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Archive for December, 2010

Guest Post: Connecting Mothers — Scientific evidence proves you need a community

Our guest post this week is by Nancy Massotto, the Founder and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network, and mother to two boys. She holds three graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in political science, specializing in gender studies and feminist theory.  Before founding the Holistic Moms Network, Dr. Massotto spent several years working for non-profit research institutes, including the Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), while residing in the Washington, D.C. area.  She is passionate about empowering women, supporting mothers, and raising her two sons as naturally and sustainably as she can.

The threshold we cross as we embark into motherhood shifts our consciousness into a new dynamic.  We start to become more aware of what we put in and on our bodies, about the impact of our actions on the planet, and the safety of the products and items in our home environment.  And we quickly become overwhelmed with new concerns.

As a new or expectant mother, it is daunting to realize how many choices we are faced with that impact the future of our children.  From how we birth and feed our children, to the safety and toxicity of their surroundings, the decision-making can create uncertainty and fear.

One of the most powerful mechanisms for navigating the journey is through community.  It seems women have always known this.  We seek out support and find our tribe.  We connect with other moms and share our wisdom.  And it seems that we are biologically inclined to do so.  According to the research of Shelly Taylor et.al. of UCLA, women have a biobehavioral mechanism that fosters a “tend-and-befriend” response, unlike the male “fight-or-flight” pattern.  As the researchers describe, “Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.”

Women thus gravitate towards social support, characterized by tending to young children and allying with those around them to increase their likelihood of survival and success in stressful situations.

Connecting through community provides an avenue for mothers to enrich their own parenting experience and to gain confidence, reassurance, and friendships to sustain them. The very act of participating in community is, in and of itself, life affirming and health-promoting.  Joining or participating in just one social group can actually cut your risk of dying next year in half.  Political scientist and author Robert Putnam argues that being part of a social network has a significant impact on your health. “Joining a group boosts your life expectancy as much as quitting smoking” according to the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America published by Harvard University.

In recent years, we have seen a remarkable decline in the social and civic engagement of Americans. Over the past 25 years there has been a 58% drop in attendance to club or group meetings, a 43% decline in family dinners, and a 35% reduction in simply having friends over (www.bowlingalone.com).   The significance of this decline is that a lack of community connection reduces “social capital” or the collective value of our social networks which help build trust and cooperation. A reduction in social capital has been linked to decreased worker productivity, rising rates of depression, higher rates of crime, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and child abuse. Social capital is also what makes governments more accountable and responsive to their populace. And, on an individual level, a lack of social capital leads not only to loneliness, but also to a lack of trust among people and an unwillingness to help others.

Reconnecting through social groups by being part of community, serving on a town committee, organizing a neighborhood block party, supporting local businesses and farms, or singing in a choir can help rebuild our social capital, reaping benefits on individual, group, and national levels. Being part of a support organization like the Holistic Moms Network is another way to help recreate community and play an active role in strengthening not only social capital, but your own personal health and well-being. It helps us find our drive to “tend-and-befriend”, with significant rewards for ourselves, our families, and the planet!

Donor milk banking: A podcast interview with Pauline Sakamoto

We’re very excited to share our first Motherlove Podcast!  You can listen with the player at the bottom of this post.

This interview, conducted by Tanya Lieberman, IBCLC, is with Pauline Sakamoto, President of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

The interview answers many questions, including: Can you donate if you have a tattoo or a body piercing?  What happened to milk banks when HIV was identified?  Who pays for donor milk (which costs $3 to $4 an ounce) if a family can’t pay?

Tanya and Pauline also talk about the history of donor milk banking, how donor milk saves lives, how to become a donor, how donor milk is processed, how donor milk is paid for, and Pauline’s view of mother-to-mother milk sharing.

You can now listen to this and other Motherlove podcasts at our free iTunes store!  You can also listen with Quicktime or with the player below.

What are Wildcrafted Herbs?

Wildcrafting

Wildcrafting

It’s common to see “organic” herbal ingredients on everything from teas to shampoos to toothpaste. A category of herb you don’t see nearly as often is “wildcrafted”. What exactly are wildcrafted herbs?

Long before USDA certification was the gold standard in the personal care industry, gathering all natural herbs was called wildcrafting. As a sustainable practice, herbalists gather roots, leaves, and seeds at the correct time of year during their highest potency. Careful to only gather a small percentage of any stand, wildcrafters have been ahead of their time in preserving the earth’s resources. In 1995, leaders in the wildcrafting industry founded United Plant Savers in an attempt to establish the best practices for ethical harvesting.

As the demand for herbal ingredients exploded, herbalists and product manufacturers realized that harvesting from wild stands of herbs was not going to be sustainable for the long term. The demand, especially for roots, was simply too great. At the same time, the process of farming with organic certification grew, as did the demand for certified products. Today,  many herbs are grown on certified organic  farms in an attempt to provide a steady source of raw materials for our industry.

For more information on herbal wildcrafting practices and the herbs that inspired many Motherlove products, consider reading the Pocket Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants. Written by Motherlove’s founder, Kathryn Higgins, the book also lists color photos with edible and medicinal uses, gathering information, and further references for identifying, cooking, and healing with wild plants.

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