Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Changing Times?

Sometimes a supermom feels torn in different directions.  I love my baby and I want nothing more than to be home with him 24/7.  Still, he has a great caregiver who is nothing short of amazing. And I have a new job that I love and that gives me the opportunity to reach countless more children with my old-fashioned lifestyle than I otherwise would be able to.

Growing up I don't think I realized breastfeeding existed.  Yes, my mother breastfed me exclusively for a few weeks and then part-time as she had to go back to work when I was only 6 weeks old.  This was before the age of mandatory pumping breaks and "milk rooms."  I haven't asked how long I was breastfed, the answer doesn't matter to me.  What matters is that I am doing the same for my child, giving him a great start in life.  But back to point.  I thought babies were given bottles.  All the babies I saw got bottles.  Yes, I had seen quite a few litters of kittens and puppies as well as other farm animals suckling.  I just never considered it for baby humans - shocking, right?

I was a senior in high school before I heard of someone breastfeeding. My future sister in law was pregnant at the time and mentioned breastfeeding. I'm pretty sure my reaction was "Eww, I'm never doing that."  She assured me that I would change my mind.  I have and I'm thankful that she seems to have forgotten that interchange. 

When I was in college I thought "I'll breastfeed for whatever my doctor recommends and then I'm done."  At the time the recommendation was 6 months.  A few years later I got married and we were surprised with a pregnancy.  The recommendation had changed to a year and so I changed to a year.  Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in another surprise - a miscarriage - and my outlook changed again.  I began researching what was best for pregnancy, infants and children. About this time I got my very first glimpse at a nursing mother - I was 25. 

When I was in the hospital after W was born a year later the lactation consultant asked me how long I planned to breastfeed.  I said "18 months."  Now here I am, W is 20 months old and shows no signs of stopping.  DH is hoping that he will be weaned by 2 and maybe he will be, or maybe we will still be nursing at 2 1/2....

Still, I digress.  The reason for this post was to contrast my early experience with that of my current students.  I teach high school - I have 14-19 year old children who come from a variety of backgrounds.  I have students who were breastfed for more than 2 years (amazing!) and some who would consider nothing but breastfeeding.  I have students who have seen their mothers and their sisters breastfeed, who talk about it as openly and comfortably as I discussed babies and bottles.  

I'm fighting the fight on the front lines.  My students know that I breastfeed my 20 month old son and I teach them about the nutritional, developmental and psychological benefits it has. I'm encouraging them to research for themselves and praising them when they say with surprise "So why would you not breastfeed?"  I high-five a male student who says his future wife better breastfeed! I support a 15 year old mom who is pumping in a closet between classes. 

I'm fighting the fight and I think we are winning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In the world of new motherhood nothing is as difficult to bear as unsolicited advice on subject which you are educated about and dedicated to.  Before W was born I had dedicated myself to a minimum of one year of nursing.  After the first day of his life that changed.  The lactation consultant who visited us in the hospital was speechless when my answer to her typical introductory question "How long are you planning to nurse?" was "At least 18 months".  Needless to say you don't often encounter individuals who are considering extended breastfeeding outside of a midwifery setting.  When W was 2 months old his pediatrician, who is also a friend of the family, asked me what I was enjoying most about being a mother.  My honest answer was "Nursing W."  As the other supermom was expressing in a recent post there is something special about nourishing and comforting your child at the breast.  Something natural and instinctive. It's a beautiful relationship.  And although we had a difficult start (engorgement, Mastitis, clogged ducts, thrush, latching issues, oversupply, jaundice) at no time did I ever consider giving up.  I wanted to make a point.  If I can succeed while facing every issue in the book in the first 2 weeks, anyone can. And here we are 373 days later and still going strong. 

And now for the unsolicited advice.  "You know, you are going to have a really difficult time weaning him now that you've nursed beyond a year."

Not only was this advice unsolicited, such talk should be banned.  No mother who has just successfully breastfed her child beyond a year while working full time should be told anything that might damage her future breastfeeding relationship.  Were I anyone but myself I could have been scared.  I could have thought "I'd better start weaning now if it's only going to get harder as he gets older."  Thank goodness I have my own experience and knowledge as well as the support of several extended BF'ers and one supermom who will, no doubt, breastfeed beyond toddler-hood. 

I simply looked this person in the face and calmly said "No, I expect it will be quite easy. W will most likely naturally wean whenever he is ready, sometime between 2 and 3 years."

Why is it that in this society, now that breastfeeding is becoming the norm, do we push for a weaning deadline?  Why do we begin to ask mothers when their babies are 6 months, 9 months, 12 months "When are you planning to wean?"  One of my favorite responses to this question is that a child should not be weaned until you can have an intelligent conversation with them about what is happening.  Most children will wean themselves.  Some need a little encouragement. But no child should be forced from the breast.  Then end of the breastfeeding relationship should be celebrated and rejoiced.

"Weaning is not a negative term, nor is it something that you do to a child. Weaning is a journey from one relationship to another. The Hebrew word for wean is gamal, meaning "to ripen." In ancient times, when children were breastfed until two or three years of age, it was a joyous occasion when a child weaned. It meant the child was filled with the basic tools of the earlier stages of development and secure and ready to enter the next stage of development."  Dr. Sears

"And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned." Genesis 21:8

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Sisterhood.

Very few things warm my heart quite like seeing a mama nurse her baby.  I am filled with joy when I see a woman who is comfortable nursing her child in public, and I find it hard not to run up and give the pair a hug.  Then I think about how I would react if a strange woman ran up to me while I was feeding E, and I usually settle for a knowing (and friendly) smile.

I love when I get these smiles while I'm nursing.  Today E was snuggled down in his ring sling, nursing happily (and noisily, as usual), as we perused the farmers' market.  A woman peered over her table and commented, "That's how I fed my babies - wherever they were hungry.  Good for you!"  We proceeded to have a short conversation, finding out we had the same midwife, and E made a new friend in her when he came up for air.

Nursing creates a sisterhood the way mothering does not.  Women who nurse their babies are different, but similar.  I feel an instant kinship when I find out a woman has held her baby to her breast, and I delight in hearing women (especially when their children are grown) speak fondly of their nursing relationships.  This simple act seems to bind women of all ages and experiences together in a way few other things can.

Yesterday I was treated to my favorite brand of "nursing fan," the toddler who remembers being at the breast.    As I was sitting in a corner nursing E during W's birthday party, a curious little pair of eyes found us, peeked in a few times, then came straight up to fully appreciate the situation.  This lovely little lady fondly remembers the beautiful gift her mommy gave her, and seemed to savor seeing another child experiencing the same gift.  It is always a heartwarming moment when a child can identify and bond with another child over something so simple as a meal, and it's a bittersweet moment when I realize that not every child gets this gift.  I'm so happy I've made the commitment to give E the best and longest lasting gift I can - health from my milk, comfort and security from being cuddled at my breast, and the fond memory of not being ashamed to feed my child as long as he needs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I heard it on NPR

NPR was full of stories on babies and children today.

First on the docket?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children do not drink sugary sodas or sports drinks. The reason? There are too few studies to analyze the long term effects of excessive caffeine and sugar on a child's developing body. Having a husband who consumed an untold number of pepsi, mountain dew and gatorade drinks between the ages 6 and 26 I can tell you the long term effects are not good. This intake has resulted in insomnia and digestive issues to name a few.  I would not be surprised if he experienced a 'loss of height' due to inadequate sleep as a child.

I'm seeing a trend.

Maybe the solution is to allow our children self wean. Allow, if not encourage them to nurse to 2 years, 3 years or beyond. Perhaps if we keep them from drinking sugary fruit juices at young age we can prevent the switch to sports drinks and soda when they are older. Maybe we set a good example by drinking water first, juice second and sodas third, if ever.  Make water treat, make milk a treat. Don't use food or juice or soda as a reward system and don't use it as a coping mechanism. Use it as it was intended: to nourish the body and nourish the mind.

Next up?
Women in their thirty's and forty's freezing their eggs. This is not the first time I've encountered this news. There was also a three page article in one of my fashion magazines this month.

Now, I have 2 friends that I will mention here: The first survived cancer in her twenty's. She has frozen eggs waiting for the day she meets her life partner and needs to conceive a child via surrogacy. The other has several reproductive issues and just tried a round of IVF that was unsuccessful. Both are 'prime candidates' for this procedure. And I'm not judging IVF, even if I know that many women could take charge of their fertility naturally by following age-old practices of cycle charting and herb lore to increase fertility without resorting to expensive, invasive procedures that have not been studied in their long-term effects on the children they create.

However, the idea of freezing your eggs so that you can get pregnant in your forty's (or later) because you, for whatever reason, did not conceive during your prime childbearing years frankly scares me. As W gets older and begins searching for his own life partner I will have several questions. What is she like?  Does she love life? Does she have a good sense of humor? Does she feel the same way about having children? Do they share the same faith? Do they have similar morals?  To those I will add: What are your parents like? Does she have siblings? Would you follow the same healthy and active lifestyle? How does she feel about raising children (ie, what are her thoughts on parenting, breastfeeding, etc.)  Yes, some of these questions may seem invasive, I'm not planning on quizzing any girl W brings home. I just want to know that they would be a good match.  I think any parent would want the same for their child.  And any parent who blesses a union without thinking about what is best for their child is, in my opinion, being reckless.

Of course, now I have more to think about.  How was she conceived? If she is one of the thousands of children conceived via IVF or with frozen eggs or sperm how will it affect her? What does that mean for her long term health and what does it mean for the health of my grandchildren? It a complex time that we are living in. Even more everyday I can see the complicated lives we lead. Perhaps this is why I feel a strong desire to get back to my roots, to get back to a simpler and more basic way of life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Your 11 month old: Week 3

Dear Baby Center -
Thank you for this week's article "The 5 worst foods for babies".  I was ignorantly expecting a list to inclue items such as peanuts, sugary sweets and corn (a choking hazard).  I was not expecting the following.
Soda:  Really?  Soda?  When your own website literature says that your baby should get only breastmilk (or formula) until 6 months and only breast milk (or formula) and small quantities of water from 6-12 months? While we are on this topic, in the '5 worst foods' article you link to 'when can my baby have water?' I'm sure anyone who reads this blog will understand why I personally take offense to your response of 'when they are at least 1 year old and drinking cow's milk.' What if my baby is not drinking cow's milk at 1 year of age?  What if his main source of nutrition is still breastmilk at 1 year of age?
Juice: Ok, I get this one. Far too many parents (this is my opinion, but also happens to be my dentist's opinion as well) give their babies, toddlers and children juice.  At W's first checkup (ok, not really a chekup as he only had 2 teeth at the time) the dentist's only advice was "Keep those teeth clean and keep away from the juice as long as possible." Perhaps because he sees his Mommy and sometimes his Daddy drinking water and we only give it to him in limited quantities (ie we don't let him carry around a sippy cup full) W thinks water is a treat.  Daddy tried to get him to drink juice the other day and he aquired a look of indignation "I don't drink things that aren't clear or breastmilk, Daddy, come on, get serious!"
Crackers: This surprised me somewhat also. Although we haven't given W crackers yet, he is continually being offered them by some of his similarly aged friends. The worst part of W's diet is O-cereal (and not even Cheerios, Organic O's). Ok, I did let him taste a french fry today.... but that's not a regular occurance. But I like the overall message. Don't let your kids fill up on junk and push away their dinner plates untouched.
Gelatin Desserts: Who thinks that Jell-O is a food group?  It's clearly a dessert and not only that, full of dyes and artificial flavors.  Jell-O is great when you are sick or when you've had your tonsils taken out. Or as a dessert, occassionally. 
Processed Meals: I'm deferring to the other supermom's post today.  Everything that has an ingredient list (or other food label with more than one or two ingredients) is processed. Unless you buy it fresh and mix it together your self, it's processed. I myself struggle with balancing the time it takes to make a home-cooked meal vs. nutrition of a semi-homemade meal. It's not easy feeding your family wholesome meals and working full time.  I spent 10 minutes in the grocery store this week debating the on sale chicken vs the organic chicken.  The organic chicken won - and I'm a vegetarian!  If that doesn't tell you something....
Bottom line:  Let's make an effort to support home grown, home cooked meals.  Do you know how much better our home-made pizza dough tastes?  Sure, mixing the dough one night an kneading and rolling it out the next night takes more time than it does to pop a frozen pre-made pizza in the oven. But my husband thanks me at the end of the night and it's worth it.

Re: Your 5-month-old: Week 1

Dear babycenter,
Thanks for all the blog fodder. 
First up, your article "7 mommy guilt trips to avoid."  Your Number One guilt-inducer?  Feeding your baby formula.  The paragraph says, "You may feel like you're the only formula-feeding mom in the universe, but this is far from the truth."  WHAT? What woman feels like the only formula-feeding mom in the universe?  I feel constantly isolated for exclusively breastfeeding my five month old; I feel like the only breastfeeding mom in the universe.  

This is a tricky issue for me.  On one hand, I'm an avid breastfeeder.  I do tend to judge anyone who doesn't breastfeed.  But I also understand that some women have legitimate issues trying to breastfeed.  Those women shouldn't feel guilty.  But women who simply choose not to for selfish reasons?  I'm not sure I'm ready to give them a pass.   

Number 2? Using TV as a babysitter.  I can't even go there.  I have serious issues with the TV, even how much television adults in our society watch, so I better not go into how much we think it's "okay" for our infants to watch.  Television is certainly contributing to health problems in our children and adults.  It's negatively affecting our society in so many ways we can't even keep track.  So do yourself and your child a favor.  Turn off the tube.  (And don't call it the boob tube, that drives me nuts).  Go outside to play.  And if you need to get something done, find a way to involve your child, or entertain him without the television.  If I can use my sewing machine with a wiggly 5 month old superbaby in my lap, so can you.

Number 3? Being environmentally unfriendly.  I'm so tired of all the excuses for not being environmentally friendly.  We better start, as a society, being nice to this planet, or we will soon find we have nowhere to live.  Haven't you people seen Wall-E?
Number 4 – Feeding your kids junk food.  I'll give everyone a pass on this.  Unless you are cooking from scratch, you are eating junk food.  All prepared food is junk food, and most shouldn't even be considered "food."  It would take much too long to address the nutrition issue, so check out Fast Food Nation, In Defense of Food, and Food, Inc. if you are interested. 
Number 5 is leaving your child with another caregiverGone are the days of women in the home, for the most part.  Our modern society has nearly forced us to all have two income homes.  Unless you make some serious sacrifices.  Maybe that's why it's easy for me to say "no TV."  We can't afford it, so we don't have it.  It's not possible for every family, but on one income, our family is making a mortgage payment, a car payment, and a credit card payment.  It would cost us more to pay someone to watch E than a second income would bring in.  So that's definitely one I agree with – women are forced into the workforce, so don't feel guilty about needing a babysitter. 
Yelling at your kids is number 6.  Moms should feel guilty about yelling.  At children, at partners, at anyone.  Screaming and yelling is never appropriate (unless you are at a baseball game).  Your tips about apologizing to your child were good, and I like that you identified stress as a yell-causer.  It makes me so sad when I hear parents yelling at their children for every little thing.  Most parents spend so much time trying to force their children to behave like little adults that they rob the poor children of youthful experiences.  My policy is simple - you only get told "no" if you are potentially hurting yourself, someone else, or another person's property.  Raised voices are for running in the road and putting your hand on the hot eye of the stove.  If parents yell less, children will be much more inclined to pay attention when they hear a stern voice.
The last mommy guilt trip? Not being able to afford all the extras.  If moms feel guilty about it, they should watch BabiesThis documentary follows babies from around the world through their first year.  They all have different levels of parental involvement, enrichment activities, and nutritional levels.  Guess what?  They all reach developmental milestones around the same time.  Maybe we over-enrich our children.  Maybe music lessons and pre-pre-preschool are overkill.  Let's let our children be children, and see what happens.
Another interesting tidbit this week: Since the "Back to Sleep" campaign was initiated in 1994, more babies seem to be crawling later or skipping it completely.  Hm, interesting.  Maybe because the "Back to Sleep" campaign coincided with the arrival of infant seats and other baby propping devices.  I doubt just sleeping on the back has diminished a baby's ability to crawl, but I bet lack of "tummy time"  (which also arrived on the scene with "Back to Sleep") and being held in an adult's arms has.  The lesson?  Always put your child to sleep on his or her back, but don't overuse your 'baby buckets.' Limit (or avoid altogether) time in swings, bouncy seats, infant carriers, strollers, etc, in favor of carrying or wearing your baby.  Wraps, slings, and pouches are easy, cheap, and comfortable.  Plus they are excellent for baby's physical development. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'll start with I don't take astrology very seriously, but this link popped up on my BabyCenter email today and it was so spot on that I had to share.  http://www.babycenter.com/horoscopes?sign=gemini

About the Gemini Child (W)

A Quick and Agile Mind

Your Gemini child will look up at you with bright, merry eyes, making you laugh as he makes it clear there's a lot going on in that head of his. And if he starts talking at an early age, he's just living up to his nature!

Gemini children tend to be communicative, charming, and social, but even if your Gemini child is a quieter sort, he's still quick-witted, curious, and mentally engaged with the world around him. Make sure he's always surrounded with books and puzzles to stimulate his mind, and give him plenty of space and supplies for his many projects.

Gemini children love anything new, and they tend to bounce from one activity to the next at a moment's notice. As soon as they master a new challenge, they'll grow bored with it and move on. Their mood may also change in the blink of an eye.

Many Gemini children are indecisive or change their minds often. The other side of this coin is their adaptability. Gemini children often prefer variety of experience over depth of understanding, but as their parent, you can help them focus and develop a particular area of strength.

Your Gemini will excel at cerebral endeavors like reading, writing, and debate, as well as anything requiring dexterity, such as playing the piano. Due to their variety of interests, Gemini children tend to have many friends and will often be the center of the circle, naturally excelling at what we grown-ups call networking.

About the Aries Parent (W's Daddy)

An Inspiring Act to Follow

As an Aries parent, you're a natural leader. You have lots of energy, and you're passionate about your interests. Your children find you inspiring, exciting, courageous, and a wonderful example to follow -- except when they find you a little bit insensitive and overbearing.

Yes, your mind is quick and your mouth is even quicker, and sometimes you say things you later regret. Also, you have a bit of a temper, so when your children frustrate you, they know exactly when and why. Well, at least you let your irritation go once you get it off your chest! And your kids always know where they stand with you.

An active lifestyle suits you and your family best. Take your kids hiking or challenge them to a game of volleyball or soccer in the park -- but make sure you don't get too competitive, especially if any of your children are the sensitive sort. Aggressive displays of energy might be a bit much for them to handle.

On the other hand, you're their biggest supporter and they know it. You'll be on the sidelines cheering for them whether they're competing in a debate or a basketball championship.

Your children will always appreciate your honesty, even in its bluntness, and the youthful energy that keeps you young even as you grow older. Make it a point to show them your tender side, too. They need to know they can rely on your emotional support as well as your strength and dynamic energy.

About the Scorpio Parent (W's Mommy)

Strong and Silent

As a Scorpio parent, you're likely to be the emotional center of your family -- whether you realize it or not. You're passionate, sensitive, and intense, and you're deeply bonded with your children.

Your children see you as quite complex, even mysterious, so you may have to go against your nature in order to be open and honest. You'll have a much closer and more effective relationship with your family if you can be vulnerable with them, which includes communicating your feelings and your fears, and listening to those of your children.

Your natural interest in history and psychology and your facility with research will make you a favorite resource when your kids need help with their homework or school projects. You're also quite perceptive, as you combine sharp focus with an emotional, intuitive point of view, so you'll have a unique insight into your children's feelings and motivations.

But whatever you understand -- or think you understand -- about your children, encourage them to put their experiences and feelings into their own words, and above all, don't use their secrets against them! As a Scorpio, you might tend toward power plays and controlling, manipulative behavior, but obviously, those have no place with your children.

Make yourself aware of these unconscious behaviors, and focus instead on openness, mutual trust, emotional candor, and genuine affection. If you can achieve these with your children, you'll create the kind of home life every member of your family needs to feel secure and connected.