Archive for August, 2010

Why I Choose to Wear My Baby

In the past couple of days I have gotten a few comments (more than usual) about my preference to carry Oliver in a sling over pushing him in a stroller. Most of these comments have been really positive, referencing how happy he looks to be carried, the beautiful fabric of my ring sling, and general pleasure and interest in the convenience and ease of “baby wearing”.  Some have been a little negative, suggesting that I may somehow harm Oliver or myself by traveling that way, or that I am crazy for “wanting a baby attached to me all the time”. So I thought that, after the sheer number of conversations I’d had on the subject lately, I should write about my preference to baby wear over the use of a stroller.

For the record, it’s not because I am like Maggie Gyllenhaal in the film ‘Away We Go’:

Though I am getting crunchier by the minute I have no issue with using a stroller, (though after I heard an old school attachment parent refer to a stroller as an ‘isolation pod’ I thought it was so funny that my husband and I now refer to our own stroller that way.) I do not think that the use of a stroller is in any way harmful or bad or whatever, I just don’t find the use of a stroller convenient for me and my family. We occasionally use ours, but most of the time when I do I end up wishing I’d taken the carrier instead.

Before Oliver was even born I insisted on buying at least one good quality baby carrier. My Mom ended up sending me the West Coast Sling which we used every day for the first few months of Oliver’s life. At first my interest in “baby wearing” was for convenience purposes only. Because I do not drive and therefore rely on public transit when my husband isn’t around to be my chauffer, I wanted to be able to take Oliver on the bus without having to wrestle a stroller on and off or block the bus aisle and inconvenience other passengers. I also live in an area where the ground is covered in 5 feet of snow half the year rendering even the best stroller completely useless. But it quickly became apparent to me that there was way more to ‘baby wearing’ than convenience.

The first time I ever put Oliver in a stroller he was about 4 or 5 months old and he hated it. After being carried snug and warm on my chest with the beating of my heart in his ear for his entire life he simply could not understand why on earth he was strapped into some contraption instead of in my arms. I managed to calm him with a few of his favorite toys and, with my husband walking out front where Oliver could see him, we took a walk around our neighbourhood.

This was the first strike against our stroller, without my husband there to give me status updates on Oliver’s mood, I would have no way of anticipating if Oliver was getting uncomfortable, nervous, cranky, cold, bored, or anticipating any of his needs unless he started crying loud enough for me to hear him from behind the stroller. When I (or my husband) have Oliver in the sling or carrier we are able to read his cues and anticipate his needs much faster and easier than when pushing him in the stroller. Being able to read his cues and anticipate his needs is important to us as we believe that responding to his needs promptly and consistently fosters trust, security, and confidence.

Shortly after that first attempt with the stroller, I decided to escape the monotony of our living room and take Oliver for coffee at my favorite bookstore. I took the stroller because our stroller has a cup holder, so I figured it would be a convenient place to put my coffee while I browsed through a few books. What hadn’t occurred to me was that Oliver may want to drink and browse too.

We had barely gotten through the doors of the book store and in line for coffee when Oliver started fussing. I picked him up and ordered my coffee, by the time my coffee was ready Oliver was very upset and had all but latched onto my breast outside of my clothes. I bounced and patted and juggled Oliver over to a quiet seat and nursed him until he calmed & put him back in his stroller to browse the book store. Had Oliver been in a sling or carrier that I could comfortably nurse in, I would not have had to unlatch him to browse the store, and he could have nursed as much or as little as he wanted without me getting impatient and rushing him along. Keeping Oliver close to me in a carrier allows for the kind of closeness, contact, and access to my breast that encourages relaxation, cue feeding, and a steady milk supply.

More recently, as Oliver has become a lot more vocal and is learning to socialize with the world around him, and I have come to realize that my choice of transporting him has a major effect on the way that others (and I) treat him.

I once ran into an old friend while walking with Oliver in the stroller. We stopped to say hello and ended up talking for more than 20 minutes. When we first stopped I introduced Oliver by motioning to him sitting in his stroller, my friend said hello to him, commented on how cute he is, and then turned back to me and continued catching up. In the 20 minutes that we were talking this was the only real interaction with Oliver.

A week or so later we ran into another friend that I had not seen in a while, this time Oliver was sitting comfortably on my hip in the ring sling. I introduced Oliver and then chatted with my friend for about 10 minutes or so. Not only did she say hello to Oliver, but throughout the rest of our conversation she and Oliver would make eye contact and smile, wink, and wave at each other; my friend and I had the same conversation that we would have had whether Oliver was in the stroller or in the sling, but by having Oliver at eye level and facing my friend and I we were able to include him in our interaction. When I travel with Oliver in a carrier he has more opportunities to interact and communicate with me and with other people.

In short the physical, emotional, and social contact that a carrier or sling provides us make it the right choice for our family. While both the stroller and use of a carrier have their pros and cons, it is the carrier that fits best into our life style and parenting philosophy. And though recent media claims have made the use of infant carriers controversial, when used correctly and safely a carrier can be a huge advantage to parents and children to bond and travel together.

For more information about the benefits of ‘baby wearing’ check out this great article by Dr. Sears in which he explores his own experiences wearing his children, the numerous benefits to wearing your baby, and goes over the technique or ‘art’ of ‘baby wearing’.

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August 14, 2010 at 00:30 1 comment

Wordless Wednesday: Folk Fest Baby!

That first picture was the best picture I could manage of Buffy Sainte-Marie and Arrested Development playing a set together. Mostly because I enjoyed it so much that it didn’t occure to me to take any pictures until almost the very end, and involved leaving Oliver with friends of mine he didn’t know very well in order to get close enough to quickly snap this picture. No word of a lie, it was the BEST live set I have ever seen in my entire life!

August 11, 2010 at 14:50 Leave a comment

Me at Connected Mom: Preparing to Breastfeed After Breast Surgery

“After all of the emotional wrestling with yourself about the decisions you have made, and your reasons for making them, you may come to accept that what’s done is done and you will do your absolute best with the resources you have; at some point you may take a leap of faith and decide to try. When you make the decision to try, know that you are not alone, and know that there are a number of things that you can do to prepare for a rewarding BFAR experience with your new baby.”

August 10, 2010 at 02:36 Leave a comment

World Breastfeeding Week: Link Love/Sunday Surf

To wrap up World Breastfeeding week I am posting a list of  breastfeeding stories that I have read this week, some were written specifically for this blog as a part of my world breastfeeding week celebration, others are just stories that I found inspiring and decided to include.

  • Our Sentiments had two Breastfeeding stories to share this week. You can find them here and here. In them she shares valuable information about the appropriate way to approach a breastfeeding couple if you are uncomfortable, and recounts how a few firm words of encouragement made all the difference in her breastfeeding success.
  • Sara at The Covered Wagon sent me the link to her post for the carnival of NIP to include, check out her post and all of the submissions to the carnival of nursing in public, it was a fantastic carnival with many interesting submissions.
  • Not all breastfeeding relationships look the same,  Haute Single Mama crunches some  numbers after a whole year of exclusively pumping! Go over there and give this mama a high five!
  • Another example of how every breastfeeding relationship is different, check out this beautiful and inspiring guest post by Stephani of mama&babylove over at code name mama.
  • Hobo mama opens her heart and her arms to those who were unable to breastfeed or chose to formula feed and sets a great example of friendship and compassion.
  • The Mommypotamus is in the middle of an amazing series about breastfeeding toddlers and children, tackling the myths and tough questions in a factual, loving, and honest way.
  • The august edition of the connected mom online megazine is all about breastfeeding! keep your eye on thecommentedmom.com the whole month of august for breastfeeding articles, pictures, and giveaways!

August 7, 2010 at 23:01 1 comment

World Breastfeeding Week: My Breastfeeding Story

The following story is a very personal one. It is the story of how mine and Oliver’s breastfeeding relationship was established. I tried to write a happy story, but while it does have a decidedly happy ending the reality for me, and hundreds of thousands of other women around the world, is that this happy ending had to be fought for tooth and nail. I almost lost the amazing gift of breastfeeding my son because of a health care system that tells women ‘breast is best’ while simultaneously blocking their efforts with poor Mother-baby care policies and practices. To learn what you can do to change things and support women who wish to breastfeed visit the World Breastfeeding Week website.

Mine and Oliver’s breastfeeding relationship was rocky from the moment of Oliver’s conception. Well, actually, our breastfeeding relationship was put at risk 8 years before that when I underwent breast reduction surgery.

On top of that my nipples are flat/inverted, so with those two strikes against me in the realm of breastfeeding myths, my chances of successfully exclusively breastfeeding my son were dismal.

Knowing that breastfeeding wouldn’t be a walk in the park for me I did what I always do when I am nervous or unsure about something. I started reading. Over the 38 weeks that I carried Oliver, I devoured every book and article on breastfeeding and BFAR I could get my hands on. I believe that this research and self education was crucial to my success.

Trying to establish a solid breastfeeding relationship is hard enough for a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ mother in a health care system lacking any real lactation support, training, or policies. But the moment health care providers catch wind that your breasts are ‘abnormal’ it is damn near impossible.

Because of all my research, and the fact that I had been leaking colostrum for most of my third trimester, I had an enormous amount of faith and confidence in my ability to produce milk, but the doctors at my hospital didn’t see it that way. Before I’d even had a chance to put my baby to the breast, his doctors ordered he be supplemented with infant formula.

Knowing how important it was to avoid the use of artificial nipples in the first 6-8 weeks for the prevention of nipple confusion, and to encourage my son to keep his strong sucking reflexes I asked that he be given this supplement with a cup or a spoon, and that I be allowed to nurse him or pump frequently to build my own milk supply.

‘No’ I was told ‘we don’t use a cup or spoon here, only bottles’

‘Absolutely not’ I told them ‘I will sit here and nurse him all night if I have to, but I will not allow you to give him a bottle’

‘It’s doctor’s orders’ the nurses told me.

‘Mothers orders outrank doctor’s orders’ I said…. In my head, but I wish that I’d said it out loud. It’s something all medical staff should be reminded of.

I managed to hold the night nurses off from giving him any formula. But I did not escape the night nurses completely unscathed.

After an emotionally and physically exhausting day, I sat at 2 am in the NICU holding my baby to breast, trying to be careful of the wires and IV tubes attached to him with a formula wielding devil nurse standing over me telling me every 2 minutes that I was doing it wrong without offering any constructive help until…

‘Your nipples are flat.’ She grumbled.

‘Yes I had noticed,” I told her “they’re my nipples after all, can you unhook him from this machine so that I can try a football hold?’

‘No I can’t unhook him from the machine!” She was aghast at the very suggestion and seemed to decide at this point that I was completely stupid. “we need to monitor his body temperature’ She reminded me, as if reminding a 5 year old that kittens can’t fly, so you probably shouldn’t throw them in the air.

‘His temperature is normal now’ I point out. Oliver’s temperature had been slightly elevated at birth due to an undiagnosed infection in my placenta. His temperature had, by this point, been normal for hours and his blood work showed no signs of the infection.

‘No! Try this, he’ll latch onto this’. What she handed me was a nipple shield. In her ‘professional opinion’ the 10 minutes that she’d ‘let’ me try latching with little success were proof positive that I would not be able to breastfeed with my flat nipples without a nipple shield. I knew this to be a bad idea for BFAR mothers, and yet took it without complaint. I was so desperate to get Oliver latched so the nurse would go away and leave us alone that I was willing to risk It.

Oliver latched onto the nipple shield right away and nursed for a very long time. Luckily, my milk came in 3 days later, and my supply built and was maintained while using the nipple shield. It would take us nearly 5 months to learn to nurse without it.

The next morning I was sent an angel in the form of a nurse who was only a few working hours and one written test away from becoming an international board certified lactation consultant.

‘The doctor says we have to supplement’ she said. I was in tears before the sentence was even out of her mouth.

‘I won’t let you give him a bottle’ I said. I knew that I could breastfeed, at that point I could feel it down to my bones, and all I needed was to be given the chance to do so without interference. I resisted the urge to beg, but I really would have done anything.

‘It’s ok’ she told me ‘I don’t give bottles to babies. Call me after he’s nursed at the breast for as long as he’d like to and we’ll “top him up” with a few ml of formula. I’ll show you how to finger feed so he still has to suck to get milk.’

That woman saved our breastfeeding relationship.

For the 5 days that we stayed in that noisy crowded mother baby unit, she was my best ally in my fight to breastfeed.

When the other nurses told me to get used to formula because I’d have to keep supplementing at home anyways, she was there to tell me to ignore them.

She got a hold of the better of the hospital’s 2 breast pumps (2 breast pumps! The ward was full to capacity that week with over 20 babies born. Only 2 breast pumps.) She told me I could keep it in my ‘room’ as long as I wanted or until someone else came looking for it.

When the doctor had good things to say about Oliver’s colour, health, and weight, she jumped in to point out that it was because my milk had come in… In buckets!

When that milk came in and I was rock hard aching and sore, she showed my husband where to find cloths for hot compresses and encouraged me to nurse frequently, if not constantly.

I imagine that she must be exhausted every shift she works, having to work against the poor advice, lack of understanding, and general dismissal of the rest of the staff. She saved our breastfeeding relationship, and I have no doubt that she has saved countless others.

But you know what’s really sad? With all of the stress of that week, the excitement of bringing Oliver into the world, and the chaos of family and friends and fighting with the hospital staff to bring me a decent vegetarian meal. … Neither my husband nor I can remember her name.

So we just call her my fairy boob-mother, and wish all the good karma in the world upon her!

Oliver breastfed exclusively for 6 months, he is now 10 months old and still breastfeeding. We do not plan to stop anytime soon.

August 4, 2010 at 08:35 3 comments

Wordless Wednesday: Breastfeeding

August 4, 2010 at 01:20 Leave a comment

World Breastfeeding Week: Reviving Our Breastfeeding Culture

Only a few generations ago, and to this day in many parts of the world, most, if not all, of the information a young woman gets about breastfeeding, and most other aspects of motherhood, comes from her female relatives.

In this article by an LC for 60 second parent, Saray Hill, describes a culture where mothers cook and care for their daughters immediately following the birth of their grandchildren teaching them how to put their baby to breast. She describes how being exposed to women breastfeeding openly throughout her life gave her something to mimic and learn from when no such support was available to her in North America.

The biggest obstacle to successful full term breastfeeding in our culture is a lack of knowledge and support. When the use of infant formula became the norm a cultural chain was broken and in many cases the intergenerational knowledge & support that exists in other parts of the world failed to trickle down.

Many new mothers in Canada, The U.S. and other westernized countries, not only have very little to look to or remember by way of breastfeeding examples in their lives, but can no longer rely on only her mother’s knowledge. Chances are her mother does not possess the experience and knowledge that she needs.

Our mothers want to help us, they want to give us advice, and be supportive of us, and yet the only experience they have to draw on is their experiences raising us in a formula culture. The advice they have to pass on to us, advice of schedules and infant cereal, cribs in separate rooms, and pacifiers is derived from that formula culture because that is what worked for them and that’s what they were told by their doctors. They (and we) may not always know that much of this advice directly conflicts with successful full term breastfeeding.

Our mothers and maybe even grandmothers were robbed of the incredible experience that is breastfeeding a child and the effects will reach far into our future, and our children’s future.

The culture of formula isn’t only in the knowledge our mothers pass down to us, it is in our hospitals and doctor’s offices, our media and entertainment, it is in the employers who grant us leave and the laws that govern them.

Despite this formula culture, in various forms the mothers of the world have started rebuilding the support and community that has been lost. Despite the predominance of formula culture, the culture of breastfeeding has adapted to survive. The most obvious example of this is the creation of the Le Leche League but the most recent form of this mother to mother support lies in social networking.

Thanks to social networking sites, a mother who is exhausted, confused, worried, and ready to give up need only press a few buttons to find the encouragement and strength to continue. Through a network of women, our collective breastfeeding experiences are readily available to any new mother who cares to learn from them.

There is no longer any denying that breast is best for our babies. It is slowly becoming widely known and accepted that there is no perfect substitute for human breast milk. But without the support of previous generations, and with the formula companies still finding new and creative ways to promote their formula culture, too many women who want to breastfeed are finding themselves unable to meet their breastfeeding goals.

Yes it is important to change hearts and minds in the medical profession, and push for better lactation education for medical professionals. Absolutely it is important to rein in the companies who market and manufacture infant formula to prevent them from undermining mothers who want to breastfeed; and yes it is important to breakdown the stigma, taboo, and myths surrounding breastfeeding in our society.

But more so than that, it is important for us to keep making connections and weaving our network, to rebuild a foundation of knowledge and support freely exchanged between women so that our grandchildren can be born into a breastfeeding culture, and so that in the future we can pass on our love, support, and knowledge to our sons and daughters.

This week, World Breastfeeding Week, I want to not only recognize women who have inspired me, but to drop a few breadcrumbs. I want to create a ‘path’, a map that other women can follow to find breastfeeding support.

I have published this tweet:

It’s World #Breastfeeding Week & I think @theconnectedmom is an inspirational #bfing Mama! Plz RT & pass it on!

With the expectation that Jenn of @theconnectedmom will then recognize someone who inspires her, and so on and so on.

But please! Don’t wait to be tagged! Go right now and tag an inspirational breastfeeding mama who has helped or encouraged you to meet your breastfeeding goals.

If your inspirational breastfeeding mama isn’t available via social media, I still want to hear about her! Please comment with your stories!

August 1, 2010 at 12:00 5 comments


What is a Pocket Buddha?

The pocket Buddha is a talisman, whether the pocket is in our mind or our jeans, the pocket Buddha is there to add a touch of Zen to our lives. He smiles from his dark penny and used tissue filled abode and reminds us simultaneously to go with the flow of our lives and to keep our goals, hopes and dreams ahead of us. At least one moment everyday, the satisfaction of a project completed, the taste of a meal we managed to make without burning, the extraordinary patience we somehow managed to show in the most frustrating of times, the pocket Buddha throws us a pocket-lint sized piece of nirvana, and for that I am very grateful.

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