Attachment Parenting, Babywearing, Birth, Health

Why Hello, Mama Tiger

Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!
Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!

Yesterday I got angry. I’m not sure how I reacted on the outside, but inside I was a ferocious beast. I left E in a supervised care area at a business that shall go unnamed and let’s just say she was less than supervised. I came back to her crying as popcorn was pulled from her mouth. Another child had fed her. There were only three children total in the space. She does not have molars and could have choked.

This should not have happened.

In retrospect, everything was fine. She lived. I lived. All good. But the experience got me thinking about the times parents lost their cool with me as a teacher, as well as the times they didn’t. I once had a kid electrocute himself without anyone getting angry, (granted he was in fourth grade and old enough to know better than to stick a paperclip in a socket). I also gave the Heimlich maneuver twice, (again, these kids had the appropriate teeth), but still those parents remained calm.

Maybe it comes with more practice.

Then again, there were all the parents who didn’t keep their cool about everything from grades to having to sit criss-cross-applesauce at the carpet. Oddly, I kind of get it. I used to take it personally, but now I realize they felt their children were in some way threatened. Our basic instinct is to respond emotionally when it comes to protecting our children. If I ever return to the classroom, I will be more understanding.

Speaking of which, teachers really do deserve more credit. They have to keep 30ish kids safe all day while also teaching each child at his or her individual level. That’s a HUGE job. Add in the scrutiny of rightfully-protective parents and WHOA. Talk about pressure. Makes me want to give all the teachers I know a hug, (and a raise).

So, this afternoon, I’m thankful for a lot of things. E is fine. I met my inner Mama Tiger and have a better understanding of both what it means to be a parent and to take care of other people’s kids. Turns out both jobs can be pretty intense. Thank goodness they are also rewarding.

Attachment Parenting, Birth, Breastfeeding, Health

“When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

This picture is a throwback to when she was tiny and I was comfortable nursing in public... It's already starting to feel weird, which doesn't seem right to me.
This picture is a throwback to when I was comfortable nursing in public… It’s already starting to feel weird, which doesn’t seem right to me.

Parenting is filled with a lot of pesky questions. If you assume positive intent, most inquiries are well-meaning attempts at conversation. Still, when you start to get the same question over and over, it can begin to feel like societal pressure.

Like the ludicrous question everyone starts asking before your first baby is even crawling, “When are you going to have a second kid?”

Or, my current favorite, “When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

This question seems to skyrocket around the one-year mark. And, I get it. Before I had E, my goal was to nurse for a year. However, with 12 months already gone, I am not ready to stop and neither is she. Accordingly, I started doing a little research to support my desire to continue and as it turns out, there are plenty of good reasons to keep nursing:

  • Breast milk passes immunities from mother to child, in many cases shortening the duration of illnesses. Likewise, breast milk is easier for sick kids to keep down than solids or cow’s milk.
  • Breast milk supplements the nutrition received from a toddler’s diet with good fats and vitamins, contributing to better overall health and higher intelligence levels.
  • Breastfeeding supports a special bond between mother and child, creating quiet time for both and helping to ease emotional challenges, such as tantrums. For me, the need to be still for 10-15 minutes a few times a day is like being forced to meditate. Sometimes I fight it, but the end result is centering in a world that rarely stops moving.
  • Premature weaning can be confusing and even traumatic for emotional toddlers who have depended on nursing for comfort, leading to more challenging behaviors as they struggle to establish other soothing methods, (although this obviously varies greatly by child).
  • Extended breastfeeding has been shown to decrease multiple long-term health risks for mom, including breast cancer.

I know there are additional arguments, but this list was reassuring enough for me. What I really don’t understand, is why nursing beyond one year is referred to as “extended” breastfeeding when the worldwide average is somewhere between two and four years with some cultures continuing even longer. The fact that this conversation continues to happen in the media and comment streams are filled with “disgusted” bystanders just goes to show how uncomfortable we still are as a society with such a basic, natural act.

On the same token, however, I also get why breastfeeding past one (or even to one) is not for all moms. When I started to ask around in my mom groups, I found moms breastfeeding well into toddlerhood who still pump regularly at work. While I am impressed by their dedication, I am not sure I would be as eager to continue if regular pumping were part of my equation. Likewise, I have talked to moms whose babies self-weaned earlier than one year or who faced physical challenges in sustaining the relationship.

Thankfully, many moms also shared positive stories of nursing well into the second and sometimes even the third year. By talking about it, I hope to be one more voice in normalizing breastfeeding past 12 months. I used to think “extended” breastfeeding would be uncomfortable, (in a non-judgmental-but-weird-for-me kind of way). Now that I have my own little person, it does not feel strange at all, excluding perhaps the vibe I sometimes get from others around me.

So, next time I am asked, I will smile and answer, “We’ll stop nursing when it stops working for one or both of us.”

For now, it works and I feel lucky.


Side note: While doing my homework, I enjoyed this interview on extended breastfeeding with Dr. Mayim Bialik, (oh to be so poised in the face of hostility!).

Attachment Parenting, Balance, Health

Slow Down or You Might Miss It

DSC04642Tiny fingerprints and hot breath on cold wet glass.

My arm through my father’s as we cross a busy intersection for the 26th year.

Bouncing and singing in a department store mirror with a squealing bundle strapped to my back.

Laughing silhouettes wrapped in a gauze curtain, a different father and daughter, the cycle begins anew.

Her eyes on the little ants 26 stories below, enchanted just like mine.

Our living room lit by Christmas, dusk and a sleeping infant across my lap.

I stopped to breathe.

So much racing from place to place and preparing, preparing, preparing. All gone in a flash. Slow down, these words repeat in my head. Slow down, slow down, slow down. It will all get done, or it won’t. What matters is us, in these little moments, aware and grateful.

Everything else can wait.

Merry Christmas from me.

Balance, Health, Pregnancy

What Toxins are Hiding in Your Family’s Bathroom?

A risk level of 3 may seem acceptable for toothpaste, but when I scanned our adult toothpaste and found it was only a 1, Earth's Best no longer seemed like the best option for E.
A risk level of 3 may seem acceptable for toothpaste, but when I scanned our adult toothpaste and found it was only a 1, Earth’s Best no longer seemed like the best option for E, (and, for the record, the new formulation receives the same score).

I have to start this post with a disclaimer. Life is full of too many hazards to obsess about every single product we use. However, I believe it is better to know what we are putting in and on our bodies than to blindly follow the labeling at the grocery store. After all, when a tube of toothpaste is marked as safe to swallow for toddlers, it better actually be safe!

Last night, as I was attempting to keep my eyes open through E’s current sleep regression, (yay for the nightly need to practice standing from 10PM to midnight…), I scrolled past an interesting app on Facebook. While I often wonder whether the products I buy for our family are safe, I usually rely on my own knowledge of ingredients instead of taking the time to research all the ones I know nothing about, (most of them).

Thankfully, the Skin Deep app provides a decent solution. From your smart phone, you can either scan the barcode of the products you use or type in the name of the product if the barcode is not stored in the system. Amazingly, I was able to pull up information on all but one item in our bathroom. The downside, I now have to make sense of what I discovered and decide which products get to stay and which will no longer be on our shopping list.

In the words of Gloria Steinem, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Amen, sister, sometimes the truth sucks. Regardless, I thought this app was too cool not to share. What you do with it is up to you– I get that the world is full of plenty of worries. I just appreciate the opportunity to evaluate the safety of our products with such ease of use. My smart phone will be scanning a lot more bar codes at the supermarket. Just wish I had discovered this while E was still in my belly…

Surprising to find that some "natural" brands are really not as natural as they claim, (okay, maybe not that surprising). Still, cool to discover which brands hold true, (way to go Tom's). Earth Mama, which is not pictured here, also scored 0's across the board.
Surprising to find that some “natural” brands are really not as natural as they claim, (okay, maybe not that surprising). Still, cool to discover which brands hold true, (way to go Tom’s). Earth Mama, which is not pictured here, also scored 0’s across the board.
Attachment Parenting, Health, Pregnancy

Maybe Co-Sleeping is Just as Much about Us…

More often than not, she is the little boss around here... thank goodness for naps!
Thank goodness the boss *usually* falls asleep on the job a couple times a day.

E. is napping in our bed. My fingers move quickly because I never know how long I have until she awakens. Some days I get hours, others minutes. The result is an inability to focus. Do I work on my novel? Do I blog? Do I catch up on sleep?

Undoubtedly, her eyes will open when I have settled into a rhythm on my own. I have learned to save everything we can do together, like eating and cleaning, for when she is awake. Generally, I cannot bring myself to nap. Time alone is worth the occasional deprivation.

This is possibly the hardest lesson of early parenthood. Everything cannot be done. Must prioritize. As much as I love yoga, it has become a once-a-week activity. Today my husband watched E. while I went to class. Tears streamed down my face as I lay in Savasana, thoughts of growing old and E. caring for me instead of the other way around. Life, cyclical and gone in a blink.

Back home, I cuddled her to sleep in our bed, lingering an extra twenty minutes, minutes I could have had to myself but were too sweet to give up. Choosing to sleep in the same space has been on my mind a lot lately. As with anything, not everyone gets it.

Sometimes I question our choice, too, on hard nights, when she cannot sleep and I am stuck beside her for hours to keep her calm. Then I remember like everything before, this will pass. The alternative would require “sleep training,” and I am just not willing to let her scream for long. Some babies go down with less of a fight and E. is called Little Beast for good reason.

Most importantly, when it works, co-sleeping is a beautiful part of our life. Moments together, close, savoring now. We don’t worry she will be in our bed forever. We know the time will come when either we will encourage her into her own space, or she will say “Peace, y’all.” Seeing as how she demands to feed herself already, I have a feeling she will be asking for a “big girl bed” sooner than we expect.

A recent parenting piece in the Washington Post struck a chord. Sometimes the path of less stress is better for everyone. Maybe we could teach E. to sleep on her own with a few nights of intense “training,” but for what? So I would have to get up to comfort her instead of just rolling over? So we could sleep without her in our bed? The truth, co-sleeping is just as much for us as it is for her. We crave the connection, too, her sweet little body curled between us.

When it consistently stops working we will find a solution. Until then, I am happy to watch her nap all snuggled in our bed while I sit in my big, brown chair and steal some minutes for myself to write. Nothing lasts forever. Part of me wishes it would. I cannot help but think back to all the nights I lay awake in bed, pregnant, talking to her in my belly as she twirled about. I already loved her intensely then.

The night we stop sleeping next to E. will be a bittersweet one.