Posts Tagged "breastfeeding"

Done Like Dinner

Posted on Aug 13, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 4 comments

Done Like Dinner

If you spend any amount of time online in places where people talk about pregnancy and parenting, eventually you run across the conversation where someone asks “Are you done having kids?” “How did you know you were done?” or some variation of that. In the real world, people ask “When are you having the next one?” and “Are you planning to have any more?” Oddly enough, these often come from near strangers in awkward social situations. This is particularly bizarre considering that the answers tend to be complicated. This is the thing: both situations address the same issue, but the online versions seem to acknowledge that there is an emotional component (some way of feeling done) whereas the real life one acts as though it were only a matter of logistics, not of heart. Yet, either way, the answers are far from easy. The decision to have children at all, or add more children to your family involves more than just finances. Not just can we afford it, but do we have the resources (time and energy and support)? There’s the practical, the part addressed by the idea of planning for children. But what about the emotional aspects? The idea of being done is emotionally tricky. It’s not like there’s a meat thermometer device that we can use to check if we are done. It includes our ideas about sibling relationships and what’s the right number of siblings. This includes how we might feel about only children. It includes how we might feel about having either fewer or more children than the culturally acceptable two. It probably includes some of our past experience: how many siblings did we have and how did that affect us. It includes our relationship and experience with the children we already have and with our partner. There’s also this rather nebulous idea underlying the concept of done-ness that at some point you just know. The myth is that as the last baby is placed on your chest, you look round the room at your family and feel complete, perfect, done. Some even talk about feeling like someone was always missing in their family before the last baby was conceived. This is like the ultimate goal when thinking about or discussing being done. It seems everyone secretly hopes they will get that unmistakable feeling and be ready to move on. The alternative is to be stuck with puppy syndrome which means that you might get addicted to the whole cycle of life that presents you with a newborn in all it’s soft, floppy, sleepy, sweet smelling glory. Every time your youngest gets to the point of walking and talking, you find yourself staring wistfully at the pregnant lady at the grocery store and yearning to hold a fresh baby again. You worry that no matter how many children you have, you’ll always miss having a newborn. You’ll never feel satisfied. It seems to me that while women seem more prone to puppy syndrome than men, it can still affect both sexes. Not so for the slightly more complex idea of being done childbearing. For women, the childbearing years are a particularly special time: the magic of pregnancy, the triumph and/or trauma of childbirth, and the challenges and comforts of nursing. These can be deeply rewarding and enriching times in the life of a mother. For some, it might be hard to let go of this phase of life, even when they feel they have enough children. Those who had difficult or upsetting birth experiences or disappointing breastfeeding experiences may yearn to do it one more time as a means to heal and gain closure. It can be hard to separate those feelings from the feeling that you actually want another child. Besides, moving beyond the childbearing years is also a way of growing older. Even as you appreciate your new level of freedom when your youngest heads to Kindergarten, it can be hard to admit that the baby years are behind you. It puts you on the other side. It’s the first step towards middle...

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Just Nursing

Posted on Jul 7, 2010 in Breastfeeding, Featured | 3 comments

Just Nursing

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public This post was written for inclusion in the NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public (“NIP”). See the bottom of this post for more information. *** I don’t consider myself a lactavist. I didn’t call the CBC when I was asked to move into a change room at Superstore while nursing my daughter. I have not been to a nurse-in. I have never smuggled breastmilk onto a plane. I do think that breastfeeding is a normal natural beautiful act. I breastfeed my daughter anywhere I choose. I don’t let people’s opinions or rude looks stop me. I will breastfeed in a restaurant. At my table. Without a cover. I exclusively breastfed both of my children to 6 months. I continued with my son until he was 2.5 years old and probably will with my daughter as well. I breastfeed because it’s part of the package deal of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding and for me, it never became a choice. I was lucky in that both of my children latched well and I had an abundant supply. We took to breastfeeding with relative ease. Sure there was some soreness and some leakage and some fumbling with breastpads and straps and gaping wide rooting fussing baby mouths, but overall, it was pretty easy for us. I was lucky in a couple of other ways too. I had good role models: women in my family who went before me and treated breastfeeding like the most normal part of life. Women who paved the way for me to feel just a bit less self-conscious during all of that fumbling in the early days. I had supportive extended family members who didn’t bat an eyelash when I fed the baby in front of them, in-laws who never say anything unless it is a kind word. So for me nursing was just nursing. I never had to make a distinction between nursing and nursing in public. It was all the same. I didn’t have to go into a different room because my father-in-law was visiting. I didn’t feel like I had to cover up because I was at a restaurant. I didn’t have to go out to my car because my baby got hungry in a store. Sure there are nuances when I’m in public, like wearing a bra or sometimes having a hard time finding a comfy seat, but overall, I treated the act of feeding my baby the same no matter where I was. I got good at nursing while walking around a store (though I never figured out how to nurse in the sling) or even just sitting on the ground or leaning against a wall if I couldn’t find a seat. And I fed my baby. I am also lucky to be a very internal, introverted person. I tend to get lost in my thoughts a lot when I’m out and about. I can be kind of oblivious to those around me. My husband is always noticing the people who pass by while I am busy noticing the sky, the flowers or zoning out to my internal to do list and inner monologue. Surprisingly, this is a nursing in public superpower. This means that I can honestly say that I’ve almost never noticed a person glancing askance as I lifted my shirt to latch my hungry baby in the grocery store or a park or the library. I feel kind of oblivious and sometimes this is a bad thing but when it comes to nursing in public, it’s the equivalent of a very thick skin. My experience, breastfeeding my babies in Canada, was almost entirely positive, but I know that isn’t the case for the majority of women in North America. I know that too many women feel unsupported and self-conscious. I know too many women feel frowned upon for attempting to feed their babies in public. I feel terribly sad that we even have to make a distinction about nursing in...

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The Breastfeeding Choice

Posted on Jun 28, 2010 in Breastfeeding, Featured | 4 comments

The Breastfeeding Choice

Lately, it seems that everyone is debating the choice to breastfeed. Reading various blog posts and opinion pieces, got me thinking about why I breastfed my two children. Health campaigns having been making it clear that there are major health benefits including lower rates of asthma and diabetes in children and lower rates of breast cancer in mothers. The oft-cited lifestyle benefits include convenience (always having baby’s food with me no matter where we are, never having to heat bottles, never running out, not having to bring a lot of extra gear on outtings – besides a couple of diapers), cost-savings (not having to buy bottles or formula), better sleep, ability to soothe a baby who is hurt, getting a vaccination or whose ears are bothered by the pressure on an airplane. These are all great reasons to decide to breastfeed, but for me, they were like bonuses, icing on the cake. They weren’t the reason I breastfed my children. To be honest, I didn’t consider breastfeeding a choice. I suppose I could say that I thought it was my responsibility in a way but even that doesn’t really describe my feelings. I didn’t do it out of a sense of duty. I did it because that is what is involved in my role as a mother. For me, breastfeeding was just part of the package of childbearing. Just as I didn’t really have a choice about how to conceive, just as I didn’t really have a choice about growing and carrying a baby inside my body, just as I didn’t really have a choice about when and how I would push that baby out of my body, I didn’t feel I had a choice about how I feed that baby. Sure, in this day and age, we have things like IVF for conception, surrogates for pregnancy, cesareans for birth and formula for feeding. But in my mind, those wonders of science are available to make childbearing possible in spite of insurmountable challenges. For me, they are not choices. For me, the choice I had was whether or not I wanted to have children at all. Once I made the decision to have children, I embarked on a path that included pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding because that is what is involved in having children. Along the way, I had choices regarding my prenatal care, my place of birth and the length of time I breastfed my children, but I didn’t really have a choice about the steps in human procreation. Of course, all those steps involve some pretty big downsides like cankles and heartburn, contractions and the Ring of Fire, thrush and mastitis. But all three are also the most amazing privileges. We get to feel the wonder of the baby moving and growing inside of us, we get to experience the transformative power of childbirth, and we get to nourish and bond with our babies in a very primal physical way. Nothing about parenting is easy. Some of us will experience challenges with almost every aspect, from the moment we start trying to conceive. But we do it anyway because that’s what it takes to parent. We do what our children need us to do because it’s just a part of the deal. I guess one of the major differences is that all things considered our culture is supportive of pregnancy and birth (barring for now major ideological differences regarding what childbirth should look like). But breastfeeding is another story. Our culture does not support breastfeeding. The average North American woman is not living in an environment that makes breastfeeding something that feels normal, or even possible. The average woman is not supported by extended family to breastfeed. The average woman receives conflicting and erroneous advice about breastfeeding from the hospital, her friends and her health care providers. The average woman feels that breastfeeding in public is offensive or imprudent. The average woman is sent messages every day from society, from the media that tell her that breastfeeding is either creepy or too intimate to occur outside of...

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Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 19 comments

Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Last week at my local La Leche League meeting the topic for discussion was adapting to motherhood and one of the questions was “What did you to do to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb?” A young mother of a 2.5 month old baby responded by saying that she had let her baby cry and that it had been the good thing for him because now he is sleeping well. She went on to say that it had been terrible and that she herself had cried the first few times but that it had been the right thing to do. Considering the group, which was primarily made up of proponents of attachment parenting, the resulting discussion was incredibly supportive, thanks to the stealthy handling of our leader. She steered the conversation away from the specifics and toward the need to recognize that every baby is different, that every mom knows best what her baby needs and that we need to support each other in that. One of the other mothers piped up to say that she too had used sleep training with her baby and often felt judged for it. Some others brought up that they felt judged for going to their babies when they cried, and for not sleep training. Everyone reiterated that mothers know what is best for their babies. I was impressed with how the situation was handled but I sat quietly through the entire discussion. I am fervently opposed to crying-it-out (and you can read why here). I don’t believe it’s one of those minor parenting differences that we all have to accept each other on, like whether we cloth diaper or use disposables, whether we breastfeed for 12 months or 24, whether or not we use rewards for behaviour modification, or for that matter whether or not we use sleep training methods on older babies. I don’t believe that letting a 10 week old baby cry-it-out is just fodder for the mommy wars. The cry-it-out (CIO) method is not a choice that families come up with of their own accord. I am fairly certain that if every family were left to their own devices, to trust themselves, to trust their babies, the cry-it-out method would die out because it goes against our very instincts. Every evolutionary biological maternal instinct we have tells us to go to, pick up, and soothe a baby who is crying. This young mother said herself that it was terrible and she cried the first few times she tried the method.  An article I read while researching this post reiterated that point: The first night I cried for over an hour, long enough that my mom finally had to take a break and walk around the neighborhood while my dad kept watch. Anecdotally, I hear that over and over from moms, even those who are huge supporters of CIO. We all seem to think that parents and babies have to toughen up, that if they all just suck it up for a few days (or weeks) they’ll be the better for it, because someone wiser and more experienced said that this is what we are supposed to do. The only reason we continue as a society to use this method is because of pressures coming from outside the walls of our homes and I am beginning to think that we have a responsibility to stop this insanity. You think it’s harsh to call it insanity? Try this perspective: Leaving a baby to cry is a method that was popularized by doctors and paediatricians from the turn of the 20th century. This was a time when influential men like Luther Emmett Holt (1855 – 1924) and Truby King (1858-1938) were telling mothers that a strict schedule of feeding and sleeping should be kept. Their advice included encouraging regular bowel movements from the time the baby was younger than 2 months old by holding the baby over a basin and inserting soap suppositories, rubber tubing or an oiled cone into the baby’s rectum at the same time every day!! This...

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Trick of the Light

Posted on Feb 14, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 3 comments

Trick of the Light

The other day, when I dropped Rain at preschool, he unzipped his coat, found a hook, hung it up, placed his boots neatly underneath and marched confidently off to find something to do. The teacher got him set up showing a younger boy how to use a set of plastic gears. I was amazed at how big he was, how tall, how grown-up, how helpful, how knowing. That night, he had a bad dream. I heard him crying and went to his room. In the dark, I held him. His little body shook and his voice broke with sobs. How like a baby he still was! I smoothed the curls on his sweaty forehead and offered him “a pinch.” His still-dimpled hand found my forearm and methodically squeazed the muscle, just as he used to when he was nursing at 10 months old. How strange that in the dark, in the night, he was still my baby, still clinging desperately to me as I whispered that he was safe. I have this same experience every day with his younger sister Noa. As she giggles and runs after her older brother, how cute and big she seems. How stubborn and determined when they fight, when Rain takes her toy and she defiantly shouts “No!” How like a little girl she is in the day-to-day moments of life. Walking, talking, climbing. Sit down to breastfeed and it’s another story. I trace the curve of her nose, marvel at the downy hair on her cheek, the pout of her lower lip. She sucks contentedly and I try again to memorize her face, just as it is. Suddenly she seems to be my baby again. Her face innocent and newborn-like, despite that her wee head is at least four times bigger than it was the day I first craddled it in my palm. One moment so big; the next so small. Is it a trick of the light? How is it that one moment we’ve finally gotten used to the fact that they are growing up and the next we are once again brought to our knees by the utter tiny-ness and dependence of them? Something shifts and we see how tightly they are still tied to us and then just as quickly the veil is drawn aside and they are running from us, laughing. I am often astounded that children can seem to suddenly cross into a new developmental stage all at once. I’ve seen this in my own children and in my friends’ children. Overnight they seem to shift from floppy newborn to chubby baby, from squirming toddler to running, jumping full-fledged boy. It is breathtaking and always provokes a complex reaction in me: part pride, part shock. There is always the sad surprise that I’ve had to part with the last stage without being asked, without preparation. Suddenly, it’s gone and I’m loving the next stage. How grateful I am to discover that just as suddenly there are momentary lapses into the previous stage.  Would it be too unbearable to watch the speed with which our kids grow up if it weren’t for these tiny reprieves?  I savour these as best I can. I record them with my senses, in my muscle memory, the weight of their bodies in my arms, the smell of their hair, the whisper of their breath on my cheek. I pack them away, knowing that quickly, suddenly, the light will change and the baby will be gone again. Time gently grants us this fleeting grace as she marches forward. A minute here, a minute there, a ray of sunshine as our babies walk confidently out of our...

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