Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Call to Labor

Meet my daughter - the big baby.  The one that would surely clock in at over 10 lbs.  She was called "fat," "macrosomic" and "chubby" before she ever graced this world with her adorable presence.  Unfortunately for the doctor, the big baby card didn't fly with me, so I started getting told about cord prolapse, dystocia, stillbirth until my confidence in my own instinct was worn down and I agreed to go in for induction, which resulted in two, yep two, inductions, and a repeat cesarean.  I was told the cards were stacked against me, but the biggest card was losing my faith in myself.

Connected Daughter arrived after several bags of I.V. fluid and who knows how much pitocin, weighing 8 lbs, 11 oz on her due date.  By the next day, her weight was down to 8 lbs 4 oz, which I believe would have been her birth weight (Henci Goer discusses how intravenous fluids artificially inflate birth weight.)  So much for that big baby I was sure I could birth vaginally if I was just left well enough alone.

Despite education, my birth didn't go as planned, and I will be the first to admit there were risk factors, but three months later there is one thing that haunts me.  My decision to allow them to induce me.  In that moment I gave over control.  Something I regret.  Control is something so many caregivers believe they need.  Even caring, informed caregivers fall victim to this need for control.  And the easiest way to ensure control over birth is to induce labor.

I'm still kicking myself for giving up control over what may be the most important aspect of birth - the start of labor.  Because that decision instantly removed all hopes for normal birth. Normal birth cannot begin with induction.

I should pause for a moment and say that there is a place for induction.  There are truly situations that develop that require this intervention, and I do believe women should try for that before electing for a cesarean.  However,  truly necessary inductions are about as rare as truly emergency c-sections.  No one ever needed to be induced for a big baby, or discomfort, or getting too close to their due date.

We're being sold on induction in this country by physicians who want to control the spontaneous process of birth.  Take a moment and ask yourself how many times you remember hearing of a woman going into labor recently.  Now how many times have you heard of a woman being induced?

The desire to induce isn't part of some maniacal ill will toward women by doctors.  I think that somewhere we've started to believe that women's bodies have forgotten how to birth babies.  Instead of laboring in birth, we're laboring under the false assumption that fetal monitors, pitocin, I.V.s, hospital beds, and sterile rooms are necessary for birth.  The reality is that doctors have forgotten how to attend birth.  Many of them never even learned how.  Because a birth attendant needs to know one thing: what normal birth looks like.  When we were interviewing midwives, we met with CPM Anita Woods, former President of ICAN, and she said something that has always stuck with me.  The FBI doesn't learn how to spot counterfeit money by studying counterfeit money.  They learn by studying the real thing.  They can spot counterfeit money because they know, really know, what the real thing looks like.  A good birth attendant works the same way.  They are so well-versed in normal birth that they can spot a problem days, weeks, sometimes months in advance.  By becoming so quick to induce, doctors no longer have that knowledge.  Instead of treating birth as a normal, natural event, it's a crisis from the get go.  The most important thing we can do to change birth practice in America is to stop inducing pregnant women.  We must get back to the normal process of childbirth.  Doctors need to see normal birth and women need to experience it.

Recently I posted a piece on Coping with Birth Disappointment.  It's been by far the most read piece on my site.  What a bittersweet accomplishment.  I'm so glad I could offer encouragement to women struggling with birth disappointment, but so sad to see how many women it affects.  In America, we so often treat the symptoms without curing the cause of a problem.  I hope my thoughts on birth disappointment touched women dealing with it, but it is my duty as a birth advocate to take this issue a step further.

What I'm proposing is radical, because not only do I believe that we must stop inducing women, I believe me must stop patronizing physicians who actively use unnecessary interventions.  It's a simple economic principle.  If you want to see results, hurt them in the pocketbook.  Obstetricians need to realize that lip service to changing ideology is not enough and that we will hold them accountable for their decisions if we hope to teach them the patience necessary to stand back and observe birth.  We have to get birth back to normal if they are ever going to learn what truly normal birth is, only then will they be able to differentiate between high-risk, emergency situations and the process of birth.

Now I realize this is all such a lovely, impractical idea.  After all, am I asking you to fire your OB and hope everything goes a-okay?  Not at all.  I'm suggesting you find a provider who has seen normal birth, whose studied it, who attends and promotes it.  Find a midwife.  And if you're an OB reading this, I'm asking that you consider how important this truly is.  I'm asking for the humility in a profession of arrogance to recognize how you are failing your patients and then I ask you to go find a midwife and do a real internship.  Learn how to let birth happen. 

Above all else, if you are expecting or trying to conceive, get to know your body.  Listen to it.  Nourish it.  Marvel at its complexity.  Revel in your cycles, your fluids, your twinges and feelings.  Rediscover your own awesome, natural power.  So that when the moment comes you know your body as well as an old friend who's sentences you finish, and you know the right decision, because truly you are the person most qualified then to make it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reading Group: Spanking with Dionna Ford at API Speaks

Today's reading:

What do you think?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reading Group: Saying No with a Smile with Lawerence J. Cohen

Today's reading:

What do you think?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Breastfeeding Rights Association seeks Council Members/Volunteers

Aim:  To encourage employers in the private and public sectors to mandate employees are trained on the rights of breastfeeding mothers.

Methods: Boycott companies that discriminate against or infringe on breastfeeding moms rights until company policy has been changed, letter writing/blogging campaigns, promotional materials.

Why:  We believe breastfeeding is a natural act and a birthright.  Children and mothers should not be discriminated against for breastfeeding in public and should expect their legal rights to be observed.

A long time ago, ok not so long,  discrimination based on race, age, sex, or disability was okey-dokey in the workplace.  Until people like you and me stood up and changed it.  There use to be no such things as handicap accessible entrances or restrooms (checkout the film Music Within, btw!).  Change doesn't happen by accident.

How you can help:
1.  Apply to join the Council - We are looking for a group of women and men passionate about Breastfeeding Rights to create campaigns, maintain our website, answer advocacy emails, maintain public relations, handle financial records, etc.  If you are interested, please contact me or leave a comment below.
2.  Create promotional materials - have a talent for graphic design, writing, or web design, we want to create dynamic promotional materials as well fundraising products.
3.  Help design the website - we'd love someone to design a fabulous website to help us keep people up to date on our progress
4.  Grab our button - raise awareness by putting our button your blog or website
5.  Spread the word! - tweet, facebook this, blog about it, tell strangers on the street, you get the idea

Reading Group: Working with Alfie Kohn

Today's reading:

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Connected Mom Reading Club

I like to read.  Might have been how I wound up in grad school for English.  Anyway, I've noticed that I'm a more patient/peaceful/aware parent after I've been reading parenting philosophy.  This can't be a coincidence.  So I'm going to start my day every day reading a brief article/book segment to help me rethink how I approach parenting that day.  Now I don't dream that I'll spend everyday switching parenting philosophies, instead these pieces will focus on gentle parenting, consensual living, attachment parenting, green living, etc.  Once a week, I will aim to read a piece on building a stronger marriage, because it needs to be a priority too.  Everyday I will post what I'm reading and link to it, and I'd be thrilled if you would read along and respond with your thoughts.

Here's the scoop:
- I am all-inclusive, therefore the pieces will be secular.
- I am not espousing the methods of the author.  If I like it, I will write more on the ideas.  The initial reading is purely inspirational.
- This is a buffet - take what you want and leave the rest.

I'll still be posting several times a week, but I will post readings 5-7 times a week.  I look forward to some good discussion!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Protect Breastfeeding, Promote Education

Anyone else tired of hearing stories about the violation of maternal breastfeeding rights?  It's time to take action.  Mothers have a legal right to breastfeed in public in nearly every state.  When mothers are asked to leave or cover-up a public or private location in these states, the law is being broken.  This is the same fight feminists have been fighting for years - not to be discriminated against due to our sex.  Companies need to be held accountable for better education and training of employees regarding breastfeeding laws.  Ignorance is not acceptable.  We need more than issued apologies.  We demand company policy changes that inform all of their employees of the breastfeeding rights of their clients, co-workers, and themselves.  We have worked hard to promote a boycott of Nestle products due to their unethical marketing practices and we must do the same here.  Therefore I ask you all to join me in supporting a new initiative I am sponsoring, the Breastfeeding Rights Association, whose mission will be to hold companies accountable for following breastfeeding law.  When companies, organizations, or even schools fail to uphold breastfeeding law, they will be placed on our boycott list until the company publicly institutes policy change that mandates all employees are educating on breastfeeding law.

I would be humbled to have your support in this endeavor.  If you are interested in being a founding board member, helping with web design, or donating money to help with association materials, I would love to have you.  I'd be happy if you all do is send a thumbs up or host our badge on your site.  Website is in the works, but please check back here for updates on our fight to bring breastfeeding education to the workplace.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to be an Imperfect Parent

I am not a perfect parent nor will I ever be. Whew, that's a load off! I'm not sure exactly when I got dubbed supermom by family and friends, but it's a lot of pressure, especially when I'm so aware of my failings. Part of my problem is that my ideology doesn't always meet my reality. I lose my temper. I leave the t.v. on too long.  I've given candy as bribes. You get the picture. I want to be a good parent and I work toward my ideals. Every morning is an opportunity to evolve as a parent, but that doesn't mean I'm always right.

I know I'll never be a perfect parent, but by surrounding myself with like-minded mamas, actively soliciting parenting wisdom and constantly evaluating my parenting methods, I'm mostly proud of my parenting. One of the greatest things about having found an awesome local attachment parenting community is getting a chance to watch other moms and dads parent. I've learned so much from these amazing folks.

So rather than getting caught up in being a perfect parent, 'cause June Cleaver is so last century, I thought I would focus on how to be an imperfect one. If you are perfect, there's no room for growth. Besides kids need to see mom and dad aren't perfect. They need to watch us navigate complex emotions and difficult situations to understand how to deal with their own emotions.  So here's to our flaws and all the possibilities that come with them!

Rethink Discipline
Discipline is a problem area for most parents.  We struggle with setting boundaries, conveying consequences, and cultivating behavior.  I think most disciplinary struggles come from our own struggles with these areas.  Where do we step in?  Where is our parental boundary?  How do we parent our children with love and gentleness?  And where does discipline fit into this?  The concept of discipline is problematic in and of itself.  It literally means to gain control through obedience or by prescribing certain behavior. It is not our purpose as parents to control our children.  Our job is to guide them through modeled behavior and conference.  We need to instill in them a healthy sense of danger and respect but not through making them fearful or shaming them.  Discipline instead of being applied to our children should be practiced by us as parents.  Screaming, spanking, and shaming seek to encourage obedience through fear.  Instead as parents we should discipline our reactions to frustrating or infuriating situations.  Gentle parenting is not about letting kids get away with whatever, it is about showing children how to cope when strong emotions arise.  We do this by modeling the behavior we expect.

The other day Connected Son woke me up with the proclamation that he had built a house.  He'd ninja'ed himself out of bed next to me and as my eyes, and nose, adjusted I noticed the tinge of Louvre this Pink nail polish on his upper body and in the air,  I immediately shrieked, "What did you do?"  Five hundred horrible scenarios passed  through my mind.  I repeated this question a couple times as I grabbed my glasses and crawled away from Connected Daughter in bed.  Connected Son knew he'd done wrong.  Rushing around room to room, I discovered the bathroom sink painted the lovely pink.  He was sheepishly at my heels.  I sighed in frustration, muttered his name incredulously, and then I sat down on the toilet and explained that this wasn't what nail polish was for, to wake mommy up when he was ready to get up, and that we needed to clean up.  As I scrubbed, my frustration grew, but it was important for me to show Connected Son that messes could be cleaned up and that it wasn't worth losing my cool over.  Putting him in the corner only would have served to get him out of my way and to take my frustration out on him.  He wouldn't learn why it was a bad idea to apply a fresh top coat to the sink, he would learn to hide mistakes from me.

Elizabeth Willmott Harrop suggests that a more proactive approach to time out is to put yourself in it.   Harrop believes that sticking children in time out does little to teach them what was wrong with their behavior.  I know in my house, it only serves to elicit a bigger tantrum.  Instead, she suggests parents tell their child that mom or dad is going to have a time out so they can calm down.  This teaches the child value coping and calming skills through modeled behavior.  It shows her that she has control over her emotions and actions not her parents. 2

Get on the Same Page
It's imperative that parents discuss parenting with one another.  It's a sweet idea that two people could just always be on the same page about parenting issues, but it's unrealistic. Connected Dad and I finish each other's thoughts and often say the same thing at the same time.  That doesn't mean that he understands every parenting principle I put into action.  Likewise, time and again his insight into a particular situation has shown me a different perspective regarding the issue.   That said being on the same page is not the same thing as being on the same word.  Think of a page as containing similar ideas, stories, and thoughts.  You don't have to be at the same place in regards to parenting or agree entirely, but you need to have a good sense of your and your partner's parenting ideals.  Actively communicating with your parenting partner allows children to see the importance of communication.

Find Role Models
Often we get caught up in providing good role models for our kids and forget to provide them for ourselves.  The people around us influence our thoughts, actions, and emotions.  If we surround ourselves by negative, abusive, or careless parents, we are in danger of falling victim to similar patterns of behavior.  If we want to be more patient, thoughtful parents, it behooves us to seek parents who practice similar parenting styles.  We can learn a lot from them.  I mentioned above that joining a like-minded parenting group has really helped me.  Spending time with other AP moms and dads gives me the opportunity to discuss parenting dilemmas, get positive feedback, and observe other parents in action.  Don't have a parenting group in your community?  Start one! 

Walk in Their Shoes
It can be pretty easy to get frustrated with toddlers and small children (or teens for that matter!).  Connected Son can be equal parts kind, insane, unreasonable, and precocious.  There are days when I just want to run screaming to the grocery store for a break.  When I take a step back and rethink his actions, it's easier to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He's not asking me a zillion questions or repeating himself as part of a diabolical psychological experiment into maternal madness, he's exploring his world.  If we take time to see the curiosity and joy in our children's inquisitiveness rather than ignoring them, we get to participate in this discovery of the world!

We can apply similar practices to tantrums.  How do we feel when we are tired or hungry or bored?  Do we like being drug to a store full of things we don't use in our own lives?  Tantrums are a natural aspect of development as children learn to cope with frustrating emotions.  If we respond with anger, this merely increases frustration on both ends.  If we respond with empathy, we provide the comfort and security the child needs to develop emotionally and to move past the tantrum.

Say You're Sorry
Have you ever worked for someone that could never admit when he was wrong?  Didn't you resent that?  Parents are not above reproach!  We make mistakes and when we do it's important to admit that and apologize sincerely.  If we want our children to exhibit genuine, self-compelled remorse, we must model that behavior.   We don't respect authority figures who act above reproach, we resent them. Admitting your own faults maintains communication and trust between parent and child.

Get Down on Their Level
It's pretty easy as parents to talk down to our kids.  After all, they're a couple feet shorter than us.  So it's no surprise that if I'm admonishing Connected Son to stop something at the store or home, he doesn't pay much attention to me talking way up there.  Or he instantly jumps to getting his feelings hurt.  The reason is pretty simple, we aren't connecting.  Without face-to-face, eye level communication, it's much easier to ignore a request.  It's also easy for the attentive child to feel preached to even if it's not our intention.  Literally talking down at someone creates a power dynamic between the parties.  It places the standing or taller party over the other, establishing control.  

Instead of speaking to your child from above, try to get down and meet them eye-to-eye.  This promotes trust and respect.  It sends the message that you respect the child and what they have to say.

None of these methods will make you a perfect parent.  None of them will work 100% of the time.  They will open up the lines of communication and trust between yourself, your spouse, and your children.  We have a lot to learn as parents from each other and our children, but they are lessons well worth it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And the big gold star goes to...

Pumping Moms
Seriously, I can't think of anyone that deserves a pat on the back more than a mom who is exclusively pumping, or for that matter, primarily pumping.  I've had the pleasure of knowing a few women who have done it.  Some had nipple problems or latch issues or had to go back to work.  Pumping is hard work.  Personally I've spent less than 5 hours of my 2 years and 3 months of breastfeeding experience pumping.  I did it to help with mastitis or relieve engorgement when I was in grad school.  And it's, well, B-O-R-I-N-G.  Since I don't pump often, I never got one of those fancy pumping bras, so when I pump, it's all hands on deck while listening to my Medela, which I swear is actually saying "lactating" as it pumps.  Really, listen to it sometime.

I figure a mom who exclusively pumps spends about 2 hours a day pumping (15 minutes pumping/setting up/cleaning up every 3 hours).  Two hours!  That comes out to about 2 1/2 days spent pumping a month.  That is selflessness.

So here are a few fabulous things to make every pumping moms life easier:
 A great breastmilk storage technique that takes up less space and makes thawing quick.  My pitiful stash is housed this way:

I removed the embedded video because it was slowing down the site, here is the link:

A cute pumping bra. I just adore Pumpease's marketing campaign, someday I'd love to try one.

And some great lanisoh cream - pumping is hard on those nipples!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Here's to the Connected Dad!

 Rocking his matching sling with Connected Son

We don't always see eye to eye, me and the Connected Dad, but he's always willing to discuss my harebrained ideas. He might be a bigger lactivist than I am, he loves wearing a baby, and he'll tell anyone that co-sleeping is the best thing you can do as a parent. He loves the family bed, he encourages homebirth, and he's a fantastic cook. We are so very blessed.

 After 24 hours of labor and a c-section, he was in awe of Connected Daughter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Full of Fashion Photo Activism Contest Sponsored by Buddha Bunz!

Have you seen this disturbing commercial for the limited edition Huggies jeans diaper, which proclaims "I poo in blue?" Gag me. As if its not bad enough to throw away a disposable diaper, you can now throw away one laden with dyes made to look like blue jeans.

So I'm guessing Huggies is trying to up the cute factor, but we all know they can't compete with cloth! So let's show off how full of fashion cloth diapers are!  The fabulous Buddha Bunz, home of super yummy smelling wool dryer balls, is this month's official sponsor and will be providing the June prize to the winner!

How to enter:
Become our friend on Facebook and post a photo of your little one rocking their cloth diaper!  Have your friends and family like your entry to qualify as a semi-finalist.  You have until June 30 at 11:59 PM CST to enter. We'll choose the most-liked as well as some other favorites to be semi-finalists.

Myself and a panel of other cloth diaper mamas/papas will be judging the entries and proclaiming a winner the first week of July!
View the Huggies commercial here.

Semi-finalists photos will be published on the blog! You retain all rights to your photos.

Midweek Link-Up

I've got some fabulous posts, events, and info to share this week.  Seriously, if everyone posts such fascinating stuff, I may never mop the kitchen floor again!

Best for Babes laid out how new moms are booby-trapped - pressured to breastfeed but set up to fail in What are the Breastfeeding Booby Traps?

 The ever-so-readable Idzie published her first column for Breaking Pavement at Enjoy Life Unschooling.
Check out her thoughts on Bare Feet and Learning Connections.

Code Name: Mama is auctioning some fabulous unpaper towels for the  Save the Penises auction, a benefit to raise awareness about the benefits of leaving boys intact.  It starts on Thursday.

Keep your kids busy with some of the fabulous ideas on Skip to My Lou's Craft Camp.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Coping with Birth Disappointment

    I have birth disappointment.  I've had two cesareans, and I am not thankful for them.  I do not believe they saved my life.  Sometimes I am angry.  At times I am frustrated or sad.    Sometimes I lie awake for hours wondering where things went wrong.  None of these things make me a bad mother.

    As a mother coping with birth disappointment, I can tell you that depression in mothers is terribly misunderstood.  Birth is broken in America.  As women we are asked to accept interventions without question and pressured to make decisions when at our most vulnerable.  We have 5 minute prenatals with an obstetrician that might be present during our births.  Electronic monitors tell nurses when we are worthy of their attention and pitocin is now as essential to birth as the baby itself.  So it's no wonder that even the most prepared mothers often come out of birth having experienced interventions.  For a mother that enters birth with certain expectations, unplanned interventions, use of pain relief, or cesarean birth can be devastating.

   Dealing with feelings of anger, shame, sadness, or disappointment regarding your birth can be difficult.  Well-meaning family and friends remind new mothers that they have a healthy baby despite the experience, and while the sentiment is meant to make the mother feel better - after all, what better prize is there? - it generally only makes her feel worse.  Often the mother feels judged, as though others see her as ungrateful or selfish.  However, the feelings associated with birth disappointment are valid.

   Birth is a momentous experience in a woman's life.  It is transformative for the woman regardless of whether it is her first child or her fifth.  It is her first experience mothering that child, and it is important to her.  It is not simply a means to an end.

   It is key that women are allowed to cope with birth disappointment rather than try to ignore it.  Birth disappointment can affect a woman's desire to have children.  Some are too scared to want more, others become obsessed with trying again in an effort to heal the previous trauma.  Ignoring it could certainly put mom at higher risk of PPD and PTSD.
    The first step in healing birth disappointment is to acknowledge it and accept it as valid.  So here is what having birth disappointment means and what it doesn't mean.
Having birth disappointment means:
- A mother experienced unplanned, and often undesired, interventions.
- A mother may have experienced an undesired outcome, such as a cesarean section or episiotomy.
- A mother's birth memories elicit undesirable emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness.

It does not mean:
- The mother does not love her child.
- The mother was uneducated or poorly informed.
- Interventions were not necessary.

Women who are experiencing birth disappointment should take some comfort in that they are not alone.  Realizing what you are experiencing is normal and valid allows you to take healing steps.  Below are some strategies for coping with birth disappointment.

Ways to cope with birth disappointment:

- Join a support network. Not only will you benefit from having others who understand your feelings, but it can help you feel more empowered about future births. The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has chapters that meet monthly in most areas. Birth Network National has chapters in many states that offer monthly meetings on a variety of birth topics.

- Talk with your care provider. If you are lucky enough to have a really supportive care provider, discussing your birth experience with them might provide better insight into why things didn't go as you wanted. Even if you don't have a strong relationship with your care provider, think of this as an opportunity to understand what happened during your birth. It may also give you an indication of whether or not you want to use this provider for future births.

- Seek medical help, if necessary. PPD and PTSD following birth is more common than most women realize. At a time when you are supposed to be happy, often mothers feel that they can't speak up about being depressed. However, PPD is most likely caused by a hormonal imbalance out of the woman's control. SSRIs might be necessary, or talk with your provider about hormone therapy (My doctor put me on natural progesterone pills. By the next day I was laughing, and I no longer needed them at 2 months!)

- Write out your birth story. While time supposedly heals all wounds, it can also just make things fuzzy. Sometimes the further you get from an experience, the more likely you are to forget minor, but important details. Three years from now all you might remember is getting an epidural not the reason you had for getting one. Ask your partner or labor support person to help.

- Be gentle with yourself. I have to give credit to my midwife for this one. It's something I remind myself of daily. Whether or not you could have changed your experience with different decisions is a moot point. We all did the best we could with the information we had at the time. Reminding yourself of this can help when you experience moments of self-doubt or self-recrimination.

Coping Mantras

My feelings are valid. I will not be ashamed of them.
I will allow this experience to be part of me, but not dictate who I am.
My birth experience does not determine who I am as a mother.
I will be gentle with myself.

   If you have a friend or loved one who is experiencing birth disappointment, be patient, listen to them and express genuine sympathy.  Avoid lectures on gratitude.  Do not try to remind her of her blessings.  Your gentle reminder can send her into a shame spiral.  Instead respect her experience and offer support.  Often the love and support of others can do more to help heal her wounds than any other strategy.

Readers:  If you have dealt with birth disappointment, what helped you?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school." 
-Margaret Mead

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sleeping Safe and (Psychologically) Sound

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

Bedsharing is an ancient concept. Still practiced all over the world, bed sharing has become a subject of controversy in the United States. Often the debate centers around the safety issues regarding bed sharing (if you would like to read more on safe sleep practices, click here). While this is important, the real danger every child encounters during the night is psychological.

Modern developmental psychology is based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a simple structured look at what needs must be met to move forward in development created by Abraham Maslow in the 1940s.

Maslow believed that human growth and development occurred through building upon a basic foundation of met physiological needs.  All lower-order needs (physiological and security) must be met before higher-order needs (self-esteem and self-actualization) can be achieved.  If a person achieves a higher-order need and then loses a basic need, they can revert back in their development.

Infants require their two lowest-order needs to be met for them.  They must be provided with food, shelter, care, and safety to grow physically and develop psychologically.  However too many parents are pressured into practices which compromise an infant's ability to achieve these foundations.  Popular practices like cry it out and bedding baby in an isolated nursery can undermine development, creating developmental hang-ups that can lead to difficulties forming attachments or decrease self-esteem.  The entire attitude surrounding infant care focuses on meeting basic physiological needs with too little attention paid to the psychological needs of the child.  At baby showers, mothers are given clothing, blankets, and diapers to meet the physical needs of the child and then are bombarded with well-intentioned advice regarding sleep and scheduling of infants.  The question every new parent is asked repeatedly - how's baby sleeping? - presumes all parents to be desperate to achieve pre-infant sleep.  We are preoccupied with infant sleep, and yet, American attitudes toward sleep ignore the very foundations of healthy psychological development.

Rather than considering the psychological and emotional needs of infants, there is push toward sleep training in the United States.   Parents become obsessed with baby sleeping through the night often allowing an infant to cry it out, or employing the Ferber method or Babywise.  Recent research has shown that allowing an infant to cry it out can hamper brain development, because during intense crying the infant's brain releases Cortisol, a stress hormone, that interferes with normal development (BBC).  Therefore an infant who is left to cry in an isolated room, in an effort to be trained, is at risk of brain damage from the overload of toxic chemicals.  Parents are often told that these practices are for the best because an infant must learn how to sleep and self-soothe.  Infants do not need to learn how to sleep.  A child that is tired enough will always sleep.  Allowing them to cry it out only teaches them that they are alone and their need for safety and security is not being met.  The infant does not learn from the experience, rather their psychological and emotional development is stunted as only their basic survival needs are met.  They wear themselves down until they are only capable of sleep.

The focus on sleeping through the night also prevents the infant from meeting the basic need of food.  Recent disturbing developments in infant formula manufacturing boast advances in slowing the digestion of formula and thus allowing for deeper, longer periods of sleep.  An infant is not physiologically programmed to go 10-12 hours between feedings.  The need for an infant to eat every few hours is likely a survival mechanism.  SIDS has been linked to deeper sleep in infants and some researchers believe an infant's metabolism is designed to wake the child frequently to prevent long periods of deep sleep, which could prove dangerous to infants still learning to regulate their breathing patterns.  An infant left to sleep on their own is therefore in survival mode, attempting to meet his or her most basic needs.

Many attachment parents subscribe to the philosophy of "nine months in, nine months out," the premise of which is that human babies are born considerably underdeveloped due to the reproductive design of the human female.  Therefore infants require more sleep, feeding, and care before significant physical milestones are met.  Rather than rushing infants towards crawling or walking, infants are fed on demand, carried close to the mother or father, and allowed to sleep with their mother.  These principals allow the infant to develop in a nurturing, healthy environment.

Nowhere are the principals more important than in the area of infant sleep.  Since a considerable amount of a baby's day is spent sleeping, allowing the child to fulfill this basic need while meeting the secondary need of safety and security allows for optimal emotional and psychological development.  Parents can meet this need by bedding close to baby.

Breastfeeding mothers are uniquely in tune with their infants during the night and can safely co-sleep as long as safety measures are met, see link above.  This arrangement allows the infant to feel the warmth of their mother, nurse easily, and have their needs responded to quickly. In my experience, a slight startle is easily calmed by my child reaching and feeling me next to her.  We both are aware of the momentary waking but not disturbed and easily drift back to sleep.  For more info on breastfeeding and bedsharing, I recommend the work of Dr. James McKenna at Notre Dame's Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.

Mothers who do not breastfeed, as well as fathers and other caregivers, can share their infant's sleep by using a co-sleeper or a bassinet placed near the bed.  This allows them to quickly reach out to a startled infant or pick the child up for a feeding.

By rethinking the predominant attitudes regarding infant sleep, we are able to better meet our children's developmental needs.  The first step is to change our perspective from training, convenience, and accepted social norms, and instead view sleep as a precious, fleeting opportunity to nurture our children during the most vital stage of their development.

Recommended reading:
The Family Bed, Tine Thevenin (excerpt here)
Safe Co-Sleeping, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

I was humbled to receive the Beautiful Blogger Award from Lindsey over at Tidbits Parenting.  I feel like we're navigating the new blogger waters together, girl.  It is nice to know that someone is reading :)  The rules for the award are simple: 1) link to the person who nominated you,  2) tell 7 things about yourself people might not know  3) nominate 15 more beautiful bloggers!

7 things:

1.  I'm married to my high school sweetheart.  We broke up in high school and got back together my first year of college.  I knew when I was 16 I was going to marry him.  We were at his grandmother's on Easter sunday and I was holding his baby cousin.  He came in from playing basketball with his family, sat down next to me, and when I turned to look at him and saw his face, watching me hold that baby, I had a moment where I just knew I would have his children.  Sappy, I know.

2.  I wrote my masters thesis on eighteenth-century literature.  It is titled "'A Subject so Shocking': The Female Sex Offender in Richardson's Clarissa."  It is available online if you are really bored.

3.  When I was 18, my greatest aspiration was to be a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company - this did not work out.

4.  I make felt toys for extra income and because it's fun.

5.  My proudest possession is my 1991 Toyota Previa mini-van, because we bought it outright.

6.  My favorite ice cream is chocolate peanut butter.

7.  I hand make my children's birthday and Christmas presents because I think the time spent makes them more special.  I hope a few of them last and become heirlooms.

15 other Beautiful Bloggers  - these people inspire me, feed me, and so much more!

1.  Laura's Recipe Collection
2.  Ozark Mountain Blog
3.  Schultz Party of Four
4.  Surfacing after Silence
5.  So You Think You're Crafty
6.  I'm Unschooled. Yes, I can write.
7.  This Mama Makes Stuff
8.  Codename: Mama
9.  Freedom Happens
10.  Lactivist Leanings
11.  Maggie's Bookshelf
12.  Authentic Parenting
13.  Hot Mama Gowns
14.  Roger Ebert's Journal - I sincerely doubt a man w/ a Pulitzer will care, but I'm consistently impressed by his thought-provoking info.  You should be reading this blog.
15.  Pocket Buddha

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why Can't We Be Friends? The Breast Feeder v. Formula Feeder Dilemma

Tonight I happened upon the blog, Fearless Formula Feeder, and it got me thinking about the breastmilk v. formula war that has been raging as long as I can remember. I found myself wanting to dislike it. I wanted to want to chastise the mom behind it. Rather I found myself feeling sort of disinterested or rather like a Conneticut yankee in King Arthur's Court. It really wasn't meant for me.  The only thing I really took any objection to was the use of the term "factivist," but to be honest, I didn't take enough time reading the site to get the full story on it.

Rather I found myself pondering the line that's been drawn in the sand separating formula feeding moms and breastfeeding moms. Somewhere along the line we've started fighting each other rather than focusing on the root of the problem. I know this isn't always the case, but it strikes me that moms are perpetually on the defensive about how they feed their babies whether they're defending their right to nurse in public or their decision to formula feed. As a lactivist, I operate under the assumption that breastfeeding is best and I work to promote it as much as possible. As a mother, I know it's not always so easy.

Most breastfeeding advocates I know focus their fight on normalizing breastfeeding as well as attacking unethical practices on the part of formula companies. While doing so they often reference facts about the health benefits of breastfeeding. A good deal of the lactivist agenda is aimed at promoting the rights of the breastfeeding mother to nurse where ever and when ever they want, and promoting breastfeeding by trying to change formula marketers underhanded tactics meant undermine nursing relationships. I don't think the intention is to shame moms who wind up formula feeding; however, this is certainly an effect of lactivism.

I said before that I work to promote breastfeeding. I write about it, I nurse in public, I have a bumper sticker. But more than all the advocacy, I also offer my number to anyone with the express instruction to call day or night. I've offered to go to other mom's houses. I've answered questions on facebook and twitter. I don't say this to toot my own horn. I'm telling you this because I think the crux of the issue really lies outside of advocacy and debate. As a lactivist, when I hear a mom say she "couldn't breastfeed," I don't roll my eyes or give dirty looks, I immediately jump to wondering what went wrong. Did they have good support? Was there an issue with a c-section/medication? Were they given poor advice by a physician? Could I have helped them with latch? There's a laundry list of thoughts that run through my mind, and it's frustrating to me because, thanks to social media, so many moms I "meet" live across the country. I can only do so much online. Often these moms express remorse about not being able to breastfeed. Sometimes they even express hope that they can nurse their next child.

So it saddens me that this has become an us versus them issue. The thing is that I don't think most lactivists want to alienate formula feeding mothers. In our minds, we are taking on society and big business. Unfortunately, formula feeding mothers feel our advocacy more keenly then the CEO of Nestle. Believe me, he does not care what we have to say. The shameful marketing tactics of his company prove it. The mother who struggles with breastfeeding, whose physician offers formula, who wants to feel like she is feeding her child feels the attacks.

So what do we do about it? Why can't we be friends? Well, the first step is not jumping to judge formula feeding mothers. Instead, engage them in a conversation about why they use formula. Now I know this sounds uncomfortable, and it's a fine line to tread. But if you can show honest interest and openness, in my experience, the conversation is beneficial to both mothers. I know having this conversation has cleared tension in some of my mom friend relationships. The second step is to step off the soapbox occasionally. Now I love my soapbox, but real change doesn't occur from words alone. Offer your support to a mom who is struggling. Tell a friend who wants to breastfeed her baby to call you whenever she needs you. Be available for support to anyone who needs it.

I still believe breastfeeding is best for baby, but rather than preaching it all the time I want us to rethink how breastfeeding fits in our society. Yes, it's key to normalize nursing. It's important our children see breasts as for babies. It's vital moms feel comfortable and supported nursing in public, and we need to hold formula companies accountable. However, if we really want to promote breastfeeding, we must remember that breastfeeding is an art. We must rebuild community amongst women. We must open our arms, hearts, and minds to all mothers and come together. When we rebuild the collective skill and knowledge of women and restore female relationships, we will rediscover wisdom and finally be able to truly affect breastfeeding success.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The First of Three Conversations: Unschooling?

The subject of our children's education has come up a lot recently. We are considering moving and often the possible location comes down to the school district, which inevitably leads to these words escaping my lips, "I could homeschool."  My husband knows exactly what this means - I want to homeschool, and I'm slowly getting him used to the idea.  And as always, he is supportive with one caveat - he's concerned about my organization.  To be honest, I am as well.  In my mind, I have 2 years before I have to get started, but let's face it there is no start date when you educate at home.  So I have started thinking about it, picking up books, etc.

One of the issues I am most interested in is homeschooling v. unschooling.  I have a hard time setting a strict curriculum and yet, the idea of completely going with the flow is daunting.  Initially I perceived unschooling as homeschooling without the rigid structure of a homeschool curriculum, but this segment on ABC got me thinking:  Unschooling: No Tests, No Books, No Bedtime

I'm not thrilled with the incredibly negative undertone to the piece, but I'll admit that I understand the skepticism.  The Martins certainly didn't meet my expectation of unschooling.  Now it could be the poor journalism at play, but it strikes me that this radical form of unschooling may prove as detrimental as the hidden curriculum of traditional schooling.  The featured family promotes no discipline, no structure, and no schooling, arguing that children don't learn best when rigidly structured.  I agree and disagree.

I don't think this is the best way for kids to learn.  Sitting in desks, reading the same books, completing workbooks, and watching videos.  I know because I used to try to teach those kids, and, as Wendy Priesnitz points out, "the reality is that (contrary to what most people prefer to believe) even school kids decide what they want to learn and when. They can’t help it; it’s a prerequisite of learning. Oh, they might memorize some stuff in order to pass a test or otherwise regurgitate on demand, but that’s not learning."  Putting 30+ kids in a small room and throwing info at them doesn't really teach them much.  Expecting that you can create a structured curriculum that meets the learning needs of every student is foolish.  Educators know they don't teach every student their classroom, because interest in any particular subject or lesson has to be intrinsically driven at least in part.  I can have the most fascinating lesson plan ever planned.  It can engage 19 out of 20 students, but one will still be daydreaming or texting, or drawing in a notebook.

But do we throw structure out completely as in the above segment?  No.  Structure does not mean rigidity.  It means foundation.  We can allow our children to explore their interests within a simply structured education - planning activities, participating in co-ops, creating "lessons" based on their interests.  There is no need to buy an entire homeschool series or give home tests on biology.  But it is imperative that we educate our children according to their needs and interests.

My own interest in unschooling and self-education is practical.  My college experience was spent exploring different subjects, taking a smattering of this and that.  My husband, possibly the most intelligent person I know, got a useless degree in a subject that was interesting to him at the time.  If we had approached college with a stronger sense of self and a greater level of experience in the world, we might not have squandered those years.  College shouldn't be the first time a person exerts true control over their education.  It's too damn expensive for one thing.  All that said, I probably still wouldn't have wound up with a practical degree but I would have rounded out my education to better encompass my interests.  College is essentially paying for unschooling after all, which is probably why so many walk away without degrees or, worse yet, liberal arts degrees.

So as the country engages in a debate over the validity of unschooling, I'd argue the heart of the problem lies both in the labels and the expectations.  The very term unschooling is problematic, because the prefix "un" can mean non as well as indicate a reversion.  So are we nonschooling our children, or are we trying to undo our own educations?  Our own educational baggage can play a role in the decision to unschool but it shouldn't dictate their actual education.  Taking charge of a child's education is a huge responsibility.  As a former teacher, I wanted the best for all my students.  I wanted them to stand on their desks and proclaim their admiration for my sacrifices with Whitman.  And every year I was rewarded with a few students I really reached.  I only reached them because they were open to the subject though.  I expect the backlash against unschooling we see from the media and main stream society is directly related to this responsibility and pressure.

I suspect more people want a better education for their children and recognize that schools are failing them, but taking on a child's education is no small matter.  There are jobs and paychecks and bills that all seem to come first.  After all, we don't want to be unhoming.  But at the end of the day, the majority of us could choose to teach our children but it requires sacrifice of time, money, ourselves if we are to do it right.  Would you be willing to give up a family vacation or drive an old car to stay home and teach your kids?  Probably not, because we have been programmed to believe kids belong in school and we belong at work so we can live the dream of owning our own cookie cutter house in the suburbs.  And while we do this we complain about hating our jobs and cubicles and mourn the what-if's of our lives, and what we need to recognize is that this is all part of the same vicious cycle of institutionalization.  You are teaching your children regardless of how they are schooled.  We are telling them where to fit, but what if we could teach them to carve a space for themselves that was uniquely theirs?  What if we could break the cycle of institutionalization and inspire individuality thus allowing our children truly fulfilling lives?  This should be our motivation when considering our children's educations.  And it will involve structure and sacrifice, but it will be worth it.

Disclaimer: I have two liberal arts degrees.

A time out for a very important day!

When my son wakes up tomorrow, he will come downstairs to a playroom that wasn't there the night before!  It's his third birthday and I wanted to build him a space where he could play and have friends over while I did housework, sewed, or lollygagged online.  Here's a few pictures.  It's a work in progress, but total I have spent less than $10 so far on this project.  Some of the items were free finds through various social networks, items that have been in storage, and things I have made him.  I hope he likes it!  I'm still working on repurposing some old shelves and a bookcase to make a kitchen cupboard and fridge.  I'm also going to make a large felt play mat for him to build his train set on.

Now for the pics:
A table we had in the basement, new in box, from my mother-in-law.  We hadn't had space for it, so we made some.

Play kitchen I got free through a local network, pots and pans for less than $3 at JoAnn's, a few various garage sale finds, hot pads and curtains sewn by yours truly, and the bottle from a pint of Shatto chocolate milk I was kind enough to drink for him.

Fabric bag chair with snap off cover made entirely from scraps and my own fabric stock. Books were in storage since our last move and he's never read them!

The play area consists almost entirely of wooden toys.  I'm trying to get rid of all plastic and there is nothing here that lights up or makes sound!  Yay!

While this certainly didn't cost me much and a lot of it was things we already owned, having a playroom is going to be a great gift for James.  It's amazing how you can create a REALLY BIG present on a really small budget if you try.  I really enjoyed taking the time to put this together, and I can't wait to finish it up.  I hope he is excited about it as I am!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bamboobies: Ultra soft nursing pads

Ultra-soft, ultra-thin, and sustainable, say it is so!  I recently had the pleasure of trying Bamboobies, a new line of nursing pads designed by a mom in Colorado.  They're different from your regular nursing pads because they are waterproof and natural.  Bamboobies uses a waterproof fabric to back their bamboo velour nursing pads.  Now normally its a big no-no to use waterproof pads because it keeps moisture next to the skin; however, the bamboo wicks away moisture and it has natural anti-microbial properties. Bamboo also holds 4x more milk than cotton.  This morning when I took them out, I was surprised because  I could feel the trapped milk.  They were every bit as absorbent as disposable pads, but I get to wash these beauties and keep them!

Bamboo has become a popular fabric for diaper making in recent years because of its unique properties.  A lot of companies have adopted it for nursing pads as well.  Bamboobies is different for a number of reasons.  As I stated previously, it is waterproof, but it also comes in a cute heart-shaped design.  The heart-shaped design with the ultra-thin fabrics allows it to cup your nipple better, and well, it's kind of cute.  My husband got a kick out of my bright pink hearts last night.  The water-proof design also prevents those lovely milk stains.  Bamboobies also uses only fair trade fabrics!

Bamboobies are handmade and hail from Boulder, Colorado (a.k.a. on e of my favorite places in the world).  You can get your own pair at

Pardon the mess!

Pay no attention to the links in the menu bar right now.  I'm working on the launch of!