Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ample Women in Artwork: Breastfeeding, Part 1


Recently, we did a post sharing breastfeeding pictures of contemporary women of size.

We did it because most of the breastfeeding images published in the media today are of thin white women.  This is one of my personal pet peeves.

We need more diversity in breastfeeding images in so many ways, but particularly in more images of women of size, more women of color, and women who are both. 

We also posted images of breastfeeding in fat women to counteract the common misperception that "obese" women can't or won't breastfeed.

Yes, research does indicate lower breastfeeding rates in obese women, but the reasons for that are complex, and rarely take into account the influence of PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, or anemia.  It certainly doesn't mean that breastfeeding is rare or impossible in this group, just lower than in other groups.

Unfortunately, the media message around this has become distorted enough so that some folks have mentally transformed it into fat women "can't" or "won't" or "shouldn't" breastfeed, even though research shows that breastfeeding support in this group can increase breastfeeding rates.

Supporting physiological (natural) birth practices and preventing more cesareans in obese women would likely increase breastfeeding rates in this group. So would more effective treatment for possible co-factors like PCOS, hypothyroidism, and anemia.  So would less body shame towards larger bodies from society. And so would actual images of women of size breastfeeding!

So in addition to posting breastfeeding pictures of contemporary women of size, I've added some scenes of classic and modern art featuring plump women breastfeeding their children too.

[I anticipate that some folks might say that these women aren't truly fat.  I would counter that it's hard to guess someone's BMI from a picture.  Many women who don't really "look overweight" actually fall into the government's "overweight" and even "obese" BMI category. I'd say that most of these women would at least fall into the "overweight" category as defined by the government today, and some into the "obese" category too.]

The point is to counter the idea that being "overweight" or "obese" automatically prevents breastfeeding, or is unusual in fat women.  Yes, progress needs to be made in increasing breastfeeding rates in high-BMI women, but it's not true that fat women can't or don't breastfeed.

I take this misperception personally. I breastfed four children for more than ten years cumulatively, even with PCOS, and I know many other fat women who have successfully breastfed long-term.  We need to counter this idea that "all" or "most" fat women have trouble breastfeeding. Some do, and we need to offer those women understanding and support, learn from their stories, and investigate those issues further. But we also need to stop transforming this into the message that fat women can't and don't breastfeed for long.

Many fat women somehow manage to breastfeed in modern society, and they somehow managed to breastfeed in the past too, as these paintings and pictures demonstrate.  It's time for more diversity of breastfeeding images in the media, and these are a start.


Macierzynstow, 1902

Pieter de Hooch, 1658


Mary Cassatt

Gentileschi, 1628

Edouard Deban-Posat

Albrecht Duerer

Vincente Lopez


Francisco Zuñiga

Paula Modersohn Becker


Baron Leon Henri Frederic

Chodowiecki 1764

Alfred Roll, 19th Century

Mary Cassatt

Tihanyi, 1908

I have more images, but that's enough for one post.  Part 2 of Ample Women in Artwork: Breastfeeding will be coming soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Plus-Sized Breastfeeding Photo Gallery

If you read research and media articles about breastfeeding and obesity, you'd believe that very few "obese" women ever breastfeed (or breastfeed for long).

Although it's true that high-BMI women have lower breastfeeding rates overall (and you can read more about the problems with that here), it's not true that most women of size can't or won't breastfeed.

Many women of size can and do breastfeed, although sometimes it's in spite of care providers, not because of them.

To counteract this perception that fat women can't/don't breastfeed, here are some lovely photos of plus-sized women nursing their children.

I've tried to put together a variety of pictures; women breastfeeding after a hospital birth, women breastfeeding after a homebirth, women breastfeeding in the NICU, women breastfeeding older children, women breastfeeding while pregnant with another baby, women tandem nursing two children, women using various nursing holds, etc.  The truth is that women of size breastfeed under many different circumstances and conditions, and these pictures represent that diversity of experience.

Thank you to the women who have so generously sent their breastfeeding pictures with me so that I may share them as needed.  Thank you for being patient while I gathered together enough entries to make a diverse gallery of photos.

[Readers, remember that the copyright for these pictures remains with the mothers, and no one may reproduce these elsewhere without express permission.]

You can see more lovely nursing portraits here, at my friend's blog.

As an addendum, here is a video promoting breastfeeding for native peoples.  It's long, and it has some of the usual misleading talk about breastfeeding "preventing" obesity (it may lower the chances for obesity modestly but it certainly doesn't prevent it unilaterally), but it does use images of all sizes of women breastfeeding. That's very rare in breastfeeding promotion materials.

(You can find more support for breastfeeding for native mothers at http://nativemothering.com/.)

I'm always looking for more photos of plus-sized pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I am especially interested in having more pictures of women of color who are also women of size, but I am happy to receive any photos.

If you have some photos you want to share, you can email them to kmom AT plus-size-pregnancy DOT org.  Be sure to give explicit permission to share your photos, and remember that they do get shared with the world permanently if you decide to do this!

Thanks again to those who have generously shared their photos.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thanks a Million!

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Just wanted to take a time-out from my normal posts to note that we just passed a MILLION page-views to the blog!  Wooo-hooo!!

I know, a pittance compared to some sites, and many hits are no doubt spam or quick searches with no real interest in the site. But even so, a million page views is pretty amazing to me.  Not bad for four years!

In the beginning, of course, I had very few visitors.  Slowly I built readership up to around 20,000 per month.  Then, two years ago, things really expanded.  Now I average around 1500 page views per day, and between 45,000 to 50,000 per month.  Unbelievable.  And I rarely even promote the site on other blogs or in social media!  The power of the internet, I guess.

I've taken a little break recently from pregnancy-related stuff, focusing more on some parenting-related issues and fun stuff.  However, don't worry, I have many pregnancy-related items and weight-related things in the works, plus a return to the PCOS series soon.  These are the things closest to my heart, but they do take a lot of research and time to complete, so I fit in some easier stuff now and then. Plus, sometimes I just like to vary my focus anyhow! Keeps things fresh.

But now's your chance to give a little feedback to the blog.  What do you like best, and what do you hope to see more of?  In your opinion, what's the most important stuff to cover?  I can't promise I'll change my posting habits too much, but it is helpful to hear what folks need/want most.  Helps me prioritize my time.

Thank you, readers, for all your pageviews, recommendations, links to the blog and links my other website, www.plus-size-pregnancy.org.  I appreciate you all.  I don't get to reply to all my emails anymore (one of the downsides of a well-read blog is having too many emails to answer each one personally), but I absolutely read every single email.  I try to fit in what I can, but as a working mom with four children, I can't always get to every one.  My apologies.

Still, I hope the blog has been useful to you.  It's certainly been a pleasure and an honor for me to write this blog and interact with my readers.

Thanks a MILLION, y'all!  See you after the next million!

The Well-Rounded Mama

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Emergency Preparedness: Lighting During Power Outages

Image from Wikimedia Commons

We've been talking about Emergency Preparedness, with special attention to the needs of families.

Previously we discussed preparing for the most common serious family emergency, which is a house fire.  Then we talked about having enough water in an emergency.

Now let's discuss the most common emergency most people will encounter, the power outage.

Power Outages

Just about every location in the world is going to experience a power outage sooner or later.  Most will be short and not very dangerous, so people don't always take them seriously.

However, sometimes power outages go on for days.  Sometimes, they last for weeks, especially when related to natural disasters.  What then?

Do you have a safe way to provide light in an emergency? To cook without power? To get important news and updates? To stay warm or cool as needed?

Each of these presents unique challenges in a power outage, but are easily planned for with a little forethought.  Let's start with planning how to provide light without electricity.

Lighting Without Power

Many people already have some emergency lighting prep for power outages.  Most keep at least a couple of flashlights and candles on hand, enough to get by for a few hours.  But it's good to take a look at what you do have, examine the pros and cons of each choice, then see how you can supplement these if a power outage were to go on for a while.

Although lovely, candles are a poor choice in disasters due to fire and explosion hazards. The Red Cross recommends against the use of candles during blackouts because they are a major source of fires during outages. It's better to rely on alternative forms of lighting than to risk creating an  emergency on top of another emergency.

However, some people will use candles because it's all they have, or because they run out of batteries for flashlights.  If you do use candles, use ones in a sturdy jar with a lid because they are less prone to being knocked over.  Be sure they are carefully supervised and never leave the room if a candle is burning! Don't put them close to anything burnable (like blowing curtains), and place them on a non-burnable surface just in case they get bumped.  Don't forget the need for a dependable way to light them (matches or lighters, stored out of the reach of children), and have a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case something does catch.

Kerosene and oil lamps are another option prone to accidents.  The flame is contained within the lantern so it's a little safer than a candle's open flame, and the amount of light provided is better than a single candle.  On the other hand, kerosene and lamp oil are highly poisonous, must be stored out of the reach of children, tend to get very hot, and need to be stored away from accidental ignition sources.  [We store ours in an insulated and latched picnic cooler, which helps protect them from ignition sources and contains any mess if they are broken in an earthquake.]

Propane lamps are another option, but like other liquid fuel lamps, are not recommended for indoor use because of the risk of carbon monoxide build-up.  They also need a good reserve of fuel if they are your choice for an emergency.

On the whole, LED battery-operated lanterns or flashlights are the safest choices for emergencies. Flashlights are better for finding your way around in the dark, while battery-operated lanterns are best for ambient room light.   The best models have both options built into one light.  There are expensive models, but there are also very reasonable models if budget is an issue.

Many stores also offer battery-operated candles that look like a regular candle but are safer.  These can be a great way to provide ambient low-level lighting for eating, family games, or a trip to the loo.  A mirror, aluminum foil, or a jug of water near a candle or lantern can amplify the light source without extra fuel consumption.

Headlamps are a great way to be able to provide focused, hands-free task lighting.  Most people don't have these, but this is probably the best bed-side emergency lighting you can have.  That way, if a fire, earthquake or tornado happens, you have two free hands to crawl, move debris, administer first aid, or pick up your child as needed.

However, if flashlights, headlamps or lanterns are your plan for lighting without power, don't forget to have plenty of extra batteries (of the right type!) on hand. You probably have enough for the short-term, but would you have enough for a longer outage?  Stores run out of batteries quickly in an emergency, so it's best to have a decent stock at home beforehand, just in case.

Another great product is a nightlight/emergency light that is constantly charged by plugging into your hall's electrical outlet.  These provide a nice low nightlight for everyday use, but automatically light up brightly if the power goes out.  Many models also have a flashlight option, making it even more useful in an emergency.  Think how hard it would be to escape the house in pitch black darkness after a disaster and how valuable automatic emergency lighting would be!

In a similar vein, there are lanterns and flashlights that you plug into the wall to keep charged.  Like the nightlight/emergency light, they are then are ready for use if the power goes out.

You can also purchase lights that are operated by crank or by shaking; they work by kinetic energy so you are not dependent on batteries.  These are great.

It's good to have a combination of both battery-operated and hand-crank lights for maximum versatility.

Portable solar panels and their battery packs can also be helpful if they fit in your budget. Solar garden lights can also provide temporary light if brought inside for the night.  They don't last year-to-year very well but would provide some emergency back-up lighting for a while.

You can also find many hybrid products.  For example, GoalZero has a cool flashlight whose battery can be recharged via wall plug, a crank, or solar power.  That's a very versatile and useful option.

Or there are products that serve multiple functions, such as a hand-crank emergency radio that also can serve as a flashlight or cell phone charger.  At least one emergency radio/flashlight should be a part of everyone's emergency stash.

Light sticks are a great cheap source of safe light that's great for kids. You can buy these very cheaply at Dollar-type stores.  These are the safest form of light after an event like an earthquake, when natural gas leaks might be an issue.  Even flashlights can cause a spark that might start a fire. (If you only have a flashlight, go outside to a well-ventilated area to turn on the flashlight and then go back in the building.)

The main disadvantage of light sticks is that once on, they don't turn off, they have a limited burn time, and they are not re-usable.  However, for the money, they are one of the best sources of emergency lighting around.  Keep some in both your house and car.  They can serve as emergency flares if needed, or you can duct tape one to your clothing or to the wall for hands-free lighting as well.

Obviously, there are many choices when it comes to providing light during a power outage. It's best to have several different options on hand.  Also store plenty of batteries, in case of an extended power outage, and have non-battery choices available too, in case your batteries run out.

Finally, have a couple of standardized places around the house where you always store your emergency lighting/flashlights.  Keep them there consistently.  That way, even in the dark, you will know exactly where to go to find emergency lighting.

Electrical Appliances

Another thing to consider about electrical outages is protecting your appliances and computers.

Turn off and unplug electrical equipment in the house during the outage so that if the power comes back with a surge or spike, your appliances will not be destroyed.  Surge protectors may be a good investment for really valuable equipment.

However, keep one light switch on during the outage so that you will know when the power is restored.  If everything is turned off, how will you know when power comes back?

Remember to back up the data on your computer frequently.  It's a good idea to have both a hard disk back-up as well as a "cloud" back-up.  Periodically back up a hard disk and store it off-site too.

Know how to manually open your garage door.  You want to be able to access your car as needed during a power outage.  You can recharge your cell phone and other portable items in the car (with the right cables), but the exhaust must be vented properly in order to do this safely.

A home generator can be useful for powering select appliances in an outage, but many are expensive, noisy and most need gasoline. Because of the risk of carbon monoxide build-up, do NOT run a generator inside a home or garage. Run them outside (in a dry protected area) and use an outdoor-approved extension cord. Know how to operate generators safely.

Or invest in a outlet-charged mega battery, which charges a power reserve that can be tapped to keep your freezer, fridge, or other major appliances running.  (Smaller, less-powerful versions are also available.)  A solar-powered generator is another viable option, which can be continuously re-charged with enough sunlight. There are several different versions available, so check your options carefully.

These alternative generators are pretty expensive but they run silently, don't put off carbon monoxide, and won't depend on a supply of gasoline (which will run out all too quickly in an extended outage). They may be worth saving up for, especially in areas prone to extended outages.


Power outages are probably the most frequent potential emergency that people will encounter in their lives.  Sooner or later, everyone copes with a power outage.

For a few hours, a power outage is no big deal, certainly not an emergency, and many people have pretty reasonable preparations already in place.  However, if an outage goes on for days (or occurs during an extreme weather event), it can present a much bigger challenge.  It's good to have some extra preparation in place for that.

Give some significant thought to having several different back-up methods to provide light if a power outage were to continue for more than a few hours.
Our StoryWe live in an area vulnerable to power outages, especially in the winter. Therefore, we have headlamps beside each bed, Blackout Buddy emergency lights in the halls, and battery- and crank-operated LED lanterns, and flashlights in storage.  We have regular candles and oil lamps from our impressionable youth, but use battery-operated candles and lanterns in an outage. In our car emergency kits, we have crank/battery hybrid lights, headlamps, and lightsticks. We do not have a solar generator but we'd like to!  Maybe someday.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Emergency Preparedness: Water

Image from Wikimedia Commons
We are running an occasional series on improving your emergency preparedness, with special attention to preparedness for families.

We already talked about fire safety for families. Now, let's talk about one of the most neglected things in emergency preparedness ─ extra drinking water, or what the experts call "potable" water.

Do you have enough potable water on hand?  How do you store it?  How would you get more in an emergency if water access was cut off?  How can you avoid water-borne diseases that are so common after emergencies?

Storing Extra Potable Water

The number one emergency preparedness thing that people fail to do is to store enough water.

This is especially true for families. People often have some extra food and a little stored water on hand, but very few families have enough water stored up for emergencies.  You can go without food for a long period of time, but you can only go a few days without water before your health is affected.

Basically, the rule of thumb is to store a gallon of water per day per person.  You need to drink at least 2 quarts of water per day, plus you need extra water for sanitation and preparing food.  Thus, experts recommend storing about a gallon per day per person.

Even in just a 3-day kit (which is the bare-bones minimum for preparing for an emergency), this can really add up for a family! Especially if you have multiple children, extended family, or pets living with you.  Thus, most people have inadequate back-up stores of water.

So how do you build up a supply of water?  There are a number of options.

The most recommended method is to buy bottled water (the big bottles); professionally bottled water lasts the longest because it has been bottled under strict conditions. Or you can get boxes of regular-sized bottled waters when on sale. (I'm not a fan of these because of the waste, but having some can be useful in an emergency.)

Of course, you can always store your own instead.  Water doesn't rot, but it can start growing bacteria, so you do have to take some precautions.

Get durable food-grade plastic 5-gallon water containers (many stores have them), then wash them with soap and water, sterilize them with a bleach solution, rinse them, and fill them with water. If you use city tap water, no extra measures are needed.  If you have well water, you should pre-treat the water with some bleach or other treatments before storing it.  Some experts recommend rotating your stored water every 6-12 months.

If you have room and a lot of people to store water for, you can consider a water barrel specially designed for long-term potable water storage.

If space or money is an issue, wash out old pop bottles, sterilize and rinse them, then fill with water and tuck them into various corners around your house. Don't use fruit juice or milk jugs, as milk proteins and fruit sugars can't be adequately removed from them and will provide a strong medium for bacterial growth.

Store water in dark, cool places to slow the growth of bacteria.  If you don't have a dark place to store the water, put it in a box or under a dark cover to minimize light exposure. Don't store it directly on concrete floors; have something underneath preventing direct contact.

Sometimes water access is available right after an emergency but may go away in a few hours. After a disaster (of if you know a disaster is coming), try to fill up the bathtubs and sinks in the house for more stored water.  There are special containers (called a "Water Bob") that you can use to store water in bathtubs more cleanly and efficiently; these are an especially good idea for those in areas prone to hurricanes.

Don't forget that you can access the water in your hot water heater if you really need it. That's an extra 30 or so gallons that many people forget about.

If you have extra freezer space, consider freezing some containers of water (leave a few inches at the top for expansion with freezing).  This will help keep your freezer food cold longer in a power outage, and can be used for extra drinking water if there is an extended emergency.

Also have paper plates and cups on hand so you won't have to waste water on washing dishes.  You want to keep as much of your water for drinking as possible, especially when you don't know how long an emergency will last.

Outside, you can harvest rainwater into barrels for non-drinking use, or learn how to convert it into drinkable water.

Replenishing Water Supplies

Stored drinking water is very important, but you can only store so much, and it only lasts so long.  Preparing for emergencies also means knowing how to convert water from the environment (creeks, lakes, rivers, rainwater barrels, puddles, ditches, etc.) into safe drinkable water.

Trust me, you do not want to drink water straight from these sources, even if it looks clean. (Read about the bad things that can be caught from untreated water here.)  Remember, a death toll is often not just from the disaster itself, but also from the diseases people catch from untreated water afterwards.  Just because the water looks clean doesn't mean that it is!

The bottom line is that you need to learn how to take non-potable water and make it safe for drinking.  Always pre-treat water you intend to drink.

You do this by:
  • filtering the water to get rid of sediments, particulates, and other nasty bits
  • purifying the water to get rid of viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organisms.
The first thing you do is strain or filter the water.  You can use coffee filters, paper towels, clean cloth (like a bandanna), clean t-shirts, or a layer of sand to strain the water. A ceramic or carbon filter does an even better job at getting rid of sediments and other particulates.

It is very important to filter water as your first step, as purifying cloudy/dirty water is much more difficult (and less effective) than purifying clear water.

Once the water is filtered, you need to purify it.  There are several ways to do this.

Boiling water is one of the best ways to purify it.  FEMA recommends boiling clear water at least one full minute at a complete rolling boil. (Some sources recommend 3-10 minutes, especially if the water is cloudy.)  If you live at a higher altitude, you need to boil the water longer, at least 3 minutes, because the altitude makes water boil at a lower temperature and thus is not as efficient at killing organisms quickly.

Boiling is the best way to purify water, but it has some disadvantages.  Boiling will make the water taste flat; you can fix this by pouring it back and forth between two containers to aerate it, or you can add a pinch of salt to it.  In addition, it takes a fair amount of fuel to boil large amounts of water.  In an emergency, you may not always have enough fuel or the right equipment to boil water. Therefore, it's important to have other ways to purify water.

Bleach (sodium hypochlorite) with no additives or fragrances can also be used to purify water.  Recommendations differ, but the most common guideline is 8 or 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water.  However, remember that liquid bleach degrades in a fairly short period of time, and older bleach may not do the job effectively.  Also remember that you need twice as much bleach if you are purifying cloudy water.

Some preppers use the powdered chlorine of pool shock treatments instead.  This form is calcium hypochlorite. The advantage of the powdered form is that it doesn't degrade nearly as fast as liquid bleach, is more powerful, and doesn't take up as much storage room.  However, remember that this is dangerous stuff, highly corrosive and under the right conditions, explosive too. It must be stored and used with extreme care.  Research this thoroughly if you plan to use this method!

Many people like Steri-Pens. They use ultra-violet light to purify the water.  They are very non-toxic, quick, portable, and easy to use.  However, it's more expensive, and most models need AA lithium batteries, which are expensive and eventually need to be replaced. You can buy the crank model (although users report this version is hard to use), store lots of extra batteries, or buy the model that comes with a solar charger for batteries.  Still, for quick emergency use or for traveling, a Steri-pen is a great option.

Solar water disinfection (also called SODIS) is a water purification option that doesn't take many resources.  You simply fill a small transparent PET plastic bottle or plastic bag with clear, pre-filtered water and leave it in the sun for 6 hours.  The UV rays in the sunlight will kill any micro-organisms, given enough time. The advantage of this method is that it's extremely cheap and works well in resource-poor areas where cooking fuel is unavailable or very expensive. The disadvantage of this method is that it takes a lot of time and good strong sunlight, which may not always be available. It doesn't work well on cloudy water, so good pre-filtering is vital.

There are also water purification tablets or drops.  These use chemicals like iodine or chlorine dioxide (a different form of chlorine than household bleach or pool shock) to treat the water.  Sample brands include Katadyn MicroPur tablets, Aquamira tablets or water treatment drops, and Potable Aqua tablets.  The main advantage of these is that they are extremely small, portable, and have a relatively long shelf life.  Another important advantage is that they are "residually effective" ─ once the water is treated, it will stay safe even if exposed to new pathogens, unlike boiling, UV light, or solar disinfection. The disadvantage is that they take a long time to fully treat the water, chemically-treated water doesn't taste great, and iodine tablets are contraindicated for people with thyroid issues.

Obviously, there are many ways to purify water, and every method has its pros and cons. The best method for your situation depends on the exact conditions you are facing. (You can read more about filtering and purifying water in the links at the end of this post.)

Water Safety Considerations

However you decide to filter and purify your water, don't forget that a vital part of water safety is making sure the water stays purified.  Many people do a lot of work to make their water safe, only to then contaminate it afterwards with poor handling techniques and unsafe practices.

Make sure your carrying receptacle, your storage receptacle, and your hands are clean so you don't contaminate the water you have worked so hard to make safe.

Have a way to extract and serve the clean drinking water that will not spread germs.  Don't have people sip from a common ladle, and don't let people dip their individual cups into the clean water.  Think about ways to serve the water to individuals while still keeping it pure.

Don't forget to wash/sterilize the outside of your water receptacles.  This includes the threads of any water bottles and lids.  Re-sterilize your water receptacles frequently.

Also make sure that you use only clean, treated water for cooking meals, preparing drinks, and brushing teeth. It doesn't matter if your drinking water is safe if you brush your teeth with untreated water!  Think about all your water usage, not just what you drink.

These practices cannot guarantee you 100% safe water, of course, but they go a long way towards keeping your water as safe as possible.  People often want to take hygiene short-cuts, especially in emergencies, but being scrupulous in your practices can save you a lot of illness later.


In conclusion, have sufficient emergency water storage on hand to use if your water supply is contaminated or cut off during a disaster.  Store about one gallon per person per day, and keep it in a dark, cool place.

Second, be ready to filter and purify other sources of water to make them potable if your emergency is prolonged.  Know different methods for filtering and purifying water so that you can use the method most suitable to the challenges of your situation.  Have back-up methods ready, just in case.

Third, be consistent and vigilant about safe water practices in an emergency.  Doing so may help you avoid or minimize the disease aftermath that often follows major disasters.

A safe emergency water supply is the most pressing, yet most neglected area of emergency preparedness. Other preps can wait.  If you do nothing else, do this.


Water Storage and Purification Articles
Places to Buy Water Storage Supplies