs of such efforts are available through the U.S. EPA's Clean School Bus USA program. School districts are also encouraged to apply for federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds through the Chicago Area Transportation Study.
While installing filters on buses is a substantial step in reducing dangerous diesel exhaust, anti-idling efforts also assist in protecting lungs. Illinois passed a diesel anti-idling law this year (Public Act 94-0845) which local police should enforce. School districts can also adopt stricter anti-idling policies. Both Benish and Dumke express our value of transporting kids safely to school; protecting lung health should be a high-ranking priority as well.
Anna Frostic Environmental health advocate American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago