INTACT: Let's use correct terminology

By Danelle Day © 2008

I would like to challenge everyone to start using correct terminology when it comes to the intact boy, intact man, and intact penis.

If you must qualify boys and men based on their genitalia, they are INTACT.

Not uncircumcised.

It is troubling to hear (read) people use the un-word.

We do not call women 'unclitoridectomised' or 'unlabiaplastectomised.' Girls who have not been subject to the hand of a mutilation knife are intact. And so are boys. They come from within fully formed and perfect - all in one piece and made just the way they are meant to be made - intact.

In their most excellent book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision, Drs. Fleiss and Hodges encourage us to call our babies brought home whole exactly what they are - INTACT. "Uncircumcised," they write, "is an unscientific, unhelpful, useless, and confusing term because it uses terminology normally reserved for abnormality to name a natural, normal body part. Let us avoid confusion and stick to science." Yes, let's!

Embarrassingly, I, too, was once guilty of throwing around the term 'uncircumcised.' In fact, while writing my dissertation I used the word before being as informed as I (thankfully) am today on issues of genital autonomy. I cringe when reading over early publications and know that libraries house a document I wrote, but made such a grave mistake within. I suppose it is reflective of the slightly ignorant time in which I began to write and study... And thankfully times are now changing!

So when you are talking about your intact son, or your intact husband, or how you plan to keep your baby boys intact - do just that! You don't need to say, "I am against circumcision" but rather, "I believe in keeping all babies intact at birth." If you work in obstetrics, midwifery, or Labor and Delivery, you can ask, "Do you plan to keep your baby intact?" rather than [oh, how I hate this question] "Would you like your baby circumcised?"

Words have meaning. They hold power. They influence our thinking about the concepts they surround. Just as the intact clitoris is the normal, natural clitoris--the intact penis is the normal, natural penis. We must normalize and naturalize the word 'intact' in the United States.

So, let me hear (and read) you using it!

Additional information on the prepuce, intact care, and circumcision:
Should I Circumcise? The pros and cons

Intact defined

Why not say 'uncircumcised?'

Judaism & Circumcision Resources


Counseling Couples in Disagreement about Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective

Circumcision From the Perspective of Protecting Children

Biblical Circumcision Information

The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion: Circumcision (CIRP) 

Circumcision Then and Now (CIRP)

Jewish Mother on Circumcision

The Intactivist Movement Within Judaism [additional resources that extend beyond the scope of this page]


Celebrating Brit Shalom

Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective

Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism

Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America

A Measure of His Grief

Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery

Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma

Circumcision: The Rest of the Story

Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma

CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision [video]

CUT Video Website

Alternative Bris Options:

Many Jewish parents today are electing to have a Brit Shalom in place of a brit milah [circumcision ceremony]. For more information, and to talk with other Jewish parents electing this for their sons, see:


Informational cards available from the Intact Jewish Network

Additional resources on the functions of the foreskin and circumcision:


The Circumcision Decision [VIDEO]

This is an excellent video with several doctors speaking on their experience and expertise with the topic at hand.

My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin

By Stacey Greenberg
Originally published in Mothering and at:

In the land before children, my husband and I had many a circumcision debate over dinner and drinks with friends. I always humored him as he made the comparison between circumcision and female genital mutilation, secretly knowing that I would trump his concerns with my Judaism card. He had agreed to a Jewish wedding and a Jewish household, and well, Jews circumcised their boys. End of story.

I'm not the most religious Jew ever, and my friends and husband have often wondered how I can even call myself a Jew. (Obviously they are not Jewish!) I can only say that being Jewish is just something I am, whether I attend synagogue on a regular basis or remember Shabbat or eat BBQ or whatever. I am a Jew. And there are certain things that even a reform Jew holds dear and circumcision is one of them. It symbolizes our covenant with G-d. It is what has identified us, at least those of us with penises, throughout the centuries. Circumcision is not something that a "good" Jew questions. It is a given.

Once I actually became pregnant, I assumed I was having a girl. I, like many Jewish mothers before me, wanted a girl in part because I didn't want to deal with the circumcision issue. Debating it over drinks and actually doing it are two completely different things. As my belly grew, so did my suspicion that I was having a boy. (Of course we could have found out for sure, but again I humored my husband's wish not to know until the birth.) Around 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I decided I better deal with the circumcision issue. All discussions with my husband ended in a stalemate. I decided to schedule a meeting with a rabbi so we could gang up on him.

The rabbi who married us had since retired, so I had my choice of three other rabbis: A forty-ish up-and-comer with three girls in their tweens, a female in her thirties with a one-year-old son, and a new guy I didn't know much about. I went with the female, Rabbi Cohen. I figured she could speak from personal experience and that the issues would be fresh in her mind.

Between the time I made the appointment with the rabbi and the time we were actually scheduled to go, I got an email from my friend who is a practicing midwife in California begging me to reconsider my decision. I don't know if she witnessed a recent circumcision or what, but she was adamant. I went through the Jewish rigmarole with her and she responded with a link to and specifically said to look at the information on Judaism and circumcision.

What I found shocked me. There were stories of Jews from all over the United States who had decided not to circumcise their children. Not only were they talking about it, they were making it seem ok. And most importantly, they were still accepted in the Jewish community. I couldn't believe it. For the first time, I let myself really consider not circumcising my son. I also let myself read the circumcision boards at (which are decidedly anti-circumcision). I even found a few Jewish moms there who had kept their sons intact. I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of typing.

When you take the religion out of circumcision, and really look at what the procedure actually involves, it is easy to see why more and more people are choosing to leave their sons intact. I thank my lucky stars for the Internet and the information it provided me on circumcision (as well as a million other mommy related questions). The Internet has allowed me to question the status quo; to find out why things are they way they are. A privilege our foremothers did not have. For me, the mere thought of giving birth to my precious baby at home without any medical intervention and then cutting off a part of his body eight days later just seemed absurd. I told myself that if G-d created my son with a foreskin, then he was going to keep it.


I'm a Physician, a Jew, a Father & Grandfather: My position on Circumcision

Mark D. Reiss, M.D.


I am a 72 year old retired physician, a Jew who is an active member of a Conservative synagogue, and a grandfather.

When I was in Medical School in the 1950s, almost all newborn males were circumcised. Despite the fact that prophylactic surgery was not generally performed, we were taught that circumcision was the correct and healthy thing to do. It was thought to control masturbation, decrease cancer risk, and help curtail sexually transmitted diseases. We learned nothing of foreskin anatomy and function. Infant nervous systems were thought to be undeveloped and their pain was so trivialized that it was almost ignored. As a young physician, I participated in many circumcisions. Over the years I’ve witnessed brit milah in the homes of friends and family. I was mildly uncomfortable with the practice, but like most physicians, and like most Jews, I said and did nothing to question circumcision.

Three years ago, as I was about to become a grandfather for the first time, my interest in the subject became more focused. I learned that more and more physicians now realize that any potential benefits of circumcision are far outweighed by its risks and drawbacks. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that “Routine circumcision is not necessary”. Whether done by a physician in the hospital, or a mohel in a ritual brit milah, the procedure has significant complication rates of infection, hemorrhage and even death. Mortality may actually be higher than thought since some of these deaths have not been attributed to circumcision, but listed only under their secondary causes, such as hemorrhage or infection. I’ve learned of the very important role the foreskin has in the protection of the head of the penis in the infant, and in sexual functioning in adulthood. It has also been shown that the newborn feels pain even more acutely than adults do, and that many of the infants who stop crying during circumcision are actually in a state of traumatic shock. To my amazement I learned that the USA is now the only country in the world routinely circumcising babies for non-religious reasons.

With these overwhelming reasons not to circumcise, I began to look at the practice of ritual circumcision in the Jewish community and I learned that: circumcision is not an identity issue. You do not need to be circumcised to be Jewish any more than the need to observe many other Jewish laws. The bottom line is this: if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish, period. And in the Reform tradition, patrilineal descent is also accepted. Among Jews in Europe (only 40% of newborn Jewish boys in Sweden are being circumcised), South America, and even in Israel, circumcision is not universal. Growing numbers of American Jews are now leaving their sons intact as they view circumcision as a part of Jewish law that they can no longer accept. Alternative brit b’li milah or brit shalom ceremonies (ritual naming ceremony without cutting) are being performed by some rabbis. Increasing numbers of intact boys are going to religious school, having bar mitzvahs, and taking their place as young adults in the Jewish community.
As a Jewish grandfather, I want to assure young couples about to bring a child into the world, that there are other members of the Jewish “older” generation, including other Jewish physicians, and even some rabbis, who feel as I do. If your heart and instincts tell you to leave your son intact, listen!

Breastfeeding Duration & Weaning Diet Impact Body Composition

ScienceDaily (2009) — Variations in both human milk feeding and in the weaning diet are linked to differences in growth and development, and they have independent influences on body composition in early childhood, according to a new study.

Previous studies suggest that the early environment may be a significant factor in childhood obesity. This study used dual x-ray absorptiometry to make direct measures of body composition in children at four years of age whose diets had been assessed when they were infants. The findings showed that children who had been breastfed longer had a lower fat mass which could not be explained by differences in family background or the child's height.

"Most studies linking infant feeding to later body composition focus on differences in human milk feeding, but our study also considered the influence of the weaning diet," said Dr. Siân Robinson, PhD, of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and lead author of the study. "We found that, independent of the duration of breastfeeding, children with higher quality weaning diets including fruits, vegetables, and home-prepared foods had a greater lean mass at four years of age."

In this study, researchers assessed the diets of 536 children at six and 12 months of age. Diet was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire that was administered by trained research nurses to record the average frequency of consumption of specific foods. The age at which solid foods were introduced into the infant's diet was also recorded. In this study 'weaning' is defined as the period of transition in infancy between a diet based on milk feeding to one based on solid foods. The subjects' body composition was assessed at four years by dual X-ray absorptiometry.

"These findings are enlightening," said Professor Cyrus Cooper, Director of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre. "An influence of qualitative differences in the weaning diet on childhood body composition had not been described before."


Teething, Momma Milk & Nighttime Parenting

By Paul Koenig
posted with permission

My daughter, River, is having a hard time sleeping. Apparently, the pain of those new molars chewing their way toward the light is somewhat agonizing. Who knew? My own teeth have been around so long they're about ready to move on - only through constant applications of toothpaste and floss have I managed to convince them to stick around for one more pot roast. Really, though, most of the time I take my pointy little friends for granted.

River does not. I'm impressed that she holds it together as well as she does, greeting each day with a delight and a frank curiosity that continue to charm those of us for whom eating dirt has long since lost its allure. She's the funniest person I know, and possibly the smartest, having learned all the different parts of the face, all the zoo animals and their sounds, and how to communicate in sign language despite having such tiny arms. All of this, and more, she accomplishes without benefit of tequila or opium, regardless of the pain in her jaw. Her only narcotic is regular applications of mook (milk) from someone whose name is, I think, Mook, but who also looks like my wife, Erin.

Admittedly, the mook is pretty important. As chief enabler, Erin continues to indulge River's now 18-month craving, and has no intention of stopping, a dedication that inspires admiration in some, abject horror in others. Being one of those modern, "involved" dads, I make dinner, clean the kitchen, and try to help out as best I can, though I often find myself removed to the periphery of River's universe due simply to the harsh reality of my inadequate, non-mook-bearing man-teats.

Nighttime, in particular, is when River seems to need me least - asleep, I have even less to offer than usual. When bedtime arrives, when the toys are put away, the books read, the lights turned out - that is when the molars return to torment my daughter, and when she most needs my wife, her mother.

Which is why I was so surprised when, recently, after her bedtime mooking failed to lull her to sleep, River began asking for me.

"River's waiting for you," Erin called to me one night, somewhat bemused. "She's asking for her daddy."

This is a curious turn of events, I thought. I entered our bedroom, where River was sitting up in our bed.

"Daddy!" she said. "Hep!" (Help!) She held out her arms to me. Indulgently, I held her.

"Ooh-ooh! Ah-ah!" she said, making the sound of her favorite sleepy-time monkey. I procured the creature.

"Up! Up!"

I stood.

Then, wonder of wonders, she put her head on my shoulder and, with one arm around her monkey and the other around my neck, drifted off to sleep.

This, as it turns out, was to be our routine for an entire blessed month, an era that became known as The Time of Daddy-Hep. Or, from my wife's perspective, The Time of Mommy-Sleep. I took my duty seriously and did not complain, even when River would wake me after her 4 a.m. mooking with loving smacks to the face, to demand, "Daddy, hep!"

"I'm sorry," Erin would apologize, sounding concerned. "I know you have to get up early."

"It's OK," I'd sigh long-sufferingly. "River needs her daddy."

And I'd pace to and fro, singing a lullaby, patting River gently on the back while she gently and amusingly patted mine, all the while suppressing tears of gratitude, which threatened to betray my true feelings about this wondrous new hardship.

It can be difficult being a modern father - one of those elusive, poorly drawn characters of whose role in contemporary family life no one is ever quite sure. What is sure is that the old ways no longer serve; even if I had the time to recite the patent homilies of Father Knows Best, I'm not sure I'd have the stomach.

We make our ways in the fashions that seem best to us, each man forging a brave new definition of father out of bits of the past and pieces of the present. Just as the modern woman has made inroads into fields that were once the exclusive provinces of men, so has the modern man made advances of his own. Every time we hold our child, change a diaper, or wipe a runny nose, we realize our own power to nurture - while losing none of our "manliness" in the process.

Even so, in spite of it all, I can't deny the nagging feeling that I am not and never shall be a true "mother" - and, perhaps most shocking, don't want to be. It's not that I don't want to be needed. I want that more than anything. No, it's more that I recognize that there are limits to how much the line dividing gender roles can be smudged or erased - limits that are, for most, a practical necessity.

Defining exactly where that line is seems to be a kind of obsession with everyone these days, from the hellfire camps of the fundamentalists (clearly defined gender roles, and a pox on all ye who stray), to the we're-all-the-same notions of certain cultural postmodernists (limits? what limits?). In reality, it seems to me that The Line is a chimera, its shape and solidity up to each individual to define: What is true for you may not be true for me, and vice versa. Taking a hard line regarding The Line only makes it harder to perceive where it lies.

So my advice to all the other modern fathers out there who are searching for their just and rightful place in the modern family paradigm is this: Do not fear for the loss of your manliness. If "manliness" is a quality that could truly be lost, then you truly didn't want it in the first place. Better to strip away - gently, gently - all that is not real, all that is not true, and find the true core of manhood, which is perhaps far more nurturing and far less "manly" (by traditional definitions) than we might ever have imagined.

But I digress. As I was saying, all things evolve; change is the only constant. (I was saying that, if only to myself.) All too soon, the brief period of my daughter's need for me was over. One night I came to the bedroom, a spring in my step and a tune to hum, when I noticed that something was different. River was regarding me with something like suspicion; as I got closer, it only grew worse.

"Mommy!" she said.

I frowned. "No, Daddy!" I countered. She wasn't buying it. I picked her up.

She struggled. "Mommy!" she cried, a tone of panic creeping into her voice.

"But I've got your monkey," I offered plaintively.

I was thrown off my game. I tried all the usual stuff - patting, singing, pacing - to absolutely no avail. It was over. In seconds, my sweet, precious baby girl became a shrieking tangle of straining limbs, a crescendo of panicked cries of "Mommy!" issuing from her rather impressive vocal cords.

"ls there a snake on my head?" I asked Erin.

But no - at that point, a snake on my head would have probably been a positive development, something for River to focus on to take her mind off the hideous monster that was apparently trying to kidnap her and take her away from her mommy, perhaps for ever and ever.

The monster acquiesced. I returned River to her mommy.

I blame River's molars. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. Although Erin had told me of their impending arrival, I just hadn't anticipated the impact. But you try shoving a knobby piece of bone through your inflamed gum and see how it feels. You, too, would probably cry for your mommy. I doubt you'd even think of your daddy, unless he was standing in front of your mommy - and even then, you'd be thinking of him only as a potential threat to your immediate goal of getting to your mommy and her mook.

So I don't get too wrought up about it. I know there will be times in the future when River will need her Daddy, too. Those times are made all the more precious because they are rare.

Paul Koenig is a freelance writer, musician, and artist currently residing in Arizona, with his wife, Erin, and their daughter, River.

Cutting Boys Cuts to the Core

By Hygeia Halfmoon
Author of Primal Mothering in a Modern World, among other books
Read more from Halfmoon and check out her Cozy Cradle Baby Sling at her site here.
Posted with permission 2/09

I'm here to defend men in their right to be whole, and I don't want to hear any religious doctrine that blesses such a barbaric act. We must tackle ourselves where we least want to look - into our views about religion and how we are literally shackled to the past and to the rules which continue to be played out from one generation to the next. My dear Jewish friend, Laura Kaplan Shanley, author of Unassisted Childbirth, has something important to say on this subject:
I am so offended by circumcision that it is difficult for me to even write about it. On any given day thousands of men will meet in support groups to vent their anger over having been circumcised without a choice in the matter. Over one third of the active members of the anti-circumcision movement are Jewish. On any given day at least one hundred routine infant circumcisions will result in complications, irreversible surgical trauma, penile loss or even death. I have no problem with Jews circumcising their own as long as the 'circumcisee' is a consenting adult. A week old infant is not a consenting adult. Religious freedom is not about inflicting your beliefs on others, regardless of whether or not the other is your child. Children grow up to be adults, and many, many Jewish men are angry that they were circumcised in the name of religion.
For those who say a Jewish circumcision is more humane because the child is held by loved ones and given wine to drink, Jody McLaughlin who is the editor/publisher of Compleat Mother Magazine replies,

"Are you telling me that it is more humane to be hurt in the presence of those who supposedly love and care about you? Are you saying that it is more humane if a child's first sexual experience involving another human being is associated with blood, pain, and alcohol?"

As shocking as it may be to our western minds, little girls in other societies are routinely forced into a different form of circumcision - female clitorectomies. While the western world is condoning male circumcision with the excuse of cleanliness, other cultures are cutting out the clitoris of each and every young girl, assuring death to the power of female sexual pleasure. I am eternally grateful to organizations such as NOCIRC who work to save infants and children from the pain, torture, and destruction of genital mutilation. We need to stop the horror of sexual mutilation wherever it occurs on our planet.

It seems only fitting that we should next touch on the subject of sexuality. One aspect of the anger that is addressed in support groups comprised of circumcised men is sexual sensitivity. Their non-circumcised counterparts are enjoying a level of sexual pleasure unknown to victims of the knife.

The foreskin acts as both lubricant and masseuse during intercourse, creating a highly stimulating sensation. As a mother, I can attest to this difference between circumcised and non-circumcised males because my three-year-old intact son absolutely loves pulling and stretching his foreskin, a gleeful pride in his eyes and a smile on his face. I don't see this self-nurturing behavior in the lives of toddler victims of circumcision.

Circumcision is a primal wound that changes the course of a life. This crime, together with denial of the breast and separate sleeping quarters, defines the initial sexual experience for a huge percentage of our society's population. Pornography is that party called together: the walking wounded who, addicted to eagle-spread models in magazines search out the womb where everything was once just fine; the walking wounded who, starved of the sweet warmth of a mother's breast stare dreamily at the sight of cleavage; the walking wounded who, frustrated at their inability to know intimacy have sex with strangers who will only do it for pay; the walking wounded who, angry and anxious for the hatred they feel, rape and kill women and children.

Intact vs. Circumcised ~ Penis Sensitivity Studies

Morris L. Sorrells M.D. discusses the penile sensitivity studies he and other doctors conducted that studied circumcised and intact penises. They concluded that circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis.

Circumcision & AIDS ~ Norm Cohen Speaks

Norm Cohen, director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Research Centers of Michigan, discusses the pseudo science and deception behind the push to circumcise Africa.

International Breastfeeding Symbol ~ The Man Behind the Design

Most of us are now familiar with the International Breastfeeding Symbol. But do you know where it originated? Who was the designer of this symbol? The answer may surprise you! Continue reading for Mothering's interview with breastfeeding-advocate and stay-at-home-dad, Matt Daigle. If you have seen this symbol used in your neighborhood, we'd love to know ~ drop a note or send a picture of the symbol in use.

To download the International Breastfeeding Symbol click here.



Email: with questions

or see:

SIDS & Enfamil "RestFull" Formula ~ Yes, the connection exists

By Danelle Frisbie © 2009
Do not copy/paste articles or photos without author's express written permission. Contact authors by writing to

I was going to post another picture of the infamous "RestFull" as that is what this post is partially about, but why give Enfamil anymore photo ops than they deserve?
Instead, here is a bottle (Born Free's Vented Glass Bottle) full of Human Milk donated for a Human Baby.

I recently posted a brief blurb on Enfamil's new "RestFull" formula ~ designed and marketed to "keep babies full" and "help them sleep longer." The vast majority of responses I have received have been from other concerned parents and those dumbstruck at this marketing tactic - not to mention slightly afraid at what we are going to see uninformed parents do with this 'thick' formula that 'expands' in babies' bellies.

I have also received a couple (2 to be exact) responses from people who state there is no possible way that a link can exist between formula, sleep/night-waking, and SIDS, and that such statements are outlandish. However, ample amounts of research conducted the world-over, for several decades now, show time and again that not only is there a link between these factors, there is also strong causality that exists. And so, I will re-hash a couple items here and provide sources for those wishing to dig a little deeper into the data we have.

For starters...

Babies who wake more frequently, and sleep lightly (i.e. are easily woken - or what some people call 'bad sleepers') are at a significantly lower risk for SIDS.

Babies who wake less frequently, and sleep more deeply (sometimes called 'good sleepers') are at a significantly higher risk for SIDS.

This is one reason that a formula which artificially 'fills' the stomach with chemicals and grains and goop, designed to expand internally and trick a baby's brain into thinking s/he is full, induces deeper/longer sleep, and in turn, may lead to an observable increase in SIDS cases.

In addition, the brain is on full throttle of development during the night-time hours. It is during the night that stress hormones such as cortisol decrease (unless a baby is left to cry or feels abandoned/alone) and growth hormones increase. This continues throughout adult life as well, which is the reason muscle is built and repairs faster during night time hours. However, in baby-hood, these hormones dramatically impact baby's brain development and organ growth. Because of this, babies are designed to wake easily to get necessary, frequent, high-quality nutrients all night long (via mother's milk). It literally feeds their brain. Stuff a baby up with 'empty' calories -- or a formula concoction that is designed to keep a baby full but not provide frequent, rich, quality, all-night nutrients, and you impact brain development and organ growth.

Lower neuro firing and neuro connections (which occur when a baby lacks essential nutrients during night time hours) puts babies into more of a comatose type state of mind. Some might interpret this as an 'easy baby' - one who is a 'good sleeper' - however, once again, we see an increase in SIDS as a result of the decrease in neurological activity.

Related to brain activity, sleep, and wakefulness are the components of breastmilk vs. formula. This involves glycobiology, which is a topic large enough for a site all its own. Essentially, glyconutrients are the components of the body's cells which are responsible for effective communication, healing, repair and re-building between and within all cells. Without them, cells break down, organs do not form just right, the brain (and lungs and heart and kidneys and stomach...) do not function at their normal capacity. Regulatory functions (such as respiratory and cardiovascular systems) get off kilter when glyconutrients are not present in necessary number - leading in turn to an excess of SIDS.

Breastmilk, however, is PACKED FULL of glyconutrients -- it literally is liquid gold. Nature has the perfect plan for the protection of tiny growing babies. Healing and health components are provided in an incredible high quantity with every ounce of breastmilk that is consumed. While there are multi-millions of dollars to be made if a pharmaceutical company can replicate glyconutrients artificially (they also enable the body to heal cancer cells) so far no one has been able to do so. Formula is entirely void of any glyconutrients.

All of these SIDS causes are especially true for babies born premature, or those who were induced to birth or electively c-sectioned, rather than triggering labor in their own time (when lungs are fully 'done' and baby's hormones interact with mothers to kick birth into gear). Babies who trigger labor on their own, experience the protective hormones that flood an infant's brain during labor/birth and these in turn increase baby's suckling response and his attachment/awareness through natural oxytocin release ~ another protective feature against SIDS. Unfortunately, artificial induction, elective c-section, and premature birth (along with formula feeding) is ubiquitous across the United States today. These are major components in the reasons we have the highest rates of infant morbidity and mortality in the entire developed Western world.

Many reliable studies show that formula fed babies have double to triple the risk of SIDS due to the above mentioned factors. Formula was designed to be a mere survival tool for babies who absolutely could not get the human milk they need from any other source. Formula may keep babies alive more often, and for longer durations, than feeding straight non-human animal milk (although this is also debated because of the artificial ingredients in formula). However, any form of artificial feeding is severely lacking in what babies need to grow normally and maintain their baseline health. The new "RestFull" formula only promises to intensify all of these factors, and in turn, lead to a higher rate of SIDS.

Moral of the story:


*Rock (in a rocking chair) and wear your baby (in a wrap/sling) to decrease cortisol and other stress hormones, increase oxytocin and other 'love' hormones, regulate respiration and cardiovascular systems, increase neuro activity and brain development, and decrease SIDS.

*Share-sleep (have baby sleep within an arm's reach of his/her non-smoking mother). If you are unable to breastfeed, make every attempt to access human donor milk for your baby. If you absolutely must artificially feed, have baby within an arm's reach of his/her non-smoking mother to sleep and wake to feed baby throughout the night, but do not bedshare unless you are breastfeeding. Nursing mothers and their babies are in tune with each others' bodies and natural sleep/wake cycles in a manner that non-nursing babies/mothers are physiologically not. This impacts the safety of bedsharing for non-nursing mother/baby couples. [Note: Bedsharing and sleep sharing - i.e. cosleeping/sleeping within an arm's reach of baby - are not the same thing. Sleep sharing is always beneficial for baby (no matter his source of nourishment) unless a parent smokes.]

*Keep a fan on (but not directed at baby) in your sleeping room. There is new research that shows this soothing background noise decreases SIDS risk. It helps baby stay calm during night time hours - decreasing cortisol and other stress hormones. Baby (and you!) are less likely to startle (flight and flight response to stress) when small noises occur in the night - a fan helps to drown them out.

*Do NOT practice any form of 'sleep training,' crying-it-out, or 'controlled crying.' All of these things dramatically increase stress hormones and permanently alter an infant's brain - once again, significantly increasing SIDS risk.

Babies simply require night-time parenting for their normal health, wellbeing, and development. This consists of parents losing out on full nights worth of sleep. Sometimes for many months (or years!) on end. It is a part of being the caring, in-tune, gentle parent of a rapidly growing infant. If these things do not sound appealing to you...don't have a baby.

To begin a further investigation on the relationship between SIDS, formula, sleep, and night-waking see:

Aimin Chen and Walter J. Rogan. 2004. Breastfeeding and the Risk of Postneonatal Death in the United States. Pediatrics, 113: e435-e439.

Horne RSC, Parslow PM, Ferens D, Watts AM, and Adamson TM. 2004. Comparison of evoked arousability in breast and formula fed infants. Arch Dis Child 89: 22-25.

Mao A, Burnham MM, Goodlin-Jones BL, Gaylor EE, and Anders TF. 2004. A comparison of the sleep-wake patterns of co-sleeping and solitary infants. Child Psychiatry and Human Development 32(2): 95-105.

Mosko S, Richard C, McKenna J. 1997. Infant arousals during mother-infant bed sharing: implications for infant sleep and sudden infant death syndrome research. Pediatrics. 100(5):841-9.

Franco P, Seret N, Van Hees JN, Scaillet S, Groswasser J, Kahn A. 2005. Influence of swaddling on sleep and arousal characteristics of healthy infants. Pediatrics. 115(5):1307-11.

Carpenter RG, Irgens LM, Blair PS, England PD, Fleming P, Huber J, Jorch G, and Schreuder P. 2004. Sudden unexplained infant death in 20 regions in Europe: case control study. Lancet 363(9404): 185-191.

Gerard CM, Harris KA, and Bradley BT. 2002. Spontaneous arousals in supine infants while swaddled and unswaddled during rapid eye movement and quiet sleep. Pediatrics 110(6): e70-76.

Books, Websites & Articles linked at:

Infant Sleep: A Review of Research

Sleep Training: A Review of Research

parents sharing sleep with their little ones
published in Mothering, Issue 152

Car Seats are for Cars: Leaving Baby in Carseat Lowers Oxygen, Increases SIDS

By Catherine McKenzie
Originally at Mothering, Issue 136
A version of this article is also at Pathways for Family Wellness
The Car Seats Group

"You know, you’re the only mother here who doesn’t carry her baby in a car seat," commented the receptionist at my midwife’s office.

My daughter was several weeks old at the time, and I’d left her seat in the car, mainly because I didn’t feel like lugging it up the stairs to the clinic. I looked around the waiting room and realized that we were the odd ones out.

It seemed true wherever we went. At the library, the shopping mall, the drop-in center for parents, the babies were all in infant seats—parked next to waiting-room chairs, snapped into matching strollers, clipped onto shopping carts, or carried by handles and trailing a woolly blanket.

No longer just a safety device for automobiles, portable infant car seats are now an important part of “travel systems”—sets including an in-car base, a stroller, and a car seat that snaps into both. They’ve been called the SUVs of the stroller world, and a quick glance in any baby store will show you how popular they’ve become.

Infant seats, whether sold as part of a travel system or alone, now sometimes include a cold-weather boot, a head hugger, and a car base. Most can be used only until the child reaches 20 pounds, which may be as early as three or four months. They often cost as much as longer-lasting, convertible car seats, which can be used in both rear- and front-facing positions and can accommodate children weighing from 5 to 40 pounds. That doesn’t discourage most families, however, who consider the infant seat an essential item for a baby’s early months.

Many parents don’t think twice about using an infant seat as an all-purpose baby carrier. But is there any harm in relying so heavily on a single piece of baby gear? Do the portability and convenience come at a price? As it turns out, there are good reasons why you should consider leaving the car seat in the car.

The Rise of Flat-head Syndrome

Medical professionals have begun to notice an alarming rise in the incidence of a skull deformity in infants called “flat- head syndrome.” Plagiocephaly, the medical term for this flattening of the skull, can occur as a result of consistent pressure on a particular spot. It is a cosmetic condition, but one that can be permanent if left untreated.

The increase in plagiocephaly is frequently blamed on the fact that babies are now placed on their backs to sleep, a position that has been shown to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If a baby’s head is always in the sameposition, the pressure can deform the skull. However, back sleeping is not the only factor. Extended periods of time spent in a baby seat can also contribute to this condition, as can long periods in strollers, swings, and other devices that put babies in a back-lying position.

Timothy R. Littlefield, MS, is affiliated with an Arizona clinic that treats plagiocephaly. In an article in the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, he notes that 28.6 percent of infants who attended the clinic between 1998 and 2000 spent 1.5 to 4 hours daily in car seats or swings, and nearly 15 percent were in them for more than four hours per day. Another 5.7 percent of infants were allowed to sleep in these devices.1 Littlefield observes that cranial distortion resulting from overuse of car seats and swings is more severe and complex than in children who develop plagiocephaly from back-lying on a mattress. Consequently, he recommends reducing the time spent in car seats and swings, if possible.2

Concern over plagiocephaly also led the American Academy of Pediatrics to suggest in 2003 that infants “should spend minimal time in car seats (when not a passenger in a vehicle) or other seating that maintains supine positioning.” 3 When infants must be in a back-lying position, moving their heads occasionally can help reduce pressure and avoid developing a flat spot. The simplest and most effective prevention, however, is to decrease the cumulative time infants spend on their backs.

Poor Positioning For Infants

Plagiocephaly is not the only problem associated with heavy use of car seats. According to Dr. Jeanne Ohm, executive coordinator of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association ( [1]), many infants in strollers or car seats constantly tilt their heads to one side or the other. “That’s a good indication that their upper cervical spine is out of alignment,” says Ohm. Short periods spent in a car seat are fine, but “keeping them in that position where it’s easiest for their head just to fall off to the side—that leads to further spinal stress later on in life.” Ohm prefers to see parents carry infants in their arms and use different types of carriers. “Offering a variety of carriers supports correct postural development for the child.”

Physical Strain for Parents

An infant car seat can weigh nearly as much as the newborn inside it. Yet it’s common to see people walking around a shopping mall or grocery store holding a car seat by the handle, the baby strapped inside. This can be hard on anyone’s back, but new mothers are particularly vulnerable.

A woman “maintains [the hormone] relaxin in her system for a good nine months after birth, and relaxin makes the joints loose,” says Ohm. “That’s something you need for birth to be able to open up the whole pelvic opening, but it’s a weakening factor, in a sense, if you’re going to do some heavy lifting.”

Infant seats are designed to be portable, but they are still awkward to carry, according to Ohm. “You have to hold it away from your body so your leg isn’t kicking it, so your whole upper spine is tilted over.” Ohm often sees new mothers with injuries from this kind of lifting and discourages them from doing it unnecessarily.

If a parent does want to keep his or her child in the car seat while out on a trip, using a compatible stroller or universal car-seat carrier (a stroller frame that accommodates different brands of car seats) is much easier on the back than trying to carry the seat by the handle.

Adds to the Burden of Baby Baggage

It’s not the babies themselves who so weigh down new parents in the early weeks after birth—a newborn weighs, on average, less than eight pounds. Instead, it’s the bulky diaper bag, the stroller, the spare clothing—all the trappings that modern parents feel obliged to carry around. The infant car seat has become part of that baggage.

One of the main reasons that parents buy portable car seats is so they can remove a sleeping infant from the car without waking him or her. There are certainly times when this is handy, but the strategy can easily backfire. I remember several shopping trips that began with my daughter asleep in her car seat, but only ten minutes later she was awake and screaming to be held. I would end up carrying her and the car seat—separately—for the rest of our trip. I discovered that it was often simpler to wake her and put her into the sling, where she would frequently fall back to sleep again anyway.

Besides, an infant seat is usually an inefficient way to transport a baby. Placed on the floor of a doctor’s waiting room, it is at the perfect height for being accidentally tripped over or kicked. It’s downright hazardous when placed on a chair or table—something most manufacturers advise against. Outside the car, the seat becomes just one more thing to lug around. Leave it in the back seat and you may find yourself feeling remarkably light and free.

Lack of Touch

Recently, friends of ours came over for dinner with their six-week-old son. He had been sleeping in the car, so they left him in the car seat and set it down near the dining table. When he woke up, they amused him by rocking the seat and dangling toys in front of him. We decided to go out after dinner, so they clipped the seat into their compatible stroller, and we went for a walk. Finally, when it was time for them to go home, they put the seat back in the car and drove away. Their son had spent the entire three hours of their visit in his infant seat.

Spending excessive amounts of time in an infant seat deprives a baby of touch and stimulation. Imagine, for a moment, what would have happened had our friends left their baby seat in the car. Their son would have been held in someone’s lap, jiggled, walked around, perhaps put on the floor with a few toys. In all likelihood, he would have been talked to more and made eye contact with the people around him. It would have been a little less restful for his parents, but more interesting for him.

Andrea, a mother from Oakville, Ontario, was given a travel system when her first son was born. “It was a neat gadget to have,” she says, “so we used it a lot in the first couple of months. It was convenient to take him in and out of the car without disturbing him.” But by the time Andrea’s second son came along, she and her husband had mastered the use of their baby sling. “We made a conscious choice to carry him often to promote attachment,” she says.

Andrea’s decision may have been an intuitive one, but it is well supported by research. In a Columbia University study, researchers gave either a baby seat or a soft, wearable infant carrier to mothers of low socioeconomic status who had recently given birth. After 13 months, the researchers found that the babies who had been transported in wearable carriers were significantly more likely to demonstrate a strong attachment to their mothers. 4

Car seats are very good at doing what they are supposed to do: protecting children in the event of an automobile accident. But there is no evidence to suggest that staying in a car seat after the ride is over offers a child any benefit. Using a car seat as a baby carrier for hours each day, as many of the parents in Timothy Littlefield’s study did, is a practice well worth questioning.

Catherine McKenzie is a freelance writer and La Leche League leader. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached via e-mail at 


1. Timothy R. Littlefield, "Car Seats, Infant Carriers, and Swings: Their Role in Deformational Plagiocephaly," Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics 15, no. 3 (2003): 102-106.
2. Ibid.
3. John Persing, MD, et al., American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, Section on Plastic Surgery and Section on Neurological Surgery, "Prevention and Management of Positional Skull Deformities in Infants," Pediatrics 112, no. 1 (July 2003): 199-202.
4. E. Anisfeld et al., "Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment? An Experimental Study of the Effects of Increased Physical Contact on the Development of Attachment," Child Development 61, no. 5 (Oct 1990): 1617-1627.

Busting Breastfeeding Myths


Email: with questions

or see:

Mothering Magazine: Issue 132

Ask the Experts: CoSleeping & SIDS

by Judy Arnall
Attachment Parenting, Non-punitive Discipline Education, Homeschooling Mom

Question: My general practitioner, bless his heart, is trying to convince me that sleeping with my five-month-old son is dangerous and increases the risk of SIDS. Although I have no intention of changing our sleeping arrangement, I would like to have some references to give him the next time we meet. His reference comes from what he claims to be the most recent study, which, apparently, was sent to physicians by the surgeon general. I'm in Canada, which may or may not be relevant as I'm not sure where the study took place.

Answer: It's confusing when a new mom gets all kinds of information from different sources. It's somewhat of a parenting hazard. I'm going to disagree with your GP in that bed-sharing doesn't increase the risk of SIDS. In fact, studies have shown that bed-sharing helps to regulate babies' breathing cycle because they pick up and imitate their mothers' breathing cycle. The tragic incidence of SIDS can happen anywhere and anytime—not just while cosleeping. There is still no known cause, although some risk factors have been identified. Perhaps your GP is more concerned about suffocation, which is different from SIDS but indistinguishable in an autopsy. There have been many studies recently in Canada about suffocation from bed-sharers but not much news has focussed on the proportion of babies that have suffocated in cribs. I urge you to look at the logistics of the studies you come across. How many babies were studied? What proportion was in a crib versus bed-sharing? What kinds of surfaces were involved in the cosleeping environment? What were the circumstances of the parent's health at the time of death? Who sponsored the study? Many factors contribute to suffocation and there are many ways to reduce the risk. I have an article called "Co-sleeping" at the Attachment Parenting Canada website ( that lists risk factors and how to make cosleeping safer. Dr. James McKenna is a leading researcher in the field of bed-sharing and has quite a few studies quoted on the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame website: The more important point here is that no professional should tell you what to do. All they can do is give you information and their recommendations and leave the decision-making up to you. You know your situation and risk factors the best and are in the best position to decide what is right for you, your baby, and your family.

Ask the Experts: Insufficient Supply of Breastmilk

by Cynthia Good Mojab,
Maternal Mental Health, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Clinical Counselor

Should I be concerned about not having enough breastmilk to nourish my baby?

Many mothers are concerned about not having enough milk. Yet the likelihood that a woman will be physically unable to produce sufficient milk for her nursling is actually low. So why is this such a common concern? Part of the answer lies in our loss of the art of breastfeeding. Many mothers have grown up in families where they are the first women in generations to breastfeed. These mothers are pioneers, doing the best they can with the information and support available to them. Unfortunately, because they are breastfeeding in a formula-feeding culture, the information they receive may be inaccurate and the support they have may be inadequate-which can undermine their efforts to breastfeed. In addition, exposure to formula advertising and being given free formula in the hospital after birth can decrease the confidence of mothers in their ability to breastfeed.

Milk supply is dynamic. It follows the law of supply and demand. The more frequently and effectively a nursling breastfeeds, the more milk the mother's breasts make. That's why recommendations to rigidly schedule and limit feedings or to never breastfeed at night (instead of responding to a nursling's cues for frequent, flexible feedings) can result in a reduced milk supply. It's also why nursing more frequently and ensuring that a nursling is effectively draining the breast are good first steps toward increasing milk supply.

Sometimes the misinterpretation of a nursling's behavior can lead mothers to think they don't have enough milk even though they actually do. Let's say a baby seems fussy after a feeding. The mother-or someone around her-may interpret the baby's behavior to mean that the mother doesn't have enough milk. A mother can have plenty of milk, but if she is engorged, the baby isn't positioned and latched on well, or the baby is using an incorrect suckling pattern because of exposure to artificial nipples, then the baby may not nurse effectively. (Such problems have solutions: they do not have to result in low milk supply or weight loss in a baby.) Or perhaps the mother has plenty of milk and the fussy baby is nursing effectively, but has thrush (an oral yeast infection) or is teething or needs to have a bowel movement. Fussiness can even be due to an ample milk supply that flows so quickly the baby has difficulty managing its abundance! These are just a few of the many reasons a baby might be fussy at the breast and that might lead to someone suggesting that a mother supplement with formula. Regardless of what leads to supplementation with formula, it is a very effective way of decreasing a mother's milk supply if her breasts are emptied less frequently and thoroughly because of it. Remember: milk supply follows the law of supply and demand.

Before or after the birth of a baby, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and La Leche League Leaders can help mothers sort through breastfeeding advice to identify what is helpful and what might get in the way of building and maintaining a good milk supply. They can help mothers learn about positioning and latch-on so that nurslings can effectively obtain milk, how to tell a nursling is getting enough milk, and how to increase milk supply, if needed. They can also refer mothers to healthcare providers to evaluate a nursling's weight gain and development or to determine if there are any physiological causes of low milk supply in mother (e.g., a hormonal imbalance, retained placenta, previous breast surgery) or nursling (e.g., tongue-tie, low muscle tone, respiratory problems)-many of which are treatable.


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