Tag Archives: Babies

Wake Up & Smell the Breast Milk!

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Ok, ok, ok, so I admit it.  I was a lazy mom.  Really lazy, I mean, the laziness I’m talking about may reach epic proportions.  And I have reasons, very good, valid ones, before you start to judge.  I was lazy because I didn’t want to really wake up at night with my newborn, and because I didn’t want to bring extra stuff in my already full diaper bag (who knew babies came with so many accessories?!), and because it was so very easy (except for the learning curve at the beginning), and because after all the research I consulted, I found it to be the healthiest thing I could do for myself and my sweet little lady.  And in all of this, I am not the least bit ashamed of my laziness, nor will I ever apologize for it.

What was I so lazy about?!  I chose breastfeeding over formula feeding (nearly exclusively for the first 8 months, and with supplementation of solid food and formula from 8-13 months).  My choice was made out of convenience for me, but also for health, environmental, ethical, and moral reasons.  This was my choice, because the preparation of formula seemed crazy, when I had milk stored, ready, warmed, and perfect for my baby, at every stage of her development.  So why would I purchase formula and bottles, and go through a lengthy preparation process (which most people do not do correctly).  Some people say that formula preparation is simple, but I argue that it is not.  As new parents to a newborn who would take about 3 hours to nurse, because she fell asleep so often at my breast, we would undertake a lengthy preparation process (incorrectly, I might add, if you’re wanting to prepare the formula safely according to the preceding link) of bottles of formula at night when she would wake up (and guess what I would do, I’d pump!).  It seems as though I could have known more about bed-sharing or co-sleeping (and I do now), so I could have gotten the much needed rest that all new mothers crave, while feeding my baby.

I soon discovered that I wanted to snuggle my warm baby against my body so I could nourish her with my milk, rather than feed her with a product that was derived from the milk of a cow who was forced to wean her baby way too soon (seems to me the calf deserved her milk, not my baby Sydney).  And we got used to each other, and sometimes we even slept in her rocking chair at night, cuddling with each other, Sydney nursing at leisure, and me getting some rest.  We had a wonderful breastfeeding relationship, and this is one of the reasons I am proud that I was so lazy.

But now, human innovation has developed a product that seems to make formula preparation as easy as preparing your morning cup of coffee.  A new product that touts, “It’s very simple, very intuitive, hygienic and of optimum safety.”, according to Martin Grieder, Nestle’s head of advanced nutrition systems.  And because baby bottle warmers are not enough, people now have the option of simply putting a capsule of pre-measured formula into the machine that provides the proper portion of water, at the proper temperature, so it is (indeed) like making coffee.  All of this, but at what cost?  Allow me to evaluate:

  • Money – The capsules themselves are said to cost roughly double the cost of canisters of formula, and the machine is an additional cost (at $284 US Dollars).  Not to mention the cost of bottles for the formula to go in.
  • Time – Whether a person is preparing a bottle of formula, or a machine is, there is still time that is being taken to do so.  We must also account for the amount of time that a hungry baby has to wait.
  • Environmental – Not only are factory farms milking cows and creating huge waste, but the transportation method used to ship said milk to factories that make the infant formula, and the formula making process itself are environmentally unfriendly.  The canisters or capsules that formula is placed in also clog our landfills and are killing our planet.
  • Convenience – I seriously doubt people are going to bring these machines with them when they are out and about, so it seems that the “convenience factor” goes right out the window.
  • Health – Research has proven that babies that are formula fed are at a much greater risk of developing many diseases and health problems (diabetes, obesity, heart disease, ear infections, cancer, and the list goes on and on and on).  Additionally, mothers who do not breastfeed also do not reap the health benefits such as a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes.
So I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.  Many of you know me well enough to know that I’m not a fan of formula, and I do not think it should be given to babies.  I do believe that all mothers should at least attempt to breastfeed, and should have excellent education and support while breastfeeding.  But, since we do not live in a utopian society, and since our society seems to be driven by convenience (which seems counterintuitive to formula feeding), and our society seems to think that breastfeeding is repulsive, embarrassing, and something women should be ashamed of, most families in the United States choose formula over breast.  So here is my argument against this product.  
  1. The only milk that is perfectly portioned, the perfect temperature, and perfect for a baby/toddler/child at all stages of development is (human) breast milk.  
  2. The cost of breastfeeding is minimal when compared to infant formula.
  3. Breastfeeding is the most convenient way to feed a baby – unfasten bra, pull bra down, pull shirt up, latch baby on, look deep into the eyes of your child whose love is unconditional and unending, and enjoy.
  4. Mothers who breastfeed actually get MORE sleep than formula feeding mothers.  Breastfeeding mothers can pull a baby to her breast and fall back to sleep.
  5. Breastfeeding mothers are not using another species milk to give to their babies.
  6. Breast milk is always going to be the most perfect food for babies.
  7. Mothers of all socioeconomic backgrounds can breast feed, and it will not break the bank.
Not only is this product another barrier to breastfeeding, but it also proves to me that people are craving more convenience in feeding their babies.  So I say, as I always do, why not breastfeed?!  If you don’t want to spend your child’s college fund before he/she even has a chance to get there, and you want to get more sleep at night, and you want more convenience, and you’re tired of cleaning bottles… then why not?
Comments Welcome!

The Questions to Ask

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Last night at the Natural Birth Meetup in Fayetteville, we talked about different topics.  The main topic of the night was Placenta Encapsulation, but it morphed into many other subtopics, as these meetings always do.  I am always so refreshed to hear other women’s experiences, and to share some of my own.  I felt compelled to share the experience I had with our OB when I was pregnant with Sydney, and during my birth.  I stated that often, women do not ask the right questions, so this post is going to be a guide, of sorts, in dialogue form, to help you with the right questions to ask your provider.

The Wrong Questions:

Sally:  I need to ask you some questions, do you have time?

Provider:  Sure, (glances at watch).

Sally (feeling rushed and embarrassed for even asking):  My partner/husband and I would like to do a natural birth, are you okay with this?

Provider:  Of course.

Sally (feeling more confident, now):  We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, do you see any problems with this?

Provider:  No, not really.

Sally:  We would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary, will you suggest medically unnecessary induction?

Provider:  No, we do inductions that are necessary.

Sally:  We would like to avoid c-section at all costs, do you have ways to help us do that?

Provider:  Yes, we have many ways.

Sally:  I would like to push in a different position than on my back, is this okay?

Provider:  Sure, why not?

Sally:  We request skin-to-skin bonding, where the baby is placed on my belly/chest immediately after birth, will you do this for us?

Provider:  Yes.

Sally:  We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before clamped or cut, will you honor this request?

Provider:  Um, sure.

Sally:  (Feeling peppy and like she’s chosen the right provider)  Thank you so much!!! We know we have chosen the right provider for us!

This line of questioning could go on forever, I could list so many more, but this line of questioning is all wrong.  Notice how the provider does not say much, provides no detail, and really is not answering the questions.  This is no indication of how the doctor might respond during birth.  The questions Sally is asking are the right questions, but need much more detailed answers.  She asks closed ended questions, or questions that do not require much more than a one or 2 word answer.  So I will outline the correct line of questioning.  This puts the ball in your court, and you can make a much more educated decision about your baby, your birth, and your provider or your place of birth.

The Right Questions

Sally:  Dr. Moe, my pregnancy and birth experience are very important to me, so I would like to ask you some questions quickly (pulls out a sheet of paper and pen).

Provider:  Um, Ok.  (Sits)

Sally (feeling empowered and confident.):  My husband/partner and I are preparing for a normal physiological birth (expound as much as needed: intervention free, few interventions, pain meds free, whatever you want to say), how many of the births that you’ve attended have been this way?  And, how will you help me to achieve this?

Provider:  (Slightly taken aback with this open ended question) Most of the births I attend at Candy Hill Hospital are medicated with epidural or some other form of pain management.  I have only attended maybe 10 unmedicated births.  I am willing to help you achieve this by allowing you to labor for as long as possible without intervention.

Sally:  Okay… We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, unless it is medically necessary to take action before hand.  How many of your mothers have you allowed to continue being pregnant until 42 weeks?  And what are your reasons as a provider for requesting birth sooner?

Provider:  We generally don’t allow women to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, our cut off is 41 weeks.  We don’t like women to continue pregnancy until 42 weeks because the risks of a larger baby/aging placenta/elevated blood pressure/etc go up.

Sally:  (Red flags going up, immediately, she’s done her research):  Okay, I understand your reasoning, and I’d love to see some written research to support this reasoning.  But, in our case, we would like to request a non-stress test following 41 weeks to ensure everything is fine with baby and me, and to ensure that everything is going smoothly in my pregnancy so we can go until 42 weeks.

Provider:  I guess we could do that, we will talk about it more as time gets nearer.

Sally:  Sounds pretty good.  Since we would like a normal physiological birth, we would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary.  What is your induction rate? And what are the reasons you induce?

Provider:  Our induction rate is pretty high.  We induce because the baby is too big, the baby is late, there are medical problems with the mom such as high blood pressure, diabetes, other issues, and to help the mother to be more comfortable.

Sally:  Oh, ok.  (Increasingly more uncomfortable with the answers her provider is giving)  We would like to avoid c-section, unless medically necessary, first, what is your c-section rate? And, how would you help us to avoid c-section?

Provider:  Our c-section rate is right along with the national average of 32-33%.  We would monitor you and baby, to make sure that both are okay, and allow you your trial of labor, until it is deemed that c-section may be the best option.

Sally:  (Thinks she may want to switch providers, at this point)  All right… I would like to push in a position other than semi-sitting or flat on my back.  How many births have you attended in which the mother was in an alternate position for pushing?

Provider:  Since most of the patients I attend have had an epidural, we require the mother to lie flat during birth.  I have not attended many births where the mother wanted to push in a different position, but I guess I’d be okay with it.

Sally:  Okay.  We would like our baby to come directly to my belly/chest following birth for immediate skin-to-skin bonding.  Are there reasons you would not allow this? If so, what are they?

Provider:  We generally take the baby directly to the warmer to do the assessments of the baby.  While we understand skin-to-skin bonding is beneficial, we like to get the assessments done as quickly as possible so you can have your baby following.  We could maybe do skin-to-skin bonding for a few minutes.

Sally:  (Disheartened)  Wow.  Okay.  We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before it is cut or clamped.  Will you honor this for us? If so, why not?

Provider:  We like to clamp the cord and cut it immediately, so the assessments can be done on the baby, and with the baby attached to the cord, we cannot do that.  I guess we could do that so you could have a few minutes with your baby before we have to do the assessments.

Sally: (Feeling disheartened, discouraged, and frustrated, yet she knows she can switch providers) Thank you so much for answering these very important questions, we have some decisions to make.

Like I said, the questions are endless, and they all depend on what is important to you.  In this line of questioning, Sally receives the complete picture of what her provider is like during labor and birth, and is able to make more educated decisions about whether she would like to switch providers.

Let me say something else, if you decide to switch providers, it is YOUR decision.  You will not hurt feelings or step on toes, and if you do (Say this out loud to yourself), “IT IS MY BIRTH”.  What happens at your birth should be the well thought out plans you’ve decided on, not that your provider has decided on.

My personal experience with this was much more like the first line of questioning.  I can blame it on being a first time mom, being uninformed, or whatever I’d like it to be about, but what it came down to was I chose my provider for the wrong reasons.  My neighbor at the time wanted a fully medicated birth, and said her provider was “really nice”.  Well, most providers are really nice, they wouldn’t have much of a practice if they were ogres.  So my decision was made because my neighbor, who wanted a totally different birthing experience than I did, suggested the doctor to me.  If you want an intervention free birth, unmedicated birth, natural birth, normal physiological birth, however you want to describe it, DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR PROVIDER BASED ON THE CRITERIA OF “NICE”.  Ask open ended, detailed questions that will require thought, words, and an indication of the actions your provider will take.

Also, remember that you may always decline any procedure.  Simply say no, stand firm, and ask to sign a document saying you declined, if necessary.  Again, I will say this, and again, I want you to say this out loud (let this be your mantra), “THIS IS MY BIRTH.”

Please share comments, experiences, input, whatever you want to say, myself and my readers would love to read it.

Thank you so much for reading. Have a beautiful day!

The Truth About (Medicated) Birth

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I read an article today that really lit a fire under my butt, made me extremely frustrated, and wanting to say a lot.  The article was about how a member of the media “delivered” his baby at home, and how it was made to be so dramatic.  This spurred me to think about my passion for birth, how much birth is made out to be an emergency, a medical event, or something that needs to be managed or fixed, and about how little truth women tell other women about how they gave birth.  The natural birthing community is often shunned because of how people who had medicated births perceive the natural birthers’ stories as bragging.  Come on, now, people!  We need to hear more of the natural birthing stories, they often have so much more vivid detail than the medicated birth stories.  Wonder why?!  Because the women who give birth without the use of medication actually remember their births.  That’s one reason, but I think that women who have given birth with the use of medication don’t necessarily want to tell the WHOLE story.  I know that after I had my epidural (after not planning or foreseeing such a thing taking place in my labor), that I didn’t want to tell the details.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I know there is a time and a place for interventions such as medication to be used during labor.  Sadly, though, these interventions have been so overused that now it’s a problem, a BIG problem.  Women and babies are suffering, and some are dying, because of the overuse.  Babies are being forced out of their mothers’ wombs because they are “too big”, “too late”, and for many other reasons that are not medically related, and this has affected their health, growth, and has caused some of them to die.  Mothers are not being given time and patience to labor and birth, instead, they are put on hospital clocks, and often hurried along with the use of induction and augmentation drugs, which ends in cesarean sections.  While cesarean sections are sometimes very much needed, they also have MAJOR risks, and repeat cesareans put women at further risks.  Women are dying because of the overuse of cesarean sections.  Yes, interventions are sometimes needed, I know that, but not routinely.

What we need to do, as a society, is expose women to what birth is intended to be.  Make birth this glorious event, instead of an event that’s shrouded in dark mystery, with hints of disaster and doom.  So here is what birth is, to me.

Like all mammals, humans are designed to give birth, and in most cases, women are able to give birth, with little or no intervention.  There are many things that must happen within the body for labor to begin, one of which is that the baby must be ready.  Because the woman’s body is so perfectly designed, with a flexible pelvis, that moves to accommodate her baby, birth is entirely possible.  If a woman is able to let go of all fear, the muscles in her birthing body should work correctly, and a sort of birth dance happens, where muscles work together in perfect harmony, to help the baby move down, turn, maneuver to a perfect position for birth, and finally be born.  The mother’s perineum, which is strong and muscular, if it has been massaged adequately in the weeks leading up to birth will stretch perfectly for the baby to make his entrance.  The baby is so perfectly designed for birth, the skeletal structure is pliable, and the bone plates in the head (fontanels) are able to overlap each other to make descent into the vaginal canal, and out of the body possible.  Much more happens in the body, cervical changes that include so much more than dilation and effacement, and oh how I WISH providers would teach this to their expectant couples!  Hormones (specifically oxytocin, the love hormone) work in the body to drive off stress and fear, and make birthing easier, help the cervix to open, help the labor to progress, help the baby to be born, help the mother to BOND with the baby, and help the mother to feel protective toward her baby.  Many other things in life produce oxytocin (love, like-minded women communing, intercourse, breastfeeding, etc).  As I said before, this is the watered down version of what birth truly is, what it’s meant to be.

So let’s look at what happens when women do not go this route (for whatever reason).  And let’s address that many women are told (by media, friends, culture, family, doctors, language, their own experiences, etc) that they are not capable of giving birth without the use of interventions/medications.  Women who give birth with the use of interventions are mammals, still, there is no denying that, but different things happen in the body once medication and other interventions are introduced.  The lovely love hormone, oxytocin, that I talked about above, when pitocin (artificial oxytocin), epidurals, and other drugs are introduced is cut off.  This means that the lovey, floaty, euphoric feeling that some women feel during labor, that counteracts pain, is gone.  What I didn’t say about the hormones in the body, above, is that these also help the baby, because what a mother experiences, so does the baby (if a mother is experiencing a comfortable labor, so is the baby, and conversely, is a mother is experiencing a painful pitocin driven labor, the baby no longer has a hormonal love cushion to protect him).  Epidurals also cut off the oxytocin, and cause the baby to feel a much more painful labor and birth.  And when mothers feel threatened in labor, their bodies stop working in perfect harmony, the cervix will not want to open (a protective instinctual mechanism to keep baby from harm), and labor stalls.  The mother’s pelvis and baby’s fontanels still function, but once an epidural is introduced, babies often have to be born when their mothers are on their backs (the least conducive birthing position, because baby has to go against gravity to be born).   This is the version of interventive/medicated birth that people often describe, without the “what happens in the body” mumbo jumbo.  I will tell you more… Here is the part we often do not hear.

With pitocin, contractions, or surges as HypnoBirthing calls them, often feel like they never end.  I’ve heard pitocin contractions described as one big one that never let the mother regain composure, catch her breath, and was extremely painful.  So when we hear about inductions and augmentations, the whole truth is not being told, I fear.  And with pitocin, epidurals are often right behind, because labor is so traumatic with pitocin, that it’s like cruel and unusual punishment to have pitocin WITHOUT an epidural.  And with pitocin and epidural, especially combined, cesarean section rates rise.

With epidurals, tearing is a lot more prevalent, as is malposition of the baby (baby’s face not facing his mother’s back).  Episiotomy (cutting of the perineal tissue) is more common as well.  And here’s the kicker, because the mother is numbed, many things can be done, without her knowing anything is wrong (legs being cranked back so far that hip damage is possible, episiotomy, breaking of the bag of waters, or release of membranes as HypnoBirthing calls it, etc.)

Cesarean section is a major surgery that has a long and painful healing course.  The art of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being lost among obstetricians, and so women who have primary cesareans are often put under the knife for no medical reason, other than the primary cesarean, for subsequent babies.  And the hard truth about cesarean sections, though some of them are truly needed, is that some mothers die following surgery.

My own experience was not what I expected it would be, partly because of Sydney being turned “sunny side up”, with her head resting on my tailbone, which made my labor much longer than I’m sure it would have been.  After 20 hours of unmedicated, unmessed with labor, I asked for an epidural, after having researched the risks and benefits.  What I never anticipated was how it would affect me, how it still affects me now.  Because I could not feel anything, my OB was getting my perineum ready for birth (which we had explicitly asked not be done (perineal massage) during labor, in our birth plan), and she tore me.  My legs were cranked back to my ears when I was pushing, to “make more room for the baby”, and I still have hip issues today (stiffness, pain, loss of flexibility).  After Sydney was born, I felt emotionally dead, all of my protective instincts I thought I would have were deadened by the narcotics present in the epidural.  Bonding with Sydney was near impossible, and took at least a month, if not more.  She had a poor latch to begin with, because of the drugs in her system from the epidural.  Sydney cried incessantly for about the first month, and I’m convinced that she had some sort of birth trauma from not being cushioned by my cocktail of love hormones during labor and birth.  I felt distant from her, and did not want to hold her, comfort her, and be with her, nor did I make an effort to learn how to.  I could probably go on, but you might imagine that this tore at me as a mother, and still does.  I don’t view myself as a failure at all, because at hour 20 of my labor, my body had reached a level of exhaustion it had never reached, and was ready to give up, and I was quickly heading for a cesarean.  So as a mother, I look back on my experience, and want desperately to do better, do more, educate other mothers, help mothers, help babies, just speak about this.

My point in saying all of this is that birth is not supposed to be scary, dramatized, medical, or an emergency.  When it is made to be these things, women lose their ability to think about what their babies might need, and instead think of simply getting through it.  With interventions come risks and consequences (lower rates of bonding, harder times bonding, lowered protective instincts in mothers to protect their babies, lower breastfeeding rates, higher infant and maternal mortality rates, higher infant and maternal morbidity rates, birth defects, emotional trauma, physical trauma, and the list goes on).  So here is my challenge for you.  Research everything, if you’re having a baby, research everything (your provider, hospital, interventions, alternatives, birth plans, having a doula, how your partner can better support you, etc).  And for those of you who have had beautiful experiences, PLEASE share your story (post it online, share it on Facebook, I’ll share it too!)!!!!

As always, thank you so much for reading this, and your input is always appreciated!

Birth and Death

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Recently, I’ve encountered some very real, natural life occurrences.  And as I have encountered them, I have realized the similarities between birth and death, and realized there are huge, vast differences between the two as well.  As I teach HypnoBirthing classes to excited expectant parents, I also know that there are people preparing for death.  Everyone dies, but it seems that we, as Americans are so afraid of death, that we keep it a secret.

I’ve had a challenge in explaining to my daughter, who will be 4 this year, the realities of life.  I don’t know how much she understands,  but I am as honest as I can be, at an age appropriate level for her.  I answer questions when she asks, while sometimes inside, I have questions too.  It seems that in this past week, I’ve reached a level of comfort and clarity with the end of life.  I’ve also discovered that I have almost as much passion for end of life issues as I do for birth.

I think this passion grows out of my Social Work background, and the belief that everyone has the right to dignity.  At the beginning of life, mothers choose to birth their babies in a manner that is most comfortable to them.  Dignity is present when mothers’ wishes are honored.  At the end of life, many people prepare an advanced directive, decide what they would like to have happen, and how they would like to be treated.  Dignity is present when the wishes of the dying are honored.

Sometimes, though, wishes are not honored.  Many providers who care for pregnant women have a skewed view of what normal birth is, and so their methods do not mesh with the wishes of mothers.  Many times, birth is hurried, labor is induced, babies are rushed, when this is medically unnecessary.  A similar situation arises with the end of life, hospitals are so concerned with saving life, that even in situations where patients wish for no intervention, intervention is ever present.  Advanced directives can be helpful, as can Do Not Resuscitate orders, but if they are not in hand, they cannot be honored.  Procedures are performed to keep people alive, because a large part of the medical system is there to “fix” what is wrong.  In dealing with birth and death, since they are both natural occurrences, there is nothing to fix.

I understand that we, as humans, are extremely selfish.  We want our babies here NOW, and we want our loved ones to stay with us forever.  The thought of saying goodbye is excruciating, but it is a reality that we must face.  Allowing people to be born and to die on their own time is essential.  It provides a balance to life, but it also provides dignity to those who are entering or leaving our lives.

With death especially, we must remember that there are some things that death has no power over.  Death cannot change the love we feel and it cannot take our memories.

For those of you preparing for the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one, I pray for the wisdom for you to know that it will happen in its own time.  I pray for you to feel the comfort of just letting things stay as they are, now.  I pray for you to understand that you cannot control what or how it happens, though you may feel an intense need to.  I pray for you to soak in every moment of waiting, allow it to saturate your very being.  I pray for you to just be.  Allow yourself to not rush or prolong what is inevitable, it will happen, and when it does, just breathe.

Additional suggestions:

Birth:

  • Think about the kind of birth you want for yourself, your birth partner, and your baby.
  • Research everything.
  • Take a birthing class.
  • Create a birth plan.
  • Talk to your provider at length about your wishes during labor and birth (if he/she does not agree or seem on board, switch providers/hospitals or both).
  • Be confident in what your body was created to do.
  • Be flexible in your approach to labor and birth.
  • Hire a Doula.

Death:

  • Talk to family about your wishes.
  • Create an Advanced Directive, detailing your wishes (on paper).
  • Decide on details concerning what will happen to your body, before you pass on.
  • Know that no matter how much everyone prepares, this will not be easy on anyone.
  • Have the confidence to express your details to those you love.
  • Determine whether Hospice would be a viable option for you in your final journey in life.

Your input is greatly appreciated.

New Mamas

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I had the joy of going to Target today with Sydney, since I knew the Halloween costumes would be discounted.  We got everything we needed, then headed for the check out lines.  As we approached, I heard the distinctive “hungry” cry of a very new baby.  We walked past, and the mother looked exasperated, and the baby, who had clearly been crying for a very long time, was beginning to turn a shade of purple from crying so much.  Initially, I wondered what was going on, why was the mother not holding her tiny baby, did she not know that her baby was hungry?  As I quietly assessed the situation from where I was standing, I figured out that the mother is probably a new mother, and new to breastfeeding as well.  I guessed this from what she was wearing, a shirt, and a very poofy vest (in case of milk leakage), and from her hesitation to hold the baby, especially close to her breasts.  When she was ready to pay, she finally picked the baby up, but the baby did not stop crying.

People stared at this woman who only wanted to leave the store, and go to a place where she felt safe enough to feed her baby.  So in this situation, I did not judge, I simply looked on with sadness for both the mother and the baby, and here is why.

New mothers are so impressionable, they have come fresh out of pregnancy where they were constantly bombarded by “advice” on what to do during pregnancy and after.  Some of this advice included whether to breastfeed or not, and in that advice, there is judgment.  New mothers constantly feel judged.  And new mothers who decide to breastfeed have an extra challenge, because breastfeeding in public is looked down upon in many places, because of the over-sexualization of the human female breast (which was created to nourish our young).  So as she stood in line, most likely with her breasts leaking, possibly throbbing from milk wanting to come out to feed her sweet baby, she felt the judgment of the people around her, “why don’t you do SOMETHING?!”  But I can bet that if she had taken her baby, and nursed her right there, even with a nursing cover, there would have been judgment there too.  Some people may have applauded that she was honoring her baby’s biological need to eat from its biological source, but others would have looked on in disgust, knowing that her baby was latched on to her nipple, and getting milk.

My sadness for the baby is because babies are born completely dependent on us.  Everything they learn, they learn from their environment, their surroundings, their parents, different reactions to them, etc.  In short, they are learning to trust their world, and when their parents or caregivers are not honoring their communication (cries), then they begin to learn that the world may not be a place to trust.

Some think that babies only communicate through crying, but this is untrue.  Babies are constantly making gestures, sounds, body movements, motions, and facial expressions that communicate exactly what they need.  In a bond between a baby and his/her mother, especially if the mother is a nursing mother, the mother learns very quickly what each little gesture, sound, and movement of her baby means.  And between them, a unique, beautiful bond is formed, in which there is love, oxytocin, communication and endorphins exchanged, and this is where each honor the other.

It seems to me that the mother had most likely ignored all signs of her baby’s hunger, and became embarrassed, felt helpless (about nursing in public), and was at the point of exasperation when we encountered her.  Mothers should NEVER feel embarrassed to nurse in public, because after all, this is the way that nature intends for us to feed our babies.

As I write this, I realize that I need to say so much more than just what I’ve said, so hear me when I say this, whether you are an onlooker, or if you’re a new mother (especially a nursing mother).  New mothers NEED support, of community, family, and friends, especially to be successful at breastfeeding.  Here are some pointers:

  • As an onlooker to a new mother who has a crying baby, but looks to be exasperated, frustrated, or stressed about the situation, ask if you can help her (with the baby, with her things, if she needs to sit down, etc).
  • As an onlooker to a new mother who may be struggling to nurse her baby, offer to shield her, with your body, a blanket, nursing cover, etc.
  • As an onlooker, if you’re offended by a nursing mother near you in public, PLEASE, simply smile at her, and look the other way.  What she is doing will in no way harm you, but it will help our society in the long run (See Breastfeeding Advantages in my previous post)
  • As an onlooker of a nursing mother, even if you are offended, acknowledge that she is feeding her baby the best and healthiest food, and say either ‘congratulations’ or ‘thank you’ to her.
  • As an onlooker of a nursing mother, if you feel compelled to say something offensive, please, instead ask her a question about her nursing relationship or her baby.  Do not say offensive things to nursing mothers, especially new ones.
  • As a new mother, do not feel ashamed, afraid, nervous, or intimidated about nursing your baby in public.
  • As a new mother, ask for help from others around you when you need it.
  • As a new mother, honor your bond with your baby, every chance you get.
  • As a new mother, work hard to ignore people who seem to be judging you.
  • As a new mother, evaluate each piece of “parenting advice” you get from others… Will this work for us?  Does this fit with our parenting approach?
  • As a new mother, establish a routine for your baby and yourself early, so you know when he/she will need to be fed, sleep, changed, etc.
  • As a new mother, take care of yourself.

It wasn’t that long ago that my 3 year old was a nursling, and it wasn’t that long ago that both positive and negative actions and words made an impact on how I nourished her.  My choices may be different than other new mothers, but I do hope for all new mothers, that they form an impenetrable bond with their babies, and that they not allow what others say or do to come between that bond.

Comments Welcome and Appreciated.

Keep our boys INTACT

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I sit here tonight, with my mind swimming with what to write.  There is so much misinformation about circumcision, so much myth, and so many “I circumcised my son because…” floating around.  To be honest, I’m tired of all of this, and I’m tired of people feeling the need to defend their decision to have their son circumcised.  There is no need to justify, what’s done is done. I say what I say, I write what I write for information, not to judge the decisions of others.

So what is circumcision anyway?  Well, in plain and simple terms, it is the removal of the foreskin from the penis.  In other terms, it is genital mutilation (from Miriam-Webster Dictionary online – Mutilate -1.  : “to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect & 2.  :to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of”), a (most of the time, non-consensual) removal of perfectly useful, normal, healthy skin that is SUPPOSED to exist.  Penises are formed with foreskin as an essential functioning part of them, and for some reason, many societies have created a stigma around it, so much so that I was told the other night that a childbirth educator here in town is stating that a good and valid reason for having a newborn boy circumcised is for the sake of his bonding with his father later in life.  I shared this with my husband last night, and he looked at me bug-eyed, deer in the headlights, and said, “Yeah, because men bond with their sons naked?!” And to add to that thought… Are men and their sons really bonding over their penises?!

One of my favorite sites on the internet, Peaceful Parenting, recently posted an excellent post, by Audrey Bryk, about keeping boys intact.  This article is stated in terms that are easy to understand, and that lit a fire under me.  Just as was stated above, one of the reasons in some cultures for circumcising boys is so that they can be “like their dads”.  Bryk argues that is it not easier to just state that someone made the decision based on information that those parents knew to circumcise the father, but that the parents of the son chose to keep him intact (a more complete and well-informed decision).  That seems to me to be a much simpler conversation than why an essential portion of his penis was cut from him shortly after birth.

I remember so vividly praying that Sydney was a girl, literally praying.  I sensed a lot of pressure from my husband and his mother to circumcise if we had a son.  Though I knew very little about circumcision, and had never seen an intact penis; something inside of me thought it was wrong, unethical, immoral, against everything that I believed.  I had no basis for this thought, but I felt extremely strongly about it.  It seems strange to me that I stood up very strongly for everything that I wanted for the birth of our beautiful baby, but something in me had a hard time standing up for keeping a son intact.  I no longer have that issue.

There is so much to be said for genital integrity.  So much to be said for having a say in what happens to your own genitals.  So much to be said for informed consent.  And this is what I will say:

  1. Boys/Men deserve to remain intact until they are able to make a fully informed decision.
  2. The reasons for circumcision are not based in medicine, but rather in preference of parents (for many reasons, appearance, misinformed hygiene myth, religion, etc).  This is not their decision to make, it is NOT their penis.
  3. Doctors should not perform a procedure on a patient who is non-consenting (the baby boy is the patient, after all).
  4. Mutilation of the genitals at birth is not something that any baby boy chooses for himself.  In fact, this is what baby boys have to say about it: 
  5. Grown men have a right to feel certain feelings about not having been allowed to make that decision for themselves. 
  6. The correct, valid, researched, and true information about intact vs. circumcised needs to be made public and talked about.  We cannot be ashamed to discuss this! Here is an excellent site:  Circumcision Decision Maker

I would like to say, that though this post is short, it holds every bit as much passion as any other that I’ve written.  My lack of words is an indication that so much is wanting to come out, and the words are not finding their way onto the screen (Come on, fingers and brain, WORK!).  But nevertheless, see my words for how I intend them.  I am not someone you need to justify your reasons for circumcising your son(s) to, I am not here to judge.  I just ask that all of you research the decisions that you make on behalf of the children you bring into this world.  Who knows what long lasting effects this may have on his psyche, sexuality, emotional well-being, self-esteem, physical appearance, etc.

As always, thank you so much for reading this post, and COMMENTS WELCOME.

Since posting this post last night, I have gotten some backlash on Facebook from people who read it.  People have become offended.  So I encourage you that if you’re offended, bring it to my attention so I know why and what created the offense.

Preparation for Birth

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There is so much talk about preparing for birth.  So I’d love for this post to be as interactive as possible.  Please feel free to comment, leave suggestions you might have for expectant mothers, and tell us how you prepared for your birth/s.

Pregnancy, for most women lasts from 37-42 weeks, and while that seems like a long time, it really is not.  In that time, couples/families become very involved in preparing for the birth, and I can’t help but wonder if families prepare enough.  We all know that couples, especially first time parents, go a little wacko on baby registries, and I’m sure stores are thrilled with this.  But are couples preparing adequately for the birth of their newest loves?

How did you prepare for your birth/s?  Do you think you prepared enough?  Do you think you could have ever been prepared enough?  So here are some questions I’d love for you to weigh in on.

  1. Did you take childbirth classes?  (If so, where were they offered?  Do you feel like you learned enough to feel comfortable with giving birth?)
  2. Did you interview multiple care providers, and shop around at several hospitals/birthing centers?
  3. Did you take other classes?  (Breastfeeding, Newborn Care, Etc)
  4. Did you research routine interventions that are used in hospitals?
  5. Did you research newborn care procedures in hospitals?
  6. Did you prepare a birth plan?  If so, did anyone help you with this?
  7. Did you have all of your questions answered by your care provider?  (Questions to Ask your Care Provider)
  8. Were you satisfied with the prenatal care your received?
  9. Were you comfortable with your care provider/hospital?
  10. Did you feel prepared to give birth?

I know that right now, in my community, there are two hospitals.  I have attended births at both, and each has its own policies and procedures, some the same, and some very different.  I cannot say that one hospital is better than the other, simply because I am not a woman who is preparing to give birth in either.  Each woman preparing for birth, prepares in her own way.  And the consensus I hear around my area is that women are not necessarily feeling prepared adequately.

The sad truth is that there is over-crowding in the hospitals, and the time that women receive with their care providers is little.  I always encourage women to ask tons of questions, and ensure that her questions are answered before she leaves her doctors office – whether she feels good about the answers or not.  I went to a Homebirth Meetup Group in Fayetteville a couple weeks ago, and heard a woman say that she felt like cattle in the system that is caring for pregnant mothers.  No mother should feel that way, ever, but especially by the providers who will help her to birth her baby.

Preparing to give birth is HUGE.  I believe that couples should research until they are blue in the face.  Here are the things I think should be researched by every expectant couple:

  1. Proper nutrition during pregnancy
  2. Advantages of hiring a Doula/Labor Support
  3. Childbirth Classes – Which one is the best fit for you?
  4. Routine interventions – imposed by care provider, and by hospital
  5. Medical reasons for induction & augmentation of labor (when it is appropriate to do so)
  6. Medical reasons for Cesarean section
  7. Routine newborn procedures – who does them, when are they done, which are mandatory
  8. Circumcision – Do you want this done?  (Here is a guide for you to look at if you’re curious about why or why not to have this done.)
  9. Vaccinations – Will you vaccinate, will you delay?

Another sad truth is that many people research what car to buy, what TV to buy, what cable service to use, where to have their dog groomed more than they do how to give birth, where to give birth, who to have in attendance, and what the process will be like for them.  Some women do not feel confident with the care they receive, but do not switch providers.  So, if I can make one suggestion, it would be to prepare for your birth, and this includes switching providers if you do not feel comfortable with them. Prepare for birth, for you and your baby.

Make this interactive:  COMMENTS PLEASE.