Monday, December 14, 2009

Jill's Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Since Kris was musing about Breastfeeding, I thought I would chime in with my two bits. Since I presently have a two week old baby, I apologize in advance for typing in a state of ridiculous sleep deprivation.

I did exclusively breastfeed both my boys for 6 months, and nursed them all the way to two, as per the World Health Organization's reccommendations. With my first son I swore I was quitting every two months. But it was such an easy way to get him back to sleep. It was so much easier than messing with formula and bottles. It would quiet him when he was overstimulated in the middle of grocery shopping. And weaning was such a chore that I just kept putting it off until, frankly, I was pregnant again and fed up with nursing. Basically, after the first few months, I breast fed because yes, it was healthy and good for his tummy and his brain and etc, etc.; but mostly I breast fed because I'm lazy and cheap, and I was staying home anyway, so there was no reason not to.

I think that most women, if given the right information and the time to get a good start in the first few weeks with their baby, can breastfeed. And I get frustrated that so many women feel like failures because they followed the wrong advice or were too overwhelmed by other concerns or had no help in their first weeks or months of breastfeeding, and quit before they wanted to. I feel like we are letting people down to promote breastfeeding as the best option, then berrate people who struggle and eventually give up on something that is causing them a lot of pain and heartache. At the same time, I think that women who choose to formula feed or pump and use bottles should not apologize for doing so. It is their choice to feed their child in the manner that works for them and their baby. I don't think it is our place to judge women's choices until we have heard their entire story.

I am also a total feed anywhere, anytime kind of person. I have buckled myself into the middle seat of the car and nursed my son as we drove through rush hour traffic (yes, I'm quite flexible). I have plunked down in the middle of a quiet aisle in clothing stores and grocery stores to nurse my baby (because I don't like eating my lunch in the bathroom, personally). I have nursed my baby in a sling in the middle of a dramatized tour of the tunnels of Moose Jaw, and in the middle of a hallway in a castle in Ireland. And although I do use a sling a lot of the time, other times I simply have a camisole with the front cut out under my t-shirt, with a zip-up hoodie in case its cold. You know what? I get less stares than you would think. I often have people come up to me and chat for 5 minutes before they realize that the baby is latched on. And when I do get stares and glares? Well, I have red hair and a flamboyant sense of fashion, so I generally get stared at anyway.

The thing about doing anything unusual in public (trust me on this one) is that if you act like its a normal thing to do, people will generally just filter it out of their field of view and assume you are doing something normal. If you are visibly nervous, you will attract attention. On the other hand, if your posture and facial expressions are aggressive or challenging, people will feel uncomfortable and you will attract attention. So I think the key to nursing in public is simple: wear clothes that are easy to nurse in or bring some kind of cover that you are comfortable with so there is no hassle. Maintain the mindset that you are doing something normal and everyday. Let your body reflect that reality, and generally people will follow suit. And if not, well then you will have a funny story to post on your blog later that day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Am I, or do I have to be?

I'm sure many of you have heard the term, "breastfeeding Nazi" tossed around from time to time. The first time I heard it was when I was expecting my first child. I had planned on breastfeeding, knowing that it was the best nutrition possible for my child and it was free to boot. I was at a party one night talking to another woman. She was a mother and she asked if I was planning on nursing. Yes, I replied. "Well, you just watch out for those breastfeeding Nazi's out there, if you want to give him a bottle, just go ahead and do it." she told me. She was very adamant about this. I gathered that she had had some bad experiences with other mothers in the past in relation to this subject. I didn't realise how divided a camp there was.
I was still happy to go ahead and give breastfeeding a go with my child once he was born. I didn't realise then how much work it was (and it really is a lot of work in the beginning). I also didn't realise how exhausted I would be, sheerly because I was a new mom. I had my first encounter with what you may term a breastfeeding Nazi about a week after my son's birth. It was one of the lacation consultant nurses. She was calling to see how things were going. I was simply exhausted and completely greatful that my parents had taken the baby out in the stroller for a couple of hours so I could have a rest. I really shouldn't have answered the phone at all. Her advice to me, get pumping while the baby was out. I was so tired that I started to listen to her on autopilot and pump. Wait a minute! Was I crazy? This was the first opportunity I'd had for uninterrupted sleep in a week. So I slept. I started to figure out what people were talking about. Nurse at all costs. Somehow that didn't jive with my notion of why I was nursing. I was nursing to offer my baby the best I could, but I also knew I couldn't offer him my best while I was exhausted.
I did eventually find a balance. I didn't pump in the beginning, I relied solely on nursing him. It worked. Eventually I did introduce a bottle. Sometimes with pumped breast milk and sometimes with formula. I stand by the concept that 80 or 90% breastmilk and 10-20% formula is better than no breast milk at all. He remained a nursing baby for the first year of his life. His brother nursed for the first 17 months of his life.
I'm getting ready for my third baby. I know that if at all possible (and I will do my best to make it possible), this baby will be a breastfed baby too. I started to think about nusing my baby yesterday morning. I was waiting at the mall with my boys for Santa to come for pictures with Santa. I was sitting on a bench with a mother of a 3 week old little girl. When her baby was hungry, she went to nurse her, but also made sure she was completely covered with blankets. So many blankets, I wondered if her child was overheating under there. That got me thinking about all sorts of stories I've heard of what it is like to nurse in public. I've nursed in public. I've nursed in restaurants, in stores, in the library, at the mall, and at church. I'm pretty discrete, but I also make sure my baby is comfortable too. There are places around the world where nursing your baby in public is not a big deal. Your baby is hungry, you feed it, case closed. Here in North America we have a little bit of a different culture. Your baby is hungry, go ahead and feed it, just don't make me uncomfortable in the process. Personally, I prefer to find a quiet, relaxing place to nurse. I like when malls provide couches and rocking chairs for nursing moms, not to hide us away, but to encourage us to be comfortable. I love that our library was nursing friendly signs in it, particularily near the couches and cushions in the children's section, so my other kids can read and play while I feed the baby. But I also know that there isn't always a quiet place to go to. And when baby is hungry, it's time to eat, NOW! The worst I've heard (and I hear it a lot) is people encouraging nursing moms to go sit on the toilet in the store washroom to nurse. Really? Would you eat your lunch on a toilet? Why would I choose to have my infant eat there? Have you seen the state of some of the public restrooms? Why isn't it okay to sit on a bench in the store to nurse? This is the part of me that questions how much a breastfeeding Nazi I have in me. As time has gone on I've felt more pressure to explain why I choose to nurse my kids and defend my right to do it. Those who don't nurse may wonder then why I wouldn't plan my days around my child's nursing schedule. Realistically, that isn't possible. Newborns eat every 3 hours for 45 minutes to an hour, from start to start time. So there are times when you feed the baby only to have them wanting to eat an hour and half later. It does limit your schedule if you live by baby's needs alone.
It leaves me in a place of limbo. I nurse my kids because I believe it is offering them the best I can give them. I understand that in the culture we live in, public nursing can make people uncomfortable. I'm not one to be in your face about it, I just want my kids to eat. I'm also not one to berate anyone who for whatever reason chooses not to nurse their babies, that's not my call, that's theirs. I wonder if the reason breastfeeding moms have gotten a bad rap of being 'breastfeeding Nazis' because we are working against the culture we live in. We live where breasts are seen as completely sexual, so we are funny and awkward about them. Take a look at a magazine rack and tell me what you see. A lot more skin than a nursing mommy shows. Why aren't we up in arms about that? Why isn't that labelled disgusting? Why aren't those magazine covers told to go cover up and hide in the washroom?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

DIY Christmas

Partly out of neccessity and partly out of the desire to be creative with my kids, we are having a bit of a DIY Christmas this year. (DIY=Do it yourself) It started with me not wanting to find the boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations. We are moving shortly after Christmas and really, within the midst of packing boxes, it just seemed silly to me to start unpacking more boxes. We had a tree, we just needed decorations. Well, we have paper, we have markers and we have imagination. The homemade Christmas ornament project began to unfold.
We started with a paper chain. I took an old magazine and cut out 2cm strips, lengthwse from the magazine. My 5 year old began looping the stips and I taped. He really had fun with this once we saw how long of a chain we were making. We did a few stop and measures to see just how far down the hallway he could go. Our paper chain is now our Chritmas tree garland.

My second idea was to make snowflakes. I cut 4 squares for each boy out of a couple of sheets of white paper, folded them into triangles and let them cut with scissors. It's such an easy little project, and it always looks pretty. Their snowflakes are now hanging on our tree.
My oldest asked if I would cut him out some Christmas shapes and let him decorate them. Sure. He made a bell, a candy cane, a tree, and a stocking like that.
For stars, I cut out star shapes from a piece of thin cardboard. The boys then glued pieces of aluminum foil onto them to make them shine.
They each made an angel as well. I cut a circle out for the face and took a triangle of paper for them to decorate. Once the triangle was finished, I made it into a cone shape (for the gown) and taped the faces onto the top of them.
We've had a lot of fun figuring out decorations this year. In fact, I may not get out the box of ornaments next year either. This little project of ours turned into a great way to spend an afternoon together. I know they enjoyed it too (especially my oldest) as they have boasted to several people about their Christmas tree this year.
We had so much fun with the tree that I looked for another Christmas project for us to do together. I found a gingerbread house. Last year, I attempted to bake my own, but my shape sizes got all out of whack and my royal icing flopped. This year I saved us some grief by finding a kit. It was well worth the $8.00. Very easy to put together and a lot of fun to decorate. They both love having their house as our dining room table centrepiece (especially if they can sneak a little treat off of it when we aren't looking!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Baby Belly

How sacred is your baby belly? Do you allow random strangers to come up and have a feel? There is something magnetic about a baby belly isn't there? So far I've been pretty fortunate with this pregnancy, or, perhaps this being my third I give off more "don't touch me" vibes? I remember having to take a lot more steps back when I was carrying my first. It's a funny thing really. Would you allow someone to touch you when you aren't pregnant?
I don't mind friends having a touch, after all, there's a person in there and that's pretty cool. I have one work friend who has never felt a baby move in utero ever. She's also asked permission, which I really appreciate. Unfortunately, this little one has no performer tendancies whatsoever right now. Today, she missed the jumping bean by about half an hour. I guess I'll have to time my little jolt of sugar a little better for our break time next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Parent is Born Blog Tour - Back to Work

Clever Mamas is pleased to be part of Mom Central and Pampers' "A Parent is Born" blog tour. Several parenting blogs are taking part in this fun initiative. We've been asked to give our best tips on one of two topics: How to cope with going back to work, or, baby/mama sleep tips. I'll confess that I need the baby/mama sleep tips for myself (my motto has always been get it while you can and enjoy it), but I do have a few insights into heading back to work.

I'm currently preparing for my 3rd maternity leave as I write this (2 weeks of work left!). Seeing as this is my 3rd baby, I've dealt with heading back to work after baby twice before. Both experiences were completely different. I had the good fortune of having a 14 month leave after having my first child. I enjoyed every minute of my time off with my son. I had the full year to nurse him and wean him. He was eating well and he had been left with sitters before. That would be my first going back to work tip:

1) Make sure your first day back at work is not the first time you and your child have had time apart. Take time during your maternity leave to go out without him.

2) Find a daycare provider that you really like and are comfortable with. This was my biggest struggle with going back to work with my first child. I didn't know who I was going to leave him with. We do not have family that lives locally to us. I was also going back to work part time. In the province I live in there is no part time infant care available at licenced daycares (infant describing any child under the age of 2). I needed to find a home daycare situation and fast. I did find one, but felt the pressure of "is this the right place for him to be at?" quite a bit.

Going back to work with my second child was a completely different experience. For one thing, I couldn't afford to take the entire year's maternity leave after having worked part time prior to having him. I ended up taking a 6 month leave, so he was much younger than his brother had been. I was still nursing him and just introducing him to solid food at this time. This made things a little trickier.

3) If you are nursing your baby, ensure that they are introduced to a bottle well before your return to work. Pump and freeze your milk so that you have enough supply for your child while you are away. Make sure you are not the only person who gives your baby a bottle. My husband drove our son to my work on my first day back because he (the baby) was in such a state over recieving a bottle from dad instead of mom. That is not an ideal situation. He did learn to take a bottle, from both my husband and our daycare provider, but it really was a learning process.

4) Build time into your day to express breast milk if you are still nursing. You want to keep your supply up and your freezer full for your baby. You know your workplace best. There are quiet, private places that you can do this. Talk to your supervisor if finding a place to express seems difficult for you. There may be a private office you can use on your coffee break and/or lunch hour for 15 minutes. I had 2 days a week that I travelled between 2 schools on my lunch break(I'm a teacher). On those days I packed a cold lunch, parked at a park on the way to my next school and pumped while I ate. It worked for me. You have to find what works for you. On my regular school breaks, I would lock my empty classroom door, cover the window, sit at my desk and pump. That worked too. It worked because I had to make the decision to find a way to work it. I did continue to nurse my son until he was 17 months. A lot of moms I speak to seem amazed by that, especially considering he was only 6 months old when I went back to work. It was something that was important for me,a choice I made as his mother.

My 5th and final tip on this subject comes from welcoming other mothers back to work after their maternity leaves:

5) Find a work buddy who understands what you are going through. Usually, another mother on staff is the one who will 'get it'. It is difficult to work outside the home. I know I wished I could stay home with my babies forever, but that just wasn't practical for our family situation. The staff I worked with had many women all around the same age and place in life. I remember catching the eye of one co-worker on her first day back to work and I saw 'the look'. I pulled her aside just to let her know that I understood. She took a deep breath and smiled through watery eyes. There were many short 'mama meetings' on the side as she adjusted back to working life. Sometimes just knowing you aren't alone helps so much.

What about you? Do you have any great Mama tips to share with the world? You too can join in on the fun. Go to and leave your best tips with them. You could win one of 25 $20 gift cards, or the grand prize of $500!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Follow up on Internet Safety and Kids

Jill's post this weekend really got me thinking about how safe have I been with my kids online? I know my settings are very high on Facebook (which is where the bulk of my pictures are stashed) and on purpose I don't use my children's names on this site because I do have a few pictures of them on here. I took a look at my blogger profile just to double check that my location was vague (it is) and that my name was just my first (it is). My mom (gotta love it when God speaks to Grammas!) was also prompted by Jill's experience to check up on my kids' safety online. The one thing I didn't think about was my regular blog. She's right. It doesn't take much for anyone to link this site with any other blog I write. My regular blog does have more pictures, names and identifying details in it. Hmmm, all of a sudden it didn't feel as good anymore. My blog was created for me to share with family and friends. Who else is looking at it? I didn't want to be extreme about it and erase everything I'd written these past number of years, but I didn't want it all left out there for whoever to track down. Fortunately, I remembered that blogger does have the ability to create permissions under its settings. I went into that and changed the permissions to by invitation only can read this blog. I feel a lot better now.
The thing is, is that I should know better and thought that I did. I don't have a Flickr account because I knew that it was too easy for just anyone to scam my pictures from it. Pretty much anything else I join online has high privacy settings set on it. I like that the internet allows me to easily share stories and pictures with friends and family who live in other parts of the country. We just have to be smart about it. There is a way to balance safety and fear. To enjoy what is available to us without being afraid of it.
A couple of years ago, we were fortunate to have a leading expert in children and teen internet safety come to speak to the school district I work for (I am a teacher). Her name is Parry Aftab and she was one of the most interesting speakers that I've heard. I would really encourage all parents to take a look at her site "Wired Safety" (just click on the words). I hope you find her work just as helpful and insightful as I have, no matter what age your children are, there is something there to help you out.



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