Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What You Need to Know Before You Breastfeed: Newly Exposed Skin Hurts

I know, I know. They tell you that if the baby is latched on properly, its not going to hurt. The truth is, though, that for a couple of days or weeks, depending on how sensitive your skin is, your breasts are going to be a little chaffed and sore.

I had a friend in highschool who figure skated. I remember one day, she came to school with her feet wrapped up in bandages. I asked her what had happened. She shrugged and said, "Oh, new skates. It takes a week or so for them to work in. In the meantime your feet get pretty sore." The adjustment your skin makes when nursing a baby is pretty similar.

Think of it this way: You nipples have, for the most part, been cloistered away in specially designed, cushioned carriers for the last few years. They have been treated gently and delicately, for the most part, for that time. Now they are going to be trotted out every 1 - 2 hours and sucked on and exposed to the elements. Everything is going to get moist from a mix of saliva and milk, and the dry out, and then get moist again. This is a big change for skin in a very sensitive area. It will take a few days to adjust to this new state of affairs. In the mean time, nursing is going to hurt. Your nipples may crack and bleed, even if you are doing nothing wrong. If you have very sensitive skin and a very enthusiastic baby, you may experience cracking and bleeding as a chronic concern throughout your time as a nursing mom. And, surprise! Every time you start nursing a new baby, you will get to go through it all again as your skin toughens up once more.

Why don't you hear about this? Because no one wants to scare you away from breastfeeding by telling you that it can hurt, just like no one tells you their labour horror stories until you are already pregnant. It is part of that strange, secret pool of information that women only admit to after you have joined the club.

So, what can you do to make things as pain free as possible, and help your skin heal up quickly? Here's a few tips:
-- get some Lanolin. The brand I have in called Lansinoh. It is sticky, oily stuff that helps soften and protect your nipples and surrounding area, but that is safe for the baby to ingest. Apply it when your nipples are dry, after you have breastfed, or whenever they feel uncomfortable and dry.
-- whenever possible, air dry. Your skin is moist right after nursing. If you put it next to fabric while it dries, it will stick a little. Then, when you go to nurse the next time, you will pull a bit of skin off when you loosen your bra to feed the baby.
-- check your baby's latch. Make sure that someone experienced has shown you how to latch the baby on properly. Check the baby's latch to make sure they are not making the problem worse by sucking improperly.
-- breathe deeply and find your happy place as you latch the baby on. If you are tense because of pain, baby will sense it and your milk will not flow as well. Remember all those labour relaxations exercises? Now you get to use them again!
-- don't worry if a little blood gets into the baby's milk. I have a friend whose nipples bled severely for a few weeks. She asked her doctor if this was going to harm her son, and he said it would not. She nursed three children with a bit of pain, but otherwise no problems.
-- remind yourself of the eventual payoff. In a few short days or weeks this too shall pass. Like so many things you will experience as a mother, you will find that little bit of pain and frustration can be worth a lot of later satisfaction.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What You Need to Know Before You Breastfeed: Learning to Latch

Mothering is about teaching. The way we respond to our children and the way we act and react every day teaches our children about life. But there are also specific things we need to teach our children so that they can live healthy, happy lives. The first thing you will teach your child is how to latch on to your breast.

Latch is the word used to describe how your baby's mouth is attached to your breast. If your baby is latched correctly, nursing will be comfortable after the first few days (more on that later). If your baby is latched correctly, she will be able to easily access your milk, and her sucking will encourage your body to produce the right amount of milk for your baby. If you baby is not latched correctly, she will not be able to get enough milk, her sucking will wear on your nipples, your milk supply will not be established properly, and it will really all be downhill from there.

How can you tell if your baby is latched correctly? Here is a checklist of things to check for. Basically, if the baby is just sucking your nipple and you have a kind of pinched feeling in your breast, the latch is probably not correct. If you are still really, really sore after the first few days, when your skin seems to be over the initial chafing, suspect a bad latch.

For the first few weeks, every time you breastfeed, you need to check that your baby is latched on properly. If she is not, then you need to gently remove her from the breast, and start over. This will be frustrating. A hungry baby does not like to be removed from her food source, and she will cry a little. Which means her mouth will be wide open, and you can calm her down and encourage her to go back on the breast quite easily. Even though this will frustrate your baby, it is essential to the long term future of your breast feeding relationship. Like so many things in life, the short term aggravation is really, really worth the long term payoff.

It might be that the baby's top lip is open, but the bottom lip is curled in, rather than open, like its supposed to be. In this case, all you have to do is gently pull the baby's chin until her lip relaxes open.

Once you are a few days in, make sure you get to see a health nurse or lactation consultant or a doctor that actually knows about breastfeeding, so they can check that the baby is latching properly. If you are worried about something and no one is coming to see you, don't be afraid to drop in somewhere and just ask someone -- a doctor, a nurse, a lactation consultant, your friend who has nursed three kids, the local La Leche League leader -- if it looks right to them. This is not the time to be shy. This is the time to get things right.

Most of all, don't get discouraged. Don't get in a panic. Keep calm and carry on. And keep working on teaching your baby their very first lesson.

Mother's Day Give Away

Mothers Day 2009
If you haven't discovered 5 Minutes for Mom yet, this is a good time to check them out. They are having a huge Mother's Day Give Away. I (Kristen) just discovered them a couple of months ago and enjoy what they have to say.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Mom Bag

This is my Mom Bag. It's been a work in progress and organization. After one too many trips out for the day realising that we didn't have a sippy cup on hand, or a few extra diapers, this is what has developed. The purpose of the mom bag is simple. We have filled it with all the neccessaties that we might need if we are out for the day. It's different than the diaper bag because the Mom Bag lives in the car. Certain items get rotated out or replaced, but it stays stocked.

These are the things that I keep in the mom bag:
-2 portable spill proof cups - one for each kid, perfect for sharing a carton of chocolate milk with, without getting the chocolate milk all over the car
-2 snack containers with lids - very helpful for sharing snacks wherever we happen to be
-2 small spoons, just in case
-2 small toys - right now they are toy cars because cars are high level interest for my boys, something that will hold their attention just to get them through the next part of the drive/line up/wait at a restaurant
-wipes - they work for diaper changes, cleaning grubby hands and faces after snacks, or, wiping down a table at a food court
-extra diapers - we also started keeping a pack of diapers in the trunk of the car just in case
-diaper cream - just a small container
-a pen - I'm always looking for a pen, so I keep one here too
-the monkey backpack/harness - such an improvement on the plain one I had and used once when my oldest was younger. My youngest loves wearing his monkey, giving him the freedom of walking places (very rarely will he go in a stroller anymore) and me the piece of mind of him not running away
-baby biscuits - this is the current non-perishable food of choice that I keep in here, at other times it has been granola bars and various dried fruit
And that's it really. I don't overfill it. I can just drop my wallet and cell phone in here and off we go.
*this handcrafted bag was a gift from my mom, she picked it up at a fair trade store, it really is the perfect go-anywhere size bag!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Inexpensive Family Vacations

This is my post to join in with Heidi at one of my favorite blogs, Mt Hope Chronicles in her series Living Lovely With Family. She is an amazingly intentional and organized homeschooling mom of three boys. The idea behind her series is to bring together ideas for how we can live together as family. With a four year old and two year old, we are just starting to find our rhythm and pace as a family, so I haven't had much to say on most of her topics. But cheap vacations is something I know a bit about, so here are my tips.

We live on one income, so we do not have a lot of extra money, but my husband does get a month of vacation every year. We have naturally adventurous spirits, so we have found many inexpensive, fun ways to spend this time. When our oldest son was 11 months, we saved up my maternity leave for the year and went to Ireland for two weeks. The next summer we took a road trip out to British Columbia, and the two years since then, we've hung out in Winnipeg and Regina. Here are some of the things we've learned:

- buying a good quality tent and camping gear one time is cheaper than staying in a hotel every year
A couple of years ago we bought a big, very leak proof tent. It divides into three sections, so in the future we can have our own space. For now, we can store all of our gear in one section, lay out all our air matresses, and have space for the boys to play quietly during the rain. This is our home base while we're away from home.
- armed with our tent we stay in RV parks outside of cities we are interested in exploring.
RV parks are not ideal if you actually want to camp, but we prefer to explore cities on the cheap. So for $20 a night we can get a campsite, lounge, free internet connection, clean bathrooms, usable showers, and a playground for our kids. From here we are usually a close distance to the edge of town where we can explore during the day.
- check out restraunts for lunch instead of supper
Since we live in a small, homogeneous town, we love to get our fill of sushi, noodle soup and curry when we're in larger centers. We make this affordable by going at lunch -- it the same food, but usually at half the price.
- diner breakfasts can get you through the day
Every town has a $5 breakfast special somewhere. Fill up on a big, cheap breakfast and have bread and fruit for lunch
- buy most of your food at a grocery store or, better still, a local farmer's market
even when you are just in the car, you can fit a small, soft cooler and a sharp knife with you somewhere. Pick up sandwich ingredients, fresh fruit and milk and you will have way happier bodies at the end of your vacation than if you stopped for fries all the time. I have a great memory of sitting in the cafeteria of a zoo with our cooler, making tomato and cheese sandwiches while everyone around us was eating fries with gravy.
- check out fun, family friendly events
many cities will have free music and theatre events during the day in the summer. Find out what is going on in the cities you want to go to. Then plan around the times of these events. We always hit up at least one Folk Music festival. Kids are free, there is usually a great day time area full of craft activities, and you get to see 15 - 20 acts in a weekend for one ticket price. Look for music festivals, theater festivals and Children's festivals with free activities and acts.
- find out where the local kid-friendly parks are
every city has them. You just need to find them. We usually take a break in the middle of the day to go to a park. Especially on busy days full of grown-up sightseeing this can help everyone relax and unwind. The kids get to run their energy off, and the parents don't have to worry about kids breaking anything or running into traffic. During a long day of travel, instead of relying too heavily on the in-car DVD, stop at a park off the highway every few hours. This works well when traveling on the Trans-Canada. Every little town along the way has at least one park you can stop in. Yes, the locals may drive by ten times to try to figure out who you are, but the kids will be more relaxed along the way.
- intersperse grown up activities and kids activities
Visit a park at the end of a long bout of wandering through interesting shops. Find museums and art galleries with free kid-specific, hands on areas, or open, happy spaces. I remember in Ireland, we went to a gallery full of illuminated manuscripts. With interests in English and Religion we were fascinated. Our 11 month old was restless. But at the bottom of the gallery there was an open court with a beautiful, tiled fountain. One of my favorite memories is watching my little one dip his hands in the fountain and run through the open courtyard while my husband finished looking at the galleries that interested him.
- be flexible and don't over-plan your days.
With kids, the unexpected will happen. Expect road trips to take at least 2 hours longer than they would with just adults in tow. Expect your days to be broken up by visits to parks and playgrounds. Keep a simple to follow routine as your basic daily structure so young children know what to expect. Keep it fun -- remember, this is your vacation.

The great thing about taking a low budget approach to vacations is that you teach your kids that they don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun. Vacations that don't revolve exclusively around amusement parks and malls open them up to the world, and teach them a sense of adventure. Show them that there are interesting things and people everywhere, and give them a taste of simple living. They will see you solve problems and negotiate. they will learn to be curious and open to experience. And you will have a lot of fun and make a lot of memories along the way.
You can go here to see what others have said about inexpensive vacations, and to add your own two cents.

Bye Bye Sookie

My whole purpose in guiding my kids to a sookie rather than a thumb was knowing I could take the sookie away. No small task. Some people look incredulously at the parent struggling to take the sookie away and say, "Just take it away from them". (as if we were just that stupid). These are the same people that will tell a struggling dieter to just eat less, a smoker to just not buy any more cigarrettes and a nail biter to just not bite their nails. It's a habit. It's not that easy to quit.
All of these habits can be broken and the sookie habit is no exception. It does take a little bit of time. First you have to make sure that your child has a transition or an alternate way of soothing themselves (or falling asleep). Loveys (a blankie or special soft toy) are great for this (provided your child takes to one - not all of them do). Singing is another great soother. So is cuddling and rocking. You know your child best, decide what works for you.
Then you have to start the weaning process. We started taking the sookie away during waking hours, bringing it back for nap time and bed time. Once our boy was awake, the sookie went away (well hidden). We did not let him see where we put the sookie (they will find it and take it if they can get it).
Then we started taking it away from nap time (this is trickier, but it can be done). Once nap time is successful, start working on bed time. I found I just tried putting him down for bed without it. If he really wasn't calming down, or settling to sleep, then I brought it out. Eventually it became unneccessary. Once it was unneccessary we just trashed them, never to return.
My youngest son (recently broken of the sookie habit) asked where it was. He was just fine when I said that the sookie was at daycare. At daycare, I told his daycare teacher we were taking him off it. She didn't give it to him that day and he napped just fine, so she trashed it the next day. After that when he asked where it was, I just told him, "Sousie gone". He wasn't happy about it, but he's going to sleep alright without it too.
Other parents I know have used slightly different techniques. One mother I know broke her son of the sookie at Christmastime, telling him that the elves needed his sookie to give to another little boy. They left the sookies out with Santa's milk and cookies that night, and they were gone the next morning. Another mother I know started snipping the sookie nipple down bit by bit until there was nothing left to suck on. 'Sookie broken', she told her son.
Whatever way you decide to go be patient with your kids. Most kids should start weaning from the sookie around age one and be done before they turn 3 at the latest. My first was 19 months when he stopped and my 2nd stopped shortly after his 2nd birthday. Prolonged sookie use can interfere with speech development, so make sure that your child either takes his sookie out to talk, or, doesn't have it during the daytime when his language skills start taking off (around 18 months). There's really no need for it at that time. They will be just fine without it.
What sookie removal tools have you used? I'd love to hear your ideas to share with other mamas.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sookie Baby

Soother, pacifier, dummy, sookie, paci - call it what you want. For my first it was the sookie, for my second it was the sousie. For both it was a mini contriversy.
I had 2 sookies in store before my first was born. I was fully prepared to use them mostly because my mom had a terrible time getting me and my brother to stop sucking our thumbs when we were younger (I'll admit that I sucked my thumb until I was about 6). Then I went to baby classes and breastfeeding classes. And being the new parent I was became completely scared off to use one. Breastfeeding mom's should not use a soother, I was told. I remember literally running to the drawer where I kept his soother (that he hadn't yet used) in a fit of panic deliberating whether or not it was okay to give it to him to calm him down when he was fully fed, fully dry and fully rested. I resisted as long as I could. I didn't give it to him until breastfeeding was completely established. By then I reasoned he knew the difference between a rubber nipple that doesn't give off milk and the real thing for dinner.
There's conflicting information out there about soothies. Babies naturally have a need to suck. Some find their thumbs to help them out and others don't. We've been giving soothers (and soother like things) to babies for centuries. Ever heard the expression, 'born with a silver spoon in their mouth'? Well, for some wealthy babies in the 1800's that was true. More commonly rags dipped in some sugary substance was used.
Once my oldest was on the soother, that was it, he was a sookie baby. The most common use I had for his soother was as a sleep aid once he'd finished nursing.
My second child didn't take to a soother, which was fine with us. He wasn't a thumb sucker either. He was just more contented...that is until I started to wean him. He was using me as a pacifier, not for eating and I had to figure out a way to use the breast only for eating purposes. In came the soother. And yes, although he was late at it, he took to it with great gusto.
If you do decide to use a soother with your little one be prepared to defend it, it's your choice. I've had more than one person come up to my perfectly contented little one and say, 'Get that dirty thing out of your mouth' and pull it out themselves. Boy did they get an earful of crying. (Gotta love other people who want to parent your kids for you).
Here are some tips to successful soother-ing:
-wait until breastfeeding is established before starting the soother. You want to make sure that you baby knows how to latch and feed and is gaining weight before using a soother (generally 4-6 weeks old)
-babies will generally use a soother to fall asleep and then spit it out, don't wake your baby up to put it back in their mouth. They've used it for what they need to and don't need to anymore - besides a sleeping child is a precious thing
-keep a second (and third, fourth, fifth...) soother on hand, because you know that you won't be able to find it when you really need it. Keep your spare soother(s) in a spot that both you and your spouse know for easy access
-watch for signs of wear and tear on a soother and replace it every couple of months, you don't want your little one to choke on it
-have your line of defense for using a soother ready for your relatives, neighbours, other mothers who would never do such a thing and random strangers who think they are the devil incarnate. Remember people have been using soothers for centuries with little ones. Maybe you just want to keep them off the thumb (you can take a sootehr away, but you can't take a thumb away). If it helps you and your baby, it's worth having.
-teach your little one other ways to soothe themselves. My first had a stuffed sheep for a 'lovey', my second is a big-time cuddler and hugs work wonders with him. Music is also a great tool (nothing like hearing your baby 'sing' themselves to sleep)
Not all babies will take to a soother and that's okay too. There is no 'one size fits all' for babies, they are all individuals. Find what works for you and go with it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What You Need to Know Before You Breastfeed: Natural Things Do Not Always Come Natrually

When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I was going to breastfeed. All the research supported the benefits of mama's milk, I was too cheap to buy formula (after all, I could spend the money on books or fabric) and it looked so easy. In B.C., where I was living at the time, public nursing is a normal occurrence. I had seen women feed their babies. All you did was lift up your shirt and pop the baby on. Simple. I could do that.

But what I quickly realized when my son arrived, is that just because something is natural, does not mean it always comes easily and naturally to you. Have you ever decided to start running? It is a purely natural activity, but if you have previously been sedentary, it hurts for a few weeks. Do you remember your first sexual encounter? Did it take you a few tries to figure everything out properly? Was it maybe a little uncomfortable at first? Breastfeeding is much the same.

If you have never breastfed before, you are a novice. And since your baby is fresh from the womb, he or she is not going to be much help. Babies have some natural sucking instincts, but they need some help to get it right. You have the proper equipment, but it is not quite broken in yet. You will both need some time to get used to this new experience. It will be awkward and uncomfortable and frustrating at first. You might need some further instruction to get things working properly. And all those women you see nonchalantly popping their babies on the breast? They were exactly the same when they started.

What can you do to make things go smoother? First, put down that book that gives you every detail about your developing fetus. I have news: the fetus will, in all likelihood, develop earlobes whether you are aware of it or not. You new baby not necessarily latch properly without your help. Get a good book about nursing and read it through. Bookmark some websites with information about breastfeeding. Find a few women who have nursed at least one child and ask them for advice -- have their phone numbers handy. Look up the name and number of the local lactation consultant and add them to your list.

Second, change your mindset. Expect some frustration and pitfalls to come your way. Enlist some help for the first few days or weeks after the baby comes, so you can concentrate on having a positive start. Relax, and remember that this is all a learning process. Have confidence in your instincts and in this natural process, and don't be afraid to ask for help. We've all been there. Really, we have.

A Few Helpful Reads:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding -- La Leche League classic -- a little rose coloured in my opinion, but helpful none the less
The Breastfeeding Book Martha Sears is a lactation consultant, and the mother of 8 children. The books she co-writes with her husband usually have a nice blend of practical wisdom and medical knowledge. Haven't read this one, but I have found the breastfeeding section in the Baby Book invaluable -- this is probably a lot of the same info.
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book . Dr Jack Newman is a Canadian doctor who is an expert on breastfeeding. He is considered a radical because he believes that almost every woman can and should nurse their baby, and he is outspoken about a number of topics relating to formula and advertising and samples in hospitals. He also has lots of clear, helpful information.

Websites: all of the above mentioned authors have great websites. Also check out Kellymom . Her website is definitely one to bookmark for later trouble shooting - I wouldn't have made it past 4 months with my first son if not for her website.

Today, I'm not feeling very clever

It's just been one of those of those weekends really. I'm not feeling clever because I:
-missed the fact that my youngest is fussy because he's getting his 2 year molars
-realised I never did wash my oldest's swimming suit from last week's lessons for this week's lessons
-can't figure out why the pile of socks is growing larger and larger with no matches in sight
-spent an hour trying to get my kids to sleep
-contemplated if it was actually neccessary to take my kids out in public, ever
...but then a light shone in my life. A friend of ours came over and told me that being with my kids gave him reason to believe that he may want to have kids of his own someday. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else to realise that you're not doing such a bad job after all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Surviving the Grocery Store

Boys are busy. Pre-school boys are even busier. So how do you grocery shop and stay sane? Be prepared. I always leave for shopping about a half-hour to an hour after my 2 year old's nap. That way I know he's not tired and not cranky from just having woken up. I also make sure that before we leave the house my oldest has gone to the washroom and that my youngest has a clean diaper on. There's nothing worse than hearing 'Mom I have to go pee' half-way through the shop.
I also make sure my 'mom bag' is stocked. I pack 2 snacks for each of them plus a portable cup for each. As soon as we get to the store, they both go in the cart (my 4 year old usually gets out halfway through to be my helper half-way through, but I like them contained for the beginning at least). It's also why I like the Superstore, they have carts made for 2 kids to sit in.
We then swing by the snack area to pick up some strawberry milk (which goes in the go-cups I've packed). They are happy with the treat and I don't hear, 'Mom, can I get a treat?' the rest of the shop. The snacks I've packed don't come out right away either, they don't come out until I can see they are restless or they ask for them. Sometimes we never get to them. Especially on days when the sample ladies are in the store.
Letting my oldest be my helper is good too. It keeps him busy and involved and gives me an opportunity to talk about the kinds of foods we get. I also let them get some choice in what we are buying. For example, they really like the yogurt drinks so I will ask do they want strawberry or banana this week? Or they will be allowed to choose which kind of applesauce cups they want to get this week.
I think it's important to talk about food choice with your kids. Yesterday, my oldest asked why we don't buy the canned pasta. He's pretty accepting when I told him that first his brother was allergic to it (soy oil content) and that it has too much salt which isn't good for your body. I figure they have to come along anyways they may as well learn from it.
It's also a great oppourtunity for other kinds of learning. If I'm buying tuna I will ask my oldest to get 3 cans so he is getting some counting practice. Or we will talk about some of the words we see as we go buy (literacy practice).
I'm not saying it always goes smoothly. Probably 90% of the time it's smooth and the other 10% I wish I could have gone alone, or with just one of them. But I can usually see where I went wrong in those cases. Like I picked a time when one was tired. Or I didn't pack a snack. Or I knew they were already getting on each others nerves before we left.
Being a regular at the store helps too. I know who the fast cashiers are that like kids and which ones are as slow as molasses. The end of the shop is the most likely time for a melt-down, they can get store weary, just like the rest of us. It's also where they place the candy, which is frustrating too. But you deal with it and then you're home again, home again jiggety-jig :o)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Honeymoons are very well known ideas. Time for a recently married couple to be alone together. Often they take a trip, unwinding from the hoopla surrounding the wedding. It's designed to be a time of relaxation. A time to get to know each other as husband and wife. A time to be treasured.
Babymoons are not as well known. They are every bit as important. A babymoon is taking time to get to know your baby in relative peace. A time where you take the phone off the hook (that's why we have call answering services). A time when you don't neccessarily answer the door. A time of peace and adjustment.
I know what you are thinking. How is that even remotely possible? Everyone wants to meet the baby. How do you turn away friends, family and acquaintances who come bearing gifts without giving them time to hold the little one? Is that fair?
Here's a story from our first days with our little one that demonstrates how it's okay to say no.
As I'd said our little one was newborn. It was sometime in the first few days of life when we were really adjusting to having him around. We'd both had very little sleep. My parents (who were his first scheduled visitors) had not yet arrived from across the country. My husband was napping. My baby was napping in my arms and I was just enjoying the silence. A knock on the door. Who was it? Aquaintance friends of ours. These are not good friends. These are not people we have over on a regular basis. These are just people we know. Well intentioned people. They came bearing gifts and wanted into our little haven and proceded to enter our living room and sit on our couch. Of course this little disruption woke my son. And now he wanted to eat. Being a new mom and new to nursing, I hadn't yet warmed to the idea of nursing in front of other people. I went down the hall to wake my snoozing husband, hoping he would be able to get up to entertain these people so I could feed our son. Unfortunately, having had very little regular sleep he had fallen into that deep sleep that's hard to rouse from and was not very coherant. I started to go into panic mode. What am I going to do? I was not very good at speaking up for myself and being somewhat sleep deprived myself I couldn't quite figure out how to politely say, 'this isn't a good time'. I could see the look of 'I want to hold the baby' in the wife's eyes. Fortunately, her husband started to clue in and finally declared that they would go.
My husband I decided that we would be a little more pro-active in sending out the message that yes, indeed we were extremely thankful and grateful that people wanted to come by and drop off meals and gifts. And that we would be more than happy to visit with them in a couple of weeks, once we got into the swing of creating a routine. We changed our answering machine message to declare that they had reached our little family of three, making sure to include the details of his birth (date, time, weight, length) with a gentle message of we are enjoying this time to get to know each other and would return their call within the next few days. People respected that. We also made a sign on the door reminding people that there was a new baby sleeping in the house and we may not be able to answer the door. It worked. People were very polite and respectful about it. One of our good friends offered to keep track of people who wanted to bless us with a meal and arranged for the pickup and delivery of them (a very handy thing especially if you can arrange for it beforehand). And really, no one was offended. If they had children of their own they remembered those days and remarked that they wished they had guarded that time more carefully. It just whizzes by and is such a blur.
Everyone who wanted to meet our son met him within the first month, but more importantly we got to spend those first few days with our son, just us learning how to be a family together.

What You Need to Know Before You Breastfeed: Introduction

When it comes to breastfeeding, I find that women in my generation are often in a double bind. We hear all around us the message that Breast is Best. We are encouraged to breastfeed our children, and given lists of the benefits of nursing our babies. But we are often not given the practical information we need to accomplish this task.

In many cases, our mothers and grandmothers used formula to feed their children. The medical professionals we go to are uninformed about the nitty gritty details of nursing a baby. We worry about telling women who are pregnant with their first child about the early ordeals involved in breastfeeding, so as not to scare them away, and we worry about preaching to and pressuring our friends with new babies, so as not to make those early weeks more difficult. We don't want to pressure our friends and family on this delicate, sometimes controversial subject, so we don't give them the information they need to succeed.

There are several things I have heard women say over and over, "I wish someone had told me about this. My early experiences would have been so different." I have especially heard this from women who were frustrated, and eventually gave up nursing before they wanted to due to latch problems or lack of milk supply, only to discover that one or two key pieces of information would have helped them through. So, I thought that over the next week or so I would let you in on some information you need to know before you start breastfeeding. I hope these posts can help someone have less troubles in those early weeks with their new baby.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wonderful, marvelous pigs!

I've had this book in my stack for a long while. Having taught kindergarten for more than a few years I have more than my share of kid books. When I started having my own kids, I took my favorites out of my classroom stack and put them aside for my kids to enjoy. My oldest and I rediscovered this book last week. Phoebe Gilman writes in the lovely rhyming tradition of Dr. Suess. Jillian Jiggs is her feature character, a lively (if messy) little girl. In this tale Jillian discovers how to make these cute little pigs (making her room really looked as if it had been lived in by pigs). The last 2 pages of the book demonstrate how you can make these pigs, so we did. They are pretty easy to do. I sew very minimally and very basically. Here's what you will need:
-an old pair of tights (I went and bought a pair at Value Village for under $2)
-polyester thread
-ebroidery thread
-a button
-polyester stuffing (I took mine from an old throw pillow)
-felt or fleece (for ears)
First cut the end of one leg of tights about 25 cm (10 inches)

Fluff out your stuffing and fill 3/4 of the stocking

Begin sewing on his nose, eyes and mouth with the embroidery thread

use a whip stitch (polyester thread) to sew on the ears

make 4 small stuffing balls for the feet

one at a time, place the stuffing balls in place onto the body, use embroidery thread (it's thicker) to tie around the ends of the feet (tie them tight)

twist the open end of the pig into a tail and knot it, cut excess stocking off

And here's the pig!

Of course with 2 or more kids you have to be prepared to make 2 or more pigs. I made the 2nd one slightly different than the first to tell them apart (slightly different button noses and different colour ears)

Find The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Things To Do In April

Ah, April! In Central Canada, where I live, this is the month that spring really takes hold. The snow finally melts. The sandbox, the lane and the park become part of our world again. We breathe the fresh air and our thoughts turn outwards.

Here are some things I have done, or plan to do with my boys in April:

- Dig in the sandbox! Pull all the sand tools out of the shed, pick up a few new interesting ones, and get those muscles moving. If you don't have your own sandbox, head to the park with some buckets and shovels, or plastic containers and spoons and have some fun.

- Play in the gutters. Get out the splash pants and rubber boots and follow the streams of melt water down to a storm drain. Talk about the sewer system.

- Find some mud and let them get dirty.

- Go to the park. Reaquaint yourselves with local parks and green spaces. Be amazed at how much stronger and more coordinated your kids have become.

- Hunt for signs of spring. Write a list or take photos of all the signs of spring you see on a walk around the block.

What are some of your favorite April activities?

What is a Clever Mama?

Hi. I'm Jill, and I think I'm a pretty clever mama.

You see, I used to be a high school teacher and write and direct short plays in my spare time. Before that, I was a pretty clever and creative university student. Now, I stay at home all day with a four year old and a two year old. Since I moved six weeks after the birth of my son, no one here knows me as a university student, a playwrite or a teacher. They know me as a very tired, droopy looking woman who smiles vaguely and can hardly put a coherent sentence together. The woman whose house is always turned upside down and who always arrives late and looks frazzled. That woman whose kids are wearing second hand clothes and cloth diapers and who are still buzzing in for a nurse at 18 months. Yep, that's me. The one in the corner of playgroup or library story time who just does things differently.

I do these things, but I don't talk about them much. Not in real life, anyway. I have decided that if people are interested in my ideas and opinions, they can ask me. If they're not, then its not my place to foist my ideas upon them. Terribly Canadian of me, I know. But I just don't have the energy to argue. I'm too busy trying to wean my toddler, convince my preschooler to put on his own socks, and figure out how to get all the laundry folded and put away within a week of washing it.

But I still consider myself to be a clever mama. Why? Because I try to be a mindful parent. I think and read and reflect on parenting in general. More importantly, I think and reflect on my own parenting. And when I see that something isn't working, I find a better way. I follow my intuition, and when it fails me, I pick up a new book or find a new blog or chat with my cross country network of former real life friends who have become moms and my world wide network of online friends and mentors on the web. And then I think, and plan, and start over again.

Kris and I have both been on this journey. We are not mom friends because we always agree, but because we are both willing to discuss, think, reflect, change, grow and do the hard work of being a clever mama. We hope you'll join us on our journey to think about, write about, and share about mothering.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TV or not TV?

Want to start a mommy debate quickly? Ask them about TV. Do they let their kids watch it? How much? What guidelines do they have? The answers will range from the wide eyed, 'Well golly, we don't even own a TV' to the defensive, 'Well, only educational shows, on PBS of course' to the nervous, 'Well, we do keep the TV on all day, but it's not like we're watching it or anything, the kids just kinda play and if it captures them they'll watch and then they will play again.' Over and over again you will hear parents deny how much TV their children actually watch.

TV is a huge industry and it caters to our little ones. Programming starts geared from age 0 and the toys and books accompany it. Characters are on everything from their toothbrushes to their placemats to birthday party themes.

I'm okay with TV. I know I can hear your gasp of horror as you read. What? A mother actually admitting that they are okay with it? Please draw your breath of inner relief here. Yes, I am. I fully admit that my kids watch TV. No, it isn't on all day. And it isn't neccessarily on every day. But they do watch. Some days are better than others.

We all agree (in theory anyway), that TV isn't great for kids. Too much TV really isn't great for kids. They become more sedentary. They have shorter attention spans. It affects their brain development. I agree.

I've battled the TV battle since my first son was about 18 months. It was at 18 months when I started to notice that he was watching what I was watching. He was fascinated by Dr. Phil. And that made me wonder. What exactly is he watching and taking in. I know he's just little, but he isn't deaf. He can hear and understand tone and people arguing (even if it is on TV) is not a sound that I want him to hear.
So I did go and look out for something that would be more appropriate for him. That was the beginning. I did buy him a couple of toddler geared DVDs. He loved them.

Over time the DVD collection started to grow. It has grown so much that I wonder who has more DVDs, the kids or us? And we've battled our standards and living out our standards for TV viewing with the kids. We know that we don't want our kids watching TV all the time, but living it is a different thing completely. I will admit that there has been times when the TV has been on most of the day. A long, cold Canadian winter will do that. But we have refined our plan once again. We're now living out what I think is a pretty good TV to life ratio.

During the weekdays, I will put on one show each for the kids, usually when I'm making supper. That's it. On Saturdays we will watch a little more, usually allowing ourselves to laze about in jammies before getting on with the day. When we first decided to do this, we deliberately stopped turning the TV on in the morning. I had been finding that on their daycare days, I was in a mad panic to get them ready and out of the house on time, especially my oldest who didn't want to leave in the middle of his show. On days that they were home with dad, we had been putting the TV on first thing and it stayed on until the kids programming was over for the morning. We decided that enough was enough. We want their childhood memories to be more about time spent together rather than what so and so on their TV show lived out. Now, we are more deliberate. On daycare mornings the TV doesn't go on at all (yes there was a fuss about this at first, but now it's not a big deal). We're getting ready and out of the house on time and the morning routine is a lot more relaxed. On their days home with dad, after breakfast the TV does not go on, they just go and play. They have a great time. They are spending more time together, being creative and they seem happier for it. In fact one of the funniest things to me is the fact that one of my son's consequences for misbehaviou recently was having his DVDs put away. He's hardly noticed. In fact it's been 3 weeks now and he still hasn't asked for them back. I guess I need to find a new, more relavant consequence!

So no, I'm not going to be the parent that sits back and judges you for letting your kids watch TV. There is a way it can be done without it taking over yours and their lives. So relax. Take the time to decide how much is enough for you. When and what is okay? Make a plan and live it out. I totally empathize with the immediate battles you will face during your plan of action (kids will be loud about it, but you can be firm about it). But that too shall pass. Have fun and enjoy life together.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh Baby, what have we gotten ourselves into?

One of my clearest memories with my first child was leaving the hospital with him a couple of days after he was born. I had had a lovely couple of days cocooned up in relative silence (as relative as a hospital can be), with all of my needs taken care of. I didn't have to cook (not that I adore hospital food, but it was one less thing I had to worry about). I could have a bath and knew that my son was being well looked after with a nurse. If I was having any pain or trouble nursing someone knowledgable was just a bell ring away. This is all very reassuring when you are a brand new mother. However, I was not prepared for the leaving time, not really anyway. I knew I wanted to go home, but the reality was completely different.

The first thing that hit me was walking out into the parking lot. My husband and I were toting this tiny little person into a world where cars were idling just outside the door. I couldn't believe how offended I was that they would dare pollute my child's lungs (talk about mother bear instinct kicking in). And the noise! I couldn't get over it. I kept peeking at his little face to make sure that he was okay.

As we drove home, this unmistakable panic set in. Do they (meaning the hospital staff) know what they are doing, letting us bring him home? Are they sure about this? Are we really that reliable and knowledgable to go it alone? What the heck are they thinking? What are we thinking? And the car fell silent. I took one look at my husband and knew he was thinking the same thing. It wasn't just the two of us anymore. There is a third.

Once we got home we realised something else very important: what were we going to do about dinner? Neither of us were in any state to cook. Thank goodness for take out. Yes, our official 1st meal as a family of 3 was from Wendy's. Well, his and mine were, our little one had breastmilk.

Slowly but surely we began to breathe again. We started to remember our plan for our time of baby-moon (just us and him, more on that to follow). I remembered that I had many, many resources around me. I had books, I had friends, I had family. Books helped remind me of the basics of a newborn. Friends started to drop off dinners. Family came to visit and help out with baby care (and new-Mommy care). Doctors and lactation consultants were just a phone call or visit away, ready to help. Most of all we had each other.

We had created this tiny, perfect little being. Yes he was a heck of a lot of work, but totally and completely worth it. Instant love.

Monday, April 6, 2009

1st post by one clever mama

We don't want you to get the wrong idea. We actually aren't any more clever than most mamas out there, but we do believe that a lot of what we have learned along the way of this journey called motherhood entitles us to the adjective 'clever'. Most moms learn how to be clever out of sheer neccessity and this is our little spot to share, vent and generally be moms together. What is it that many people say, "you have to pass a test to get a drivers licence, but there's no requirement to become a parent" so true, so true. It's a learn as you go experience. You do the best you can with what you know. Jill (my partner in crime here) and I have shared a lot together thus far (though we are doing so several provinces away from each other). I think you need someone (or several someones) to be a mom with. To get hints and tips, to share frustrations and aggrivations and to know that you aren't the only one going through whatever it is you happen to be going through at the moment. That's where this Clever Mamas idea came about. It's been a process to get it here, but we are glad that it is here. We don't by any means claim to know it all (goodness knows you don't need someone like that in your life), in fact part of us knowing that we're doing okay is the fact that we can admit that we aren't perfect. This is just our time, mom time.



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