As an active member of the breastfeeding community for nearly two decades I have seen so much marketing of formula from a personal place and for new parents. The marketing gets more and more clever and nefarious each day.

I was once helping a mom and baby in an apartment building in New York City where one has to be buzzed in. I was with this family for about an hour and a half. The buzzer never buzzed and the doorbell never rang. Upon my departure I nearly fell over a box of formula. The mom had not ordered this.

Currently infant formula manufacturers make formula specifically for breastfeeding moms. Why? Is it really different? Breastfeeding is the biggest market competitor for formula companies.

It was very exciting for me when, in 2012, Mayor Bloomberg took the marketing of formula out of New York City hospitals. Many people were upset by this action. They claimed that they were being bullied into breastfeeding. They were angry that they were not getting their “free” gift from the hospital. This was not the case at all.

What they did not realize is that by giving these “free” gift bags the citizens and patients were actually paying for these goodies.

When a hospital gives away promotional items they are endorsing this product and they are using human power to handle these items. These “free” gift bags are taking up precious real estate in our already crowded hospitals. This is FREE advertising for the pharmaceutical industry. FREE advertising. Those guys have plenty of cash to buy advertising but why spend it when the hospital will do it for free?

In May of 1980 the 27th World Health Assembly endorsed the WHO/UNICEF recommendation that “There should be an international code of marketing of infant formula and other products used as breast-milk substitutes.”

This is important because we know that breastfeeding rates decline where formula is marketed.

This is not an anti-formula campaign rather it is a recommendation to support healthy outcomes both long term and short term. The campaign is designed to take an ethical approach to promote breastfeeding as the normal way to feed babies.

Unfortunately the United States has not agreed to this recommendation.

On this anniversary the Public Citizen’s campaign to End Infant Formula Marketing in Healthcare Facilities is firing up to bring awareness to the continued marketing of formula in the US.

They are encouraging participants to use social media to get the message across by making signs that say “No Formula Ads in Hospitals” or “Follow the WHO Code.”

As an advocate for breastfeeding families I will join this day of action. What will you do to promote breastfeeding?



Monday morning was dark and rainy, a hard situation to get yourself out of bed. I had to tickle and cajole Finn.

Finally he slumped into the red chair and ate his English muffin. The large half with mixed berry jam the smaller half with honey. When he finished I told him to go brush his teeth.

I walked back to the bathroom and he was not there. I spied by him in his bed with his cozy blue blanket.

“I have a stomachache,” he said.

 “Come on, you gotta go to school,” I tell him.

I convinced him to get dressed.

“Sometimes the fresh air fixes a stomachache,” I say. “Let’s get dressed and go.”

 Finn reluctantly got ready.  As we stepped outside, we were speckled by raindrops. I popped open my bright pink umbrella.

“My stomach still hurts.”

I keep walking.

“What was your favorite part of the movie yesterday?” I ask.

 “I like the that the creature can smell your fear and when the boy realized he could be fearless the creature could not find him anymore. I also like the part where he was dreaming about his sister.”



And all the way down Avenue B Finn and I discussed After Earth.


He happily walked into school to see his friends after the weekend and did not mention his stomach again.


A Love Story

May 28, 2013

I the winter of 89-90 I had had it with a particularly gray summer and the dreary winter. I could not take another day in New York. I was going to move to sunny Los Angeles. I did some networking. I found a friend of a friend who needed a roommate. I found someone selling a car – cheap. I found a sister company to the law firm where I was paralegal temping.  I bought a one-way ticket on Southwest Airlines. I was also in debt and not making any money from acting. Of course they would love me in LA. Maybe I wasn’t thin enough but I had New York acting experience and stand-up comedy chops.

At the time I was living on the fourth floor of a six-floor walk up on Second Avenue near Gramercy Park. On the third floor was a cool girl named Audrey, on the second floor was my friend Terry and her gay Australian roommate Peter. and on the first floor there were two guys. Terry kept telling me how nice one of them was. Rob wasn’t my type – whatever that meant.

Terry asked me to go hear some music with her and her boyfriend Tom and neighbor Rob. We went to Mondo Cane in the West Village. We heard the Spin Doctors. Remember the song Kryptonite? In the hall Rob gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

One night I was locked out of my apartment – I won’t get into the details of the bad date I was on but Rob came home and offered up his couch for me to sleep on. We stayed up was past midnight talking. He gave me a T-shirt and shorts to sleep in.

I continued my west coast networking. I contacted a woman who had been in New York and saw me do Stand Up. I took a couple of private acting classes with a teacher I heard would look good on my resume. I kept working as much as possible to save money and pay off debt. Audrey invited me to a party on the third floor. I met a cute Italian guy named Massimiliano.

In 1990 Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday. Massimiliano was busy. Peter and I were chatting on the phone and I told him I was thinking of calling neighbor Rob and asking him if he wanted to grab a bite to eat and rent a movie. There was a beep on my red Conair plastic phone. It was Rob. He said, “Do want to go get a bite to eat and then watch a movie at my place?

Rob and I went to Lorango on Third Avenue. We had burritos and sangria. We went back to his place and watched a Peter Sellars film. Rob invited to me to go a wedding on Long Island with him that Saturday. I went. There were no risks. I was leaving in six weeks.

We had fun. I met his parents and sister. There was no fear. I was leaving. Rob invited me to go to Montauk on the east end of Long Island the next weekend. We had a great time.  The following weekend he invited me to go to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with him and his friend Rob and Rob’s wife Mary. Every weekend we had some fun adventure.

I started staying at his place. My room on the fourth floor had become more of a closet. Catherine, my roommate was probably enjoying a mostly solo living arrangement with half the rent.

One night before Rob and I went to sleep I decided to take a leap. I said “I love you.” Out loud. There was a silence. I felt so embarrassed and vulnerable and at the same time strong. Then Rob said, “I am pretty sure I love you too.” That was huge coming from a twenty-four year old who never stayed with a woman longer than three months. It was usually more like three weeks.

A week before March 10 I was having a going away party. I invited everyone – all of my stand-up comedy and improv friends, my friends from all of may various temp jobs, friends from acting classes and, of course, my building friends. The party was on a Friday March 2. I had gotten into the habit of going first to Rob’s place before going up to my fourth floor home. Catherine saw that things were progressing with Rob and kept dropping hints about how important love is and how love doesn’t happen in every corner. She warned me about leaving. Even asked if I was running away.

That night before I was going to change into my party clothes I was talking with Rob. I told him how I was feeling conflicted about leaving. Then I said, “ Well, of course I am going to go to LA.I am a strong, independent feminist woman.” He blurted out, “but your mother doesn’t want you to.” That was Rob’s way of saying, “Please don’t go, I love you.” We went to the Going Away Party and I took all of my friends aside one by one and whispered that I was not leaving after all.

Catherine, who had already placed an ad in the Village Voice to replace me, told me I could keep my room but that I could not move out in three months. She helped me pack when Rob and I moved a couple of blocks away that July.

May 30, 1993 Rob and I married in the back yard of my parents’ house in North Carolina. I have never once regretted not moving to Los Angeles. I have never once felt that I was not a strong woman. In fact, I feel it was a bold move to take a chance on real love. Twenty years later we have three beautiful children. We have lived through wonderful joys and terrible tragedy but always, when I see a silly Disney movie or hear a sappy love song my heart beats a little faster because I am always reminded of Rob. When I see him in the morning or at the end of the day I still get a giddy feeling. Catherine and Terry were both right.




In the year following my mother’s death Daddy existed with two dark crescent moons under his eyes. He cried often. He wrapped his fingers on the table. He now only made one pot of coffee, no longer needing to make Mama’s decaf.


He walked around the house like a child who cannot find his mother, lost. Daddy called me one day to tell me he had just gotten a free pair of Levi’s.

Daddy needed to shop for his clothes now. A lifetime in the army wearing green camouflage fatigues and a wife with a great sense of style left him with a new need to walk the shopping malls in search of new clothes. His new Levi’s were too long, another new pair were too short. For years Mama bought his 38 x 30 Levi’s jeans and Dockers khakis. Now that he was in charge he would get to the bottom of the tomfoolery around his dungarees.

Having avoided Mama’s sewing room he trudged up the stairs past her paintings, past her writing notebooks, past the Singer sewing machine and the boxes of Butterick and Vogue patterns to the basket of supplies. There he found the faded six-foot long tape measure. 


On the kitchen table he laid out his half dozen pairs of blue jeans and began to measure each leg. Each inseam was supposed to be 28 inches. Not one pair measured up. He looked at the tags and noticed a pattern. The jeans manufactured in Vietnam were actually 27 inches. The jeans made in China were 29 inches. The jeans made in Sri Lanka were 26 inches. Daddy was pissed. He called Levi’s and explained that his darling wife had always bought his Levi’s and Dockers and now that he needed to buy them they were all sized incorrectly. He proceeded to read off the numbers of each pair stacked on the kitchen table next to his coffee mug. The kind woman on the line from the west coast mailed Daddy a coupon for one pair of Levi’s or Dockers of his choice. 


When I go to the home of a new mom I am often shocked to see all of the stuff in the home. I shouldn’t be. I once had a new baby and had more items than I needed. And these days there is more. Aren’t we supposed to be paring down? Saving the environment? Living simpler? Remember, I am seeing families in New York City. These are not big homes. Most are less than one thousand square feet.

In winter 2002-2003 I  had been a mom for seven years. I had two children at the time. I had been in the mom trenches for some time. I was in Chelsea a neighborhood with a new baby superstore. I wanted to lay my eyes on the new store I had heard so much about. Well, as I walked into the city block sized behemoth my eyes filled with tears. I was so overwhelmed with the thousands of items targeted at new and expecting parents. This explained the piles of unnecessary items in these homes.

I recently did a quick Google search to look at baby registries. The suggested registries had between 8 and 12 categories with 6 to 30 items in each category. That would be as many as 630 items for your new baby! That is a lot of real estate!

Let me guide you through a realistic registry.

First thing: avoid superstores! They overwhelm and oversell. You do not need 80-90% of what they would have you think you need. You may WANT some items but you do not need most of the items suggested.

Clothes: do not over buy.  First, your friends and family love buying baby clothes! Leave something for them. Yes, you want to be prepared with a few onesies and some soft blankets, socks and hats but your baby will grow and you do not need too many of the tiny clothes.

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For sleep you may want to wait for a crib to see if you will actually use one. In the first several weeks your baby will sleep in your room in a bassinet, a Moses basket or next to you, so either one of these or a bed rail will get you through these first couple of months. This will give you time to look around and see what kind of sleeping arrangements you will decide upon.

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I do like a night light for the middle of the night so that you do not light up the room and have your baby thinking it is party time. You want to be able to see while keeping the nighttime atmosphere.


Diapering: whether you use cloth or disposable diapers it is a good idea to have plenty on hand. Babies pee and poo a lot! Having a space to change the baby is good. Better is to have more than one place for changing the baby. In New York City it can be considered a luxury to have a changing table. Many will have the table on top of a dresser – this saves space. I also think everyone should have a portable changing pad so that you can change the baby in your bedroom and in the living room.

You can get wipes or you can make them by using water and paper towels, or better yet, those soft baby washcloths.


Diaper ointment? You do not need to use it unless your baby has a diaper rash and if he does you can use raw virgin coconut oil. You can use this on the baby’s bottom, on her skin to moisturize, on your own skin and you can cook with it. There are no mineral oils or other harmful additives. You can have a jar in the pantry and in the medicine cabinet.

You may want a few baby towels and those washcloths. A portable bathtub is a good item.

I love the lists for feeding. If you are breastfeeding you do not need anything from the store. The stores will certainly make you think you need to buy breastfeeding items.  You do NOT need a special pillow – they mostly get in the way of comfortable feeding. And please, please do not get a nursing cover! Do you get a cover for any other feeding in your life? Why put a tent around your baby? If you are trying to be discreet it just draws attention to you.

Regarding pumps, if you really need to pump at the beginning you will do best to use a rental grade pump. Before you purchase a pump you need to see what your situation will be. Will you be back to work full-time?  Do you need to pump only occasionally? Do you even need to pump?

Regarding bottles please do not fall victim to the marketers who want your money. All bottles are not created equal and no bottle will mimic a human! Consider something slow and not too big.  The formula sample bottle nipples are super fast.

Strollers! Ah! How will you get your baby around? I did not see any baby carriers on my samples of registries. Wearing your baby is essential no matter where you live. Put that baby on in urban settings for getting from place to place. Put that baby on in the suburbs to go for a walk or go to the grocery store. Put that baby on in your home so you can get things done like make yourself a sandwich.

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Now, back to strollers. Where do you live? Is it a walk up? You certainly do not need a huge pram going up and down the stairs.


In an urban setting a sturdy lightweight stroller is a must. Something you can quickly fold and unfold with a strap to go on your shoulder and a pouch at the bottom to carry your sling! This stroller will be great for grocery shopping- you wear the baby and put the groceries in the stroller.


Of course, if you are ever going to put your baby in a car a car seat is a must.

Safety gadgets: So there are certain things like outlet covers that are good and a gate or two near stairs or a particular room. But please do not cordon off your entire home. A baby needs to learn to be in space and to understand that there are some areas that you respect and learn to live with; for example, a bookshelf. Babies need to learn that a bookshelf holds books and they are not to be tossed about. Plants – a baby needs to learn that plants are to be admired and watered but not ripped apart.

Walk around your home, then crawl around your home and see what danger looms but do not restrict your baby as she learns to crawl to a padded cell. She will not know how to behave in the real world.

When people ask you what you want or need tell them to start a college fund or to buy you food. Maybe real estate but do not buy things just because there is a store wanting to sell you stuff. Ask your friends what they really used and think about if you have the same personality as that friend or the same size home.

Until your baby arrives pamper yourself and practice taking naps. Naps are one of  new parents best survival tools!

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