I am a one of the “Strong Moms” (Trademark, Abbott Laboratories)

Although I had a home birth and have never taken my new son to a doctor’s office, I somehow managed to be targeted for the “Strong Moms” (TM) campaign.  The initial mailings were generic take-care-of-yourself promotions, with cute images of babies and healthy-looking women.  I honestly could not figure out what they wanted from me.

Yesterday, all became clear when I received two complementary cases of Similac.

Being a healthy, breastfeeding mother, I have never had reason to look at formula ingredients.  Only one of my children ever needed formula (5 bottles total); after catching an upper respiratory infection that landed me totally dried up in the emergency room, my husband fed her something (I know not what), and she became so constipated he had to give our then-5-month old an enema.  After getting 3 bags of IV into my system, I pumped every 15 minutes for a full day until my supply was back, and treated sick people with hostility for the following year.

At any rate, I decided to look at the ingredients of this gift for me – one of the “Strong Moms” (TM)  targeted in this campaign – and my jaw literally dropped to the floor.  I’m sure the lactation people out there know all this, but here’s a reiteration of a few of the main ingredients of one the cans of Similac that was mistakenly mailed to me, with a little of my own online research thrown in:

43.2% Corn Syrup Solids. Corn syrup, which consists mostly of dextrose, is a sweet, thick liquid made by treating cornstarch with acids or enzymes. It may be dried and used as corn syrup solids in coffee whiteners and other dry products. Corn syrup contains no nutritional value other than calories, promotes tooth decay, and is used mainly in foods with little intrinsic nutritional value.  http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm

14.6% Soy Protein Isolate. A very large percentage of soy – over 90% – is genetically modified and it also has one of the highest percentages contamination by pesticides of any of the foods we eat.  Soy protein isolate (SPI) is not something you can make in your own kitchen. Production takes place in industrial factories where soybeans are first mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution.  Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. As a result, soy-based formula also has over 1000% more aluminum than conventional milk based formulas. Finally, the resulting curds are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final hardship to the original soybean is high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein.  Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during spray-drying, and a toxin called “lysinoalanine” is formed during alkaline processing.  Numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein products to mask their strong “beany” taste. http://www.healingdaily.com/detoxification-diet/soy.htm

10.3% Sugar (Sucrose). Added sugar in infant formula, specifically sucrose, is linked with several health risks, including damage to tooth enamel, a preference for more sweet foods and the inclination to overeat. Research shows that babies and children prefer sweeter foods and tend to eat more of it than foods that are less sweet. Babies who overeat and have rapid weight gain in the first year are more likely to become obese during childhood.  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/113347.php

The materials they sent with the formula include an attractive little booklet with 7 pages on how to breastfeed, then 6  pages on how to pump and store breastmilk, then 16 pages on the basics of formula and supplementing for the busy mom, then 14 pages of advertisements on the varieties of Similac formulas.

Abbott Laboratories has gone to a whole new level with their newest campaign. Perhaps we need a short addendum to Cate Colburn-Smith’s program, which highlights the strategies and effectiveness of the marketing of these “cans of crap”.

I like to think of myself as one of the “Strong Moms” (TM).  However, it took very little strength to pick up these cans and throw them into the nearest trashcan.

A Father and Son Dialogue / Intactivism / Circumcision in Israel

A bit of humor, courtesy of my husband, Jacob:

“Son, what do you think about being circumcised?”


“OK, we won’t do it to you.”


Thank you for your wonderful and supportive congratulatory messages!

I have received so many fabulous congratulatory notes and emails on the announcement of Gabriel’s birth. I had debated whether or not to make a public announcement of our decision to leave our son intact, and am so glad I did.   The response has been fabulous.  I’d like to share some excerpts of just a few of the many wonderful emails I received following that announcement:

“As the mother of two intact Jewish boys who also blazed a trail in their family, I applaud you for that…”

“I let my son be circumcised 40 years ago but wouldn’t do that today. My daughter and husband listened to the new evidence and their boys are intact.”

“…As a Jewish mother who also did not circumcise her son, I am thrilled for you and your precious angel, that he, indeed, your whole family, remains intact, un-traumatized and whole.”

“A big thank you for letting us know that Gabriel will remain intact, it really helps others who are in a similar situation to know they are not alone. I am supporting a Jewish couple birthing in a few weeks time who are very conflicted on this and at the moment they are planning to circumcise due to the pressure from family, even though they are not entirely happy with their decision. I will let them know about you!”

“And I have to tell you how happy it makes me to hear about yet another Jewish non-circumcising family. What a blessing for your little one.”

“I am so happy about your decision to keep your boy intact.  You guys have guts (and lots of smarts too, obviously).”

“I remember the conversation with my dad when I decided our son would remain “intact.”  It was wonderful and supportive.  I do recall one funny thing he said, “Just don’t tell your mother.”  Ha! As though she wouldn’t notice…”

“..kudos on the natural and honoring birth Raquel… and the decision to let the little guy remain as God designed him.  We know that can bring up a lot of issues with family.”

Actually, my family has been supportive of our decision to leave Gabriel intact.  My mother and stepfather participated in our Intact Boy series; Gillian Longley’s two lectures were enough to make them seriously think about circumcision for the first time.  By the end of Gillian’s first lecture, The Foreskin, their attitude of “circumcision is really no big deal” turned to “Harvey wants his [foreskin] back!” (which came through in the Q&A box, making a few of us chuckle).

Circumcision in Israel – Impressions

After attending The Intact Boy series, my mom has become more vocal herself about this issue! She was in Israel at the time of Gabriel’s birth, and after proudly announcing that she is a grandmother (again), people would ask if she was going back home early for the bris.  Although my mother spared my 95 year-old great aunt the news, she was quite open with others.

Her cousin’s response: “Lots of people here aren’t doing that anymore.”

A few months ago I met a delightful Israeli woman at the local public library, who told me that she and most of her friends back home in Israel did not circumcise their sons.  When I mentioned this to my mother, she informed me that for a few years now, she has received birth announcements from Israeli friends who – instead of announcing the day and time of the bris for all to come witness and “celebrate” – made a notation on the birth announcement that the bris will be “among the family members only”.

Did they actually perform the bris?  Who knows?  But the privacy announcement is encouraging.  The Israeli departure from the public exhibition of the Brit Milah is an important first step in the abandonment of this outdated and barbaric tradition.

Birth Announcement and New Years Greetings

We are pleased to announce the newest addition to our family,

“strength” “happiness”

Gabriel Asher
Born into his father’s loving hands on December 22, 2008 at 10:17 p.m.

Weight: 7 pounds
Length: 19 inches
Head Circ: 14 inches
Most Importantly: nursing like a champ

* Raquel’s second VBAC and first homebirth *

Big sisters Amelia and Sofie are thrilled with their little brother, and mom is thriving as all (new) mothers should.

Gabriel Asher will be the first male child in our longstanding Jewish family tradition to remain intact.

A special thanks to Gloria Lemay for her phenomenal care during the labor, delivery and postpartum, and to our local backup midwife Kristine Lauria for her support and encouragement while Gloria was on her way to Colorado.

Happy (Belated) Holidays
Happy New Year!