Monday, April 28, 2008

Sweet Memories

Yesterday morning, my five year old son told me about a dream he'd had the night before. He said that the whole dream was just him nursing :) That's the first time he's said that. Whenever I've asked him if he remembers nursing, he says no. I have always been surprised by that since he nursed until he was almost three, but I guess it just goes to show that breastfeeding for a natural length of time will not cause children to become perverts (like I ever believed that anyway!). After he shared his dream, I told him that sometimes during the night, he sucks in his sleep. Years of falling asleep that way have had an impact, and I think that the memory of it helps calm him while he sleeps now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tip-Toe Time

A dear friend of ours just announced that his wife is pregnant, which is something they've both wanted for a while. I'm thrilled for them, of course, but now I find myself in murky water (and not just because I live in Louisiana). I don't know her well enough to predict whether she's planning on breastfeeding, on the fence, or determined to only ever use formula. Despite the fact that I write pro-breastfeeding/anti-formula opinions and facts in this blog, I don't cram my feelings down people's throats in real life. I had a friend who was expecting her first when my first was only a couple of months old. She came to town with her cute round belly and immediately announced that she'd never breastfeed in a million years. She had several excuses and didn't ask for help or advice, so I didn't say a word.

When she had her daughter by induction, brought her home from the hospital and let her mother care for the baby for her entire first day and night home, never breastfed, and put the baby in daycare at six weeks (the income wasn't necessary, it's just what she and her husband wanted), I was an inferno of judgement, but I never let her know that. My husband and I talked up a storm about her choices, but I knew that she wasn't open to different ideas, so I didn't try and interfere.

We went to visit another friend after she'd had her third baby. She nursed the first two, but I don't know how long it went on. She was trying to nurse this baby too, but admitted that she'd already begun introducing bottles (he was only six weeks old). She mentioned feeling nervous breastfeeding in public, and with two older kids, staying home all of the time wasn't an option. She mentioned that he seemed hungry afterwards too. She also worried because she occasionally brought him into her bed to nurse in the early mornings and thought that it was wrong. As we sat in her living room, me with my thirteen month at my breast and she with her newborn at her's, we discussed the difficulties she was facing. I gave her some advice and also recommended a couple of books (she's way into researching things). We don't live near one another, so I have no idea if my advice worked, but at least I put out there while she was feeling receptive.

In both of those cases, I knew the woman well enough to be able to judge what approach I should take. This mom-to-be whom I'm just getting to know is an enigma. I am working on finding a balance between being a helpful, experienced mom and a nosy, bossy woman who annoys her. I have learned that when it comes to first time parents and advice, it's always best to give it when they are still pregnant. Once a woman has her baby, she will cling tight to whatever choices she has begun to put into practice and will take it as an insult if you suggest she try something else.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Phony

I don't generally base my decision on what movie or television show to watch solely on the actor's personal life (there are some exceptions to this rule). On many websites tracking every parenting choice of celebrities has become an obsession. Endless blogs and articles are written on the topic, and I don't usually read them. I just stumbled on some comments by Gwyneth Paltrow, though, which I found very disheartening. After she had her first child, I saw her on a couple of late-night talk shows discussing motherhood. Much of what she said resonated with me. It was apparently an act; she's just like the rest of the Mainstream Mommies out there...

In talking about how she suffered from postnatal depression (her husband is British, so she can't use the American term- postpartum depression) she claims that

she may have suffered from postnatal depression because she immersed herself in motherhood following the birth of her first child, Apple. No nanny, no relaxing massages, no time for herself

Wow! So apparently caring for the helpless, needy creature she brought into the world was the problem. What she should have done was give birth, dump the baby with a nanny, and go get a massage on her way home from the hospital.

By her definition, all mothers throughout the history of the world must have suffered intense depression after the birth of their babies. I'm so glad that Paltrow has hit upon the solution for us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Organic Infant Formula Ingredients Processed With Toxic Chemical

Organic Infant Formula Ingredients Processed With Toxic Chemical

Plastic bottle chemical may be harmful

What Makes Someone a "Parenting Expert"?

I will preface this post by saying that I don't spend my day watching parenting shows on cable. I have been nursing babies for years now, and I often flip on the TV while they feed :)

I never thought that I would refer to a show who's gimmick is featuring moms who are professional models as a source for reliable information about parenting, but Runway Moms on Discovery Health is just that. The women are very health conscious, which leads them to make good choices for their babies. There are lots of natural childbirths and I've never seen one episode where the mom didn't breastfeed her newborn. Several of the moms have talked about their careers giving them the opportunity to spend time with and raise their own children while still earning a living. Watching it, I actually forget that they are models with rich husbands.

The only other show about motherhood that I can recommend is House of Babies, also on Discovery Health. I think they are only showing reruns and not filming any more episodes, but honestly how long can an alternative birth center that promotes breastfeeding last on a channel paid for by hospitals and formula companies (conjecture; I have no proof, just observations). The show is all about the Miami Maternity Center.

I had watched a few episodes of the Baby Diaries on the same channel before today, but this was the first one that got me fired up. The couple they were following were poster children for a rotten start to parenting. As soon as his wife and new daughter were asleep on their first night home from the hospital, the husband grabbed some beer and snuck up to his friend's apartment. What a winner! She made a great choice for the father of her children! That wasn't the horrible part, though. At the end of the first week, the mother announced that she didn't get the hang of breastfeeding and would never like to try that again. Did she see a lactation consultant? Did the TV show about motherhood help her find one? No, she bought a breast pump. She was struggling to get it to work so that she could feed her newborn breastmilk without having to nurse her. I will grant that her solution was lightyears better than formula, but it isn't the same as breastfeeding (Mothering Magazine had an interesting article two years ago about the development of a baby's facial muscles and bone structure being compromised by exclusive bottle feeding). This wasn't the horrible part either. The segment that freaked me out was the little talk by "parenting expert" Ann Douglas.

I have a book co-authored by Douglas, and I'm bitter now that she earned a couple of my dollars. She said that pumping and bottle feeding were as good as breastfeeding (debatable, but not horrific). She then went on to say that if that didn't work out, then the mother should move on to alternative feeding solutions. Douglas made the statement that it's just as good a choice and that parents shouldn't be judgemental of other parents parenting decisions regarding all aspects of childrearing because "everyone has the baby's best interest at heart." She must be a god to those Internet message board moms who attack anyone who questions another mom's actions/choices/philosophies. I would like to ask Ms. Douglas if it's wrong of me to judge my neighbors for letting their four year old range free across the entire neighborhood? Is it judgemental to worry that he'll drown in the pond? Am I wrong to wonder if he'll be kidnapped? Do I need to apologize to those parents for my thoughts? I'm sure that they only have his best interests at heart! So does the young mother in the next town whose newborn and fourteen month olds were both drugged to shut them up (newborn died). I'm sure that she shouldn't be judged. What about the parents on drugs arrested yesterday in the death of their three month old? Comments like Douglas's only serve to empower ignorant parents everywhere. There are many parenting styles and choices with equally valid justifications. To say that no one should judge anyone and that everyone cares about their babies/children is to sugarcoat bad parenting.

I have a cousin who has made nothing but bad choices for her son. Not breastfeeding was actually the least of them (with the stuff she's putting into her system, he was truly better off with formula). She gave him Tylenol round the clock for weeks at a time because he was "teething", she put him in a regular bed at ten months "because it was cute", she smokes around him, she gets drunk while caring for him, and now she's abandoned him. I promise you that moms like her listen to statements like Douglas's and use it as ammunition to anyone who dares question them. I've seen it in my own family, and it's rampant on parenting message boards on the Internet. I might have been able to ignore the uneducated statement that formula is just as good as breastmilk if not for the added bonus of telling parents not to judge others for any of their parenting choices.

I flipped the channel at that point to The View. Sheri was talking about flying with her young son and his nanny to bring him back to LA from New York (talk about your part-time mothers). She said that he screamed for three of the six hours the flight took. I was sympathetic until she mentioned that he was strapped into his carseat the whole time. Gee, I wonder why he was crying? I guess it's judgemental to think that his mother or nanny should have picked him up. When he was born extremely prematurely, Sheri went on and on about God's miracle and her love for him. It is a well known statistic that kids who were premature infants have a much higher chance of being abused by their parents...Oops, sorry Ann Douglas!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mistaken Evil?

I read this article today and was surprised to find something new in the world of formula companies to be shocked by. I know all about the companies (Nestle in particular) going into Africa and hooking babies on formula, which leads to their deaths (google it). This was a new atrocity, and I can't decide what is more awful: doing it on purpose to gain new customers or doing it on accident because they honestly don't understand the dangers.
In case you don't want to read the article, I'll sum it up. Indonesia has discovered that after a natural disaster (like the big tsunami), formula companies rush in to donate formula. They don't mention that bottles need to be sterilized, the water needs to be boiled first, or that there are certain amounts of powder you need to mix in. Babies and toddlers are dying of diarrhea and are becoming malnourished. Women who are breastfeeding at the time of the disasters are being convinced to give bottles, and by the time things have settled down, their milk is dried up. The government is calling for guidelines and rules for the next disaster: formula is only to be given to babies/toddlers whose mothers have died in the catastrophe or ones who were already being fed that way. They also have a national problem with a low breastfeeding rate because formula companies are advertising that their product is better for babies' brain development than breastmilk!!! The government is also trying to hold the companies accountable to the truth.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Time's Almost Up

At the end of next month, my youngest will turn two. It has just occurred to me that at that point, I will move beyond slightly unusual to strange in the eyes of most Western people. It's one kind of weird to nurse past a year in this society; it's totally nuts to nurse past two.

Even my father, who is a staunch supporter of breastfeeding, thinks that two is the cut-off point. He's based that on the fact that when he was growing up in Iran, everyone nursed until the baby turned two. Then, the moms weaned cold turkey. They would put some bitter stuff on their nipples to make them taste bad to the poor, confused toddlers. From what I've found out about modern Iranian breastfeeding practices, formula companies have infiltrated. I doubt that nursing to two years of age is the norm anymore, at least in the big cities. My dad has mentioned, though, that his father apparently nursed until he was seven! He was an only child, which might explain it. He said that he never believed the story until I told him that the natural human duration of breastfeeding could extend that high.

I have no idea when Grace will wean. The other two weaned when I got pregnant with the next baby, but we aren't planning on doing that again. Alexander weaned two months shy of his third birthday. Although I have no philosophical issue with breastfeeding a three year old, I'm not sure that I'm going to do it. I can't see forcing Grace to stop before she's ready, though, so I guess I'll just have to take it as it comes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Head in the Sand as a Parenting Method

I was on a parenting message board yesterday doing some reading. I'm not sure why I still subject myself to the ignorance displayed on many of those boards, but it is interesting to see what "regular" moms are up to. Someone started a thread asking the other mothers if they were surprised to find out that so many parenting choices are controversial. She wanted to know what those controversies were; she says she's writing a research paper on the topic.

I began to read the responses, which all seemed benign. Women were listing the subjects that moms seems divided over, but no one was attacking another over her own choices. All in all, I found it amazingly civil for that forum. Then I got to another post by the woman asking the questions. She mentioned that when she became a mother, she was shocked by the debate over breastfeeding. She described going to a playgroup somewhere that had posters proclaiming "Breast is Best" on the walls. She was offended because she felt as though they were questioning her choice to formula feed, and stated that her decision was a good one.

It strikes me that anyone who is offended by pieces of paper might not be as happy with her choice as she would like everyone (including herself) to believe. There is also the fact that breastfeeding is superior to formula feeding. I understand that there are actual circumstances where formula is necessary, but in most cases in our society, there is a choice involved. I am astounded at the great number of mothers out that who parent based on what their friends and relatives and baby-product-sponsored-parenting magazines say instead of basing their choices on facts. Pretending that formula feeding has no down side is like sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the fact that our children's mounting health issues have nothing to do with the choices we make.

Here's an article that fits that parenting model. A woman was asked to nurse in the bathroom of her YMCA instead of in the children's area. They told her that a toddler went home and "mimicked breastfeeding" and his/her parent complained. What kind of person is offended when her child pretends to do something so innocent and natural as nursing her baby? Is it really so awkward to have to explain breastfeeding to your child?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Labels That Divide

I have had it with parenting labels! The term Attachment Parenting has always bugged me. I'm sure Dr. Sears didn't intend it to be annoying; he was trying to come up with a descriptive term for the parenting philosophy he advocates. What bothers me is that what people call AP tends to be what is natural and therefore Normal Parenting. What Western proponents of AP call Mainstream Parenting is actually far from the norm (bottle feeding, formula, solitary infant sleep, etc.). As with the label extended breastfeeding, nature is losing out in the language wars.

On a message board for AP moms, someone began a discussion about another parenting philosophy that I'd never heard of before. It's called Consensual Living, and it involves respecting your children as they grow. The woman who was advocating it discussed how it works in her day to day life. It sounds pretty much like the way I'm raising my own kids. What makes me balk is the use of a label for it. The title makes it sound elitist.

I don't want subtitles for the way I parent. I don't want to have to explain an entire philosophy to strangers just because they don't understand breastfeeding or cosleeping. I've read that doctors don't question formula feeding moms about their choice because they don't want to make them feel guilty. I think the same goes for moms who work outside of the home when their babies/children are small. I'm doing things a more natural way, so why do I have to explain it? Is it because I don't feel guilty?

I can't speak for other moms who parent naturally, but I think I put out the extra effort because I hope that if more of us spoke up, then our choices would be seen for the normal decision that they are. I never saw homeschooling as an equally normal option until I started meeting moms who were doing it. At one point, when my oldest was three, fully half of the mothers I spoke with about school for their children had already or were going to choose homeschooling. It went from a fringe idea that I'd never considered to something completely acceptable in a matter of months.