Friday, December 31, 2010

Too old to nurse

Nursing a toddler can be an adventure.  They climb and fidget and often request quick drinks before running off again.  But as chaotic and frustrating as it can sometimes be, it is also a joy and I am so glad I have continued to nurse my kids well past the infant stage.

I always knew I wanted to nurse my babies, but I had never pictured myself nursing someone that could ask!  I remember my mom telling me I nursed until I was two and thinking that was so weird.  I knew 2 year olds and couldn’t imagine myself nursing one.

But when my first reached a year, it was obvious to me that neither of us was ready to wean.  Then he turned 2 and although he didn’t nurse often, he still liked to nurse before bed and occasionally when he was just having an off moment and needed some extra love.

Now I was the one nursing a two year old and it was weaning him that I couldn’t imagine.  Nursing seemed as natural as hugging him.  I didn’t know how long I would continue to nurse him and at what point I would decide he was “too old”, but I knew now wasn’t the time.

Turned out I never had to make that choice.  He initiated weaning a few months after turning two and although there was a point when he asked and I said no, it was only after he had made it clear he was ready to stop nursing.  There were no tears, no pleading, just an “okay” when I offered him something else to drink.

I am so glad I let my instincts determine how long I nursed my children and not a number.  And when my mother later admitted that I still occasionally nursed when I was 3, I no longer thought she was weird.  Instead, I felt her love that had inspired her to keep nursing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Letters from Baby: Please don't let me cry

After reading many responses to this blog post, I just want to say that it is not my intent for this to be a complete debate on the merits of "cry-it-out".  I am trying to present what experiencing "cry-it-out" may be like for a baby and hope it will encourage people to not take CIO so lightly and do more research into the subject.  To find a more logical argument against CIO, see the links I have included at the end of this post.
Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm lying here crying, waiting for you to come.  I don't know why you won't, but I feel so all alone.

I heard Grandma say to let me cry, it's good for me somehow, so you both agree not to spoil me.  Well I don't know exactly what that means, but I am sure I disagree.  All I know is that I'm cold and sad lying here alone.  So I will keep crying with the hope that you will come.

I know I just ate and now it's time to sleep, but I feel so safe when I'm in your arms and that's where I want to be.  Your body is warm, and you smell so sweet.  It's easy to fall asleep, protected by your arms and listening to the calming sounds of your breathing and heart beat when you hold me close.  I know I'm loved and cared for with you watching over me.  But I feel so sad alone in this room waiting for sleep to come.

I have no words to tell you, and so I start to cry.  It's my only way to ask for help, it's the only words I have to tell you that I need you.  I get so excited when you listen, but I just don't understand why you won't listen now.

So I keep calling for you to pick me up, but please come fast.  I'm afraid that I can't cry much longer, that I am going to give up.  That I will feel too alone to even cry and too tired to hope you will still come.  I'll feel so ignored here in this room.  So unloved, so abandoned, so alone.  It might not be true, but it's how I feel as I continue to beg for you and my cries continue to go unanswered.

Next time I will know not to cry so long.  I won't try as hard to make you hear and I'll learn faster that you will not come.  And there may even come a day when I don't cry at all.  By then I will have learned that you don't care and I will have given up on trying to communicate my needs to you.  I won't keep hoping or trust you to help me when I am sad.  Grandma will be so proud that I have learned to "self sooth", but I don't know why giving up is a good thing.  Maybe I will understand some day.

I'm finally too tired to cry, and I'm drifting off to sleep.  I'm breathing kind of funny, I still feel like I can't catch my breath.  I guess I really shouldn't have cried so long.  I'll know next time.

Your Baby

It makes me so sad to think of all the babies that are left to cry.  Like all parents, the parents of these babies love their babies dearly and just want what's best for them.  Unfortunately, main stream thinking has made us all believe that letting your child cry it out is not only okay, but actually better for them in the long run.  The truth could not be more opposite.

Leaving a baby to cry, unattended and without response by a parent is not healthy.  All the stress hormones released from prolonged crying can actually alter a baby's brain.  They can also become withdrawn and even depressed.  How your child responds to CIO depends greatly on how it is applied and the baby's personality.

Babies use crying as one of their only ways to communicate with their caregiver.  When a baby attempts to communicate over and over again and is repeatedly ignored, this baby learns that their communications will not be responded to.  They lack trust in their parent or caregiver to meet their needs.  So responding to a baby's cry is important in establishing communication and a trusting relationship with your baby.

Here are some great resources about prolonged, unattended crying:

Dr. Sears - Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful to Babies

Dr. Ben Kim - Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry

The Natural Child Project - The Con of Controlled Crying

Dr. Sears - 7 Things Parents Should Know About Baby's Cries

Dr. Stephen Juan - 'Crying it out' may damage baby's brain

PhD in Parenting - Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us

Peaceful Parenting - Should Baby Soothe Himself to Sleep?

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley is a great book if you are looking for solutions for helping your baby sleep.  I buy one for all the new moms I know!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding your flock

What some people call attachment parenting came very easy to me in the beginning when my baby was born.  I nursed, co-slept, and responded instantly to his cries, as if I had a choice!  In the beginning, it didn’t bother me if people didn’t agree with some of my choices.  But as my baby grew older, my choices became less and less socially acceptable.

When my second was born, I decided we needed to join a playgroup so that my son could get out and interact with other kids.  Immediately I was nervous about joining one though.  I know how judgmental mothers can be, I am one and am often guilty of the same thing.  I knew how different my parenting style was to my friends and had only recently admitted to some of my close friends that I was still co-sleeping and nursing my first out of fear they would run screaming.

Would we be accepted in playgroup?  Would they be able to tell I didn’t follow the mainstream parenting rules?  Would I be “allowed” to nurse my baby in front of their children?

All these questions and worries kept me from joining anything for a few months until my doula, who also had kids, mentioned to me that there was an Attachment Parenting group that met locally.  I still didn’t fully know what “Attachment Parenting” meant at that point, but I knew I liked my doula and thought I would give it a try.

The first playgroup we went to was at a park.  I walked up nervously to a group of moms and almost cried with happiness when I saw a mom with her toddler nursing openly in a sling!  She didn’t have her healthy 15 month old shamefully covered with a blanket while she nursed him.  She just said hi and welcomed me to the group without a second thought.

Nursing a toddler in public was something I had never had the courage to do.  I immediately knew this was the perfect group for us though and was relieved to know that when my baby was a toddler, this would at least be one place I could openly nurse without issue or judgment.

Since then, I have grown as a parent with this group.  I am so grateful that I found them when I did.  They have helped me gain confidence in my parenting choices and feel proud that I parent the way I feel is right.  For so long I felt like my choices made me an outcast.  But now I knew I wasn’t a freak.  There were lots of people out there that made the same kind of choices I made and suddenly these choices seem normal.  Sure, there are still more mainstream parents out there than AP parents, but it helps to know you’re not alone.

I think it is so important to find people who have similar parenting philosophies to you, especially if you don’t follow the mainstream crowd.  It is exhausting to constantly feel you have to defend your choices or filter what you say around certain people.  It is important to have people you can talk openly with and go to for advice or just be a sympathetic ear.  So if you find you can’t talk to your friends about sleep issues because you know they will tell you to just let you baby cry, try to find a group of people you can talk to.  It might help more than you think!

So how do you find your flock?  Google it.  Check Facebook or Yahoo Groups.  You can even find some on the Attachment Parenting International website.  I know!  I didn't know that page existed either!  There are lots of local AP groups all over.  If you can't find any, start one!  There's a good chance that there are other AP parents in the area that would like to join!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gift of Babywearing

If you haven't had the fortune to discover babywearing yet, you should!  Babywearing is not only a gift for your child, but for you as well.

Babywearing has tons of benefits, but the most important is probably how it can make life just so much easier for you!  My toddler was a bit on the needy side when she was little.  She had colic when she was born, plus I had a toddler to run after, so using a baby carrier was a life saver!  I don't know how I would have survived those first three months without one.  It allowed me to keep my baby happy and content while keeping up with the busy activities of the day.

When she got older and started crawling and being more mobile, babywearing allowed me to take my oldest to the park and playdates without any protest.  She was much more content to be in the carrier and watch the action than she ever would have been sitting in a stroller for an hour or more.  She was also able to nap easily while we were out and even made it easy to handle her frequent nursing sessions.

By the time she was a toddler and running around with all the other kids, babywearing still allowed us to be out and social much more often then I had been with my first.  She could only handle so much running around before she would get tired and crabby like all toddlers do.  The carrier allowed her to take a break from the action and retreat to a safe place to relax.  Plus she was so used to sleeping in a carrier by this point that she would ask to be in the carrier if we were out and she needed a nap.  Babywearing allowed her to be independent when she wanted to and gave her a safe place to be when she was done.

I encourage everyone to explore babywearing if they have the chance.  Even my husband has embraced babywearing, and "toddlerwearing"!  It gave him a chance to feel more hands on with our baby and has allowed him to enjoy those rare snugly moments you have to take advantage of with a busy toddler.  It's become such a big part of our family life that my children even make their own baby carriers to carry their dolls!  Plus, there is nothing better than the joy I feel while I carry my child so close to my heart!

Some Of The Benefits Of Babywearing
  • Babies that are worn cry less than babies that are not.  Babies are much happier being held than not, so babywearing allows you to hold you baby much more than you would otherwise be able to.  Plus, crying is stressful for both you and baby, so less crying makes everyone much happier!
  • Babywearing helps sooth your baby and make them feel safe.  Newborns are comforted by the warmth and closeness they experience when being warm.  They are able to smell you and hear your breathing and heartbeat like they were ablt to do in the womb.  The motions and pressure of babywearing also is comforting to them.
  • Babies that are worn get to see and experience much more than other babies.  They listen to conversations and watch you go about your activies, absorbing and learning from what they experience through being worn.
  • Babywearing encourages interaction with your baby.  You make eye contact and talk to them more often when they are worn.  It is more natural to talk to your baby about what you are doing and seeing while you are wearing them.
  • Wearing your baby can help you and other caregivers bond with your baby.  Being close to baby, smelling them, feeling their warmth, interacting with them, encourages a deeper bond and also helps your baby bond too.  Babywearing is a great way for dads to become more involved with their babies and helps nuture their own bond.
  • Babywearing makes life easier!  It's easier to keep up with older siblings and life in general while babywearing.  It allows you to have your hands free to tend to other things.  It also decreases the amount of time you need to spend comforting your baby and even putting them to sleep since these are things that naturally occure while wearing them.  Plus, it can be a lifesaver if you're ever unable to use a stroller!
  • Babywearing creates a safe place for baby no matter where you are.  Whether your baby is nine months old and afraid of strangers or 18 months old and is overstimulated or overwhelmed by your surroundings, babywearing gives them a safe place to retreat and feel secure.
  • Wearing your toddler can keep them safe and out of trouble!  Babywearing keeps your toddler close to you and away from things you don't want them getting into.  It has been a huge help when grocery shopping since it keeps my toddler happy and unable to grab everything on the shelf or out of the shopping cart!
  • Babywearing creates more independant toddlers.  Believe it or not, but babies that are more attached and trust you to meet their needs, become more independant and confident to explore their world becuase they are confident that you will be there for them.  Babywearing nurtures this trust and attachment and therefor leads to more independant toddlers.
  • Babywearing is a joy!  Wearing your little one allows you to snugle and kiss your baby even more, which is always a plus!  And as they get older and more busy, may be the only chance you get to snag any snugles at all!

For more babywearing information, visit these sites:
The Babywearer Babywearing
Babywearing International
Better Babywearing: Babywearing Overload
The Natural Child Project: Ten Reasons To Wear Your Baby
Sleepy Wrap: Benefits of Babywearing

Want to wear you baby?  There are tons of companies and brands out there, but here are just a few that I know of that are run by stay at home moms (and one dad!):
SweetPea Ring Slings
Carry Me With Love
NuzzleMe Creations

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Car Seat Safety

I was shocked when I learned that it is unsafe for my child to wear a coat while in their car seat.  It had never occured to me that loosening the straps to fit over my child with their jacket or coat on would allow the straps to be too loose to safely keep my child in their seat if we were involved in an accident.  Clothing, especially big fluffy coats, will compress in an accident and the straps will not adiquately secure your child in their seat.

The delema once I knew this bit of information was what to do to keep my child warm.  Taking their coat on and off while entering and exiting the vehicle did not seem practical when it was cold and windy outside, especially when you just needed to make a short trip from the car to a warm building.  So after some searching, I found that many people have solved this problem by using ponchos.

A poncho allows the seatbelt to be buckled underneith it.  Some people use ponchos that have an opening in the back and others simply drape the back of the poncho over the back of the car seat.  These ponchos can easily be made yourself using a little fleece.  There are lots of instructions on-line for no-sew ponchos like this one, but I wanted one that was double layer and circular, so I came up with something a little different.  You can easily make one too.

Here's what I did.  Warning, I am not a crafty person or an experienced sewer, but I'll do my best to describe how I made a circular fleece ponch for kids:
  • Fold your fleece in half and then in half again so your fabric is in quarters.  Repeat with your other fleece if you are planning to do two layers.
  • Measure the distance from your child's neck to where you want the poncho to fall (I recommend about halfway down their hand).  Take that measurement and measure from the inside corner fold of your fleece out towards the edge.  Mark the measurment and then move the measuring tape from the corner like a compass marking what will be the bottom edge of the poncho.  Also mark the inside corner fold (this will be the center mark of your poncho and become the neck opening).
  • Cut all four layers along the marks you made.  If you are doing two layers, line them both up together and cut all at once.  You will need good scissors and to go slow, but this will make sure that both layers are cut the same.
  • Next you need to measure around your child's head, then divide that number by 3.14.  This will give you an idea of how wide the neck opening needs to be, but it's better to start out too small and need to make it bigger, so you may want to take a little off that measurement and then try the opening over your child's head.  If it's too small, cut a little more until it fits.
  • Open the fleece so it's only folded once in half.  Lay one layer of fleece over the other lining up the center points.  Measure the opening with equal distance on each side of the center mark and then cut a half oval through both layers of fleece.  This is your neck opening and should be an oval shape when the poncho is opened.
  • Now open the outside or top layer of fleece and lay it flat with the right side of the fabric facing up.  Line up the second or inner layer of fleece over the top of the first, also right side facing up.
  • Sew the two layers together at the neck opening.
  • Now take the top layer (which will be the second or bottom layer on the finished product) and feed it through the neck whole.  This should make that layer of fleece now be underneith the top layer and the neat side of the seam should be showing.
  • Finishing touches:
    • Cut about an inch of fleece off of the top layer to allow the bottom layer to peek out from the bottom
    • Leave the bottom edge of the poncho raw, or finish each layer with a hem.  You can also cut strips in the bottom and tie knots in each one for a different look.
Sorry I don't currently have pictures of the instructions, but I did my best to explain them.  I'll try to get some pictures of the finished product up when I can.

To find out more about car seat safety, check out these pages:

One of "those" parents!

Some people are blessed to know from the start what kind of parent they want to be.  But for most of us, we’re learning as we go.  We love our kids and try to do what we think it right for them.  We try to teach them right from wrong and instill qualities in them that will help them become successful and well-balanced adults later in life.  Every parent has their own ideas and methods on how to do this, but some of us are shocked to find ourselves grow and change as a parent as quickly as our little ones do.

Lucky parents know from the start that they will never lay their hand on their child in anger.  They understand that babies need to trust their parents to keep them safe and that leaving them to cry alone only destroys this trust.  They know they will let their child be who they are and give their child room to explore this world they live in.  But for some of us, these are things we’ve never even thought about.  For some of us, “attachment parenting” sounds like a dirt word, something unhealthy parents do to their kids to encourage them to be needy.  We don’t understand the principles of attachment parenting and confuse it with the clingy, coddled children we see that are too insecure to let mommy walk away from them for one second.  I knew I would never be one of those parents!

I always wanted kids and was so excited when it was finally our time to have a baby.  With the exception of a few things, I was very mainstream.  I knew I wanted to stay home to raise my kids, have a natural childbirth, breastfeed my baby for the first year, carry my baby in one of those backpack things, and use one of those neat cradle like dividers I saw in the store that let the baby sleep in the bed with you.  But I also knew that I would use spanking and time outs with my kids and that my kid would never behave like that in a restaurant!

Then I became a mother.  All of a sudden, things were so different now that it was my baby.  I looked at this tiny person who I was responsible for and knew I had to protect him from harm.  As time went on, my baby grew and so did I.  Over time, certain accepted and expected mainstream ideals no longer seemed as harmless as they once had.  Many of my definitions of harm changed as I changed.  Some sooner than others, but many only after lots of pain and regret.

Things seemed easier in the beginning.  I parented from the gut.  If it felt wrong, I didn’t do it.  But things got more complicated as my baby grew and started to “misbehave”.  After trying the more traditional methods, I decide that it just didn’t work for us and started trying to find other options.  I started hearing more and more about “attachment parenting” and started finding myself moving in that direction.    

Now, a mother of two, I proudly consider myself one of those parents!  My kids are sometimes loud in restaurants, they scream and fight with each other often, and I still struggle to grow as a parent on my journey to being AP.  But I know I can never go back to mainstream parenting.  I am amazed at how much I have changed and grown over the years.  My kids have been both my student and teacher as we learn from together what our family is going to look like.

I wish I had been one of the lucky parents that didn’t have to go through the tears and heartbreak to get to this point.  And sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how far I still need to go.  But I will never stop trying and am so grateful for the infinite patience and ability for forgiveness my children have with me.  And I urge every parent to follow to their gut in finding something that feels right for their family.  Don’t worry if you’re not one of those lucky ones, it’s never too late to start the journey!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Circumcision Tragedy

I had not been planning to start this blog just yet since I am due to have a baby any day now, but I was to upset by this story to not say something.

I just read about the tragic death of a baby that occurred this morning because he was circumcised.  The poor baby had some heart issues which already made this a risky procedure, but the parents and doctor felt like the risk of bleeding would get worse as the baby grew and decided not to wait until he was bigger.  Sadly, after hours of bleeding, they found that an artery had been nicked during the surgery.  They were able to stop the bleeding, but the baby had lost a lot of blood.  Last night the mother blogged that she had almost killed her baby.  Tragically, he died this morning almost 12 hours after her post.

You don't have to be a parent to find this story extremely heartbreaking.  I personally do not agree with circumcision, nor do I circumcise my children, but that is not what this post is about.  I am not trying to start a debate about whether circumcision is right or not, or whether these parents who now morn the loss of their baby boy did the right thing.  Their loss is too tragic and great and I will not judge them.

What has me so upset and angry is that his official cause of death was ruled to be cardiac arrest.  The doctors have reassured the parents over and over that the circumcision had nothing to do with their son's death.  I understand that they are probably trying to comfort the parents, but this is just not right.

A baby only needs to lose 1 ounce of blood to hemorrhage, and just 2.3 ounces to die as a result of this blood loss.  The stress of this blood loss can result in heart attack, hemorrhage, coma, seizure, stroke, or infection and the resulting deaths often get classified as such without any documentation or recognition that these were the direct result of a circumcision.  That poor baby died from complications resulting from a circumcision, period, not cardiac arrest!

This lack of proper reporting has made it hard to document the actual number of deaths caused each year from circumcisions, but the reported number of newborns that die from circumcisions is said to be 117 baby boys a year.  To put this number in prospective, about 44 newborns die each year from suffocation, 8 from auto accidents, and 115 from SIDS.

So why aren't there huge campaigns to educate parents about the risks of circumcision like there are about SIDS.  How many times have we heard about "back to sleep"?  You can't even leave the hospital without being personally instructed by the nurse to make sure you put baby on their back to prevent SIDS, but there is no warning when they come in to whisk your new baby boy off to be cut.  Many parents aren't even aware that bleeding could be an issue until it is already to late.

I feel very strongly that parents should be educated about the risks involved in having their child circumcised.  Education is the greatest tool in this battle.  I know I hadn't even thought twice about having it done until someone handed me a pamphlet when I was pregnant.  So the next time you have a chance, let someone know that there is no medical benefit to circumcising their son.  That it is purely a cosmetic surgery that has many risks, including death.  A little education can go a long way and you may just say a baby's life and prevent parents from having to deal with the loss of a child.

More articles:

New Study Estimates Neonatal Circumcision Death Rate Higher Than Suffocation and Auto Accidents

Death From Circumcision

National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (aka NOCIRC)